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- Posted on Jun 22nd 2009 9:00AM by Tabassum Siddiqui
So the city's Horseshoe Tavern was packed by the time CBC Radio 3 hosts Grant Lawrence and Craig Norris took to the stage to introduce the live-to-air recording of the evening's proceedings, despite the fact it was only 9PM and Woodpigeon was the first act of the night (Torontonians have trouble getting to anything that early on a Saturday night).
Led by songwriter Mark Hamilton, the band features a rotating roster that can stretch to eight or more players at a time. But Woodpigeon kept it to a lean quartet for much of their NXNE showcase, which proved both a blessing and a curse during their charming but slightly uneven set.
Hamilton's choirboy vocals and high, sweet guitar melodies dominated the set, with keyboardist Annalea Sordi and violinist Foon Yip's deft accompaniment and angelic vocal harmonies adding a layer of depth to Woodpigeon's vintage storybook-type tunes. Opening with 'I Live a Lot of Places,' one of 'Treasury's' strongest tracks, the band gave the tune a languid, gentle spin that seemed oddly quiet for a set opener, though it still managed to resonate.
Given their previous visits to town, where a larger version of the band offered up a surprisingly rocked-up take on their sound, one expected the set to move from whispery to something a little more muscular, but it was not to be. Hamilton and Co. kept things fairly hushed throughout much of their set -- with Hamilton seeming to acknowledge this at one point, quipping, "That was the slow-jam portion of the show -- shall we try to take it up a little bit?"
Luckily, the band was joined by fellow Calgary indie-scene stalwarts the Summerlad, who were in town for their own NXNE gig. The addition of the punk-rockers injected some necessary energy into the placid set.
And while the band's penchant for showcasing new material in their sets shows an admirable trust in their audiences, playing completely unrecognizable songs during a key show -- especially one being broadcast across the country -- seemed a rather surprising decision. But Hamilton is an incredibly prolific songwriter, so it makes sense that the band would be keen to test new material in a live setting. Dreamy new numbers like 'The Saddest Music in the World,' with its looped whistling melody, proved that Woodpigeon continues to deliver on its burgeoning promise.
The last third of the band's set proved inspired, with a sublime run through 'Treasury' opener 'Knock Knock'. By the time Woodpigeon wrapped with a new number that featured a swirling, massive breakdown of overlapped harmonies and a blast of feedback, one wished there had been more of that intensity throughout their set.
But it came as little surprise when a CBC/Galaxie Network representative came onstage at the end of the set to present NXNE's Galaxie Rising Star Award to the band. Of all the Canadian bands at the fest, few are more on the rise than Woodpigeon -- it's nice to see them finally being appreciated at home as much as they are overseas.