Review – Woods at the Fox Cabaret, Vancouver, Aug. 1 2014
– by Thalia Stopa
It was a night of breaking rules at the Fox Cabaret this Friday. To start, soundcheck was still in progress at showtime, scheduled for 8 p.m. sharp so that the venue could be cleared out for its weekly Hotline dance party. A line-up of five had already formed behind the velvet rope by the time I arrived. Finally, we were allowed to quench our thirst and boredom while locals Three Wolf Moon finished their preparations.
The Vancouver band was actually a pack of four, who play bluesy, synth-laden psych-rock. The leader of said “pack” had a howl like a young Julian Casablancas. Overall, their performance should have incited a foot-stomping, hip-swinging ruckus but, as Adam Grant noted to the small, prompt audience, “Jesus, that doesn’t sound like a Friday night…perk up!” By the time that the young, virile rockers had wrapped up their four-song set – including the dedicatory “Joe Walsh” – the audience had at least doubled in size and were starting to heed their advice and “have a sip”, so it was a warmer reception for the night’s second act Quilt.
The Boston band’s first several notes unassumingly blended into the intermission deejay’s music. The band too was petit and understated in stature. Singer/guitarist/keyboardist Anna Fox Rochinski had the angelic vocals befitting of her dark, elfish looks, and guitarist/singer Shane Butler and bassist/singer Keven Lareau donned the sparse, pubescent facial hair to match. Drummer John Andrews rounded out the twee foursome with his lanky, boyish stature. The three young men, each topped with a quirky hat, resembled characters from a Wes Anderson film. Their music too had elements of an Anderson film score: cutesy but a little dark and surreal.
The latter came out more as their set progressed. The four twee bandmates were at their most charming during songs that demonstrated their vocal harmonies. Rochinski’s airy vocals floated over Butler and Lareau’s chanting for the song “Young Gold”, off of the band’s 2011’s full-length, self-titled debut. The stage lit with pink, green and red spotlights, Quilt wrapped the audience up in the comforting, colourful sounds off of that album and this year’s Held In Splendor. Unfortunately, despite the delayed show, there were still sound issues, and the feedback from Rochinski’s microphone broke their spell a few times during Quilt’s set.
Andrews shifted his position to behind the keyboards for headliners Woods‘ long-awaited performance. The Brooklyn psyche-folk act apologized profusely, but refused to begin their set until the sound was adequate. Technically the 10 p.m. curfew had passed by the time that the indie rockers were ready, and still, singer/guitarist Jeremy Earl delicate vocals were lost for their opening song “Leaves Like Glass”. When Earl asked how they sounded, the audience adamantly demanded more vocals, and from then on it was relatively smooth sailing.
No one in the sizeable audience would have disputed that it was worth the wait. The band played a set culled from several albums throughout their nine-year output and demonstrated WOODS’ versatility with songs ranging from twangy folk like “Shepherd” and “Suffering Season” (from At Echo Lake, 2010), which featured Andrews on tambourine and harmonica, to the heavier final song of the night, the title track from this year’s With Light and With Love. Earl switched from acoustic to electric guitar, and just as suavely between bittersweet pop melodies and crashing waves of psychedelia. Sometimes the switch was within a single song, such as for “Just to See” (Sun and Shade, 2011).
Video – Woods, “New Light”:
WOODS’ other main component, Jarvis Taveniere, emphatically wrung notes from his guitar and squeezed every ounce of energy out of himself, shoulder-shrugging and head-banging when it was appropriate. The band, which included drummer Aaron Neveu and bassist Chuck Van Dyck, seemed unfazed by the time constraint, and played an awesome 12-song set. Granted, they are a band well acquainted with bending the rules… musically, at least.