Monday, January 26, 2009

A Memorial Event for Adrian Bromley (Part 2)
It’s going to be difficult for me to adequately describe this amazing event. It wasn’t a gig, it wasn't a wake; it was simply a perfect gathering of friends, many of whom would have been strangers on any other occasion, but who all shared a bond with Adrian. I’m not a spiritual person at all, but the energy in the venue did make me feel that our Mister Pink Bunny was there, somewhere, working the room, keeping us all entertained and laughing. He was always at the centre of whatever was happening.

The Opera House is a decent-size concert hall. The closest Vancouver venue might be The Vogue. I don't know the history of the place, but it was definitely a seated theatre at some point. Now with the seats removed and a bar on each side of the floor and a appealingly tarnished ornateness, it's a great place for a mid-size rock show.

The first person I spotted was Martin Popoff, to whom I gave my spare pair of earplugs (I also scored a couple of his books from the silent auction), and from there it was a constant stream of familiar faces—Chris Bruni, U! staffers Laura, Brian, Adam, and Kevin, David Gold from Woods of Ypres, Gino from Chronicles of Chaos, and so on. It was like being in a Robert Altman movie—everywhere you looked, there was someone I recognized.

Then there was the music. Into the Void kicked off the evening with a three-song tribute to Sabbath. Starring Braveboarder Fatal if Swallowed as "Ozzy", they performed "War Pigs," "Into the Void," and "NIB". Great fun, and to misquote Neil from Freaks and Geeks, Saturday night—always a good night for some Sabbath.

Endorphins, who released an album on Adrian’s Urgent Music imprint, were on next, declaring this was their “real” farewell show, as they had broken up prior to this without any fanfare. Detsorgsekalf, another band of Braveboarders, scorched us with their blackened humour and drum machine-backed metal frenzy (complete with an outro cheekily nicked from Entombed).

Piledriver entertained with their unruly thrash, including “Metal Inquisition,” the namesake of an already legendary blog. They have indeed stayed ugly. Because they had been working with Adrian on their "comeback" as The Exalted Piledriver, they dedicated the song "The Things I Give" to him, renaming it "The Things He Gave" for the occasion.

Between sets, several people took the mic to pay tribute to Adrian: his twin brother Winston asked us for a moment of silence while we all threw the horns; Drew Masters from M.E.A.T. magazine talked about Adrian's beginnings as a metal writer; Adrian's fiancée Renee got up on stage to say a few words as well, so brave in the face of her tremendous loss.

And the music played on. Eclipse Eternal tore it up with some keys-and-corpsepaint black metal...

Musk Ox travelled five hours from Ottawa to play a set that was probably the most emotional of the night. As they said, their music had helped Adrian mourn the death of his father earlier last year, and now they were helping us mourn as well. With guitarist Nathaneal flanked by a cellist and oboeist, they sounded beautifully sombre.

The penultimate tribute of the night was a slide show of Adrian’s life, with hundreds of pictures set to the tune of Green Carnation’s "Light of Day, Day of Darkness." (Green Carnation headlined the Day of the Equinox fest I mentioned in my last post.) I’ve always found this to be a moving piece, but now after having seen Adrian's life unfurl while it played, it’s even more so.

Lastly, Woods of Ypres played a three-song set, including a favourite of Adrian's that they'd relearned for the event, "The Looming of Dust in the Dark," and closing number "The Thrill of the Struggle."

So this memorial event was many things. It was a place to laugh and cry. It was a reunion of old acquaintances, and a meeting place for new friends. It was a chance to celebrate, and rock out as The Energizer would have. It was a testament to healing power of music. It goes without saying that Adrian would have loved it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Memorial Event for Adrian Bromley (Part 1)
A few days after Adrian passed away, his friend Noel Peters at Inertia Entertainment announced a memorial event for January 17th at the Opera House, the same venue that hosted the Day of the Equinox Festival that Adrian and Noel masterminded in 2005. Admission would be pay what you can with all proceeds going to charity, and a clutch of Adrian’s favourite local bands would be playing. I didn’t think twice about it—I bought a plane ticket and was off to Toronto at dawn last Friday.

Days prior, I'd been getting a little nervous about the trip. I’m not a gung-ho traveler, and I hate flying. Going solo isn't my favourite option either. Then a few days before the trip I was in the lunchroom at work, and, lost in my thoughts about the day at hand, I had a vivid flash of expectation in which I imagined going back to my desk, sitting down and seeing an MSN message from Adrian that said, “You coming to Toronto this weekend?” That was when I knew I’d made the right choice to go.

Toronto was having a nasty cold snap, and a good portion of downtown was blacked out when I arrived. Thankfully my hotel was outside the blackout zone, and a couple short, frigid sprints from the airport terminal to the bus and from the bus to the hotel were all the hardships I had to face. That night I met with my friends Adam and Rain for drinks, dinner, and jazz at The Rex. Great company, great music, and a nice way to ease into the weekend.

Saturday I took the streetcar across College to Soundscapes, where I hauled a fistful of really upsetting CDs. Man, I love that place.

Another friend had invited me to an all-ages show (dapslove ALL AGES Vol. 1)at Rolly’s Garage, so that was my next stop. Rolly’s Garage is exactly that—a working garage-cum-weekend gig/art space for the kids. The concession sold candy and pizza and hot chocolate. It was adorable. I caught three bands on a five-band bill.

The first band was Tonka and Puma, a bass/drums duo who punk-rocked their way through some joyously ragged material with great spirit.

Next up, The Bicycles smacked me upside my head with their harmony-packed ’70s-style pop overload. Brilliant.

Skeleton Me, who followed, were a little more subdued and rootsy, and, in an effort to keep us warm, played three Bruce Springsteen songs with “fire” in the title.

I had to jet after that to get back to the hotel in time for dinner with my good pal Joan, who went to high school with my wife and is cooler than just about anyone you or I know. I hadn't seen her since our wedding, so we had a lot to catch up on. Then it was time to head back out to the Opera House to give Adrian a proper sendoff.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Kayo Dot—Blue Lambency Downward (Hydra Head)
After one album each on Tzadik and Robotic Empire, Kayo Dot lands on Hydra Head for their third full-length. Blue Lambency Downward is their most concise, consistent and enjoyable album. They've always operated on their own plane of weirdness, and the metal roots they uprooted after their incarnation as Maudlin of the Well have dispersed and dissolved into a vat of ethereal rock/jazz/prog styles. While making notes for this review I jotted down moments that reminded me of Talk Talk, Queen, Henry Cow, Ulver, and Sigh. Although your collection of rock vanguard touchstones may vary, you'll probably hear them here. Their second album, Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue, tended to sprawl, but band leader/guitarist/composer Toby Driver has wisely reined this in—the album consists of five short tracks book-ended by 10-minute epics. He's also stripped down the core lineup to himself and violinist Mia Matsumiya, creating a more intimate listening experience. Bombast does erupt occasionally, as on the Neurosis-calibre opening of "Clelia Walking," but this is largely a soothing listen, full of space and loose, rolling rhythms. Guest drummer Charlie Zeleny, who recently left Behold...the Arctopus, shows a more subtle side to his playing, although such is the scope of the material that he also gets to flex his chops on some technical weirdness at the end of "The Awkward Wind Wheel." This album also features Driver's best vocal work to date, both in his actual singing and in the melodies he's wrested from lyrics like "It fell in the shape of a bifurcated ammonite shell." Kayo Dot's peculiar logic still rules over every aspect of the album, but I found it to be a much easier listen, producing a low-level, attention-grabbing anxiety rather than an all-out panic attack. How's that for an endorsement?