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Entries in Lab Coast (1)


The Great Escape 2013 - day three

By day three I'm starting to flag, but Canada House at the Blind Tiger looks intriguing: a line-up sponsored by music organisations from three of the western provinces. I'm off to Alberta at the end of July, so this could be a good warm-up.

'We're here to show you that Western Canada is about more than just wheatfields, gravel roads and kissing your cousin behind the barn,' says the man from Manitoba Music, introducing Winnipeg sextet Royal Canoe.

"Of course, we still have all those things. But we also have stuff like this..."

And it's good stuff, too: two drummers, electronics, heavy on the vocal effects. An awful lot going on, but a keen sense of space and dynamics means it's never overloaded. There's a fractured funk at the heart of it, with counter-rhythms skittering across a generally slow central beat. They'll build up to an intense climax, with a roaring vocal taken down to Beanstalk giant fee-fie-fo-fum depths, then cut away to a single choppy guitar. I'd like to hear more.

(Special useless trivia note: Royal Canoe's guitarist bears an uncanny resemblance to the captain of the UCL team beaten in the final of this year's University Challenge.)

A few minutes later it's the turn of Lab Coast. Their introduction affirms that people 'don't tend to associate the city of Calgary with the avant garde'. Well, we still don't. The band chug along nicely, without scaring the horses, but it feels like indie-by-the-yard rather than anything particularly distinctive - with the proviso that I couldn't make out many of the words.

There's no stagecraft here: they're the sort of band where the singer keeps both hands on the mic stand and the guitarists study the necks intently, as if worried that the frets might suddenly move... I felt rather protective of them and, in the absence of other distractions, found myself focusing on the way the lead guitarist bounces on the balls of his feet before tip-toeing back and forth to his pedals, like he's trying to take them by surprise. Anyway, they relax a bit as the set proceeds and start to exchange smiles. It was enjoyable for the audience, too.

There was no reticence about Winnipeg five-piece Boats. They clearly enjoy being on stage and like to fling themselves around. Frontman Mat Klachefsky does a good line in manic stares and, at one point, managed to roll his guitar up to his neck in its strap while still playing...

There's an archness about their manner and the snatches of lyrics which were audible - what is it about Winnipeg bands and vocal effects? - which put me in mind of Sparks: the vocal swoops and higher register of Russell Mael coupled with brother Ron's glare. 'This is a song called "Advice On Bears"' ran one introduction. 'It's about advice on bears...' They may be trying too hard, but at least they're trying. It was an energetic and well-received set.

Next up were Fist City, a quartet from Lethbridge, Alberta, who play thrashy punk with all the subtlety of their name - though that name is taken from a Loretta Lynn song, I now see. Excellent energy and drive, but I'm not sure I detected a lot else in the music. They do what they set out to do convincingly and well.  Oh, and bassist Lindsay Munro has very nice dimples.

By this point I was ready for a change of scene. The 'Don't Panic, We're From Poland' session at the Dome Studio was unfortunately full. So I tried Luke Sital-Singh, who can'th, I fear.

I called it a day and, heading home, looked in at the Independent Record Fayre to say hello to the Art Is Hard guys, who put out some fine music in lovely packages, and also some decidedly stylish teeshirts. Consider yourselves plugged, chaps.