July Talk at The Commodore Ballroom, 11/23/16
If July Talk plays every show like they did Wednesday night, they are going to be one of the biggest bands in the world.
Having a reputation for their live performances, the five-piece out of Toronto exceeded the hype twice this week (Wednesday & Friday) at Vancouver’s much lauded Commodore Ballroom. For all the griping online about the band not slated to hit the stage until 23:00 on a Wednesday, evidently more people decided to tough the Thursday workday out with reduced sleep as opposed to having missed the show because it was packed.
Kicking the door to the night down, July Talk opened up their set to the current single “Picturing Love” off of their sophomore album Touch. Hipsters as far as the eye could see were immediately bouncing in unison to the alt-indie band’s rhythm. Usually reserved for feigned moral outrage, hipsters in unison is a rare sight in these parts, even more uncommon being the overall sense of positivity shared by the shoe-gazers.
July Talk embodies a genuine mixture of nineties alternative-rock with modern indie-rock while bringing an almost punk-rock attitude to the stage. The authenticity of the unique mix of qualities is widely apparent as July Talk have gained much of their well deserved fan-base the good old-fashioned way, touring tirelessly. With so much going on at all times on stage, it is easy to forget about how proficient the animated musicians were Wednesday night. Every note played with purpose and intent, the larger than life antics sometimes over shadow just how accomplished this unit is.
The growling vocals of guitarist, keyboardist and singer Peter Dreimanis exhibit just as much Tom Waits inspired rasp live as on the studio recordings. The contrast of the beautifully soft voiced Leah Fay provided countless examples of vocal texturing. The pair of lead singers share an ongoing playfulness that is equal parts schoolyard crush, and equal parts juvenile siblings. The stage-relationship of pinching, hair pulling, baiting and playfully taunting is quite charming.
It’s hard to say what the off-stage relationship shared between the two vocalists is, onstage however the relationship feels genuine, much like the entirety of July Talk’s show.
Towards the end of the night Dreimanis explained that Vancouver was his first navigable long-range destination upon getting his driver’s license, detailing what a night at The Cambie (Pub/Hostel) looked like as a then 16 year old. Despite numerous tempo changes throughout the night July Talk’s infectious energy jolted the crowd early and lasted through the entirety of the set.
At some point a few songs into the night someone in the crowd must have gotten a little grabby and Fay repeated in no uncertain terms, “don’t touch me, don’t touch me”. Thankfully the culprit(s) must have complied with the very reasonable request, because Fay was back into the music and unabashedly up on the guardrail, often using the open hands of crowd members to maintain her balance.
On the heels of fan favourite “My Neck” Dreimanis took the time to share his appreciation of being on a whirlwind tour. Citing the Commodore Ballroom as a home away from home for the group, the mighty Live Nation made another strong acquisition in aligning themselves with July Talk.
Not to allow every accolade to go the way of Dreimanis and Fay, the largely unheralded guitarist Ian Docherty is a busy man on show nights. Between switching off solos, playing many of the guitar leads, often on the keyboards, and providing some high-pitched vocals that Dreimanis couldn’t find in a text book Docherty might be the band’s unsung hero.
July Talk’s encore consisted of the band’s biggest hit to date “The Garden”, off of the band’s self-titled debut. Even at the encore portion on the set the group and crowd alike were as animated as watching a piece of avant-garde performance art. It was as if a Hollywood writer/director concocted their notion of what a popular rock n’ roll act would look like on-stage, only with none of the contrived pretentiousness of anything associated with the marriage of words such as ‘avant-garde performance art / Hollywood concocted notion’.
Ending the night with a new and yet to be released song that saw Fay on the guitar now, even the mellow show closer saw a synchronicity with the band that extended beyond the stage. It’s going to be a long time until we see a July Talk show that does not sell-out in Canada.