Beat the Sun

photo by Joey Chaos

Early shows. If they took place somewhere where curtains could be drawn, or in a basement club, there could at least be the illusion of night time. But The Electric Owl provided no such amenities. Instead, it was an uphill battle for The Chantrelles, Johnny de Courcy & The Death Rangers and Tough Age as they fought the sunlight that poured into The Electric Owl. Although turnout could have been far better, when it came to putting on a kick-ass show, all three bands came out the victors.

Featuring members of Witch Baby, Sightlines, No Band and the now defunct Korean Gut and Apollo Ghosts, is Mint Records’ latest signees Tough Age. They join a lineage of musicians that has at one time or another included The Buttless Chaps, The Hanson Brothers, The Evaporators, Lou Barlow, Neko Case and The New Pornographers. Mint Records’ track record shows: Tough Age are in good company, and in good hands.

The 8:40 p.m. crowd may have essentially been nonexistent, but Tough Age managed to draw a handful of folks from the back of the bar to the floor. You can’t do that without being exceptionally hard-working, and that’s what Tough Age are. After all, we’re talking about a band that’s fronted by Jarrett K, whose former outfit Korean Gut quickly gained a reputation as one of Vancouver’s sweatiest shows; I can totally see how Tough Age, maybe crammed into a living room or someone’s backyard, would be a total blast.

Tough Age’s self-titled debut album is tentatively slated for release in November. If any of the tracks they ran through was a glimpse into the future, the future sounds good. In addition to the new LP, look out for a 7-inch EP planned for release on Mammoth Cave Recording Co. in 2014.

It may be a while before any musical experience matches the virginal thrill of having seen Johnny de Courcy & The Death Rangers for the first time last month, but having seen him as a fan this time has only intensified my appreciation of him. And, he changed up his set which was more than a lot of other bands with limited output have done: chopped from the list were “Waltz #3/Sunrise”, “Panoramic View” and others, I’m sure. In their stead was “Cherry Lane” which, having been my first Johnny de Courcy song, was delayed gratification. I always thought the explosion halfway through the song and the way he yells, “THEY TOOK MY – FUCKING DRUGS / GIVE ME MY – FUCKING DRUUUUUUUUGGGGGSSSSS!!!!!!” would have made for a great finale, and I was correct; that moment alone was well worth waiting two shows for.

De Courcy also played personal highlight “Andrea’s Song”, dedicated to a deceased friend whose birthday was the day before the show. Stripped of its parts and played solo acoustic (far closer to its original form), the skeletal version of “Andrea’s Song” was still perfect pop, a sweet moment for Johnny in particular.

“Oh, take me back,” a new, unidentified song went. I’m glad that whenever I will hear the song upon proper release, I will always be taken back to this performance.

Johnny de Courcy killed it once again with his pop-minded classic rock, but best of all, a resemblance to one specific band I couldn’t get over last time never made its presence known at The Electric Owl. No, this night was all Johnny.

Just two years ago, Victoria’s “Soulful Seven” The Chantrelles were developing their groove by covering R&B icons like Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Etta James. But now, with a single of their own, the Ain’t Nobody/Ooh-Wee 7-inch, and a full-length album in the works, The Chantrelles have tightened up enough to take their show on the road.

Beginning their trek through Western Canada at The Electric Owl, The Chantrelles showed that it’s never too early to dance. The Electric Owl never completely filled up, even with The Chantrelles’ tight, horn-and-keys-driven R&B, and the sun barely went down before they took the stage, but all that mattered was that by the time The Chantrelles started wrapping up with one of their last songs “Crybaby”, most of the crowd was on its feet; their moves almost became more entertaining to watch than The Chantrelles – and believe me, saying so doesn’t take anything away from the band. How could anyone keep their eyes off of Johnny de Courcy as he strutted, slid, spun and shook it from one side of the front row to the other, breaking it down with friends and strangers alike?

The Chantrelles will conclude their tour at the Squamish Valley Music Festival on August 9. As smoky, silky cool Chance Lovett sang on The Chantrelles’ third-last song, oh, Western Canada, “Watch out now!”

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu