Yes, hipsteens. They’re certainly not old enough to grasp the true self-irony of hipsterism, but they’re dressed for the part: Star Wars comic book t-shirts, converses, plaid, thick rimmed glasses, and non-stop chatter about indie bands (worn on their sleeves – in the form of concert buttons). Add a 45 minute line-up for t-shirts (because they’re too young to buy alcohol), and you have Said the Whale’s concert at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre on May 3rd.
In true hipster spirit, I sported a beard and—for the first time in my life—drank a Pabst Blue Ribbon. I wanted to show the young hipsteens the pinnacle that they aspire to reach someday: Me. A jaded twenty-something sitting in a seat (rather than jumping around on the floor), sipping a beer and taking notes—proud in the knowledge that (and only in this one case) I really had heard of this band before they even had an album. I can’t make this claim with any other band – which is why I am clearly no hipster – but at a Said the Whale concert I can feel like one. I went to one of their early Media Club concerts simply because I liked their name and I wanted to use it in a short story (turned long story) that I was writing. I met them, continued to follow them to their shows, and then I left Canada. By the time I came back they were on the verge of winning a Juno. So I feel pretty awesome. When talking to hipsters.
Said the Whale is migrating around, promoting their latest album, Little Mountain. I saw the charming quintet last year in Toronto when they were showing off many of the songs before they were released. As always, I like concerts more when I pre-know the songs, so this one was far superior. Also, it was in Vancouver—the topic of most of the band’s tunes—so the crowd was treated to not only having the name of their city yelled as a rhetorical vie for acceptance, but as song lyrics over and over and over. That’s an understatement; not hyperbole: the band played 29 songs (including the three in the encore). Granted, some of their songs are pretty short, but that’s still a hell of a lot! Most reference Vancouver in some way, although the band has branched out with tracks including other locations: “Emerald Lake, AB”, “Jesse, AR”, and the undeniably charming “Big Sky, MT”.
Highlights of the concert were also the highlights from Little Mountain – especially Ben’s songs, including the aforementioned “Big Sky, MT” about picking wild flowers with his mother and grandfather (Hipster Tip: Ben’s favourite is Shooting Star and his mother’s is Pearly Everlasting). Tyler and Ben, the frontmen of Said the Whale, split the show pretty evenly with 15 and13 songs respectively—and Spencer, their mesmerizingly talented drummer, had one in the encore. Tyler writes and sings the rockier fun ones (see the clap chorus in “Lucky“), but Ben’s heartfelt odes to his city and his grandfather always leave me a little stunned. Both of these fine young men have lovable personas outside of their songs as well. Ben nervously watched the crowd surfers and asked them to be careful, and Tyler had this oh-so-Canadian introduction to their anthem “We are 1980”: “This is the part where, in a big arena, the singer would demand that you take out your cellphones and hold them up. But we’re a small band in a modest venue. So we’re just going to ask you politely. If you have one, please hold it up. Let’s see those lights.” Awww~
They didn’t play my favourite song . . . band’s rarely do . . . but you can listen to “Howe Sounds” here. Otherwise, they cruised through the list of songs I had hoped for and even ones I love that I didn’t think they’d play. Check out “Hurricane Ada”, “Gift of a Black Heart”, “The Reason” (even though it was much better live), and “My Government Heart.”
Reading a review of a concert is not always entirely useful because it’s too late for you to see the one I just saw, but for those of you who saw it and want confirmation of the set list: here it is. And for those of you who are considering seeing them in your city: see them. See them very well. (Youtube links provided for my favourites).
Heavy Ceiling – Little Mountain – Tyler
This City’s a Mess – Howe Sounds – Tyler
Black Day in December – Islands Disappear – Ben
Lines – New Brighton EP – Tyler
Out on the Shield – Islands Disappear – Tyler
The Reason – Little Mountain – Ben
O Alexandra – Little Mountain – Ben
We are 1980 – Little Mountain – Tyler
Big Sky, MT – Little Mountain – Ben
False Creek Change – Islands Disappear – Ben
The Light is You – Howe Sounds – Ben
Big Wave Goodbye – Little Mountain – Ben
Jesse, AR – Little Mountain – Tyler
Live off the Lamb – Taking Abalonia – Tyler
Better for You – Taking Abalonia – Ben
B.C. Orienteering – Islands Disappear – Ben
A Cold Night Close to the End – Islands Disappear – Ben
New Brighton – New Brighton EP – Tyler
Lucky – Little Mountain – Tyler
Guilty Hypocrites – Little Mountain – Ben
2010 – Little Mountain – Tyler
Hurricane Ada – Little Mountain – Ben
Camilo (The Magician) – Islands Disappear – Tyler
The Gift of a Black Heart – Islands Disappear – Ben
Loveless – Little Mountain – Tyler
Emerald Lake, AB – Islands Disappear – Tyler
Seasons – Little Mountain – Spencer
My Government Heart – Howe Sounds – Tyler
Goodnight Moon – Islands Disappear – Tyler
. . .
. . .
Taking Abalonia 2
Howe Sounds 3
Islands Disappear 9
New Brighton EP 2
Little Mountain 13
. . .
Songs I Like 29