Gig Review: The Diviners


The Diviners take post-Roots oriented songs and update the genre with melodic pop vocal harmonies and deeper rhythms.

At the recent 2016 IPO Festival in Vancouver, Donald Delano and Janis McKenzie brought the full band along and delivered one of those clear, crisp sets of songs that sets the evening right and has audiences smiling and singing along by the 2nd chorus.

It’s the blend of their voices that sets The Diviners apart. Donald and Janis sing together as one, and very well. The band backs this beautifully, starting with bassist and music promoter Gord Badanic. Gord lays down very fine bass that leverages vocal harmonies into melodic bass runs. He doesn’t just support the guitar riffs, he helps propel them.

Drums then need dynamically augment, which is something veteran stick handler Tony Lee does comfortably, barely breaking a sweat while adding energy on stage to keep the show moving along.

Blending three guitars in a live setting takes a careful ear and deft tonal control, which is precisely what Gary Economy excels at. Where Donald strums on acoustic and Janis supports with her electric Gibson, Gary instead chooses to add textural colors with his Gretsch and amps he custom builds.

Together, The Diviners produce a fine and glorious sound in support of uplifting melodies singing bittersweet lyrics.

Just the kind of music needed as summer transitions to fall.

Gig Review: Carton Lizard (solo) at IPO 2016


Cartoon Lizard generate pop music instantly connecting fun with audiences by way of disarming summer-bright melodies and autumn-colored lyrics over strong, compelling rhythms.

Astute musicologists might hear for example, blissful traces of Jellyfish and Big Star  (among countless other past and modern influences) that this band fuses seamlessly into diamond-brilliant, fresh and fun songs.

They indeed cite their work as “Music for the pop archaeologist” on their facebook page , but there is much more going on than mere homage. There is a reinvention going on, of pop arrangements owing more to rap production than traditional pop/rock recording techniques.

Playing live at the recent 2016 IPO, Trevor Lang performed solo and with backing tracks on a few songs. The song power was still there in stripped down form, but hearing the entire band would be something magical.

Trevor in solo form has a natural stage presence and song delivery that comes from a different angle than merely standing and singing. Surrounding himself with similarly talented musicians will make for a powerful live entity.

A tour is in the works for later this year and this is a band to watch.

Gig Review: 2 Days & Counting at IPO 2016


New Westminster has been compared to ‘the Brooklyn of Vancouver.’ Something in the air of places like Brooklyn and New West produces evocative music coming from a different, but inviting perspective.

Among the suburban Bohemia of such New West artists, actors, musicians and bands are 2 Days & Counting.

Drummer Don Smith is someone you know, someone that shares a beer with you before walking on stage to play drums, loudly. He makes it look easy and keeps that smile on his face while drumming up a storm to widen the song narrative. His keen sense of dynamics ensures the band remains driven to the very last note.

Justin Lewis takes a more studious, intense approach while attacking songs from the bass. There is still a smile there, but it’s much more about hitting the notes in a way echoing what’s happening in the vocal – underlining lyrical cadence of words and story as they are sung.

Over the thundering bass and drums, David Charan unleashes ferocious guitar work to fill in the corners of the room with magic just shy of mayhem. Rock’n’Roll is like that, unflinching and uncompromising. Taking it down to almost nothing helps to frame the rocking riffs and full-on power chords.

All that thunder & lighting can leave a singer little in the way of space or sonic territory. Fortunately, George Montebruno holds more than his own and shines above the riffs with his strong tenor voice and heartfelt lyrics. There are stories to be told and George tells them in a way the audience gets right away.

Together, the band casts a pretty wide net over pop and hard rock. The result is always melodic and pursues recurring quiet passages to frame the louder rock-outs.

Each member sings, and they sing very well together.

Audiences respond to this tight and powerful live band from New West. Go check them out at gigs around Metro Vancouver and the Lower Mainland.


Gig Review: China Syndrome at IPO 2016


China Syndrome’s wall of accolades is brimming this year, and deservedly so.

Their recent Usual Angst is a modern day masterpiece capturing maturing musicians at the crossroads of life. Looking back and looking ahead – then deciding that rocking out is probably the best and only course of action.

Audiences agree and continue to support the band online and at gigs.

You should too because China Syndrome is one of this Vancouver’s top performing live bands. Great musicianship making riffs and grooves that much stronger.

Their collective stage energy and drive comes from drummer Kevin Dubois, leading that charge as one of Vancouver’s best drummers – together with knockout bassist Mike Chang’s tarantula-like ferocity of hand over fretboard.

Kevin and Mike push groove past “tight” into sublime, that point where audiences are no longer aware of bass and drums – they are only aware their butts are lifting off the bar stool and moving towards open dance floor.

Building on those transcendental rhythms, Vern Beamish and Tim Chan lay down dual guitar tonalities beyond riff & jangle. Always played with purpose, the guitar parts work individually towards a common goal of driving the song forward, building and releasing.

All members sing harmony vocals, providing a strong bed of lyrical support to Tim’s lead vocals. Tim continues to grow and shine as a vocalist narrating stories about life in general.

Songs. Music and bands are all about songs, and China Syndrome delivers a cohesive variety. From Power Pop to Funk to Foo Fighters type harder rock, it’s all about the hook and the groove.

Summer may be what these songs are designed for, seemingly the soundtrack for driving around with the windows open or boarding with your Vans and buds. End of summer touches them with that last bit of celebration.

Off the CD and off the stage, My Pal Dan is one of those timeless pop singles that jumps out.

Audiences agree and pulse on the dance floor while the band does there thing, a very groovy thing indeed. Go see the band and have fun.

Linda Bakker photo

Gig Review: Elle-Ectric at IPO


Elle-Ectric energized the IPO Vancouver audience at The Fairview Pub, with their wonderfully woven vocals over evocative, churning soundscapes that called to mind No Doubt and Kate Bush occasionally – but the band definitely forge their own blossoming, modern, driving sound.

The quintet brings a distinctive take to a diverse array of songs that conjures up magical atmosphere, groove and dynamics. With touches of cinematic storytelling along the way.

Vocals is where this band shines and both Stephanie Walker and Robin Wilson blend so well live that they sound like one singer. Lyrics are of a darker tone overall, which works well over the more pop-sounding major-key songs.

Bobby Graham, Clayton Giles and drummer Ben Hemera shine as a tight-knit band grooving solidly under twin angelic voices – their music sparkling like glowing dragonflies in the night. Audience legs move to the dance floor and the night brightens.

Their albums only tell half the story as this is a band best experienced live – where their collective, contagious energy bursts off the stage in radiant waves. They are an engaging band with a variety of grooves to their tunes.

Follow them on social media and make a pilgrimage to  one of their shows.


Gig Review: Ships Have Sailed at IPO


Ships Have Sailed brought their energetic, crowd-oriented show to the International Pop Overthrow 2016 Vancouver series, last Thursday night.

Will Carpenter  and Art Andranikyan played six nights of the West Coast edition of David Bash’s  IPO mini-festivals at the end of August and into September. And that kind of hard touring pays off in terms of stage presence, show presentation and simply becoming solid playing music live.

As a duo playing live, they use backing tracks on most songs… but they don’t really need them. They have sound and presence well covered and can carry a show between the two of them. The backing tracks seem to be something of a necessity these days to bring a full album sound on tour, at a mere fraction of the cost for a full touring band.

You can find their music here and discover their more theatrical pop-oriented music also delves into anthem-ready material that is set to burst out of radios and stadiums everywhere.

Ships Have Sailed know the hard work that lies ahead of them but possess the determination, creativity and openness that will serve them well on the miles ahead.

Gig Review: Jody Quine at IPO 2016


Jody Quine continues to pursue songwriting and performing while developing an inclusive sense of community in everything she does, among everyone she sings for.

As a writer honing her song craft with embroidered humanity, Jody continues to delve deeper into the narrative that makes a song better. From her own life and experiences, lyrics push personal revelations into the open for all to see – and for this we are all the better.

As a performer at International Pop Overthrow Festival, Jody brings her fresh, direct honest on stage. Song introductions become humorous, intimate, revealing – and thoroughly entertaining. Jody connects with audiences – it’s one of her strengths.

As she switches between accompanying herself on guitar and piano, she openly unravels herself from first innocent introductions to candid, self-deprecating confessions that instantly endear Jody and her songs.

She truly deserves the many accolades received over the last few years, and definitely remains a singer-songwriter to pay attention to as she continues along her own path.

A unique voice with interesting observations on her own condition, and thus ours too.