Saturday, February 13, 2010

Live Blogging Olympic Music : Malajube & Opening Ceremonies

I kicked off my Olympics celebrations at the cozy, kitschy corner of Vancouver known as Granville Island, where la Place de la Francophonie was located. After dinner, we caught the beginning of the Canadian anthem and bolted out the doors (after paying, of course) and ended up at the outdoor PdlF just in time to catch the last sustained note. What followed was 3 hours of standing in the pouring rain with about 150 other people, mostly francophone, in the outdoor plaza as we watched the visually stunning pageantry known as the opening ceremonies. Music-wise, it was a bit disappointing to note that all the performers were lip-syncing, although some were very, very good at it. The most touching moment was definitely when the entire stadium stood to honour Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who had passed away earlier in the day due to an accident during practice. A minute of silence was observed, which resulted in a silent BC Place, as well as silence throughout our plaza.

All in all, the highlights of the Opening Ceremony can be summarized thus-- killer whales, Koyczan and k.d. lang. The visual effects simulating our wildlife drew gasps throughout the audience; BC slam poet Shane Koyczan delivered an impassioned poem highlighting the place of Canada in the world, and k.d. lang performed a spotless and thoroughly worthy rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." (was that really lip-synced? don't believe it) A tweet I read post performance summed it up quite nicely; "That's Canada for you. A vegan lesbian from Alberta singing a song written by a Quebec Jew."

Thankfully, the set by Montreal's Polaris-nominated Malajube was indoors at Performance Works theatre. The theatre was standing room only by the time we arrived, half an hour before their set was slated to begin. And by the time they took to the stage, the wide wooden floors of the theatre were covered with the bums of an eager audience. And they did not disappoint. Mixing sparse English and French banter in the beginning of the set, Malajube quickly got down to business, interspersing their trippy, nudging hardcore and prog-rock with only a few "merci, merci"s. 

Guitarist and lead singer Julien Mineau's vocals were in top-notch form, and in the few songs where he and keyboardist Thomas Augustin screamed the lyrics, the crowd went absolutely ape-shit and it was amazing. Augustin also reminded me of Foo Fighter's Dave Grohl with his demeanor and mustache. Instrumentally, the set was near flawless, with a few technical difficulties in the beginning soothed out a couple of songs in. The two songs that I knew well, "Porte Disparu" and "Luna" from their latest Labyrinthes were played back to back in the beginning of the set. The band was not afraid to take the audience on a ride, often stretching out the songs into long, instrumental freak-outs. The audience more than happily returned the favour by slam dancing and crowd surfing. All in all, it was a fucking concert.

What made the night special, on top of Malajube in their top form, was seeing the most eclectic group of fans rock out gleefully in Performance Works. Myself, my Mexican friend, his francophone boyfriend, the nearby group of teen Chinese girls were all singing along at the tops of our lungs. Middle aged couples were front and centre, in the middle of the most enthusiastic and non-hostile mosh pit I've seen. When someone pushed, they pushed back with big grins. Some up front (like me) had their wet shoes off from being outside and were dancing without worry. When an older lady side stage was flinging her arms about and sending voodoo arms toward the stage (so looking generally awkward), two high school girls jumped from in front of the stage to join her in her strange Macarena-like dance. The crowd was bloody brilliant, and very Canadian.

As my friend Cody at @cdnmusic would say, Malajube pour le gagner (PLG)!

Here's the set list for the night:

For more photos from the Malajube set, visit my Flickr!