Originally published in CVV Magazine on July 24, 2015
The festival season in B.C. doesn’t really kick off until mid-July—well after the Coachella and Sasquatches of the west coast have long come and gone—but when it does, we enter a whole new mode of summer. This past weekend, while tens of thousands descended on Pemberton Music Festival for some of the biggest electronic and hip-hop acts touring today, Victoria hosted a different kind of festival—one that relied on a heavier guitar sound and live instrumentation rather than ear-shattering drum and bass: Rock the Shores—at the beautiful Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre in Colwood. The festival borrowed many of the acts that played Pemberton in the days before, but celebrated the older, more seasoned rock acts and breathed new life into the dying art of rock and roll.
On Saturday night, the heavyweights on the bill were The Black Keys, who had closed out the main stage at Pemberton the night before, drawing a huge crowd in Victoria from early on in the day. After a long and arduous bus trip out to Colwood’s West Shores, my group and I arrived in time to catch the end of newcomer Scott Helman, who had the crowd singing and dancing along by the end of his set to “Bungalow,” which gets quite a bit of local radio play. As the afternoon wore on, the heat and long lines for water distracted from bands like the Vancouver-based blues-rock outfit No Sinner, who played a fairly uninteresting set. At 3:00, the Kingston rock and rollers The Glorious Sons took the stage to play an excellent set, transitioning seamlessly between heavier and more psychedelic tracks. Up next were local legends 54-40, who had the crowd dancing right to the back as they rolled through their greatest hits. Victoria locals Current Swell were given a lofty introduction—“Summer doesn’t start until you’ve seen these guys live”—before getting the crowd into the festival spirit with a barrage of homegrown island folk-rock.
Then the evening really got started. As the field filled up and lineups for food curved around the site, seasoned Saskatoon rockers The Sheepdogs took the stage, playing bluesy rock with a modern twist, with songs like “The Way It Is,” “Feeling Good,” and “I Don’t Know,” as well as their recent single “Downtown.” Somewhere during the sing-along set, my group and I moved our way up to the front of the stage.
We stayed up there after the The Sheepdogs left the stage for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, who are always entertaining, and frontman Alex Ebert put on quite a show as the acid-cult leader character of Edward Sharpe, whose only desire is for “the whole damn world to come dance with [him].” There was plenty of dancing and audience participation in the set, too, and at one point during “Home” Ebert stopped the show to pass the microphone around to people in the crowd who wanted to tell stories.
The whole thing fit well with the hippie-feel of the island, and at that point it started to feel like a proper festival. The crowd, almost put under a spell by Edward Sharpe, changed dramatically as we waited for The Black Keys to take the stage, and when they finally did we were packed like sardines in the front row. They sounded good, but Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney looked tired and physically drained as they played through hits like “Gold on the Ceiling,” “Tighten Up,” and “Lonely Boy.” Ultimately, they provided the real rock of the day, closing their set with the heartachingly beautiful “Little Black Submarines,” which was a huge crowd-pleaser. They didn’t come out for an encore though, a trend that would continue for the rest of the weekend.
Day 2, though considerably smaller, was the day I was looking forward to most, with 90s rock icons Jane’s Addiction closing out the bill, as well as art-rock pioneers TV on the Radio and witty singer-songwriter Father John Misty earlier in the day. We got there just before 3:00 to catch the end of Australian Kim Churchill’s foot-stomping set. What followed was one of the strangest bookings—and sets—I’ve ever seen at a music festival with PPL MVR, a band of Sasquatches that seemed to really like auto tune. They had me won over when they played a cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind,” though.
I took the chance to go up to the front of the stage to take photos for what
I thought were some of the best bands on the lineup. I got some practice in with Bleachers, a new project led by Jack Antonoff from fun. that has been getting quite a bit of local radio play.
As the late afternoon wore on, former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman graced the stage as Father John Misty. His bushy beard and vocal chops make him somewhat of an indie-rock icon, while his dry sense of humor and showmanship make him very entertaining to watch as he flounces around the stage unapologetically. I was able to get within inches of him as he put on a show for the cameras.
I stayed up front for what has to be one of my favorite bands of all time: TV on the Radio. I saw them for the first time back in 2008 at Malkin Bowl in Vancouver when I was just 14 years old—at that time they were touring the now classic Dear Science, which they played just a few songs from in their short but seductive sundown set.
Then it was time for Jane’s Addiction. I grew up listening to Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro both with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s, so it was pretty special to finally get to see them live. I ran into Dave in Vail, Colorado a few years ago and he wouldn’t sign an autograph, but there’s still a photo of me with drummer Stephen Perkins floating around somewhere. Their set blew everything else out of the water.
(Photo by Dean Kaylan)
Like master puppeteers Farrell and Navarro were absolutely captivating, even with dancing girls in the background, culminating in a sensory overload unlike anything else as they grinded up against Farrell while other women swung from ropes connected to metal bars pierced through their backs for set-closer “Stop.” These old rock stars still know how to put on a show, taking every chance they could to be applauded by the receptive audience, particularly as all four gathered around the front of the stage for an acoustic rendition of “Jane Says.” The historic set—their first ever on the island—provided the perfect ending to a great weekend, and will long be sticking in the memories of those who attended.
20. St. Vincent: St. Vincent
Annie Clark’s self-titled fourth album as St. Vincent blended her unique post-punk sensibilities with her sharp-witted lyricism and edgy guitar playing. Eccentric, dynamic, and calculatedly cool, St. Vincent is a truly modern rock record.
The highly anticipated follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut SBTRKT showed off a different side of Aaron Jerome’s production, highlighting the names it featured rather than the SBTRKT enigma itself. Wonder Where We Land attempts to redefine the role of the producer in 2014.
Read the full review here.
TV on the Radio’s first album in three years following the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011 found the band back on their feet and still creating some of the most anthemic art-rock around, even after all these years. A band that will define the 2000’s for millennials.
Read more about TV on the Radio here.
Voices embodied a kind of dualism, exploring big themes of life and death, and pushing further into the separate territories of electronic and rock music, seamlessly combined here. A record for music lovers of all kinds.
Ryan Hemsworth has undeniably changed the face of electronic music in the last few years, and on Alone for the First Time, he challenges its conventions further, blending swaddling, pillowy production with guest vocalists from his Secret Songs label.
Read the feature here.
A jazzy, electronic tour de force, You’re Dead! is a psychedelic trip into the mind of Steven Ellison, and its collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Thundercat are just the tip of the iceberg.
Chet Faker’s hotly anticipated debut lived up to the high expectations from 2012’s Thinking in Textures EP. A spanning, double-sided album, Built on Glass features Faker’s easily recognizable croon and clever lyricism atop gorgeous electronic production.
Hands were clearly a common theme of album covers in 2014.
Spoon’s unique brand of indie rock lived on on They Want My Soul, which soundtracked the end of the summer for the discerning listener. One of the best albums of the year by one of the best bands of the last decade.
12. Glass Animals: Zaba
Glass Animals’ textured, tropical debut was one of the best breakout surprises of 2014, and one of the most under-appreciated albums of the year. A brilliantly poppy, catchy debut, Zaba combined jungle sounds and drum loops to create a multi-layered, captivating electronic production.
11. Tycho: Awake
The follow-up to 2011’s Dive, Awake features more of Scott Hansen’s stunning electronic instrumentation as Tycho. Awake is an album to get lost in; for planes and trains and long car rides. Its combination of electronic production with live instrumentation is what makes it a truly modern record, for listeners of all genres.
Sharon Van Etten’s beautifully honest self-portrait on Are We There made for easily the best singer/songwriter record of 2014, showing off a lighter, more playful side of Etten, but whose sense of lyricism still carries the weight of the world. And it featured one of the best album covers of the year.
9. Alt-J: This Is All Yours
The hugely anticipated follow-up to 2012’s An Awesome Wave, This Is All Yours took listeners further into the parallel universe in which Alt-J exist, through Nara, its mythical and musical utopia. This Is All Yours is an album to do what you want with, and lose yourself in in the process.
Read the full review here.
The self-titled debut from the mysterious London soul collective Jungle redefined the genre in 2014, with timeless tracks like “Time” and “Busy Earnin'” giving listeners just a taste of the funk that permeates Jungle. Dancy, groovy, and so so fresh, Jungle is what’s good in 2014.
7. The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream
The War on Drugs’ third album chronicled Adam Granduciel’s battle with depression, exploring themes of death and loneliness. A true work of genius, Lost in the Dream channels the greats of 80s-era classic rock in its swirling, authentic production. A record stuck in the past and yet somehow so modern and relevant.
Little’s Dragon’s first album since 2011’s Ritual Union, Nabuma Rubberband, was a complex, conceptual record that further cemented the Swedish band’s unique sound and style as one of the most consistently brilliant crossover electronic acts in the world.
5. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
Darkly funny, politically timely, and underminingly brilliant, Run the Jewels 2 dropped a proverbial bomb on 2014’s otherwise lacking year of hip-hop. Killer Mike and El-P are “the jewels runners, top tag team for two summers” and have their sights firmly set on taking over the world.
Read the full review here.
4. Mac DeMarco: Salad Days
Mac DeMarco’s follow-up to 2011’s 2 inspired a whole generation of youngsters to grow their hair out, quit their jobs, and chase their dreams. Well, not really, but listening to Salad Days sure feels like you’re doing everything just right.
3. Todd Terje: It’s Album Time
The Norwegian disco king Todd Terje released his debut album It’s Album Time this year to widespread critical acclaim. A jumpy, playful record that’s almost entirely instrumental, the album’s centrepiece, a cover of “Johnny and Mary” by Robert Palmer featuring Bryan Ferry cements It’s Album Time as an instant classic.
2. FKA twigs: LP1
If you didn’t like FKA twigs’ debut, then you didn’t spend enough time with it. Cerebral, evocative, and boundary-pushing, LP1 represents an innovative approach to songwriting in 2014 and should be sticking around for years to come. A perfectly crafted pop record, FKA twigs’ debut shows us why we don’t need to listen to Nicki Minaj in 2014.
Dan Snaith’s fourth album as Caribou, and the follow-up to 2010’s Swim, Our Love, explored pop music’s most universal theme in its inviting 42 minutes of euphoric dance music. “Can’t Do Without You” and “Our Love” are album highlights, but Snaith entreats you to enter his world on Our Love, and it’s hard to come back.
Read the full review here.
Last week, TV on the Radio released their first album in three years, Seeds. Watch them perform anthemic album single “Happy Idiot” on “Late Show with David Letterman” below:
Watch a history of the band’s powerful performances on “Late Show” below.
Prolific indie rock band TV on the Radio will release a new album, Seeds, their first since 2011’s Nine Types of Light, on November 18. The album is now streaming in full over on iTunes.
Watch the music video for “Wolf Like Me” from 2006’s heralded Return to Cookie Mountain below: