Background/Composition: Calgary singer/songwriter Matthew Swann used to make music as Extra Happy Ghost!!!, but he's back with a new moniker, Astral Swans, and a powerful friend in Dan Mangan. Astral Swans is the first release on Mangan's new Arts & Crafts imprint Madic Records, and this was its launch party.
In classic CMW spirit, the show was "sold out" early in the night, and the bouncer wasn't letting in any wristbands. Oh well, at least they're a nice fashion accessory.
Crowd Esteem: A-
Of course it was oversold - half of Broken Social Scene was there, and that's practically enough to fill the tiny Cameron House back room. Those A & C folks know how to support their own.
Grace Under Pressure: C
Swann admitted right away that he was "kinda nervous as fuck," and who could blame him: he was a solitary dude with a guitar, playing for a crowd that included, among other BSS-list CanRock celebs, Sandro Perri and Feist, who he admitted he had "stolen so many riffs from." And it kinda showed. He started the night with his black hoodie pulled over his head, and removed layers as the sweat built.
Dude has some good songs, like the more tender Chad VanGaalen ballads that slip onto each of his albums, with some of the same weirdness hiding below the surface (he mentioned he was playing with the late Chris Reimer of Women's guitar cable). His songs covered some stranger topics than the stripped-down nature might suggest: hallucinogens, Jam Master J, cannibalistic seagulls - but they were a bit too drifty and quiet to hold the crowd's attention. Bummer.
— Chart Attack (@ChartAttack) May 9, 2014