THE HYLOZOISTS , PICASTRO , OHBIJOU and WOODHANDS as part of the Wavelength 300 sixth anniversary at the Music Gallery, February 11. Tickets: pwyc. Attendance: 234. Rating: NNNN
Between the aura of a collective hangover and the calm seated-in-a-church atmosphere, it looked like Saturday night's Music Gallery show , the third of Wavelength 's four-night sixth-birthday celebration, was going to be the low-key chill-out session to offset the manic revelry of harder-edged shows by the likes of Anagram (Thursday) and the Lullabye Arkestra-No Dynamics collabo LAND (Friday).
When meek-looking BC expat Dan Werb , the cracked mind behind openers Woodhands , came onstage sporting nerdy glasses and what looked like his bar mitzvah suit, then hunkered down behind a bank of Korgs, effects pedals and wire-spewing consoles, visions of electronic Suzuki recitals danced in my head. Thirty seconds in, those expectations were shot to shit.
Jerking and flailing like Devo with ADD, Werb smashed out fat, squelchy beats, skittering glitches and greasy synths that got butts bouncing in the pews. His set morphed from tracks that sounded like Rachmaninoff stretched out over obnoxious warehouse-filling big-beat bumpers to gauzy morning-after triphop tracks that mixed in slightly shaky (and sometimes off-key) vocals by Roselle Healy . His thoughtful melodic structures give Woodhands layered complexity and soul, but it's really the guy's non-stop stamina that makes his band a particularly exciting live beast.
After that spastic set, Ohbijou 's wispy indie pop offered a breather. The strings-accented six-piece (plus guests like Gentleman Reg ) stumbled slightly through tunes that blended the acute, moody songwriting of Bakesale-era Sebadoh with the pretty pastel shimmer of Camera Obscura. Frontwoman/founder Casey Mecija could stand to work on her stage presence she herself openly said so but she has a lovely, strong voice.
If the Ohbijou'd been around as long as next act Picastro , they might've been able to muster the same jaw-dropping intensity. Though her dark, haunted ballads are pretty much the polar opposite of Woodhands's zaniness, Picastro's Liz Hysen matched their captivating energy through her creaking, husky vocals and laser-beam focus. Her banter is sparse and quiet, her songs are understated and demanding, but Hysen's composure makes you want to shut up and watch.
Still, I felt relieved that the savvy Wavelength organizers made sure the Hylozoists went on last. Even if their songs weren't such awesome collisions of Brubeckian jazz, circus clown waltzes, Morricone surf-country and cracked cabaret, it's pretty hard to beat a group that features three vibraphonists, two drummers, a pianist, an organ player, a violinist, a cellist, a bassist and a killer resonator guitar player. Factor in that many of the members vibraphone whiz Paul Aucoin (Sadies, Blue Rodeo), percussion savant Jason Tait (Weakerthans, FemBots), drummer Nathan Lawr (Royal City, Sea Snakes) are hugely in-demand players on other people's albums and you've got yourself a supergroup deserving of the title.
While it was difficult to stop watching the three-way vibes orgy between Tait, Aucoin and Patrick Conan , Cuff the Duke's gnomish Wayne Petti , darting across the stage to bang out rapturous saloon piano riffs and howl passionately during the few vocal numbers, showed off sides he's barely hinted at in his regular band.
Can't wait till their forthcoming disc comes out on Boompa this spring.