Justice live at the PNE Forum

Justice live at the PNE Forum, Vancouver, BC – April 26th, 2012

Electronic music has progressed immensely over the past decade, with acts becoming staples of festival circuits and standardized as soundtracks to more exhilarating film and television. The stereotypical DJ set up has also evolved, from your once upon a time DJ just with his turntables to MPC’s, decks, elaborate visual stage arrangements and considerably more.

France’s Jus†ice (scheduled to begin at 9:30) started bang on time, wowing their immense audience in Vancouver’s packed PNE forum. Their signature cross logo stood in the middle of a gigantic mixer, sandwiched between over thirty feet of subwoofers. Despite only having two album’s worth of their own material, remixes and simplified versions of their songs were spliced in between song’s original versions and mash ups of other hooks. Each song ended up submerged by pounding bass and a superb light show.

The concentrated energy by the crowd seeped throughout, even entering the washrooms where over enthusiastic fans couldn’t help but use the light switch to further the light show experience. Thankfully I was sober enough to know how to aim.

Although certain electronic groups translate their music into renditions with traditional instruments, Justice remain with their hardware; the two of them and an astounding technical set up. With that said, the duo have enough surrounding them to provide more than a little visual stimulation.

Of course the duo performed various versions of “D.A.N.C.E.”, “Civilization,” “Stress” and “DVNO,” but the personal highlight was “Genesis” – the entire lighting theme turned to infuriating shades of deep red and red screens, alongside of the cranked volume one couldn’t help but be hypnotized.

If you leave a Justice show with perfect hearing, you weren’t standing in the crowd or near the stage. These DJ’s put on a fantastic live show.

Lil Wayne live at Rogers Arena, Vancouver, BC

The Lil’ Wayne “I’m Still Music” tour proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Having seen the same stage host many other artists, Rogers Arena (formerly GM Place) proved to be the right landscape for the vast musical catalogue that his discography boasts.

There are several considerations vital to a stadium show versus that of a smaller venue. Firstly of course, there’s the price, which tends to be considerably higher than your 400 person or your 2,000 person venue. There’s also where you’re located and how much of a fan you are of the artist. The bang for buck is what we’re all searching for. Vancouver’s leg of the “I’m Still Music” tour was definitely worth the price of admission, no matter where you were. The larger screens featured an accurate and well chosen array of close up shots during the night. The only exception was during Rick Ross’ set. For some reason the shot remained static, just Ross standing in front of a 30 foot canopy where no close up was seen of the rapper on the screens. If you were privileged to be close enough, or have floor seats, he was in full view. But throughout the night the only rapper without close ups was Ricky Rozay.

From the get go, the carefully planned show went smoothly. Travis Barker and Mixmaster Mike kicked things off, performing inside of a blown up boom box; Mixmaster Mike scratching and mixing in the circle meant for one speaker, and Barker drumming inside the other. The visual depiction was fantastic, and a surprise cameo by Paul Wall had a lot of onlookers stunned.

Barker showcased his drumming talents, stepping up a fast tempo beat for a mash up of Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad.” He continued through an array of songs, drumming away seamlessly alongside MMM’s mash ups. “Give The Drummer Some” of course was the album most drawn from, and for an opening act the performance was superb.

Rick Ross’ set followed shortly thereafter. The Teflon Don performed in signature fashion, emerging with ferocity after a Pulp Fiction sampled intro and Thriller laugh sample. He kicked his set off with “MC Hammer” and proceeded to run through “Husslin,” “Aston Martin Music” and brought Masspike Miles out to be his hypeman, aiding Ross on “Cigar Music” and taking T-Pain’s role for Ross to perform live renditions of DJ Khaled hits. “Blowin’ Money Fast” received the strongest response, the back and forth crowd response from the hook was perfect as with “I’m Not A Star” also received a huge reception.

Rick Ross concentrated on promoting the new Maybach Music release “Self Made” throughout his 30 minute set (which appeared longer as he performed more verses than full songs). His call and response with “Self” / “Made” back and forth with the crowd appeared somewhat corny, however he’s in the position he’s in and is “self made” as a result of his marketing practices.

Though apparent early on, once Lil’ Wayne took the stage, wearing a Vancouver Canucks Hockey Jersey and fitted cap (the Canucks having won a significant game the night before), the weed aroma’s kicked up a notch. They had been around earlier, as with most concerts, but as Wayne came out the joints became considerably more prevalent.

The strong roar of the crowd was impossible not to partake in as he ascended from beneath the stage, straight into “I’m Going In.” From there on, the show was Wayne’s with the New Orleans native commanding his audience’s every look. The Cash Money/Young Money rapper had a full band behind him, and a three story set of scaffolding that he alternated which level he stood and performed upon. Behind the scafolding stood screens projecting slideshows and animations showcasing the various songs. Weezy’s energetic presence on stage and non-stop movement was captivating.

Midway through Lil’ Wayne’s set he informed the crowd that he had to go change, the arena was lit up briefly before darkening again. A sequence from Gladiator where Russell Crowe enters the arena played out behind him on the main screen as a man that the audience assumed was Lil’ Wayne, covered by a hood, barefoot, and wearing a Monk’s robe emerged. It was revealed not to be Wayne, but in fact SB (Nicki Minaj’s hypeman) as Nicki Minaj asceneded from beneath the stage wearing a corset, a signature beehive wig and extremely colourful tights. She began with “Roman’s Revenge,” running around the stage whilst her dancers interpreted and performed their choreographed moves. The dancers collaborated to create a football set up, where Nicki ran through them, scored a touchdown and was met by a referee at the end of it all.

Unsurprisingly, a large amount of men surrounding me sat down, uninterested in Minaj. They even booed, but couldn’t be heard over the roars and screams of the thousands of adoring onlookers. Minaj performed her hits from “Pink Friday” before Lil Wayne returned and Minaj briefly made a stage exit to change her wig. Minaj had trouble hiding her smile, which was cute. Her performance solidified her validity as a rapper, with her high paced movement and breath control working to bring her material to life.

Wayne made his return shortly thereafter, running through hits and verses from collaborations with Drake, Eminem and DJ Khaled amongst others, bringing out his own guitar and singing some of his rock songs as well. The set included several theatrical performances where actresses would come out on stage to aid in his live renditions including a woman loosely dressed in a police uniform to play out “Miss Officer.” Fireworks and flame bursts occassionally spruced up Wayne’s set, but at no point were they necessary as Lil Wayne live is far superior than on his recordings.

The “I’m Still Music” tour is definitely a stadium show, organized to perfection. The light collages set up behind the artists were served as a great accentuation and the close ups for those in poor seated areas were orchestrated to perfrection by the live feed on huge display screens. Wherever you were, the atmosphere and the way Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Rick Ross and Travis Barker performed was phenomenal.

Photograph by Adam LeBlanc

Eyedea and Abilities, live at The Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC

Eyedea and Abilities, live at The Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver, BC

written by Heather Snowball and Amber-Bryant Peller

On the corner of Kingsway and 12th people gathered at the Biltmore Cabaret to watch what some describe as a “tormented artist.” Eyedea and Abilities show was a display of genuine art and raw emotion. The themes of many songs were often linked to suffering and the human condition though it was contrasted with other lighthearted elements. It began at 10:00pm with the openers.

With an impressive instrument set-up Dosh, the opening act, set the mood for the evening. Ranging from simple 2-step drumbeats to elaborate pieces mixing an assortment of sounds and beats, the one-man-show that is Dosh impressed the audience. Sometimes the music did not seem to follow any recognizable beat but Dosh still managed to entertain well and was later invited back on stage with Eyedea and Abilities.

Eyedea and Abilities brought out a modest crowd. The people there, however, were some of the most invested fans. Conversation hummed at tables and out front as people chatted about their excitement and about how long they have been following the band.

As the night progressed from the opening acts onward, so the anticipation kept increasing. Many fans knew all the lyrics and swayed with the beat. Eyedea, the lyricist and freestyler, displayed his handle over the crowd. When fans got too demanding he jokingly “ssh’d” the audience and reminded them who the star of the show was.

Eyedea maintained his banter with the crowd throughout the night. He transitioned between songs with anecdotes from his past. He also took the opportunity to display one of his most praised talents – his ability to freestyle.

Eyedea was clearly at home on stage. Crowds pushed closer and closer while some fans sat on stage during the night. He just stepped over them and continued to impress.

Abilities got an equally boisterous response from the fans as he was given centre stage to show his intricate turntable work. His skill was undeniable and this was reflected in excitement amongst the crowd.

As the evening winded down and Eyedea and Abilities finished their set the people still wanted more. They chanted “A & E” until the duo took the stage again to perform an encore. The two played a few more songs bringing Dosh, the opening act, back on stage to bring the night to its finale.

The fans left satisfied with the show. It won’t be surprising if Eyedea and Abilities continue to gain recognition because of their stage presence and their raw talent.

The Red Room club, Vancouver, B.C. Abusive security guard pushes around small female photographer

The Red Room club, Vancouver, B.C.

It’s not often that we take the time to take issue with a venue, but last night for the Swollen Members show, we experienced our fair share of bullshit and manhandling. Our photographer, a small 110lb woman, while in the middle of taking press photos was forcibly grabbed and completely removed from the venue. The beefy, 350lb security guard in charge of doing this was extremely aggressive towards her – a woman who was neither posing a threat, fighting or struggling, but trying to express to him that she was attending the show under the pretense of taking photos for an approved and requested review.

What this was to prove, or who this showed an example to is beyond me. No idiot in the audience that was hellbent on causing a problem or a ruckus would have been dissuaded to fight due to a small girl being removed. Plus, the fact that she wasn’t physically fighting him, but solely trying to speak with him was a reason for him to lose his temper and physically force her out of the club, damaging her clothing in the process.

Upon bringing this up with the club’s head of security that same night, and the management, we were met with excuses and claims of “That didn’t happen.” With “16 cameras” as we were told that were videotaping it, apparently it still didn’t happen. So to the people who run The Red Room, if you wish to refute the fact the she struggled while being forced, that she didn’t endlessly try to talk to the guy and she wasn’t forcibly pushed, please, show us the footage. But from what we experienced, the truth is that a show review that was otherwise going to go well, turned into a review of the club and the physically aggressive security picking on the wrong woman instead of the moshing, drunk and angered men who were intent on causing fights and actually making a problem for the club and it’s patrons.

Lady Sovereign, Chester French and Hollywood Holt live at Richards on Richards, Vancouver, BC, May 22nd, 2009

Lady Sovereign, Chester French and Hollywood Holt live at Richards on Richards, Vancouver, BC, May 22nd, 2009

A selection of photos taken by Natasha Davidson of Lady Sovereign performing in Vancouver with Chester French and Hollywood Holt opening for her.

Chester French doing their thing.

DJ Analyze warming up the crowd for Lady Sovereign’s set

Lady Sovereign getting into her set