Biltmore Cabaret the Last Stop for La Sera

Photo by Magda Wosinska

So when I saw that the poster for Saturday night’s line-up at the Biltmore was a giant ice cream cone, I knew it was a concert for me. However I’m pretty sure I should have been wearing some large-flowered, polyester sundress to this concert…

Listening to Foxygen is really like a time warp for your ears and eyes. This band is a reincarnation of all your favourite 60’s and 70’s psychedelic rockers.  Foxygen (which rhymes with oxygen) was started by Sam France (lead vocals) and Jonathan Rado (guitar, organ, bass, vocals etc.). They met in high school and have been playing music together off and on for about 7 years. They are backed by, and I quote “Whoever the fuck else we think is glamorous.” For Saturday’s concert that meant Justin Nijssen (bass), Jaclyn Cohen (back-up vocals and tambourine) and Shaun…the sheep (drums).

Touring to promote their album Take the Kids Off Broadway, these guys even made a crazy YouTube video that is a pretty accurate portrayal of what is in store for you if you decide to catch them live. Often likened to The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks, it all makes total sense when you hear Sam France sing. I think he swallowed the 70’s and let them lodge in his vocal cords.  And it is the vocals and Rado’s marvellous organ talents that allow Foxygen to pull off their vintage grooves. Listening to heavy organ tunes like “Make it Known” usually fill me with mixed feelings as memories of growing up in a church consume me, but ya, I still liked it, especially when they started throwing pixie sticks into the crowd. Number one rule in life; never say no to sugar!

One thing is for sure, Foxygen are entertainers and hilarious ones at that (or maybe it’s just that I can’t take über-polyester bell-bottoms and blouses seriously). After their first song, they had a discussion about how it went. France thought maybe it was too fast, Rado suggested it was perhaps too loud, then they asked the crowd and this Goldilocks thought it was just right. Watching France flail around the stage using the microphone as an FX machine and Rado shimmy and wail on any instrument he played it was obvious to see how much joy they have playing together and their glee was infectious.

Surprisingly, France admitted at one point that he’d started the show with a “shitty attitude” and that he was going to change it right then for the rest of the show. That statement was followed by much boisterous playing (causing Rado to bust a string on his guitar and borrow Tim Cohen’s) but they finished their set with a stimulating number, now I couldn’t tell you what it was called or quote one lyric but I can tell you I liked it… I liked it all!

Tim Cohen’s Magic Trick was next and what originally started as a solo project turned into a band when Cohen needed help during performances and called in James Kim, Alicia Vanden Heuvel and Noelle Cahill for support. After playing together and liking what they heard, the group decided to stick it out together and created Magic Trick’s latest album Rulers of the Night. This quartet has some heavy influences from the 60’s and 70’s eras too but tends to present the softer hippy-folk side of things, full of hazy psychedelic ballads that are often quite morose. “Torture” and Invisible at Midnight are perfect examples and were played quite solidly but combined with the heavily lit red stage, the mood seemed to change and became weightier and much less playful. Magic Trick’s songs have beautiful harmonies and highlight creative elements in the music by using any and every type of instrument they come across. Wonderful to listen to at home but not quite the atmosphere I’m looking for in a performance.

Finally – the lovely songbird La Sera! With a face like an angel, Katy Goodman (also of Vivian Girls fame) could lead you to believe that she may only croon sweet love songs but her feisty bass and tattoo-ladened arms gives everything a slightly more aggressive edge. In fact, La Sera reminds me of what female singers from the 60’s would have sounded like if they had burned their bras ten years earlier. When I heard “Real Boy” I was immediately transported to a Beach Blanket Bingo party fun. La Sera sings of heartbreak with languid, dulcet tones backed by grungy guitar and bass lines. “I Can’t Keep You On My Mind” is another favourite of mine but really the whole album Sees The Light is richly ethereal and effortless much like Goodman’s live performance. La Sera has a dedicated fan base and it’s easy to see why as mid-song she wound her way through the dance floor, bass in hand, playing with us and for us.

At the end of the night, Goodman shared “It’s a magical night, in many ways I love the last night of a tour,” then she tossed back the last of her three-part Jaeger shot and blam! – concert over. To be honest it’s the first concert in a while where the audience didn’t demand an encore and really that’s fine sometimes, especially when it’s clear everyone was ready to start the well-deserved, after-tour party.

And a word of advice to the single Vancouver boys out there… You should attend every indie-chick concert you can because there were about four girls to every guy. Who could say no to those odds?