concert review: Grand Archives, Sera Cahoone @ El Mocambo (Toronto, Ontario), June 6, 2008
The much recently balleyhooed Seattles' Grand Archives apparently played a mere five songs at its debut show which got them a contract with Sub Pop who released recently their self-titled debut album. Of course, there's the Band of Horses connection as Grand Archives frontman Mat Brooke was once a BoH guitarist. Currently touring with Grand Archives is Mat's fellow former Carissa's Wierd (precursor to Band of Horses) bandmate Sera Cahoone who recently released her debut CD "Only as the Day Is Long" on Sub Pop back in March. The vibe at the El Mocambo last Friday was a relatively relaxed one, as what better what to tour then to tour with friends.
I only caught part of Sera's set, but what I caught was as impressive as first impressions can get. Playing with a band, Sera and her bandmates performed a set of melancholy country, folk-rock music using a combination of electric and acoustic instrumentation. The strength of the melodies and Sera's forlorn vocals were the best elements of the music in a genre that easily can fall by the wayside in less capable hands. The highlight of the set for most people it seemed was Sera's set closer when Grand Archives' Ron Lewis joined Sera and her band on stage for some added percussive elements and which ended with the group harmonizing in a spectacular finale worthy of the Grand Ole Opry.
Grand Archives were somewhat anxious as to what the Toronto reaction might be as Mat mentioned that the reception in another city (I think he mentioned Montreal) was quiet. With the relatively small El Mocambo at less than capacity, it could have easily been a laid back vibe, but as Grand Archives performed (with a few thank yous and other banter thrown in), the crowd's response was greater and greater. Part of it you'd have to chalk up to the strength of the songs. Grand Archives performed much of their self-titled debut plus a few new ones and Mat did at least one song solo during the encore. They're similar in vein to the reverb-drenched pop rock of Band of Horses on one level. However, Grand Archives tone down the reverb and place more emphasis on vocals and harmonzing and also seem to have a more varied sound overall over the course of their set list, utlizing some playful whistling on 'Minitiare Birds', getting a little country as on "A Setting Sun", playing some sombre-toned pop like on 'Sleepdriving' and their piece de resistance, 'Torn Blue Foam Coach' which is as sublime for it's vocal harmones between Mat and Ron as it is for the way it gradual builds from its quiet beginning to its full band charge. So far, it's my FAVOURITE song of the year. Mat made reference to Bob Saget who somehow influenced the writing of 'Torn Blue Foam Coach' - perhaps the band were relaxing on a torn blue foam coach, and Full House was on televesion - but however he did influence them, all I can say is, thank you Bob Saget.
Photos from the show over a my Flickr.
MySpace: Sera Cahoone
MySpace: Grand Archives