In the darkness of Venue on Thursday night came the sounds of Get the Blessing. The band, complete with a bass, drums, trumpet, and saxophone is most simply defined, as a jazz-rock band. This show exemplified the tragedy of jazz today. Incredible music that too few people know about. Even in the world of online music, Get the Blessing, have less than half of their songs available to listen to freely, and despite winning BBC’s Music Award for best jazz album of the year in 2008, and having two part-time members of Portishead, none of their work has been reviewed by Pitchfork. They are however touring extensively, and finally building their North American fan base. For the past three years they have been invited to the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival, and this year the festival finally got them, as part of a package deal initiated by the UK government. Those fans that already exist and were present for the show were held in utter rapture by the music. Their albums are great to listen to, but this is music that is so much better live. It is unsurprising considering the talent of this band that this was a top pick among jazz festival organizers and volunteers to see.
The opening act – Vancouver locals, -The SSRIs were loud, young and quite awesome. While not having the control, and complexity that Get the Blessing demonstrated, they played some good, catchy music. Also scoring points is their Youtube Disorder interview, which illustrates that they are slightly insane, in a juvenile, “no one is going to watch this anyway” kind of way. This noise-pop-psychedelic punk group is worth a listen and a show, and will likely grow to be even better.
Dashing in their suits, especially when compared to the everyday wear of The SSRIs, Get the Blessing began their set with “Low Earth Orbit,” off their latest album OC DC. Strong flutters of the trumpet from Peter Judge begin the song, and it goes from being distinctly jazzy, to deep bass lines, to a battle between the trumpet and sax. This song almost encompasses the latest feel to Get the Blessing’s music: vibrant and noisy, but completely controlled. At moments you can feel Radiohead peaking through and saying hello, even while Ornette Coleman dances along the sax lines. The song twists and turns, like much of their music, so the narrative and emotional structure goes beyond a dichotomy between upbeat-happy, and slow-sad. It is more like a beautiful storm. Moving from “Low Earth Orbit,” came “Suki’s Suzuki” from their first album All is Yes; softer and slower drumming relaxed the audience after the high intensity ending of “Low Earth Orbit.” But like sex and all great music, it builds. Continuing their bounce between All is Yes and OC DC the band played “Torque” and “Equal and Opposite.” Common to both albums is the precision of Clive Dreamer, who is Radiohead’s second live drummer. The back and forth movement between the two albums, however, brought out the darker, more cinematic, and deeper feel of their newest work.
Following these two was “Americano Meccano.” With low groans, and moans done by Robert Wyatt complementing the moody, simmering, angry, sexy atmosphere it is a song that draws the listener in, and invites them to recline within the rhythms. The song was introduced by the bassist in British deadpan, as the story of an Alaskan gold prospector, who lost all his clothes in a blizzard, found his way home, and sat down to enjoy the fire and cheese-and-toast on his table. “Music Style Product” was described as a song for all those allergic to jazz, dedicated to everyone at the back of the room sniffling and sneezing; the bassist claimed to have purified the song of any jazz influence, or sound. The audience laughed. Continuing this dialogue, was the stated existence of a dance done to “Pentopia” by 5 legged elk. These narratives are indicative of the humour that shoots through all of Get the Blessing’s work. “The Waiting” is introduced through the bass, which creates an underlying rock structure to the song. The trumpet and sax work together to layer in jazz. Trip hop influence is found here. “OC DC”, the album’s title track is one of the most danceable songs on the album. Evidence of this was created, in particular, by one enthusiastic member of the audience: kicking his legs out, he combined Irish line dancing with locking and some killer flow, moving beyond expectations for a middle-aged male ability. He was completely lost in the music, and as I looked around to the swaying and cheering audience, most of everyone was. Even while most of the audience contained themselves to high energy, rhythmic clapping to “OC DC.” “Speed of Dark,” “Einstein Action Figure,” and “Bleach Cake” completed the set. The encore was slow, and the band seemed tired, but after a show that incredible, where the band fully threw themselves into every song, that can only be expected. This show was even more fantastic for the incredible solos given by the Barr and saxophonist, Jake McMurchie. No audience member left disappointed, and hopefully we will be seeing much more of this band in the future.