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Plants and Animals at La Tulipe

Posted by Christine / April 29, 2010

Last Thursday, I waited in line outside La Tulipe, blowing smoke from a cheap scented cigar. Cherry. It was cherry flavoured. Around me were clusters of people, young and old, francophone and anglophone; groups of teenagers talking excitedly amongst themselves and behind me, a mother, a father and their adolescent daughter. The CHOM truck was parked outside and employees were handing out promotional material. Clearly, Plants and Animals have a special kind of mass appeal; transcending language and age. This quality has also enabled them to make Polaris' shortlist and to be nominated for a few Junos, among other things.

The opener, The Barr Brothers, had an overall twangy, classic folk feel to them, while bursts of ambient sequences kept listeners on their toes, offering an interesting mix of the familiar and the unknown. Their sound was steady; a marching tempo of wire brushes shuffling over the drums, dramatic guitar string bending and feverish harmonica playing.

This band was full of charm, both musically and personality-wise. The frontman, Brad Barr, told a story about hearing band member Sarah Page playing her harp through the walls of their adjacent apartments. He said he imagined her to be a beautiful, elvin creature in a forest (coming from a D&D, fantasy literature background, I adored this comment). Once, Brad heard her playing a particularly striking song and decided to learn it on his guitar. One brave day, he knocked on her door and played it back for her. They named that song "Sarah Through the Wall." During this performance, Brad's guitar alongside Sarah's harp created a lovely, tender ballad coloured with the sweetness of its origin story.

In my time writing for Midnight Poutine, I find myself going to countless shows alone. This one was no exception. Sitting in a corner, scribbling madly; the only thing, perhaps, preventing me from looking like a lonely, angst-ridden girl writing in her diary is my notebook; a Moleskine (oh, Hemingway) I received from a dear friend. However, this show felt more intimate than most others, since I was shoulder to shoulder with oodles of fans for the duration of this very sold-out evening.

The venue was smoky, and shafts of light moved against shadows of hands raising glasses, mouths wide open, speaking. Antique flourishes adorned the walls, tiny chandeliers resembling delicate, bioluminescent jellyfish clung to the ceiling, and chairs clattered from the rows of seating above. The vintage feel was thrown off and made eccentric by a large, looming disco ball. This all created a rather fanciful image of myself as a film noir hero or a Bond character, about to be discretely tapped on the shoulder and led outside to witness a shady happening of some kind. That's the kind of thing La Tulipe inspires; class, beauty, and maybe a little risk. I love this venue to bits.

Next came a sort of intermission, a small performance of which I could have never imaged. A man came onstage in a bunny costume and proceeded to hand out flowers to audience members, while Brad of The Barr Brothers played a whimsical diddy on his guitar. The rabbit persuaded a shy, female crowd member to climb onto the stage and dance a bit to the music. He then took off his bunny head and had the audience member hold it to as he juggled and threw balls into the hollow, costume head.


After this bizarre, yet enjoyable interlude, Plants and Animals came onstage and played a set rife with songs off their brand new album La La Land (released April 20th of this year), the follow-up to their acclaimed debut Parc Avenue.


La La Land, contains 11 tracks, and appropriate to its name, connotes exhibitionistic glamour; a kind of musical, dizzy whirl induced from a fast-paced lifestyle, with song titles such as: "Tom Cruz," "American Idol," "Game Shows," and "Fake It." This new album is a lusher, dirtier, rougher attempt... to put it simply, more rock. However, some of the nuance and subtlety of their debut album is, arguably, lost on this effort. While one's attention is captured by the power of the unrelenting guitars and drums, the songs generally lack a special hook or unconventional structure that made many of the songs off their first album memorable. Sometimes less is more.


With that said, Plants and Animals' sound is much bigger here, with layers of instrument enhancing their live performance: pounding drums, fast-paced violin, blasting saxophone and trumpet brass, chanting vocals, and upbeat whistling, one of the few folksy touches reminiscent of their first album.

"Jeans, Jeans, Jeans," had a nice, choppy tempo, creating an interesting backdrop for Warren Spicer's lyrical chanting. The guitar wailing and clashing drums fell in accordance with the reverberating, instrumentally-drenched post rock direction the band seems to be taking. When introducing this song, frontman Warren Spicer described it as "a rock 'n roll song about being a teenager... it was a lot of fun, I was very confused."


Plants and Animals had a charismatic stage presence. Particularly remarkable is this band's care to mention the support of their family, friends and fans; dedicating songs to people in particular or simply thanking the audience for being there. "It's very special to be in Montreal to play for you, our family," said Spicer, in French nonetheless. Later, Nicolas Basque wished his sister a happy birthday, which prompted crowd members to simultaneously break out into "Happy Birthday."

"Gameshows" was described by Spicer as "a song about coming home." This song had a simpler structure to it; a slow, folksy tune that could easily be off Parc Avenue. "Watching gameshows, big highs and big lows... You come on home." Spicer's voice repeated lyrics gently, pressing the song forward beautifully. During the live performance, Brad Barr came onstage and offered some acoustic accompaniment, which was a real treat.


To the audience's delight Plants and Animals played an ample set of fourteen songs, including two encores. Wisely, the band decided to play smash hit, "Bye Bye Bye" as their finale. Suffice to say, the crowd lost it.

Photography by Shannon H. Myers:



Kathleen / April 29, 2010 at 08:51 pm
I unfortunatly could not go see the show since it was sold out. But I was a member of the CHOM team handing out the promotional materials. I was so suprised by all the different types of people who were in line for the show. Super awesome!
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