The newly rechristened Capital Ballroom (formerly Sugar Nightclub) packed everyone in for a sold out concert featuring two heavyweights in the Canadian indie rock scene: The New Pornographers and Toronto’s Born Ruffians.
After Rifflandia, it was refreshing to be in a bit of an older crowd of aging hipsters, scenesters, and music fans. We love Rifflandia, but as we get a little older, it gets harder and harder for us thirtysomething Rocktographers to keep up. We like coffee, going to bed at a decent time, and that latest season of whatever on Netflix.
Born Ruffians have been a staple of the Canadian indie scene for well over a decade, coming out of Ontario with much accolades in the early 2000s. Since then, the band has toured extensively, both in the country and the rest of the world, with acts like Franz Ferdinand, Peter Bjorn and John, and more recently making an appearance in Victoria in support of Tokyo Police Club at Alix Goolden Hall.
The boys in Born Ruffians crammed themselves onstage amongst all of The New Pornographers’ gear. There was very little room for them to move, and even drummer Adam Hindle had to jump off the stage into the photo pit just to get to his drum kit. It’s no surprise that their trademark backdrop of the illuminated letters “R” “U” “F” “F” didn’t make it up there with them. A bit of a shame because the band was pretty much shrouded in darkness during their entire set, save for a row of tungsten yellow lights on their dimmest setting. This would also be the case for the headliners later that evening, making engaging photos a challenge to capture.
Born Ruffians’ set was entertaining and fun. Bass player Mitch Derosier took front and centre stage with his metal style headbanging during the band’s songs. The folks at the front of the security barricade were right in the sweat splash zone that night. The crowd erupted into an impromptu dance party during the 2013 single Needle, singing along with Luke Lalonde until the band departed the stage.
The last time Victoria was treated to the talents of The New Pornographers was during a sun-bleached festival slot at Rock The Shores and Rifflandia the summer before. We finally got a well-deserved headlining set from the band at Capital Ballroom.
This time, we were treated to roughly twenty-two songs instead of an abbreviated festival set full of the hits. AC Newman and the band had very little to say to the crowd that Thursday night. They were here to put on a rock show, and that’s it.
Most of the evening’s set leaned hard on the band’s latest albums, Whiteout Conditions and Brill Bruisers, with the consisted of a diverse mix of the band’s entire discography including the singles Moves, Dancehall Domine, Use It, and Mass Romantic.
The New Pornographers once called Vancouver home, but now span multiple countries and coasts. AC Newman is based in New York. Other band members live in Toronto and Vancouver, while keyboardist/vocalist Kathryn Calder calls Victoria home.
Unfortunately, this geographic inconsistency meant that the evening lacked some of their traditional mainstays due to missing band members.
Casual fans of the band who came to the show expecting Dan Bejar and Neko Case were surprised to find that neither were there. For a long time Case hasn’t been part of the touring band, instead only making appearances at big festivals like Coachella or Sasquatch and late night television performances by the band.
Dan Bejar, on the other hand, has been a long time touring member of the band, and has been working on his own project Destroyer as of late. He hasn’t left the band, but is more focused on his own thing at the moment. He did, however, play with The New Pornographers in their hometown of Vancouver the following evening.
While in Victoria though, the band tried their luck at a Dan Bejar and Neko Case impression or two, but fell short on the likes of Champions of Red Wine.
It’s doubtful either of them would’ve even been able fit on stage as the seven members that make up the touring version of The New Pornographers. The stage at Capital Ballroom can be quite cramped for bands of that size.
Towards the end of the evening, The New Pornographers launched into the ear-catching Avalanche Alley off their latest album, Whiteout Conditions. It was mesmerizing to watch the band perform the song that they were all clearly excited to play live. Touring vocalist and violinist, Simi Stone, in a moment of zen, banged drumsticks together on the beat, adding a unique sonic dimension to the song. It might have been lost on the rowdy crowd that night, but those who heard it were drawn in.
When you only see bands like The New Pornographers during the summer music festival season, you tend to forget how expansive the band’s back catalogue is. With what seems to be an infinite amount of source material to pull from, this is a band that can put on one hell of a rock show for their longtime fans.