The Nautical Miles Reel Friends, Family, and Strangers in Deep

NAUTICALMILES credit Rachel TetraultIt was a night of celebration at the Biltmore this past Saturday as friends and family gathered for the album release of Vancouver roots-rock band the Nautical Miles. Their third album, Ode To Joy, came out at the end of February, but as they showed, it’s never too late to party – or too early, as they faced an 11 o’clock curfew.

Like any party, there were the early-comers. Swedish-born singer-songwriter Sarah MacDougall warmly greeted them with a cordial, mostly solo acoustic set, joined near the end by lap slide guitarist Tim Tweedale.

Then came Terence Jack. “T.J.” kicked the night into a gear where it remained until the Biltmore’s weekly Glory Days DJ night took over after the curfew. Jack, with his full band, which included sultry backup vocals, keyboard, drums, and bass, landslid from tight folk-rock into heavy, deep blues-rock. Once again temporarily accompanying the players was Mr. Tim Tweedale. He could have stayed for the whole set, and I wouldn’t have minded one bit.

Continuing in the same vein as Terence Jack and co., but in a larger serving, were the night’s celebrated, the Nautical Miles. In addition to the core four-piece, they played as a shuffling ensemble of up to seven musicians. For a band that has collaborated with jazz musicians, visual artists, and various contemporary dance groups, the Nautical Miles’ Biltmore configuration, which included a trombone and phat saxophone, could have been considered modest. I also can’t understate how impressed I was by Tim Tweedale, especially when he pulled triple duty, returning to the stage full-time with the Nautical Miles.

I’m a sucker for brass. The way it shined on “Naming Rights” was truly one of the night’s finest moments. I only wished said trombone-player and saxophonist played throughout the Nautical Miles’ entire set. But I’ll look on the bright side: Their absences made for a more dynamic performance. And it would have been nice if Rachel Trebault, who sang backup vocals, was more audible over the rest of the band. Although only a physical gesture, front person and main Nautical Miles songwriter Corbin Murdoch kept stepping back during Trebault’s parts on “Brothers in Arms”, like he was giving her the floor.

Other songs in the Nautical Miles’ repertoire that night included “Mythmaking”, “Shadowside” (which drew a particularly enthusiastic cheer, as first singles usually do), and “St. Petersburg”, their make-eyes-across-the-room, “saddle up next to her and start chatting her up” song. Bringing their nearly twelve-year journey as a band full circle, the Nautical Miles closed with “If You Were a Lion”, one of the first songs they learned together.

Unfortunately, not every member of the Nautical Miles could be at the Biltmore to celebrate: One was “doing other things” in Ottawa. But the band snapped a photo of the crowd waving to him.

The Nautical Miles have toured across Canada and overseas – the bulk of Ode To Joy was written during Murdoch’s travels through cities including Bogota and Timbuktu. But sometimes, you don’t have to step one foot outside of your own backyard to have the most special moments, and the Nautical Miles’ album release show was special not only for family and friends but for everyone who was there.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu