It’s hard not to feel at home at the Railway Club. Despite being located smack in the middle of downtown Vancouver, it’s easy to forget the big city once you’ve gone up the stairs, pulled up a well-worn chair and have a chilly pint of Raven Cream Ale in front of you. This is one of the downtown core’s best places for homesick small-town folk and city-dwelling indie fans alike to wet their whistles and recharge in a warm, tight-knit community atmosphere.
By the time Dogwood & Dahlia hit the stage around ten o’clock, the front room had filled up. Founded by Sydney Thorne (singer and banjo player) and Neil Smith (singer and guitarist) about a year ago, Dogwood & Dahlia already have two EPs under their belt – the two-track Nice To Meet You (May 2011) and the five-track The Sea (December 2011); both are available on Bandcamp (the former for free, and the latter for five bucks). The crowd was a mix of faithful followers, some dancing while others sat on the floor and soaked in the sounds right by the stage. A regular Thursday crowd out to rub elbows, stomp their feet and sample some of the many fine brews available on tap. Sydney and Neil, which count Josh Ritter among their major influences, put on a respectable set of upbeat, bluegrass-tinged folk tunes which were nicely rounded out by trumpet flourishes and energetic drumming. However careful and tentative the performance may have been, the set was well-received by those in attendance and left us wanting more. We surely haven’t heard the last from Dogwood & Dahlia.
With the crowd warmed up and the bar now thoroughly packed, David Newberry graciously acknowledged his openers and welcomed us all to the No One Will Remember You Album Release Party. Newberry’s cheekily-titled sophomore effort, released through Vancouver’s Northern Electric label and produced by Adam Iredale (of Fish and Bird), amplifies the momentum created by his 2010 solo debut, When We Learn The Things We Need To Learn. The performance of the new album’s title track, already familiar to many Newberry fans in attendance, garnered a loud and welcoming response; it’s a curious sight to watch a smiling crowd sing “No one will remember you!” right back to Mr. Newberry. As far as crowd appreciation goes, “No One” was only outshined (outdrunk?) by the catchy “Rock Bottom”, which encouraged us all to “Have another glass of bad whiskey / Have another glass of port / Take another stranger off to bed / To remind you of the time when she still would come around / Rock bottom’s still a long way down”.
At a time when Vancouver is rife with acts lauding the city and the region, few can compete with the authenticity of Newberry’s worried and soulful “English Bay”, which spins a tale of resource overexploitation and one’s attempt to reconnect with nature. One could easily expect these words from a grizzled old local who’s witnessed the region’s (de?)evolution over many a decade, but the fact that these are Newberry’s words makes it all the more impactful:
Nobody’s comin’ round no more, nobody’s namin’ names
Everybody’s satisfied with 5th or 6th or 7th place, so
Put on your best new shoes, we’ll stick ‘em in the mud
Let’s wear our Sunday suits and walk straight into the flood
Leave behind your telephones, forget your dollar bills
They won’t work where we are going, and they never will
My personal highlight on Thursday night was the performance of another track off No One, “So It Goes”. Newberry’s preamble recounted the lot of time he spent at one of Jack Kerouac’s old haunts, the Vesuvio Cafe in San Francisco, and his musings on the famous author’s last and visibly inebriated television appearance (on the Firing Line, produced and hosted by William F. Buckley). Following Newberry, East Van’s own The Great Outdoors took to the stage and kept the music rolling well into the AM.
You can get a hold of David Newberry’s memorable No One Will Remember You right here or when he plays the Solstice Café in Victoria on June 1. He heads to Ontario and Québec at the end of the month, so spread the word to your Eastern friends. Also, be sure to keep tabs on Dogwood & Dahlia and The Great Outdoors.