For the first time in a half-decade Stephin Merritt and his band of merri men + lady made their way to Toronto. The venue was Trinity St. Paul Church on Bloor, and the lineup was around the block, 300 strong.
The show opener was Andrew Bird, who made some beautiful interesting music with a violin, guitar, xylophone and a sequencer. He’s kind of classical-folk-funk with a wry sense of humour to his somewhat personal lyrics. I liked most of his set, but I wasn’t to big on his whistling, which he did frequently (and capably).
The church was hot, perhaps not as hot as the bowels of hades but the humidex was well above 40… stuffy and drear-inducing.
The Magnetic quartet (comprised of Stephin on ukelele and vocals, Claudia on piano and vocals, Sam on cello and John on guitar) emerged on stage once all of Bird’s equipment was removed, all four lined horizontally in a row so that none too center stage. The heat was acknowledged and Stephin mentioned that they would be playing a quiet, low-lit set to keep the temperature down (I spotted a drum kit behind the stage which would require way too much stamina to use in that temperature).
The set comprised primarily of singles from the new album “i”, with a smattering of songs from “69 Love Songs” and the odd track from one of Stephin’s other efforts.
My favourite moment saw Claudia stand up and take the vocal duties (which Stephin clutched hold of for most of the evening) on “Reno Dakota”, while Stephin left the stage and brought back a fan which he and Sam set up between then, and then stood and stared at it in proud accomplishment while Claudia finished the song. The surreal moment would be repeated when Stephin left the stage for water, and, upon returning, proceeded to hydrate the crowd even moreso than himself.
The encore evoked the biggest response when Stephin and Cladia sang the duet “Yeah! Oh Yeah!”, a Punch-and-Judy song about an unhappily married couple, brilliantly emoted by both parties.
I may have enjoyed the evening more if the venue wasn’t so stifling, however, the quality of entertainment, well, there’s nothing like it. It’s hard to have an intimate set with 700 people, but they managed quite nicely, and the church acoustics were astounding, perfect for such a low key performance.
For the first time in a half-decade Stephin Merritt and his band of merri men + lady made their way to Toronto. The venue was Trinity St. Paul Church on Bloor, and the lineup was around the block, 300 strong.
The Line-Up: I Am Robot and Proud; Lederhosen Lucil; controller.controller; The Unicorns
The other Line-up:
The Drake Hotel recently underwent massive restoration/modification (with a cost of $1mil+), transforming it from a seedy, run-down hotel (which also included the equally seedy and run-down “Starlight Lounge”) into a multi-faceted, trendy, urban “spot” replete with cafe, ultra-lounge, underground club, yoga facilities, and mod-meets-retro guest rooms, and curious peepholes in the walls throughout.
Though the Drake has met with much success and much hype since opening their doors to the public on Valentines Day this year, becoming hands down THE place to be seen in Toronto by the hipster/nuveaux yuppie set which is to its credit and its detriment.
CBC Radio has been one of their biggest sponsors in getting the Drake’s underground club a name in the local indie music scene, the Connect-The-Dots tour (which also included performances by Young & Sexy, The Russian Futurists, and Ninja High School on Friday) the latest in a series of CBC sponsored events. Like CBC Radio 3, these events also have a multimedia feel with photographic art displays on the walls, and short films playing on a screen behind the stage between sets.
Tickets for the event sold out in a record 36 hours (when they were finally released last weekend), and the buzz went around that there would be a limited at-the-door admission (50 all told, which couldn’t possibly service all the people with their funky hair and vintage clothing lined up outside the door around the corner and up the block. We were let in at 9:05 pm, show started just after 10pm.
I Am Robot and Proud
First to hit the stage was the one-man laptop & keyboard Shaw-Han Liem. Much of the early-comers (the at-the-door crowd) were sitting on the floor in front of the two-foot high stage, nodding in rhythm with the smooth and mellow electronic+piano rhythms. Sitting in line with modern glitch-melody makers like Manitoba or Four Tet the music was pleasant but drear inviting, and the performance aspect (Liem sat on the floor, occasionally smiling when he knew he screwed something up, and let out an audible fuck when he accidentally shut the beats off for 5 seconds… ) was neglegible.
The audience was receptive, and in fact quite respectful as the music still played low and the inevitable background conversations we’re disruptive.
The key thing that should be said about Krista Muir, aka Lederhosen Lucil, is she is the consummate entertainer. Not just a musician, or a performer, but a rare individual who hits the stage with a smile on her face, and a motive in mind.
The last time Mike Doughty performed in Toronto, I believe, was a quite infamous set in 1998 with his then-band Soul Coughing, wherein each song wound up becoming an extended (sometimes upwards of 20-minutes) jazz-funk-art-rock piece.
Since that time, the trio has went their separate ways, and while not exactly gone, none of them certainly aren’t prominent performers. Doughty has been a solo act for a number of years now, with no recorded material - that is to say any mass-released recorded material - yet to show. Despite this, the audience of a respectable 250 - 300 (I’m horrible at guestimating) at Lee’s Palace was pretty well informed of his current work.
Moving quickly past the opening act (very Stomping Tom-meets-The Carpenters folk-rootsy type) and observations on the new claustrophobic reno’s to Lee’s, the anticipation for Doughty was high, and I don’t think there was a single reason - barring not showing up at all - that he could fail this night.
Showing up on stage, Doughty was not what I thought him to be. Where I was expecting the image of the flashy, art-rock, sunken-cheeked guy from the Soul Coughing liner notes, we got a guy in blue jeans, a mock turtleneck and a maroon suit jacket. His face was egg shaped (no sharply defined cheekbones), with tufts of short, thinning, wavy blond hair covering his scalp. He looked like Jay Mohr in Kelsey Grammar’s wardrobe.
His appearance elicited a mass eruption of cheers and applause from the audience. His stage was set up with a guitar, a mic stand, and a silver rimmed, Hawaiian flower patterned suitecase off in the back somewhere. This was definitely not going to be like that notorious Soul Coughing show.
Cracking a bottle of water open, he gave a jovial “Hi,” the crowd, almost in unisen responded “Hi Mike!” Instantly he established his rapport with the audience, one that had us hanging off his every word, and yet not afraid to interject (he welcomed the back and forth). Things got off to a rocky start from there, however as his electric guitar was emitting a deafening squelch when it was turned on, and then Mike forgot his set list.
“I’m going to leave now for a few minutes, then come back, start again and we’ll pretend this never happened,” he said with a smile as he left the stage. The house music came on and the lights went up for two minutes, before he returned to the stage with an equal amount of elation.
To listen to Doughty perform without back-up is a strange experience. He’s certainly one of modern music’s most unique and distinctive vocalists, he’s got that slight gravelly throatedness that emerges frequently that is completely suitable to his pseudo-funk style. Knowing the Soul Coughing tracks so completely, you can still fill in that whacked-out, bass-heavy, mixed-media backing even his newest and completely detached from SC tunes.
Doughty pulses the deeper parts of his guitar synonymously as he plays the higher strings, creating something that resonates deeply, and that aside from his voice, would distinguish an M.Doughty composition from say a Rufus Wainright or a Hayden.
His solo performing of Soul Coughing tunes are interesting in that it’s still the same song with the drums and electronics and horns etc removed, and they work as nicely on their own as they do in their typically frenetic setting. But that’s still to say though, as wonderful a performer Doughty is solo, in almost all cases I was saddened by the fact that there was no backup, specifically the sound that the other Coughing member brought that padded his distinctness with their own.
But the real treat of a solo show was, even in a crowd approaching 300 it still felt like an intimate evening, with the crowd talking to Mike and Mike responding to the crowd. At the end of his set Doughty said “This will be my last song,” (the audience “awwws”). “last (makes quotation fingers)”, he reiterates.
After the song, he said, “I’m going to put my guitar down and go stand over here (pointing to the back of the stage) for a few minutes, and pretend like I’m winding down after the show. Then I’ll come back up here, act all surprised, and play you a few more tunes.”
And you know he did just that, causing the audience to both laugh hysterically and clap and cheer enthusiastically.
He came out, played a few songs from his new ep, played a cover of the Magnetic Fields‘ “The Book Of Love”, then, after much ballyhoo, played “Firetruck” (the 13-second long song written by a 4 year old), and finally closed it out with an extended and semi-improved version of Janine (closing the song out he said “I’m going to ask you to do something crazy… I want you to sing at the top of your lungs, sing it at the top of your lungs…” which we did, singing “Janine, I drink you up/Janine, I drink you up/Janine, Janine, I sing/If you were the Baltic Sea and I were a cup, uh huh” then he said “now shout it”, and we did along with him, and then he said “now scream it, scream it!” and we did, and finally “now do it Axl Rose-style” and we did, keeping it up until we uniformly burst into hysterics.
A delightful, earplug-free show, with a completely gracious musician performing for a crowd of old, new and renewed fans. I only hope its not another 6 years before Doughty comes back again.
with assist from Ryan
After a festively Mexi-casa meal, accompanied by equally froofy Mexi-drinks (made of ice, rum, strawberries and whip cream) Mr. 3×2U and I made our way to the Kool Haus for what promised to be at the very least a spectacle, if not spectacular.
Doors were meant to open at 7pm, with the show meant to start at 9pm. Meant, the operative word here, as doors were 15 minutes late in opening, the show would be a half hour late in starting. Twenty odd and mixed people were standing in line, awaiting the opening of the doors, including show promoter Gary Topp, a gaggle of girls that could be the notorious ring rats (clad in fishnets and bustiers) -or perhaps local burlesque ladies- and behind us we were joined by two costumed men. Each had their own home constructed belt, both wearing oversized brown-tinted glasses, and they had their own unique headpiece. One, a little heavier set, was wearing a balding wig, with blue hair that combed over. He called himself “the Flip”. The other, with loose black track pants, a fiery stylish bowling shirt, and a large black afro-wig, went by the moniker Bobby Starr. And I thought Jeremy and I were pumped, these guys bordered on frothing at the mouth. I could tell immediately that they weren’t content with their front row seats, nope. They were going to be part of the act by hook or by crook.
Inside the Haus, the squared circle was front-and-center, pushed up against the stage. Seating was arranged on stage and around the ring, with metal chest-high barracades holding the “general admission” (of which we were part) back from the “ringside” (for a $20/ticket difference).
Off to either side of the stage were two large screens hovering in the air. They were displaying some Luchador films from the 50’s-60’s, intercut into 5-minute segments on a rotating basis. As far as we could figure out, each of the films had a similar/derivative plot, that always wound up in a wrestling tussle of some sort (with everything from zombies to gladiators to mobsters). Jeremy and I provided our own soundtrack to the films to amuse ourselves, while The Flip and Bobby Starr made their own spectacle and did a good job of keeping the crowd hyped up.
Tunes were being spun by DJ Amour, which included spanish versions of popular American songs (you haven’t heard Motown until it’s done with Spanish flair.. wow!), and finally two hours later the hosts took the stage in the form of a drunken Patton Oswalt (stand up comdeian and co-star on King of Queens) and an exhuberant, white-suited Blaine Capatch (former host of Beat the Geeks). Blaine took the lead (and Patton took a seat) hyping the crowd up, and stating that for the rest of the show if he says “LUCHA!” we say “Va VOOM!”. And you know, we did.
The show started with a little sex, as Blaine said, to be followed with a little violence (a pattern to be repeated for the entire show) as the first burlesque dancer came out to strip down to her pasties to a rhythmic tune spun by DJ Amore. The dancers, obviously enjoying themselves a great deal, and the audience was respectful and appreciative (not being lascivious), plus it seemed the women in the crowd were enjoying it just as much, if not more than most of the guys.
The wrestlers were brought out via introduction in Spanish by announcer “Rico Suave”, with Blaine and Patton, two of comedy’s surliest guys (next to Lewis Black), providing whimsical, and often sophomoric comedic commentary (Patton - “god his mask is going to smell like balls.” Blaine - “how does one get the smell of balls out of their mask?” Patton - “more balls”).
The wrestling was enjoyable, not because of the execution (which was sloppy at best) but because of the audience engagement - the audience was very intuitive in picking out the bad guys and the good guys immediately - and my throat wound up raw from booing and cheering. The minis, while the butt of many of Patton and Blaines jokes, were a highligh of the evening as those little men performed feats and maneuvers that the (obviously) washed-up regular Luchadors were no longer able to do (with any adeptness).
Stars of the show included the teaming of the Space Cadets - Super Astro, Solar, and Ultraman all of whom are in their late-40’s/early 50’s and are still bundles of energy (although not quite able to pull off some of their once-signature moves). They were pitted against one of the Los Chivos, Mysterioso, and El Gringo Loco - the Mexican Redneck (as Blaine said “let’s give him a big round of applause for his mullet! That’s one fucking good mullet.” “The mullet gives him his strength,” Patton snipped.)
The Minis included the amazing Mascarita Sagrada and spitfire Tzuki (”that’s T-Z-U-K-I, bloggers,” Blaine said) pitted against a couple of mini heels approximately double their size dressed like pirates.
And then there was Los Exoticos’ famous first “lady”, Rosa Salvaje, who perpetuated the homophobia as comedy which is a staple of both Luchadore wrestling and, I imagine, Blaine and Patton’s comedy (during this show anyway).
The show ran roughly two hours with a 15 minute intermission. And while it wasn’t necessarily the tightest spectacle technically - there were video problems, totally flubbed moves, a drunken host, and, yes, even a Janet Jackson-style “costume malfunction” or two - it was still an amazing tongue-in-cheek show. It took some in the crowd a few minutes to understand that this wasn’t WWE wresting, and that chanting “you fucked up” didn’t really mean much here, but soon everyone was on-board and in the spirit of Luchadore.
And then there was The Flip and Bobby Starr, who were the butt of Patton and Blaine’s but wound up sharing a dance with one of the burlesque girls in the end, and thankfully, I’m sure, it wasn’t Rosa.
Lucha Va Voom web site
A recent Now Toronto article
University of Toronto’s The Medium interview
Squared Circle Training sposored the show.
*Solar I & Super Astro & Ultraman I Vs Misterioso & Piloto Suicida & Gringo Loco
*Mascarita Sagrada & Piratita Morgan Vs Tsuki & Guerrerito Del Futuro
*Chilango & Rosa Slavaje Vs Kayam & Enigma De Oro
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3)Spitfires and Mayflowers
1) Skye Sweetnam
So I step into the Riv at 9:30pm and I could swear I’ve come to the wrong place. An email from Gentleman Reg said this was a guys’ night out, and that there was most definitely a girl on stage (and I stress “girl”… she couldn’t have been more than 16). She was wearing leg warmers and fishnets and a ruffled dress and a canvas jacket and an elbow brace. She had crazy Alannah Myles 80’s rawk grrrl hair and a trendy mole above her lip.
Her backup band was a collage of Limp Bizkit lookalikes, one guy in camouflage shorts (shorts! in the middle of winter), another in a tight fitting toque (or maybe that was the same guy), all with their post-teeny-bopper facial hair or stubble. They bopped around stage as if they were actually enjoying the tired, retread music they were playing.
The girl could sing, but it was that generic style of singing that the radio-man/Muchmusic ‘jays loves to play from 4-6pm. She had her well-practiced-in-front-of-a-mirror moves which she stole from the Alanis “You Ought To Know” video (or whomever stole it from her, twice removed, because this child definitely wouldn’t know Alanis). Anyway, it was comedic an very bad. And what made it worse was I spied Canadian Idol judge and record exec Zack Werner amongst the crowd of… well there was no crowd. There were maybe 20 people in the bar, half of them quite confused (the other half enjoying their fake-id purchased beverage). This scared me because I didn’t know if he was there scouting or there promoting (I found out later that, yes, it was promotion… of some sort).
I don’t know what the hell it was all about, though. Putting an underaged girl up on stage with creatively devoid at a respectable indie music venue on a night when three such indie bands were to perform. What was the deal? Anyway, it gave me a laugh as well as a shiver, as I realized that Canadian radio and popular television is going to be inundated with this tired shit (if it hasn’t already) for the next nine months (”my new album comes out in May. Now this next song is for the girls out there, because boys suck” I had to choke back some bile. There wasn’t a sad pop-rock-girl cliche she didn’t explore).
I have to say this, little girls are going to love her. And I noticed on a gag-inducing check of her website that she’s going on tour with Britney. Hoo. Ray. Protect your radio now, kids, switch it to CBC and bust the dial.
2) Jonny James
Jonny wasn’t having a good night, apparently. Firstly, this was his last show with his drummer (who was off to join Sarah Harmer’s band. Secondly, he said, earlier that day he just smashed his car into the back of a truck full of Puerto Rican construction workers. Finally, he broke his gear on-stage quite early on, and had to plug directly into the amplifier (”doing it old school” he said.)
There are few certainties in life. Even less certainties in Toronto. But there are two things you can always count on. First is it’s going to be cold in Februray, and second, the Hidden Cameras are going to put on a performance that will have people danceing and cheering. Of these I have no doubt.
You know, I was thinking how I could feel envious of those that get to experience the Hidden Camera’s for the first time, but being a veteran of the gay church folk pop explosion certainly has it’s perks. I can sing - barring that hum - along with most of the songs, I know the moves to the pre-fab dance routines for Breath On IT and Fear of ‘Zine Failure, and I’m not in such awe of what’s happening on stage I can get out amongst the crowd and dance my ass off. And in this case, with the Cameras performing with the Toronto Dance Theatre on a limited 5 night engagement, having had a handfull of previous Cameras gigs under my belt I could better resist the urge to get up and dance.
Okay, that’s bullshit, because no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t stop moving. I’ve seen the band perform before, but I couldn’t stop watching them bop around in place, to the point where I occassionally missed some of the TDT choreography. There’s so much energy in a Camera’s performace regularly that adding in a dozen dancers creates a power generation station, and there weren’t nearly enough transistors to handle all that electricity.
Sparked in mid-2002, “You Are The Same” has been a project some time in the making, and it was completely worth it. Held at the Winchester Street Theatre, a small church converted into a dance studio, the audience of less than 120 sat in collapsable bleachers and looked down upon the dance floor. The band, 12 members strong this go around, were relegated to the left hand side of the floor in a confined space, the limits of which would be constantly tested throughout the night for reasons that will soon be clear.
Kicking off with a tender two-man near-traditional ballet set to “A Miracle”, the show started off sweetly, a gente manner that would prove deceitful to those unaware of what they were getting into.
“Golden Streams” had all twelve of the dance troupe out on the floor, glittery yellow streamers attached to their wrists, performing in unison as three clusters of four, the pace just starting to pick up.
Tijuana Bibles and Los Straitjackets (feat. the World Famous Pontani Sisters) Dec 9, 2003 at the Horseshoe
It was the tag-team match-up years in the making… North America’s two most famous Lucha Libre mask-wearing rock groups (plus some world renouned go-go dancers to boot) together on one bill. It surprisingly never happened before.
Yes, it was the Tijuana Bibles and Los Straightjackets sharing the stage last night in a holiday spectacularr that would make even El-Vez: the Mexican Elvis jealous.
Kicking the show off on-time, the Tijuana Bibles attacked the stage with their wrestling masks and genrefied clothing (karate garb, catsuits, championship belts), the shirtless, hairy-chested lead singer hopping off stage to interact with the modest sized audience almost immediately. The songs were good, but all began to sound the same after three or four of them… not really much audio diversity, considering it was a band of 6 including keyboards, sax, and trumpet. Pretty standard Cramps/Danko Jones style rawk, but the genre songs (about bad horror films and championship belts) and visual flair put them in the just-above-average category.
Between sets we were treated to a pre-recorded compilation of christmas jingles interspersed with pre-recorded alerts of when Los Straitjackets would be coming on stage by “the voice of Los Straitjackets”, Mike Robbins. Meanwhile the stage was being strewn with garland, lit-up candy canes and other Christmas decorations. The pre-recorded voice of “America’s Instrumental Rock’n'Roll Combo” introduced the Straitjackets, bringing them on stage to crazy loud not-pre-recorded fanfare (the Horseshoe was bordering on cramped by this point).
Los Straitjackets kicked off the set with a holiday jingle, setting the tone for the “Christmas Pageant” as it was referred to by the pre-recorded voice between bands. They jumped in between their own material and holiday songs, and with each Christmas song emerged from the side of stage the World Famous Pontani Sisters - a trio of classically beautiful brunnettes (ala Betti Page), performing burlesque dance routines. It was inoffensive cheesecake in various garbs of dress (for each holiday song they emerged in a new festive-themed scanty costume). The Straightjackets weren’t slugs in the entertainment department either. Their hillbilly surf music, as if not engaging enough, wows even more with Devo-inspired choreography, a lot of leaning into the audience, and some just damn-impressive instrumentation. Between clumps of songs, Daddy-o would speak rapid Spanish, throwing in blatantly English words, amusing and somewhat informing the crowd.
The band came back for their obligatory encore, having a sit-down on some stools, playing “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” while the World Famous Pontani Sisters came on stage and sat in front of the tiny Christmas tree, opening presents, to excitedly find that they all got gifts available at the merchandise table, including official Los Straightjackets masks, t-shirts, cds and records, posters, medallions, and also World Famous Pontani Sisters merchandise like the new Go-Go-robics DVD (for which the Los boys did the music for). If only I had money.
After their encore, the pre-recorded closing words of Mike Robbins blared, thanking us for attending and tell all our friends if we enjoyed the show, and, hey, go buy some Los Straitjackets products at the merch table… but Mr. Robbins wasn’t convincing in driving us away, as the greasers and hipsters alike cheered and banged for more more more, which I don’t think the band was expecting. They came out and took a minute or two to compose themselves and figure out what they were doing. By the end of their song, Daddy-O Grande was in the audience playing his guitar behind his head, Eddie Angel was on stage doing the same, Pedro Del Mar had his bass up there too, and Caveman had lifted one of his snares up in the air and was drumming with his head! Putting it all back down they finished rocking out in a manner that simply left us eager for more, but Los Straitjackets were tired and they left with a gracious acceptance of applause and shouts.
One of the best shows of the year, easy.
I made my way to the Horseshoe for 8:45 (doddering along Queen as I had a bit of time to kill) to find that bands were still in rehersals and the performance area wasn’t opening until 9:00 (Gentleman Reg, word had it, was supposed to be on stage at an early 9:15 as he had to zip across town to the Pheonix to open for Broken Social Scene shortly thereafter… but the word lied to me).
I met up with friend Sara in line after puttering over to Pages Bookstore and back and we got inside managing to find seats in what we would later discover to be the coldest position in Toronto last night. We were, we found out, in the direct line of fire of the air conditioner… the brutally frigid air conditioner.
G.Reg hit the stage (or Greg as we took to calling him for short) somewhere around 9:30 (it was so cold though it could have froze time itself, so who knows, life was moving at such a crawl… it may well have been 9:15). I’ve only seen Greg perform as an integral vocal player with the Hidden Cameras, so this was a new experience for me. His songs are lush and subtle, expertly crafted and fun. There’s a unusual pulsing beat accompanying the wafting vocals, two dividing sounds that actually come together nicely.
A camera crew from Ryerson was filming Greg’s performance for a Three Gut Records video they’re working on which seemed a little distracting for both the audience and the band but they triumphed through it and a quickly abandoned stage to make headway twards the Pheonix.
Meanwhile, Frank had joined us and we got to talking a little bit while we anticipated the dread that is Hotel. If you don’t know, let me advise you: they’re awful. Stay away.
Sure, they’re funny at first, as you make fun of the lead singer and guitarist as they “get their sex on” in front of their horny-office-temp-groupies (these are the samy horny-office-temp-groupies from the last show I saw I’m sure.) You can make fun of their oddball drummer (there are three tall, skinny upfront members, plus a woman on bass, but the drummer is a severly overweight guy with bleached hair and black black roots coming through, put together in a semi-pompadour (think Conan O’Brien or Elvis, but looking like an obese skunk and you’ll start to get the picture). You can also make fun of the aforementioned groupies, but after three songs, or less, you just want the hurting to be over.
Sara suggested we stage an intervention with the Clash-meets-U2-meets-Kirk-Cameron (the band’s self description)… it’s 3 kinds of wrong, and decent alternative music lovers should not be subjected to it.
(The camers crew left with Greg by the way, disavowing my fear that Hotel managed to get on the 3Gut label… phew)
Young and Sexy filled up the stage, belting out their twee (affectedly dainty or refined) sounds with a bass driven edge missing from their albums. I quite enjoyed the show, but it was obvious that this was not their best night. Blantant dischords and puzzled looks between band members were telling signs that the band was perhaps feeling a little too loose. Though things never fell apart completely, there were mistwanged guitars, unruly rhythms and the frequent keyboard slip-up (leading vocalist Lucy Brain to exclaim “It’s a good thing you’ve never heard that one before, so you don’t know how bad it sound”).
The group, led on vocals by Paul Hixon Pittman, has fantastic song style, akin to opener Gentleman Reg or Montreal’s Stars. The particular harmonizing of male and female vocals was sweet, although Pittman doesn’t have the sustain that Brain does. In fact, Pittman actually seems to sing with a faux-British accent.
I had, at first, not realized the power Brain has in her voice, as Pittman’s belting so consumes hers, but once she was given the stage to her own, she captivated and mesmerized more than one person in the crowd. Thereafter I realized that, as much as I liked the songs I could only imagine how much better they would be if Lucy Brain were the lead vocalist and Pittman provided backup.
They played a great set, and were most gracious entertainers. The crowd, smallish because of the Broken Social Scene diversion, was more than appreciative.
I’m still wondering who thought Hotel was a good idea for a middle act though.
featuring Kid Koala, DJ P-Love, DJ Jester, Lederhosen Lucil, Monkmus and Mark Robertson
After a quick bag search (and mandatory $3 bag check) I entered the Opera House, and was greeted with a “Short Attention Span >Audio< Theatre show card with details of all the performers (minus non-tour guest Mark Robertson of Bullfrog) and also a bingo card and crayon (which I tucked behind my ear for safekeeping) for as yet unknown purposes.
The grandest collection of six foot tall+ white guys this side of a Saskatchewan basketball team stood before me, continually threatening to obstruct my view, but thanks to the table-and-chairs setup for the evening, the span afront of me was thin enough that I could enjoy the show without (much) interference.
DJ Jester was already playing, cutting up some 50Cent with some other song I should recognize, creating mash-ups right there on stage. He was finished not long after I had arrived and settled into my relatively unhindered vantagepoint. Kid Koala came out, welcomed us to the show, told a nervous anecdote, and introduced Mark Robertson, who’s busting out solo from Bullfrog for the next year or so. Robertson, on stage with Kid Koala and P-Love busted out some bluesy, beat heavy, soulful tunage for three songs, P-Love leaving for the second, and Kid deserting Robertson to go it solo for the third. Well received if not a little too laid back for what was promised to be a hype evening.
A brief 10-minute set change ensued before Lederhosen Lucil appeared before a perplexed audience. The lovely Ms. Muir was fully-into in her Bavarian on-stage persona, and it had audience members looking at each other in puzzlement. But as each Yamaha keyboard-driven song rolled on, from a sullen cabaret tune, to synth-roch, to hip-hop she was slowly winning the crowd over with her charm, style, and skill.
Not merely a solid performer but a delightful entertainer as well. At one point she called out asking if anyone had a birthday. Two audience members replied. Getting their names she told them she’d construct a new song, just for them. Taking a number between 0 and 99 for the beat, and again for the style she crafted a Caribbean-beat piano tune based around the birthday people’s names that had even the most jaded cynic in the audience smiling and nodding in appreciation. From then on she had them all in hand.
Following the first of many short cartoons from Monkmus, Kid Koala, with P-Love and DJ Jester hit the stage, and as soon as Kid spun his first record he was pumped, completely energized and totally hyper. With five different deck set-ups on stage, Kid would jump between, often having four tables going at once. The crowd was ever in awe. Love and Jester would depart and return throughout the show but Kid was definitely in the zone and very much the active ringleader.
Between interpretations of classic and new KidK tracks, our host would amuse us with more videos, a slide show introducing us to the characters and the process behind the creation of his comics (included with his albums and his graphic novel “Nufonia Must Fall”).
About halfway through his set, the bingo cards came back into play, and through a slide show, we all played. As each character appeared on screen, Kid would explain the origin of each drawing. Finally, after about 12 slides no less than four people screamed “BINGO”. Kid seemed a little disoriented (”we came up with 200 unique cards just so that this wouldn’t happen” he said. ).
“Now I’m just riffin’, get on up here.” As the four winners approached the stage, Kid came up with the idea to have a competition. “Rock-paper-scissors, tournament style.”
Two by two, they faced off, until two were left, at which point it devolved into a bubble wrap popping competition. All were left parting with prizes but the winner got much more.
After the revelry, Kid K and P-Love broke into a hype set, cutting the shit out of Amon Tobin’s “Verbal”, segueing into remixing Black Sheep’s “Strobelight Honey” which led into Bjork’s “Human Behavior”. After a few more sombre, piano infused tunes from “Nufonia Must Fall”, the introduction of Kid’s Billy Idol impersonation showing off the Assman 640 (a typists tool from the 50’s apparently, as used on Deltron 3030), and the ever amazing “Drunken Trumpet” Kid bed us good-night with a story about how he and P-Love met… involving a girl and home economics class and, naturally, a rivalry… a rivalry to be settled tonight, on the decks.
Using the Michael Jackson/Paul McCartney hit, “The Girl Is Mine”, Kid and P-Love began to shred, and in the end Kid said he forgot all his rotations and Love murdered him, also revealing that P-Love has a tentative signing with Ninja Tune. He said good night, but the crowd wanted more.
And far outnumbering him, of course they got it. Kid came back with a new tune, one that had us all in complete and utter awe. It was a sombre but technically complex song, set, he said, for release in Feb. 2004 as “it’s a winter song”.
P-Love and Jester were both back on stage, attempting, for the second time only, to perform “Skanky Panky”, this time apparently much more successfully than the previous. Kid and Love played the final tune “Vacation Island” while Jester went out into the audience to receive hugs.
Overall, it was definitely the circus that was promised and everyone left home happy.
- Read a review of Kid Koala’s latest, “Some Of My Best Friends Are DJs”
- Read a review of Lederhosen Lucil’s lates, “Tales From The Pantry
Umbrella Music Live @ the Rivoli featuring Steve Singh, Hotel, the Sonny Best Band, and the Parkas - Sept. 17 2003
Afront a diverse crowd of fratboys, trucker hats, office temps, and all the qualifiers to fill your hipster bingo card the good folks at Umbrella Muxic assembled and equally diverse mix of sound and performance.
First up at 9:30 was an apparently rare solo performance by Steve Singh. His songs are nicely constructed and his lyrics lush, meaningful, fun and sharp, but unfortunately most of this was lost on the assembling crowd.
The tickets read “DRS 8PM, New Pornographers @ 11:00″.
The Organ was on ticket to appear, I Am Spoonbender, however weren’t. They were a late addition to the tour as I received an email from the IAS mailing list saying that they would, indeed, be touring with NP and the Organ including Toronto.
But arriving at the Phoenix just before 9 I would figure either the Organ or IAS would be on stage shortly… although looking around at the droves of ten, I realized that an early start wasn’t going to happen.
Looking upon the stage (having seen the New Pornos, the Organ and IAS before) there seemed to be an inherent lack of equipment, with the Organ’s organ front and centre ready to go. I quickly deduced that I Am Spoonbender would not be appearing. Sad as I was at the realization, I couldn’t be disappointed with “merely” a live performance by The Organ or New Pornos.
The Organ were their haunting and dark selves, their stagnant stage show (moving less than the girls in a Robert Palmer video) don’t really give much to look at (well, except that there’s five cute girls on stage) but the powerful vocals by Katie Sketch and Jennie Smith’s reverberating organ tones make for a stunning audio performance that doesn’t, for once, blow your ears out (I quite comfortably listened without earplugs).
The crowd which had grown to a throng by this point was appreciative of the Organ, but they were all here for the New Pornographers, going wild when Neko Case led the charge on stage.
They three to four-song clusters, each perfectly crafted pop tune making the crowd bop. The inter-song chatter was kept to a minimum, but the gang were pretty appreciated of the shirtless dancer in the audience, expressing much concern when they could no longer locate him.
After ten songs the band paused for requests, stating that they would like requests that eschewed the obvious and were free of absurdity (”I’m assuming you’re familiar with our albums, so pick something we haven’t played yet”). Eventually the crowd settled on “Jackie” (”there, Jackie. Was it so fucking hard to just shout out ‘Jackie’?”) which was the best performed song of the evening.
The set lasted an hour and twenty minutes, the band bowing at the end of the set. It was interesting to see that barely two dozen of the 600+ crowd left during the cheers for encore. The band promptly and appreciatively returned to the stage, calling out for the shirtless dancer, or anyone who wanted to dance shirtless, to join them on stage (alas noone did). After another five songs the band once again bowed and left the stage.
Another dozen or so people left, but the crowd still screamed for more. Once again returning, the Pornos had no idea what was left to play. They did one tune before opting an imprompteu performance of various Heart songs (none of which they could perform all the way through). They capped it all off (just before the two hour mark) with “Execution Day” which for some reason seemed very fitting.
An excellent performance enjoyed by crowd and band alike.
Three of the new millenium’s premier “bedroom production” artists were on tap, each of them a headliner in their own right: Four Tet, Kieran Hebden of Fridge, whose third album is getting rave reviews and big notice for it’s multi-texturalism; Toronto w
First off I have to say “who the fuck booked this show”?!?! It was quite possibly the most gawd awful mixture possible… thankfully I Am Spoonbender were completely worth the sufferage.
First up was Katja, an all-too-hyper trio wishing they were backing up Rage Against the Machine while reflecting upon the all-too-short career of Slint.
There was much jumping about and torso flailing, which made me wonder exactly how they managed to contain any sort of repeatable performance in there. This was a question which, once it was slowed down a little, was answered with sloppy chord changes and indistinguishable vocals.
This sort of Don Cabiellero instrumental meets Shellac gravel-throated grunts just wasn’t working it for me. Still, you had to admire the energy, and the drummer’s ability to find some rhythm amidst the chaos. Hats off to him.
What you didn’t have to admire though, was the 55minute waiting time as the Minatures fiddled with their mic set up and paying way too much attention to putting up their very nicely made flag (which showed the 6 band members in pink silhouette on a white background).
When they finally hit the stage, I had hoped this sextet (two guitars, bass, drums, keybs, and a tomba drum/tamborine player) would blow my socks off, maybe playing a sound closer to the Flashing Lights than the all-too commercial radio sound of the Goo-Goo Dolls or something.
This isn’t to say the band wasn’t talented. On the contrary, their sound was polished with a whole tin of Turtle Wax… but still, it just didn’t jazz me. The songs were good, and an album full of such tunes would surely fit nice on a shelf next to someone’s Live and Everclear. Just not my shelf.
After the stage was remade, the smoke machine set off, and the band redressed, I Am Spoonbender made the stage theirs, the oddly shaped and darkened platform lit and looking like a mad scientists lair with two sets of drum/synthdrum mixtures and keyboards everywhere, and raised in the back a prominently displayed laptop and a huge 808 mixer.
The melodly started slow, a low hum emerging from the floor, vibrating your knees and your naughty bits, before the majik happened. The strobes flashing on white screens in synch with the heaviest of the bass-lines (and there’s often much texture and depth to the rhythm section of this band), Robynn, Dustin and the gang in their staunchest Devo outfits meets Kraftwerk stiffness miming and wailing away on the boards with manic fervour that you couldn’t help but adore.
The songs, an epileptic array of sounds ranging from chaotic to melodic, were all thoroughly well recieved by the apallingly small crowd in attendance (less than 40 or so remained once Spoonbender hit the stage… or as I call it, Thunder Bay numbers). But the people who thought about going but didn’t show missed what is easily one of the best synth-pop electro-beat performances around (above par to even Ladytron) as they carried the sci-fi theme of their show (cloning/duplication) through to the very end, with some enamorously charming emoting.
Telephones played a huge part in the stage show, as Robynn and Dustin both had old black rotary phones amped up and their handsets were, in fact, the microphones. In what was easily the show-stopping moment of the evening. The lights went dust, the smoke rose up, and the boys on the side attached flashlights to their belts shining upwards into their chins. In each hand was a glow stick, held straight out. Robynn emerged from the darkness, arms in the air holding two heavy duty X-Files style cave-lights, and proceeded to start the human light show. The glowsticks began to pound on the sender and receiver end of telephone handsets in unicen, creating a most unique and thoroughly cool sound, backed by Brian in the back with a speulunking headset and his laptop metering in full motion.
The show was greatly appreciated by the few who were there, and a persistent round of applause drew Dustin back to the stage, if only to say “Unlike the directors cut DVD, what we prepare is what we play… we try to make it all inclusive. Sorry, but we don’t have anything more to give you,” to which one audience member aptly shouted “We respect that.”
Twiddling knobs, slapping laptops and a whole lotta vocorder was not only anticipated, but assured, if one looked at the line-up.
Solvent and Lowfish, two of Toronto’s finest solo electronica acts combined their talents (as they tend to do from time to time) to get asses moving. The moment the first drum loop kicked the floor filled and the crowd was split between dancing and severe neck-crunching and head bobbing. Solvent and Lowfish alternated between vocordered vocals and bouncy instrumentals. The songs verging on dark- Underworld-style melodies meeting Daft Punk’s danceable up-beats. The influences, from Aphex Twin to Skinny Puppy all come through in the soul.
While the performance was nil and Solvent’s appearance whilst vocordoring was rather humourous, the crowd was appreciative. I noticed Solvent’s records had sold out at the sales table, but it’s interesting that, despite their numerous performances, they have still yet to assemble a recording together.
Following what was probably the quickest set change in history, Magas hit the stage and trust me, everyone noticed, whether they wanted to or not. Magas, a record store owner from Chicago, is a one-man set-up of a laptop, an 808 and some other electronic do-dads. It’s all sequenced and preprogrammed, leaving Magus to (mostly) concetrate on the mic and on dancing. Oh ho, the dancing. Magus dances like a drunk chick from Winnepeg, side stepping, and muscle flexing. He’s like Bruce McCulloch from Kids in the Hall, stout, kida funny looking, and he can’t help but dance.
His image is yet another in the line of “loser” geek chic, like Atom and His Package, Chili Gonzalez and Har Mar Superstar blending with the 80’s slime rock rejuvination of Andrew WK. He struts and growls in tight jeans with a size-too-small denim shirt that exposes his gut when he does his “rebel yell” stance.
The sound is crunchy german hardcore electro, but all in the peircing upper register. It’s aggressive, dancey and annoying all at the same time. But I do have to say, the guy’s got energy and he’s got pastiche. It’s amusing watching him climb the speakers and then rush back to his laptop to rearrange the sequence as it screws up and throws him off track.
The crowd loved him, even if he did go on a little too long, quelching his schtick which really didn’t have 55 minutes of longevity in it.
I looked up “Adult” on the web, and discovered this: Adult is a really stupid name for a band mired in the electronic world, especially if your website isn’t common knowledge. It took forever to find something on them. I found one brief description that sums them up quite well: “They play cold electonic music with non-emotive female vocals”. The rest of the quote says “and they’re the best at it.” Well, fine, they’re the best at it, but being the best at repetitive, dull, unegaging, and, yes, boring music isn’t really saying much.
Yeah, I’m quite sure I was in the minority as the crowd seemed pretty pumped about it all, and I thought, for a time, that maybe it was just because I was tired. But I was tired when I went to see Ladytron - Adult’s closest comparison - and I perked up with their vibrant visual set up, their cool, demure attitude, and their well-crafted songs. Adult’s performance was stale, their setup unattractive, and their songs meshed together into one grating, pulsating beat with bass accompanyment and drab, monotone vocals.
It’s always a shame when the opening act is outclassed and outperformed by their opening act. It’s even more a shame when two opening acts do so.
photo snatched from the photojunkie
It’s an aggrivatingly popular trend for the nightlife scene to advertise their shows without start times, only door times (as in, what time the doors are open) and really, unless you know the band, you’re really not going to find out when they’re hitting the stage until they actually hit the stage.
Word had leaked through about R
All pre-press said 8:00. Blame me for having thought they actually meant the band was starting at eight.
Arriving outside the doors at Bloor Street United, joining the small-ish crowd in getting drenched with heavy white snowflakes in three-degree temperature at five to eight, it became readily apparent, twenty minutes later as we still stood outside that this thing wasn’t happening straight at eight.
By the time the drawbridge was lowered and the gate was opened the lineup was down the street and around the corner to the point of being invisible. The crowd flooded inside the foyer of the church, but in the most polite and orderly fashion you could expect of a mob of sopping wet people obsessed about their hair.
There was only one ticket person, and she was low on change, everyone bringing $20’s to a $6 show. Things obviously weren’t going exactly smoothly tonight.
Inside there was an expansive booty table, with cds, t-shirts, art, and ‘zines… more than you would ever expect from any other live gig, the price of the cds being jacked up from $12 to $15 before my very eyes (which curious, it’s still a bargain). I was excited, this was a cd release party. I was expecting the new Ruff Trade ep, instead it was a new full length I had no idea was coming.
Inside, my crew filled a pew as the swarm slowly gathered around us, the time ticking on. I looked up at the balcony and said to my friends something to the effect that if anyone was actually interested in viewing the performance then perhaps we should be up there (first timers should always view before participating). 20 minutes later, as the lower bowels began to pack, it seemed they agreed with me.
At about 9:30 an announcement was made that there would still be another 15 to 20 minute wait, as they could finally see the end of the lineup at the doors. Whoah. This rather massive church continued to fill up, and likely, the doors locked behind it as the crowd reached 900 to 1000… maybe even more, really hard to say.
Joel Gibb, frontman and ringleader, sauntered on stage picking up his acoustic, joined by violin, chello and backup vocals (Gentleman) Reg Vermu in three hauntingly beautiful stripped down Cameras classics (well, they’re all classics really) “heavy flow of evil”, “the man that I am with my man” and an acoustic jam of “a miracle” (which I’ve never before experienced live, very cool).
The fourth song, “Shame”, saw the rest of the band, and the 10 piece choir rush the stage, and a lone go-go boy (receiving a rousing round of appretiation from the audience), slowly building from the quiet into the pop-explosion that is the Hidden Cameras.
The crowd got moving instantly, the shrieks of Camera-whores (or whatever their loyal calling will begin dubbing themselves) overwhelmed by the overpowering and joyous sounds that the band brings. The crowd, tonight especially, was ever so willing to dance dance dance, joining Maggie and Mike e.b. in the “fear of zine failure” dance and the “simpler” “breathe on it” dance (which actually involved the balcony that time (”wow,” joel exclaimed, “I never thought we’d fill the balcony”… perhaps the cover story to this week’s Now had something to do with it.) Ever the surprising twists, no two Cameras shows are the same, dancer Paul P sporting some entertaining new fetish wear (including a must see to believe skunk suit), the ever different catharsis at the end of the Neil Diamond-esque “Day is Dawning” and the way-cool addition of a surf-rock intro and outro to “high upon the church grounds”. Surely though, 99% of this crowd, if they weren’t already, had been completely won over by the end.
The massive chants and applause for an encore brought the boys and girls of melody back on stage for one song encore. I guess the two hour wait and the expulsion of so much energy pooped the crowd, as they gave up rather quickly and disappoingly on a second encore. But even still, a Cameras show is like none other. The irony of the lyrics coupled by the beauty of the sounds inside a church and it’s a performance not likely to be forgotten (especially with the various camera setups around, this was one heavily documented show).
This one will be hard to top.
Ah, the pheonix, an old theatre converted into a night-club. They should be the best kind, but they ain’t. I have yet to have a really good experience at one… merely passables, like Orbital or Lovage.
Well, this night would start out much the same, with the opening band appearing on stage seemingly as roadies, then strangely jumping into “performance” without any sort of self-introduction. Nobody knew who they were. Were they Simian, the only other band to be featured on the ticket stub? or were they some other opening act.
Whatever. They played their garage-grunge 1994 Crow soundtrack music for four songs too many (I’m always willing to test three songs of a crappy act before I decide), not stopping for any audience interaction or even song-break chatter. They looked bored on stage, and the audience was as equally bored if not moreso.
Their final dose of ringing reverb drowned out the only words to the crowd, which my party and I were trying to decipher… did he say “thank you, we are simian” or “thank you, up next is simian.” Seeing as none of us were familiar with Simian, we were hoping to cut to the chase, and hoping that they were and that Ladytron would be up next, and us old farts could get our tired asses out of there early. Unfortunately we were wrong.
Simian play in a hyper, no-boundaries manner, a post-funk-rock band that sounds like so many other bands you don’t know where to start the comparisons: Happy Mondays, Prince, Jamiroquai, Blue Man Group, Super Furry Animals were all bandied about. But Jen hit the nail on the head when she said “Jesus Jones meets an amped up Speak-and-Spell” (and as cool as it may sound, that wasn’t a compliment, people).
I don’t know, staring at these guys bouncing around on stage with their thin cheeks and art Garfunkle hair, bass just kicking through my body, I just wasn’t moved. I wondered if I just wasn’t getting it, or if it was crap. I’m really leaning towards the latter, as really even the nice Blue-Man-Group rip-off failed to stir me.
Two hours after the start of the evening, the band we were really there to see hit the stage in their grey twill KGB-esque suits and their Kraftwerk posturing… keyboards and sequencers mossing the stage. The start of their set perpetuated the horrid evening, as the mics were so out of balance with the sound it wound up coming off like a German art-house cinema sountrack and overdub. Even “Playgirl” sounded awful, complete deadpan monotone… no harmony at all.
But the coldness of the set grew to merely sterile, with the 1984-esque projection not just behind and above them, but on them. As the sound levels began to get in step and vocalists Mira Aroyo and Helen Marnie began to feel more comfortable on stage, the show built upon itself, the songs growing more resinent and powerful, moving the robotic side-stepping of the crowd that much more.
Two encores capped off the show, which proved that sometimes style can be as engaging as the music itself.
Loud, hard and quick, it was the theme for the evening as the former kings of modern-psych pop and the lords of, well, whatever you
Horseshoe Tavern, September 25, 2002
With a little post-concert research it was learned that Memory Bank hail from Sault Ste. Marie, which in and upon itself isn’t important, but it’s important to note if just to say that you can’t blame Lake Superior water for the sucky bands, cause these boys, with their spiritualized guitars, Perry Farrell falsetto-esque vocals, and (oddly enough) in-your-face drone, really know how to attack and engage… A surprise for the opening act, to be sure.
Raising the Fawn, fast becoming a local favorite, carried on a slew of tunes from a forthcoming album. Their Slint-like bass hooks with Thom Yorke-style vocals captured the crowd, their dronology a bit too aggressive to really lull you into tranquility. The new album seems very promising.
The main line for the night was drawn towards Enon (I was always saying E-non, where as the band says E-nan), the mid-sized crowd at the ’shoe receptive but not entirely sure of what to expect.
The pace for the evening had been set by the opening bands, and guitarist/singer John Schemersal saught to destroy the relaxed, trippy atmosphere we had been sequed into by playing an early, aggressive, heavy post punk tune in under three minutes. Immediately from there the threesome (I thought there were more…) trapsed into a few more paint by numbers alt-rock tunes, quick and easy, the musicians just barely scratching the surface of any capable of being called a performance.
There was a dramatic shift, however, once they belted out “Natural Disasters”, adding some layers with their sequencer, and Toko Yasuda drawing in for back-up. The energy of the band and the audience picked up, as, all of a sudden, the bass had taken control, the drums were pounding, and the sequences came fast and furious. Once Schemersal freed himself of any playing duties and freeing the mic from its stand, his energy and performace kicked into high gear. And when Yasuda switched off her bass to Schemersal, she layed it on even thicker.
The middle of the set was essentially a new-wave-electro-pop assault, which both shocked and delighted the crowd. (I expect half were there anticipating a Brainiac style sound, the other half fully aware of what they were getting into.)
And while the set was solid, the overall flavour was disappointing, as the band spared any banter and just seemed to want to get through it (the set lasted roughly 35 minutes, plus a two song 5 minute encore).
The logical step for the band would be to incorporate the two styles (post punk with electro-pop), playing around with more vocal layering (some playful interactivity between John and Toko would have been nice), and perhaps another member or two to free up the leads so they can perform.
Disappointing and enjoyable, all in one.
45 minutes of pure aerobic energy.
Kathleen Hanna and crew played hard, played fast, and just played their lively and, at times, awe-inspiring power-pop-punk-beat-dance tunes furiously.
Dialogue and exchanges with the audience were high with amusement and insight into the minds of the women behind the music - their feminist and social consciousnesses really shining through.
Behind them a screen hung high with videos accompanying the music, the new zooropa, the images keeping speed with the music. Very cool, interesting, and jaw dropping in addition to the ladies on stage performing practiced dance manouvers in unisen. The retro-Star-Trek/b-movie sci-fi skirts and jumpsuits were also great visual queue of how cool these ladies can be.
The only complaint could be that the set was too short, but, to stand over the crowd and see that many people moving with the music (in Toronto no less) I don’t think there was a lot of complaining going on.
Wail away, tigers.
A must see, every time, any time.