Saturday, March 13, 2010

Efterklang - Live

Efterklang travel 200 days out of the year, and while those aren't James Brown numbers, not many bands are playing shows around the world so frequently. And so it is credit to their own enigmatic selves how they seem so delighted to be on stage, no matter where they are. Their new album Magic Chairs has an interpretable title and while the band sits on their tour bus for eight hours a day, bassist Rasmus Stolberg says, "you want to look at it in a positive way; you can look at that as your magic chair. I mean, it takes you on to new adventures every day." He's the dude with the sweet mustache. You gotta be happy if you're going to pull that thing off.
Efterklang (last year); note Peter Broderick on violin, and sister Heather Woods on flute.

Thanks to Sarah, I went to this show; she bought me a ticket! Efterklang were so awesome this past Friday night. Better than last year when they played with Peter Broderick. Maybe it was Peter's presence that upstaged them, because this year's opening acts were not nearly as good. The first band Aunts and Uncles were charming and sweet. I wanted to put them in my pocket. They express an eclectic naiveté, but are really solid, musically. The violinist seemed like she was not ready to give a "show" per say, merely standing and doing the minimum. The lead guitarist was androgynous in voice and talented, and the drummer was also really good.

The next band gets no love from me. I think I have been spoiled for a long time at shows, or I just know how to pick them. Balmorhea was supposed to open for Efterklang but due to a serious family issue they had to cancel their entire tour. I was bummed but optimistic. Certain Breeds opened with some nice synth sounds, but then........oh, shudder... the vocalist. I am highly open minded about how vocalists express themselves. I was giving this woman a big chance, several songs in, but when it became apparent that she had ONE NOTE that she liked to sing, somehow atonally, I became highly irritated.

Maybe she was going for a tribal take on things, or she subscribed to the mantra that repetition is the best, the best, the best. Whatever the theory, the execution was flawed and ugly sounding. The music even sounded good at songs' beginnings, but it never intensified to help give some kind of phantom meaning or intensity to this hollow, lupine whining. God I hope this band finds a new singer, or does something completely different. The problem is that they seem to be a pretty well known and (somehow) popular local band. They've played at Music Waste, been featured in the Georgia Straight. It will be just our luck that they never make it big and Vancouver audiences are stuck with them for decades. I was trying to describe the music to someone, and I couldn't. It was like it was devoid of style. Like a milkshake without flavour. Maybe some vanilla flavouring, but no bean and no love from grandma. This was Dairy Queen at 4am. Empty feeling and full of that dreadful knowing that, despite civilization's comforts, your happiness is doomed in this situation.

Speaking of future truckers and their empty milkshakes, I ran into a future Large Marge at the beer cooler. Having scrounged up $3.60 in coins, I strutted up to the open air basin full of ice and brews, hoping I could score a $3.75 Pabst can at a minor discount. A prolonged wag of the head, lower lip pressed into the upper; this young woman was immovable on the price. "I don't even know if I'm going to make 15 cents tonight," she lamented. I humorously offered her the first sip of my Pabst as penance, because we all know after that first sip, the honeymoon is over. You just have to pretend it's better beer after that. She pointed to her charts on the nearby wall, tallying every beer sold. She made it seem like she had bought every beer and was hoping to break even. I didn't know the Biltmore allowed entrepreneur beer girls. I even considered adding the two loose buttons in my wallet to my total. It's kind of sad to find what you think is a quarter, and it turns out to be a button. But then it's funny because beer is trivial.
Efterklang wore green. It was lovely.

Later I found a loonie in the Twilight Zone pinball machine, but I reasoned that it was better to have made money at the show rather than waste it on a shitty, overpriced beer. I made money at this show! And after seeing such a terrible band, Efterklang had to be great by comparison. And they were. Such awesome music these chaps can make. And so passionate, full of fun. They always look like they are enjoying themselves. Vocalist Casper Clausen plays his drum sticks on everything around him, acting on elfin impulses, aware of all the hipster black rimmed glasses scrutinizing his every move. Efterklang are glorious. The music is so rich and lively, yet you know the people who go to these shows. They stand, for the most part. Those black rimmed glasses don't bounce. But I moved. It was hard not to.

The guitar player they had with them was awesome. I can't remember if it's the same guy they always had, but I don't think so. This dude is the shit. He was belting the glorious lyrics that sound like they're in the back of the room. Heather Woods Broderick is so short! But it's not her fault I could barely see her. The Biltmore stage is like an uber widescreen viewing area. Like your vision is being pinched by god's finger and thumb. Sarah and I didn't even realize there was a drummer on stage until the fourth song when he stood up to play trumpet. I actually started to feel a buzzkill because of the "live" drums that were apparently being played through the P.A. but luckily there was a drummer after all! Buzz back on! Dollar in pocket. The Magic Chairs songs are really awesome live, and as usual, the electronics are of premium quality. Damn these people are good. I read a hilarious and inspiring quote from Rasmus about how the band isn't classically trained. "We—the four guys in Efterklang—are as untrained in music as you can be, almost,” he says, laughing. “But we are specialists in making Efterklang music."

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