What a difference a day makes. Day 2 of the Whistler Music Festival kicked off at 11 a.m. with an unexpected surprise and a respectable crowd that kept on growing.
The truth is, the second round of acts appearing at the event really began at 10 p.m. Saturday on the patio stage of the Garibaldi Lift Co. That's where people were treated to the brilliant French jazz guitarist Stephane Wrembel and his trio, followed by the great Medeski, Martin & Wood inside the 200-seat room. What a score!
Wrembel's Fontainebleu-based group has been living in New York and taking its swinging sounds across North American jazz festivals. While his song "Barbes-Brooklyn" was used in a Woody Allen film, the Django-meets-Al Dimeola style music he makes was unknown to local audiences until the band played Whistler Village Plaza on Friday. The Garibaldi Lift Co. booked him. And so did the producers of the Whistler Music Festival.
That meant everything went an hour later yesterday, but that didn't do anything but put a smile on peoples' faces. Wrembel, then MMW and Robert Randolph and the Family Band proved that there's nothing better than amazing musicians jamming themselves silly.
New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint offered up a set of slick soul music with a marching beat tossed in for good measure. Now I know he's a legend, it's true. But I also know this performance didn't compare to the set that he played at the Burnaby Blues Festival a year or two ago.
That's not to say that all the right notes weren't hit. It was just kinda too spot-on and felt a tad too rushed to give us medleys of hits instead of extending out a bit more on some of the man's many classics. "Southern Nights" was a ball, though.
Next up, the hairy, hatted and sunglassed indie-rock hipster septet Broken Social Scene. Getting off to a sloppy start, things fell apart on Brendan Canning's new tune "Hit the Wall," when the band — quite literally — hit a sound glitch that stopped it cold. It's not often to see a group just walk off the stage in a huff, but all seven guys did until the errant microphone was fixed.
Now this could've been it for the vibe, but the guys came back and rocked it like they cared, pulling out songs from their two albums, b-sides and material off of solo albums by both Canning and Kevin Drew. While it can be hard to keep track of the members changing instruments every song, the music remains consistently on the verge of being too hip to matter — towards the edge of collapse and layered upon itself but prepared to explode wildly off in all directions at the strum of a single chord. I'm thinking over-rated. Big time.
The rush towards the stage for the final act made it clear that the majority of people on site were there to see Elvis Costello and the Imposters do their thing. The band didn't disappoint, either.
Hitting the stage with a pounding rocker from the new CD, Momofuko, the Imposters sounded like one of the nastiest rock bands to ever back Costello. Unlike the Attractions' precision, this crew swaggers.
He's been New Wave. He's been country. He's been pop. He's even been classical opera, although we could skip that entirely. But this was a new Costello. The mutated and grinding version of "Pump It Up" introduced a new model: Sexy Elvis.
He was certainly the name act over the two days of the festival and delivered the goods and more. Newer tunes such as "American Gangster Town" blazed right alongside radically reworked versions of "Every Day I Write the Book" and many, many more. Another set highlight was when Toussaint arrived on stage to join Costello in performing the title track of the duo's album The River In Reverse and more. Totally smokin'.
There were gems aplenty in his 90-minute set, many of them less performed tunes from throughout his career such as "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" and "Clubland," as well as classics such as "Watching the Detectives" and "Radio, Radio." I've seen the guy many, many times. Based on the sheer joy he and the band appeared to be having, I can only hope that he plays somewhere as intimate again. Hello, Commodore?
Once again, those Whistler skunks also showed their approval of the whole show by stinking up the place.
Overall Whistler Music Festival grade: B. Day 2: B+