Paper Lions rip through Kelowna

Thursday night in Kelowna was a great evening for music. Between the regular O’Flannigans Jam Night with Riaz Virani, the legendary Toots & The Maytals’ continuing reggae legacy at the Kelowna Community Theatre, and PEI pop-rock quartet Paper Lions at 97th Street Pub, it would have been a shame to spend the night in.

So I went out – I took a bunch of friends to check out Paper Lions. I have been watching this band for just over a year now, and was hoping they would eventually make it out to our little abode here. When they finally did, it was definitely worth the opportunity.

They rolled in on Thursday from a gig in Vancouver the night before. We were lucky to catch them, as they are pinballing back and forth across the country with gigs dotting both the West and the East coast.  They brought Winnipeg art rockers Les Jupes with them to open up the show, and are touring with them for the Western segment of the tour.

Les Jupes started the show off with their expansive rock sound, and they played through their set with admirable courage. Frontman Michael Petkau Falk’s brazen baritone – reminiscent of Paul Banks of Interpol and David Bowie – powered through the bar.

“We know you guys are here for Paper Lions, but we’re what you got until they get up here,” Petkau Falk quipped with a smile. It was obvious that most people in the bar were new to this Manitoba band, but they played on to heads bobbing and toes tapping along with the wide peaks and valleys of their music.

It wasn’t long before the headliners jumped onto the stage, blasting into Don’t Touch That Dial – a punchy dancing tune from their 2010 release Trophies. Soonafter there was a couple dancing in front of the band, spurring more and more of the hesitant seat-dwellers to get up and onto the dance floor.  The band enticed the crowd – dancers and onlookers alike – to sing along with the catchiest of choruses. Most memorable was the lilting line from Travelling, “Please don’t be / a stranger in my place.”

Kicking and dancing through the set, lead man John MacPhee was a striking figure onstage switching between keys and his Fender Tele Thinline, while Colin Buchanan’s stellar lead guitar work was greeted with cat calls and whoops of approval. Rob MacPhee and David Cyrus MacDonald pounded out the rhythm, keeping the party jumping all night.

The band played through an impressive 13-song set plus encore, spanning from their earliest releases to the new material off their June 2012 EP At Long Creek. It’s a folksy compilation of songs that bring bands like The Besnard Lakes and Fleet Foxes to mind. Riddled with dazzling vocal harmonies, and catchy guitar licks, this four piece is beginning to pick up some solid momentum.

The two bands took off for an 11-hour drive all the way up to Edmonton Friday morning to catch a gig at Avenue Theatre, then Calgary on Saturday. After that they’ll have close to 2 weeks off before they’re back in their home province of PEI.

Dan Tait is a local blogger, musician, and a big supporter of local music. Check out his blog I'm Diggin for daily music videos at imdiggin.blogspot.com, as well as album and concert reviews.

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