An Indie Machine Showcase with James and Blackburn at Rancho Relaxo

James and Blackburn @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12

Date of show: February 16, 2012
Written by: Chiara DiAngelo

The Indie Machine curated a showcase at Rancho Relaxo last Thursday that brought together 4 great up-and-coming bands, including their January Artist of the Month, James and Blackburn.

James and Blackburn headlined the show. No one in the band is actually named James, or Blackburn for that matter. The alt-rock trio is instead Owen Edwards (guitar, vocals), Landon Kotchapaw (bass) and Sébastien Button (drums). I happened to win a copy of their debut CD Island Universe through The Indie Machine a few weeks ago, and had fallen hard for the deeply emotive, often depressing, and always thought-provoking lyrics (Personal favourite: “Buy me a map so I can map my descent into the songs of the lonely, into the wings of insanity” from the album’s title track). Dave and Ryan of The Indie Machine’s high praise of and excitement for the band had me anticipating their set that much more.

Seeing them live then, I focused on appreciating their musicianship, stage presence and how they interacted as a band. Button is a highly entertaining drummer with a penchant for playing barefoot, Kotchapaw is one of the tightest bassists out there and Edwards sings with a maturity beyond his years; his deep, soulful vocals have garnered valid comparisons to Dylan.

Their set highlighted many of the tracks off Island Universe, from the rocking “Holiday” to the emotional and intense instrumental breakdowns of “Dark Sparks” and the previously mentioned “Island Universe,” as well as “Right Shoulder” and “Loose Leaf” off their previous EP, which is available for free download. They finished with “Garden of Hours,” a slow, sad song that was juxtaposed with an intense drum-driven intro that had Edwards warning the crowd to “hold on to your socks!” And rightly so!

I had a chance to chat for a bit with Button and Kotchapaw after the show while munching on homemade cookies that they had brought. As the girl who is always starving by the end of a night out, especially with a long subway trek home ahead of me, I was really into the concept of providing snacks at shows. The little jolt of chocolate was exactly what I needed, so thank you!.

James and Blackburn will be hitting the road in March and April, hitting Ottawa, Montreal and then on to the East Coast, quite possibly with cookies in tow! Why not buy them a shot in exchange for one – pretty good deal, I’d say, they were delicious!

James and Blackburn @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12 James and Blackburn @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12 James and Blackburn @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12

Dog Is Blue

Dog is Blue is Paul Watson (guitar, keys) & Laura Heaney (keys, glockenspiel, ukulele). They released debut album, …Makes Ghost Noises in March 2009, followed by their sophomore Tortoise in May 2011. The band embodies a DIY attitude, using homemade pedals and innovative methods of playing multiple instruments at once, resulting in intricately layered songs and a live performance that is truly something special to behold.

If you are wondering how a duo can successfully fill the stage with only two members? The answer (according to Watson) is “when you don’t have to be loud, just be really fucking loud.” It also helps when both members play multiple instruments, often at the same time. With a tambourine around his ankle, Waston demonstrated the value of using your feet.

Heaney traded the keyboard for the glockenspiel for “Southern Ontario” – a song about love bleeding you dry – and one that was in heavy rotation for me during the summer. They followed it with “People”, a song for which Watson is in the midst of animating a video. It has a catchy refrain of “I like doing nothing” (quite possibly the new theme song for all us slackers out there). “Raise the Dead” from their debut EP …Makes Ghost Noises on the other hand, with Heaney’s ghost-like “oooh’s,” had an eerie, almost haunting quality to it. They even threw in a cover of The Kinks’ “Till the End of the Day.”

The stand-out track for me was “Laura’s Song,” the one song Heaney wrote and sings lead vocals on, along with the ukulele. Singing sweetly, “I like to read and I like to bake, I like to run and I like the lake” the simple lyrics were completely endearing. So much so that following their set, Ryan (The Indie Machine) came on stage and announced “I have never heard a uke played so elegantly before. Gotta admit, I’m a little turned on right now.” If that commendation is not reason enough to check this duo out, I’m not sure what is.

Dog Is Blue @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12 Dog Is Blue @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12 Dog Is Blue @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12


Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, electronic duo Illitry is Troy Witherow (lead vocals, effects) and Chester Edington (guitar, keys, vocals). A late addition to the line-up, they closed out the night with an interesting set filled with pulsing beats and deeply groovy oomphs of the synthesizer.

While this is a genre of music I typically disregard as “club muzik,” watching Illitry so closely, I came to the realization that it’s truly an art form, layering sounds upon one another to create something that is so much larger than the sum of each individual sound. Witherow was all consumed in his craft, incredibly emotive in his hand gestures and facial contortions while working the synthesizer.

He also took up the guitar with Edington on keys for one song. Its simple and pretty melody and Death Cab For Cutie-esque lyrics “I woke up to a frost on my pillow” was so contrasted to the rest of their set, which just exemplifies further their extreme range of talent. You can download their song “Roadtrip” on their bandcamp.

Illitry @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12 Illitry @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12 Illitry @ Rancho Relaxo, 16-02-12


Hue was up first and while we didn’t snap any pictures, I had so much fun bouncing around to their set that I couldn’t not write a few words. Based in Toronto, this five-piece melodic dance-pop band is comprised of Danny Paton Jr (lead singer/songwriter, guitar, keys), sister Jessica Paton (keys), Darcy Finck (guitar), Andrew Jones (bass) and Andrew Schmidt (drums). Light and airy, Hue played a feel-good set centered around songs off their July 2011 release Starting Fires, including (in order) “Rooftops,” “You Will Be,” “Changes to my Mind,” “Try”, “Shy Lashes,” and party-favourite, “The Bump.”

What I noticed from the start was that Paton Jr sings with his entire body, from his voice to his hands to his feet,. Whether on guitar or keys, he is incredibly animated in his hand gestures, many of which went along with the lyrics. As a sucker for boy-girl vocals, I also loved the pairing of the brother and sister harmonies.

Feeding off the band’s exuberant energy, the early crowd was dancing; it was impossible to not at least tap your foot or bob your head. Super happy to be on stage, they continually voiced their appreciation for the crowd “giving us all your attention, it’s awesome.”

With new songs set to be recorded in the near future, we’ll definitely be checking them out again and I highly suggest you do the same. My prediction? By summer’s end, all the kids will be doing “The Bump.”

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Categories: Live Music


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  1. Dog Is Blue Live: Rancho Relaxo with Hue, James & Blackburn and Illitry | Dog Is Blue - February 21, 2012

    […] recap of the show with some great pictures (not unlike the one above by our pal R.Mirsky) check out the writeup at If nothing else that review reveals the scary fact that some people are actually listening to the […]

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