Friends, Enemies, and Internet Losers: I have returned.

Parlour Steps – Pat’s Pub/Patricia Hotel, Vancouver, BC

Though the main drag (Hastings) looks a little like a demilitarized zone, there is inherently nothing truly frightening about walking these streets. My greatest concern tonight is figuring out how I’m going to find my way back to the car, safely parked in the maze that is Strathcona.

I get to Pat’s Pub (405 East Hastings) a little too early, accidentally avoiding the evening’s cover charge, and find a suitable table. It’s a nice place, probably not the best, but full of its own charm. Patrons sit and watch the Keno board as if it were the Superbowl game but they mind their business if you mind yours. Looking around the room, I see a lot of Carharts and tooques, the calling cards of the working man. I like these places. There’s the occassional fraud looking for a mark but his is an honest lie, often far better than those told by the owners of BMWs and Mercs that fill my neighbourhood.

The stage is empty and it looks as though it will be soundcheck on the fly tonight. Around 8:30, some guitar cases start showing up and the soundgirl (PC alert?) starts to set up. I retire to the smoking room and walk straight into a conversation that can’t be avoided: drunk working man vs. the too-cool-for-school “little punks” (working man’s words).

I’ve known Rees Haynes (Parlour Steps’ guitar player) since my days as a burgeoning rock star and didn’t know about Parlour Steps until I was invited to join their “group” on Facebook. I checked out their MySpace and decided I needed to hear them live. I was not disappointed.

To talk with them, they are a friendly bunch and not inflicted with the pious disaffection that accompanies some indie bands. Their bass player, Julie Bavalis, proudly wears an old A&W Rootbeer shirt she purchsed on Ebay for $6 (she admits later that she may have a bit of an Ebay problem) and is genuinely charming.

To see them on stage, they look/feel a bit like the Dandy Warhols, except their lead singer, Caleb Stull, doesn’t come across as a pretentious fuckhead.

To hear them on stage is a long-awaited delight. Parlour Steps are tight and expertly driven by the nonchalant, yet intense, drumming of Ron Linton. They have added (officially tonight) Alison Mara on keyboards. The set is great. Probably more “artsy” than rebellious, the songs are arranged in such a way that Stull could be singing about teddy bear genocide and you’d still have to tap your foot in time. Bavalis’ backing vocals add warm, floating feeling to their sound.

The band moves together but aren’t choreographed in any strict manner; they feel the music they play and pass it along nicely. The intersong chat is friendly and light and the band doesn’t seem to take offense when I ask that they don’t play my favourite song until I get back from the bathroom. Not an unreasonable request I suppose, but still best not yelled over the crowd as I manage to do with all my grace and charm. Before ending their set with “Thieves of Memory,” Rees checks the audience to ensure that I have returned so they can finish their set.

All in all, it was a great night of fun and music and I am glad that I dragged myself down to watch. You should too, should you get the chance.

For more info and concert listings, check out Parlour Steps’ MySpace page @ www.myspace.com/parloursteps

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