Rolling up to the Phoenix Concert Theatre at 10 o’clock for a show that opened at 9, I was more annoyed than shocked to find a line in slow motion that stretched for two blocks. “Must be a problem with the equipment,” I told my friend, frazzled over the subsequent late arrival back home and early alarm for work. Read: getting old. We joined the masses in a march towards the door, and once inside discovered a sea of dark framed glasses and angular haircuts on young and old alike. The Vancouver-Montreal formed group, Young Galaxy, was in the middle of their performance with dreamy melodies and lucid vocals that could’ve jet packed anyone back to green screens of the 1980s. I half expected (wanted) the Labyrinth’s Jareth the Goblin King to appear, and I mean that in the best possible way. This group was alive and bang on with their delivery, playing songs from their most recent album, Shapeshifting (*nominated in the 2011 Polaris Prize long list). Ethereal beats and long, synthesized keyboard sounds lulled the crowd into a mellow groove, and songstress Catherine McCandless’ clear, soft vocals were a perfect complement to headliners, Austra. Bottom line: It was my first time seeing Young Galaxy live and I’d do it again.
Another 2011 Polaris Prize nominee, I was first introduced to Toronto-born Austra earlier this year, and immediately drawn to front woman, Katie Stelmanis’ high powered pitch. It felt very Kate Bush, less shrill, but just as able to cut through instruments and sounds. I wasn’t sure what to expect from their live performance – would it be esoteric, like so many of their lyrics? What I discovered was a cool, cohesive band that offered a laid back presentation. The group, named jointly for Stelmanis’ middle name and the Latvian Goddess of Light, shimmied their way across the stage amidst cheers and encouraged the crowd to do the same. And we did... at least a little. Particularly move-worthy were "The Noise" and "The Choke", oh so impressive with their symphonic build-ups. And the band's sound is true to the album; it was evident that Stelmanis and the supporting vocalists could sing themselves out of a shoebox. Though small talk was shared, the majority of the concert felt more like an orchestral presentation, with a distinct "on stage" and "on floor" separation, than your typical show. It was perhaps a result of the music genre, meant to be more reflective than interactive, but a sense of separation was floating about. Overall, the sounds were no doubt dessert for the ears; but at this sort of show, some seats would be nice.