As I arrived at the intimate venue on Cambie Street a little later than was initially planned, David Gaudet and Nick Eakins of The Never Surprise were already well into their set. Having never listened to the duo, who relocated to our wonderful city in 2008 from Ottawa, I was quite pleasantly surprised (no pun intended) at how quickly I took to liking their mellow, chilled out sound.
As TNS bid the modest gathering goodnight, I began to take in my surroundings. I had only been to the Media Club once before and, being a no frills affair, it is exactly the type of venue I typically like to frequent for a gig. Simply put, it is one long room, sparsely furnished – with a bar at one end and a stage on the other – perfect for those cozy weeknight sessions.
It was after 10:00 p.m. when Matthew Moldowan and Jeffrey Josiah Powell of Fine Times jumped on stage and began to serenade us with their keyboard heavy, synth-pop/new wave style. From the word go, I knew I was going to be a fan of this Vancouver duo. Theirs was a seamless set that was the very epitome of easy listening, but still so memorable and engaging. It did not come as a surprise to me when I learned that they have just recently been nominated for the SiriusXM Emerging Artist of the Year award at the 13th Annual Indies in Toronto coming up in March.
Hosts on the night, Sex with Strangers, comprised of Hatch Benedict (vocals/keyboard), Magnus Magnum (bass guitar), Wedge Beavers (guitar), Dallas Archangel (drums) and Alexis Young (keyboards/vocals) took to the stage after 11:00 p.m. Loyal followers and new fans alike that had for the most part taken advantage of the previous ten minutes topping up their drinks or visiting the washroom following Fine Times’ departure were now gathered expectedly before the stage. Lead vocalist Hatch thanked both The Never Surprise and Fine Times for taking the opportunity to share the stage with them, as well as thanking those who had come out on a typically miserable rainy weeknight in Vancouver to come see them.
Having been a fan of the band for quite some time now, this was the first time I was getting to see them play live. I have to admit I was a little nervous and quietly hoped that I would not be disappointed with the performance, like I have been many times in the past when I see a beloved band play live. I can say with absolute sincerity that I had zero reasons to be anxious. Each song was executed to live-show perfection. Benedict playfully interacted with band members and the crowd alike, and the band’s energy on the whole was extremely contagious. Those in attendance would have found it next to impossible not to dance and sing along.
SWS’s set on the night focused mainly on the band’s freshly released fourth album Behaviours, as the band ticked songs such as “Times Electric”, “Machineland” and “Conspirators” from their set list. (Click here for Vancouver Weekly’s thoughts on the album.) Alexis Young, the band’s most recent and striking member took the lead with track “Blindness”, making it immediately obvious that she very much belongs in front of a microphone. Benedict let us know that they were in the middle of preparing a video shoot for title track “Behaviours” immediately prior to launching into the song.
As the night came to a close, I turned to my friends who I had dragged along with me for their thoughts. All three ladies were in agreement that it had been a fantastic night and that they were more than happy that they had come along. Thursday night reaffirmed what I was already very aware of – Vancouver is home to an absolute profusion of outstanding musical talent. My only negative thoughts on the night concerned the lack of people in attendance – surely with bands of this calibre performing, even the most sensible of fans among us would have forsaken an hour or two of extra sleep on a weeknight to support our local acts. That being said, overall, the night had been what can only be described as an absolute musical treat.