Friday night was all right for concertgoers at Distrikt Nightclub, as The Zone’s first of two year-end Band of the Month Showcases offered up an eclectic sampling of homegrown Vancouver Island talent. Featuring four snack-sized 30-minute sets harvested from this year’s bumper BOTM crop—including The Wild Romantics, LABS, Lovecoast and Fallbrigade—we discovered just how diverse the over-arching label of “modern rock” has become in 2016.
But for all the differentiations in musical influence and subgenre labels that exist between these acts, there was one clear through line for the night—the expanded role that talented female musicians are taking in BC’s indie music scene. Gender diversity was certainly a highlight when it came to this year’s BOTM selections, with five out of eight bands (including Croatia, who play Showcase #2 on November 25) prominently featuring a female vocalist. This was a far cry from 2015, where just one of the eight bands—R&B collective The New Groovement—was fronted by a woman. For most of 2015, it was dudes as usual, so it’s safe to say that 2016 was BOTM’s Year of the Woman, and Showcase #1 could have easily been subtitled “Ladies Night”.
An early show at Distrikt means doors at 7:00 and an 8:00 pm start time, which may not have been the preferred timeslot for Nanaimo’s The Wild Romantics, who drew the short straw as the evening’s opening act. There was a lot of debate amongst the Rocktog crew as to how the evening’s set order was determined, and absent a clear justification, we have to assume it was simply based on the BOTM calendar. The Wild Romantics were The Zone’s BOTM for January, so there they were, swaggering onstage at 8:00, as the crowd was still trickling in.
“Who’s ready to get lit AF?!” roared lead singer Aleisha Kalina in her trademark vocal fry-infused rasp. When met with a less than enthusiastic response from the crowd, most of whom had just walked in the door, her partner in crime, guitarist/vocalist Evan Miller acknowledged that maybe it was a bit early for folks to be “lit”, promising that there would plenty of time to get “f****ed up” as the evening wore on. The band, also comprised of Rory Froese on lead guitar, Jarred Bolen on bass, and Eric Banerd on drums, then launched into a boisterous indie rock set, showcasing tunes off their debut EP She Could Tell. Kalina and Miller remained the focal point of the performance throughout, feeding off their eccentric chemistry and ultimately turning the stage and surrounding area into their own personal jungle gym. The result was a performance that was visually stimulating, but smacked a bit of gimmickry, to the point that we sometimes lost focus on the music itself. Still, you can’t deny that they are a fun group to watch.
Next to the stage was February’s BOTM LABS, the brainchild of lead singer Lindsay Bryan and guitarist Adam Sutherland, buoyed by Matt Longpre on keys/bass and Keenan Murray on drums. Employing a synth and sample heavy brand of electronic rock, along with Bryan’s haunting, rich vocals made for a winning combination. Despite one false start on the track “Brave” due to a mistimed sample loop, LABS offered a polished, radio-friendly and exceptionally groove-able set that thrilled the crowd. The group closed out their performance with the high profile hit “Down” off their EP of the same name. Easily the most identifiable track of the entire night, “Down” is a legit banger.
In the third slot, we jumped a few months forward on the 2016 calendar to April’s BOTM Lovecoast. Shifting gears into the realm of blues/pop rock, lead singer Danielle Sweeney’s soulful voice and charismatic charm make it easy to be a Lovecoast fan. With Wes Caroll on guitar, Andrew Fraser on bass, Phil Hamelin on keys and trumpet, and Jesse McNeill on drums, Lovecoast boasts a supremely high level of musicianship. The group served up a spirited performance, drawing a crowd down into the pit to bounce along with several tracks off their EP Chasing Tides. Sweeney announced early on that she was turning 25 at midnight, which she identified as “old”, and while we all know that’s certainly not the case, there’s no denying that her cultured and poignant vocals make her seem like an old soul.
Closing out the night were folk rock collective Fallbrigade, the Zone’s BOTM for July. Fronted by world weary brother/sister duo Caleb Scott and Esther Jungclaus, who spent their childhood growing up in Canada, South America and Scotland, the group takes inspiration from their varied life experiences. Rounded out by core members Matthew Jungclaus on piano, Robin Jones on mandolin and guitar and Adam Stel on bass, the band, known for their mix of lively folk anthems and introspective ballads, performed a set of predominantly up tempo tracks to appeal to the swelling crowd. Near the end of their set, the club was already letting late night bar hoppers in the door, resulting in a pronounced demographic shift from earlier in the evening. While the scene began to feel decidedly odd, hey, at least the dance floor was full.
Rocktographers is proud to be a contributor/partner with The Zone for the BOTM showcases, and we look forward to round two on November 25, featuring Grizzly Timbers, Sam Weber, No Liars and Croatia.