GLASS ANIMALS – LIVE AT THE BILTMORE CABARET, VANCOUVER

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As you can see from my blurry pictures, the Biltmore Cabaret was absolutely packed and rocking for Glass Animals last night. Playing songs mainly from their lovely debut LP – Zaba – the quartet hypnotized the young-ish audience with its dynamic mix of indie pop and EDM vibes. Everything seemed to happen in a slo-mo trance as frontman Dave Bayley bedazzled the crowd with tasteful melodies & sharp guitars whilst the insistent groove keep the momentum going into 7th heaven. Songs like”Black Mambo”, “Gooey” & “Walla Walla” had the kids in dance extacy!

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TADA’S DO-IT-ALL HOUSE: DISCONCERTO

Directed by Omori Tatsushi. 
Starring  Eita, Matsuda Ryuhei, Maki Yoko, Masatoshi Nagase, Kora Kengo, Maro Akaji, Omori Nao, Iwasaki Miku.

Caught this excellent Japanese movie’s world premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival. Brilliant story telling in a matter of fact style. The plot itself started out slowly enough but once the key factors were introduced, the movie felt like an emotional roller-coaster in slo-mo. Actually, the 2nd movie of a trilogy, Disconcerto revolves around the antics of odd couple Tada (Eita) and Gyoten (Ryuhei) as they try to come to terms with their past and deal with the pressing issues of the present.

Director Tatsushi keeps the sophisticated narrative simple whilst revealing details about the lead characters bit by bit. There is an inherent sadness in both leads that impacts their actions. Significantly, their individual plans are interrupted by little children, a lesbian couple, a cult, protesting old folks and the Yakuza! Despite all that, the duo still manage to plough through life in their inimitable manner.

But ultimately, it is the relationship between Tada and Gyoten that anchors the movie well – in this respect, one can look forward to the next installment of Tada’s Do-it-all House with anticipation.

THE OCEANOGRAPHERS + SMASH BOOM POW: LIVE IN VANCOUVER

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My first indie gig in Vancouver was at the Future Sound Club and by the time I got there, Smash Boom Pow – 2nd band on the bill – were already on stage. This young band certainly has some intriguing ideas – at some point even blending blues rock riffs with post-punk structures – but certainly the songwriting has much room for improvement. Nothing too memorable about most of their music although there was clear potential evident.

The headliners for the night – The Oceanographers – were definitely popular with the crowd. Although somewhat generic post-punk revivalist, there was also sufficient melodic development in their songs to suggest that the quartet had the promise of more sophisticated work ahead. Frontman Clayton Dupuis certainly had the cheekbones for the part and played the part of focal point credibly as the band led the frenzied crowd through danceable post-punk numbers that at least provides them with a strong foundation for further improvement. One to watch out for!

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NIMBUS

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I had the privilege of getting a tour of Nimbus School of Recording Arts in Vancouver. Founded by Bob Ezrin, Garth Richardson and Kevin Williams, Nimbus is a music school which emphasizes audio recording but also provides modules relating to music production, post-production, live sound and music business. Campus Director Rob Stefanson was kind enough to walk me around the Nimbus facilities, which were pretty impressive.

I managed to catch a few classes in sessions (even an exam!) and a couple of students fast asleep after a night of work (the facilities are available 24/7!). But more importantly, I learned from Rob about the impact that Nimbus had on the Vancouver music community as many bands were given valuable assistance from Nimbus students which enhanced the quality of music in Vancouver by the same token. For instance, JPNSGRLS had recorded parts of their debut EP at Nimbus as had a few other Vancouver indie bands so definitely, the music scene has benefited from the presence of Nimbus within the community.

Food for thought for our own local music scene, for sure!

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ALIVE & KICKING: BOB MOULD + CYMBALS EAT GUITARS – LIVE IN SEATTLE

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THIS IS HARDCORE

My first proper gig overseas went without any hitch whatsoever. Got a nautical wheel stamp on my inner right wrist to indicate that I was on the guest list! (Well, it was the Neptune Theater). The Neptune was a small venue with ornate trimmings and classical ambience. Stained glass images of gods and goddesses of the sea. Arrived early and was actually carded (!) as the floor was meant for ‘+21’ only!

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Opening band Cymbals Eat Guitars started at 8pm in the dot and played a lively 30-odd minute set punctuated by energy, passion and musical endeavor. Playing mostly songs from the new LP, LOSE, the crowd was suitably impressed and for me the final two songs viz “Jackson” & “Laramie” were outstanding with singer/guitarist Joseph D’Agostino and drummer Andrew Dole, the focal points. Definitely a band with tremendous potential as their style mixes up decades of rock & pop influences intelligently. I would love to see them do a full set in Singapore!

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Of course, all of us were waiting for the legendary Bob Mould and I daresay nobody was disappointed with his visceral delivery of melodic alt-rock that spanned the decades from Husker Du, Sugar and recent solo material. Right from the get-go with the triple punch of “Flip Your Wig”, “Hate Paper Doll” and “Changes”, you just knew you were in for a wild ride. The crowd went ape shit as young and old in the audience moved along to the high energy hardcore punk and sang along to those catchy tunes. What a killer combination – no exaggeration to describe Bob as a godfather of grunge (on equal footing with Neil Young) or a seminal influence on a slew of 90s bands that came in the wake of Husker Du (including Nirvana & Foo Fighters).

Backed by the amazing rhythm section of drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) and bass player Jason Narducy (Verbow), there was no stopping the intensity and dynamism emanating from stage as Bob, Jon and Jason managed to present old and new songs as a coherent whole – fast, loud & infectious. Thus, brand new instant classics like “I Don’t Know You Anymore” had no problem whatsoever blending in with legendary tracks like “Makes No Sense At All” (a blistering encore song).

But for me, the most memorable moment arrived when Bob slowed things down with “Hardly Getting Over It” (from Husker Du’s Candy Apple Grey) where Bob beat Neil Young at his own game – a feedback drenched country-folk ballad that sent chills down my spine and tears into my eyes. Truly incandescent. Bob sent everyone home happy with an obscure Husker Du cover of the Mary Tyler Moore theme – “Love is All Around”. There was little doubt in my mind that we were in the presence of a living rock n roll legend – thank you Bob Mould!

Thanks to Jesse O’Connor/Tell Your Friends PR for making this review possible!

THE FUTURE OF GAMING

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Yup, boys and girls, that’s yours truly wearing a prototype VR headset experiencing a VR demo somewhere in VALVE HQ. Suffice to say that it was a life-changing experience! After all, as scifi buffs will tell you, ‘virtual reality’ has always been the stuff of science fiction – well, now it is FACT. I was privileged enough to experience quite a few scenarios based on VALVE’s award-winning games and others put together purely to demonstrate the potential of this new cutting edge technology.

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Initially, I was placed into a Portal scenario which seemed sedate enough but then suddenly I was in a room filled with characters from Left 4 Dead and my heart almost jumped out of my chest! Life-sized zombies hovered around me and even though I knew none of them were real (heh!), I could not help but freeze in my tracks! It was like living within a game – literally. Mind you, these environments were in very early stages of development but the detail was amazing.

As I left VALVE HQ, I could not help but ponder over the limitless possibilities of VR – a whole new world has literally opened up. Personally, I can’t wait…

A humongous thank you to my good friend Chris Chin & VALVE for making this article possible.

 

ALIVE & KICKING: THE CRUSH, SSNACKSS & ECHO RAVINE AT LOFI

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My first ever indie gig in North America! It might have been a modest affair at the LoFi Performance Gallery in Seattle but there was genuinely exciting music making going on in this low key event. It was $6 at the door and the crowd in attendance was sparse on a Wednesday night but there was no mistaking the passion the three bands had for their music.

I was particularly impressed by The Crush, who actually sounded even better as a live outfit! A very tight performance marked out by Jacob’s astute guitar playing, Daniel’s timely drumming & Kira’s stage presence. And the songs were good fun – flavored with melodic color and powerpop flair – the kind of wonderful pop music nobody seems to make anymore. Jacob worked his red Rickenbacker perfectly, optimizing its use with Byrdsy arpeggios, Paul Weller crunch & Mike Campbell virtuosity – a handy package to possess! Guess you could say I have a crush on The Crush! Haha!! (Facebook)

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CHARLES BURNS: SUGAR SKULL BOOK SIGNING AT FANTAGRAPHICS

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If you watched Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, you would have noted the use of the graphic novel Black Hole as a plot point, which is of course such a cool geek thing! Creator/artist Charles Burns will actually be in Seattle this Friday to sign copies of his latest book – Sugar Skull – which is the perfect opportunity for this lapsed comic book (and Black Hole) fan to get re-acquainted with the man’s work and to erm meet the man himself. Stay tuned for the obligatory photographs!

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SEATTLE – VANCOUVER 2014: DAY THREE

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Day Two was spent recovering from my jet lag so I was only able to get out on Day Three. Basically spent the day with my good friend Chris, visiting EMP Museum. It’s really a pop culture buff’s dream to a certain extent. EMP expanded their scifi-fantasy section into separate scifi, horror and fantasy. In truth the latter two were boring whilst the scifi section was better, there wasn’t too much to get excited about.

The music exhibitions were what EMP was all about – with the focus on Hendrix in London and Nirvana. While both were also relatively small, the detail to attention put into the exhibitions was a wonder to behold and worth the price of admission. Viewing Kurt Cobain’s demo cassettes was interesting as well as the live-size props for the In Utero tour.

It was heart-warming to visit a museum that was dedicated to rock music with its due recognition of our beloved rock music as art in its own right. What a statement to make! I was particularly intrigued by a graphic that highlighted the various indie bands that came out of Seattle and Washington state in general. It put the idea of ‘support local’ into perspective. I am certain that the folks watching Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Death Cab for Cutie etc had no idea that their local bands would one day become superstars – but that’s how every band starts, as a local band.

More pics here.

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SEATTLE – VANCOUVER 2014: DAY ONE

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Just a short update as I am pretty much frazzled from that 20 hour traveling to Seattle via Taipei. Having left Singapore at about 1pm on Sunday it’s weird to arrive at Seattle at 7plus that same night after all that travelling. At check-in, there were problems coz I forgot to register with ESTA but managed to solve it by doing so all on my iPhone in 10 minutes. The wonders of modern technology. Am going to try to convince my body that I’m am on PST now, ignore Singapore time and go to sleep.

But first up on Wednesday…

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