Besnard Lakes

When a country has an artistic Renaissance there are two level of artists appearing on the scene.

Few are the ones that lead the movement and indicate the new direction, folllowing there are several that join the path without having the same amount of creativity to hold the high standard of the new trend and will probably not be the ones used to define the epoch.

It already happened at Medici’s court in Florence in the 15th century so there is no surprise it still happens in Canada few hundred years later.
To me nowadays it makes more sense because through the years the world, moving from authoritarian monarchies to democracies, has seen the blossom of capitalism and freedom is controlled by money. Money, despite not as much as in the heyday, still rule the music industry.

This to say that an artist leading a scene, is not only accompained by some more on the same path, but these “me too” are today supported by competitor labels trying to get their slice of the upcoming market signing new interesting acts.

All this pretty much intricate and probably useless intro, apart from giving me the space to add two further photos, is what I need to talk about the Besnard Lakes, their third album, their legacy to Canada and, most important the impression I got from their recent gig at the London Cargo.

To quote and to avoid misunderstandings, Besnard Lakes formed in Montreal, Quebec, Canada in 2003 by wife and husband Olga Goreas and Jace Lasek. Up to this point, year, place and wife/husband thing their story is a copycat to the main Canadian band: Arcade Fire. The risk is that they get too often compared to them, as my friends Chiara said in a brilliant statement: “when people don’t know how to define a band, they compare it to Arcade Fire”. Here we go.

In fact analogies between the two stop here and don’t go too much into the music, which is what the important bit of reviewing a gig. The other use I will do of the parallel is to come back to Canadian music renaissance and those two kind of artists. The acclaimed ones by critics and public, Arcade Fire are about to headline many festivals this summer with tenths of thousand people, and the forgotten ones who managed to fill a venue about 100 times smaller. The cosy London Cargo.

As soon as the Besnard Lakes arrives on stage I realize I am in front of the less cool band I have seen in ages. Jace Lakes long blond curly hair, black shirt with white decorations, big sunglasses with yellow-ish lenses, would be out of place even in 1978. He looks like the missing Bee Gee brother lost for years somewhere in Quebec’s countryside.

The opening song of the set doesn’t help. As it happens eight out of ten times, it’s the same track opening their latest album, The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night. Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent is a long suite that has Jace going falsetto in the middle of the track leaving me :-/ (which is the adjective for this emoticon?). Seventies look, falsetto, high pitch… I wonder if I have picked the wrong gig.

Olga Goreas, Jace‘s wife, is on the right side of the stage, concentrated on her bass guitar (and on the smoke machine) brings the show into the second song, Devastation, submerged by a dense white smoke. As the guitar burst into, Olga‘s voice struggles to emerge but it is a brilliant song. Things are getting better, if the song were shorter would be perfect.

For Agent 13 is a wife/husband dialogue that is again plenty of Jace Lakes‘ falsetto and… I can’t stand falsetto. I am repeating myself, sorry.
Land of Living Skies is a two part suite with Olga taking vocals duties leaving her husband to keys and guitar. With the support of the other guitarist doing a great job throughout the show and big drums sustaining the piece this the Besnard Lakes line-up that works better. The guitar solo towards the end fills the room remembering anyone how important is to be born in the same country of Neil Young.

Off topic. One thing I don’t understand at gigs is why some bands spend minutes between songs to tune their instruments why many bands never do that. Is it a nervous tic it? If so, it doesn’t help. Anytime the concert seems to take off these long breaks with chats do distract the audience while musicians look at pedals to be sure the E or the B are tuned are annoying.

Chicago Train starts with more falsetto but has a nice interlude which brings the song into Albatross one of their more orchestral pieces with Olga back on vocal. It’s not Fletwood Mac and sound brilliant. And This is What We Called Progress and the blast of guitars that open Glass Printer complete the live rendition of the latest album. The feeling is that everything would sound much smoother leaving it flow without the breaks between songs.

The closing two songs of the set are taken from the previous 2007 album, The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse. Disaster, that opens that LP sounds slightly different (it may be me) and as most of my favourite tracks gets boosted when the guitarist slice the air full of smoke. You Lied To Meepicness is perfect to close the intense set.

The band comes back for a two songs encore, Rides the Rails is a quite electronic piece where Jace finally manages to sing with his proper tone. Something shortened as “Capo” on the setlist is the closing piece. I leave the expert to find out what that was, I left the gig and leave you with the impression of a good concert by a band that has written some very nice music but is often trapped in their references.

The Besnard Lakes music belongs to the Canada alternative rock renaissance but is not the juicy part. They have some nice songs, wonderful guitar crescendo that get to the limit of noise before jumping back into a psychedelic rock. Hints of shoegaze alternate with post-rock quite-loud oscillations. All of this explains why they collaborated with members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, are compared to Broken Social Scene and shouldn’t be put next to Arcade Fire. They have deep root in the seventies, sometime too deep. Jace Lakes doesn’t have the coolest look but Besnard Lakes play plenty of great music to enjoy and you can enjoy them in the coolest venues without going to those muddy fields to see them live, which is a big plus.

Meet The Besnard Lakes on their [website] [myspace]

Photo tip

As the Besnard Lakes follow perfectly a post on Silver Mt. Zion, a photo tip about tripod and monopod is perfectly related to one about image stabilization or vibration reduction.

I was asked in the past by a wanna be concert photographer if I ever use tripods at gigs.
The answer is even more clear than Image Stabilization/Vibration Reduction.
Absolutely not!

Tripods and monopod have more or less the same aim of vibration reduction systems. They stabilize the camera avoiding shake and allowing longer exposures (the tripod allows any exposure) but they can’t do anything if it is the subject moving.
In that case a slower shutter speed would just make your photo worse, extrapolate the concept to infinite and imagine a 30 seconds exposure of a concert. A useless mess. At 1/30s shot it would still be a blurred useless shot.

So bringing such devices at gigs wouldn’t make any good to your images.
Much worse they would create huge problem to anyone moving in the pit. If you want any photographer furious at you that’s the way forward. Expect either them or the security will ask you to stop using those.

In a narrow area, with many people, security guys, people screaming, glasses flying and a band playing in front of you the last thing you want to meet is someone with a monopod thinking to take better photos. Avoid to be that person.

It happened to me a couple of times and it was a nightmare, and both times it was people with videocameras filming the show. So it’s a no go.

~ by Valerio on April 15, 2010.

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