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Califone at the Electric Owl

Califone at the Electric Owl

Califone at Electric Owl, Vancouver, Jan 11 2013. Robyn Hanson photo.

Review and photos – Califone at Electric Owl, Vancouver, Jan 11 2013

– review by Shawn Conner, photos by Robyn Hanson

“Can anyone control anything, ever?”

Coming towards the end of Califone‘s headlining set at Electric Owl Saturday night, it wasn’t clear if Tim Rutili’s rhetorical question was meant for the chattering attendees at the show or his own attempts to add distorted vocals and some pedal effects into the songs off the Chicago band’s latest album, Stitches.

The effects were hardly necessary, however. The 14-year-old group arrived with a batch of some of its strongest material to date, a quartet featuring talented multi-instrumentalist Wil Hendricks, and enough under-the-radar history and critical goodwill (Rutili also fronted the much-admired ’90s group Red Red Meat)  to ensure a dancefloor full of devotees. The band’s draggy, scratched Americana, which at times recalls a less peppy Wilco, was further enhanced with a double-drummer setup. Even at the set’s most pedal-steel-y moments (courtesy Hendricks), the pounding force of Joe Westerlund and Rachel Blumberg‘s percussion leant an intensity to the songs that kept them on edge.

Video – Califone, “Frosted Tips” (NSFW):

As an added bonus, Jessie Stein from opener The Luyas backed Rutili up on a number of songs. The Electric Owl show was the last of a six-date West Coast joint tour, and it was obvious the two bands had formed a mutual admiration society. Califone drummer Westerlund joined the Montreal electropop group for some of their set, which drew largely from The Luyas’ melancholy, searching 2012 album, Animator. And Stein’s girlish vocals sweetened Rutili’s gruff, middle-aged-dude vocals on “Stitches” and “Bells Break Arms”. Even without her assistance, however, the Califone show would have felt like a payoff for believers who have been championing this underappreciated band over the years.

Califone at the Electric Owl

The Luyas’ Jessie Stein onstage with Califone at Electric Owl, Vancouver, Jan 11 2014. Robyn Hanson photo.

More Califone at the Electric Owl photos:

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