Review: Khatsahlano

Returning for it’s 4th consecutive year, this year’s Khatsahlano Street Party was the biggest and most ambitious to date. Featuring 8 live stages and hundreds of vendors and shops, there was something for everyone in the festival’s 10 block stretch, which saw tens of thousands of people pass through it. Food trucks served much-needed edibles to the hungry masses, while other vendors made a killing off the heat by selling every iced drink known to man. Music raged on every corner as die hards clutching vinyl trickled out of Zulu Records. Nardwuar, bless his heart, wore a full-on Canadian bodysuit in 30 degree heat, proving that interviewing Jay Z does indeed grant you immortality. In short, Khatsahlano was a celebration of everything that makes 4th Avenue wonderful.

If you missed it, don’t fret– we didn’t. Here you’ll find reviews of our favourite bands in the maze that was Khatsahlano. Pick up your headphones, prepare your taste buds, and enjoy.

Young Liars

Crowded city streets of vendor-carts and babbling locals inevitably made for less than perfect acoustics at the stages situated along West 4th, but Young Liars more than made use of the space they were given. Filling the intersection and beyond with the layered vibrations of spirited drumbeats and fearless synthesizers, this performance was as entrancing as it was successful in bringing a crowd`s hands together. Long fragments of captivating instrumentation variated the tone of the show, while a variety of material itself made every moment stand out. It was impossible not to enjoy- and it was clear from their faces that the band members themselves were having as much fun as the joyful audience before them.

Good for Grapes

Good for Grapes beat the heat by employing the powers of ecstatic folk music and impromptu drum solos. Their presence was, of course, nothing short of shocking to those who had beelined to the MacDonald stage in hopes of basking in the ambient folk melodies of Aidan Knight, who had to cancel due to strep throat. The absent artist`s ailment was quickly forgiven as his willing replacements brought their lively spontaneity to the stage. Presenting older songs with new twists and newer songs with old variations, Good for Grapes gave a passionate performance that left the crowd eager for more. While this late afternoon show of theirs was refreshing and engaging, it was not until they met their original slot at 8:30 that they really brought their talents to light. As the energy built up, the audience was left in a frenzy of elation only characteristic of the best of their routine outdoor shows. Playing a set that was too short for its own good, they certainly departed from the stage with more fans than they had entered with – and even the least prone of dancers couldn’t help but tap their foot.

Lightning Dust

We’ve all observed those audience members that can’t help but sway and stir in unexpected directions and with a lack of self awareness that both amuses and inspires us in strange ways. In the midst of such overpowering sounds as Lightning Dust immersed both fans and newcomers in on the evening of Khatsahlano, it is probably safe to say that numerous audience members felt, if even for a fleeting moment, like that person who can’t help but move in a peculiar way as they get swept away by a sound that captures them more than they knew could. Despite the casual nature of such an event, every note was sure of itself, and their entire performance was nothing short of well-constructed and, at times, impeccable. The vocals of the charismatic Amber Webber were vivid, and the duo’s sound was altogether dense, spacey, and bigger than the term “side-project” suggests. Those unfamiliar to them before were taken by surprise, and it’s hard to imagine that any fans were disappointed with what materialized- the show was one of the more notable beacons of light within the sun-soaked festival.

Geoff Berner

Some artists have an extraordinary knack for bringing the best out of an audience, but Geoff Berner connects with the crowd on entirely new levels. From the first introduction to the united chanting of “fuck the police,” the show was ablaze with energy. The performance was musically intense and consistently complex, and quite frankly a comedic act. The audience was split into two clusters: those who were familiar with the ways of Geoff Berner, having the time of their life in his company not for the first time; and those who were new to his vivacity – therefore experiencing something incomparable to anything they had before. The tempo was intense, the atmosphere communal, and the violin riffs, though aside from the spotlight, completed the act perfectly.

Bend Sinister:

Bend Sinister are no strangers to big stages. The Vancouver progressive-rock staples have toured the country several times, even playing at SXSW earlier this year. Led by headbanging hero Dan Moxon, the band launched into a flurry of songs that blended heavy, melodic, and experimental tunes into  a masterpiece for the crowd to savor. Moxon rocks a beard and shoulder-length hair, looking like Jesus as he concocts sweet melodies with his keyboard

Drummer Jason Dana kept the rhythm alive, while guitarist Joseph Blood and bassist Matt Rhode were comic relief, swinging and dancing onstage like maniacs. In their shenanigans, Rhode occasionally stopped to straighten his Coonskin Cap (you know, the hat that looks like a racoon? Yeah, that one). Their cover of Elton John’s “Rocketman” was as unexpected as it was perfect, with Moxon proving he has more than enough vocal magic to work

When the inevitable opening notes of “Time Breaks Down” came around to end the set, Rhode and Blood led the crowd in holding up lighters- perhaps ironically, or maybe because the entire band, especially Moxon, genuinely seemed to be feeling the love. Moxon thanked the crowd profusely after, gracefully ending a fantastic set from one of Vancouver’s best bands.

David Newberry:

One of our personal favorites in this years Peak Performance Project, David Newberry brings the aesthetic of Arcade Fire with old school new-wave influences from the likes of Elvis Costello. Playing songs off of his Desire Lines EP, Newberry quietly and carefully guided the crowd into a kind of dancing trance. Songs like “Slow”, equipped with ethereal synthesizers and simple but effective guitar work, perfectly fit the mood of Khatsahlano. Newberry is still relatively new to the scene, having only released his debut in 2010, but after that set we’re anxious to see what’s next.

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