Thursday, June 26, 2008

let loose the joyful noise - going Sledding 2.0

Central United Church
Wednesday, June 25/08
lineup: Kris Ellestad, Woodpigeon, Grizzly Bear

I've become quite fond of attending concerts in churches. The acoustics are generally superb, the setting is intimate, and some churches have even provided cushions on the pews for those of us not hard-assed or pious enough to sit for hours on a a slab of polished wood.

Last night's concert at Central United had all the intimacy and the feeling of community that you have always heard that a church is supposed to invoke, and that was due in part to the venue. With a seating area that was cozy without being claustrophobic, all the seats offered great views of the stage, and with the seats being angled to an open lobby area, you could also indulge in unfettered people watching, which of course is an integral part of any concert experience.

The evening opened with Kris Ellestad, a shoeless young hippie with an ethereal voice and some heartfelt folk guitar pieces. His set was very watchable and ended with a lovely touch as he invited all 8 members of Woodpigeon up onto a very tiny stage to join him for the final two songs. Ending, as he did, with a rousing rendition of The Log Driver's Waltz appealed to the long-time CBC junkies in attendance.

I love to see comradery amongst musicians, and the hugs that went all round among Ellestad and the Woodpigeon members was heartening. With violinist Foon Yap, however, he pounded fists instead, and that is only as it should be. I mean, it's Foon Yap, after all.

I was a trifle concerned when Woodpigeon took the stage, as there was not a spare inch, what with eight people and all their instruments. And with violin bows in use, I was fearful that somebody would eventually lose an eye. I need not have worried; these people are consummate professionals. Sadly, from my vantage point, a stack of speakers hid the bassist with the awesome giant fro from view, but a silhouette of the coif in question was visible and added a pleasingly old-timey touch to the performance, reminiscent of a paper lantern show, and fed into the
whole Prairie Home Companion aesthetics that the band displays.

Woodpigeon's major strength has always been their soaring and lush sound, and last night their sweet harmonies and sweeping melodies worked particularly well under the high-domed cathedral ceiling.

By the time Grizzly Bear took the stage, the church was packed. An appreciative roar met their arrival. And with good reason. Grizzly Bear's music is at once deceptively simple and complexly layered. With Ed Droeste's haunting vocals taking most of the lead, they played a set that was lushly atmospheric and nuanced. A Grizzly Bear song is the farthest thing you could imagine from a straight-forward formulaic pop ditty. Each song ebbs and flows, builds and recedes, holds you in a hypnotic trance the whole time.

Such an atmospheric band is not generally the flashiest band to watch in performance, but Grizzly Bear made their performance imminently mesmerizing by our sheer amazement at how they coax such sounds from their instruments and from themselves. Some very nice touches were the reworkings of a torch song written in the 30's by Droeste's great-aunt, and of course, the encore of He Hit Me.

Wednesday's concert at Central United Church was an extremely satisfying and inspiring start to the Sled Island Festival. Tonight we are chuffed to be seeing local wunderkind Chad VanGaalen in another inspired setting - the Planetarium. Opening will be Portico, Octoberman, and Young and Sexy. I expect nothing short of brilliance.

Of course one cannot see every performer at the festival, and Vice Magazine was kind enough to send me these interview/performance clips of two acts that I will not be seeing this festival:

If you can't see them in person, you might as well watch them on tv. But do see all the performances you can. Sled Island only comes around once a year, you know.


Allison said...

It sounds like it was a grand show. I've attend a concert in a church on a few occasions, but I can't particularly remember the acoustics being brill, but I'm glad they are working to your advantage.

Are the cut-outs on this leg of Chad's tour? Please say yes, please say yes! ;)

Gifted Typist said...

One of the most moving musical events I ever attended was a pre-christmas concert in Wells Cathedral in Wells, England. It's a massive structure, English Gothic, with huge pipe organ. The place was lit by candles only - 6000 of them throwing a soft light on the recently cleaned up fresco ceiling.
When the pipes of that organ opened up and the sweet voices of the choir rose through the magnificent space, I had a physical reaction - shivers and goose bumps. I thought I was going to start levitating.
Traditionally, churches were constructed for acoustics. This is why concerts work so well.
Glad you enjoyed it

justacoolcat said...

I love shows in churches; especially when balcony seating is available.

Ofcourse, I'm also 'soaring and lush'.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I hate to tell you this, Al, but the cutouts were sadly missing from Chad's show. The projected animation was to die for though, especially the fuck ebay one. He did have some new musical thingamajigs that he invented.

6000 candles! It must have looked like a serial killer's apartment!
That does sound sublime, though, choral music can give one the chills even whilst standing in a filthy kitchen, I can only imagine the impact that setting must have had.

And it's only Thursday night too, JustA! Balcony seating can be really nice at a church concert, but sometimes it's nice to sit within arm's length of the holy water.

bloody awful poetry said...

Sounds like it was terrific!

I don't think I'll have a chanve to attend a church concert. Not in THIS country anyway. I can only imagine the political riot....

BeckEye said...

"By the time Grizzly Bear took the stage, the church was packed."

This sounds like the opening of a really awesome and funny man-against-nature, post-apocalyptic novel.

Will said...

Another amazing festival ... I must come to Calgary. And in a church! Sounds like the perfect location for a concert of this nature. Seems to be like it would be extra special (not to mention intimate) to see a group like Grizzly Bear in such a location - really puts an emphasis on the music and its meaning.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I don't even want to think about it, BAP. Promise me you won't try to book any concerts in a church. I don't want to be reading about you in the papers.

hahahaha! I would totally watch that, Beckeye! In fact, I want to watch that right now.

It was pretty magical, Will. People were just enthralled, you could tell by their body language.
Next year, you must come here for this. Bring one of your bands!

Gifted Typist said...

only you could apply the 6000 candles to the serial killer scenario, but, oh, how I laughed

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Sorry, Gifted, it's just my sick mind, which watches too many bad horror movies.

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