Review by Suzanne Goodwin
Photography by Todd Duncan
I have sometimes wondered if certain venues attract their flavour of patrons because of each evening's particular entertainment -- or is it just that the same sort of people go out to the same clubs despite what's on the bill? That question occurred to me again as I entered the Palladium, another one of those Vancouver venues with seemingly endless incarnations, but whose dockered 'n' deck-shoed après-suit set continue to mill about. Not that it should matter, but have these people even heard of the bands?
Anyway, despite that question in my mind, it was to a reasonably warm reception that Mudgirl took to the stage. The band's choice of initially slower-paced material did keep things subdued for a bit, and a murky sound to the room did nothing to accentuate the soft nuances of singer Kim Bingham's beautifully melodic voice. Then the band -- and the crowd -- hit their stride when Mudgirl offered up "Adjusted," from their First Book release.
With the band intelligently interspersing new material in between the recognizable tunes, I realized just how much more seasoned and comfortable they have become since I saw them a couple of years ago when they opened for the Odds at the Commodore. It seemed as though vocalist Kim Bingham tonight just reached right into the (growing) crowd and pulled them front and centre to the stage (with a special guest appearance by Mr. Bingham -- a.k.a. Oddman Steven Drake -- on keyboards not doing any harm, either).
Amid plenty of between song banter, Mudgirl poured themselves into the rest of the set, enthusiastically overcoming the poor sound and pushing their harmonious pop-rock guitar to the forefront of the mix. A rollicking performance of the rock-a-cow-billy "Confessions of an Astronaut" showed off a more musically intense side of the band, keeping even the unfamiliar rapt until the set's high-note ender "This Day."
Initially, Rusty's set didn't waiver from the apparent subdued-start theme, and it seemed in danger of being a real snoozer as the band came off at first as a bit uninspired, or maybe just plain tired. Fortunately this didn't last too long, and things got into a much heavier headspace with a pretty intense mix of tunes from both Sophomoric and their latest release, Out of Their Heads.
With poor sound being the major annoyance of the evening, Rusty -- like Mudgirl -- really shined with the faster-paced material, like "Oh No Joe" and "Let's Break Robert Out of Jail," where energy and simplicity could make up for lack of a subtle sound. And that's not to say Rusty didn't put on a good show -- far from it. In fact, they played with a much greater tightness and ease than I've seen before, with singer Ken MacNeil being unusually chatty and responsive to the audience.
Rusty really capitalized on this appeal, keeping it strong and simple, with the more than just a little familiar Blue Magoos-like "It's Christmas Time (and I'm Poor)," then blasting us back à la Beastie Boys style with lung-ripping "I'm Hungry." For those not yet exposed to Rusty's recent penchant for purposeful (yet brilliant) imitation with a twist, they made sure all the crowd pleasers were thrown in -- including the early "Wake Me" and of course the big hits "Empty Cell" and "Mysogyny."
Although the true complexities of their music are best revealed on CD, it seems that Rusty has found a solid groove in their live performance. Big bass, throat-shredding vocals and lean, clean guitar kept everyone stoked -- except maybe for the long-departed dockers 'n' deck shoe set. Another fine Canadian band that performs too well for the mainstream.
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