Thursday, October 29, 2015

Best In Vancouver: Top 4 Announced!

Big congrats to Kaslo, Carousel Scene, Switch To Black and On The Run for making the top four in the Best In Vancouver competition. I had a great few words with Kevin, Entertainment Director for Rednyne Productions / Live Agency / Studio Records about this year's competition and the future of Best In Vancouver.

James: First of all, congrats on the success of this years BIV competition. What did you find different about this year than the previous year? 
Kevin: Thank you very much, this was a great year. Attendance was over 175 people per show on average, so that shows that people really care about Rock bands. One of the biggest things I noticed that was different this year was the amount of young bands that entered. It was great seeing a new crop of up and coming Vancouver bands. I'm excited to see what they'll do in the next few years. The Judges were definitely looking long term when they chose the finalists. 

James: What do you think set the top 3 bands apart from the rest of the bands in the competition?Kevin: This year we actually had a top 4, because 3rd and 4th place tied. The difference that the top bands had this year was musicianship. The Judges were quite sensitive to bands that were out of time or out of key. 

James: What should the top 3 bands improve for their final performance coming up?Kevin: The bands that made it to the finals can all play very well. I believe it will be the song writing that will separate the bands in the end.

James: What is in store next year for the Best In Vancouver competition?
Kevin: I've already been planning next year's BIV. I'm hoping to add a radio sponsor and possibly send a winner out to CMW (Canadian Music Week) in Toronto, but it's all in the works. I'm also very excited that we have Nimbus School of Recording & Media as our newest sponsor, as well as LCE Music. It's these great company's along with our other sponsors that really help bands get to that next level in their recordings as well as the business side of being in a band. I want to give a quick shout out to our other sponsors The Beat Lab Studio's, Danny Craig Productions, Artropolis Media, Branston Photography and of course Studio Records. 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Take You Home

Music is all about feelings. Sharing those feeling through lyrics, melody and chords. The Travis James Band just makes you feel good. Classic feel good music. James's smile itself just puts a smile on your face. His infectious good vibes just have you bopping your head from start to finish of each song. His performance at this year's Best In Vancouver was the perfect way to end that night. The pure musicianship of his band was enough to catch peoples attention. Each part fit perfectly into its place to all support James's singing. The songs were well written, but seemed to have a great feeling of depth to every track.

Switching between acoustic and electric guitars flawlessly showed that he has worked on his stage show to allow the songs just to flow into each other. His lead guitarist was truly gifted in putting perfect leads to compliment each track. The bassist had this cool collected calm around him. Sometimes seeming like he was deep in a trance. The drums were crisp and amazingly dynamic. Perfectly keeping the whole band locked in this west coast groove. All of them truly skilled performers.

If you want a guaranteed good night of music to dance the night away with, go see the Travis James Band! I give them a solid 4/5 Hammers. Check out their Facebook page HERE.

Anything But Black And White

All girl bands are nothing new, but its exciting to see one that defies all stereotypes. The large stage at Studio Records seemed to swallow the band as they stood up there waiting for the thumbs up to start their set. The minute they started playing, the opposite happened. The whole venue was filed with this  dirty gritty rock and roll. Tight precision drumming meshed with rolling thick bass, covered by this larger than life guitar tone, and finished off with a vocal so engaging that you couldn't do anything BUT listen. Each element of this three piece band just complimented each other perfectly. Their personalities were apparent on stage with goofy smiles, corny jokes and even poking fun at each other. The crowd warmed up immediately as they just laid down punk inspired rock tunes.

Their stage presence was awesome. For being the second band of the night they had everyone clapping along with them. Even a small mosh pit developed at the suggestion of the lead singer. I can easily see them playing a year from now and having people singing along with their catchy tunes. The music was a great balance of dynamics, vocal hooks and great instrumentation. I could tell the lead singer wanted to rock out even more and not be tied down by the mic stand. I would love to see them grab a wireless headset microphone and so the two lead women can interact on stage more. This trio has awesome potential and I can't wait to see them around the scene more!

Check out their Facebook page HERE. I give them 5/5 Hammers!

See you next show! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

What Month Is it? October!

To start things off I have to say this band well a pleasant supirse. 2nd band was a solid indie rock band by the name of The Octobers. A very melodic and dynamic band where every song really creates a story for you. With a solid sound and a well put together setlist they put on a solid show. Every song seemed to flow seemlessly into the next  making their whole show seem as one complete story.
They played their instruments effortlessly as they rocked song after song. They filled the venue with very groovy guitar melodies and pounding drums. It created a very dynamic sound that you couldn't help but get hooked on. I found myself singing to every song, and anxious for the next one to start.
From the top of their set they involved the crowd. By their third song the whole band was in sync, really letting the songs come to life. Though I have to say the first half of their setlist I found myself really getting into their music but not really the show. For how hard they were giving it on their instruments they weren't really showing it on the stage. So even though I was getting drawn into the songs I wasn't getting so much into the band.

About halfway in their set The Octobers played a cover by The Killers. It was during that cover the band really seemed to come to life, and it fitted perfectly into the song arrangment. Their cover of Mr. Brightside seemed to really get the band playing perfectly together. Once that happened the stage presence really picked up and they kicked it into second gear. 
The last half they owned. They really picked up and put on a solid ending to their show. I went from singing their songs by myself to being captived by the band. Once relaxed they really drew a crowd in and had everyone grooving along with. 

  So to summarize;
-Very catchy music
-Groovy melodies
-Songs that flow into each other seemlessly
-Once the band really syncs in, it really does become one hell   of a show
So to end it off, I really started digging this band. I will definetly be keeping a eye out for this band and can't wait to see what they will put out next. I strongly suggest people to do the same.
So my hammer rating for The Octobers is going to be broken down into 2 ratings;

3/5 Hammers for the first half of the set and 4/5 Hammers by the end of their set!

I Know What Your Mom Did Last Night.

Where to even begin with this band? Right from the start of their set to the end, they played a flawless show. In my opinion their show was the standard that bands to strive for; captivating and with such stage presence it demanded your attention. From the opening chords to the last notes your ears would be filled with such a full sound you would swear you were listening to more than a three piece band. They not only started strong but ended even stronger.
At the start you could easily pick out that this band had a unique sound. One thing that immediately sticks out is there attitude to the way they write songs. Very carefree with, a lack for a better referance, "Screw you, we are going to do what we want". An attitude that most bands can never pull off but My Mother the Carjacker does it in spades. If I didn't have to do a review I would have been downing beers and headbanging with all the people in the front.

I love how they went from song to song without ever taking a break. Really it's what aided with maintaining and building up the energy. It was through that energy that you felt like you were just getting hit with an onslaught of well articulated and composed riffs. Bar after bar, measure after measure, you were hit with interchanging parts that really kept you on your toes. Like I said, you would never guess that you were hearing a three piece band live.
There wasnt a break in songs till after 3 or 4 songs had been played. Even then the break was short before the band went even harder then they were before. It wasnt till half way through their set that they slowed it down. The song they chose to slow down with was perfect. They had really put thought into their setlist. One thing i've noticed when slowing a show halfway in such a high energy, post-punk, grunge setlist, is that it can really kill a promising show. So many bands lose tempo or the crowd afterwards, where as My Mother someone managed to build up the energy even more. Which frankly impressed the hell out of me.

So im going to summarize and put the show bluntly;
-Textbook show, crowd involvment with very strong stage presence.
-Captivated the crowd and had people headbanging.
-Great musicians and well composed songs.
-Kept moving the whole time and rarely had to look at their intruments.
-The attitude, I loved it, they really do have a very edgy sound.
My only wish for this show was that . Cause their show motivated me to have a couple drinks, grab some friends and just have a great time. Ill definetly be looking and following the band more. If your ever looking to go to a show go to see My Mother The Carjacker, I strongly recommend going and seeing this band. 

All in all this band gets a solid 5/5 hammers.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

One Hot Night!

Last night was a disappointing turnout for Hot Flash Heat Wave and its line-up–though not a surprise, given the last-minute change of venue, from 333’s all-ages, punker paradise, to the Astoria’s 19+ wasteland.

Trash Bait is the all-girls, brat-punk group that started the night off with a handful of simple-chorded hate songs. Their sound was of a harsh, angry nature, and a quality that one might assume that these songs had been thrown together just prior to the show. Their presence wasn’t much better; the most effort made to engage was during a long period of dead-air, when the drummer asked, “How does it sound? Are we good?” I felt compelled to scream, “No!” Despite changing vocalists throughout the performance, their yelling and screaming stayed pretty one-dimensional, and even with two guitarists, their sound remained thin and scratchy.  All in all, Trash Bait delivered a less-than mediocre start, and as you might expect, most of the crowd stayed seated.

The Woolen Men followed up with a completely different vibe; one that entailed much happier progressions and upbeat tempos. The indie-pop rock trio got people up and moving with both singer and bassist jumping to the beat and attacking every next chord with absolute confidence. These guys were committed to their sound, and as a performer, myself, I appreciate it when another artist owns their shit up there in the spotlight; there’s nothing that turns off an audience more than the half-ass scream or awkward off-beat notation, as was the case with Trash Bait. Overall, The Woolen Men’s music was of a softer, indie-punk sound that I’d heard before, but I was charmed by the quick, catchy riffs and simple melodies that brought the mood up a few notches.

By the time Hot Flash Heat Wave hit the stage, I was coming down off my Red-Bull kick, pleasantly mellowed by the sweet major-tone strums of their infectious beachy-boy single, “Gutter Girl.” The San Francisco surf-rockers rolled into the Astoria wearing a questionable array of costume-ish attire. The two singer-guitarists stuck out the most, one rocking Macklemore’s signature “Thrift Shop” style fur jacket, and the other in an oversized mechanic’s jump-suit and chunky gold bling. But any contempt I had toward these guys was quickly washed away by the wicked, smooth blend of honey-sweet vocal melodies and on-point backing rhythms by the rest of the band.

The inconsistence and poor responsiveness of the sound guy had not only the bands frustrated, but the crowd too. One thing I don’t agree with these days is live-sound management made portable on your ‘iProducts.’ It risks too much error of what could be a great live jam, and in one swift accidental stroke of the hand, destroy the bands’ sound–unfortunately this was the case throughout the night. My suggestion: leave the sound board in one spot, and for god’s sake, don’t shove it in you f***in’ pocket and sit on it.

I left the show shaking my head, thinking, how can these bands be playing such a shit venue? And, Why? I’m new to Vancouver’s music scene, but I feel like Woolen Men and Hot Flash Heat Wave have done themselves an injustice, lowballing for a spot in the downtown east side’s gunge-pits. To see those bands, ten bucks was a fair price, but a better location would’ve brought in the crowds.
It was worth sticking it out to see Hot Flash Heat Wave, and I’ll be first in line to see them when they’re back in town.
I bid you good night,


They Arrived Quickly As Did The Crowd Fall In Love With Them; The Fast Romantics

Fine Times

The first thing I noticed at this show was the amazing acoustics in Fortune Sound Club. It was an intimate setting and had a great stage space. The band started off right into the fun, happy go lucky music and got the crowd tapping their feet and bobbing their heads within the first beats.

The lyrics and tempo felt comforting, like reconnecting with an old friend. The music had a very hopeful tune to it making it something everyone needs to listen to at this point in history. No matter the stressors you felt prior to coming to the show whether it be your job, the lack of money you have or the things you haven't done yet, listening to Fine Times had a certain air of "everything is going to be alright"; the name of the band is in my opinion 100% accurate for the felt you get from them.

Even when singing about how we're all going to die one day, the sound still made you want to dance. It reminded me almost of pumped up kicks. Catchy and upbeat as hell, even if the content is dark. This band is certainly one to keep your eye on. 5 out of 5 hammers.

Fast Romantics

The band upon meeting them seemed humble, something hard to come by in this industry and it was apparent in the way they spoke to the crowd and thanked them for coming to the intimate early show. The caliber of music they put out was beyond high quality. I have to say the drummer has one of the better sounds I've heard in a while for this genre of music. He hit the drums hard and propelled the band further. The vocal collaboration was sweet and truthful and the content of the songs was something more real than I've heard on the air waves in a bit.

The keyboardist/guitarist wailed on the keyboards and not only that, but also rocked a mean tambourine. In fact a few members played multiple parts in the composition of the songs. The collective group jived well with each other and had a unique sound that ignited happiness and depth within the crowd which seemed to receive them well,  as almost no one was using a phone and gave the band their full attention.

The lead singer had great connection with the audience when talking between songs and not only was I one Julia to introduce myself, but there were many others shouting out their names to them. Sadly this disappointed me. The band tested out some songs on us for their new album and ANIMAL sounds like another top charter in my opinion. This band definitely knows how to write a catchy tune for the masses. It was no surprise when they played their single JULIA  (which has been all over Vancouver’s station 102.7 the peak (which I'm also a fan girl)), that the crowd went wild and all the Julia's in the land started shaking their money makers. I have no doubt these guys and lady will make it big and I'll be saying I remember when I got to photograph them before their explosion into the music industry. I can't wait to see what's next from this team. Five out of five golden hammers for the Fast Romantics! Julia out.

Check out more photos from the bands HERE.

Submit Your Music Now!

Calling all Vancouver musicians!

Hammer Records invites YOU to become part of Hammer Radio. By submitting your song to us you'll be entered for a chance at Hammer Radio play on our all new podcast for the Vancouver music scene.

Submit a $10.00 artist fee for guaranteed play on the NEXT podcast AND be entered for a chance to be FEATURED as a best of an our Hammer Records compilation album at the end of the year. Help us help you, get your band on the air waves and receive massive exposure not just in Vancouver but in our many countries that recognize us! We look forward to hearing your stuff!

Rules Of Submission:
-High Quality Audio
-Radio Length (2-5 minutes)
-Unsigned artists
-Non profit agreement

-Must submit a description of the band, song and album.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Best In Vancouver: Mistral Storm

Art Rock band, Mistral Storm, is putting their best foot forward for the Best In Vancouver competition. I had a short chat with lead singer, Monica about the upcoming performance.

James: How did you find out about "Best In Vancouver"?
Mistral StormI found out about Best in Vancouver while looking for places to play in Vancouver.
I sent in a sample and our web address ... and viola! We are seriously jazzed!

James: What sets you apart from other bands?
Mistral StormWe are a different band with a unique style of music we call art rock. We strive to
be as creative as possible. We are all about making unique and killer soulful music. Our ultimate goal is to make the room stop because people are captivated by the sound. When that happens, we know we've done our job. Hopefully that happens with BIV.

James: Do you have anything special for your show planned?
Mistral Storm The only thing special in our live show is our music. We hope that's special enough. We don't do gimmicks. We don't wear KISS style makeup. We are pretty regular folk. We hope the music stands one its own. We've musicians not actors.

James: What do you think about battle of the bands competitions and how they influence the scene?
Mistral Storm I think Battle of the Band competitions are a cool way for bands to show their stuff. Sometimes competitions give people more buzz and that influences their careers for sure. The other thing that influences the scene is the
connection you make with other bands. It's kind of a unique community. We all know how hard it is and how much work goes into honing your craft. It's fantastic to play for anyone who enjoys the music you create. That is the best part of doing what we do. It's also cool when you run into musicians who get what you are trying to do musically and that is pretty sweet.
Check out more about Mistral Storm HERE.
Check out more about the Best In Vancouver competition HERE.

Best In Vancouver: Ampletude

Bringing their brand of psych rock to Studio Records, Ampetude is ready to turn things up! I had a short talk with the band about their upcoming show.

James: How did you find out about "Best In Vancouver"?
Ampletude: Through our promoter Kevin

James: What sets you apart from other bands?
AmpletudeWe're a trio, two of us have red hair, and two of us picked up new instruments to form the band.

James: Do you have anything special for your show planned?
Ampletude: We're going to play some new songs

James: What do you think about battle of the bands competitions and how they influence the scene?

AmpletudeThe battling of bands is great because competition breeds innovation and influences the scene by giving the bands something to strive for which can help bands to move through any stagnant waters.

Check out more from Ampletude HERE.
Check out more about the Best In Vancouver competition HERE.