Known for the cutting edge indie talent it presents every year, Roots and Blues showcases two of the hottest bands featured at this year’s SXSW conference in Austin, Texas.
East meets West with Ottawa rock ‘n’ rollas, The Balconies, and Vancouver’s dark pop mavens, The Belle Game.
“It’s a birds and the bees, or maybe a chicken or the egg sort of question,” says Roots and Blues marketing manager Scott Crocker of The Balconies. “What came first, the rosined violin strings, major falls, classical theory or the smashed guitars, split fingertips and sweaty bodies?”
At what point did their university-learned mastery of classical theory give birth to their understanding of rock and roll energy and pop structuring?
The Balconies are a band with a story. Siblings Jacquie and Steven Neville lead from their perches at the front of the stage, with Jacquie’s wide-eyed guitar strums and Stephen’s lanky bass lines tumbling in a dryer filled with Liam Jaeger’s rhythmic peppering.
For those well-versed in indie-rock archetypes, the Balconies’ beginnings – boy meets girl in university while studying classical music; girl drags brother out of school and into the basement; boy, girl and younger brother pound out rock jams to the outstretched arms of Ottawa bars. But beginnings are just that – the roots that sprouted.
And now the Balconies stand before you – teeth bared, eyelashes batting, clothing and hair drenched in sweat. In the blink of an eye, the trio has grown from a humble indie pop band to a leather-clad three-headed rock-and-roll monster, punctuated by ’80s hair metal flair.
They’ve shared the stage with Cold War Kids, Mother Mother, Devo, Sloan, Stars, and, most recently, Wide Mouth Mason and Big Sugar while touring in Fall 2012.
“Taking it down a thousand, The Belle Game’s debut album, Ritual Tradition Habit, begins with bashful guitars, a soft wave of cymbals, and a pair of ambiguous phrases,” says Crocker. “Ritual, a sweetly haunting soundscape, lasts only a few moments before fleshing out a procession of wild and witchy tunes, full of melancholy, mythology and symphonic power.”
The Belle Game is Andrea Lo, Adam Nanji, Katrina Jones, Alex Andrew and Rob Chursinoff.
Led by the hypnotic vocals of Andrea Lo, The Belle Game take intricate guitar and keyboard lines, anchored by dark pop rhythms, and weave them into gorgeous, graceful melodies.
Over the last two years, the band has been quietly gathering acclaim across Canada, starting with major Canadian festival appearances.
Just back from Austin’s SXSW, where they performed as part of the Canada House Showcase, the band released Ritual Tradition Habit on April 16 and will be touring Canada promoting the new album.
Catch both these rising stars, The Balconies and The Belle Game at the 21st Annual Salmon Arm Roots & Blues Festival , which runs Aug. 16 to 18 at the Salmon Arm Fairgrounds.
Highlights of the festival include City and Colour, Bruce Cockburn, Daniel Lanois, Ky-Mani Marley, Shakura S’Aida, Steve Strongman, Rita Chiarelli and many more.
The 21st Annual Roots and Blues Festival is accepting volunteer applications. Returning volunteers must be submitted by May 15. Find applications at www.rootsandblues.ca, the place to go for more information and to buy tickets.