Steam Whistle Unsigned Indie Music Series

An impressive sampling of Vancouver’s homegrown indie pop/rock was on the menu last Thursday night at the Biltmore Cabaret as part of Steam Whistle’s Unsigned Indie Music Series. All proceeds from the door went to Solidarity Rock, an artist-run organization that works to connect like-minded musicians, artists and creative people in Cuba and Canada, among other countries. Established in 2008, Solidarity Rock collect instruments and equipment to Cuban rock bands succeed.

Benefit shows are the best; there are good vibes all around. The crowd on this Thursday night was a mixed bag of fans, Steam Whistle and Solidarity Rock people, and a large contingent of let’s-start-the-weekend-early partyers that had taken advantage of the $5 cover and were up for anything.

Familia kicked off the night, led by Tamara Umlah’s sweetly powerful voice. The foursome performed a solid set of weighty and energetic pop-rock songs, reminiscent at times of The Strokes trademark rollicking shuffle. Umlah’s soulful vocals meshed well with the band behind her – Bronson Izzard’s spacey guitar; Dwight Abell’s bop’n’roll bass; and Cody Hiles’ bang-on drumming. Those who didn’t get there early enough to catch Familia really did themselves a disservice, as this group blew the night wide open with their upbeat performance. Check out “Today”, my early personal favourite.

Speaking of favourites, next up was Rococode, one of my absolute favourite Vancouver acts out there. If you haven’t picked up Guns, Sex & Glory yet – get on it. You won’t regret it. (Check out my review of the album right here.) Comprised of Laura Smith (vocals, keys), Andrew Braun (vocals, guitar), Johnny Andrews (drums), and Shaun Huberts (bass), this tight-knit ensemble is quickly becoming the next (current?) Vancouver “it” band. Why? They have “it”. It’s that simple. Everything fits – Braun’s youthful lament and spikey guitar; Smith’s honey-soaked voice-of-an-angel-pixie and floating keys; Andrews’ full-on and playful live approach; and Huberts’ smooth, driving bass. You may have heard “Empire” on the radio already, it’s a real kicker. Honestly though, their whole debut full-length – which they pretty much played in its entirety – is pure freaking gold. Oh, almost forgot! They just released a video for “Ghost I / Ghost II”. Man, this song just… it just… like… *ahem*… sorry, gimme a minute… *sniff*…


Once I pulled the puddle-that-was-myself back together after Rococode, it was Acres of Lions’ turn to keep the good vibes rolling. Acres, one of The Peak Performance Project Top 20 of 2011, took to the stage and delivered their brand of radio-ready alt-rock tunes to a well-lubricated audience. Hearkening back to ‘90s emo bands such as Jimmy Eat World, the foursome, led by the animated Jeff Kalesnikoff (vocals, guitar), kept the energy sparkling and closed the night out on a high note.

You can catch Acres of Lions on tour this summer, as they’ll be bouncing around BC and Alberta in August; same goes for Rococode (BC & AB in August), then they’re heading East to spread the gospel of Guns, Sex & Glory throughout September. Check ‘em out.