April 22 may have been both Good Friday and Earth Day, but Vancouver concertgoers marked this day on their calendars with the Neon Heroes, Vinyl Villains concert instead.
The show at the Tom Lee Music Hall began with The Shrugs playing an acoustic set. Opening bands always have the toughest job being the ones who have to pump up the atmosphere and get everybody into their “concert moods”, but The Shrugs didn’t seem fazed by this. Their set definitely had that coffee-shop feel to it, as acoustic sets often do, and yet vocalist Caitlin Connelly managed to make the room more energetic by making jokes with the crowd.
Up next was a clear crowd favourite, GreenTree. The set began with two strong openers, one of which had a catchy enough chorus that even people who hadn’t heard the song before could easily sing along. At first it was unclear who the lead vocalist was, but eventually one realized that although all members of the band share vocals, the band actually has two main singers—Glenn Hall and Gabriela Geneva. Hall’s voice almost effortlessly captured one’s attention, while Geneva’s provided perfect contrast. The third song, Who I Am, was a slower number involving vocalist/drummer Hall coming to the front of the stage to almost act out the emotive lyrics with Geneva. While the theatricality was a bit cheesy and it was difficult to take Hall seriously because of his radioactive green hair, it showed that GreenTree have great stage presence and know how to please a crowd. After a few more slow songs, the band sped things up again with an upbeat song. The verses were pleasing enough, but the chorus was a cacophony of voices and guitars. It was uncertain which component one was supposed to pay the most attention to. I was disappointed with the fast-tempo song, and concerned that GreenTree’s upbeat songs did not measure up to their slower songs, but the final song proved me wrong. At the end of the set, the theatricality that had been displayed earlier returned as band members dramatically left the stage one by one until only green-haired Hall was left behind, sitting at his drum kit looking bewildered. An exclamation of “They did it again!” (a reference to the fan-interactive song they had played) and a crash on the cymbals, followed by the stage lights going out ended the set, and the audience was left both energetic and laughing.
The middle slot on the bill was held by Bullets In Overdrive, and right from the start it was clear that they had some pretty dedicated fans watching. Groups of girls were pressed up against the stage shouting the lyrics of Back To Misery. Guitarist Michelle Devera may be tiny, but she gives off a “don’t mess with me” vibe as she rips around the stage playing. Lead vocalist Jordan Armstrong’s voice was easy to hear over the instruments, and the lyrics were clearly understandable. Fans danced during Here We Go, sang along during Follow, and waved glowstick-encased wrists in the air during slower songs. The band played a few new songs, and one song in particular was so easy to follow along and learn the lyrics to that almost everyone could sing along right away. As Brandon Armstrong wildly pounded on his drums, stunts such as synchronized jumps were performed by Devera, Jordan Armstrong, and bassist Kelsey Pothier. While Jordan had to be almost glued to his mic stand and guitar throughout most of the set, Devera and Pothier both whirled around the stage, switching sides and whipping their long hair. Between songs, the band joked around with fans they already knew, and provided enough allure to gain themselves new fans.
Kieran Strange began her set by prancing out onto the stage wearing a black bandit mask (obviously a tribute to the “Vinyl Villains” part of the show title). As she launched into her first song, her bright pink hair drew the eye, capturing the colored lighting that tinted it different shades. She jumped around the stage, her voice carrying both high and low notes, singing to her band, her fans, and basically anyone else who got in her way. More than once, she crouched in front of a person in the front row and sang directly to that person for a few seconds before jumping back up and then choosing the next person to sing to. Between songs, she told the crowd a bit about herself, introduced her band, talked about why she wrote certain songs, and even asked one guy in the front row to help fix the “stop” sign taped to her belt. One song that she performed seemed to be more popular than any other—perhaps because it was so relatable (“I could do anything I want but I’m just too lazy.”) The atmosphere of the venue kept getting more and more buzzed with each song, and when the set was over, there was an air of tired energy throughout the room.
Finally, Bell Tower Dreams took the stage. A large banner across the back of the stage announced their band’s name, and the remaining crowd (many people had been at the concert for previous bands) let out one collective cheer. The air around the stage seemed charged with excitement suddenly. Bell Tower Dreams began with an upbeat number that got almost everyone moving. Too Pretty was certainly a crowd-pleaser, and most of the audience sang along. The band also started to play a cover of Friday by Rebecca Black, but quickly trashed the idea despite the fans in the front row singing along. As with the previous bands, Bell Tower Dreams interacted with their audience while onstage, even holding a ‘dance-off’ competition (the prizes were a band shirt and sticker). Partway through the second-to-last song, bassist Sam King attempted a bass spin that would have appeared awesome had it worked out (he had already completed a flawless one earlier in the set), but his guitar strap broke and his bass went flying toward the back of the stage. Thankfully, the instrument wasn’t harmed too badly, and King was able to immediately continue the song without using the strap (before the final song, he did a temporary repair job on the bass with duct tape), a slightly impressive act which brings to mind the phrase “the show must go on.” Speaking of impressions, Faris carried out an impressive number of high notes throughout the set. At times, it was a little bit difficult to make out her words over the instrumentals, but that may be due to the fact that I was standing directly in front of the guitarist. For the most part, her voice soared effortlessly as she strutted around the stage, avoiding King and guitarist Brett Cranston as they practically bounced around.
Certainly, this was a night of extreme energy and great Vancouver music, not to mention neon (glowsticks everywhere!) and a little bit of villainy.
The Shrugs: http://www.myspace.com/theshrugsmusic
Bullets In Overdrive: http://www.myspace.com/bulletsinoverdrive
Kieran Strange: http://kieranstrange.com/
Bell Tower Dreams: http://www.myspace.com/belltowerdreams