BeatRoute Magazine is a monthly arts and entertainment paper with a predominant focus on music – local, independent or otherwise. The paper started in June 2004 and continues to provide a healthy dose of perversity while exercising rock ‘n’ roll ethics.
Treeline Recordings & BeatRoute Magazine present Taking It To Heart, Volume Two LP available on Bandcamp or in Calgary record stores Benefit concert with 100% of the net proceeds from tickets/doors donated to the Heart & Stroke Foundation 52 | MARCH 2018 • BEATROUTE
livereviews Lucette –mixing torch soul and Southern gothic Americana. photo: Lee Reed Conan (UK) with The Weir and Monolith The Palomino Smokehouse February 9 It was a night for defrosting frozen appendages with an infernal blast of heavy metal as the rituals kicked off in style thanks to demon-toned up-and-comers Monolith AB. Trudging up Mussorgskian mountains the trio’s thunderous riffs and throaty roars of triumph primed the room for fellow Calgarian’s The Weir’s much anticipated return to the stage. Rolling out their weighty new EP release on Hearing Aids Record, Detached, with purposeful vigour, the typically stoic purveyors of Alberta’s other black gold rained down their signature torrent of sound with a restrained yet palpable fury that had the crowd teetering on the balls of their feet. Measuring out Promethean tidal shifts and stretches of choreographed annihilation, The Weir exposed freshly irradiated material betwixt cornerstones from their wallof-noise back catalogue. Last up, and likely the reason for the unseasonal sell-out, a rare New World appearance by Liverpudlian doom metal legends, Conan. Merciless in their musical one-upmanship, the lumbering trio visited their beyond-heavy riffs and brow lowering beats upon a by now fully limber crowd. The somnambulant string benders, guitarist Jon Davis and bassist Chris Fielding, got down to business churning up knee-buckling loads of earthy fuzz. A fitting end to an ear-numbing evening, the humbly-great threesome’s dense primordial ooze flattened the landscape as a rapt audience was swallowed by the pyroclastic flow of Conan’s miry Merseyside mud. • Christine Leonard Block Heater NMC, King Eddy Feburary 17 While folk music has long been the realm of the unaccompanied singer-songwriter, and rightfully so, there can be a limit to how much of that style can be listened to before an audience tunes out. With modern recording techniques and the ability to record from home, more and more artists are able to craft soundscapes on their records that surround their songs in aural cloaks that envelope the listener and make their records more memorable. At Block Heater this weekend, there were a number of artists who kept to the traditional format, attempting to showcase the songwriting that is the core of folk and roots music. Dan Bern has long made records that featured him solo, so to see him live, the expectation is that he’ll play his music as recorded, and the intimacy of that is predictable. Likewise Justin Townes Earle, whose records have always featured excellent Americana production values, while his live style has always been closer to that of his namesake, Townes Van Zandt; again, solo and intimate. It’s a little different when developing artists make excellent, lush records that gain them a following, but choose to tour, or are booked to play at a festival and for whatever reason, come without a band to present the records they’ve made to audiences who’ve paid to see them. Whether those choices are financial (which is absolutely valid for independent artists), or stylistic, unless an artist is an absolutely compelling live performer, it can be hard to command or maintain the audience’s attention in a busy festival setting without the drive, harmony, and atmosphere that a full lineup can provide. The Wilderness of Manitoba set stands out from Saturday night’s Block Heater lineup in that singer-songwriter Will Whitwham’s latest release, Across The Dark, is exactly the kind of lovely, expansive-sounding album that could have further captivated the Canada Music Square crowd with the help of a couple of side players filling out the sound. Whitwham and accompanist Jenny Berkel performed beautifully, but the addition of some instrumental atmosphere could have raised the level of their performance, lifting the cuts from Across The Dark to the upper reaches of the National Music Centre. Of course, for indie artists, the logistics and cost of travelling with a group for one show can be daunting, but for some listeners, it can make the difference between buying up a bunch of the band’s merch, and becoming ardent supporters of that artist’s career, or walking away and finding something else to listen to. Over at The King Eddy, singer-songwriter Lucette’s set was illustrative of this point. With her band of hip young Edmonton players, her blend of Southern gothic Americana and classic torch soul was given extra heft by the thump of the rhythm section, tight vocal harmonies, and slinky guitar reminiscent of Stax and Motown, while the addition of a second keys and synth player to pair with frontwoman Lauren Gillis’s Carole King-like piano gave the band a bit of the Hudson/Manuel dynamic that made The Band such a killer live group. They came in hot, and even though the audience spent a lot of time talking through the band’s set, they at least provided an atmosphere for the tavern crowd to socialize to. No festival is without its challenges, especially when a number of shows are being played simultaneously across multiple venues, and the best festivals are able to make adjustments on the fly and accommodate their audiences. With its sold out shows, packed rooms, and innovative use of the Studio Bell spaces, Calgary Folk Fest once again made Block Heater the best midwinter concert and social experience for the Alberta roots music crowd. • Mike Dunn Conan –British metal doom. photo: C. Leonard BEATROUTE • MARCH 2018 | 53