i said before that the ultimate Vancouver experience is watching musicians perform in a converted yoga studio loft in the Downtown Eastside near East Hastings. but the penultimate Vancouver experience is probably watching musicians like Rose Melberg performing at a sushi restaurant in the DTES near East Hastings. there's something so definitive about combining beautiful soul-washing lilting vocals with california rolls and the concern at the back of your head that you might get mugged by a cokehead on your walk home through one of the country's worst poverty/drug/crime/prostitution-stricken areas.
i discovered rose melberg at the secret loft show during the Music Waste Festival. if ears can do a double take, that's what mine did when i heard her sing and play the guitar, with Mint Records' Kellarissa backing up on vocals. There are a few bands out there that I've listened to and felt musical love at first "sight" - Sandro Perri, Cowboy Junkies, Sonic Youth, Radiohead, Great Lake Swimmers, Godspeed You Black Emporer, Red House Painters - and it is a feeling that's hard to explain. the music just feels so right, as though the artist happened to know exactly what your personal aesthetic tastes are and catered to it. you could resist it but you're still drawn to it. you don't have to try to understand the music, like i do with some of the weirder Vancouver music out there...your appreciation just floats naturally.
anyway, that makes me sound awful creepy, but rose was playing again at the Safe Amplication Site Society fundraiser, this non-profit group that's dedicated to creating friendly, affordable, all-age, drug and alcohol free musical spaces in Vancouver. since i'm all about teetolling and going to bed before midnight, i'm all for it, so i went to the fundraiser. this was held at Hoko's Sushi Bar on Powell. the sushi chef is a big silent Asian man who is also the sound guy. he plays Nickleback between sets. the sound equipment is a karaoke machine. an eight year old boy buses the tables in joyful disregard of child labour laws. the food is delicious.
other bands played too, including the Sunshines and also Kidnap Kids, who were absolutely adorable, if somewhat unrehearsed. like Ghost Bees chewing bubblegum, amazingly catchy melodies, brilliant lyrics, and boundless raw energy. plus a line like "let's all get with the greater good, let's all have a makeout party" is a slogan you can tattoo on your arm.
also worth mentioning is the Miami Device/Show Gears/Star Captains show at the Media Club on Saturday night. This was part of the Vancouver International Jazz Festival which, by the way, is huge here, with hundreds of performers and over forty venues. rob and i were looking for any live show to go to, and so when we checked out Miami Device's MySpace, we knew we had to go to the Media Club. Rob's been really into the Dap Tones record label lately, and i've been in love with the Afrobeats, electro-jazzy sound ever since my band opened for NOMO at the El Mocambo, so this show was perfect for us.
Star Captains had a great Herbie Hancock style of jazz sound to it, very tight and skilled, especially the keyboard player. genius licks and thoroughly enjoyable, finishing their set with the best jazzy cover of Michael Jackson's Billy Jean i've ever heard, leaving the stage with the audience singing. Show Gears was next; i feel like i can't fairly comment on their act because i am allergic to reggae music, but even depite that i found myself really liking some of their songs (the ones that were the least reggae sounding).
Miami Device was sheer brilliance. they had a considerably large brass section which not only fit on stage but were quite coordinated. they had the whole audience dancing on the floor. two very sexy guitar players, one craaazy keyboardist, and this guy who plays this...thing, it's pretty awesome, but i will always remember him as the guy that is in this Five Alarm Funk flyer:
rob and i were totally lucky to accidentally stumble upon this show. all three acts were Vancouver locals, which just goes to show that people who say Vancouver's music scene is dead are people who don't look (or listen) very hard.