Shore 104.3 Song Search Showcase, Night 2 @ the Biltmore, Vancouver, July 14, 2011

Two Thursdays ago was the first of two nights of the Shore 104.3FM Song Search Showcase.  The night was filled with roots, rock, reggae and country thanks to fantastic acts such as Billy The Kid, Sheree Plett, The Matinee, Randy Ponzio and Freeflow. (Check out the review of Night 1 here: http://wp.me/pVPsC-ay)

The Sumner Brothers rocking in sepia.

This past Thursday was the second and final showcase night at the Hipster Hangout (also known as the Biltmore Cabaret) and it featured some equally fantastic acts.  First up was the eclectic Sumner Brothers.  Before they had even begun playing, the crowd had already piled onto the dancefloor, much to my surprise and delight.  As most of these Shore Song Search finalists were new to me, I never was sure what to expect from each act, but the Sumner Brothers kept it real by blending indie rock, folk and some alt-country twang all in their brief set.  I was particalarly impressed by their opening tune, one which I do not know the name of but would love to hear again.  After about five tunes, one of which was dedicated to Paris Hilton, they closed with their song that got them into the Top 10, You Will Find Me.

Following the Bros of Sumner was the energetic and playful Ben Sigston and his band.  Starting off by strumming the trusty acoustic, Ben sang a few tunes, guitar in tow.  His songs reminded my companions and myself of something Jason Mraz wouldn’t shy away from throwing on his own album (yes, that is a compliment

Ben Sigston playing us a tune

whether you like Jason Mraz or not).  Then after a couple tunes, Ben ditched the acoustic for a total “frontman” takeover.  Backed by his band, Ben held the mic and gave it his all for the crowd at the Biltmore, and the crowd was just as grateful.

Ryan McAllister was up next.  He was a different type of performer than the previous Sigston; a little mellower with more alt-country tinged tunes, but very good nonetheless.

[Fun fact: did you know that Ryan McAllister was formerly the front man for Fraser Valley band Dakona a couple years back?  I didn’t. But I do now!]

McAllister played a strong set that was relatively low-key, but with a solid

Ryan McAllister covers The Weight!

backing band and a great atmosphere, the mood was perfect for absorbing the ambient energy that he was putting out.  I was enjoying the set until the final song–The Weight–then I was captivated.  Safe to say that for me, this was one of, if not THE highlight of the night.  And I know that’s not really fair for me to say because he played a cover and this contest was about originality, but I don’t care.  Ryan and his band’s cover of The Band‘s The Weight was spot on.  I’d even go so far as to say the harmonies were even better than the original, but I may have to retract that statement for fear of hipster crucifixion.  Either way, it was a perfect way to end his set and “create a moment” for everyone watching and listening.  Magical, really.

Safe to say that Steph MacPherson had a tough few acts to follow, but she didn’t shy away and kept the boot-stompin’ going with her band of gypsies.  Keeping a solid rhythm was Niko Friesen on the drums.  Singing some beautiful backing melodies was the beautiful and talented Savannah Leigh Wellman (Redbird), as well as another beautiful and talented vocalist whom I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know the name of (sorry!!).  After a few tunes, Steph intro’d the next song–called Letters–being about love, or how you feel and think about love when you were younger. It was a charming tune and Steph’s alluring and delightful voice made it that much more captivating.  To end her set, Steph and the troop performed her hit tune, Summer Salute.  This tune got her into the

A cool Steph MacPherson

Top 10 and I’m thinking that if everyone in the lower mainland played Summer Salute simultaneously from their automobile sound systems, this horrible weather would vanish and the sun would have no choice but to come out for the rest of the summer.  That is how much influential, meteorological power this song possesses. Fact.

And last but not least to take the stage, right around the time most folks were turning into pumpkins, was the exquisite Prairie Dance Club.  If you’re like me and haven’t heard any of their tunes, you may think: a fusion of country rock with some synth and steady techno beat added in for good measure. Well, you and I wouldn’t be too far off.  Except, trade in the synth for some fantastic classic rock organ and instead of techno beat, an acoustic drum kit with some exceptional time and tempo changes.  Oh, and don’t forget the crisp guitar tones.  It all makes for a great sound and I knew that I had to check out more Prairie Dance Club when I got home.  These guys played a great set to an unfortunately smaller crowd as they had the lamentable midnight time slot, and it was a weeknight.  It didn’t seem to phase them though, and it probably helped that there were indeed a few people shimmying and shaking to their tunes right on the dancefloor.  Alt-country band playing to dancin’ folk in a nightclub = Prairie Dance Club!  Excellent.

Apparitions of the Prairie Dance Club

And now comes the hard part: choosing a winner.  Glad I’m not on the judging panel as they have their work cut out for them; however, if you wish to have your say, you can vote daily until July 25th, 2011 for your favourite here: Shore 104FM Song Search Top 10 Voting .  

Good luck to all the contestants, you all deserve the prize!

Cheers!

-Dylan

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~ by whet_hopped on July 17, 2011.

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