Lindsey Best The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival kicked off yesterday…
- Posted on Sep 14th 2010 2:30PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
Produced by the Arts & Crafts label (home to Broken Social Scene, Feist, et al), Festival Music House runs over three nights (Sept. 13-15) at the Roosevelt Room nightclub and features a strong lineup of talent, including Alexisonfire member Dallas Green's solo guise City and Colour, Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, and rising indie iconoclast Diamond Rings.
Five acts will perform for an invite-only crowd at each of the three showcases, which kicked off last night with piano crooner Royal Wood, Quebecoise chanteuse Coeur de Pirate, keyboard wizard Chilly Gonzales, folk songstress Basia Bulat, and romantic indie-rockers Stars playing short sets to a crowd seemingly more determined to mingle and take advantage of the open bar rather than listen to the acts performing on the club's small stage.
But if there were any film-biz types in the room paying attention, last night's showcase would have been ideal pickings for the soundtrack of the next indie breakout hit, as all five acts have a lush, evocative sound perfect for the big screen.
While the Festival Music House concept is a prime opportunity to introduce artists to key industry players who might be in town for TIFF and who may not be familiar with what the Canadian music scene has to offer, the supper club environs of the Roosevelt Room may not be the ideal venue for such showcases, given the small stage and sound difficulties. That said, all the artists seemed to realize the showcase was a good opportunity to introduce their music to a new audience, with Bulat and Stars offering up particularly spirited sets.
Gonzales, however, seemed to polarize the glitterati -- clad in his signature bathrobe, the always-unconventional piano pounder (in town for the release of his own movie project, 'Ivory Tower', starring himself and musical pals Tiga and Peaches) bristled when the crowd continued to talk loudly throughout his brief set, telling them in no uncertain terms to be quiet. Perhaps it's no wonder Gonzales is always complaining he gets no love at home, while he's seen as a superstar across the pond in Europe -- it's a shame, though, as his dramatic piano stylings would make for the perfect backdrop to a particularly climactic scene.
Bulat and her accomplished four-piece band fared much better -- it's impossible not to be won over by the songstress' sunny onstage demeanor and polished, tuneful songs, and many in the crowd who were previously unfamiliar with her music made their way to the stage for a closer listen. Listening to Bulat's velvety folk-pop tunes (particularly old favourites like 'Snakes and Ladders', which was given a propulsive spin by her brother Bobby on drums), one couldn't help but imagine them in the next quirky indie romantic comedy.
Or perhaps the makers of the next great Canuck road movie might want to call up Bulat? "This is the most Canadian song I ever wrote," she grinned, introducing driving number 'Gold Rush'. "The first time I ever played it, in Dawson City, Yukon, I had a mosh pit, so I expect the same here," she quipped.
Fresh off a European tour, Stars threw down their widescreen gauntlet from the get-go, frontman Torquil Campbell blowing a fistful of rose petals into the crowd -- the Toronto-Montreal quintet has always been known for their dramatic bent, so it's somewhat surprising they haven't already been embraced by Tinseltown (or its Canadian equivalent). That may very well change after their typically energetic 45-minute set, however, as the band soldiered on through a muddy sound mix to prompt the strongest response of the night, the crowd singing and dancing along to electro-dappled new tunes 'We Don't Want Your Body' and 'Fixed.'
"Did you know there's free booze?" the typically wry Campbell smirked early in the set. "This is what dreams are made of, people!"
Though older, rockier numbers like 'Elevator Love Letter' and 'Take Me to the Riot' were clearly audience favourites, it was Stars' dreamiest songs that proved to be the most cinematic, with slow-burn duets 'Undertow' and 'Going, Going, Gone' offering a hushed, ethereal vibe that forced even the most determined Blackberry clickers to take notice. And, as more than one wag noted last night, choosing a band called Stars to headline a TIFF event was rather apt, indeed.