Published May 13, 2016Welsh ex-pat Cate Le Bon has grown a ton since 2011. Her fourth studio album and first for Drag City, Crab Day, was released only a month before this show, and seems to finally be earning her the press coverage in North America and general admiration that she truly deserves. Twenty minutes into her set at the Biltmore Cabaret on May 12, she declared that this crowd may have been the best yet, then qualified it by musing that she may be delirious.
Backed up by a trio who switched between drums, bass, guitar and keys, Le Bon and her band all wore the same dotted half-circle under-eyeliner visible on Crab Day's cover, but that was about the extent of their theatrics. Though the drummer provided a surprising amount of power given their artsy, neo-psychedelic sound, and the bassist and guitarist occasionally gazed and their shoes and bobbed their heads, they were a steady presence throughout their set.
There were no real standout moments; consistency was key. They played the majority of Crab Day and several selections from 2013's Mug Museum almost perfectly, and while that might have made for a boring show for most bands, Le Bon's music is challenging enough to make up for it.
Though she currently lives in Los Angeles, Le Bon exuded a kind of old school, New York loft scene cool that emphasized the angular nature of her precise, staccato art-pop riffs that evoked the spirit of Television, Talking Heads and, at least in "Cuckoo Through the Walls," the Velvet Underground. Given her obvious brilliance as a poet, performer and songwriter, she deserves her mention among those masters.
After having driven 27 hours straight from Minneapolis to make their set, Mega Bog apparently didn't receive the welcome they were hoping for in Vancouver. The Seattle-based collective, helmed by Erin Birgy, appearing for the first time as a quartet with clarinet, bass and keys supporting Birgy's guitar and lead vocals, seemed a little rattled for their first couple of songs, for a reason which soon became apparent.
Birgy pointed out that a guy named Martin, who tried to rip them off at the merch booth, had decided to stand right in front of the band when they played, within spitting distance, and stare them down for their set. She politely asked him to move to the back. He refused to move at first, until a friend called him off to the side. It was a weirdly intense moment, especially contrasted with their wispy, drum-less music and the appearance of bassist Zach Burba, who looked like "Go for a Soda"-era Kim Mitchell in a floral print shirt.
Regardless, Mega Bog's mix still seemed a little off, sounds coming in and out with clarinet and keys floating on the fringes. As their set progressed, the crowd became more and more chatty, which seemed to lead her to stop a track short, and then amp up the Scout Niblett-esque screaming in their finale.