Friday, June 30, 2006
I still can't get enough of Immaculate Machine's album, Ones and Zeroes, ever since CBC Radio 3's podcast show named the song "Broken Ship" as one of the best songs of 2005. Which is pretty damn cool considering Kathryn Calder's other band, The New Pornographers, pretty much slaughtered the Canadian indie rock world the same year.
Only a few people that I've talked to seemed to know Immaculate Machine very well at all. But their CD has been in my iTunes rotation since I got the album, and it's one of the few CDs that I know I've never skipped over a song from it whenever it's comeup. I an't say that about Pearl Jam or King Crimson or Fear Factory or Arcade Fire, so that's a pretty big deal in itself. I think it's basically impossible to get sick of their songs. (Though I have a pretty high tolerance for catchy songs, having once listened to 99 Red Balloons for three days straight as a way of passive-aggressively breaking off an ill-advised involvement I was having with a roommate.)
Anyway, fast-forward to this past may, I'm up at Baba's one night and get into a conversation with Andrea MacDonald, and we started talking about the band that was playing at the time, and I mentioned that they seemed to have that ability to nail an indie-pop melodic vibe really well, and mentioned that they sounded like this other band, Immaculate Machine, and that she should check them out. Well, it turned out that they were in teh #1 slot on her MySpace as I was telling her this, and that she was already working on getting this show booked and organized. Great minds obviously think alike.
Unfortunately the show was on a Wednesday night and at the Arts Guild, which means attendance is always going to be a crap-shoot. When Down With the Butterfly, the opening band from Halifax, were sound-checking, the place was nearly empty. Thankfully people started trickling in pretty steadily so it wasn't quite so embarrassing, but you always wish to see more people when good away band comes through.
Down With the Butterfly had a pretty interesting set. I hadn't heard them before aside from a few songs here and there, but I really like their messy-sounding but groovy pop sound. Just rough enough around the edges that you know they're a Halifax band but definitely never losing the pleasing element of their songs. The viola player was a nice touch, and I really like the song with the lyric "It's a beautiful world, but it tears us apart." Their stage presence was a little self-conscious at times, bending down to fiddle with knobs instead of effortlessly making a pedel-press look like you were just dancing, but it's not something you'd have noticed if you were just listening.
Then Immaculate Machine came up, and as soon as they started the drum intro to "Broken Ship" I got right up from my chair and went straight to the front of the stage. I didn't even ccare if I was the only one standing up, if there was no one else in my field of vision so much the better, then itfeels like a command performance.
There are only three members, Kathryn Calder on veyboards and vocals, Brooke Gallupe on drums and vocals and Luke Kozlowski on guitar and vocals. I was really impressed how well they reproduced all the sound elements from their album in their live show. Kathryn's voice hit every note dead-on, and their playing was so tight that it just looked effortless.
Something else I noticed was that Kathryn managed to make playing keyboard in a rock band not look like the odd guy out, standing off to the side and not moving or anything while the rest of the band took care of the enthusiasm part. She moved around, clapped, played a tambourine and even did a twirly dance thing while still playing her line. I even caught her air-drumming, which I've posted as a video at the bottom of this post.
All three members had pretty substantial singing parts, and it definitely wasn't a typical 3-piece rock band where it's really just one guy that does all the interesting bits. It was really impressive to see Kathryn left-hand the basslines for every song as well as singing and doing the melodic keyboard bits all at once. Every note was right from the CD, it seemed, right up until the end when she did the opening bit of Europe - "Final Countdown" before finishing, which was hilarious how it caught everyone by surprise. Much credit also to Jamie Hanus who did the sound and balanced everything perfectly.
The thing I love about Charlottetown is that any given town with 40,000 people in it shouldn't get as much good music happening here as we do. Partly that's thanks to people like Andrea who put in way more effort than they get recognized for to organize shows that happen under the radar of the tourism machine that seems to dominate our landscape. If this was Toronto or Vancouver I probably wouldn't have been able to just casually start chatting with the band members as easily as I can here. I actually managed to have quite good conversations with Luke and also with Kathryn wherein I fought off the urge to ask way too many trite questions about The New Pornographers or simply ask "why are you so aweseome?" over and over.
After this they're off to New York and the Northeastern U.S., so it's even more impressive that they'd stop here along the way.
Here's a little video I captured with my camera during "No Such Thing as the Future":
Blue and green
depression and envy
its a beautiful world
but it tears us apart
I paid to hear that song alone, beautiful.