Forestry at Lucky Bar, July 11, 2010

Who: Forestry (with Rooney and the Minglers, and The Sentimentals)

When: July 11, 2010

Where: Lucky Bar, Victoria

Cost: $7

My good friend Blake Enemark is one of the hardest people to categorize.  He dresses a bit like a hipster (or whatever the trend is today, I’m not up on my terms), attends church regularly, has glasses (and actually needs them), has a swath of red/orange hair that looks a lot like Conan O’Brien, does a lot of work with teenagers through the Young Life organization, and is one of the most genuine and original people I know.  When you look at him without knowing him, you either pin him in the category of “socially awkward, probably cool on the inside, never-played-an-instrument-or-did-anything-cool/radical type person” category, or the “must be the coolest guy alive, has all the friends, and plays a mean rock show” category.  Thankfully I know him and know that he is the star of the second group!

Blake Enemark holding a candle

Blake’s most recent musical project is a band called Forestry.  Climbing up the local recognition charts, Forestry has just released their first album and done their first cross-province tour, performing 12 concerts in 13 days, including the homecoming concert at Lucky Bar in Victoria, BC, where I saw them.

Now, I’ll admit, I’m not a club person.  I’ve only just turned 19, and this is one of the only clubs I’ve been to, legally or illegally.  I was given the great opportunity to play with Blake for a solo show at Lucky in December of last year, but this was the first time I had gone as a legal audience member.  The concert venue is what is expected in a smallish bar: beer on the floor, people who don’t even seem to notice the concert, a half-deaf sound guy, and a stage.  Lucky, for one reason or another, seems to be able to break free from that mould and has made itself known as one of the better concert venues for smaller crowds (30-50 this night) in Victoria.  The sound is usually quite good (although VERY loud), the stage is the perfect height in relation to the crowd, the atmosphere is friendly, and the lighting is great.

The first band to play was a guitar-drums duo called the Sentimentals.

The Sentimentals’ lead singer/guitarist

At least, that’s what they were booked as.  I think it was a joke, but the singer kept introducing each new song as “we are now called…” and then some name he made up on the spot, but I don’t think I ever heard him say The Sentimentals.  They were good if you’re into loud crashing and interesting chords, but their stage presence left a bit to be desired.  I got the impression that most of their songs were written about two days in advance of the concert (and the singer admitted that on stage) and although they were a great up-beat band, the only words I could make out during the whole half-hour set was “chicken” something…  My ears were ringing then, and still haven’t stopped.

Through girlfriends of the band mates and people who know people, I ended up being introduced to Connor from Rooney and the Minglers.  Connor’s stage name is Rooney (in fact all the band members have stage names starting with R), and he was a great guy to chat with before the concert.  His band could be labelled as electric post-rock, and I had never heard of them before the show.  I was convinced to buy a five dollar, handmade copy of Rooney and the Minglers’ album The Electric Quartet (I believe it is their first offering) and it was so hand-made my friend had to re-write the song order on the back, and I’ve wiped away just half of the fingerprints and remnants of glue from the CD itself.

The band was great.  Playing most of their songs as instrumentals, they were surprisingly original and the sound levels ended up being perfect.  Although I couldn’t hear most of the words when they did sing, each instrument was well balanced which was important as most members switched instruments during their set.

Connor from Rooney and the Minglers

I found myself dancing to the music and almost forgot to snap a few photos of their matching white t-shirts and brown shorts uniforms.  They even had white instruments for the most part!  The CD was a great deal and I have already enjoyed listening to it many times.

Blake’s band, Forestry, was the last band of the night, although it could be said that Rooney and the Minglers were co-headliners.  As soon as the quartet started their first song, you could tell this was a band that was going places and are completely professional despite their relatively short musical careers.  The band featured Enemark on lead guitar and vocals, Peter Gardner on lead/rhythm guitar, harmonica, and vocals (and as Blake puts it: “also on Beard”), Talia Este on bass and back-up vocals, and Danny Costello on drums.  Danny is another musician I have played with before, an excellent drummer and great guy, and he delivered a surreal beat behind the band, even with a broken snare and being obviously tired from touring.  His drums were held in place with two concrete blocks and a sand bag, fixtures that would have been appreciated during the first band’s set.

It was good for me to hear Forestry because I finally understood some lyrics and I knew a few of the songs.  The band played my two favourite Enemark-penned songs: Edmonton and Dover Beach and I was singing along (or at least moving my lips, I couldn’t tell if I was singing with all the noise) to both songs with a vigour I haven’t had for a while.  The band’s sound is quite influenced by and sounds a lot like Attack in Black and Wilco, but is still remarkably original.  All front-line members were involved in talking to the audience, full of friends and fans, and told stories of their recent tour including hitting a duck at 2am with their tour van.  The one complaint I would have was the bass player spent most of the last half of the set with her back to the audience and didn’t engage past the story telling.

Blake delivered the best performance I have seen him give yet, heart-wrenching singing, jaw-dropping guitar work, and the first time I have seen him play without losing his glasses (in fairness, he did attach them to his head with string for the songs he thrashed his head to)!  For the last song, sadly marred by technical difficulties with the guitar pedals, Enemark rose from his knees (where he had been playing a sort of slide-guitar technique in the previous song) to play a head banging, body-thrashing, and awe-inspiring solo that left the audience wanting an encore.  Gardner also became the first person I have seen play an electric guitar with the handrail of the stage’s stairs.  In all, Forestry was my favourite band and delivered much more than I anticipated.

Blake playing slide guitar on the stage floor

Lucky may not be the best locale for an audience to catch every word sung during a performance, but it is a venue that provides adequate concerts and a good atmosphere for bands to come and play in and audiences to come and have a good time.  The bands were good to great and definitely worth the seven dollar cover-charge.  I had a great time hanging out with friends in between sets and snapping pictures right under the band-members’ feet.

All photos taken on a Lomography Diana Mini camera.

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