Live Review

Great Escape 2009: Canadian Blast Showcase, The Arc

Venues this intimate are made for gigs like this.

Typical and predictable is the British weather that upon the first full day of this seaside festival the busiest rooms across Brighton are the hotel lobbies. The wind and rain coming in from the sea undoubtedly effects the number of gig-goers venturing out to the various showcases on offer but the few that do angle themselves for the walk along the beach will no doubt have brave the return journey armed with smug grin and satisfied musical palette having seen the best that Canada has to offer.

The never ending search for the next Dylan is destined to be fruitless, but approaching his mid-twenties there is more than an air of Guthrie about the gentle rasp of Vancouver’s Dan Mangan. His 2007 album ‘Postcards and Daydreaming’ makes great background music and oozes charm, but lacks the power of his recent ‘Roboteering EP’ which by evidence on show today will carry over to his forthcoming long player. The small crowd cowered beneath the dingy arches are treated to the full works before he winds them right in. Unplugged and into the crowd, Mangan conducts a chorus of “Robots need love too…they want to be loved by you.” Written down it might not sound much, but as sing-a-longs go, it is as catchy and effective as they get. It also undoubtedly wins him a larger audience for his performance at Komedia the following night.

Next up is a band taking on the entire history of rock n roll in one fell swoop. Ultimate Power Duo (all three of them!) take the Stones’ rumbling bluesy drum beats, AC/DC’s wardrobe, Green Day’s modern punk tones and mix them in with parts of Oasis, The Who, The Ramones and The Hives. Songs like ‘Jack The Ripper’ and ‘Do Electric Sheep Dream of UPD?’ are no where near as threatening or ambitious as their respective titles might suggest; the former starting with an almost angelic chorus of “woohoo”, the only song that doesn’t kick off with an angry ‘1, 2, 3, 4’. Not particularly original, but when you are aping the rock hall of fame the way this trio are you have to back yourselves all the way. Every song rocks the tiny arches to their foundations, every chorus is in your head to stay and each song grinds to a halt just the right side of pastiche.

The line-up then leads us to Hey Rosetta! who for all their trebly guitars, meaningful lyrics and impressive musicianship fail to produce any inspiration as an end result. They ‘wittily’ dedicate their most interesting song, ‘There’s an Arc’, to the venue. The song itself seems to borrow both the two-tone riff of ‘What Took You So Long?’ (The Courteeners not Emma Bunton) and more than a few reference points to Arcade Fire. Disappointingly all the ingredients of a really good band are in place, but the live show lacks any personality and doesn’t do their songs, which are well crafted and intriguing, any justice.

The Arkells are next to the tiny stage and seem to have drawn a larger and more enthusiastic crowd than anyone of their fellow Canadians. Whether this is due to the worsening weather outside or the favourable review in the festival programme is questionable, but all the way from Ontario they are in no mood to disappoint. Their soulful take on rock produces solid MOR pop, nothing too out of the ordinary, but for those who like to know where they stand, the Arkells are for you. The crowds find new energy born straight out of the band’s relatable hooks and “hey, hey, hey” refrains and lift the mood effortlessly in a room full of sodden hair-dos.

The showcase of Canada’s finest new talent comes to a close with Ohbijou and their volume-up, speed-up folk crowds on to the stage with an array of instruments at their disposal. Every song provides you with a chance to lose yourself in the lucid vocals, whilst gently, but uncontrollably stamping your feet and nodding your head. Venues this intimate are made for gigs like this; dreamy songs played with increasing intensity roughly two yards from your ears can never be a bad thing. The soft vocals echo through the arches, which strangely, in a venue this size, block half of the audience from actually seeing the band. That only makes the whole experience a step more removed from the reality of the typhoon brewing in the English Channel just fifty yards away.

Tags: Ohbijou, Features

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