Whoever said Vancouver’s live music scene is dead obviously isn’t looking hard enough. Despite the large international concerts and the regular music festivals, although not comparable to cities in the States, Vancouver still has a strong local live music scene if you seek it out.
Tonight I made my visit to The Railway Club above the 7-11 on Seymour & Dunsmuir. This is a hidden gem for live music. I had the pleasure to listen to several local musicians through a free performance evening hosted by PuddleCity Arts, a collective of artists, poets and musicians “interested in promoting independent culture” in Vancouver. PuddleCity Arts plays the last Thursday of the every month at The Railway Club. For more information, check out www.puddlecityarts.com. The two main organizers at PuddleCity are teachers by day and musicians by night (and any other time they want to break out in song): Nathan Blackburn and Marc Taillefer.
Tonight the artists were set up in the North Bar, which is a back room full of eclectic posters and statues hanging on the walls (there’s even a bearded bosom mermaid and a carousel horse set in a room with a Colin James autographed poster and k.d. Lang poster). This area is small, with seating for about 30+ people, yet provides an intimate and interactive experience for the audience and performers.
Renting all their own sound equipment and setting up their instruments, the first to take to stage was Nathan soloing on guitar, with a collaborative song to follow with Marc on guitar and harmonica. They’ve labelled their music as indie, although there’s a bit of folk influence to their music. Another song performed was joined by their friend Ross on ukulele. This unique song referred to “Mon Petit Suicide”. As much as this song has the word suicide in it, it is indeed an upbeat song, and the ukulele gives it an extra happy feeling to it. Seriously!
|Nathan, Marc & Ross|
Following the opening, Chris Mapstone, part of the band Root System, came solo tonight with his guitar, harmonica, and didgeridoo. Inspired by his world travels, his music is an acoustic mix of folk rock and roots music. Although Chris admits during his performance it’s been quite awhile since he’s performed solo, he’s a natural performer in his element tonight.
Following Chris was the first of two female performers of the night, Sarah Jane Scouten. Working in a guitar shop, Sarah learned to play the banjo recently and decided to play her first song of the night on it. Inspired by Americana/country/roots music, she was a natural country artist tonight, even with her matching outfit. She played the remaining set with her guitar and her Appalachian dulcimer (part of the zither family). Tonight was the first night I heard of the Appalachian dulcimer and it was a really wonderful way to hear country music on it. You can hear one of the songs she played live on her Myspace page – My Goddamn Country – which was one of my favorites of her set. However tonight’s show is her last in Vancouver for awhile, as she will be heading to Montreal.
|Sarah Jane Scouten|
Ending the show, Erica Mah took to the stage with her guitar singing about snow wolves and sailing the seas. Her music is a glimpse of her lifestyle from a small-town Northern BC setting, featuring farmland and mountains and urban and industrial landscapes. One noteable song in her set talked about gloomy Vancouver weather, yet she enjoyed her bubble tea and walk through Chinatown. Anyone who sings about bubble tea and taking walks through Chinatown has my vote as an amazing and talented performer! One audience member claimed Erica’s a mix of Joni Mitchell and Joanna Newsome.
For your listening enjoyment, below is a list of the artists from tonight and their MySpace pages for a listen.
For a live performance, come check out PuddleCity Arts next month, Thursday, November 26 on the main stage at The Railway Club. Yours truly will be there front and centre. There will be a surprise performance I will be covering, so come out and check it out for yourself.
Nathan Blackburn – http://www.myspace.com/nathanblackburnpuddlecityarts
Chris Mapstone (Root System) – http://www.myspace.com/rootsystemmusic
Sarah Jane Scouten – http://www.myspace.com/sarahjanescouten
Erica Mah – http://www.myspace.com/ericamah