w/ Major Grange, the 6ixty 8ights @ El Mocambo, Sept. 15, 2006
Thursday, July 06 @ Horseshoe
About five years ago I came across this site called epitonic which had legal mp3 downloads from hundreds of indie bands from all spectrums of sound. I first heard many artists who now hold fond spaces in my collection from that site (including Cex, Imperial Teen, Oneida, Clinic, Concentrik and many more) it was a pretty cool thing pre MP3-blog era, and the music I found sort of signifies that 2001/2002 period of time in the same way that my old cassettes of Brave New Waves signify 1994 - 1996.
That said, Camera Obscura was one of the bands I had caught onto then and a few of their tracks grace some of my homebrew Epitonic-derived mixed cds, but I guess I never really cared enough to hunt them down for no C.O. album has entered my collection, and four years later I’ve all but forgotten what they sounded like.
The Diableros, on the other hand, are fresh and new and a friend of mine had caught me onto them before the whole Pitchfork hyperbolie made them the next big Toronto act, which is immediately going to backfire on them in that NME effect. Anyway, I wanted to see them live, and this night, with Scotland’s Camera Obscura afforded me the opportunity to enjoy one and reassess the other.
The ‘leros kicked ass with a tight, intentionally fuzzy set. Lead singer Pete Carmichael’s strained and slightly-fragile (but definitely not emo) wail is raw but powerhouse ready. Like the album, each song in the live set has its own build-up, some slower than others but it’s always plodding start accelerating faster and faster until it hits the brick wall finale. During the set, the ‘leros drew a larger and larger crowd, which is something they should get used to as that whole ‘Pitchfork effect’ takes hold.
Camera Obscura, meanwhile, bored me. Their twee stylings, cute voices and nondescript lyrics started putting me to sleep. The band was jetlegged and were about as enthusiastic as I was. I left after a half-dozen songs, quite certain that I wasn’t missing anything special.
Thurday, July 13 @ Horseshoe
Clementine are decent indie pop, but they fit into that “can’t really sing” Liz Phair cute-girl style (the cartoon Home Movies calls it “sing-talking”) that proliferated throughout the 1990’s. There’s nothing really wrong with it, as it made a few people a few dollars back in the day, but it’s just a little too fragile and dated and, sadly, generic.
Modernboys Moderngirls were a real surprise for me. Vocals are traded off and shared by frontspeople Akira Alemany and Aimee Mazzuca and they blend together magically. Alemany has a deeper rasp that explodes into a Mike Patton-esque growl, while Mazzuca is a merging of PJ Harvey and Tori Amos… more Tori in her vocal stylings and brilliantly PJ-esque in her live performance. The crowd was slightly under a hundred people at this stage, but Mazzuca wrapped herself in them like a warm blanket. The woman has presence, and Modernboys Moderngirls seep pep, bounce, aggression and sensuality. Their voices, their sound is so well crafted and honed that it betrays just how new a band they are.
These Electric Lives I have reviewed previously but this was a headlining gig at the Horseshoe, and these guys brought it all out. A sizeable crowd in attendance, they proved they can handle the additional attention in fact they bathe in it. Although I’ve been listening to their recorded material for a few months now (since last I saw them) I had forgotten exactly how tight and engaging they were. They play huge, and their electroclash post-punk pop stretched the Horseshoe at its seams. They’re going to be huge, and they’re going to be popular, but they can likely hold onto that indie cred Radiohead-style.
Saturday August 5 @ the Phoenix
I arrived late to the early show. I missed Frog Eyes entirely, and I only caught the last song of Holy Fuck!’s set (a danceable droning dirge which made me regret my tardiness). Wolf Parade hit the stage announcing that they had only an hour to perform before the “dance party” would start. With the time restrictions in place, the Parade wasted no time in getting started.
I remember first hearing Wolf Parade on New Music Canada in late 2004 and being pretty wowed by what I heard, but at the time, and for some time afterward, I couldn’t find any recorded material, and as I would draft and redraft my “to find” list, they were one name that I kept carrying over. A few months before their Sub Pop debut last year their homemade ep and the pre-release Sub Pop ep arrived on the market and I snapped them up and immediately trumpeted their praises, the hype machine just getting started at the same time. I was excited to see their notariety rise as that would imply they would be playing Toronto at some point… but an opening gig with Modest Mouse and I think a festival or two was about all they mustered, and I don’t think they did any solo or headlining gigs… until now.
So to say that I was disappointed is kind of an understatement. The Parade practically double-timed their way through half their set, dropping a 5-minute song like “Sons And Daughters of Hungry Ghosts” to barely 3-minute mark. Of their material I was familar with most of it was poorly rendered live, the quicker pacing really taking much of the magic from the tracks. Some new material was played out full strength, which, on the one hand was a great teaser for a new album, but on the other hand the change in pacing actually made the songs sound dull in comparison. They did a revamping of one of their bigger songs, but the underwhelmingness of the show overall has left little impression in my memory.
That one word describes exactly how I feel about last night’s performance by Sunderland, England’s the Futureheads. For weeks on end I’ve been listening to The Futureheads‘ latest album, News and Tributes, (backed up with their first, self-titled release) pretty much non-stop. In the car on road trips over the weekends, on my iPod wandering around outside, on iTunes at home and work, in my dreams as I sleep, on my mind when I wake, in the shower as I clean… I was infected with a British invasion that would, no doubt, have me screaming at their concert like one of those front-row girls on the Ed Sullivan show when the Fab Four performed. Though News & Tributes took me a few listens to get into, once it clicked, it stuck. Now, if I shuffle the two albums together I can hardly recall what song came from which album, and every track - every single one - gets me singing along; sometimes chorus, sometimes harmony.
So, with what was, essentially, the hottest anticipated gig I’ve gone to in years, I was certain I would enjoy myself - how could I not? - but still, I wasn’t ready for exactly how good the live Futureheads would be. An early show saw openers Tapes’n'Tapes taking a rather tight grasp of the audience around 9pm. Their highly favourable review and subsequent push by Pitchfork has made the Minneapolis group one of few new indie media/blog darlings of 2006, and the crowd likely had an additional collection of attendees for these openers only. The group performed a solid set, I am told as I had arrived to only hear their final two songs. The crowd, surprisingly thick at 9:30 in the evening, reacted with an overwhelming sea of claps and cheers. I havn’t really enjoyed their recorded material, which has hints of bluegrass, fuzzy twang and garage rock. Their live set felt consistant to what I’ve heard from their album, so they can definitely perform their material, it just doesn’t hit me in the same way it quite obviously hits others.
After a forty-minute setup Dave Hyde appeared behind the drums and began laying down some rhythm which alone already had the crowd jumping. Guitarist Ross Millard and bassist Jaff broke in with a squelching guitar and a light bass riff, followed on stage by centerman Barry Hyde, who broke in on vox and rhythm guitar. The dimly lit stage erupted in a bath of blindingly bright white light as the main chorus of “Yes/No” broke. The crowd blew it’s top and people were singing along, jumping up and down and eager to give the Futureheads anything they wanted.
A vagrant friend was flying in from the east coast the evening of this show, which was, as the cliché goes, a dark and stormy night. Well, of course the night was dark, and actually it was stormy in the afternoon clearing up in the evening, but still his flight was delayed so we were running behind anyway. The Drake is theoretically within walking distance of my place but its still a good 35 minute saunter, and the need to feed my weary travelling friends belly took precedence over a speedy arrival to the show. What this preamble all comes down to is that we missed the majority of Spiral Beach’s opening set.
What I did see, however, didn’t inspire me. In full disclosure it was mainly their young age that had me thrown. These kids were, what, 17 at most? A guest vocalist just left the stage as we walked in, and the remaining quartet consisting of the mop-topped (quite obviously brothers) Daniel and Airick Woodhead, Maddy Wilde and Dorian Thornton soldiered on for another few songs displaying an energy that fits their age but also a presence on stage that would unknowingly suggest years of experience. They’re very talented, engaging and charismatic performers but this enthusiasm coupled (again) with their youthful faces makes it hard to look past and see the music for what it is. And the music is challenging and clever, quirk-filled and hook addled. I still don’t know if I like it, or if it’s all that original (read any review and it’s “Talking Heads this” and “Clap Your Hands… that”) but one thing is for certain, once they’re on stage they can’t be ignored.
The same can be said for The Ghost Is Dancing, the 8-piece Toronto band that just screams for attention like a bratty 5-year old. At this show they were dressed up in various ironic pieces of formal attire, noting that a myspace fan had asked them to perform as if they were going to a prom. Ruffled tuxedo shirts, vests, collars and ties, aviator glasses, sweatbands and other assorted anti-fashions permeated the stage as the octet opened with a handclap rich, practically stringless, nearly acapella tune, which gave me the warm fuzzies. It’s an attention grabbing opening, which holds you to the band for the remainder of the set if only to wait for something as sharp or original to hit again. Their songs are smile-inducing good, and their on-stage antics are entertaining, however the size of the band (which often holds two members behind keyboards, two guitarists, and two horn players) distorts a lot of the rhythm, and the bulk of their magic becomes lost as most songs trail off into jangly white noise. Losing three players might shift the dynamic and pare back the energy, but it would also likely bring focus, and focus is all they will need to escape the “schtick” label they’ve obtained and put more attention on the music itself.
The warm-up bands were an odd choice for the Joy Division/Smiths inspired headlining act, since the Organ isn’t necessarily known for putting on a wild live show, but with a couple hundred eager crowd goers the all-female quintet already had the audience wrapped around their finger. Katie Sketch asked for the reverb to be punched up before launching into her set, and proceeded to tighten her grasp of the crowd from word one. Sketch’s voice at once is haunting, beautiful, sexy and sullen, conveying so much emotion, which is only accentuated by her emotive body language. Sketch falls into her own songs, but she drags you in with her. Jenny Smyth’s slow-burn notes from her Hammond organ are the perfect accent to Sketch’s melodies, with Debora cohen on guitar and Schmoo R on bass doling out the Robert-Palmer/Addicted-To-Love bored musician look which only makes them more fascinating to watch. A new drummer, Maya (last name escaped), came on board five days previous and performed triumphantly, working a sweat up behind the kit, but without ever putting so much energy into it as to degrade the chilled-out pastiche. I hadn’t seen the Organ perform in about two years, and it’s going on three since they last put out a record, but still only three new songs cropped up during this set. I’m
hoping that’s as a result of the new drummer still learning and not a sign that new output is still a ways off.
I’m not sure if quirky, kitschy music is the new Australian trend yet, but the Grates seem to follow Architecture In Helsinki if not exactly in sound than in sheer eccentricity. Lead singer Patience Hodgson was already boisterously bouncing around on stage when I arrived, spastically kicking or launching herself wildly a few feet in the air. Some were immediately attracted to the energy, but for others it was a barrier to enjoying the music. Hodgson’s enthusiasm isn’t exactly duplicated by her band mates, although Alana Skyring couldn’t stop grinning as she wailed away her stripped down drumming rhythms, and guitarist John Patterson kept his feet firmly planted staying out of Hodgson’s path of distraction. But amidst Hodgson’s one-woman spectacle (which at one point included a gymnast’s ribbon circling the stage) were some crafty and often catchy garage pop-punk rhythms with a They Might Be Giant’s bent. Hodgson’s between song banter and ability to connect with the audience was mighty impressive, and the Grates, if nothing else, certainly grab your attention and know how to hold it.
Having been a fan of the Super Friendz, Flashing Lights and the Guy Terrifico movie and soundtrack, it’s always a thrill to see Matt Murphy perform. Even though in City Field Murphy is standing back from the mic for the most part, his focus on working some mean guitar action still puts the spotlight on him, and from his years as frontman he still can’t help but soak it in. Murphy also provides backup for Mitchell Wiebe and Gregg Millman who trade off lead vox, often within the same song. Wiebe has a definite sing-talk Fred Schneider deal going on with his vocals, which leads me to expect Millman to sound like Kate Pierson but she’s got her own beach-blanket thing going on. I found it intriguing how their set seemed to start out small, with an almost empty feeling, despite there being five players on stage (rounded out by drummer Dave Ewenson and bassist Brent Randall), but by the close, the songs had taken on immense depth with rich (and surprising) vocal harmonies and dense instrumentation. Honestly, the players involved shouldn’t really come together very well considering their distinctive aesthetics and vocal styles, but it all
does work, and enjoyably so.
But the night was the Meligrove Band’s night. To call them local heroes seems a bit aggrandizing, from the reception they received I’d say they’ve earned it. Looking very much the part of a high-school garage band, the sound certainly exceeds any visual expectations. With the power-pop thrust of Sloan and the nerd-core sensibilities of Weezer, there’s something accessible about both their look and their sound. This night they were whooping it up in support of their major label record debut Planets Conspire. After a pair of songs, the stage flooded with people, including a number of back-up singers, a violinist and a trio of horn players. As a first timer to a Meligrove show, I certainly was wowed by the ambition of the scene, but also felt a bit overwhelmed and out of the loop on it all. But I
surmised that it was an immensely enjoyable party for them, their new fans and long-time supporters.
The last time I was at an in-store in Soundscapes, it was in the thick of 2002 summer and Badly Drawn Boy (this was just before the release of his second album proper, you know, the one where he completely fell off and tried too hard be all “mainstream”) was playing acoustic, and no air conditioning. You can likely cram about 80 people into the store when the centre shelves are pushed aside and it was flippin’ gross. It was so hot that Damon’s hands got incredibly sweaty and after a couple of songs he couldn’t even play his guitar properly because his fingers were too slippery to hold the strings down.
The day before Summer solstice it was in the low 20°C, and the Hylozoists didn’t have that problem. The problem this time rather was space. A crew of seven, including two drum kits, a guitar, violin, an assortment of shakers and maracas, a vibrophone and a xylophone were taking up space at the front of the store, leaving a small amount of room for an intrigued crowd to lean against shelves or sit on the floor before them.
The Hylozoists play melodic chamber pop, which invariably will draw contrasts to other hipster instrumental bands like Rachel’s or the Belle Orchestre, but they have more in common with the drone of Stereolab, the lounginess of Combustible Edison and the bounce of the High Llamas. Traquility mixed with energy, both drum kits were sending out vibrations felt through the floor to feet and bums. They played through a ten-pack of songs, the temperature in the compact store refraining from becoming overwhelming, and more viewers joining the pack as the set moved on. By the time the last three tracks had played there was a dozen or more passer-by observers and curious on-lookers hanging by.
As a band which is quickly gaining its primary audience within the alternative set, the Hylozoists have a sound and an appeal that can easily reach beyond, but they’re not going to get it with standard indie concert haunts. I think I’d prefer them in a theatre or a jazz bar rather than Lee’s Palace or the Phoenix where the richness of sound can stay a little truer. I liked the primarily off-amp sound and the intimacy of the in-store set, and a venue which provides a similar atmosphere (but better seating) is definitely the way to see (and hear) them live.
I don’t think I’ve said how much I like the Drake. It’s not the best small concert spot in town but it’s close. It has a great cozy vibe without haveing that musty basement feel (you can’t touch the ceiling… not easily anyway), the sound mix is always pretty good (to the point that it’s not deafening if you forgot your plugs that night) and the stage is a fairly accommodating size. The lighting isn’t terrific, but it’s not horrendous either. It was this Easy Tiger showcase that I realized that I did indeed like the Drake despite the usual pomposity of the upstairs… that it’s within a half hour walk from home also helps.
On stage when I arrived was killthelights, who, at first, I thought was actually a U2 cover band. Like the local cougar-bait group Hotel, killthelights seems to take a direct U2/the Cure inspiration, which, while done really well, seems excessively familiar. Shortly after arriving, the bass player broke a string and needed to retune. Without any desire to entertain with witty banter, the remaining band members broke out into a jam session which, actually, I liked infinitely more than any of their lyrics-laden songs. Most of the songs feature Alex Hackett on Bono-esque lead vocals, while Steph Hanna sings back-up. While I’m certain Hanna can carry a tune, she doesn’t harmonize very well with Hackett. Their final song for the evening featured a respectable rock-out, and the lead guitarist took the tamborines for a healthy and impressive stage-bounding workout. Despite not likeing their sound, I appreciated the energy, especially considering what followed.
Bless the early shows. Sure the over-at-two may seem like fun when you’re spritely and have the option of skipping class the next day or don’t have an upstairs neighbour who wakes you up at 8am every morning with a chorus of temper tantrums. The early sets at the Mod Club (in Ottawa fashion, done so that the club-goers can get in and dance after the gig) are like heaven, on by eight, over before ten. Yes, I’m sounding like an old man, but then that’s where “professional” life takes you.
I wasn’t aware of what to expect from the show, first having never been to the Mod Club, and second, completely unaware of what Amy Millan’s first solo record will sound like. A number of years back I did see a Millan solo set (quite literally a solo set, just her and a guitar) opening for Metric’s Emily Haines, and I liked what I heard, but I was quite sure that strum-and-sing wasn’t what “Honey From The Tombs” was going to sound like. But I’d have to wait before I found out.
Wow, that’s a trio of uninspiring band names right there, playing at an underground venue which seems to derive more business from goth dance parties (judging by the crowd flowing in during the later stages of Unsensored’s 11pm performance) than from live bands… of this sort, at least. Not that the pairing of sounds was that disjointed, but it wasn’t exactly a must-see bill.
I stumbled into the venue at the beginning of London-based Ruth’s Hat’s set. Their sound is part Ramones, part Chuck Berry, which on the one hand is very polished and highly energetic, but at the same time I wasn’t hooked by any of their tunes. Each song maintained a consistant energy, and a constant tone, which, though admirable, made for somewhat monotonous listening. Lead singer Mike Sloan fronts the group with a ferventness that’s impressive, and he’s definitely collected and comfortable with his role, the standard guit/bass/drums as backup comes together exceptionally well, but it wasn’t really to my tastes.
In the midst of the huge North By Northeast festival, a non-affiliated showcase set up shop at Sneaky Dee’s. (weewerk) is a Toronto-based record label holding a very small but talented roster of artists, including three of the acts on this night’s bill.
Opening the show was an unbilled act, however, a two-piece dubbing themselves “Euthanasia” (Google results didn’t turn up much in their favour). The duo was comprised of an elderly, bearded British gentleman with an acoustic guitar, and a comparatively youthful cohort playing on electronic toy effects makers, and drumming upon a pot, a chair and a tiny high-hat. I would place them in musical comedy, as there is a surly Python-esque wit in each of the songs, with it’s minimalist strumming and avante garde percussive and digital sounds. An experimental poem/song combo capped off the quick 20-minute performance. It was a mildly entertaining curiousity, but more radio fodder for weekend CBC listeners than an indie music showcase.
Andy Magoffin’s Two Minute Miracles , comprised for the bulk of the set of, well, Andy Magoffin. Singing some new tunes, a few old ones and a Kat Burns cover, Magoffin, despite being solo, managed to command the room singing with dual mics, the second giving a Lenon-esque distant radio effect. But Magoffin’s strength as a performer was never more evident than when he went off mic and unplugged, standing alone, center stage, with a ukelele pressed against his chest, the entire crowd in a hush, singing about how Maurie Kaufmann, the drummer from Boy should go solo. Joined by a drummer for the final few songs of his set, Magoffin rocked it out, well as much as a laid-back Dylan-esque folkie will rock out.
(expanded from a review on Toonage.ca
Sometimes things happen for a reason. I’m not going to get all metaphysical and start talking about fate and whatnot, but I feel very fortunate for having gone to this gig. You see, like so many others, I was intending on going to the Islands/Frog Eyes/Cadence Weapon showcase at the Phoenix, but in my infinite wisdom I only got around to purchasing tickets after it had already sold out. I was kind of bummed because I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the Islands album “Return to the Sea”. Well, there was thankfully a back-up plan, and thus I would not be spending my friday night lonely (relatively speaking) or music-less. Inadvertently signing onto BandAide PR’s mailing list in conjunction with Parkas’ DVD/EP release party, I had an email residing in my inbox inviting me (and the rest of the mailing list) to “Come Out And Play 3″, with These Electric Lives, How I Won The War, and The 6ixty 8ights.
My concert-going for the past two years has consisted of the following process… 1) listening to excerpts of new albums on-lin, 2) either adding album to the “dismissed” or “to buy” column, 3) maybe buying the album, 4) if I enjoy the album I’ll contemplate going to a show, waiting until a few days before the show before deciding if I’m going or not, 5) maybe buying a ticket, and if it’s sold out, oh well, 6) kind of forcing myself to actually go out and see a show (usually solo). So yeah, I’ve not really been exposing myself to much in the way of local up-and-coming bands, and my general concert going tendencies have been to stick with favourite artists. But armed with a newfound sense of concert-going enthusiasm, I’ve lately been ready-set-go for trying out new things, and this local band line-up was prime pickings for testing my resolve.
Of course, I couldn’t go sight unseen. I checked out some myspace links on each of the bands, and was immediately taken with These Electric Lives (and by the looks of their streaming play counts, I’m not the only one… talking with the band after the show, they noted that they had been prominently featured as one of the myspace bands to watch, and as a result have some potentially huge break-out opportunities coming their way). That alone was enough to sell me on the night.
Originally scheduled for the end of March to coincide with the actual DVD release of the mocumentary “The Life And Hard Times of Guy Terrifico”, the event was cancelled/postponed/rescheduled for this past Saturday night. The film, for those that havn’t seen it, is a faux-documentary profiling a forgotten early-70’s era Canadian folk-country superstar, Guy Terrifico (as portrayed by the Superfriendz/Flashing Lights’ musician Matt Murphy). Many country greats from the time period discuss Terrifico’s influence on them or on the scene, as he was a notorious partier, famous for ending his drunken sets with humping the kick-drum. The film was a surprise, as it covered it’s fake subject nicely and with a great, understated humour, but also managed to convey a defining era in country music, when Parsons, Kristofferson, and Haggard were adding a noticeably new edge to the genre. What was even more of a surprise was how captivating the soundtrack was, considering I’m not much of a country fan. On the other hand, I am a big Matt Murphy fan so that probably had something to do with it.
I wasn’t sure what to expect of the Guy Terrifico evening at Lee’s Palace. Would it be a total in-character, theatrical schtick with Murphy playing the role of over-medicated superstar returning after decades-long absence, or would it be a more laid back affair like a straight up concert? Would there be multi-media, would the film be shown, or camera people roaming the stage documenting? Would there be an opening act, there weren’t many details to go on. The official details said “Guy Terrifico DVD release party, featuring his Superfriendz including Matt Murphy, n other Flashing Lights ‘Guests’ ” which lead me to hesitantly believe that there could possibly be a cross contamination of Murphy’s other projects. But that wasn’t the case.
There was indeed an opening act. Al Tuck, a longtime friend of Murphy’s, opened with some sweet, downtempo folksy twang. It was very calm and unassuming, but soothing in many respects, fitting with Tuck’s near invisible stage presence. The ambiant drone of the crowd chatter near overtook Tuck’s performance but he held strong. Occasionally shocking his lip on a live microphone, Tuck almost seemed like a hamster thrust into a science experiment… getting close to the mic, remembering its charge, and rearing his head back. The crowd had filled in thick during Tuck’s performance but the entire dancefloor of Lee’s remained clear until he and his band left the stage. Tuck’s performance set an interesting and gentle tone for the evening, one I readily settled into, but it wouldn’t remain.
At 2004’s North By Northeast festival, out of all the bands in attendance, the Parkas were singled out with a $2000 award which would allow them to acquire some new gear. At the very same time it was unsure whether the band would see another gig, at least in that incarnation. Founding member Grady Kelneck had essentially quit the band at the end of their second cross-Canada tour, just before they were about to head into the studio for the follow-up to their 2003 release “Now This Is Fighting”. Young filmmakers John Eagan and James Loftus were in close quarters with the band during the entire road trip, capturing the reality of the Canadian indie band, its successes and failures and near dissolution. The result is “A Life Of Crime”, a new documentary which has just been released, paired with the Parkas’ new ep “The Scars to Prove It” (available here), and on May 5th the Parkas celebrated with the help of a few friends.
The first thing I noticed was how sharp the Gladstone looks. I hadn’t been there since their big budget renos completed back in 2005. The performance space has two sections, first the bar, situated towards the front of the building, and the backroom which had a few tables up along the brick walls and the mixing booth situated in one corner, another bar situated in an alcove in the opposing corner, but beyond that just plenty of room for people to stand and gather before the modest platform at the back of the room. A large rug drapes down the wall and onto the stage, and overall just a very charming atmosphere.
Director Jon Eagan played host to the evening, introducing the first band jackandginger, aka Colleen Hixenbaugh (
ex of still with indie heroes By Divine Right, new album soon!) and Paul Linklater. There have been few duos that can really fill out a large sound alone, (White Stripes, the Inbreds and Duotang are the only ones that come to mind), but jackandginger made it hot and loud. Well, the sound guy made it loud (the acoustics in the Gladstone are fantastic, but the levels were piercingly high). Colleen and Paul would trade off duties between guitar and drums, and take turns leading the vocals, with a plethora of great he/she harmonies bridge the gap that other instruments would fill in a larger band. At their core, jackandginger belt forth classic early-90’s style power pop which we don’t see too much on the Canadian indie circuit, as other bands tend to reach for older inspirations or abstract influences to forge new ground. Bring the volume down a couple notches and this was really pleasing.
Arriving at Lee’s Palace at 9:30, I had already missed the opening act, local Blocks favourite the Hank Collective… needless to say it was an early show.
The Brooklyn-based four-piece Cause Co-Motion took to the stage and ploughed through their set like they just finished digesting a hearty Taco Bell meal and the bathroom was beconing. Literally it was over within 20 minutes and that included a pause to repair a broken drum kit. The boys play condensed, low-fi garage punk, which feature a waft of twang and the slightist wiff of 50’s pop. It was decent stuff, but my main problem was the Co-Motion’s lack of stage presence. There was a definite deficit of personality emanating from these guys… Buddy Holly-esque nerd glasses and twitchy guitar playing aren’t enough to keep an audience enthused. I mean, the bassist played the entire set with his back to the audience. They have a sound evoking prominently Dead Milkmen but not enough of the charm.
With a set change that took longer than the Co-Motion’s performance, Love Is All took the stage to an impressive 200+ person crowd. The 4-man, one-woman band from Sweden was all smiles as they emerged from back stage, singer/lead guitarist Nicholaus Sparding taking a snap of the crowd before bursting into song. Though perfoming an similarly rapid set, the group look like they were enjoying themselves tremendously, doling out their kinetic songs back to back with not a lot of gossip in between. Lead singer Josephine Olausson has a killer smile and a cute accent to boot which is immediately endearing, and her cheerleading stomping along to the songs is infectious. Their sound blends elements of punk, disco and surf music, carrying along somewhere in-between contemporaries like the Yeah Yeah Yeas and the Go Team, but with a mercifully unassuming saxaphone, as played by the most energetic saxaphonist ever, Fredrik Eriksson. Love Is All’s drummer, Markus Görsch, is a maniac, and stunning to watch and listen to. It’s rare for a drummer tucked out back to steal the thunder, but Görsch’s energy just ramped up more and more as the set rolled on. Bassist and tertiary back-up vocals sprung forth from Johan Lindwall, his riffs sometimes subtle and sometimes the centerpiece of a song.
Even with a 2-song encore, the band’s entire set capsized at just over 30 minutes, and while immensely enjoyable, it was still over way too soon. With the well-deserved hype that is starting to build behind them I’m sure we’ll see them back again, with a lot less room to move. Great stuff.
samples: Cause Co-Motion
Baby Don’t Do It
Stop Standing Still
Love Is All
Ageing Has Never Been His Friend (live video)
@ the Cameron House, Friday March 17, 2006
With guest Jerry Leger and the Situations
Okay, right off, I don’t know if it was the venue, the date, the crowd or really what it was, but it was a difficult gig to sit through. Not that the music wasn’t great, because it was, but dear god, I needed to move about a dozen times for people to pass, I got knocked in the head at least three times, stepped on once. And to the Yappy McCathies in the place, yeah, I get it, it’s St. Patricks Day… go to a bar… a gig is for people who like music not socializing. I’m always wary when I see a group of five or more people at a gig, because I suspect that, unless they’re a band playing, they’re not there for the show.
It was a weird bloody crowd of frat boys, hipsters, scenesters, trendsters, average joes, post-middle age folk, and friends of the bands… and most of them couldn’t stay in their seat for longer than 30 minutes. The amount of foot traffic during the sets was crazy, distracting and highly annoying. And what, is the girls bathroom at the back of the back room? (The Cameron House is divided into a front room piano lounge/backroom stage and people kept walking through throughout the show).
Anyway, yeah, it’s a shite venue, not condusive at all for a rock concert, not that The Flints are necessarily rock, but they can rock should they desire it. Man, I can’t believe I’m two paragraphs in and just now starting to talk about the bands…
I’m not the biggest theatre goer out there, mostly because of the barriers to entry, that being the ticket price. Theatre isn’t cheap, and if it is cheap, then so is the experience… or something. I’ve been to about a half-dozen big-time musicals at this stage in my life, each with varying degrees of appreciation and enjoyment. Most of them have been adaptations of either films or books, with varying levels of success. “Spamalot”, if you didn’t know, is a big budget adaptation/exploitation of the classic Monty Python film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”. In fact, the stage production’s budgen far outweighs that of the original film’s cost (even adjusted for inflation).
“Spamalot” is just the latest in Eric Idle’s recent spate of exploiting his biggest success, preceeded by the Greedy Bastard Tour (2003) and Eric Idle Exploits Monty Python (2000), and while it has the “Python” name on the Marquee, with the exception of the regurgitated bits from the movie, this is mostly and all Idle production.
As a lont-time Python enthusiast, I was excited to see how the movie would leap to the stage, but at the same time I was hesitant. Idle, of all the Python members, is the most obvious in his humour, his sketches on the classic “Flying Circus” tv show seemed to be the most accessible, or perhaps just the least elitist or the most straightforward. “Spamalot” reflects all of this. In the theatre he’s kept the most quotable scenes from the movie in tact, expanded upon those that could endure further mining of the joke(s) and pencilled in a lot of new scenes that reflect the Idle sensibility but not the remainder of the old gang.
November 22-26, 2005 (Nov.23 performance)
@Premier Dance Theatre
My year of 2005 has been sorely lacking in Hidden Cameras experiences. I’ve said numerous times that, had I the gumption (and the cash), I’d quit my job and follow the Cameras around like a latter-day Deadhead. I love me some Hidden Cameras something fierce. Their music is like a drug that lifts you up and sets you free, leaving you floating for hours, even days afterwards. They are the tow-plane to my glider.
There’s almost something spiritual about a Hidden Cameras show, the energy levels of the multiple band members on stage, Joel Gibb’s immaculate pop sensibilities, and the vibe of an aroused crowd. You’ll see a lot less head nodding and folded arms, instead you get both spastically and rhythmically moving bodies like a mass posession, the exorcist has the night off. This danceability is what attracted the Toronto Dance Theatre’s Christopher House to Gibb’s music, and the spectacle that is a Hidden Cameras live performance (complete with scantily clad, bellaclava’d go-go boys on the stage corners) is what inspired House to approach Gibb about collaborating.
Together, they came up with You Are The Same, a January 2004 revue that blurred the line between band and dance troupe. It was a stunning, awe inspiring, and unforgettable (and sold out) performance, elements of which carried through to other Hidden Cameras gigs throughout the year. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise then that the Cameras and the TDT would come together again for another revue, and yet it did. Surprise, delight and excitement.
Some might consider The National this year’s notable buzz band, a group that gets promoted up through the ranks of journalism by word of mouth. They’re still not getting much mainstream press, but amongst the blog community, the band’s latest album, “Alligator” is sure to dominate the year end lists. But to call them a buzz band is doing them a disservice. The National have been plugging away at their rich, mid-western, quietly aggressive sound for a half-decade now, over three albums and a couple of EPs… they deserve the praise and the slow rise to stardom.
Their live act has been my most hotly anticipated gig all year, and, well, the National did not disappoint. Skipping the opening act in favour of a quick nap, I arrived at the Horseshoe just before 10:30. The Tavern’s website made mention that the headliners were supposed to be on stage by then, but in my experience those schedules are usually pushed an hour back. Not tonight. It wasn’t long after my arrival that the band hit the stage.
The five piece set-up opened with a bassless rendition of “All The Wine”, which wasn’t planned. “The exclusive Toronto remix”, they called it. It seemed that someone had absconded with the special blue patch cord for the bass, when in actuality it was hiding under something behind the drum kit. A quick bass set-up later, and the band just went for it. Entertainment ensued.
I’ve been exceptionally delinquent from concert going this year, but less so than last year after falling into a concertless funk after the loss of my gig buddy to Scotland. It was a last minute mailing-list notification from Greg “I’m the drummer” Rhyno of the Parkas do a semi-retired email account inviting all to attend the Parkas opening for… oh.my.lord. Novillero. If there was one band I really wanted to see this year, it would be the National. That’s this coming Sunday. But if there were two bands I wanted to see this year, it would be the National and Novillero. Let the “N”s band together.
Anyway, I strolled into the Riv, early as usual, and B-lined towards Mark “Bassmasterblaster” Rhyno who was regailing a small group of tales about his glory days of whitey fros and b-boy stances… or something. If you don’t know, I’ll state it up front… the Bros. Rhyno are high school/university familiars of mine, so we go aways back, and I’ve been a regular booster of their work since their Phasers on Stun days. The Phasers were one of those college bands you like because they’re friends of yours, and you’re in college (actually the PoS started in, late high school days, but I digress), and they were fun to watch. The Parkas, on the otherhand, I genuinely adore. Yes, they’re fun to watch, but everything clicks so very nicely. It’s just my pleasure that I know the guys in the band.
So anyway Greg came out and surprised me with a double pound instead of his usual intricate handshake which he’s been surprising me with for over a decade now. I said hi to Stu and was introduced to the significant others of the brothers Rhyno: Lori, who’s a postal service worker, which I think is just keen, and Catriona, who’s the ex-bass player of the Halifax ex-band Plumtree. (I introduced myself as the Parkas 4th biggest fan, still high in the rankings but no pressure to maintain #1 status). Sitting in front of us was a large collective of people wearing a rather unusual collection of hats. They turned out to be the opening act: The Ghost is Dancing.
(Tuesday August 30, 2005 performance - Panasonic Theatre)
I don’t even remember when I first heard of the Blue Man Group, but we’re probably verging on a decade of at least passing familiarity with them and their percussive pvc tubing sounds. The occasional Tonight Show appearance, their Intel advertisement spots, and the purchase of their first studio recording (”Audio”) all served to increase my appetite for things Blue Man, and yet I’d never been to a live performance, and despite my previous experiences with them, I just wasn’t fully prepared for the evening that transpired.
The Panasonic Theatre on Yonge has an industrial facade which carries through its interior, empty warehouse like lobby. Having just downed a pint of sangria at dinner I headed downstairs to the facilities where a BMG created “bathroom song” played on a continuous loop (”Baaaathroooom. Baaaathroooom. Throooough theee loooobbyyyyy Baaaathrooom”) which made for a unique visit on its own.
The theatre is dark with most surfaces painted black with deep blue highlights, dull chrome sound buffers texturing the wall, and the chairs an innocuous grey tone, again maintaining that industrial feel. The theatre was relatively full when I got my seat, two rows in front of me (and the entire first five rows) were garbed in thin, clear plastic ponchos. Ponchos at any performance are always a sign of a good time.
The stage set up had lots of pvc piping, a number of strange items which were surely to be used as props in one respect or another, three large grey panels with what looked like classic Sim City cityscapes projected onto them and giving the overall effect of a Fritz Lang film.
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