Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shout out: The Balconies and Sandman Viper Command.

I've been out and about a little less in recent weeks, trying to be more choosy with what I see, save a few $$, and get some work done. But it doesn't mean I've lost my love for live music, especially of the cheaper variety. It's awesome when I see a band that I never heard of and end up loving them, or a band I have some experience with that ends up really impressing me. It really happens more often than it rightly should, speaking to the depth of talent in this part of the world that has yet to break out elsewhere.

Last Friday that band was the Balconies, a young group originally from Ottawa but recently resident here whose debut full-length I tried to like but didn't much. When they came on---headlining Lee's Palace for their CD release after strong sets by more well-known bands---I wasn't in the best mood and pretty sure I wouldn't find them much more than ok. Wrong! I was at the front at the beginning of their set, and soon moved back behind the soundboard where the volume was less loud, and where I could be a little moody without anyone else noticing. After another song or two, though, the band had me hooked. Guitarist and lead vocalist Jacquie Neville was near-mesmerizing on stage. A strong voice and stage presence rarely matched in such a young performer (in my experience), I could hardly take my eyes off her. Great pop hooks and enough musical changeups kept my attention and forced me to admit that this band's really got something. I was less keen on the songs where Jacquie's brother and the band's bassist took over lead vocals, but it'd be hard for anyone to match her vocal chops. I went home and took another listen to their self-titled album. It's not so bad, after all. (And more proof that I usually need to see a band live in order to really "get" what they're about.) Consider me a convert and an enthusiastic booster.

The Singing Lamb's with me on this one, but she was in love with this band way before me. Note to self: pay more attention to Melody's picks. There were a bunch of photographers at the show, too. Clearly this band is on plenty of people's radars.

Download: The Balconies, "Lulu" (The Balconies, 2009).
Download: The Balconies, "The Slo" (The Balconies, 2009).

[Photo credit: Frank Yang.]


The second young band that had me enthusiastic this weekend was Sandman Viper Command. This Burlington group had impressed me back during Pitter Patter Fest in May, but though they had some good songs and great vocals, I wasn't convinced they'd found a sound all their own. I wanted to see them again and hoped they'd find themselves a niche and a larger audience when I did. Well, they did. Whether I missed it the first time or the band has honed their sound, on Sunday night at Sneaky Dee's---the last band to perform there as part of the Wavelength series---Sandman Viper Command showcased a sound that mixed old fashioned rock 'n' roll with new pop. And I loved it. Without sounding much like these other bands, they had me thinking of Ra Ra Riot, Zeus, and Two Hours Traffic, and in my books that is a good thing. I was impressed, and so too was the audience, it seemed. The guys had people paying attention and dancing, and though the crowd wasn't so large as it might have been, no doubt the word is spreading. I gotta admit I'm pretty excited about SVC.

They've got themselves on the recent Hi-Hat Recordings compilation album, and are set to play Elvis Monday next week. Check them out then if you're able.

Download: Sandman Viper Command, "Strawberry Quick" (Everybody See This, 2009).
Download: Sandman Viper Command, "Oh Yeah, It's Fusion" (Everybody See This, 2009).
There are lots of other great tunes on this record.

[Photo credit: Bryan Ulrich.]

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