Print Edition: May 21, 2014
I’ve grown up mocking Abbotsford for its nonexistent arts scene, but every time I listen to one of our local indie bands, I taste crow. The Fraser Valley has a surprising abundance of talented Gen Y musicians who all seem to be suddenly coming into their own, and if you weren’t at AfterMath for CIVL Radio’s rock concert on Friday night, you missed out on some of the best talent the local music scene has to offer.
Warm Amps warmed up the room with mellow indie rock. This was their debut performance, although all the members have stage experience from previous band affiliations including You Say Party! and Precious Fathers. Their inaugural performance was deliciously smooth and nostalgic, like a soundtrack for your wistful childhood memories of summer bike rides. Unfortunately, I have no idea what they were actually singing about; the softly sung lyrics were completely unintelligible. The singer was drowned out by the other instruments, and it wasn’t until I listened to their Bandcamp samples later that I realized how much delicate, folky complexity had been lost to AfterMath’s echoey walls. But it didn’t matter — they got the crowd swaying and set the tone for the rest of the evening, which is exactly what a good warm-up act should do.
Kin took the stage at 8:30 p.m. The room was packed, cheerful, and the crowd was getting drunker. Their first song was called “The City.”
“It’s about the city,” the singer deadpanned.
The set began with a distant, prophetic clattering of drums, joined by a rolling bass line and crunchy, pleasantly discordant guitar. But it was singer Trevor Blaak’s voice that stole the stage: a haunting tremolo that floated above the dark, dreamy chords. They alternated heavy, crashing power with breathless acoustic moments, and their sound is especially impressive considering that Kin consists of just three guys.
“We have a lot of fun doing this,” Blaak chirped between songs. And it shows. Kin didn’t feel like a warm-up act at all.
Chatty and confident, they’re clearly at ease on the stage. Their instrumental work is strong and unpretentious, and Blaak’s quavering, bittersweet voice makes them truly stand out in a sea of indie rock soundalikes.
The second half of Kin’s set was even better than the first. Their final two songs flowed into each other — 10 minutes of progressive rock that plunged into dark, rich chords, finally fading into a tickle of arpeggio-like guitar notes and a deep, slow drum tattoo like a heartbeat. The crowd exploded.
Night was settling outside the windows of AfterMath when the headliners, Oh Village, finally started their set. Oh Village has been around since 2009 in various incarnations, and over the years the foursome’s sound has matured into something tender, folky, and soulful without losing its rock edge. The band consists of Scott Currie providing lead vocals and pouncing on the keyboard; Jake Janzen on guitar, violin, and cello; a barefoot David Dueckman on bass guitar and trumpet; and Stephen Dahl on drums and percussion.
And they sing — all of them. Soft, keening harmonies infuse their music with a lush and mysterious quality, reminiscent of orchestral folk-rockers Fleet Foxes. Perfectly in sync and on key, there’s no doubt that these guys know what they’re doing. The violin and trumpet flesh out their sound with an authentic folky feel, and Dahl drums lightly with an admirable self-restraint that many drummers lack, complementing the other musicians without dominating them. The crowd was hanging on every shining note.
If you dig indie rock or folk rock, keep your ears out for these three bands. If we’re lucky, maybe they’ll even make appearances at some of the upcoming summer music festivals; listening to them while lying under a shady tree with a cold beer sounds like heaven.