SHiNDiG (Week 2)

Featuring the Metal-grrl power of Splatter, the endearingly bleak Rain and The Sidewalk and the full on rawk of Elizabeth, week 2 shaped up to be significantly more enjoyable than last.

Splatter started off the night with a vociferous snarl of peppy, angry rock. A 4-piece, each member an unusual instrument, they used their extra strings & drums to good effect. The singer, a woman who had one of the deepest, growliest singing voiced I’ve ever heard lead them well, snarling into the mic, prancing around on stage to the music and keeping up a lively banter with the audience. As metal goes, it was fine enough. It might say something that beyond their surprisingly pleasant demeanor (particularly given the usual angry rock groups that populate SHiNDiG) the best part of the show was the unbelievable hair-windmill the bassist managed to get going during a few of the tracks. There was nothing particularly wrong with the group. They were really quite good, and possibly quite deserving of winning the night, were it any other week.

The Rain and the Sidewalk was the next act to arrive on stage, emerging as another one-man-band. There was something Joy Division-esque about him from the start — hopelessly bleak lyrics of a sad, lonely, smart introvert, bracing, simple guitar and and some ‘fuzz’ to complete the electronic sound. Unfortunately for us, there were 2 large problems with this act. First, and foremost, the guy simply could not sing. His voice was truly, truly atrocious. Second, he was visibly nervous, and was hesitant and stumbling out of the gate. This latter improved dramatically as the set wore on, but there was little improvement on the former. His songs were really quite good, and the lyrics were intelligent and darkly humorous. I hope that he may find a skilled singer, at the least, to work with in the future. Given the slowly cresting wave of 80’s and New Wave nostalgia, he may be well poised to take advantage of that with some work.

Elizabeth, from the start, stole the show. There was something jarring to myself, however, as the singer was a dead-ringer aurally for the singer from SHiNDiG alumnus My Project: Blue. Given how different the bands sound, it was amazing. But enough digression. Elizabeth was really tight, and clearly having a ball up on stage. Their brand of straight-up rock was nothing particularly new or innovative, but it was hook-laden and catchy, and I soon found myself enjoying them despite my best intentions to not like them. The lead singer was charismatic, and the earnest, dreamy strumming of the lead guitarist was fairly mesmerizing. Their weakness lay in the other two members: The bass was often simply lost amidst the rest of the sound, and the drumming, while solid, was nothing more than that. In addition, there was a certain sameness to each of their tunes. More than once I found myself thinking ‘Haven’t they already played this song?’ Despite these faults, they were entirely enjoyable, and I’m quite pleased that I’ll be hearing them again in November in the semi-finals.

This week, as seems so often to happen at SHiNDiG, was overall a significantly better week than last, and it’s a shame that six acts were not switched around a little. I’ve no idea how the scheduling is done for this thing, but more than once over the years, I’ve seen a night where 2 or 3 of the acts could quite easily win, only to be followed the next week by a trio where it’s a chore to decide who I could stand to see again. If any of Splatter, The Rain and the Sidewalk (if he finds a vocal coach or partner) or Elizabth are playing around town, I recommend that you go check them out.

SHiNDiG (Night 1)

So as previously advertised, last night was the first night of SHiNDiG 2003. Which was a good thing, because I like a free night out with friends, and as a judge, it’s a free night out (plus Ben was nice enough to put me on the guest list last night to skip the cover too).

So generally, I’m pretty happy, and predisposed to be forgiving to whomever may be playing that night. Last night, however, I have to say, was disapointing.

The first band, Fiction, was so close to being good. They started off in this fun new-wavey style, with some Joy Division-like sounds in there. The lead singer had this semi-charming awkwardness about him, although I think that may partially have been that he was uncomfortable in his ‘rock-star’ clothes (nothing fancy, they didn’t seem to sit right on him). And the problems just compounded to there. The band, a group of older guys, were individually each very skilled musicians. However, they just didn’t go together at all, making them appear more like a solo-artist and some session musicians than a band. The songs, while quirky, had quite sophmoric lyrics which did nothing to further their cause, but with a bit of work, would probably go over quite well on pop radio play. The final problem was that the lead singer, when playing guiter, looked terribly unsure of himself, and was quite obvious about it when he screwed up — never a good thing. Despite all this, they were the most pleasing to the ear of all the bands that night, and I suspect that were they to revisit their songsmithing, they might return as a pretty decent new-wave act.

The second band, Letters to Grace, should have been right up my alley: I grew up listening to folk-rock. I dug on Buffalo Springfield, CSNY and of course the Grateful Dead. These guys were seriously channelling the late 60’s folk-rock thing, down to the long frizzy hair and bizarre mustache/goatee thing of the time (for the bassist). However, all this did not lead to a great retro-rock act. Somehow, it led to a rather painful mining of the genre – like robots playing the music, but lacking the soul. Maybe they all just needed more confidence (there was a certain unsure mousiness to them all), to really give the soulful calls the genre requires, but I think it may really just be that they are not terribly gifted songwriters. I will admit a personal bias here, in that I was quite concerned for a while that they were a christian rock act, all earnest about Jesus and the like (which turns me off) (oddly I love soul & quite a bit of gospel, which is of course religious too, but chrisitan rock just gives me the howling fantods). They get some bonus points for not being a christian rock act, and specifically for referencing the devil (in one of those ‘temptation’ songs that were really quite popular back then). Fortunately, these guys only got through 3 or 4 songs. Unfortunately, they were all 8 or 9 minutes long. I will say, in their defense, however, that their harmonies were really quite nice.

The last act, after the first two, really only had to be competent to win my vote for the night, and The First Day was definitely that. A true-blue punk-metal act, in the Slayer genre (they in fact covered a Slayer tune near the end of their set), they sounded like any anonymous punk act featured on those ESPN X-Treme sports shows, while showing the skate/snow boarding highlights. They ran through a dozen or so songs, which is easy to do at 1 to 2 minutes apiece. Most songs sounded the same, although there were a couple of standouts, wherein the sound was distinctive. They won the night in my books mostly because they had a song whoe lyrics included a chorus of ‘Kill! Kill! Kill!’ and ‘The Church must die!’ (or something along those lines — it’s hard to tell what they’re saying in that gruff-shouting style of metal), which I just found funny.

The Jokes for Beer section, was as usual, fairly painful, but I did like Davie’s (a regular attendee and heckler of Ben’s) joke about SHiNDiG:

Q: What’s the difference between SHiNDig and the Titanic?
A: At the least the Titanic had a good band playing when it went down.

I don’t actually know who won the night in the end as I left right after handing in my judging sheet (the night was running late and I was really tired), but my suspicion is that Fiction will have carried the night. I’ll update once I know the final answer to that one.

UPDATE: actually, my own instincts were right and First Day won the night. huzzah.

SHiNDiG 2003

Tomorrow night, 9pm, The Railway Club!

The extravaganza begins again! For the next 13 or so Tuesdays, come catch some of the best (and possibly, the worst) of up-and-coming local bands!

I’ll be there, Ben will be hosting, and the beer is cheap!

Look to CiTR for information on which bands are playing when, as well as previews of the coming night’s acts.

So come on down, tomorrow night, to the Railway club, for about 9pm!


So as anyone who’s anyone knows, CiTR‘s annual battle of the bands, SHiNDiG, is starting up again shortly. The much underestimated Ben will once again be the host for this fabulous celebration of local music.

He emailed me with a request for sponsors: We like to support our local bands, and so we want to reward them if they win this contest. He’s looking for sponsors of all stripes, but in particular, is looking for a web-design sponsor. This person would, in sponsorship, design the winning band a small, simple website. You may ask yourself, why wouldn’t Stv. do this? Well, to be blunt, I’m not a designer. I’m a coder. So if they wanted some interactivity, I could donate that. But a designer I ain’t. So if you are a designer (or if you do something that you feel could help out an up-and-coming musical act), please contact Ben and offer your support for this fabulous event.

In thanks for being a sponsor, your logo will be displayed behind the bands on stage each and every Tuesday night at the Railway club for 3 months. In addition, Ben will read aloud your name every night with gusto and glee, further enhancing your image as a rockin’ person/company.

SHiNDiG (finals)

Last night was the last night of the 2002 edition of SHiNDiG. What with trips, work and being sick having kept me away for most of the shows, I’d actually only seen one of the finalists prior to last night.

The three finalists were The Stunts, My Project:Blue and Black Rice.

The Stunts were a rock-grrl trio, with a quirky sense of humor. They have a costume schtick, showing up last night in naval costume (having prior appeared as Brownies and Mad Scientists, apparently). They were fun, but I’m not sure how they got through 2 previous rounds. While their sound was intentionally edgy, they were a little rough around the edge still, it seemed, and lacked a little cohesion. They, were, however, fun, and had excellent crowd support.

My Project: Blue were the ones that I’d seen before. In fact, when I first saw them, I pegged them as potential finalists. They started of moody and dark, their weird 8mm film showing fuzzily behind them. The person sitting next to me (jen?), likened them to an ‘indie-rock Doors, except for the voice’ (which I’d say is ‘inspired’ by Thom Yorke of Radiohead. This moody, mellow sound held sway for about half their set, until their organist strapped on a guitar and they woke up, to become a much more lively band (including a signature dance!). I thought they were really great, and quite likely to make the jump across to college radio.

After a somewhat lame Jokes for Beer (though full of offerings, they just mostly sucked) (there was, however, one joke I particularly liked: so a chicken and an egg are lying in bed together. The egg is smoking. The egg turns to the chicken and says ‘I guess we know the answer to that question then’), Black Rice came on. Black Rice was straight-up, 70’s-fueled guitar rock. Right down to neck-length wavy hair, headbands and bad handlebar mustaches. But they could really rock. Their ‘older’ material was excellent, but they also included a slew of new songs, which seemed to more metal, less melody, and made me tune them out somewhat.

Had it been me voting, My Project: Blue would have squeaked past Black Rice, with The Stunts in third. However, according to the judges, Black Rice won, with My Project: Blue second and the Stunts still in third.

SHiNDiG (week 6)

I’d like to preamble this review with the following: I have great respect for a group of people willing to get up on stage, in front of a potentially hostile, or apathetic audience, and play their own music. I almost have more respect for bands who must know how far they have to go before they stop sucking.

Having been a judge last night, I would like to have abstained in the voting process. For each band, I had a real hard time saying nice things about them, although I managed to find one or two good things to say about each of them. Of the three bands, The Olden Days probably has the most potential. They are a depressing kindercore band, and once they get over the ‘it must be sad to be arty’ hump, they’ll probably do alright. And practice some more. And get more comfortable on stage. A certain amount of nervousness is fine, even endearing, but they were just awkward. It was really quite sad. I hope for their sakes the main singer (whose neck was wrapped in a wool scarf) was sick, because the boy could not hold a note for anything. It just kindof disapeared.

I should have guessed from their name that Subconscious Satellite was going to be all psychedelic prog rock. I suppose the best thing I can say about them was that they would make excellent arena rock, were this 30-35 years ago. Their meanderings, their silly, Phish-like lyrics, Greatful Dead-inspired ‘space jams’ to segue between songs, their tiresomely predictable guitar solos—I could have done just fine without them all. As a former deadhead, heavily into psychedelia & 70’s prog rock, it was just sad to see and hear this staple of my youth done so badly. It was unfortunate, because individually, they all seemed to be pretty decent musicians. Perhaps they’ll split up and each go on to greatness in other acts.

Ending the night was Rakshasa, some kindof odd rock outfit. To get things out of the way, a personal note to the lead singer: That much pretention, combined with the Raine Maida impersonation doesn’t do anybody any good. To the bassist: If you’re going to be the center of attention, standing out front, do something. You looked so lost up there. The drummer really drove the band, the guitar work was fine (although the lead guitar was strangely lost in the mix somehow), but nothing really worked. Admitedly, I may have liked them more if it weren’t for the singer’s antics. The final piece missing was cohesion: they just seemed to be all over the map, trying things out, without finding what exactly worked for them.

SHiNDiG (week 2)

Week 2 of SHiNDiG was an odd one: my feelings upon attending were inverse to how IÂ’d thought IÂ’d react based on the demo songs up on the website. The Railway club was already pretty packed when I arrived, the centerpiece being a birthday party wherein several men were all dressed as Vegas-era Elvis (paunch and puffy face included in only one of the getups, although I suspect it wasnÂ’t makeup).

I was most excited before arrival to see the first band, Woody, whose demo track ‘Kitsilano Cowboy’ was hilarious, seemingly all ironic and They presented well on stage, the 3 men all in matching black bowling shirts with a wide blue stripe, the singer & keyboardist decked out retro-hipster style, a bright blue wig to top it off. Unfortunately, their performance was not nearly no inspired as a synchronized wardrobe. A mix of country & surf guitar, what had promised to be intelligently humorous was in actuality just plain silly. The best moment was when the singer left the stage, leaving the 3 guys to play a surf-guitar track. I immediately thought that perhaps they were originally a surf act, and the singer was perhaps their Yoko Ono.

I’d noticed that during Woody’s set, the crowd was unusually boisterous, but it hadn’t bothered me. Unfortunately, My Project: Blue, who was the second act of the night, really deserved some quiet. A quartet featuring 2 acoustic guitars, drums, mini-moog/bass, they had a soft, ethereal sound that seemed very suited to artsy coffee-shops. Backed by grainy 8mm video of random families doing family oriented things, they sung about – well, I’m not entirely sure what they sung about, but it sounded pretty mournful, which I probably should have expected given the name. The singer, hiding behind hair, has the Thom Yorke-style wail down pat, making anything sung sound slightly sad & angry. The tracks in which they added the bass generally sounded better, although the richest sound came when the singer put down his guitar to take up the synthesizer, which padded them out with drums, acoustic guitar, bass and mini-moog. They left me in a meditative mood as they walked off-stage, but that was quickly disrupted by the insanity that JokesForBeer always is. Lame jokes and heckles ensued for a while before Ben, so stoic in face of it all, called it to a merciful halt and Goshen (Note to Ben: Goshen, not Goshent) prepped to go on.

Goshen was…atmospheric rock? An instrumental 3-piece, they cruised through their set, each song morphing into the next until I suddenly realized I never noticed any difference between them all. Each felt like just one more iteration of the previous, with negligible differences. Despite this, or perhaps because of this, they succeeded in creating a definite atmosphere in the room, which had thinned out noticeably by then, although the Elvi were all still going strong. They were instantly forgettable, and as I write this, I’m having a hard time recalling anything about them. They were completely anonymous on stage as well, with no introduction, no interaction with the audience – they just played through their set, then got off. Despite this seemingly negative review, I did somewhat enjoy Goshen, although it may be more apt to say that I didn’t dislike them. I’m not sure they had enough presence to really sway me in either way.

The judges had it easy this night: My Project: Blue was so much better than either of the other 2 bands, indeed IÂ’d say theyÂ’ve an excellent chance of winning SHiNDiG this year. Were I to place the other 2 bands, IÂ’d probably order it Goshen, then Woody, mostly because IÂ’d find another half-hour of Goshen far less irritating.

Look for this review in an upcoming DiSCORDER too (I hope)

SHiNDiG (Week 1)

First off, the quality level of last night was much higher than most of last year’s. As Ben says that it was perhaps the weakest night on the schedule, things are looking good.

The first band of the night was My Funeral, who were straight-up rock. I think Punk side, but I’ll allow for the argument that they’re alot like early Metallica (the poses and look of their lead singer are certainly remiscent of Metallica). These guys really suffered from a lack of stage presence: they spent their entire set watching themselves play, and for the lead singer, hiding behind his hair. They were driven by their bassist, a lefty who kicked it out with some excellent bass lines. Partnered with some rock-god guitar work and shouted lyrics, they rocked out, without pretense. I’ve been on something of a garage/(old-school) punk rock kick of late, and these guys, while clearly needing some work, fit into the category.

Next up (and I think that the second band has the least enviable time slot – immediately after the first, and with Jokes For Beer separating them from the third band, a long way from the end of the night) was A Virgin in Hollywood. The best thing about them is that they looked like they were having a blast on stage. Their lead guitarist, a kindof Shaggy (of Scooby-Doo) look alike, bounced around manically, while keeping up with some fine guitar work. The drummer, equally manic, really drove their sound, pounding away back there. They are fronted by a female bassist, who, it must be said, didn’t quite cut it for me. It started poorly – the first song they sang, called ‘One Wish’ (or something similar), was standard rock. Unfortunately, the singer chose to emulate Gwen Stefani as closely as possible. Had this been consistent, I would’ve marked it up as having the misfortune of sounding just like her. However, on most of the subsequent songs, her voice (while similar), was distinctive in its own right. But all told, they were really quite generic, not terribly tight and to get a better grade from me, would probably need some retooling – perhaps featuring the lead guitar more strongly, a change of singer, something along those lines.

The third band of the night, Human Hi-lite Reel, were of a completely different category. I really had trouble figuring them out. They were jazzy, humorous and ironic (I believe that I wrote something like ‘endearingly Ben Folds Five-like). A three piece, consisting of pared-down drums, bass (sometimes guitar) and organ (along with keyboards and a mixer). They played wierd, off-kilter songs, were loose, clearly comfortable with each other (the difference between the level and quality of their on-stage communication and the other two bands was immense). However, I was never quite sure whether they were a drawn-out joke or really just a wacky band. I did quite enjoy them, although the tonal range played on the organ was fairly small, which began to irk me by the end of their set. The singer (and organist) was ‘an everybody’s best friend’ type of guy, all self-deprecating, with a cute habit, of holding up both hands after each song, saying ‘thank you very much’.

It was a toss up for me who to vote for between My Funeral & Human Hi-Lite Reel, but in the end, I cast a vote for My Funeral, because of the lack of pretense (which matches my own current rock kick), and because I think I could quickly get irritated by Human Hi-Lite Reel if the schtick continued in the same vein.

However, the other judges differed, and Human Hi-Lite Reel won, moving on to the next round.

Next week’s trio sounds excellent on the website, so I’m pretty stoked for it. So if you missed last night, be sure not to miss next week’s.

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