Review by Pieter Hofmann
Photography by Paul Clarke
Opening on a rainy evening outside and inside the club (witness the strategically placed beer cups catching the water dripping from the ceiling) was Halifax's Plumtree. Playing songs from last year's release, Mass Teen Fainting, the all-girl quartet showed little if any originality. It was obvious that the band was trying, but, marred by bad sound and limited mastery of their instruments, Plumtree seldom provided any spark for the crowd. Even with the band splitting vocal duties three ways, their brief set showed little variety and a surprising lack of polish from a band that have been together for over three years. Jale they're not.
Sandwiched between Plumtree and the headlining Posies were California's Primitive Radio Gods. Essentially, PRG is a showcase for Chris O'Connor and his latest release Rocket. From a distortion drenched wall of sound to funk to acoustic-fed folk harmonies, PRG bounced about in many guises. Fuelled by O'Connor's catchy pop hooks and a band with the ability to slip from one style into another at the drop of a hi-hat, PRG quickly erased Plumtree's lacklustre set. The rhythm section of Tim Lauterio (drums) and Jeff Sparks (bass) planted the backbone as O'Connor and Luke McAuliffe exchanged walloping guitar on most of the songs, particularly on, "Chain Reaction" and "Downhearted." With Sparks taking over the vocal chores on the ballad "Fading Out," O'Connor added toothache sugarcoating with his harmonies.
While the Primitive Radio Gods' long set was impossible to pigeonhole, PRG's epicenter relies on a dual guitar attack smoothed and freshened with above average harmonies. O'Connor's intelligent songwriting and warm vocal delivery along with the quartet's smart infusion of pop sensibilities provided ample reason to believe that the band is set to play large venues soon.
Returning from a recent short swing through Australia, the Posies hit the Starfish Room stage with a packet of numbers from their current long player, Amazing Disgrace. Although their latest disc contains their trademark harmonies and shimmering power-pop, Amazing Disgrace is a clear departure from the likes of their earlier work such as 1990's Dear 23. Bolstered by a louder and more aggressive attack, the Posies have opted for power over beauty.
The show, for the sake of argument, was divided in two halves. Jon Auer provided the sweeter melodies and trademark Posies' harmonies while Ken Stringfellow counterpunched with cerebral crunching pop-punk. Stringfellow blasted attitude towards the other members of the band and the crowd along with the never ending gob he let fly. Over the pistol-whipping ampage, he hacked out "Hate Song" and "Everybody is a Fucking Liar" and buried the Starfish Room in a gale force of angst. Stringfellow's vocal and musical attack were as intentionally pleasant as a hungover dentist probing a root canal before the anesthetic kicks in.
With Joe Skyward slapping the bass and Brian Howard pounding on the skins, Jon Auer was the dental patient happily blasted on laughing gas. With a voice that wouldn't be out of place on a Grapes of Wrath LP (if they had had balls), Auer smoothed out the set and illustrated the poppier side of the band. Although the sound was rather poor, Auer dished out the pretty "Precious Moments" and "Please Return It," which wouldn't sound out of place on a Hollies album. Though Auer shared the spotlight with Stringfellow, the Posies' show was decidedly more electric and aggressive than on their previous visits to Vancouver. It was obvious that many in the crowd were there to hear the poppier side of the band. Considering the response the band received on "Any Other Way" and "Apology" (from Dear 23) and the more harmony injected numbers, the new, live and assaultive band may consider not burying the past so quickly and losing what makes them special.
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