Arboretum Festival - Day Two

August 19, 2017

Photo: Jimmy Skyline

Claude Munson

There is a new Canadiana sound. Bands like Patrick Watson, Joe Grass,  Jesse Mac Cormack and the Barr Brothers share a musical aesthetic that is coming to the forefront of contemporary Canadian songwriting. There is a new generation of alternative folk music that is at a ground swell, and is set to catch a fire in our music scene.  Claude Munson fits this bill. The Forest stage was the perfect venue for experiencing him, and his on again, off again fellow band mates. Late summer sun, under a tent, in the woods and loads of fresh air, complemented this early evening serenade.  Claude Munson’s travelling floating melodies, were enriched with a alto voice with a subtle trumpet quality to it. Both Claude’s band and his voice were fluid, and charming. The band hinted at being able to extend the music into swelling and crashing jams, but held back most of the time. Accented by some killer slide on a fender strat guitar, a Canadian made Godin hollow body,  and a vintage sound coming out of Claude’s own red top Harmony Rocket guitar (amazing to see this guitar, and equally amazing to see it stay in tune for most of the show),  the sounds were rich and warm.  It’s a shame the band didn’t step out more, it was clear that they had enough depth to drive the well crafted songs to the limit. The back beat was muted by some red cloth on top of the drums to dampen the sound. The result was a magical blend of subtle sounds supporting an incredible voice. Harmonies of Stefan Stevens, Half Moon Run, and Barr Brothers abound. Fluid and silky. 

Photo: Jimmy Skyline

Future States

Again, being unfamiliar I came to this Barn stage performance with little expectation.  What I got was a lush psyche pop sound. What I left with was a band who is looking back as much as forward. A Sixties sensibility of pop psyche, and complex four part harmonies, paired with layers of swirling guitars and keyboards. Sometimes quite trite melodies were followed by huge musical blowouts, giving an indication to the ground that Future States walk on. Evidently playing with a new drummer, they didn’t seem to miss a beat. The Barn was packed for their show, and some rabid dancers help lift the energy. The end of the set had every one pushed forward to the front of the stage, which must have been a relief to to Chuck Bronson as he started the show by asking people to come closer. They are touring around now in support of their record “Casual Listener”.

Photo: Jimmy Skyline

Photo: Jimmy Skyline

Deerhoof

Rolf Klausener came out to introduce Deerhoof. He told a story about passing on seeing them in the mid 1990’s, and regretted it as it took another 15 years for him to catch them live. I have a similar story. I have missed Deerhoof by a hair many times over the near three decades of this legendary band. A band that defies description, that should have never survived, a band with out a leader, a band beyond description. There is too much to recap of their storied history. I am just thankful that Deerhoof came to town and slaughtered. Yes, slaughtered. Maybe I would have a more measured reaction if this was say the early 90’s when there was so much unstoppable creativity in the music scene. Or maybe I am missing my youth, where you could see just about any band tear it up and leave no prisoners. But Deerhoof exceeded my expectations.  In a music fest that clearly had a particular curated sound, Deerhoof was the glorious exception to the rule.  Born out of San Fransisco around 1995,  a more singular ambitious art project to survive this long is nearly unimaginable. It felt fresh.  It felt honest. It felt undeniable. It was relentless and punishing at times. Driven hard by the intertwine of the two guitars, chasing the lead lines in unison, then pulling them apart in angular, rhythmic directions. John Dieterich  and Ed Rodríguez kept the guitar mayhem alive, as Greg Saunier pounded out the drum lines. A real heavy hitter. Greg took to the microphone a couple of times. His surreal story telling is improvised, and on this occasion he marvelled at the bands rider request for a carrot. Of coarse, Arboretum will be the only venue that could supply a perfect purple carrot directly from the ground. He said, “We got carrot straight from the ground from the venue.... backstage after show, there is a reward of a purple carrot,…. unless the other bands are eating it now.” Greg along with Satomi Matsuzaki on vocals are all thats left of the earliest stages of Deerhoof with John joining in around 1999. Satomi is a force of nature. Her diminutive size lies in contradiction to her massive stage presence. She has a timeless, ageless beauty. Her energy is infectious, playful and alluring. She danced, hopped, bounced, and hand jived to the angular musical structure, while sing over top beautiful and joyous melodies. Beefhartian at times, with a similar love for the poetic and absurd, in a word Deerhoof were crushing.