Bicycles offer bubblegum joyride

Sugary sweet indie darlings fill The Artel’s dance floor with The Good, The Bad and The Cuddly

Bicycles guitarist/vocalist Matt Beckett told the audience his parents met at The Grad Club.
Bicycles guitarist/vocalist Matt Beckett told the audience his parents met at The Grad Club.
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The Bicycles include The Kinks and The Monkees among their musical influences.
The Bicycles include The Kinks and The Monkees among their musical influences.
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Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers has a simple yet soulful voice.
Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers has a simple yet soulful voice.
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Concert Review: The Bicycles @ The Artel, Fri. Jan. 24

Despite sub-zero temperatures outside, Toronto-via-Brantford bubblegum pop-rock sweethearts The Bicycles played their first show in the Limestone City last Saturday night, quickly heating things up
upon taking the stage at the Artel.

Alongside the band were fellow Torontonians, Forest City Lovers, who seemed an unlikely opener for the high-energy repertoire of the Bicycles, but were a breath of fresh air nonetheless. Although initially emitting a high school talent show vibe with their soft-spoken crowd interaction and wide-eyed response to applause, the Lovers were not to be confused with amateurs. Formerly known as Kat Burns and the Forest City Lovers, the band exhibited an effortless mix of sweetly sombre violin, moody bass and Burns's voice, which combined the simplicity of Amy Millan and the soulfulness of Emily Haines. The Forest City Lovers felt as natural as their namesake, and did justice to their earthy inspirations. Performing songs off of their newest disc, The Sun and the Wind, the band’s instrumental harmony was easily picked up by an attentive audience, who swayed to the wistful lyrics delivered by Burns’ smooth vocals.

Though the waltz-esque feel of “In Flight” and crescendo of violins on “Scared of Time” are worth mentioning, the high point of the set came when Bicycles’ bassist Randy Lee and trumpeter Brendan Howlett collaborated with their openers on the song “Monsters.” The combination of Posen and Lee on violin was spectacular, each playing off each other’s improvisation with ease, and the addition of the trumpet served only to enhance the growing orchestral quality of the music and Burns's mournful vocal delivery of lines including “Maybe I’ll never have your baby” and “Can we stop the dream from dying?”

Soon after the Forest City Lovers left the stage, it became apparent that the Artel’s audience had an exciting night ahead as the orders were given to clear out the chairs and make space for a dance floor. The Bicycles—each wearing matching shirts emblazoned with the letter “B”—were the very picture of what you would expect a lovably kitschy bubblepop group to look like. But as the old saying goes, appearances can be deceiving. The band wasted no time with cheesy greetings and immediately dove into a head-pounding rocker that sent the crowd into a frenzy of dancing. Who knew pop could rock so hard? Even in between the sonic boom of sugary sound and eriodic forays into swing dancing, it wasn’t easy to overlook the talented musicianship and varying instrumentation of The Bicycles’ members.

Dana Snell was a star on drums, providing the pulsing percussion; Randy Lee and Andrew Scott gave the group a unique sound with the trumpet and keyboard; and the vocal and guitar stylings of Matt Beckett and Drew Smith were pure sweetness. They had all the intensity expected of an indie rock group, but with less of a brooding quality and more of a happy one; on several occasions, the band discussed the painfully large meal enjoyed earlier that night at Beckett’s Nan’s house and made humourous quips about Kingston. The Bicycles’ pop-rock duality is described best by looking at their inspirations. Quite obviously borrowing from pop culture icons and fellow teenie-bop heartthrobs The Monkees and The Archies, both of which they covered in their encore, they also list rockers Kris Kristofferson and The Kinks as influences. Songs from their debut release, The Good, The Bad and The Cuddly are evidence enough of this unlikely, but infectious, combination. The band’s performance at the Artel was full of pure theatrics. Beckett’s role as lead vocalist saw him, several times, acting as
a conductor, while Snell’s frantic drumming was a sight to be seen. Also of note were a rehearsed clapping routine as a precursor to the head-banging “Australia” and a spastic, but completely ppropriate percussion fit by Howlett, who proceeded to hit anything that would make audible sound.

With hard-hitters like “B-B-Bicycles” and their single “Gotta Get Out” among other songs quenching the audience’s rock appetite, softer numbers such as “Paris Be Mine” and “I Know We Have To Be Apart” induced some visible swooning.

The hour-long set seemed to go by in a minute with The Bicycles’ intense, speedy rollercoaster of
adorable rock, but it was complete after two encores, and was certainly a memorable ride.

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