Vancouver’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? have been getting positive reviews for their energetic stage show and rhythmic improvisation on Canada’s West Coast; a trip out to parts East didn’t draw a large crowd, but along with travelling companions Telefauna they put on a stirring show.

The first act of the evening was local act Pianosaurus Rex, which features two keyboardists, a drummer, a shredding guitarist and a fondness for pop culture. They sing about characters from sci-fi films and TV, beat poets and Luke Wilson (unfortunately not all in the same tune). Their frenetic, danceable sound had its appeal, but songs about Admiral Ackbar from Return of the Jedi left me unmoved.

The next band, also local, fared better. Books on Books play energetic post-rock with some occasional dissonance to keep things fresh and add in boyish vocals. They also have a very adept drummer. Since they knew most of the audience by name, there was also some comfortable banter.

Montreal’s Telefauna raised the stakes still further with some extroverted indie pop. The four members each have a keyboard (they also occasionally resort to hand percussion and a guitar). The combination of their drum machine’s digital rhythms and their skewed indie pop proved to be a winning one; the band is also blessed with an outgoing frontman in Adam Waito – it’s easy to imagine them going far.

They Shoot Horses Don’t They? had a tough act to follow, but they didn’t seem daunted, perhaps because they had strength in numbers: In addition to singer and guitarist Nut Brown, the band has a bassist, drummer, an eternally grinning and gurning keyboardist and a three-piece horn section (two other members didn’t make the trip).

Brown’s tangled beard makes him look like a homeless street preacher, and his shouted and repeated vocals don’t do much to dispel the impression.

The band has a fondness for improvisation, but instead of playing off one another’s melodies they focus more on the rhythmic side. Sometimes this means keyboardist Chris-ariffic abandons his Casio to tap away at a wooden block or shake a tambourine. Sometimes trombonist Pietro empties a sack of odds and ends on the stage and began thumping on the various items contained therein, including a discarded State of Texas licence plate.

They’ve been called circus music, and while they do have an exuberant edge, perhaps it would be more accurate to say they sound like the world’s drunkest marching band, albeit in a good way.

The crowd had dwindled by the time they took the stage (it was a Sunday night – or to be more accurate, Monday morning), but there wasn’t an unmoved seat in the house by the time they were done.

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