Photos by Taylor Ferguson
It’s always a bit of a bummer when the headliner has to drop off a bill. When the promoter is taking the approach of incorporating local acts to round out a show, it’s inspiring when a certain balance is achieved. Doubly so when the show is an informal kickoff for a weekend-long festival of bands playing almost every notable venue in the city. And then, shit happens, and Russian Circles has to drop off… Here’s to your recovery, Mike Sullivan. May you be back in action expediently.
It’s almost life-affirming, however, when it’s decided that the show must go on. Thanks for stepping up, Baptists. In a way, I love you more when you don’t really fit in.
Celebrating the release of their second record, Set the Controls For the Heart of the Slums, Vancouver’s own self-described skygaze pioneers, Seven Nines and Tens, kicked the night off with a set I can only describe as entrancing. Yes, their sound is as difficult to describe as it is to imagine what “skygaze” actually means. An inescapable atmosphere of essentially incongruous elements that have been gently forced to fit together in a chaos rendered so graceful you tend to forget it’s there. Catching this set made me feel less bad about missing their last few.
Seven Nines and Tens
Out of retirement for one night only, Aquanaut enthralled the audience with an eclectic assembly of sounds. They call themselves “doom psych,” which admittedly seems quite fitting, even if we’re only acknowledging the part of the iceberg you can see above water. It was really good to see these guys rock out one last time.
Waingro took the stage next, doing what they do best: tear it up. Melodically dissonant in the best way possible, these guys play rock ‘n roll the way it should be, drawing on influences from all over the place to concoct something that they’ve made entirely their own. Energetic as always, it’s no surprise that they got the room to rock the fuck out. Bonus points awarded for Andrew Drury of Baptists’ guest appearance, which involved what I can only interpret as a mild pyrotechnics malfunction. Benjie did not look amused, but then maybe I was reading it wrong.
Added to the bill to essentially compensate for Russian Circles not being able to make it, Baptists were kind of the odd one out at this show. Then again, punk rock is about acceptance and freedom, and they proceeded to play as hard as they always do. I’ve always appreciated seeing these guys play at the Rickshaw, because the shift in dynamics involved by them playing a stage with a barrier almost makes you feel like they’re playing harder to get their point across. Solid set.
In a way, it was very fitting for Sumac to be promoted to headliner in the wake of Russian Circles’ unfortunate absence. They played their first ever show in this room, before their first album came out, and to watch them play here again upon the imminent release of What One Becomes was a sincere treat. Personally, I have found it very satisfying to watch this band grow as performers, especially in terms of stage presence and confidence. I’m not saying that either of those things was ever lacking, by any measure, but you can’t help but be impressed when you catch yourself thinking that they’re making it look like it’s a little bit easier every time, yet somehow more intense. I left the venue feeling like this was definitely one of the best shows that happened in Vancouver in 2016.