08-06-09Date: 6 August 2009
Venue: Biltmore Cabaret
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It’s hard to rate a concert, in view of all of the factors you must take into consideration. These days there is no set formula; there could be any number of bands, any start time, and any length of performance. Sometimes a band’s music is better than its members, and sometimes the band members make absolutely no sense. This concert had some good and some bad, but it was all local.

The Ludvico Treatment is the imagining of front man Adam Veenendaal, accompanied on stage by various musicians who have their own projects. Dave Cotton on guitars and backing vocals also plays for Seven Nines and Tens and Katastroyka. Justin Wong on bass and backing vocals has his own project, The Patience Product, and released debut album Change of Heart, Change of Tune in January. Rob Freeman on drums probably has something up his sleeve, but I don’t know him well enough yet. As for The Ludvico Treatment, they manage to capture the best of several genres and roll them into music that is lacking in pretention and positively dripping in melancholy magic.

The Ludvico Treatment (Jason Allum)

Photo by Jason Allum

The Ludvico Treatment is in the music industry for all the right reasons; this is apparent when they start handing out free copies of their album Romanticism. It’s hard to describe their sound when the lighting visualizes it for me; their music is blue lights on black background. The Ludvico Treatment is instrumental without the silent treatment, rock without the unoriginal sounds, melancholy music without the suicidal tendencies. Rob Freeman’s drumming is so complicated, I can’t believe he isn’t having a spasm by now. His drum rolls are spread across every drum in his kit, and they echo the rolling guitars. One song cleans up for a short time to introduce some tropical drumming, and their instrumental jam sessions sound as though it’s all they ever do. Adam is all smiles as they keep playing, and one particular song garners many whoops and cheers. Their final song is “one we always play because it’s really f*cking loud,” Adam explains. “You can have an album for free, or you can give us $5. Try not giving us $5 after this awesome display of prog rock.” The music moves Dave to climb onto one of the boxes in front of the stage, and Adam screams like he’s dying. The music subsides and swells like it’s being resuscitated, and it’s all Dave can do not to throw his guitar to the ground like it wasn’t expensive. Their music moves them, and it’s bound to move you. Stay tuned for a review of their album Romanticism, and check the Backstage Vancouver calendar to see if you can make it to their next show at the Media Club on 5 September 2009.

The Silent Authors are a local band who seemed a little out of place between two prog rock bands. They list similar influences as DRMHLLR, but I don’t hear them. In fact, nothing on their MySpace profile matches what I see and hear this evening. They throw me off right from the start by incorporating an electronic beat, controlled via laptop by the drummer.  His eager overuse of cymbals inflates their sound, but where are they coming from? I haven’t seen band members this diverse since Plain White T’s. Their markedly different looks obviously hint at markedly different musical tastes, and this comes through in their music. It seems as though they are all substitutes, unsure of who they are as a band. If they lost the beat tracks and soul-searched their way into a more uniform look and sound, they could have potential. As they are, the crowd does not seem enthralled and The Silent Authors seem out of place.

DRMHLLR (Christine McAvoy)

Photo by Christine McAvoy

DRMHLLR cites influences from some of the greats: Do Make Say Think, Explosions in the Sky, and Radiohead. What they may not realize is that they are swiftly becoming one of the greats. DRMHLLR has absolutely no vocals, but more musical talent than you can shake a stick at. I am directly facing Mike and cannot tear my eyes away from his fingers. It’s like watching concert violin; mesmerizingly skilful precision that is both delicate and dramatic. Their collective musical abilities are apparent as the three guitar and bass players rotate instruments, and their moving and grooving tunes inspire dancing in the crowd. The white sheets they hang along the back of the stage serve as a canvas for various projections. One particular black and white street scene sequence looks as though it was taken from Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera. The incredibly concentrated drumming provides a speedy rhythm foundation for music that would normally sound much slower. Their belief that lyrics could ruin the moment preserves the sanctity of their music.

While DRMHLLR’s crowd is relatively large, it is not one that knows how to be fans of such music. Every time I glance over my shoulder, all I can see are drunk people talking and laughing and generally not paying attention. What good is a full inbox when the majority of the messages are spam? It is entirely different from the concert experience I had with another instrumental favourite of mine, Mogwai. While that Commodore Ballroom show held a full dance floor of people, it was their quiet respect that truly emphasized the spiritual experience you can achieve from instrumental concerts. No one spoke, some swayed, but it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. DRMHLLR is wonderfully talented, though I did not care for some of the front man’s remarks, and they deserve an appreciative audience that is not present at the Biltmore Cabaret this evening. Stay tuned for a review of their self-titled EP.

DRMHLLR photo taken from Christine McAvoy‘s album of their show at The Media Club on 20 May 2009. View the full album here.

Comments (2)


  1. […] also aware that my beef was with their lack of a real live drummer. I felt the same way about The Silent Authors, because I rarely find a laptop a good substitution for anything on stage. I grew fonder of […]

  2. […] Lead singer Ryan Riot is also the lead singer of Adjective, and guitarist Dave Cotton is in both The Ludvico Treatment and Seven Nines and Tens, two of my favourite local […]