The February 25 show was sold out at the West End Cultural Centre, which has a capacity of 400. A few people arrived at 6:00 p.m., thinking the doors would open at 7:00 p.m. The ticket said doors at 7:15 p.m. I was a bit early, as well, assuming they would open at 7. Doors opened on time and then there was a huge wait. In fact, the crowd waited almost an hour before being allowed to take our seats. The bands drove 18 hours non-stop from Calgary to make the Winnipeg gig and soundcheck for The Darcys ran late. As the crowd lined up before 7:15, Bombay Bicycle Club walked out past them and out the front door. I wonder how many people noticed who they were, as they were decked out in winter jackets and toques and looked like any other group of 20-something fans.
Things quieted down when Lucy Rose appeared on stage with just an acoustic guitar. Probably few people had heard of her. She has performed backing vocals with Bombay Bicycle Club and also tours with them. Rose’s songs are romance-based nu-folk and her vocals are quiet and precious. She had the crowd paying so much attention that she joked about how at other gigs, people would continue talking over her singing, but not here. She announced that she had a CD for sale, for $5, with mostly demos and remixes. At the end of her performance, a huge line-up appeared in front of the merch table as fans snapped up her disc. So many were sold that they ran out and had to make a trip back to the bus for more. Rose also tours with the British alternative anti-folk group Noah & The Whale.
I had not heard about The Darcys, who are on one of Canada’s hippest labels, Arts & Crafts. They have two albums out, their debut and a new one which is a track-by-track tribute to Steely Dan‘s Aja album. Curiously, both are available as free downloads. At the merch table, they only had vinyl for sale. I downloaded both recordings last night and was surprised that there wasn’t an option to make a donation or buy t-shirts to support them. These guys are intense.
Furious jams grew out of their songs, which are full of brooding, atmospheric sonics combined with a strong indie-rock sensibility. They wouldn’t be out of place in your collection if you like Radiohead. They were so excellent that I figured they should return with their own headlining tour. The crowd enjoyed them and I have no doubt they would have sold several CDs, if they had any for sale. Visit thedarcys.ca to download their albums for free.
Bombay Bicycle Club typically play to around 5,000 people in England and they apparently played in front of 10,000 fans in their largest sold out gig. They could easily play to a crowd the size of the RBC Theatre at the MTS Centre back home, so it was a treat to see them play the 400-person capacity WECC. By comparison to The Darcys, they were decidedly more pop-oriented, although when they stretched things out with a similar intensity that The Darcys demonstrated, they were clearly not to be confused with any flavor of the month pop band.
Current single “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” opened the show, and the fans were cheering after just a few notes. They had the chops to play with indie credibility but also several catchy songs to draw in new fans. The encore featured “Shuffle,” another single from the new album. It wouldn’t sound even slightly out of place in anyone’s best of the ’80s mix tape.
Lucy Rose not only opened tonight’s gig but also performed backing vocals and percussion with the headliners. Lead singer Jack Steadman has a distinctive voice and is probably more unique than great. but their melodies are undeniably striking. Their show was about 75 minutes long and I picked up their CD for $10. There’s no doubt that all three of these acts have increased their fan base in Winnipeg.