Hermetic, The Sappers and The Magician compete in annual Vancouver battle of the bands
- by Shawn Conner
The first thing I noticed about the three finalists in this year’s Shindig! competition was a lack of female. Considering past participants have included all-girl acts like Clover Honey and, more recently, Vancougar, the lack of even a Stevie Nicks type batting around a tambourine was disheartening, to say the least. What happened to the indie-rock riot grrrl revolution?
But if a gypsy percussionist in flowing scarves could’ve blended in with any of the three lineups, it would have been the first band up, the Sappers. The lead singer’s gnarly beard and long hair and a generally hippie-ish feel instantly labeled them as a folk act from the hinterland.
The music bore this out. The Sappers turned in a good time, down-home set, with harmonies tripping through stoner-folk songs. These sounded as though they’d tumbled down off a mountain somewhere, and as it turns out The Sappers actually tumbled over from New Westminster.
The filled-to-capacity Railway Club (where the annual CiTR band competition has been held lo, these many years) seemed to be filled with their friends – college-age kids in wool who, to the band’s credit, whooped and hollered and sang along to its last number, “Gloria”.
The Magician, a trio from the Langley/Abbotsford area, had twistier melodies, piano-based and sung by frontman Nathan Moes. His voice got off to a weak start but became more assured as the set went on. At his best he achieved a Belle and Sebastian-like quest for the perfect pop song. Also, I really like the line “I’m a ten point five/On a scale of ten point five” (from the song “NJ Vs. NJM”).
But I needed more than twee faux Scottish pop and a glass of white wine to keep me going. I needed neo-Twin Cities rock, delivered in two-minute time-release capsules of driving guitar and angry drums. And Hermetic, last band of the night, delivered.
Here was the rock ’n’ roll juice I needed after sitting in a corner of the overcrowded, over-heated bar, straining my neck to look at the first two bands over the toques of the throng. Acid traces of Husker Du and Swervedriver bled through the first couple of songs, and it would’ve been enough to keep me in my seat if I hadn’t had to get up for work today. Hands-down, Hermetic was my favourite of the night.
Congrats to the Sappers, the Magician and Hermetic for making it this far in the annual CiTR-sponsored competition, and all the bands that gave it their all. Now, all you Liz Phair/Cat Power-inspired rock chicks, get it together for next year.