On what would be the 180th birthday of the city of Toronto, I decided to end the night going to a musical extravaganza – the CD release party for Brasstronomical.
At Lula Lounge, both The Heavyweights Brass Band and Street Brass treated a packed audience to a rousing Mardi Gras party, transporting you to the hot shores of Brazil or the French Quarter of New Orleans. It was a night of feel good music that made you want to dance, shake your thang and sing along to a groovy beat.
Street Brass opened the set by marching to a tune of “When the Saints Go Marching In”, which resembled a cross between Salvation Army organized horns and Pentecostal/Black Baptist church fervor. After the opening, they broke into another New Orleans’ staple, “Do What You Wanna”, before delving the rest of the repertoire into the Latin American ideologies of Brazil and Colombia. I really liked the Latin American music since it was fresh, exotic, danceable, and intellectually stimulating.
The main event was the Heavyweights Brass Band – a mix of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, Trombone Shorty, and Preservation Hall Jazz Band cooked up into one hearty, spicy gumbo. Playing the entire CD set, we were treated to special guests such as soul R&B vocalist and fellow Jamaican Jay Douglas, soprano saxophonist and Spirits of Havana advocate Jane Bunnett, and percussionist Luisito Orbegoso. Throughout the set I was dancing, getting my groove on and reliving a part of my youth over and over again.
If the Heavyweights Brass Band doesn’t get a Juno (or even a Grammy) for their stellar, original work on New Orleans jazz, then there must be something royally wrong with the judges (or I should become a judge myself). Not only are they one of the best – and my favourite – local bands to ever come across the scene in Toronto (with most of the members being born in Winnipeg and Vancouver), but they also do a great job of authentically channeling black soul as well as the history of the music they play. Again, one of the best concerts of 2014 to kick off the release of one of the best CD’s to begin the year, Brasstronomical.
– Conrad Gayle
The Chicago stop of Skinny Puppy’s ‘Shapes for Arms’ tour is a night that ought to go down in industrial history, as the legendary band pulled out all the stops and performed an amazing set (as usual).
Openers Army of the Universe did a great job setting the stage with their brand of industrial dance music. As the opening band for most of February, they entertained the crowd with a sound somewhere between ‘80s metal and ‘90s industrial. Opening their set with “Acid Flows”, a previously unreleased track, they continued through 10 more songs and ended with “Hollywood Drama”.
Skinny Puppy, about halfway through their 29-date journey across North America, opened the show with a dark stage. Drummer Justin Bennett and founder cEvin Key came out first in front of a screen glowing with images reminiscent of Star Wars, which soon switched over to what looked like illuminated maps of a computer’s insides. Beginning with “Choralone”, vocalist Nivek Ogre took the stage wearing a hooded outfit and toting an umbrella (which he didn’t hold onto for very long). He flawlessly began to sing “illiSit”, the second track off of their new album Weapon. His voice sounded just as it does in the recording; the accompanying music by Key and Bennett was perfection.
Ditching the umbrella, the band powered through tracks including “Wornin’”, which was visualized with an on the large screen behind the stage of a helicopter-like blade that switched to a series of images of faces (most likely of politicians knowing Skinny Puppy’s interest in making a message). The images projected on the screen behind the stage as well as the numerous “television-like” screens on the stage were mainly controlled by Ogre. The screens flashed with different images throughout the performance, sometimes with close-ups of the musicians (which I believe were live, but I’m not entirely sure). The rest of their set list included “Warlock”, “Hexonxonx”, and “Solvent” among others.
Encore number one brought Ogre back sans the mask he’d worn during the show. Thanking the audience for staying, he welcomed us to the event and made a pointed comment impressing the danger of our chemical society, after which he launched into “Far Too Frail”. The songs “Glass Houses” and “Smothered Hope” were among the others played, after which the band again departed to a static-filled screen behind the stage, and a “thank you, Chicago!” could be heard from Ogre.
Realizing we weren’t about to leave just yet, their last encore consisted of (my personal favourite) “Assimilate”, during which the screen behind the stage was filled with images shaped like stars and stripes.
Overall, I was immensely impressed as I always have been with them. Since they began in 1982, they have achieved a legendary status, and rightly so. Their energy and willingness to do so much for their fans is immensely respectable.
– Kathleen Nichols
It's a cruel type of irony going to see a band named St. Lucia during one of the chilliest cold spells the city has ever seen. The name alone conjures up images of a sun-drenched tropical island, the type of comfortable sunshine that radiates well into the night. The music Jean-Philip Grobler makes elicits the same vibrant musical culture of the city he uses as his moniker – St. Lucia.
His music is a specific type of kaleidoscope-dyed electronic pop, deeply influenced by the ‘80s yet firmly embedded in the present. The songs that populate his debut album, When the Night, are not only of a high quality, but are accessible and inviting. His music is sincere and irresistibly catchy in an age where most independent pop tries to overcompensate by veiling itself in minimalism.
Playing at The Hoxton, the crowd was an interesting blend of barely-legal teenagers peppering the front of the stage (perhaps still bubbling from his tour with Ellie Goulding) mixed in with a more refined NPR-affirming crowd outlining the back.
The opening band, the Los Angeles-based Sir Sly, is a factory classifiable indie pop band complete with a tambourine for emphasis and a triangle for impact. A moody mix of dark synths and looping guitar lines, they evoke a downtempo Foster the People if they suddenly realized the aftermath of their “pumped up kicks”. Their music is a curious blend of melancholy pop-rock, some unsettling underlying samples and dramatic choruses that tip its hat to Coldplay. Lead singer Landon Jacobs borrows an exaggerated, rap-oriented style of vocal delivery and adds a permanent sneer to his on-stage performance. “Gold”, the most fully developed of Sir Sly’s songs, paints an avid narrative on stage. A rousing anthem in its own right, it receives the strongest reception from the crowd. Fun fact: the entire band has matching Win Butler-esque undercuts, and in unison, will fling their tufts of hair violently in time to their drumming. If you saw Imagine Dragons at the Grammy’s this year, you’re on the right track.
Following a quick turnover, Grobler and company take the stage and prove that St. Lucia’s niche lies in their live performance. With a backdrop of multicolour rods than flash in time to the music, the band began with album opener “When the Night Comes Again”, initiating a middle of the night, black-lit disco affair that wouldn’t let up until the end of his set.
Easily having as much, if not more fun than his audience, Grobler gyrated his teal-suited hips purposefully, the entire band bringing the kinetic energy of a Caribbean street festival into the tiny Canadian venue. Fans who may have thought that When the Night seemed scrubbed down compared to its predecessor, were surprised by an electrifying electronic pop show with the added appeal of a live DJ set.
Playing nearly all the songs of his pulsating debut album, Grobler’s songs benefitted incredibly from being played live. His shiny new-wave synths sounded fresh, and his shimmering melodies clouded in technicolour bursts of sound were given the space they needed to breathe.
“Too Close” traveled down a more rock-oriented avenue, the song’s instrumentation taking precedence, while “Wait for You” overflowed with neon afro beats as the soundtrack to a stylish African safari.
Easily one of the most arresting songs of the night, “We Got It Wrong” sounded absolutely enormous as the drums took centre stage, the electronic undertones hitting that much harder. Despite it only appearing once, you realize how damn catchy that chorus is.
When teaching the crowd the central lyrics, “Don’t go / don’t go away”, it was an intimate moment; Grobler flashed a million dollar smile as the crowd started to jump on his command. The lush dance breakdown and following audience eruption that occurred at the tail end of the song solidified it as an obvious highlight of the night.
Grobler has an easy command of his voice; his years as a choirboy were apparent on his set’s pinnacle, “September”. One of the largest songs off of his debut album, he waited for the encore to bring it out, the song’s opening notes arrived before the band.
They carefully let the song build and build, forcing the audience into jittery anticipation before finally letting the climax crash down. As it broke into the chorus, the entire audience’s hands were in the air with each person singing along; it was the exact moment when a pop song is no longer that of the artists’ but develops a universal appeal.
The set ended with “When the Night”, the last track off the album that comes full circle as the only appropriate send off for Grobler’s impromptu nighttime celebration. It’s the most dynamic of their songs as it imploded in an electrifying parade of bustling percussion and lush electronica.
As the result of a chance meeting, I happened to stand next to Mike Ruby, a Toronto saxophonist who had toured with the band in the past and received multiple shout outs throughout their set. When I told him I was writing about the show, he couldn’t help but gush over how kind and down to earth the entire band was, both qualities translating easily into their set.
This was a set that took the audience under their wing and ensured they had a night to remember; few in attendance would beg to differ.
– Melissa Vincent (Twitter @MellVincent)
The coldness of the approaching Canadian winter quickly dissipated when Lindi Ortega took the stage at the Grad Club and warmed the hearts of all those who came to hear her sing.
The Grad Club is not a terribly large venue, having been converted from an old Victorian home, but it was very surprising to see a rather sparse crowd. This had little to do with the talented performance by Devin Cuddy or Lindi Ortega, but most likely everything to do with the dreaded exam week at Queens.
On this particular evening, Cuddy came alone and was not accompanied by his band. He plied his trade in a way very reminiscent of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man”. As a performer he has not inherited his father’s voice, but he has his own unique style, charmed with strength and haunting blues from the depths of the Delta. He came to celebrate his brother’s birthday and performed a variety of songs. The most moving was a hypnotically melodic Waltz about Newfoundland, and the touching Randy Newman song “Love is a Prayer”.
Ortega took the stage next, and held the audience spellbound for the remainder of the night. The little Grad Club stage proved extremely tiny for this Tin Star, which made the evening very special. She serenaded all the underdogs of the world with her title track “Tin Star”, which she deeply identifies with. She continued the set with a message of hope for all those waiting for their life to change.
After some time she curiously asked the crowd where they have all travelled from, trying to gauge what brought them out on this cold, Kingston night. In response, someone yelled out “home”, which made her laugh and led her to a cheeky song about telling lies.
Ortega has a very old, soulful voice reminiscent of the great Patsy Cline and others of a lost, forgotten generation. She has an unbelievable command of the stage no matter how small or grand it may be, but above all else, it is her sense of humour and poetic musings that separate her from many of her peers. She introduced the next song as having been written for a man she once knew, whose name was Houdini. “That was not his real name,” Ortega said. “But it fits because he had an uncanny ability to just keep disappearing”. This was not her only quip of the night, yet her sarcastic, sometimes dark, sense of humour helped to make a powerful connection with her audience.
She played with an incredible supporting cast of musicians that filled the room with impeccable drumming and a lovely guitar solo. It was this great mixture of energy that allowed Ortega to be herself.
She performed the Eagles’ “Desperado”, which quickly became a rousing sing-along, followed by a track from her idol, Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. She told the crowd that Cash is the only J.C. she chooses to worship. It was Cash who inspired her to be the woman in black, aside from her red boots that have been borrowed from Wonder Woman.
She ended the evening with “All These Cats”. It is a metaphorical ‘muck off’ to any naysayer that makes it their mission to crush people’s dreams. Finally, only Ortega could close the evening with an uplifting song called “The Day You Die”. It would have seemed wrong to end the night otherwise.
Ortega is planning on taking a short break over the Christmas holiday, but will resume her busy schedule by shooting a video in Mexico in the New Year, and bringing her music to the people of UK, Europe, and Australia. Hopefully, the Juno committee will not overlook this rising Canadian star.
– Greg Kieszkowski (Twitter @GregK72)
It may have been a cold Saturday night in Toronto, but at Koerner Hall I was treated to the warming sounds of Daniela Nardi and John Pizzarelli as they paid homage to two Italian icons – singer/songwriter Paolo Conte and Mr. Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra. It was a night of reliving old memories and cherishing new ones as both artists and their bands delved into the repertoires in their own unique ways.
I had the pleasure of catching and reviewing Espresso Manifesto last year while they were at the Glenn Gould studio, and what I have noticed this time around is the various world influences that have been incorporated into several musical performances that truly makes it a “global music”. For instance, the song “Game of Chance” was taken at a reggae tempo and highlighted by a lively clarinet solo by Gabriele Mirabassi. Other songs that incorporate the fusion were “Conte Di”, which fused polka and Nardi on the kazoo, “Nina”, which brought the Spanish-tinged flamenco into the mix, and “Gelato Limon”, taking the song into Brazilian bossa nova territory. Through these performances, Nardi and her Espresso Manifesto group have shown that the music of Conte is fresh, invigorating and has the ability to transcend cultures by adapting the music in various world styles.
The second half, which was devoted to the music of Frank Sinatra, involved the cool swinging sounds of John Pizzarelli’s voice backed with his quartet of stellar musicians. For me, it was a stroll through memory lane as Pizzarelli sang the great Sinatra classics that I love such as “The Way You Look Tonight”, “One for My Baby”, “Nancy With the Laughing Face” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” to name a few. His backup band consisting of bassist and brother Martin Pizzarelli, young drummer Kevin Kanner and young up-and-coming pianist Konrad Paszkudzki had a swinging pulse that was light, airy and full of fiery energy as they backed up the vocals and guitar/scat solos of Pizzarelli.
The most intimate and interesting moment of Pizzarelli’s set would have to be his guitar solos for “I Don’t Know Why I Love You Like I Do” and “It’s Sunday”. Pizzarelli performed on his 7-string guitar in his Joe Pass moment, doing everything from bass and chords all on one instrument. I never knew about these two obscure songs from Sinatra’s catalogue until Pizzarelli’s performance, and he brought a sense of freshness and discovery through his intimate performance.
The legacies of Conte and Sinatra were rightly honoured through the performances of Espresso Manifesto and the John Pizzarelli Quartet that Saturday night. I felt like I was taking a trip across the world to Italy, where Paolo Conte is from, and to the bright lights of Las Vegas, where Sinatra regularly performed, without even getting on a plane. It was a great night of music for both those remembering Sinatra and Conte, and for those discovering for the first time what makes these icons timeless.
– Conrad Gayle
It was a night of sophistication and elegance at its best when jazz legend Ramsey Lewis and his quintet serenaded the audience with his brand of groove, swing and soul jazz. Ranging from original compositions, standards and pop classics, it was a genuine musical feast for the ears that surely left the audience wanting more.
Things started out groovy with Lewis and his quintet playing “Brasilica”, a 20-minute Latin funk number of pure groove and funky solos by the guitarist, keyboardist and pianist. Lewis then transitioned from funk and took a soaring, gospel-influenced piano solo into the medley of John Coltrane’s “Dear Lord” and his own number “Blessings”. This introduced a spiritual dimension to the evening that was well accented by the moving bass solo. After this somber moment, things got cooking again when the quintet romped through Lewis’ composition “Clowns”, which was a modal jazz workout à la “So What”, and was highlighted by a great drum solo.
For the next two songs, rising-star vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant joined Lewis on stage. As she performed the Rogers and Hart standard “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and her own composition “Woman Child”, her voice channeled the soaring, earthy resemblance of Sarah Vaughan by digging into the deeper register, which made the vocals more playful and majestic. At only 24-years-old, Salvant undoubtedly has a bright future in the jazz vocal world with her mature talents.
The second set featured Lewis playing a medley of standards including “Body and Soul”, “In The Still of the Night” and “I Love You” – with a touch of “Rhapsody in Blue” thrown in – until the rest of the band joined in for a soothing take on the R&B classic “Betcha By Golly Wow” by the Stylistics. After they performed a mellow take on the original composition “Quiet Moments”, Salvant came back with the soulful, soaring ballad “There’s a Lull In My Life” before bringing down the house with the bluesy, Billie Holiday number “Fine and Mellow”. It showed off the capability of her dynamic range, going from soft one moment to down home cooking the next. Closing out the night, Lewis and the quintet performed a medley of his classic hits such as “Hang on Sloopy”, “Wade in the Water”, “The In Crowd” and “Precious Lord Take My Hand”.
After this performance, I hope that Lewis and Salvant will continue to perform together for years to come. Salvant has the chops and the know-how to rank with the best singers in jazz, while Lewis has enough music left in him not only to keep himself going, but to keep inspiring younger musicians as well. This was truly a classy and sophisticated evening put on by a jazz legend and rising vocal star.
– Conrad Gayle
As I'm driving around in my 2008 Chevy HHR, my car stereo is blasting XM Radio's Liquid Metal station and I hear something REALLY intense blasting out of my speakers. The words "I want to f#$% you to death", hit me in the face and I nearly drive off the road fumbling to grab my smartphone to write a reminder to check out Huntress, this incredible band I’d never heard before. What I heard that afternoon was pure euro fantasy metal however, after digging a little deeper I found out this band was not a Scandinavian or European act at all, these dudes are from Los Angeles which made the allure even greater. At that moment I realized that the Euro fantasy metal sound has actually breached North American shores and become cool worldwide.
Huntress reeled me in with their music but what what got me even more interested were the photos of the band. I was instantly drawn by the blonde goddess on lead vocals, Jill Janus, a former world renown DJ turned vocalist. This woman is mesmerizing from her looks to her pure vocal talents, power and presence. She reminds me of a younger sexier version of Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow with golden pipes.
I was able to catch Huntress at their recent tour stop in Toronto at the Kool Haus on October 22nd. Although I did not catch the entire set, I was able to easily ascertain the band’s live fury. They were in top form and delivering a flawless set it to a sold out Kool Haus crowd. Jill Janus commands a crowd like metal royalty with her amazing stage presence and outstanding voice. Her skin tight leather's and huge rack keep the crowd engaged as an added bonus.
Huntress is on tour with an intimidating line-up which includes Testament, Kill Switch Engage and the mighty Lamb of God. When asked “what’s it like being on tour with these metal monsters” Blake Meahl replied “it’s a humbling experience and we’re loving every second of it”. The band is getting as much touring experience as they can fit into their schedules and plan to release an album a year going forward and doing it the old school way. “DIY or die motherfucker” we’re words of wisdom from Jill as she talked about playing and writing with an uncompromised style. The band does not let label execs tell them what to do, they are a self propelled metal machine and their music really speaks to the fans as something of true passion from the heart.
After crushing a few beers with the band it was time to head back out and witness the mayhem of Lamb of God. Huntress are a cool bunch of dudes who are climbing the ranks in metal breakneck speeds, so I encourage all you metal heads out there to see what Huntress is all about and most definitely check them out next time they’re in town.
– Andre Skinner (Twitter @andreskinner)
On Saturday, November 2nd, I was transported to the sounds and culture of Southern Italy through music performed by both the Vesuvius Ensemble and The Sicilian Jazz Project. It was an eclectic mix of styles ranging from folk, classical, funk, jazz and even Latin forms, creating a picture of not only the richness found in Southern Italian music but in the cultural diversity of Canada and its many cultural backgrounds.
The first half of the program was a primarily folk/classical program lead by the Vesuvius ensemble. The ensemble is unique for its use of voice, exotic instruments (chittara battente, chittarone and chittara barocca, tamburelli and colascione) and spirited performances of classic Sicilian/Southern Italian repertoire. The tenor voice of Francesco Pellegrino brings a very authentic and operatic quality to the music, and even Romina Di Gasbarro takes some very spirited turns singing classical Sicilian repertoire amidst a backdrop of unique acoustic instruments.
The second half of the program was devoted to the Sicilian Jazz project, which took traditional and original Sicilian music into various stylistic directions. As the opening of the second half started slow and atmospheric through the song “Cantu di Carrittierre”, the mood starts to pick up through songs such as the funk-jam “Jolla”, the romantic, bossa-nova influenced duet “Nun ti Lassu”, and the rousing closing number “Vitti “na Crozza”.
Whereas the first half took a folk/classical approach to Sicilian music, Michael Occhipinti’s project fuses a lot of elements ranging from Middle Eastern music, rock music, down-home funk and straight ahead jazz at times. Michael Occhipinti is known to be a world fusion artist, transforming unlikely material into jazz and contemporary fare.
With the performances of both bands, it was a taste of both “La Dolce Vita” and “O Sole Mio” on a cool Saturday night in November. For a couple of hours I felt I was in Southern Italy taking in the warm temperatures, spirited music, and the vibrant cultural scene.
− Conrad Gayle
Although it was already a day after Halloween, it didn’t stop the first band to perform at Rancho Relaxo from dressing up as Sun and Moon. The band, being Huge Cosmic: a new Mississauga-based duo with a knack for looping effects and samplers. But don’t get it wrong– Huge Cosmic knows how to make their sound appear bigger than it is, and gives an energetic performance while doing so.
Being The Syndicate’s first line of People We Know shows, promoters Morio Anzola and Nick Zaraza had Huge Cosmic, along with three other local bands performing at Rancho Relaxo on Friday, Nov. 1. People We Know is Anzola and Zaraza’s new initiative that aims to gather and reconnect with friends, hence the name.
“We’re trying this in the hopes of gathering larger groups of people to listen to each other’s music,” says Anzola.
Though the name sounds exclusive, it really is just about getting local talent a head start, and hopefully making some cash on the side.
With a moderately full house, Huge Cosmic singer and guitarist, Jacob Hrajnik, has a large pedal board in front of him. Every pedal is a necessity in their music, especially with limited members in the band, a la Russian Circles. The set up is similar to that of New Jersey punk band, DADS, where the drummer faces the singer, rather than the crowd. Which often times ensures communication with two-piece bands.
With a nod, the ambient sounds of Boards of Canada fills the room as they do a cover of “New Seeds”, giving it an Indie twist. While irrelevant samples intermission between songs, the following was an upbeat original called “Pinecone” that probably should’ve been started off with. Huge Cosmic’s sound is a Hyper-Shoegaze meshing with the Pop side of Indie. “Pinecone” gives you the sense of drummer Dean Snowball’s precise drumming and the intricate pedal switches of Hrajnik that defines the sound they are going for.
Coming in more aggressively, but still moving along was “Let’s Talk About The Weather”, looping upbeat riffs with heavier ones. Similarly, Hrajnik plays power chords over previously-looped Math rock melodies in order to sing while playing. Closing with “Sherbet”, Snowball takes on a more military-style of drumming that compliments one of their only songs that is more reliant on vocals.
Overall, Huge Cosmic gathers positive crowd reactions with their strong performances, while engages with their audience with their sense of humour. Combining ambient, noisey, indie-shoegaze sounds, Huge Cosmic is ready to not only define a new genre of music, but also take it to the next level. Their first album, Micro Cosmic, is set to be released Dec. 13, 2013.
– Emily Rivas (Twitter @RivasEmily)
Abrasive.....assaulting.....in-your-face.....borderline-obnoxious – that's what the evening of October 6th at the Horseshoe was all about.....and it was fucking fantastic because of it.
The Hanni El Khatib/Bass Drum Of Death North American leg of the tour hit Toronto with a resounding bang, bringing along with it the add-on bonus of local boys-of-Garage-mayhem Pet Sun. The triad of musical intensity this Sunday night proved to be much, much more than was expected – well, maybe it was expected by the roomful of fans that stopped by for just this reason. But for others who weren't exactly 'in-the-know' of what is going on with each of these three bands this was truly an eye-opening experience.
Pet Sun, a relatively new face on the scene of Garage-Rock, sauntered in with a whisper and set themselves up quietly behind their gear. The humbled, soft-spoken Parth Jain (drums) subtly introduced the band to the crowd, while the remaining three silently took their positions on the stage. This relatively uneventful entry was soon shattered beginning with the first chord of their set. Blaring and reverberating, pounding and crashing, the boys managed to reveal their true selves beautifully through their own music. The subdued presence that the four members of this Hamilton-based band exploded into a lyrical and musical insanity with each and every song they put forth to the slowly-increasing crowd. The set proved so electrical, in fact, that onlookers in the seated area fast became immersed into the music so much as to provide a standing-room-only area directly in front of the stage. Muddled lyrics simply screamed out over the crowd, all brought forth by the tongue-wagging and charismatic Stéphane Senécal-Tremblay. A wonderful surprise is what Pet Sun provided to the evening through their performance, and it was only about to get wilder.
As the floor began to collect more and more fans of the second act, Bass Drum Of Death managed their way onto the stage, to finally blast into song with almost no warning whatsoever. It was a welcome shock, and the night developed more into a Garage-Rock retrospective than just your everyday plain ol’ rock show. The distorted vocal-styling and vintage-guitar wailing of John Barrett married brilliantly with his two band-mates right from the get-go. The guitar/guitar/drum combo forced their way into waiting ears with an assault of auditory bliss. Absolutely no pauses or dead-air were to be found; neither within each song nor in-between any of the numbers for almost the first half of their performance. Bass Drum Of Death managed with just three members an electric performance that filled the room with an abundance of organized noise and managed to work the crowd into an onlooking frenzy. Noted by Barrett was how pleased they were to be performing alongside Hanni El Khatib on this tour, and their intensity + knock-em-dead performance helped to prove that they were an obvious pick to tag along. Through their entire set they exhibited equally powerful levels of musicianship as the headline act to follow.
Rounding the 10:30-mark of the evening, Hanni El Khatib and his crew slickly entered their setup. With his hair gelled back and an almost-perfect collection of loose strands poised down over his forehead, Hanni appeared as a sharply-dressed Elvis Presley of modern-day proportions....with subtle Mick Jones accents for good measure. With polished showmanship and a strong sense of professionalism, Khatib hit hard from the first note of “Head In The Dirt” (the title track from his latest release) straight through to the end of the night. The music, vocals and primo guitar-work in the forefront, instantly made you aware of just why he and his crew were the headline act for this tour. Bouncing back and forth playing tracks from this and his 2011 debut release Will The Guns Come Out, Hanni El Khatib ripped through the room with an amalgamation of auditory force, rhythmic flair, and a wonderful semblance of finesse and style. Already fan-faves were revealed through performances of “Penny” and “Skinny Little Girl”, songs that instantly resonated with the now full room. The crowning glory of the show was the triad of “Fuck It You Win”, “Sinking In The Sand” and the crowd-pleasing “Family”, a finish to the set that left you breathless and longing to keep the night going. For a Sunday night crowd, nobody seemed to give a rat's-ass that they might have to work the next day – tonight was all about the music. And considering the band's 2-album history, it was nothing short of remarkable when Khatib resurfaced on-stage for a single encore, joined mid-way with the rest of the band for a final 'thank you' and a bow. Out of breath and all played out, the stage emptied for the last time that night – leaving a roomful of fans with endless ringing in their ears.
Hanni El Khatib continues the US leg of their tour through to the end of this month before embarking to the UK for a handful more shows. If they're somewhere near you during this time it's highly recommended that you grab a ticket and get schooled in the art of modern-day Garage-Rock the way it's meant to be heard. Barring this, if you can't make it out to the show it's possible that you may hear the echoes of the music resonating throughout your own neighbourhood – if you should be so lucky.
– Stephen Lussier (Twitter @ioweyouacoke)
– Photo Credits: Stephen Lussier
On a cool fall Thursday evening on September 26th I decided to head down to the Rex to catch a very special initiative that is happening in the jazz community in Toronto. It is the celebration of a new web site and online community called “Toronto Jazz Central”, headed by Josh Grossman, artistic director of the Toronto Jazz Festival and conductor of the Toronto Jazz Orchestra.
The evening was filled with musicians, club owners, educators and fans of jazz music, kicking off what could be a very promising future for jazz in Toronto, Canada, and the entire world. Toronto Jazz Central was formed “to support and advocate the jazz community of Toronto, while growing an audience locally, nationally, and internationally”, says Grossman. Josh Grossman also states that Toronto Jazz Central is a community that is “non-partisan”, “non-profit”, and “egalitarian”, fostering a sense of connectivity and community through this new initiative.
According to Josh Grossman, Toronto Jazz Central was modeled after the success of two sites located in New York and Boston, which are Search and Restore and Jazz Boston respectively.
The website, which will be launching in December of 2013, consists of three level tiers of memberships which people can sign up for. General fans can pay $25 for a year and be able to cast a vote, get free access to concerts, be notified of listings, and access profiles of jazz musicians. Musicians pay $25 but they get the bonus of uploading music, video, pictures, and gig listings to further promote their work and craft to a huge global online audience. Industry professionals pay $100 for the year.
The musical entertainment was none other than a superlative duo consisting of Kirk MacDonald and Pat Labarbera, two tenor saxophonists who are at the top of their game and bringing the history of John Coltrane, Dexter Gordon, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins to Canadian audiences. They were later joined by pianist Bernie Senensky for a great take on “On Green Dolphin Street”.
For further information and to sign up, go to:
− Conrad Gayle
Entering the stage bathed in blue and purple-hued lights with bulbs lit as though they were stars spread across the backdrop, the six members of the Psychedelic Furs assembled in front of the audience at the Northern Lights Theater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Starting off with “Highwire Days”, the band proved itself to be as talented and prepared as they were in their younger days (having formed in 1977, split up in 1991, and re-formed in 2001). Vocalist Richard Butler entertained the audience with his smooth stylings and friendly demeanor (he took many opportunities to shake hands with the audience near the stage), all without missing a note.
Their career-spanning set included classics “Heartbreak Beat”, “Love My Way”, and “Pretty in Pink” (which was actually the first song they played in their encore – they must’ve sensed that the audience wasn’t about to leave without hearing that one). Mars Williams’ signature sax sounds added that special touch that we all have come to appreciate about the Furs’ sound. Rounding out the rest of the band was Paul Garisto on drums, Tim Butler on bass, Rich Good on guitar, and Amanda Kramer on keys.
– Kathy Nichols
The Mission U.K.’s Chicago stop of their “Keeping the Faith” tour was opened by locals the Bellwether Syndicate at the House of Blues.
The Bellwether Syndicate features William Faith of numerous legendary goth and darkwave outfits including Faith and the Muse, Christian Death, Mephisto Walz, and Shadow Project, and Sarah Rose, also known as world-renowned d.j. Scary Lady Sarah, owner of American Gothic Productions. Other performers included d.j. Peroxide (keys) who spins with Sarah for her AGP shoegaze and dreampop event SHIMMER, Eric Polcyn of Michigan’s noise rock band God Bullies on bass, and Vince Gretsch from electronic-with-a-hint-of-metal locals i:Scintilla (drums).
Opening the show, the Syndicate took the stage to the sound of droning guitar distortion. William, with his classic sunglasses and smooth vocal stylings, took his place at the microphone and, with the other musicians, opened the show with “All Fire” from the band’s five-track debut album “The Night Watch”.
Proceeding to play five more songs, four from the album and a cover of “Soul in Isolation” by the Chameleons, the band sounded great and seemed to be confident in that they had nothing to prove. No crazy light shows (a few changing colored lights on stage kept things interesting, but it was not overdone), no drowning fog machine (a little bit of fog near the back of the stage added to the atmosphere), no insanely risky dance moves, just talented musicians and good tunes. Sarah’s powerful guitar sound provided the perfect backdrop for William’s vocal artistry.
After a not-so brief intermission, Leeds (England)-based the Mission took the stage, opening with “Black Cat Bone” from their newest album, “The Brightest Light”. The slow, tribal drum beat, screechy guitars, and mellow vocals introduced the song to the audience.
Proceeding through songs “Beyond the Pale”, “Serpent’s Kiss” (during which singer Wayne Hussey mentioned he’s drinking brandy due to losing his voice and that bassist Craig Adams would be helping with vocals and imploring the audience to do the same), and on through classics “Severina” and “Butterfly on a Wheel,” the band’s 12-song set was accented by changing colored lights on the stage and an amount of fog, but nothing overpowering. Songs from the new album (released September 2013 on The End Records) were worked in as well, including “Sometimes the Brightest Light Comes From the Darkest Places” and “Swan Song”. The stage show was the musicians and their instruments, not some flashy distraction.
After exiting, the band returned for their obligatory encore with (I think it was Adams’) comment “You didn’t realize, we were going to come back whether anybody said anything or not” and continued into “Drag”, “All Along the Watchtower”, and classic “Deliverance”, a song Wayne ended by repeating the chorus after the band stopped playing, raising his glass, and proclaiming “brandy forever”.
We’re not done yet. Wayne returned after the “get the hell out” music started playing, grabbed his guitar, plugged it in, and started “Tower of Strength”. Upon the band’s rejoining him, he put his instrument down and went into the audience for a bit.
Overall, the experience was well worth the ticket price. I think it’s worth a mention that William Faith was at the merch table after the show, talking to fans, and signing autographs or posing for photos if requested. Also, the entire band was out in the audience enjoying the Mission, which should come as no surprise being that William made it a point to say what an honor it was to share a stage with them just before his band played “101 Go”. He was also kind enough to answer a few questions for me via telephone a few nights before the performance. It is really refreshing to meet a musician who knows the value of his audience, and I know Sarah Rose is just as approachable.
The House of Blues is a beautiful building and would be even better if the local parking costs weren’t so astronomical.
– Kathy Nichols
The sun had set on a gorgeous, temperate evening in Boston. A warm breeze drifted through the leafy branches, and if you squinted you could make believe the office lights on the upper floors of the MFA were fireflies. All the denizens of the Calderwood Courtyard needed was a little music. Thankfully, La Santa Cecilia was ready to give an energetic and endearing performance. During their hour-long set, the Los Angeles ensemble performed a winsome blend of Cumbias, Rancheras, and Norteños, filtered through their adoration for new wave and Rock and Roll.
Before they even played a single note, the five members of La Santa Cecilia looked like a party. With their brightly-colored clothes and their palpable excitement at playing before a new audience, they seemed like the kind of band who could have stepped out of Buckaroo Banzai to become your new best friends. In spite of their exuberant appearance, they opened their set with the slow-burning ballad “La Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Angeles.”
La Marisol, the band’s frontwoman, sang in a deep, expressive voice with a supple upper register and the occasional growl thrown in for good measure. Though she served as a visual and sonic focal point for the band, her formidable stage presence didn’t overshadow the musicianship and camaraderie the quintet shared. Each member of La Santa Cecilia had great skill and confidence at their instruments, but their chemistry as a band really sold their music.
La Santa Cecilia’s performance reflected an eclectic set of influences they honed by playing with a diverse set of Los Angeles bands. Their love of New Wave came through not only in their seductive cover of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” but also in their Elvis Costello collaboration “Losing Game.” When she introduced the song, La Marisol smiled as she described writing the lyrics with the iconic songwriter.
Though the band cuts a winning figure, they also took time to speak about an issue that’s important to them. Their song “ICE” describes the experiences of immigrants in Los Angeles and their encounters with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement officers. Their plainspoken Spanish-language lyrics put a human face on a divisive political issue, and Marisol’s poetic spoken interlude left a lump in my throat.
The show closed with a medley of their current single, “Monedita,” and “La Negrita,” the leadoff track from their EP Noche Y Citas. The fast tempos and catchy melodies brought the audience to their feet and led their handsome accordionist, Jose Carlos, to jump into the crowd. La Santa Cecilia reluctantly left the stage of the Calderwood, having befriended some of Boston’s biggest music fans.
If La Santa Cecilia’s set was like a block party, Riki Rock Steady’s opening act sounded like the toastiest campfire singalong ever. The Boston-based trio played a stripped-down set of Ska and Rocksteady classics, as well as one original song in that style.
– Chelsea Spear (Twitter @two_ontheaisle)
Regardless of what any of us think we know about the life and times of Courtney Love, it doesn’t change the fact that on Saturday evening at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto, she rocked harder than any 49-year-old woman I’ve ever seen.
What do any of us really know about the celebrities we indulge in on a regular basis? Nothing. Why do we care? Because judging their indiscretions makes us feel better about ourselves. Why do we do it? Because we know that no one is going to reach through our computer screens, grab us by the shirt, and hold us accountable for our opinions. Everybody’s a hero when they have a place to hide.
The way I see it, you might very well be the highest-flying nutcase in the world, but as long as you show up and give it harder than anyone knows what to do with, who the hell are they to question what you do or how you do it?
Love plays the part and she plays it well. Yeah she’s a drug addict, chain-smokin’, rose-throwin’ piece of work, and sure she’s a shitty guitar player with a ton of emotional baggage that she wears very openly on her sleeve, but that’s rock and roll baby.
I’ve gotta hand it to the woman, she packed the venue and the last Hole album she put out, 2010’s Nobody’s Daughter, cost her $1.9 million dollars out of pocket to make, and it probably sold 4 copies.
The songs we’re heavy – straight outta the 90’s type of stuff – and her voice was absolutely savage. From the back of the room, I saw bodies hurtling toward the stage and fists punching through the thickness in the air like I haven’t seen at show in a decade.
With one leg propped up on a PA, and her Steven Tyler-esc Victorian era shirt tangled around the lengths of her arms, Love led the crowd with this beauty: “Thank you, it’s been a long time, now hang on mommy needs some nicotine.”
– Juliette Jagger (Twitter @juliettejagger)
I attended the first annual CBC Music Festival in May. It was hot in the sun, and cold in the dark. I crawled between two stages for most of the day. One featured big acts getting bigger as Echo Beach filled with the young, old, the odd, the hippies, and the party bros and girls. The other stage featured smaller acts, starting with CBC Searchlight winners Sherman Downey & the Ambiguous Case. They were a less ambiguous case of mediocre. Everyone played well, but the songs didn’t stick. They’re a sunshine and rainbows sort of band, but they’re just not good enough at it to make their songs stand out from one another. They were the winners, however when it comes to a vote, Newfoundlanders will stick together.
Ten minutes after Sherman Downey’s Cornerbrook minutemen finished their set, powerhouse of old school attitude Shakura S’aida kicked off the main stage. She’s a blues singer with the kind of voice that makes it hard to believe she hasn’t worked with absolutely everyone in the genre from the ‘70s on. (ed. note: she was formerly a backup singer for Patti Labelle). She was funny in a textbook rehearsed kind of way, but it worked.
Kae Sun, Ghanaian-Canadian reggae-indie popster out of Hamilton, Ontario, was up next on the second stage. His band had a knack with rhythms, layers of electric guitar and laptop grooves. I wound up getting the same impression from him as I did from Sherman Downey. The band was good, they were all enjoying themselves without exception, but the music was…music. Plain and simple. They made some cool sounds, you could move to them, but it’s been done. I’m assuming the lyrics were chock full of heart and meaning as far as Kae Sun was concerned, but it could’ve been done better. If Kae Sun were a more unique performer, a more neurotic writer, maybe I would’ve enjoyed it. Maybe I’m missing something.
Echo Beach began to fill up in the next hour and a half as Jarvis Church paid soul-tribute to Sam Cooke while CBC’s Comedy special, The Debaters, recorded a live episode on the Second Stage.
Corb Lund & the Hurtin’ Albertans finally raised the bar at 4:30 on the main stage. Echo Beach began to feel more like a real festival and less like a company picnic.
The Hurtin’ Albertans might be one of the best bands I’ve ever seen live. They bridge country and rock ‘n’ roll in a way few bands can without ruining one or the other. Some might not think of big music venues and festivals like this one as something conducive to songwriting—that is, music that’s largely about the words—but “It’s Time to Switch to Whiskey” and “Bible on the Dash” had contextual attitude musically and lyrically, nearly bringing them into party anthem status for at least a night.
Haligonian harbingers of 90s indie rock, Sloan, followed Corb Lund in short order. The band, consisting now of 5 members, was the first mass appeal hit band to take the stage. Sloan does pride themselves, however, on not living in the past, constantly growing, evolving and making new material. Band members switched instruments, singers and songwriters constantly throughout the set. When I asked new keys player Gregory MacDonald about the balance, he replied, “Playing the new music is always the most exciting, for sure. But it’s also exciting when you get a charge out of the crowd for playing their favorite song. They’re both exciting. Boring answer, I know.”
Sloan often calls Halifax home, though the last member moved to Toronto by 1998. I asked Greg if he thinks moving to Toronto is still a necessary move for a musician.
“No, not at all. Especially now… everything’s online. You can make an impression anywhere. If it’s good someone’s going to hear it. I don’t think physically you need to be in Toronto. It was ’93 when Andrew moved to Toronto… I think it was for a girl. So the rest of the band was like ‘guess we gotta go’. I don’t think you need to be in a big city. I don’t think it hurts ‘cause there’s certainly a lot more people. But if you record a good song and put it on Youtube with a cool video, you’ve got nothing to worry about.”
As far as performances go, Kathleen Edwards took the cake. Kathleen is a powerhouse of sound and a hotrod of hurt. Hers was simultaneously one of the most intense and the most disarming performance I’ve ever seen out of a folk singer-songwriter. She was just the right amount of chatty between songs, never static, never boring. I had never heard her music, I knew of her and was dubious due to her connection to Bon Iver—who I’m not a fan of. She made a fan out of this skeptic immediately.
The first headliner of the night was Icelandic folk-pop group Of Monsters and Men. I assume they must have played well, the crowd was ecstatic. I was assured that they sounded exactly the way they do on the records.
I was miffed. I don’t get this new-folk thing. I don’t understand the appeal of the repetitive melodies, most of the lyrics relying on ooos and aaas, the general tameness. For one thing, the fifty-somethings in the audiences were just as hooked on their kick drum vibes as the sixteen year olds. I’ve never seen that before and I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable with that. The music was very… nice. It was nice music for nice people. I kept waiting for them to show a little guts, but there weren’t any. It’s a mystery to me. I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I’m too old to settle down the way their songs seemed to want me to. Again, if you like this band, then all signs indicate they played a hell of a set. But I can’t pretend to understand it.
At the end of the night, following DJing by CBC Radio 2’s Rich Terfry aka Buck 65, Jian Ghomeshi appeared to introduce the last band, full of “ra ra ra Toronto” and leather jacket zeal. The Sam Roberts Band followed with a set of mixed hits and forays into new material.
I’m 24 years old, and for people of my social circle—and other circles like it—Sam Roberts dropped out of the conversation—if they ever liked him at all—shortly after “We Were Born in a Flame” finished its rounds on heavy rotation radio. Well, I liked that record. I liked “Chemical City” for a while too. I stopped listening when “Them Kids” came out. The song had a great chorus, ideal sentiment for a so called rock ‘n’ roll song, but the verses were inescapably Coldplay sped up.
Regardless of where you stand on whether Sam Roberts is or was a decent artist, he played a terrific set. His band is one of the tightest bands in Canadian rock ‘n’ roll right now (except perhaps for Corb Lund & The Hurtin’ Albertans). His guitarist doesn’t play like any guitarists I’ve seen, something about watching his hands move was foreign to my experience. They didn’t play like a group of rich and famous songbirds taking their audience for granted. They played with an energy that’s often only found in new bands, trying to sway every single body in the room. They had a clear agenda to connect to as many people as they could, whether they were strangers to the new material or not. They struck me as a band that is still moving creatively. He does, as Jian Ghomeshi put it, come off as “the nicest guy in music”, though I suppose that shouldn’t really matter. But you can’t watch Sam Roberts and come away without the impression that the guy’s probably a good hang. They played about five of their hits from “We Were Born in a Flame” and “Chemical City” and packed the rest of the set with post 2011 material, including two tunes yet to be released.
There was nothing to indicate that the first CBC Music Festival did not go exactly as it had been planned. Whoever planned this shindig really knew how to throw together a bill. Nobody attending could have known all the bands on the bill, not even on the main stage, and that offers a kind of explorative element no decent festival should be without. If anybody’s listening to me, I’d recommend moving the festival to a date further into the Summer. I’d rather it be too hot during the day and nice in the evening than strikingly hot during the day and god damn freezing throughout the last two acts. But other than the powers that be making me shiver, the CBC has a great little shindig going on here. I’ll be there next year.
– Anthony Damiao
– Photo Credits: Emma Damiao
Precision. Mastery. Commanding. Romantic. Heavenly. Going to a Fred Hersch concert is experiencing those things and more. From seeing the way he approaches the material and the instrument to the sound he gets when playing a diverse set of repertoire, it was like experiencing an intense spiritual moment when coming from a church service.
Fred Hersch’s solo performance at the Enwave theatre began with a set of original compositions that showcase his influences, his inspirations, and his great sense of melodic and harmonic ideas that comes out of his writing and playing. He started out the night with his composition “Whirl”, which resembled a dancer whirling and twirling around the stage in a graceful manner. “Whirl” had echoes of Bach counterpoint in the writing and execution of the performance, plus the performance had a lot of life and vibrancy as it carried on. His classical influences continue in pieces such as “At the Close of the Day” and “Pastoral”, which showcase the poetic and lyrical side of Fred Hersch, which even channels the styling’s of Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett when approaching the material. One of my favourites of the original repertoire, “Dream of Monk”, showcase another influence, hence the title referring to the great pianist/composer Thelonious Monk. It was a swinging and a spirited take that fused elements of “Crepuscule with Nellie” and “Blue Bolivar Blues” yet it is a work that is completely original and reflected the spirit of Monk at the same time.
In addition to the great original compositions showcased in his recital, Hersch devoted the other set to interpretations and arrangements of standards and cover material. Among the highlights of his set was a spirited take on Cole Porter’s “You’re The Top”, a standard that hasn’t been done to death and should be explored more by jazz musicians; a slowed down ballad version of “The Song is You”, which shows off the beauty and the hidden nuances of the standard to create a very captivating and arresting performance that stirs the soul; and “Whisper Not” is a spirited, swinging take on a bebop classic in which Hersch was able to find new explorations and new melodic and harmonic possibilities within the standard.
Hersch’s piano playing, compositions, and choice of repertoire shows that he is a very captivating performer that provides an enriching experience for both himself and the audience. He treats the standards and cover materials with respect, and the original material could even pass for classical music since it had the precision, technique and mastery that comes from a classical composer. When he plays, all of the influences and inspirations come out in one unified, personal voice that does justice to the material at hand. Overall, I would say that Hersch’s solo piano concert is one of the most captivating performances in the festival and I hope he comes back again to repeat that magic to old and new fans alike.
− Conrad Gayle
There was no doubt about it. Just about the entire crowd at Fort York came out on a cool and overcast Saturday afternoon to see headliners Broken Social Scene play their first set in some two years. Now that’s not really a very long hiatus, but Torontonians love Broken Social Scene – so I suppose that’s enough to make the gig a big deal. A few handfuls of fans were in attendance just to see Feist play the day’s penultimate set. Field Trip’s 13 other bands? Simply the gravy of an impressive lineup of artists all signed to (or graduated from) the Arts & Crafts label.
The day started off with Gold & Youth playing the side stage to a lot of parents and kids who were listening while sitting and eating picnic-style to the band’s ’80s styled tunes. The Vancouver band drew mostly from last month's release, Beyond Wilderness.
For those who couldn’t wait to see Broken Social Scene, the Indie-super-group’s guitarist Jason Collett played the main stage at 1:30. The crowd loved every moment the performance, singing and clapping along to most of the brief set’s tunes.
Zeus came up next, unleashing thunderbolts upon the crowd – or at least it seemed that way compared to the rest of the Arts & Crafts bands who are slightly more tame than Zeus who dabble in the straight ahead classic definition of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Complete with harmonies and timeless Rock, Zeus would prove to be one of the days’ highlights. That’s just how they rock… and roll.
On the side stage, Trust played a set that begged the audience to dance. Though not many fans obliged the singer-songwriter (who performed with a masked pink-diaper-clad dancer to his left), Trust receives full credit for effort. Perhaps in the right venue (AGO’s First Thursdays?) he might be rewarded a better reception than polite applause.
Everyone knows who Hayden is. Or at least they know the musician’s name, if not a large sample of his work. With seven albums spanning 1996’s Everything I Long For and his 2013 Arts& Crafts debut, Us alone, Hayden’s a veteran Indie act and a consummate professional. Humble (to a fault?), Hayden was extremely thankful to be playing Field Trip and to share a stage with – what I will call, because Hayden never would – lesser acts. Though drawing mostly from Us Alone, Hayden played a few from his back catalogue and finished his set with “Dynamite Walls,” the major single from 2001’s Skyscraper National Park.
Timber Timbre brought their eerie style to Field Trip’s side stage. Though their sound doesn’t quite fit with the happy-go-lucky vibes of a sun-drenched afternoon at Fort York, they played well and to a large audience who swayed and bobbed their heads to the trio’s compelling rhythms. These guys are definitely suited for late nights and sparse light, but still, it was a solid set. Anyone else waiting eagerly for a follow up to 2011’s Creep On Creepin’ On?
During their set Stars dryly referred to Leslie Feist as “A talented young singer you may have heard of.” The Stars’ set was full of energy and the crowd was already packing in for Feist, up directly after Stars. The gracious and talented Feist deserved the massive crowd that that spilled over to the walkways and back towards the dozens of gourmet food trucks. Truly an international sensation, Feist still feels Canadian and genuine despite her success – her performance for the bustling ten-year anniversary of the label that launched her to stardom was a treat.
And finally. It was time for the beloved Broken Social Scene. And they did what they do best. Fill a stage with a massive amount of talent (quite literally, with every member present). Horns sections, rhythm sections, guitar sections, plenty of singing and plenty of guests, Broken Social Scene gave the crowd exactly what they wanted. Like it when a band plays with upwards of a dozen instruments at any one time? Then Broken Social Scene is for you. But then you already knew that.
Kudos to Arts & Crafts who put on a great festival. Now A&C says this was a one-off in celebration of their ten-year anniversary, but judging by the ample turnout, I venture to guess that we’ll be seeing something similar next year. Preferably with Timber Timbre playing new music… after the sun sets… on the main stage… with a lot of creepy lights.
– Joe Veroni
The Killers were always a band that I kept in the back of my mind. I have a few of their records and I liked them just fine, but yesterday’s show at the ACC in Toronto, really turned that on its head. I’ve never come away from a show after having been exposed to a band for so long and felt such a difference of opinion.
There was something alive and well in the room last night. The feeling was incredibly apparent, and it started from the moment The Killers walked on stage with the house lights still up and without introduction, and launched into a version of “Mr. Brightside.”
Brandon Flowers has always been a curious front man. Well dressed, well spoken, and he’s as eloquent on stage as he is in his lyrics: “We’re sorry we canceled on you Toronto, but you knew we were coming back didn’t you? We just needed more time to be better at Battle Born.” His delivery is totally innate.
Flowers is arguably one of the best front men I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing live, and it’s because there is such a genuine appeal to his performance. It’s the Mojave Dessert and heartache, and it’s the way he’s out there looking like he just scored the game winning goal. The guy really does have soul, and it’s so much bigger than the modest frame that houses him.
This band is about two things, capturing that sometimes sadness we feel when our hearts break and long for more, and the buildup, oh the buildup. When Flowers leans out into the crowd to throw a fist in the air, you feel the pressure change in the room, and you instinctively push back.
The Killers are a comfortable band, and a band that emanates their enjoyment. They did the crowd justice and played everything from “Somebody Told me” to “Runaways,” and even through in a rendition of “I Think We’re Alone Now” preempting it with: “Tiffany stole this one from Tommy James and the Shondells, and tonight we’re stealing it back.”
Those guys reignited a fire in my gut last night, and I’m happy to let it burn. At the end of the show they hugged and took a bow at center stage. It was as if they were being filmed for a farewell special, but I think there’s something to be said about a band that approaches everything with the kind of enthusiasm we tend to reserve for last.
– Juliette Jagger (Twitter @juliettejagger)JulietteJagger.com
On a nice Spring evening, I was invited to check out an intriguing Jazz trio at Toronto’s newest (and finest) Jazz club, the Jazz Bistro. The trio was lead by none other than Halifax’s own Peter Togni.
The evening consisted of Jazz interpretations of classical music, showing the effective bridge of the past, present and the future with its innovative and fresh re-imaginations of timeless pieces, along with contemporary Pop material as well.
Togni opened up his set with his take on “Bittersweet Symphony,” which is a Jazz version of the great Pop hit by The Verve. Here, it is taken at a pensive and reflective pace, embodying the classical influences that dominates the peace and putting it forth into a Jazz context.
The next tune, in which Togni calls it “Café Midnight,” is in essence the classic Prelude in C Minor by Frederic Chopin. This tune brought me to tears with its beautiful and haunting melody, which happens to be one of my favourite classical pieces (and one in which I have to learn to play on the piano). Then it is followed by a very ancient take on a Gregorian Chant piece, Ubi Caritas. On this piece we hear the great spirituality and the wonderful interplay between the trio members as they bring something new into an old piece.
For the remaining pieces, the trio is joined by none other than Juno award winning sax giant Mike Murley. Troll Time takes Edvard Grieg’s classic theme and turns it into straight ahead music that really swings and gets down hard.
Not only Peter Togni is a fine interpreter of classical music, he is also a fine composer. On “Waltz for Patricia,” dedicated to his wife, the melody is beautiful and the solos by both Togni and Murley bring a sense of romanticism into the piece.
The next two pieces are back in the classical vein, both Bach’s Prelude in C Major from the Well Tempered Clavier and Beethoven’s “Joyful Joyful Lord We Adore Thee.” Especially on “Joyful Joyful,” I heard the gospel church-like influences in the arrangement a la Keith Jarrett. The set closes with “Have You Ever Seen The Rain,” the classic Creedence Clearwater Revival hit.
Overall, it was a great night of fresh Jazz, beautiful music, and clever approaches to fuse classical traditions and music with the improvisational freedom that Jazz has to offer. Look out for this group in the future when they come into town next.
− Conrad Gayle
The shroud of darkness was broken by a soft blue light. It was becoming increasingly more intense, but not blinding. It was welcoming and within it a rising ambiance. Five silhouettes walked across the stage with purpose and determination. The crowd erupts with an absolute intensity that caught me off guard, completely.
We’re in a venue located in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. This is the middle of nowhere. This is a sleepy college town in the Pocono Mountains. The Sherman Theater is buzzing with energy, straight down to its tiniest molecule.
The hypnotic droning ambiance constructs “Buildings” (Dead End Kings, 2012), a beautiful and mesmerizing track full of intensity and atmosphere. Katatonia are masters at balancing these attributes with perfection. The song ends. The crowd explodes. We’re thrown directly into “Day & Then The Shade” (Night Is The New Day, 2009) without any type of banter or warning. Jonas Renkse thanks the crowd and points to Per Eriksson at his right; “This is my twin.” Per then begins strumming the intro to “My Twin” (The Great Cold Distance, 2006). This track pushes and pulls the crowd, like ocean waves slamming into the jagged cliff faces of New England. The atmosphere of the show changes towards the more enchanting and melancholic with “Teargas” (Last Fair Deal Gone Down, 2001) and “Racing Heart” (Dead End Kings). “Lethean” (Dead End Kings) quickly follows. Jonas’ voice is absolutely enchanting, with this track in particular fully showcasing his amazing vocal range. “Lethan” is also one of Katatonia’s tracks with the most synthetic atmosphere, composed mainly of strings and piano which are similar traits of “The Longest Year” (Night Is The New Day) which quickly and appropriately followed on the heels of “Lethean.”
“How cold is the flame of our uncompromising future?” asks “The Longest Year.” It’s one of those tracks that’s waiting for you after your worst moment – your hardest day, your most difficult month, your longest year. It embraces you and nestles deep inside your soul.
Katatonia has the crowd in the palms of their hands, like fragile little birds. The tone whips back around to the more aggressive and calculated. “July” (The Great Cold Distance) starts churning like vortex gaining speed and potency building with intervals of slabby guitar chugs and enchanting atmosphere. “Dead Letters” (Dead End Kings) completely reverses gravity, throwing all of us into outer space. This is the song that plays in your head when you’re alone and floating helplessly in an endless black void.
“Forsaker” (Night Is The New Day) is a total sucker punch. It creeps in unsuspectingly and then hits with a devastating blow. It has it’s beautifully composed strumming moments, but out of nowhere it just knocks you to the ground with absolute heaviness. The show is over. I’m obliterated like the ruins left from an Atom Bomb, but it’s at sunset and it’s so beautiful.
Katatonia were superb and absolutely flawless. They are a band that is actually better live than on a recording. Their sound is much more vast and oceanic when they perform on a stage. They are as tight as a machine, yet still sound organic when they need to relent. They are the perfect symbiosis of aggression and beauty. This was my second time seeing them perform. I’m ready for another Katatonia show.
– Dave Meredith
Toronto venue Sneaky Dee's had their floorboards shaking and creaking Saturday night − it literally felt like the whole mosh pit was going to break through to the first floor. Post-Punk and Pop-Punk bands Seahaven and Transit, along with newer, less known bands Young Statues and All Get Out hit Toronto on their tour, and they all killed it.
Sneak’s is a pretty small venue with a bar and menu full of great Mexican food on the first floor and a concert venue above on the second floor. They have an intentional graffiti decor and are located on the corner of College and Bathurst. Less than a hundred people showed up so if you made it to the venue around 15 minutes before doors opening, you would’ve definitely snagged a great spot right in front of the stage. No barricade, no security; if you had the audacity, you could touch the band members (or take some great photos - something I got a chance to do).
Onto the music. Young Statues started the show and played a great set. The members were all over the place – one of the guitarists went barefoot – and they really got the crowd as energetic as they were (well, close enough). All Get Out also played some great tunes and the members were clearly very passionate about what they were doing – the drummer even fell over a few times from playing so aggressively.
Seahaven were next up and that’s when the pit started to get crazy and the crowd surfers started to make their presence known. They played a bunch of fan favourites and the lead (Kyle Soto) was acting a bit tipsy. Quoting from fans meeting him after the set, he was apparently smashed. The drummer (Eric Findlay), however, didn’t make it past borders, I’m assuming, and the drummer for Transit (Daniel Frazier) took over.
Tour headliners Transit played the final set and the crowd went insane. The lead vocalist (Joe Boynton) was all smiley and happy to be playing as well as the other members. Some stage divers surfaced and it was a great set that kept the moshing going until the last song.
The whole show was amazing and I’ve never been this content with a concert before.
In a nutshell, great music and great people on May 11th at Sneaky Dee’s. And bring earplugs if you’re planning on hiding under the speaker to take some shots.
− Emily Fin
On a warm and clear May evening I had the pleasure of catching Generationals and Brass Bed at the Garrison. This show was somewhat monumental in that it was both bands’ first time playing Toronto. The faces in the crowd were diverse; some older, some younger, but all ready to hear some tunes.
The night started off with Brass Bed; the group walked on stage and started their set without a word. From the atmospheric, swirling start of the first song, “Cold Chicory,” the band exuded a quirky energy, animatedly twitching and teetering as the momentum built. As the band smoothly transitioned into the rhythmic “Please Don’t Go” and “How To Live In A Bad Dream,” the semi-packed room swayed and shuffled, but remained a bit standoffish. This was not totally unexpected, as much of the audience didn’t seem to be familiar with the band, later asking who they were and where they were from. Frontman Christiaan Mader handled the good-natured heckling well, stating that the band was “pleased as punch” to be there and gradually winning the crowd over with a bit of Southern charm. The set continued with mostly new songs off the band’s latest record, The Secret Will Keep You, such as “I’ll Be There With Bells On” and “I Guess I’ll Just Sing,” with a few older songs peppered here and there. The songs packed a punch live; the feedback-ridden guitars were shredding, the synths were shimmering and the vocals were on point. The set ended with the heavy “A Bullet For You,” and Brass Bed left just as quickly as they came.
As Generationals began setting up their gear the crowd thickened and began to edge towards the stage. Right when the band started playing, the crowd seemed to snap out of its daze and people began dancing. “Put A Light On” really got the crowd going, and the band fed off of the audience’s energy, and vice versa. On their new record, Heza, Generationals has a cool calmness to it; this same energy translates to the live performance. Although the band’s vocals remained placid and composed, members Ted Joyner and Grant Widmer lightly hopped and bopped around the stage, an endearing sight to say the least. Towards the back of the stage there was a bit of a light show going; flashing strobes and blinking rope lights danced to the rhythms of the songs. The crowd’s enthusiasm grew as the set, which was a mixture of songs both old and new, progressed. The songs translated well to a live setting; glittery jittery synths soared and the high-voltage guitars electrified. As the band broke into “Spinoza,” the crowd continued to jive some more. A few songs later and the set was over; the crowd, however, was not ready to let the band get away so easily. After some demand, Generationals came back on stage and played an encore, which is always a good sign. If the people in the audience seemed pumped before, it was nothing compared to how into it they got during the encore. “You Got Me” had the crowd swaying to the beat, and the room erupted when Generationals began to play “Yours Forever,” obviously a crowd favourite. A few more songs went by, and Generationals bid adieu to the Garrison.
Overall a solid way to spend an evening, I hope to see both bands back in town in the future.
− Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky (Twitter @marisodo)
Trust, the dark electronic music duo consisting of singer/songwriter Robert Alfons and Austra drummer Maya Postepski, released their debut full-length album,TRST, on February 28 2012. I was fortunate to catch their live performance at Brillobox in Pittsburgh on March 19.
The average-sized upstairs room was packed with fans eager to hear the bands translation of the record to the live format. The stage setup was very simple. The live band consisted of Robert on vocals , Maya on drums, and a third member on keyboard, with not much more than a few lights and a fog machine pumping out fog so thick you could only see Robert clutching on the microphone stand and dancing to the exceptional music coming from the club sound system. This was clearly to cover up for the lack of equipment and elaborate lighting or video projections.
This, however, was just fine for me. The songs, sound quality and the energy of Robert Alfons is what appealed to me most. The band played each song from the debut album, resulting in a set that was about an hour long. Future live performances are sure to extend as the band writes more material.
Bulbform, Chrissy E. and Sulk were standout songs, punching through the thick fog and driving the crowd with precise drumming, thick driving bass and a very energetic and on-the-spot vocal performance. Robert describes himself as a shy person but his on-stage presence is anything but shy. Although he didn’t engage the audience directly, he was clearly enjoying himself. The crowd was driven by his energy and total immersion into the music, causing me to spill a drink or two on myself after being bumped into by several dancers. This was a good thing.
Robert has said that in the future he will write Trust material with the live stage in mind, so I’m very eager to hear their next release and see them on their next tour. If they can move me like they did with this live performance, I can only imagine how they will sound with new material written specifically for the stage.
- Rob Early
I’ve always thought of Johnny Marr the way I think of Mick Jones, as a revered writer and collaborator who’s never been prolific, or confident enough, to tolerate the sustained spotlight of being a front man. However, with the release of this year’s The Messenger, Marr has been changing many minds, including mine. It’s a record that combines many of the styles and influences you’d expect, but also showcases a more-assured Marr taking his musical legacy by the throat and dragging it further around the map than most expected. However, I was still slightly skeptical, knowing the extent that I’ve seen turds polished in a modern studio, about how true the album is to Marr’s live performances.
Live Marr was even better. Opening with “The Right Thing Right”, (The Messenger) the vocals were deservedly front and centre, and showcased a swagger that might’ve surprised some still pining over The Smiths. However, Marr quickly won over those fans, following it with “Stop Me If You Think That You’ve Heard This One Before”, (Strangeways, Here We Come, 1987) allowing his own voice to give the song a little more punch.
Marr proceeded to play nearly all of The Messenger, a healthy mitt-full of The Smiths’ songs, as well as touching on other projects like Electronic. I’m sure a portion of the audience was grateful that Marr is so gifted at mimicking Morrisey’s vocals, especially on songs like “Big Mouth Strikes Again”, and “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out”. But I preferred when he allowed his own voice to leak through, balancing the yearning with a little testosterone.
Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew joined the band for an encore of The Clash’s cover “I Fought The Law”, which was easily the most animated reaction from the crowd. But equally heartening was seeing that new songs like “I Want The Heartbeat”, “Generate! Generate!” and “Upstarts” received as warm a reception as several of The Smiths songs, including closer “How Soon Is Now?” (Meat Is Murder, 1985).
With a career as extensive and influential as Marr’s, and the audience inevitably split between a fine new record and nostalgia, you can’t help think of the old adage “You can’t please everyone”. However on this night, Marr proved it wrong.
– Jeff Vasey Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffVasey1
The Black Angels and their psychedelic mystical experience descended on the Danforth Music Hall, on Saturday, April 13th, 2013. They were joined by a lovely reincarnation of the Kinks, Allah-las, and Montreal-based psychedelic Hindie Rock band, Elephant Stone.
The crowd was sparse when Elephant Stone took the stage promptly at eight o’clock. There was confusion and delay however, as the band performed what seemed like a last minute sound check. Rishi Dhir, the founder and spiritual engine of the band, would later reveal that closing down Toronto's Don Valley Parkway on a Saturday night is a good way to invite havoc and make the heart race faster.
It didn't take long for the band to win over the crowd, and there was a particularly warm reaction when Rishi Dhir sat down and played the Sitar. The fans were fascinated and inched a little closer to the stage in an effort to see more clearly during a very dimly lit set.
Musically, Elephant Stone managed to match the energy and diversity of their self-titled record which they released earlier this year.
Allah-las took the stage, ready to play at eight forty-five, but the house music would not subside and they were not allowed to play. After sorting out the confusion, Miles Michaud, the lead singer of the quartet, informed the crowd that they would be back in fifteen minutes to play their set.
A few more beers were had and a few more bodies filled the venue. It was a younger, mostly thirty-something crowd, with a few Ramones and Doors shirt peppered throughout. Miles Michaud, informed the audience that it was nice to be finally back in Toronto, and it was fitting to see Spencer Dunham, the bass player, sport a Neil Young t-shirt.
Allah-las proved to be a very nice addition to the lineup, providing a gentler acoustically driven performance, in contrast to the loud psychedelic sounds which were to follow.
The Black Angels took the stage close to nine-thirty and were welcomed by what felt like a capacity crowd. The smell of the mind transforming herb waffled through the air and warmed up the audience before the set. It was very easy to see the puffs of smoke throughout the venue, as they slowly rose, and were lit by the continuous wave of kaleidoscope lights, projected towards the dark stage during the entire performance.
The Black Angels were all business. There was no time for the usual interaction or banter with the audience. They came out to play and they didn’t stop. Only once did Alex Maas, lead vocals, engage the audience, and that was to personally thank Elephant Stone and Allah-las for being on tour.
The vocals were very distorted and undistinguishable. It is as though they were overwhelmed by the power of the music, which was very uncharacteristic of The Black Angels studio recordings. It is hard to say if this was done on purpose or if this was a problem with the quality of the venue. However, it all worked somehow.
Besides the great energy and visual performance, what stood out the most was the tireless effort on the drums by Stephanie Bailey. She is an unbelievably gifted drummer and it was a treat to watch how work tirelessly and she kept the reigns what would prove to be a great musical performance.
– Greg Kieszkowski (Twitter @GregK72)
– Photo Credits: Greg Kieszkowski
In support of their newly released self-titled EP, Alternative rockers Rebel Hero played to a packed house at The Hideout, a small, but lively outlet on Toronto's Queen Street West. They were supported by fellow Indie players Breached, Reed Effect and The Unchained.
The music was in full swing by the time I arrived. Rebel Hero was still to come, giving me a chance to meet the band consisting of frontman Tyson Froese, who also handles guitar, bassist Justin Faragher (who also plays in Desire, a U2 tribute band) and Tom Paulovitz on drums. I chatted a bit with Froese who was welcoming and very friendly. Froese grew up with music; his father was the guitar player for the classic Canadian rock band Chilliwack, for which Froese had played their 40th anniversary party, as well as playing with his previous band Waxmen before branching out with his own projects.
While everyone eagerly anticipated Rebel Hero’s arrival, a series of '80s classics came on after the previous bands finished their set. I got into it as I love the music of that decade. At last, it was Rebel Hero's turn to perform and they were immediately showered with a warm and enthusiastic welcome. Under the bright coloured stage lights several songs were covered including those from their six-song EP, which was produced by Mike Turner of Our Lady Peace. From the opening song, “Broken System,” and forward, most of the crowd was up and moving to the music. A group of friends who huddled in the middle of the floor really got into it shaking and 'getting down' together. The band are just as amazing live as on the disc, and Froese shows vocal diversity – going from exuding power on the driving Rock hook of "Superstar Junkie" to the sensitive delivery on the mellow and heartfelt "Live Forever," while "Wrapped Around a Finger" is catchy.
Froese thanked the crowd, with special shout-outs going out to family (even his mom was in attendance which was so sweet), and friends before launching into a wicked "Blues jam" instrumental session. During the song "Give it Up," from the EP, Froese encouraged everyone to give a show of hands, to which all hands shot up in the air, and voices began singing in unison.
Later in the set, the band did a stunning cover of the Stone Temple Pilots' track "Vasoline," and the fans went nuts! Don, the band’s manger handed out free business card-shaped USBs, an innovative device containing access to music, band information and videos to the eager crowd.
After attending their awesome performance and getting into their sound, I must say this is a band that I see going places. Check them out.
– Charmaine Elizabeth Merchant (Facebook @charmaineelizabeth.merchant)
A funny thing happened on the way to Bajofondo’s Boston gig. After getting stuck in traffic on Storrow Drive, they contended with some technical snafus during their soundcheck that delayed the doors from opening. When the band finally made it to the stage an hour late, the audience had grown both anticipatory and restless. Fortunately, Bajofondo’s high-spirited opening number was enough to make the audience forget about the long wait.
Their opening number, “Codigo de Barra,” emphasized their strengths as a band. Bandoneon player Martin Ferris and violinist Javier Casala engaged in a musical duel at the lip of the stage, in which one would begin playing a musical phrase and the other would complete it. At breaks in the song, musical polymath Juan Campodonico rose from a crouching position at the back of the stage and conducted the band members with the neck of his guitar. The complex web of melody and arrangement suggested that Bajofondo had drawn as much on Eastern European music that was inspired by tango as on the musical traditions of the Rio de la Plata from whence the band members came. Drummer Adrian Sosa impeccably played the syncopated hi-hat/floor tom dance beats that sounded so perfect on the record.
If Bajofondo’s albums sound like scores to the greatest movies never made, their live show has a more theatrical feel. Grainy video footage of the Lumiere Brothers’ early film experiments was projected onto a red curtain that hung behind the band. Front and center, Casala and Ferris’s antics and shabby chic appearance suggested a pair of extras from The Brothers Bloom who had wandered onstage and started a band. To the right of these dueling musicians, Bajofondo cofounder Gustavo Santolalla observed his protégés’ performance with a wry grin. The legendary producer and sideman curled out elegant guitar lines with the ease of a shrug, and his irrepressible energy and jumping dance moves made him an endearing onstage presence.
The band brought the expansive sound that’s made their album, Presente, an addictive listen – if one were to close her eyes during the show, she’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the band’s live performance and recorded output. Rumors on the internet suggested that Campodonico’s solo hit “La Marcha Tropical” had been added into the setlist, which would have been a sight to behold. Unfortunately, the vagaries of day jobs and public transportation prevented me from making it to the encores. With the success of Presente, one can only hope that Bajofondo will grace us again with their presence.
Local band Atlas Soul opened the show with a set of expansive Funk jams and an international feel. The offbeat rhythms and thick bass carried with it an Afro-Cuban sound, and Anwar Souini Magreb sang in an open-throated singing style that suggested his Moroccan background. Saxophonist Jacques Pardo’s call-and-response vocals gave their sound a bit of levity. I look forward to seeing Atlas Soul play one of their frequent headlining shows in these parts.
− Chelsea Girl Spear (Twitter @two_ontheaisle)
Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma of the German electronic music duo Mouse On Mars are well known for their quirky and otherworldly electronic sound. Formed in 1993, they have lasted longer than many other music groups of their kind. The duo released Parastrophics, their first studio album in six years, in February 2012. They followed this inventive and critically well-received album with the release of WOW near the end of 2012. These two albums, much like their prior catalog, screams studio prowess. Naturally I was eager to find out how they translated to the live stage.
Performing at U Street Music hall in Washington D.C, the duo’s setup consisted of a table for two with various electronics and computers; much like a DJ would use but with far more wires and without turntables. On each end of the table was an approximately two-foot square panel that was used to catch and bring forward pieces of the video display that was mostly projected on and behind them. It was a simple and portable setup that was quite effective at visually communicating the vibe of the music.
I was not surprised to see a lack of keyboard-based synthesizers due to the nature of their sound, but I was quite pleased that they actually did perform their music live as much as they could, arranging the tracks, triggering samples, manipulating vocals and sounds all in real-time. The live performance aspect was alive and it was genuine. I sat in awe wondering how they were able to remember every cue, every knob assignment and every sample map recreating their songs to remix-type of perfection. If they missed a beat, I didn’t hear it.
Andi and Jan both were intensely focused on the job in front of them and they were still able to pull off a likable stage presence. They were quite animated, bouncing their heads along with each track and following the musical intensity while occasionally looking out at the crowd with the smiles of two musicians clearly enjoying themselves. This projection of confidence and comfort helped the medium-sized crowd to let go and enjoy themselves as well.
I had a chance to speak briefly with Jan after the show. The band was heading to New York City to catch a flight back to Europe the next morning but still found time for some small talk while disconnecting all their gear after the club cleared out for the evening. It’s nice to see such an accomplished band handle their own gear rather than employing a tech to do it for them.
If you have a chance to see Mouse On Mars live, do not hesitate. A couple that attended the show traveled all the way from Arkansas to witness these two musicians at work and they were not disappointed. In fact, they said they would do it again. I think that speaks volumes.
− Rob Early
On a stormy February evening I decided to catch the last of the two shows held by the Jason Marsalis Vibes Quartet. The show was coming on the heels of the release of their debut album, In a World Of Mallets. Known as a drummer and the youngest of the famed Marsalis clan, Jason Marsalis showed himself through his quartet as an inventive, creative vibraphone stylist and composer in the likes of Gary Burton, Milt Jackson and Bobby Hutcherson.
Through the two opening compositions, “Blues Can Be Abstract Too” and “Ballet Class,” Marsalis illustrates the importance of knowing and respecting the roots of Jazz music and referring upon them to create fresh new expressions in Jazz. “Blues Can Be Abstract Too” is a straight swinging Blues number with a head passage that does not follow the conventional Blues structure to keep it fresh and on the listener’s toes. “Ballet Class” is Marsalis’ homage and to the classical tradition, evoking the essence of an Astor Piazzola Tango groove into the piece and interpolating the melody of chopsticks during a solo passage. In the opening remarks Jason states that “Classical music has rhythm,” and he proved it by performing an exciting piece.
After a mellow ballad feature on the “Characters” piece (featuring a moving bass solo by Will Goble), Jason and the quartet get back into the Blues with another number, “Blues for the 29%er.” What’s amazing about this piece is that the rhythm section, consisting of pianist Austin Johnson (who provides an intense solo here), bassist Will Goble and drummer David Potter, employ the stop-and-go rhythm effects made popular by the ’60s Miles Davis Quintet. They would play fast, slow down, and play around with the time,making it another unconventional yet fresh way to play a Blues number.
The quartet took a break from the original repertoire opting to play two songs paying respect to the quintessential vibraphone quartet, the Modern Jazz Quartet. Using the Modern Jazz Quartet’s arrangement of the standard “Softly, As in a Morning Sunrise,” they would swing and do a straightforward interpretation of the tune before breaking into a funk interlude and a drum solo by Dave Potter. After the drum solo it’s back to the high octane bebop for a lesser known John Lewis composition, “Travellin’.” Even in the “Travellin’” piece the rhythm section echoes another well-known rhythm section – that of the John Coltrane Quartet.
Closing the set is a ballad paying homage to Jason Marsalis’ hometown, simply called “New Orleans.” It’s a very emotional, pensive, and mellow way to close a set of cool Jazz.
Overall, it was a great night of straight ahead, swinging Jazz from start to finish. I even managed to have a long conversation with Jason Marsalis during the break and he was very knowledgeable and serious about preserving musical traditions and not throwing them out the window for the sake of innovation, which I respect. Not only was he serious, but he was fun to talk to at the same time. When Jason Marsalis comes to your town, be sure to check out this new quartet.
– Conrad Gayle
ZZ Ward (Zsuzsanna Eva Ward) performed an outstanding show anticipated by hundreds of people on Feb. 28 at the Virgin Mobile Mod Club in Toronto. Martin Harley opened the show and had the crowd entertained – but the audience was left anticipating ZZ Ward.
The entire bar, from the front of the stage to the merchandise tables, were crowded with people ready to show their undying love for ZZ and her band when at approximately 8:00pm, the stage lit up and the show was ready to go.
Beginning to end, this was an amazing concert and drew in quite the mixed crowd. Everyone from college students to an older generation came out to show their appreciation of the Hip-Hop, Blues, Jazz vocalist ensemble.
Ward was sporting a black fedora hat, a long and baggy black and white dress shirt with black pants and boots, and messy curly hair with a classy Jazz-like/hipster edge that matched her music. The multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter strummed her guitar flawlessly and also played the harmonica for a few songs.
She opened with “Till the Casket Drops,” and the entire crowd was already in awe. “Home” followed with ZZ really proving her vocal talents, mesmerizing the audience (not to mention the venue’s staff). Other songs including “Save My Life,” “Charlie Ain’t Home” and a few cover songs. Several shout outs to her band and a few songs later, ZZ Ward played her biggest hit, “Put the Gun Down.” Almost everyone in the crowd could be found singing along, stomping, smiling from ear to ear as they looked on at the stage, full of energy and passion.
Around 9:20pm ZZ Ward and company took a break, giving way to the Folk-rock band Delta Rae, who were ready to keep the crowd going. Comprised of two female singers, two male singers, a drummer, and a bassist, Delta Rae kept the crowd energized. Definitely a band you want to catch live.
ZZ Ward showcased her talents and couldn’t have done a better performance. This was a live performance that was definitely worth seeing.
– Jaii Bhamra (Twitter @jaiikbhamra)
On the 10th of February, Of Mice & Men and their tour buddies played for Toronto at Sound Academy. They were joined by Woe, Is Me, Texas In July, Capture The Crown and Volumes – all of whom sit prominently in the Punk/Hardcore music scene.
Capture The Crown were first up and I felt like I’ve heard them before. Another Metalcore band trying to imitate Asking Alexandria. Or maybe I should just stick to listening to Pop-punk? Either way, I was glad they only had a 30 minute set. Volumes were up next. I didn’t even know that they were on this tour, but they were alright. More Metalcore – nothing special. Texas In July had some pretty crazy breakdowns and had some originality to them. At least they inspired more headbanging than the bands before. I was never a huge fan of Woe, Is Me and the whole scandal with Tyler Carter and a few other members kind of kept me away from listening (and getting depressed from the inability of seeing the original WIM live). They were pretty decent, and the crowd made it clear that they were at Sound Academy for them (and OM&M). Woe, Is Me even went over their 30 minute time limit and were cut off in the middle of their last song. They were just as pissed as the crowd was.
Of Mice & Men, of course, headlined. The band was great and Austin (screaming vocals) was energetic and talkative. Live shows are great with heavy instrumentals and added sense of hardcore that make difficult to avoid headbanging. OM&M really brought it. Even the new singer (original singer, Shayley, left the band some time) pulled the vocals off, though they were a bit higher than Shay. The set flew by and all the fan-favourites were played. OM&M finished with double encore – you could tell that they were truly grateful for their fans.
For active concert-goers in the Toronto area, you already know what a nightmare it is leaving Sound Academy after a show. The parking lot is somewhat of a round-about near the docks of Lakeshore and has only one lane. You’re literally crawling through traffic, following every single car to get out. And make sure you don’t hit the ignorant jay-walking teenagers!
On a personal note to the Toronto “Punk Scene” (the guys who attend Warped Tour), you’re making me disappointed and you’re giving people like me a bad rep. There have been far too many incidents where people are being flat out rude and just acting like a bunch of morons. You need to learn concert etiquette, okay? Thank you.
– Emily Fin Follow Emily on Twitter @RomaniRanch
On January 20th, my friend and I decided to take in the first of three CD Release concerts put on by pianist Ron Davis to celebrate his new album, Blue Modules. The concert and record is a jazzy and funky sonic ride of original and popular arrangements aimed to widen the language of Jazz and broaden its appeal to reach new audiences.
The night starts off with a funky original piece called “Pawpwalk.” Throughout the performance there is a soulful vibe propelled by Davis’ soaring piano solo. Even great solo turns are taken by guitarist Kevin Barrett, bassist Ross Macintyre and drummer Roger Trevassos. It effectively sets up the pace for a really funky evening of gender bending Jazz and transformation of such repertoire into progressive Jazz improvisation.
Throughout the night the band transforms everything from Stevie Wonder (“Living for the City”), John Lennon (“Imagine”), Bill Withers (“Grandmas Hands”) and even children’s tunes (The Muppets’ “Mahna Mahna” and “The Amazing Spiderman”) to entertaining, thought-provoking Jazz music. For instance, “Living for the City” is given a Waltz treatment; “Imagine” is treated like a spaced out Funk number propelled with a great beginning section by guitarist Kevin Barrett, while both “Mahna Mahna” and “The Amazing Spiderman” are transformed as if we were in the Caribbean, with its Calypso and Reggae feels respectively.
One of my favourite tunes of the night did not come from an arrangement of a Pop song or an original tune, but from a liturgical Jewish piece transformed as a pensive ballad called the “V’Shamroo.” It has a very beautiful, mellow melody that easily works itself into a Jazz format.
To close off the night, Ron Davis goes back to the islands with his Calypso number “Thomachonga,” which is a great playful take on Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas.”
With the release of Blue Modules, Ron Davis and his group showed the audience that with Jazz, there are no boundaries as to where music can go. Anything can be transformed into Jazz, making it sound good and refreshing at the same time. This performance illustrates that Jazz is the real World music, by borrowing elements from the Carribbean, American, and European influences and fusing them into a highly enriching cultural ride. All in all, a great night with a great band from start to finish.
– Conrad Gayle
I remember the day I bought Watch Out! (2004), I think I was probably 16. I picked it up at a mall I had never been to, and while walking down the street in my neighborhood a few hours later, someone yelled “fucking Avril” at me our their car window as they drove by. In retrospect, that’s pretty funny, but at the time I was pissed ‘cause as far as I was concerned the Dickies pants I was wearing half way down my ass was a look that I came up with.
Sometimes you get sick of watching a band play live, but I’ve probably seen Alexisonfire eight or nine times over the years. They were just one of my go-to bands in high school, a fixture of the Toronto scene. I think growing up I just assumed that being able to so closely watch a band come into their own was a normal thing people did, and I had that experience with a few bands that came out of this city – but it’s not.
Last night’s show at the Sound Academy was pretty wild. It was the third of four sold out Toronto dates on their Farewell Tour, and from up above, looking over top of that crowd, it was exactly like I remember it. I haven’t been to a show like that in ages; everyone was so willing to go balls-out for this band, you could feel it in the room, people came ready to just fucking give it one last time.
I actually saw security fight to ravage some guy over the barricade and absolutely fail because he was hanging on for dear life. I love that. That’s what this shit is about.
Last night, everyone showed up to go hard and see this band off, and it was great. It’s really nice to see that people are still willing to pay good money to be at a Rock a show. “This has been the best fucking one,” Wade announced before leaving the stage. Whether or not that was true, it was a reminder that we are all necessary to the experience. That the appeal and the electricity that hooked you as a teenager in the first place is now dependent on every single person in the room.
Yesterday I was thinking that as a kid you have this impression that guys who play in bands are untouchable people. You buy the music ‘cause it’s louder than your thoughts are, you go to the shows ‘cause you get close enough to react to their energy, you pay 50 dollars for a cheaply made hoodie because you’re proud to wear the band’s name across your chest, and you get on board for the ride ‘cause that’s more than enough to get you through.
Then one day you’re there again. Nostalgic as hell but thankful for the memories, and naturally you come to realize that they’ve always been regular people, they just had a really great run.
– Juliette Jagger (Twitter @juliettejagger)
Local stylishly-dressed heavy Alternative rockers on the rise, Waxmen, returned to the cozy, red velvet-walled, Victorian-themed atmosphere of Cherry Cola’s Rock n Rolla Cabaret and Lounge for their fourth annual “Wreck the Halls” Bash. “Wreck the Halls” is a benefit concert for Royal’s step-brother Scott, who was diagnosed earlier this year with pancreatic cancer. All proceeds from the concert went to the Pancreatic Cancer Canada Foundation, and the band has also set up a donation page which you can take a look at here.
After seeing the talented trio (vocalist James Stefanuk, who also handles bass; Bear Zak on guitar; and drummer Shawn Royal) rock out a few months back at the Toronto Independent Music Awards, I knew I would be in for an amazing show.
The Reed Effect kicked things off and included an excellent cover version of Hole’s “Violet” in their set.
I had the chance to meet all three Waxmen members before their set and they are the nicest group of guys. By the time the boys were ready to take over the stage the house was packed, and still more people were trying to get in! I had brought my friend along (after raving about this band that she just has to see), and eventually we had to leave our table to get closer so we wouldn’t miss anything.
The band was in excellent form. Propelled by Stefanuk’s richly deep, throaty delivery (Stone Temple Pilots comes to mind) of several songs including such highlights as “Soldier Girl,” “Better Off” with its roaring drum beats and slinky bass/guitar hooks, the slow Rock trip of “Cannon Ball,” from their debut Eleven, as well as tracks from their hot new EP Shadow, for which the video for title track is available for your viewing pleasure here.
With the lively playing of their instruments, and their bopping to the music, the boys really know how to engage an audience and the crowd loved it – myself included. Everyone was singing along and shaking to the beats, especially when “Shadow” and “Bad Dream” (another great track from the new EP) were performed. A couple of times Stefanuk even talked to the crowd, encouraging everyone to blast out an emphatic “FUCK YOU!” to cancer. Donations were encouraged, as well as sweet offerings of cookies and cupcakes for sale. The night was also special for the band as it was a dear friend’s birthday.
Overall, a fantastic show and their songs stay with you for a long time afterwards. Waxmen deserve mainstream success as they have a sound that is catchy, lyrics that are meaningful and they know how to develop a rapport with their audience.
– Charmaine Elizabeth Merchant (Facebook @charmaineelizabeth.merchant)
I never thought I would see a band as superbly talented as Trent Severn in a small environment like the Dakota Tavern in downtown Toronto. The words “mesmerizing”, “phenomenal”, “transcendent,” and “exceptional,” came to mind after seeing the trio stop the entire audience dead in their tracks during every song. The show was simply unforgettable. It's no surprise that this band stands out from the pack with a star-studded cast that includes Emm Gryner and Dayna Manning, both highly celebrated Canadian artists with major league resumes. The third member of the band, Laura C. Bates, is a young musical prodigy who’s quickly earning a name for herself in the music biz as a first rate fiddle player and singer. Laura managed to land a spot in the band after working with Dayna on past tours, and was an obvious choice with her level of talent.
On stage, the band sounded just as good as their amazing debut CD. It’s been quoted; “their debut release sounds like a greatest hits record,”and I can’t disagree with that statement. The ladies perform with passion and they are all business when they hit the stage. With a combined 30 plus years of stage experience between the three of them, it’s no surprise why they are playing at such an elite level.
When TS ripped into the song “Freedom” they completely blew the roof off with the chorus’ 3-part power harmony, keeping the audience locked in to the performance. During slower and moodier tunes, Laura C. Bates created huge atmospheric sounds with her electric fiddle, making for an amazing live sound that would fit well as a soundtrack to the TV show Deadwood. Dayna Manning’s vocals and guitar skills are reminiscent of a young Joni Mitchell with perfect finger-picking techniques and a voice that seems to have no bounds; she also plays a mean banjo. A few chuckles were had when Emm shared a story about her mother who once kissed former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, influencing the song “Mulroney Times”. The girls were all smiles and had fantastic chemistry on stage and it flowed through the room. For fans of female folk music it would be simply criminal not to see them live while they are in their prime and currently touring.
In a brief interview with the girls I was able to dig a little deeper about their background, songwriting process and intentions for the future.
Spill: Who originally came up with the idea of getting TS together?
Emm Gryner: I originally had an idea to produce and all female folk band and wasn't even sure if I would be involved as a performer, initially. Since Dayna and I had a musical history together I figured I would give it a shot to see how we all sounded together, and it worked well.
Spill: Laura how did you get involved with TS?
Laura C. Bates: I had done gigs with Dayna and she asked me if I wanted to be involved and naturally I was. We have a family history together, Dayna used to babysit me when I was a kid and would play music when she was over, so we hit it off from an early age.
Spill: What about family musical backgrounds? Are any of your parents musical? Please tell me about how you all got into music.
Mr. Bates (Laura's dad and tour van driver): We took our kids to southern Ontario folk festivals from the time they were born and sure enough Laura started asking to play the fiddle by the age of 4 or 5 and that when things started. As parents we did not play music.
Emm Gryner: My brother’s a musician and producer, my grandmother actually played piano with one of the prime ministers way back. My father’s a Jazz guy and he tried to push me into that, but I rejected.
Dayna: My parents both played music and we have a very musical family so my transition was natural. My father is a music teacher at a high school in Stratford. He eventually introduced guitar to the curriculum and we both learned to play together.
Spill: What future plans lay ahead for TS at this point?
Dayna: Our plans are simply to hit up the 200 to 400 seat theatres around Canada and get to know our audience off stage. After 10 years in the business, I find I get more satisfaction out of playing live and meeting someone who just bought our CD off stage than anything else really. We want to play as many shows as we can and connect to as many people as we can.
A band like Trent Severn is a rarity to say the least. I would say a powerhouse like this comes around once a decade if you're lucky and now, with a slight resurgence of the Laurel Canyon sound of the late 60’s and 70’s Folk Pop, these ladies are at the right place at the right time. This band deserved a shot and undoubtedly has the talent to rise as the undisputed best female fronted act in Canada and could reach a status of greats such as Allison Kraus, Dixie Chicks and Joni Mitchell.
– Andre Skinner Follow Andre on Twitter @andreskinner
On a cool Tuesday night, I headed down to the Glenn Gould Studio to catch a taste of Italian music and culture from a music project known as Espresso Manifesto. Headed by vocalist Daniella Nardi, it is a project that specializes in the contemporary repertoire of singer/songwriter Paolo Conte, a big name in Italian music of the later 20th century.
In addition to the repertoire selected for the evening, much attention should be paid to the backup band that was employed for the evening. In addition to a core rhythm section of piano, guitar bass and drums, there was the folksy clarinet and accordion added to the band. Not only that, Daniella brought with her a very special guest from Italy to add some spice to the band, trumpet player Fabrizio Bosso. His solos were very fiery, full of pep and zest, bringing a jazzier aspect to the music along with the rest of the supporting crew.
The music in this presentation was very poetic, romantic, and beautiful at the same time, satisfying those who both understand Italian and those who appreciate good world music. Ranging from the opening number “Azzuro”, with its fast dancy grooves, the reggae rhythms of “Genova Par Noi”, the sweet melancholy of “Don’t Break My Heart” and the folksy strut of “Via Con Me”, I was transported to a new and exciting world of music that fuses the worlds of Jazz, Italian, and other world rhythms into a very cohesive and unified whole. Probably the most exciting track was an instrumental composition by Ron Davis called “Pawpwalk”, which gave the backup band a chance to stretch out and have a good funky time with the music at hand, with groovy solos by pianist/composer Davis, guitarist Kevin Barrett and trumpeter Fabrizio Bozzo.
For me, it was a great break off the usual beaten path of Jazz and instead was being treated to the sounds of Italy by a stellar project that strives to educate the wide array of Italian culture. I feel that in this presentation, I was exposed to new music that I hope would be broadcast more in the future so that all may know who Paolo Conte is and at the same time be exposed to Italian music that is not just necessarily consist of operatic arias.
– Conrad Gayle
Riff Raff signed a deal with Diplo’s Mad Decent record label this year and made his name one to remember. If you don’t know who he is, Jody (Highroller) Christian has several YouTube videos of his Rap game and “swag cheffing,” and was a contestant on MTV’s G’s To Gents in 2009.
Riff Raff drew in a lot of… riff raff at his recent Toronto show; a show which didn’t meet expectations. Finally around 11:35 p.m., The Hoxton was rammed from front to back with a mosh pit, and Riff Raff’s DJ was tagged along by maybe two-dozen people who looked like grungy Riff Raff endorsers and fans. Followed by this was Riff Raff’s entrance. During what felt like a 30-minute set, Riff Raff’s performance included songs like “Terror Wrist,” “Deion Sandals,” “Jenny Craig,” “Rabies,” “Larry Bird,” and of course “Love Sosa,” and “Cuz My Gear” (where the crowd hit it’s peak of rowdiness).
His new hairstyle (gold curls), and his signature ‘MTV Riff Raff’ chain, a tiger print jacket, his stunner shades, gold bracelets, jeans low, Louis Vuitton belt and royal purple boxer briefs adorned Riff Raff at the show. His speech about haters and having a girl hairspray his hair for him a few times is no surprise when it comes to Riff Raff.
Riff Raff announced a new song along with a new album titled Hologram Panda. Overall, the show did meet Riff Raff expectations with not knowing what to expect, but wasn’t for those who can’t handle the Rap game.
– Jaii Bhamra Follow Jaii on Twitter @jkbhamraa
On my birthday, I had the pleasure of being treated to some exotic world Jazz performed by a top-notch flautist named Hadar Noiberg. It was a night full of intense rhythms, passionate soul, and forward-thinking Jazz at its best and most creative.
With bassist Edward Perez and drummer/percussionist Yoni Halevy rounding out the trio, I was taken to an incredible journey of her native country, Israel, and the many influences that surround that country and her music.
One of the main highlight tunes was “Village Life”, an exciting track that resembles the communal culture reflective of Hadar’s Israeli background, and the festive feeling that comes from the piece. It gets so festive that we can picture a party atmosphere on the streets of Israel when that piece is performed.
Aside from the festive aspects of world music that this trio brings, the trio also can be reflective and very pensive to the point of making the music meditative. They achieve this on the song “Hope”, filled with a soothing flute solo by Hadar and a moving bass line by Edward Perez.
Another highlight is the closing number “Baiam”, bringing back the festiveness of the music with a modern twist of ambient drum patterns provided by Yoni Halevy. In addition to fulfilling her goal of bringing her Israeli influences into Jazz, she effectively borrows and blends the Western and Eastern influences and creates a sound that is unique, effective, and totally her own. Through the closing number we hear the western influence of ambient club-culture fused with the Middle Eastern rhythms and melodies of Hadar’s native home country.
It was a very unique and intriguing world Jazz program by one of the rising stars of Jazz flute.
– Conrad Gayle
I had an esteemed pleasure of being a part of the Don Braden/Julie Michels project concert to celebrate their latest CD project, “Come Together”. It was a night of high octane, soulful Jazz, filled with exciting twists, turns, and an element of risk being taken throughout the night.
In a program in which they performed all of the music on the CD, it ranged from post-bop instrumentals, contemporary pop songs, new vocal works and reimagined Jazz standards.
Don Braden opened the set by playing an original called “Ontario”, in dedication to a great province and the people that he knows in that province. It was a nice modal composition reminiscent of Miles Davis’ “So What”, with great solo work by Braden, pianist Dave Restivo and bassist Kieran Overs.
Vocalist Julie Michels comes in after the opening instrumental number and provides her soulful, funky takes on the Beatles’ classic “Come Together” and Miles Davis’ composition “All Blues”. Julie Michels is one of those Jazz singers that know how to take risks and do it well. She would bend the lyrics, take creative scat solos, and even employ vocalese into the mix to get the music more interesting and invigorating.
The originals in this project also bring a creative edge to the project, and showcase the members of the band really well. Don Braden’s originals “Eddieish” and “The Open Road” not only allow Kieran Overs and Dave Restivo to shine, but to also highlight the percussive genius of last-minute fill-in drummer, Larnell Lewis. Both original pieces took the concert to great new heights, honoring Jazz legends such as Eddie Harris and John Coltrane while putting their own spin in to the Jazz tradition.
Julie Michels also contributed some good original pieces as well through her songs “Valerie’s Tune” and the gospel tinged “Fall From Grace”. “Valerie’s Tune” swung with such ease and the lyrics were quirky and sassy. “Fall from Grace” was a pensive, reflective tune that resembled the feel of Gospel music performed with such soul and such passion by all members of the band.
This concert and CD release shows what happens when two great talents “Come Together” to make beautiful musical magic at the spur of the moment.
– Conrad Gaylewww.juliemichels.com
Matthew Dear has come to be known for his studio prowess, evident throughout his five full length solo albums and numerous EPs and remixes. As of late, he has turned his focus to refining the live performance aspect of his musical portfolio. Touring his latest album, Beams, Dear brought along a four-piece backing band to recreate his music for a live audience. Dear handled vocals, guitar, synth and computer sequences while his backing band consisted of a drummer, percussionist/guitarist, bassist and horn player.
The dense and mostly college-aged crowd in Washington D.C.’s smallish U St Music Hall was obviously enjoying the live performance versions of Dear’s heavily electronic-based sound. Although his studio recordings are mainly composed with a computer, his music translated very well to the live format because many of his sampled sounds originated from “real” instruments. In many ways these re-worked versions conveyed more emotion than his recorded works because Dear’s background as a DJ allowed him to sense what the audience was responding to, enabling him and his band to inject a great deal of feeling into the live performance. On stage, the music took on a natural vibe that resonated well in the small space and allowed the audience to connect on a more primitive level than his heady, experimental recorded sound.
Dear confidently commanded the stage, bouncing back and forth between playing guitar, kneeling down to tweak his pedals to sonic perfection, playing synthesizer leads and operating his Ableton Live-sequenced backing tracks all while respectably handling his usual lead vocal duties. The bass player provided a solid foundation for pushing the music forward while the drummer and percussionist added energy to the overall sound. The live horn player perfectly fit the format and was sweet icing on the cake. The band was well-rehearsed, the performance was tight and the audio mix was very good.
The entire performance lasted roughly two hours and consisted mostly of songs from Beams with songs from his other albums peppered throughout. Dear concluded with an excellent encore performance of the single “Her Fantasy,” a true highlight. At the end of the night some band members exhibited a very down-to-earth and approachable demeanor while chatting with fans that stayed to the very end of the night. I suspect Dear was still backstage resting.
If you get the chance to catch Matthew Dear’s performance, you will not regret the time or money spent. It will likely be an evening you won’t forget. You may even find yourself purchasing the albums that you don’t currently own. I did.
– Rob Early
Last night was my introduction to The Joy Formidable, a three person power pack from Wales. Pint-sized lead singer Ritzy Bryan packs a punch as a kind of Helen Mirren does Johnny Rotten. Gallivanting around on stage in her Uhura of Star Trek dress, nearly dwarfed by her guitar, her non-stop energy was matched by the grinning, manic drumming of Matt Thomas and an enthusiastic Rhydian Dafydd on bass guitar. That high-octane energy may have been the only downside to their set: they go from 0 to 60 in five seconds and stay there. There’s no down-time, no moments of wistful transcendence that a slower, more pensive, tempo might achieve. But they’re damn good fun and I’d see them again.
Even before The Joy Formidable hit the stage, The Gaslight Anthem had a significant line-up to their swag table. The T-shirts, while pretty cool, set a flavour for the band before they set a foot onstage: these guys are going mainstream.
The band members, from New Brunswick & New Jersey, are all very handsome in a frat boy kind of way – they sell cool T-shirts, and the music, for the most part, undeniably makes you want to dance. There’s an ’80s feel to their sound, without ever slipping into the cheese of that era, and the audience (an excessively large one) certainly loved them. It’s hard to pin down their obvious influences, although they did remind me of Simple Mind with Bruce Springsteen leanings, updated.
Altogether the show was great. I hope to hear more from The Joy Formidable; and I know I’m going to hear more from The Gaslight Anthem. On mainstream radio.
– Snarky McBoobs
It’s been a year since The New Noise Live launched their Indie showcase series. If you haven’t been to one yet, I recommend you do so. NNL sheds light on some of the hottest acts in the city, leaving no excuse for music fans to fall behind the scene. Wednesday night at The Garrison NNL celebrated their birthday with the seventh showcase installment. Before the music started, NNL treated everyone in the bar to some drinks, cupcakes and the Garrison’s whimsical take on Mexican food. NNL knows how to throw a party – and the bands hadn’t even hit the stage yet.
The evening started with The Beverleys. If nothing else, the Beverlys brought the ‘noise’ to the New Noise Live first anniversary show. These three tiny chicks weren’t able to fill up much of The Garrison’s stage, but by channeling the cumulative powers of tourette’s syndrome, Scarlet Boom (Fender Telecaster), Penny Parish (Fender Mustang) and Audrey Hammer (drums) filled the venue with enough distortion and reverb to make any Hardcore Punk band jealous. The trio plays with distortion the way most of their contemporaries might work with melody or harmony. If noisy in-your-face Punk Rock is your thing, make sure to check out The Beverleys.
Second up was Elk who quickly changed the pace of the show by favouring organization and melody over The Beverleys’ rampaging style. Reminiscent of Sloan (but with more attitude) and a side of Black Lips (the aforementioned attitude), Elk brings a smooth and danceable Rock ‘n’ Roll sound to the stage. For the most part the crowd wasn’t into the whole dancing thing, but Elk performed flawlessly, all four members interchanging silky smooth licks. A solid set from a band on the rise.
After The Beverleys all-gal act and Elk’s all-boy act, Army Girls split the difference with a reversed White Stripes dynamic. Carmen Elle plays guitar, sings, and owns the stage while Andy Smith pounds the skins for his frontwoman. Besides the obvious White Stripe connection, Elle hits her notes with ease and draws vocal comparisons to Metric’s Emily Haines. With a knack for stage banter (and with only one mic for vocals there was no stepping on toes), Elle engaged the audience with quips from the recording studio and a happy-go-lucky approach to the stage. Musically the duo is straight ahead Rock. No need for filler, just guitar, drums and plenty of attitude. Pay attention to Army Girls, you’ll be seeing and hearing plenty of them in the near future.
– Joe Veroni
Some of Canada’s top guitarists and Jazz musicians came together under one roof to pay tribute to a Canadian Jazz legend who turned 80 this month. The legend is none other than Ed Bickert, Jazz guitarist extraordinaire.
About fifteen musicians, eight of them Jazz guitarists, came together to salute Ed Bickert for his mastery of the Jazz guitar and to wish him all the best as he turns 80.
Hosting the night was none other than CBC’s voice for Jazz of 35 years, Katie Malloch, who brought her knowledge and camaraderie of these Canadian musicians into the celebrations.
To open the night, Michael Occhipinti led off with a funky, yet swinging, take on Bill Mays’ composition “Bick’s Bag.” After a free and funky intro things got into a swinging mood thanks to the backup team of bassist Neil Swainson and drummer Terry Clarke. Occhipinti’s guitar playing was pretty modern and very forward thinking, employing some effects into the mix and bringing a contemporary take Bickert’s guitar mastery.
The second combo involved saxophonist Mike Murley and his trio, doing a swinging take on “I Should Care.” Murley’s playing was very lyrical and swung throughout the performance, while Reg Schwager’s chordal voicing and lyrical lines complemented the band very well, and the bass tones of Steve Wallace kept the anchor and the rhythmic pulse of the band in tact.
The third combo was a guitar quartet consisting of guitarists Jake Langley and Chris Norley, bassist Steve Wallace and drummer Barry Elmes. As a unit they went through a very exotic take on the Bossa Nova classic “Estate,” with haunting interplay and solos between the two guitarists, achieving a mellow feel throughout the performance. The rhythm section ramped it up, giving an authentic, Brazillian-tinged flavour to the music.
Before the fourth combo appeared, there was a video from the great Jazz guitarist Jim Hall providing his memories of Ed Bickert as a colleague in the Jazz world. It was a fitting tribute, filled with humor and good memories, from one guitarist to another.
The fourth combo consisted of vibraphonist Doug Thompson in a quartet with Reg Schwager, Neil Swainson, and Terry Clarke playing a swinging composition by Victor Feldman called “Officially Yours.” Thompson was a fellow colleague of Bickert, collaborating with him on many award-winning recordings, plus being two members of Paul Desmond’s last quartet back in the ’70s. Thompson took a lighthearted, swinging tune and “sang” with his vibraphone, while Schwager, Swainson and Clarke provided the classic backup and solo support required to drive the piece home.
Michael Occhipinti’s cousin, David Occhipinti, headed the fifth combo, backed by Don Thompson, Neil Swainson and Terry Clarke on David’s original piece, “Bickerton.” It was in dedication to Ed Bickert as well as the name of the street in Toronto. Like Michael’s opening piece, it was very modernistic and contemporary, yet this time very pensive and dreamlike in tone.
Guitarist Lorne Lofsky performed a trio take of “Alone Together,” exemplifying his homage to one of his musical heroes, mentors and musical associates. In this performance he employs chordal acrobatics, singing lines, and soulful playing throughout the performance, making him sound like a full band while at the same time being one complete voice on the guitar.
The event closed with the new Barry Elmes Quintet telling stories and performing Barry Elmes’ most popular composition, “The New Shim Sham Shimmy,” based on a dance rhythm that Dizzy Gillespie taught to the drummer/composer. Trumpeter Kevin Turcotte and saxophonist Mike Murley swung and really brought an earthly soul to the song, guitarist Reg Schwager brought the cool, understated tones to the performance, and the anchor of the rhythm section was held well by Barry Elmes and Steve Wallace. It was a great way to close a great celebration to a great fine-as-wine Jazz legend.
– Conrad Gayle
Last year, bassist Dave Young released an album called Aspects of Oscar, paying tribute to a former employer, friend, and Jazz legend by the name of Oscar Peterson. To honour such successful achievements and to keep the memory of Peterson’s legacy alive, Young performed a tribute concert at Toronto’s Hugh’s Room with a stellar backup band consisting of pianist Robi Botos, drummer Terry Clarke, guitarist Warren Stirzsinger and singer Denzal Sinclaire.
Opening the night were two standards from The Great American Songbook, Frank Loesser’s “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic song “Younger than Springtime.” Much note has to be given to the pianist Robi Botos, who really captured the spirit and fire of Peterson’s playing with his solos and even drove the crowd to mid-song applause with his climatic and exciting approach to piano playing.
In addition to the standards, much attention was paid to the beautiful compositions Oscar Peterson wrote that were not necessarily ever recorded before. I especially loved the group’s take on Peterson’s “Hogtown Blues,” echoing the bluesy spirit of the original as heard on Peterson’s Canadiana Suite (1964). “Wheatland” is a great interpretation taken from the same Canadiana Suite, showing off its beauty and swinging prowess by all members of the group.
Denzal Sinclaire comes into the mix and brings his Nat King Cole-influenced vocals into the mix of the Peterson tribute night. His heartfelt vocals were brought into such songs as “Why I Think About Tomorrow,” “Hymn to Freedom” and “When Summer Comes/The Land Was White.” Sinclaire even took out his melodica and jammed with the band on Peterson’s swinging composition “Sushi,” a rousing take on one of my favourite Oscar Peterson numbers.
It was a great night of Jazz music put on by some of Canada’s top talent, paying respect and honour to a legend that may be gone now, but will definitely not be forgotten.
– Conrad Gayle
The Envy is a Toronto band in an interesting position. Considering they rose to relative notoriety after being handpicked as the first Canadian band signed to Gene Simmons’ record label, walking the fine line between contrived and naturally realized can be a real bitch.
Think of it like this – if you were in a Rock band, and your present options were the eternal “artist life” or potentially touring with KISS, what would YOU do? Oh hush, now don’t be self-righteous, if I wanted to hear a preacher, I’d go to church.
With the music business being what it is today, I think the most difficult position for a band to be in right now, is to have to decide between their long nurtured perception of signing with a major label, versus taking the long, winding, and uncharted road to wherever, virtually on their own.
It’s a crazy toss up because when the major labels start sniffing you out, stroking your ego, painting your future, and paying for dinner, they make it hard not to want to jump in bed with them at the end of the night. But, these guys are a bunch of Judas’, dangling the bate and dropping bands hard on their asses six months down the line, when after throwing them at the wall, they decide it just won’t stick.
So as a band, do you take the bate, swallow the stigma that sometimes comes along with it, and hope the dream pans out, or do you just fuck it all and make art for art’s sake? The Envy has done both.
Every band’s ultimate goal is to have their music heard the world over, and that’s a very fair and natural human desire, but shit’s really weird right now, and the truth is, you’ve just got to do you. That may not look like such a certain thing, but you sure as hell can’t put your hand in the hand of the man with moneybags anymore because baby, they’re dry.
I’ve watched The Envy perform live once, and I can tell you that there is a realness to them that I didn’t expect to see. They’ve come away from the major label thing to do it relatively on their own, and it’s translating. So, I commend these guys, and I’m happy to watch them come into their own because I’m guilty of thinking that this band was just another business opportunity for Gene Simmons to stick his dick in, but I was wrong.
There are certain qualities that attract me to Rock ‘n’ Roll. There’s music that sounds like it feels, band’s that provide evidence of our being here, of sight, touch, smell, love, sex, and loss; but most often it’s that endless, tingling moment of release, when a song peaks, the room swells, and the ions just whirl around between all us bags of bones. That’s The Envy.
– Juliette Jagger
– Photo Credits: Paul Steward www.paulsteward.com
On November 4th, the Collide With The Sky Tour reached Toronto. Alongside Pierce The Veil were Sleeping With Sirens and Tonight Alive (an Australian band) who played some great sets and got the pit rowdy as hell.
I was chilling in the back and still managed a great view of the stage. There were no bad spots in the house, regardless of how far back you were, or how short you are (my short five-foot stature being a disadvantage at live shows]. I can only assume that the stage was more than a perfect size.
Waiting to get in the line was extremely long, and due to the low temperature/pre-winter weather, the line felt even longer. So if you’re planning on not suffering outside by wearing some thick layers to a Kool Haus/The Guvernment show, prepare to pay a ridiculous three dollars for coat check (that’s my bus fare to get back home, goddamit). Now coat check isn’t the only overpriced expense you will pay, the merch was much more expensive than it used to be too. Hey, I’m all for supporting my favourite bands, but $45 for a crewneck is a bit out of my budget. And shit goes fast – go in between sets if you have your eyes set on something. Regardless of the prices, the no tax policy is great and CD’s are only ten bucks so that’s a plus.
Moving on to the actual music, I had never heard Tonight Alive before but they were pretty good in the sense of showmanship. They had plenty of energy and really brought up the mood, leaving me and many fans more excited for the other bands to come; a great opening.
Sleeping With Sirens’ setlist was great; they played their softer compositions first then brought on the hardcore tunes that everyone loves them for. I just wish they had played “Roger Rabbit,” which was originally on their setlist and their new Halloween single “Dead Walker Texas Ranger.” Kellin Quinn – lead vocalist – seemed to be having a lot of fun. I know I was.
Pierce The Veil was amazing. Their setlist was perfect. Their energy was great and they really put on a fantastic show. Everyone was headbanging and singing along and it was a really great night. Both Sleeping With Sirens and Pierce The Veil even claimed that we were the rowdiest crowd and best show of the tour so far. They even took a picture with the crowd. Toronto represent.
After the show there was even a little “brawl” going on. It was really entertaining. No one got hurt or anything but some guy (he was on MTV Creeps, I believe) kept yelling “that’s assault” and it was just really funny. He got escorted out while cussing at the “assaulter” at the top of his lungs. Besides him, everyone was pretty cool and surprisingly very nice. No one was an asshole and many actually said ‘excuse me’ while weaving around the pit.
All in all, despite my ears making everything high-pitched like always, the night was full of great music and great people at a great venue. It was one of the best indoor shows I’ve been to and left only a mild case of post-concert depression.– Emily Fin Follow Emily on Twitter @RomaniRanch
On a cool fall Friday night, I decided to attend a triple bill concert headlined by a great Folk-rock band known as the Wilderness of Manitoba. I was in for a night of making new friends, hearing new sounds, and feeling the great positive love and vibe that emanated throughout the night.
The first act goes under the name T H O M A S, a group headlined by singer/guitarist/songwriter Thom Gill. He opened the set with his effective take on Soul, Folk, and even Gospel, bringing a more eclectic and jazzier feel to contemporary Christian music. I especially dug his very inventive, re-harmonized takes on Lenny Leblanc’s “Above All” (a classic praise and worship stable infused with soul and sass) and the Clark Sisters’ “Is My Living in Vain” (a more reflective, contemplative take on the tune versus the rousing, in-your-face original version). Throughout his set I fell in love with his voice, his personality, and his soul – I cannot wait to hear more music from this stellar artist.
The second act goes under the name Kite Hill. Kite Hill was a departure from the jazzier, Gospel feel of the first act since this time it was a classically influenced band that was piano and strings driven throughout. I loved the rich vocals and the instrumentation of the group, ranging from upright bass, cello, and violin, to even the glockenspiel. It was inventive Alternative Folk-rock music at its best and most creative. There was something for both the Rock fans as well as those who are inclined to lean towards Classical music.
The main event was of course, the Wilderness of Manitoba, fresh off the heels from the release of their third album, Island of Echoes. What struck me from this band are their intricate harmonisations between the four lead vocalists. They sounded like a full-fledged choir that was in sync, full-bodied and in harmony with one another. Plus, each one of the members is skilled in their own instruments, some fluctuating between percussion, violin, bass and trumpet. The tunes were very catchy and harmonious, and the band is certainly one to watch on the Canadian music scene.
Three great acts for the price of one. Surely I did not go wrong this time around.
– Conrad Gayle
As I entered The Sound Academy to see Social Distortion I was guardedly optimistic. Mike Ness had put out two solo albums, Cheating At Solitaire (1999) and Under The Influences (1999), and both are still near the front of my collection. I’d been pretty ambivalent about 2004’s Sex, Love And Rock ‘N’ Roll. The solo albums had a candid charm to them, and I’d started wondering if Ness was being constrained within his own band.
That was laid to rest early. Opening with “California,” (Hard Times & Nursery Rhymes, 2011), the band took a couple of songs to get the crowd energized. But by the time they hit “Bad Luck,” off of Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell (1990), the show was cruising.
It quickly became evident that the devotion of Social Distortion’s fans is greatly a product of the live show. Like a post-Reagan Bruce Springsteen, Ness inspires a rousing response to even the more obscure songs through sheer conviction. The audience responded with heartfelt sing-a-longs, celebratory dancing, and vicious moshing all at the same time – even during slower songs like “Ball And Chain.” Even after a 35-minute encore there were still many better known songs that weren’t played; but there was no disappoinment because the quality of the songs they did play never softened.
In the middle of the bill, Canadian Lindi Ortega was a perfect match. A voice like Loretta Lynn, but with some stomp and aggression, her songs reminded me more of a cross between a young Steve Earle, and Jonathan Richman. Backed by a crisp drummer, and a guitarist who could equally channel Scotty or Thurston Moore, their blend of power, tradition, and irreverence quickly won over the crowd.
Unfortunately the same could not be said of Atlanta opener The Biters. Trying to play Rock ‘n’ Roll revivalists, they had only mastered the worst traits. Banal lyrics, endless posturing, and songs that left them a half bottle of peroxide and two feather boas away from looking and sounding like a Poison tribute band. I definitely should have arrived later.
– Jeff Vasey Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffVasey1
On the night of October 19th I was invited to check out one of the hottest Jazz bands working today. The band: The Robert Glasper Experiment.
Bandleader Robert Glasper and his band are really taking the language of Jazz into the twenty-first century. His fusion of Jazz and Hip-Hop has created a sound that is unique, original, yet staying true to the spirit of the Jazz idiom.
The songs truly showcased the full talents of each band member through their solos and interaction with each other. The way the band plays is fully energetic, soulful, and highly invigorating – all at the same time. I especially dug the J Dilla number that was played and the groups closing number, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” a fresh take on the old Nirvana classic.
All in all, it was a great night from a great pianist, composer and bandleader who’s come up with a brilliant way of fusing Hip-Hop and Jazz to enthrall and captivate the audience. As a special gift to the readers, enclosed are a couple of clips highlighting the great night of Jazz/Hip-Hop coming from an extremely talented band.
– Conrad Gayle
“I wrote this album a year and a half ago and never thought I’d play it in front of anybody. Now I’m touring North America,” says Nick Waterhouse of his debut album, Time’s All Gone (2012). Waterhouse and his backing band made their way to Toronto’s The Great Hall on October 8th, playing before a crowd that only filled up about half the venue (despite the relatively low price of tickets). The sparse crowd was an energetic one; the audience was well-acquainted with the material, and was treated to an equally high-energy performance from the silky smooth San Franciscan popsters.
It’s hard to pin Waterhouse down. He looks a bit like Buddy Holly with his thick square glasses and preppy garb, but growls into the mic more like Blues king Muddy Waters. Waterhouse’s buttoned-down style of R&B should not be reduced to the term “throw-back,” however, the size of the group and sheer loudness of their sound is modern and energized. One gets the impression from Waterhouse and company that they’re not as concerned with being ‘hip’ as they are about playing the kind of music they really dig – the result is a kind of R&B meets Blues-pop meets Garage-rock sound that is completely their own.
Waterhouse & his band played a tight, professional set, but also seemed to have a good amount of fun on stage. Much of the modest Toronto crowd was inspired to move to the music, feeding off of the group’s laid-back energy, and especially seduced by the good looks of the only female band member and back-up singer who seemed plucked from a ’60s Hitchcock film, hair-style and all.
From the energetic sax (worthy of a Motown reference), to the subdued but foxy, warm backup vocals (reminiscent of Massive Attack), the Nick Waterhouse live experience is a total team effort. The venue may not have been packed, but those who attended left happy – many with freshly pressed vinyl in hand.
– Erin Klassen
The 7-week Back from the Beyond 25th Anniversary Tour of the U.S. brought scene veterans My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult with Left Spine Down to Milwaukee’s Shank Hall on October the 12th.
Vancouver-based openers LSD, a band whose keyboardist (Jeremy Inkel) is also in Front Line Assembly and Noise Unit, performed their brand of Cyberpunk (a mix of Electronic, Metal, Punk, Drum and Bass). Having been described as a “gentler version of Atari Teenage Riot,” this Metropolis Records act entertained the audience with songs almost entirely taken from their newest album, Caution (2011), with the addition of a cover of classic “She’s Lost Control.” Their stage show included a megaphone and a bright red light used to illuminate the vocalist. Behind the band, there was a display of mini-video screens upon which random pictures flashed.
The Thrill Kill Kult, made up of core members Buzz McCoy and Groovie Mann (who, together, founded the band in 1987) along with drummer Justin Thyme (who, as a side note, was a sometimes member of Skinny Puppy), bassist Mimi Star, and guitarist Westin Halvorson, were joined by veteran Bomb Gang Girl Jackie Blacque (note: Ms. Blacque is only appearing in select cities) and singer Beki Colada. The band did a good job of representing their career, including “Easy Girl,” from I See Good Spirits and I See Bad Spirits, their first full-length studio album in 1988 released by Wax Trax; “The Days of Swine and Roses” from 1990’s Confessions of a Knife; “After the Flesh,” from 1994’s The Crow Soundtrack (which is a re-working and considerably sped up version of the early track “Nervous Xians”); and “The Velvet Edge” from 13 Above the Night (1994), among many others. Upon completion of their regular set, The Thrill Kill Kult left the stage, only to return upon the crowd’s urging chant of “THRILL KILL KULT.” Their encore was four songs long and included “Kooler Than Jesus” and “Cuz It’s Hot.” Groovie let Buzz and Jackie take over vocal duties for part of one song, departing from the stage and returning with a black and red striped hat and mask covering his eyes and nose, in which he proceeded to perform.
The songs sounded similar to their recordings with a few deliberate variations. They, too, made use of a video screen behind the stage which included images, including drawings at various times, but it was mostly just a display of the band’s logo. Everyone was still in very good shape and could still really captivate an audience, even though they’ve been on the scene for so many years. Upon completion of their set, Groovie made it clear that everyone would be sticking around to sign autographs, pose for photos, and chat with fans. He thanked everyone for celebrating their anniversary and closed the show with several lines that included “Without you, we would never be here. We pay homage to you.”
This performance proved that, even 25 years after their inception, they’ve still got that onstage magic that made them the legends they are.
– Kathy Nichols
The Tragically Hip were adopted as national heroes by so many because the band voiced a Canadian identity that had been, until they came along, always hidden by our own national kitsch: maple leaves, maples syrup, the polite tourist, and beavers. Traditionally, our national identity is so bland and comfortable we’ve given the impression of being the nice-old-couple-down-the-street of global culture. The Hip found a sound that purely Canadian – without kitsch.
Friday night at Toronto’s Silver Dollar Room the Unquiet Dead did the same.
The band itself, much like Canadian identity, is eclectic: eight people of various ages and backgrounds, using what looked to be about twenty-two different instruments from maracas to mandolins. The room was cold and half-empty when they crowded the stage, but it took them all of five seconds to slam some life into it with “Lord Loves a Workin’ Man,” followed by “Hard Road” and “Rescue Me.”
Their fourth number, “Early,” was a heartfelt, soul-churning eulogy that was both upbeat and profound, and possibly the best song that night. “St. James the Mooch” was gritty and fun in a Tom Waits style, while “Fool’s Gold” was sultry and haunting, and the band ended their set by rocking out with “Even Water Burns.”
The Unquiet Dead brought a little bit of The Hip, a dash of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and a helluva lot of Canadian heart and soul. And they really, really work well together. They were a fantastic opener, and easily could have been their own headline.
Meanwood is what your mother tried to warn you about. Meanwood is as sexy as sin, and almost as much fun.
Band frontwoman, Viktoria Belle, is a diminutive, brazen hussy with a voice like velvet and vodka; and yet her all-male bandmates can more than keep up, making for one hell of a powerful show. They opened with the aptly titled “Sister Sin” and “Mercy,” and the crowd loved it, despite some technical challenges that allowed the music to overpower the vocals. But by “Queen Mab” the tech issue was tamed and Meanwood got their funk dial on ‘crazy’. The band tore through “Pijos,” “Secret Lives,” and “On A Train” wearing shit-eating grins and obviously having a blast along with the crowd. “Small Town Hearts” was fantastic, irresistible, hyped-up swing. The audience was rewarded for their enthusiasm, as Meanwood finished off with the debut of “Half-Blood Blues”: a dark, gritty, and of course, sexy, growl that pretty much brought the house down.
– Snarky McBoobs
Spill had the opportunity to chat with The Schomberg Fair leading up to the album release party for their latest EP, Providence. If that interview proved anything it was that there’s nothing The Schomberg Fair like better than a kickass live show. Matt Bahen, The Schomberg Fair’s lead singer, guitarist, banjo-guru sums up the live-experience aptly: “There’s no massive machine pushing air at you!” Last Friday night in Toronto, The Schomberg Fair plugged their instruments into The Silver Dollar Room’s big ole amps and blew the crowd away with their unique brand of Roots and Gospel inspired Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Admission came with a copy of Providence and a posterized comic (see below), written by The Schomberg Fair and artist Jeff Mitchell, in which The Schomberg Fair bring the heavy to outer space. The comic served as an outline for the evening: to transport the audience to a foreign land via the evil powers of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
With the help of a smoke machine and ground-mounted beams of coloured light The Schomberg Fair came out to a psychedelic feel. The trio, masked by smoke, let their instruments do the talking. Though tucked away in the back, drummer Pete Garthside led the way with his aggressive Punk-styled drumming – fast, loud and of course: heavy. Garthside doesn’t so much keep time, as much as he bludgeons the audience with his kit. And the audience wouldn’t have it any other way.
Nathan Sidon grounds the band with his tightly executed bass riffs and distinct backup vocals (check out “Touched By Fire” and “Oh Mercy” off of the Mercy EP). Garthside’s forceful drumming, alongside Sidon’s bass, sets the stage for Bahen to let loose on both the guitar and banjo. Bahen was all over the stage, playing from atop amps and rocking the guitar above his head. The audience ate up the act with their pint glasses raised, and offered hoots-n-hollers between sets.
The show was brought to a boil when The Schomberg Fair invited guests from the opening acts on stage to put on a killer performance of Mercy closer “I’d Raise My Hand.” Since the Schomberg Fair didn’t bring their Gospel singers along with them, the special guests sung the backup vocals to rabid fanfare. Meanwood’s Viktoria Belle had been a tiny, yet unstoppable force earlier in the night, while The Unquiet Dead’s Jamie Greer had played brilliantly to a largely empty Silver Dollar Room (seriously, why don’t folks ever show up early – the opening acts were picked specifically by The Schomberg Fair and the end result were three sets that complimented each other perfectly). Belle and Greer working backup for the headliners was undeniably a recipe for success. “I’d Raise My Hand” is arguably the best song on Mercy and was played to perfection on Friday night.
If you’ve yet to see The Schomberg Fair live, do so. And fans of Gospel, Roots or Rock will want to check out the sister EPs Mercy and Providence. When you do, be sure to crank them to 11. The tracks are so well produced that this unique brand of Gospel and Rock ‘n’ Roll just keeps sounding better the higher you turn the volume.
The Schomberg Fair are hitting the road for shows in Quebec City, Halifax and a couple of New Brunswick dates. If you’re out East make sure to catch this upbeat Roots Rockin’ Gospel Magic show.
– Joe Veroni
The “No Moment of Silence: Milwaukee Music Past, Present, and Future” performance at Milwaukee’s Miramar Theatre brought together some local legends including The Prosecutors, Dark Façade, Boy Dirt Car, and Enemy Star.
The Prosecutors, a brew city-based Punk band from ’79–’82, featured Kevn Kinney (of legendary southern Alternative Rock band Drivin’ n Cryin’) on lead guitar and vocals, his son Tyler on drums, and Doug LaValliere on bass. Receiving an enthusiastic audience response, their music was relatively mellow. The Prosecutors are classifiable as a slower Punk band, although at points they had more of a Rock beat with a bit of a Blues feel. On the stage behind them was a screen upon which various images and video clips, including some from A Clockwork Orange (1971) and performances by The Ramones, The Clash, and The Dead Kennedys, were shown. Somewhere around the sixth song, they switched up performers and added a saxophonist. All told, they held things together very well and put on an enjoyable performance.
Dark Façade took the stage to a German version of “Mack the Knife” (at least, I think that’s what it was). David Wolf performed with a rack of four keyboards in front of him (layered with a bit of space in-between so all could be accessed separately). Rounding out the band were singers Steven Nodine and Mary Lynn, with Bill Stace (owner of the Miramar Theatre) on drums. Guitar and bass were added, which served to make their sound heavier. A saxophonist joined the stage at one point, chiming in for one song only. The sound ranged from Synth-pop to Rock. They made good use of melody and put on an entertaining show.
Boy Dirt Car, a band comprised of some very diverse musicians and sounds, treated the audience to their version of sonic experimentation. They resembled an average band only in that they had guitars and a bass. There was no traditional drummer. Dan Kubinski, best known for his time in Die Kreuzen, banged away on a metal stop sign placed over a drum for one song and used a drum stick covered with a fuzzy material on another. He made himself into the “good guy” of the night when he gave a young fan from the audience, who’d been loyally standing near the stage through the whole show, his guitar and showed him a few things. Singer Dave Szolwinski growled his vocals in more of a chant than a song, which went well with the tribal style of drumming. Co-founder Darren Brown performed on a variety of instruments including guitar, sampler, maracas, and a pocket trumpet, which increased the auditory adventure. Keith Brammer, of Crime and Judy and Fuckface, played bass.
Opening the show was Enemy Star, a Hard Rock band. This act’s strengths are, by far, bassist Dan Kubinski and vocalist Kassandra.
Filling the air with sound between bands was WMSE (Milwaukee School of Engineering’s radio station, 91.7fm) DJ Erik Void.
This show was put together, according to Miramar owner Bill Stace, by these bands who didn’t have an opportunity to play the very successful “Lest We Forget” show at Milwaukee’s Turner Hall in May, which featured reunions of a number of older local bands including Die Kreuzen and Sacred Order. Overall, the Milwaukee stop of the Failed State Tour 2012 was far from boring and well worth the price of admission.
– Kathy Nichols
Have you ever been to a Vans Warped Tour? Well, if not; you’re missing out.
When I first arrived – or tried to arrive – I faced some troubles. The roads were blocked and I had to go all the way around the venue to get in. All in all, I got pissed. Well, not pissed; just a little frustrated. But let me tell you, once we walked in, my mood changed. Just entering a Warped Tour, or any outdoor music festival, atmosphere, regardless of the crowds, will lighten your mood. I’m surrounded by my own type of people who share the same taste in music as me!
We pre-ordered our tickets so we got to go to the ‘skip the line’ line. Which was pointless. The irony was that the normal line to the left of us moved faster. Don’t pay extra for ‘skip the line’, folks. It’s a trick.
After walking around a bit, my friend and I chilled in front of the Kia Rio and Kia Soul stage. I saw Memphis May Fire and Four Year Strong for the first time and I’m wondering why I wasn’t a fan before. They gave off great vibes and sounds. Then All Time Low played, my second time seeing them, and they were my highlight moment. There were dandelion seeds floating in the air and Alex Gaskarth got some in his mouth. He asked if someone raped a duck. Oh, Gaskarth.
Then We The Kings played. They were filming the crowd to be in their new music video but only if we were “crazy enough.” I was pretty far in the back but maybe I’m in it? Meh.
Afterwards, my friend and I were just watching a new band play while we were waiting for PTV and SWS. I don’t remember their name. And I don’t want to remember it. So while we’re waiting, let’s talk about what’s at Warped. There are dozens of merch tents for bands, record labels and other Punk Rock/skateboarding companies. No tax. The Vans tent usually gives out free stuff to the first 100 or so people so make sure you check them out and follow their Twitter. There’s a water-refill station and it’s free so you only need to worry about carrying one bottle. Stay hydrated – it gets hot at Warped since you’re outside, exposed to the summer sun for almost the whole day. Don’t forget the sunscreen either – I tan well and I still burned my face. Again. I never learn. Protect those tattoos also! There’s also a mini skate park with ramps and all the works – don’t be afraid to bring your board. You can also bring a DSLR camera, but since they have detachable lenses, you’ll need to buy a camera pass. But hey, you have access between barricade and the stage for awesome, close-up shots.
In all honesty, everything is overpriced but what do you expect? A map/schedule (with the same information you can get for free at the inflatable schedule) was two goddamn dollars and the food and drinks are a bit like Wonderland’s prices – your wallets will be empty by the end of the night. But don’t forget cash for band merch! There’s also a local band stage so if you’re looking for some new tunes or in a ‘garage’ band yourself, go check it out.
Back to me and my friend waiting, that’s when we heard the bad news. A young girl by the name of Taylor passed out in the BlessTheFall pit – from what I heard – and didn’t make it. Some sources say it was from dehydration, others; drugs and another claims she had heart problems. Whatever the case, R.I.P. Taylor.
Sorry for bringing down the mood, but it had to be acknowledged.
Afterwards, another insane thing happened. It started to rain. At first it was light. But then it got heavier and heavier to the point that there was now a small kiddie pool wherever I stepped. Not only did the mini-flooding soak my shoes and socks through with dirty, garbage water, but the rain – before it hit the ground – had me looking and feeling like a drowned rat. (Even my underwear was drenched in rain water, shh). Thank god I buried my phone in my sweater in my bag.
Due to the hurricane-worthy rain and thunder warnings, all set-lists were paused for the time being and we were instructed to walk over to the amphitheatre until the weather cleared. It was crowded, people’s bare arms were sticky from rain water and sweat and fluorescent hair dye dripped down people’s necks and foreheads. It wasn’t a great time. I was antsy to see PTV and SWS. But something good came out of this.
Since everyone was chilling under the roof of the Amphitheatre, my friend and I bolted once the rain started to clear. We made it to the stage where Pierce The Veil and Sleeping With Sirens were playing and scored spots… Right. At. Barricade. We were a bit too close to the right speaker but who the hell cares?! My ears sure did.
We had to endure three bands before you know who. Miss May I was alright, but then I’m not a huge fan, and Breathe Carolina was painful to watch (sorry fans! Actually, I’m not really sorry). We also got to catch Of Mice & Men and New Found Glory on the stage beside ours between sets. Despite our spots, they sounded pretty decent. Austin Carlile (OM&M) is really entertaining. Then we saw Anti-Flag. They were amazing. Their interaction with the crowd was cool. Really good people, really good music, really good time.
When the PTV backdrop came on, I forgot the discomfort of my eardrums imploding (next time buy earplugs) and my heavy feet. They came on stage with so much energy and Jaime and Tony’s little interactions were cute as always. Kellin (from SWS) even came on and they performed their collab song, “King For A Day”!
While SWS was prepping, Kellin said “Hi” to my side of the stage. It was awesome. Sleeping With Sirens’ set list was great; all my favourites were there and the crowd sang along which makes any concert experience so much better. Kellin even slipped on stage and tried to pull it off as if he meant to fall ungracefully on the floor and start thrashing around. Oh, Kellin.
That was it for us. We were too tired to stay for Mayday Parade or the “after party” so we headed home.
Despite my disappointments; didn’t buy any merch (my fault), the rain fiasco, getting partially deaf which screwed up the mic quality (in my ears) and my sore muscles and tired feet, the pros actually outweigh the cons! Good vibe, great venue, great bands, great music and I didn’t get kicked in the face from a crowd surfer this time (don’t ask)!
For Warped Tour 2013 info, check out their site/download their app to see their “tips for first-timers” and to see which bands are playing and when your venue will take place.
Even though this was my personal experience and to each their own, I give the day four out of five stars.
– Emily Fin Follow Emily on Twitter @romaniranch
You walk yourself into an unexpected venue, where the hardwood floors and overpriced beer are unfitting. You’re not even there for the headliner, The Oh Sees, your band precedes them.
The band’s setup sits unassuming; a drink, drum kit and all the other expected strings.
Ty Segall steps up, straps himself in, and the agitated, impatient audience watches it all in anxious expectation. It’s everything they waited for: not much more or less than anyone expected, a band banging their way through a rowdy mosh of enthusiastic fans.
While an artist may ponder their newest release in uncertain deliverance, Segall rocks every song from here and there, tunes old and new, tracks from every album for every fan.
The crowd gets wilder; the soundboard finds itself in competition for dominant volume.
The last song drives the crowd into full-out, clinical insanity. Stage-divers rain down like a heavy storm accompanied by flashing blue and red lightning and Segall’s thunderous guitar.
Just as the closing chords ring and those diving from the stage realize their need for snorkels, Segall himself fights a bouncer, loosing grip of his guitar and the song.
The show’s prematurely over. Angry band members walk off stage. The audience swears and curses at the bouncer.
Those waiting for the headliner doddle with their beer bottles and cigarettes. The Segall fans, joyfully sweaty and irritated, take off swiftly, salvaging the memory.
It was everything they could have asked for.
– Brad Coughlin
Attending the KISS and Mötley Crüe show at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre on September 13th simply had to happen. I was a huge Mötley Crüe fan as a kid – back when I thought they were the devil incarnate when they released their Shout at the Devil album in 1984. To me they we’re metal gods! Even though the cheese factor was significantly raised after Shout at the Devil, I’ve always had a soft spot for the band and had to check these guys out. As for KISS, I had never really dug into them too much and I needed to see what all the fuss was about.
First up was Mötley Crüe and they really gave their fans their money’s worth. The Crüe put on a clinic of stage antics and theatrics with strippers in G-Strings on stilts, explosions all over the place, fire and killer visuals. I can’t say I heard them miss a beat or a note either, so musically they stepped right up and delivered. Challenged with a freshly broken foot, Vince Neil didn’t miss a step; he ripped across the stage as though there was nothing wrong and I applaud him for doing the show. It would have been very un-Crüe to wuss out on his fans after all. Each band member had their own solo shot at entertaining the crowd throughout the set and I must say Tommy Lee took home the belt for best crowd pleaser. Hesnagged a chick out of the crowd and took her for a ride on his drum rollercoaster, which went way up in a big 50-foot diameter circle – it was really cool. Lee jammed to rave beats, rode the Tommy coaster up and down for about ten minutes or so to get the crowd into a frenzy. Nikki Sixx came in second with his fire breathing bass guitar and crowd pleasing potty mouth as we all have come to expect. I must note that the ever-ailing guitarist Mick Mars played amazing, if anything he’s the introvert of the band, but he’s the musical technician of the group – he ripped that set for 90 solid minutes.
When KISS hit the stage they fully took charge of the concert. These guys don’t have the crazy party, boozing & drug reputation of their openers, but they took the concert to a whole new level. I was instantly converted to a KISS fan after the first song. The band, along with half the audience, was sporting full makeup and had an incredible stage setup with a 50-foot high projection screen behind the band displaying flames and live shots of the band for the people in the lawn seats to get a closer look.
KISS was OFF THE CHART AMAZING! Simply put; it was the best rock concert I have ever seen!!! The difference between Mötley Crüe and KISS is that the Crüe is all about the bad boy sleaze factor and KISS is all about fucking business: no boozing, no drugging, all biz. And it shows when these veterans hit the stage. Paul Stanley is pretty ripped for a 61 year old dude and still fits into his Starchild outfit and displays the harry chest with pride. Gene took the theatrics all the way to the rafters – literally. He was lifted up over the stage lights which I would say is roughly 80 feet in the air, and ripped into a song with the spotlight solely on him; super impressive to say the least.
Clockwise from Top Left: Tommy Lee, Nikki & Mick,
Tommy Thayer & Gene Simmons
Drummer Eric Singer ripped into his kit like a champ and went up and down on his 30 foot drum riser giving the crowd more to cheer about. Guitarist Tommy Thayer was equally amazing with his multiple riser platforms jams on either side of the stage. It all made for amazing photos. These dudes are in their 50s and 60s for Christ’s sake and they look younger than Mötley Crüe up on stage. For guys who are closing in on senior citizenship, they kicked more ass than a lot of bands I see who are in their 20s.
Despite the fact that two beers cost me $25 at the Molson Amphitheatre, the concert was more than worth it. Anyone who attended this monster show was a lucky Canadian since Toronto was the tour’s only Canadian stop. Paul Stanley has a soft spot for Toronto since he lived here during his Phantom of the Opera stint and made mention of that while on stage. For anyone reading this, I urge you to get tickets the next time either of these bands come to town again – and for sure if this tour happens again.
– Andre Skinner
Canadians as a rule are reticent to celebrate successes. So celebrating with an American-styled awards show seems to reaffirm our cultural neurosis. Yes we’re worth celebrating, but we just haven’t figured out a Canadian way to do it yet. Canada’s Walk of Fame Induction Ceremony is like the Juno Awards – a formal gala. Doing red carpet coverage for an event like this falls a few notches below taking my daughter bra shopping on my comfort meter, so I made it my task to uncover the “Canadianisms” in this odd setting; to fish the flannel out of the tuxedos and gowns.
I bought new dress pants, dug out my newest shirt, and glanced sideways at a container of shoe-polish before granting my Doc’s a pardon. It didn’t help that the stretch of Yonge Street that we (my wife Jennifer was my camera toting accomplice) entered from was so overdeveloped that we drove for blocks without seeing sunlight at three in the afternoon. As we received our media accreditation Suzie McNeil was playing a cover of American Jessie J’s hit “Price Tag.” All I could do was cringe, and question why she couldn’t stick to Canadian songs to cover?
We found our spot in the media line, treating the carpet like eggshells, until I noticed two reporters next to me had their shirts untucked. I promptly withdrew mine and started to joke and get tips from a pair from Astral-Media radio stations in Hamilton. Finally the PA system began to play Joel Plaskett’s “Waiting to Be Discovered,” so I sang along and finally felt comfortable.
I felt bad that I knew so little about a couple of the recipients, specifically CFL great Russ Jackson, and ballerina Sonia Rodriguez; but being there as a representative of a music site, I figured I wouldn’t waste their time with shoddy questions. Jackson talked at great length with some of the reporters around me, but Rodriguez didn’t answer questions anyway.
It was a relief to see the amount of time that several artists devoted to the fans as they entered the red carpet. Johnny Reid and Sarah McLaughlin in particular ate up much of their media time posing for pictures, signing autographs, and hugging fans. McLaughlin didn’t take questions on the carpet, but that didn’t surprise me because she’d recently had to cancel shows due to laryngitis, and was saving her voice for the show.
We were warned before many artists approached that they had limited time, so chances of having a meaningful interaction were looking slim. Randy Bachman arrived late and blew past us to receive his plaque at the tightly designated time. Johnny Reid took some time to answer a question or two for the friendly Hamiltonians, but promptly ignored me. Finally things looked up as we were approached by Paul Hartmann, brother of late comic-actor Phil Hartman (who dropped the extra “n” from his performing name).
As a longtime fan of Hartman’s work, particularly on Newsradio, I’d done some research and was surprised to find that before Hartman’s show business aspirations, he’d done graphic design, creating album covers for Crosby Stills & Nash, and Poco amongst others. Hartmann filled me in on how their older brother, John, had started an artist management company in Los Angeles, and brought in Paul and Phil to help. “Our office was on the ground floor on Sunset Boulevard, and not the best part of Sunset Boulevard, so we got a lot of unusual traffic in past the window. A lot of street people. Our windows were mirrored so we could see out but they couldn’t see in. Phil would do dialog to all of them, and that was horrifyingly funny.”
It was obvious from talking to him that it was bittersweet accepting the honour on his brother’s behalf. Having spearheaded a social media campaign to have Phil nominated, he was proud of being chosen as his brother’s representative. “I’m feeling a lot of different things emotionally. I wish I didn’t have to do this. I would give anything to have him back.” Because the Canadian Walk of Fame limits itself to one posthumous inductee per year, Hartman had to wait three years to receive his well deserved plaque, and it was an obvious relief to Paul that he wouldn’t have to campaign for another year.
Luckily, after receiving his plaque, Randy Bachman came back down the media line. Unfortunately by doing it in reverse, we were second last in line as opposed to second. By the time he got near our end, we were told he only had time for one more question so we should go after him scrum style. Knowing this might be my last chance I barked out his name and quickly followed with my question. “Now that you’re renowned as a storyteller, is it easier or more difficult to perform a song after you’ve revealed its origins?”
Bachman walked over to me and paused slightly thinking over the question, and that’s when the tuxedo disappeared. His eyes swelled and he moved right in on me. “It makes it easier, because when I tell you the story, I’m not going to tell you the story of an obscure song that nobody’s heard. I’m going to tell it about a hit song, and to see the expressions on peoples faces change as I tell what made that story happen. It might be a happy or sad event that somehow I got two words that triggered something later, and I wrote this song which is completely different from their interpretation.”
Bachman became even more animated and continued. “It’s just like if you’d heard a DJ every morning for ten years. Then you go see the DJ and go “WHAT?” I thought he was taller or had more hair. It’s like Howard Stern, when you hear him and then you see him, it’s not what you’d expect. That happened for me by going to Nashville and hearing so many other great songwriters telling how they wrote a song. And it would be a song that I thought was a boy-girl Rock song, and it was really a boy and his father song. I’d be left going, “Oh god, that song has more meaning because his father never told him he loved him.”
I felt like a weather reporter without an umbrella as Bachman’s response whipped him up to a storm of passion. All I could do was nod politely and keep a death-grip on my voice recorder so it didn’t blow away. This had been exactly what I’d hoped for.
An event like this had the potential to leave me deflated or even bitter about the way the Canadian entertainment establishment celebrates our performers. Phil Hartman had lived in California so long, that arguably all his best characters were reflections on the uglier side of American life, (Bill McNeal, Lionel Hutz, Troy McClure). I don’t think these observations would have been so clearly crystallized if he hadn’t been raised in Brantford, Ontario.
Randy Bachman has seen and done more than most of us can fathom. It has left him with a unique qualification to act as a curator to the oral traditions of Rock music. Yet his passion and enthusiasm seem only to have grown, and his ability to relate to an un-scrubbed coconut like myself is completely intact. Sarah McLaughlin can look as ravishing as any Hollywood actress in a designer gown, but is still more interested in hugging fans than speaking to E! reporters. These are the things that show they’re Canadian, and it’s refreshing that even in this odd surrounding, they are the things that show through. I just wish we could come up with a better way to highlight it.
– Jeff Vasey Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffVasey1
– Photo Credits: Jen Vasey
Gotye was supported by Zammuto, one of two bands who tore up the set with a wicked collection of thunderous beats and exciting experimental sounds. Check out their track “The Shape of Things to Come” on YouTube. New York’s Chairlift, the second opener played several songs from their new disc Something. Caroline Polachek has an amazing vocal range and gets quite energetic on stage; at times jumping around and using her hands for emphasis. When the band wrapped for the night the lights came on signalling a break.
Then, the moment we’d all been waiting for finally arrived; Gotye and his band appeared on stage and the crowd screamed. The opening song was “The Only Way,” one of a handful of songs performed from his previous disc Like Drawing Blood (2006), but the majority of songs would come from Making Mirrors (2011), against an array of phantasmagorical animated images. An expert drummer, Gotye literally went nuts on the skins giving the instruments a heavy beating. Also being a talented multi-instrumentalist, he handled keyboards, the xylophone, and later in the show, what looked like a mini-version of a keyboard with a tube coming from it which he inserted into his mouth. A variety of lights illuminated the stadium including spinning bright white lights for “Smoke and Mirrors,” while Gotye and the band were bathed in hazy red for “Easy Way Out.”
Gotye showed a playful side at times, goofing around with his bassist as they played their instruments, and he loves to engage his fans by talking to them and naming the instruments used. He actually invited the audience to leave their seats so they could come closer to the stage to sing along to the awesome track “Save Me.” Then, at last, the song everybody had been waiting for: hit single “Somebody that I Used to Know,” with Chairlift’s Polachek handling singer Kimbra’s part from the album, and the crowd went berserk. “Hearts a Mess,” a stunning track from Like Drawing Blood followed to a spooky ‘eyes in the grass’ visual. “State of the Art,” which I disliked immensely on the record because of the strangely transformed vocals, blew me away in concert; Gotye created an awesome intro for it, and the scary animation of a keyboard angrily coming alive fit the song perfectly.
As they say, the party has to end sometime, and Gotye and the band said their goodnights, thanks, and the lights went out. You would think that was it right? Wrong.
The fans, hungering for more, banged on their seats signalling for them to come back out. I wasn’t sure if they really would, but they did! Gotye told the lively crowd he had a treat for them by playing not only one, but two more tracks.
See Gotye if you can – he puts on an amazing show. The music really got everyone going throughout the night with several people getting out of their seats shaking, jumping and clapping their hands to the variety of sounds.
– Charmaine Elizabeth Merchant
Glasgow-born legends Jesus and Mary Chain performance on September 19 at Madison, Wisconsin’s beautiful Majestic Theater was a tribute to the band’s professionalism, talent, and resilience.
Taking the stage to cheers from the crowd, the band’s 17-song set started with “Snakedriver” and carried on with “Head On,” “Reverence,” and (my personal favorite) “Happy When It Rains,” with numerous stops including “Teenage Lust” and “Halfway to Crazy” along the way.
The five-piece band, core members of which are brothers William (guitar) and Jim (vocals) Reid, performed a tight set, save for a few missteps that may well have been attributed to the fair amount of feedback that overtook the sound system on a couple of occasions. The boys mostly played it safe, staying very close to the recorded versions, and the visual appeal was increased by enhancement of the stage by changing colored lights. There was no hint of the violence for which they were well-known in their early days. Midway through “Blues from a Gun,” Jim’s microphone gave out. A tribute to their professionalism, the group halted operations and re-started, playing the entire song. Upon completion of their original 14-song set list, they returned to play an encore consisting of three numbers at the audience’s urging.
Opening the show was the five-member Rollinghead, from Kalamazoo, MI. Their set had a Blues-rock feel, perhaps bordering on Grunge. The musicians stayed fairly stationary, likely due to the fact that there wasn’t much room on the stage. The fairly mellow band played something like ten songs.
Next up was Psychic Paramount, an experimental Rock trio sans vocals who made use of lingering distortion between songs and with a drummer who performed at an insanely fast pace at times.
– Kathy Nichols
Icon of Coil appeared with [:SITD:] 11 September at the Miramar Theatre on their Milwaukee stop on their first North American tour in almost ten years.
German Ebm/Industrial trio [:SITD:] (which stands for Shadows in the Dark), opened the show, starting out a little on the slow side but increasing the pace by playing a few of their better-known tracks. The crowd was enthusiastic and the set went off without a hitch.
Between bands, local promoter Gary Czaplewski of Elektrotrash Media took the stage, thanked everyone for coming, and explained that this will be his last “big” show. Having previously brought bands including VNV Nation, Project Pitchfork, Rasputina, Imperative Reaction, Voltaire, and countless others to the area, his influence will be sorely missed.
Norwegian Industrial/Synth-pop act Icon of Coil, minus member Sebastian Komor (who was apparently held back in Seattle due to some sort of immigration issues), performed their brand of Future-pop with a set that started with the slower-paced “Sleep:less.” Vocalist Andy LaPlegua (Combichrist, Scandy, Panzer AG, etc.) and live musician Christian Lund (En Route, Elected by Fear) performed everything without missing a beat. About midway through their set, they introduced “PerfectSex,” their first new single since “Android” in 2003. The stage was kept very visually appealing by use of colored lights that illuminated it through the light layer of fog that were pierced occasionally by mobile beams of white light. LaPlegua succeeded in engaging the audience, even letting them sing a few lines on their own.
The songs were performed more or less the way they were recorded on released albums, but with enough tweaks to make it worth the $20 ticket price. The audience was a mix of people, most of whom seemed really into things, including one young man who helped LaPlegua out with singing lyrics for “Dead Enough for Life” and on whom the band commented on in their tour diary (“This is the first time we have had a 12-year-old to one of our shows, and he looked like he really had a good time jumping around in his Grendel shirt. (It has now come to my knowledge that his name is Eli, and that he is 10 years old!)”). The energy emitted from the stage combined with the high sound quality made the show. The admission ticket, which claimed to be suitable for framing, really is – an appreciated touch.
Not the type to pass up an opportunity, I got Lund’s (who has been in the live lineup of IoC since 2000) attention for a few minutes at the after-party, held at the nearby MOCT bar, and asked a few questions:
Spill: What’s it like to be playing such a small venue like the Miramar versus playing some of the huge places I’m sure you’ve performed at?
Christian Lund: Well, it’s not so much about the amount of people that go to the shows, it’s the energy of the people. It sounds like a cliché but that’s everything. Let’s say there were only five people, they might be five hardcore fans and we should give them a night they’ll never forget, right?
Spill: What do you think is the best thing about playing live?
Christian Lund: When you make something, at some point during the project, you think about how this song sounds, you make what you like. Playing live gives you a chance to put it out there and get all the energy.
We hope they continue to keep at it!
– Kathy Nichols
– Photo Credits: Sackie Krikorian
At the 2012 TD Toronto Jazz Festival, one of my personal highlights was seeing saxophonist, pianist, composer and arranger Phil Dwyer perform the Canadian Songbook along with great Jazz musicians such as Laila Biali and Rob Piltch. This time around, I get to see one of Canada’s great Jazz musicians in an up-close and intimate concert setting at a cozy little Jazz joint known as the Rex Hotel. For his opening set, he sure did not disappoint.
In a trio setting, Dwyer opens the set by putting on the pianist’s hat for a rousing take on Harry Warren’s “Summer Night,” as arranged by fellow Canadian pianist and composer Renee Rosnes. Following was an introspective take on Joe Zawinul’s composition “Midnight Mood,” showing off the beauty and poise of the piece and taking it into new heights.
For the next two numbers Dwyer puts on the tenor sax hat and does his John Coltrane/Sonny Rollins thing on “Darn that Dream” and “Mr. Jones.” His sax playing is full of raw emotion and full of great ideas that jump right at you and into your gut.
For a second time Dwyer puts on the piano hat for a contemplative reading of Willie Nelson’s classic song “Crazy,” made famous by Patsy Cline. It was a straight reading with great solos throughout the number.
To end, Dwyer again picks up the tenor sax and plays his own composition, a Calypso piece called “Narcolypso.” It echoed Sonny Rollins’ “St. Thomas” and the great feel of being at a Caribbean carnival parade.
A word about the rhythm section. Pat Collins is one of the best and most reliable timekeepers and bass players residing in the city. He has a great flair for the music and he really gets the drive going when it is called for in a tune. Terry Clarke undoubtedly is one of the great legends of Canadian Jazz. He has performed with Jazz greats such as Jim Hall, Paul Desmond, John Handy and even recorded an album with Oscar Peterson. He is one of the most rhythmically creative and stimulating drummers to play on the scene and we are fortunate to have him as a Canadian treasure.
All in all, a great night from a great icon in Canadian jazz.
– Conrad Gayle
Johnny Winter appeared as part of the Rock N Bluesfest, along with the Edgar Winter Band, Rick Derringer, and Kim Simmonds. Unfortunately, the bill over-reached and much of the Blues component was too confined in the larger bill.
Having to sit through a never-ending cavalcade of self-indulgent soloing left my ears and mind exhausted before Johnny even took the stage. For all of the first three acts, the songs cowered to the whims of the performers, hell bent on the biggest instrument proficiency pissing contest I’ve ever seen. Yes the players were capable, but the only time a song was front and center was when Derringer dug back to his earliest success with The McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy,” even playfully turning it into a Ska song for an all to brief four bars.
When Johnny Winter arrived, it started on a Rock bent as well, with a cover of “Johnny B Goode,” and it looked early on like his fingers were stubborn. Being the last night of a tour, he was likely exhausted, but thankfully rounded into form as he slowed things down for a cover of Ray Charles’ “Black Jack.” Following with “I’m a Bluesman” Johnny sustained the fire for several songs. The band was playful, and when the rhythm section started vamping The Rolling Stone’s classic “Gimme Shelter” under his guitar solo, Winter kept up the solo before belting out the famous chorus. The set was again derailed when the opening acts joined him on stage for another Stone’s cover, “Jumping Jack Flash.” Again with the obligatory guitar solos for every player, and a sax solo for Edgar. While much of the crowd enjoyed this, it simply dragged on too long.
Johnny’s voice was strong and soulful for the full set, and his guitar playing got better as the set progressed. When he brought out his Firebird for a slide based encore, it was immediately more powerful than the gratuitous group hug set closer, and made it obvious that even at the end of a tour, stamina wasn’t an issue. Having listened to Johnny’s most recent album, Roots, I was hoping to hear more of those songs in the set – but this bill was almost the antithesis of that album. Winter is still well worth seeing live, but unfortunately this bill left me wishing he’d left the Rock circus at home and just brought his bluesman self.
– Jeff Vasey Follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffVasey1
I’ve always envied Gord Downie. I imagine plenty of artists do. For reasons aside from the obvious.
The Tragically Hip headlined Niagara-on-the-Lake on June 23rd. The supporting acts – all significantly younger – consisted of: Death Cab For Cutie, Rural Alberta Advantage and the New Pornographers. They were fresh faced, bright eyed, and assumedly less jaded from the biz and the travel. So why did they seem so bored, so disillusioned? Granted, they didn’t strike me that way as they played in the sun, throughout the day, but I suppose you don’t know boredom until you’re pulled out of it.
Now, I think Rural Alberta Advantage and The New Pornographers are decent bands. Death Cab doesn’t grab me as much. They seemed to be the main teenage girl draw, but I can see why people would like them without being disgusted, so they’re fine by me. They’re decent bands. Yet, despite attendance being in the thousands and the relative success and popularity of the supporting acts, it just didn’t feel like a concert until the Hip hit the stage at nine o’clock.
Immediately there were fights, crowd surfers, and drunken hip fans crushing toward the stage. Even the most belligerent of the lot were forgiven their various trespasses because “Man, it’s a Hip show!”
So what made the other acts so stale? Maybe the lights? During Death Cab’s set, my friend and photographer Mack leaned over to me and asked whether we would think their set would be better with better lighting. He said something along the lines of, “If it looks better you tend to think it sounds better.” But if the New Pornographers seemed that uptight under the light of day, I’m not so sure a blue spot centre stage would have swayed them. They were stiff. They were anxious. But in a bothered way. They seemed like they were punching the clock – which is a shame because at the same time, they were likable. Few things make me as sad as a likable band that can’t seem to do what they love. I was disappointed. The songs were great, but it was like watching a New Pornographers cover band.
Part of it could have been the sound. Maybe. But I don’t think the bands could hear what folks in the first two or three dozen feet were hearing. The New Pornographers’ bass guitar rattled my guts to the brink of barfing. Doubly so for Death Cab’s kick drum. But I don’t think the band could tell on stage. The New Pornographers’ bassist turned the bass up even further for Christ’s sake. So that’s a negative.
Fact is Niagara-on-the-Lake played host to raunchy Hip fans. And whether you think The Hip is a hockey dad band or not, they were bigger, better, and more excited to be there than bands half their age. That says something. Gord Downie hit the stage for the second time that day (he made an appearance early in the afternoon singing with Rural Alberta Advantage, who may have been a slight exception to all of the above) dressed like a spidery Tom Waits, top hat and tie. He bit into “Grace Too” with an anticipation that completely matched his overwhelmingly sleeveless audience. It was strange. It was almost as if he were telling the greatest joke he’d ever heard, and he’d been waiting all day to tell it. Downie was that kind of stoked. Sometimes it feels a little shallow to focus on the frontman of a band. But the Tragically Hip has been blessed – or perhaps in their personal perspective damned – with a magnetic frontman possessing the lyrics of a real poet, a weirdo with a distinctive voice, and a nature not so far away from R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe. The band depends on the frontman delivering. Gord delivered as well as he could have been expected to in any decade of the band’s existence.
They say you should play every gig as if it’s your big break, no matter what. Nobody setting foot on that stage needed a break less than The Hip (in this country at least). But they exploded right out of the gate. They saw the crowd (granted, a crowd that already loved them) and they wanted it more. More than anybody. Possibly even more than their fans.
– Anthony Damiao
– Photo Credits: Mackenzie Jordan - (Website: www.mackjordan.com)
Filling my summer soundtrack, and hopefully yours too, is the sweet ’70s inspired sound of Father John Misty. As the new moniker for former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman, Tillman ventures outside the drum kit, allowing his big voice and Mick Jagger-like dance moves to win people over with ease. In support of his new record, Fear Fun, Father John Misty is currently on tour, opening for Lo-fi Pop singer, Youth Lagoon.
After opening for Death Cab For Cutie early this year, Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) continues to tour in the wake of his 2011 record, The Year of Hibernation, with various North American dates in July, including a stop at Toronto’s The Opera House.
To a fairly filled up Opera House, especially for an opening band, Tillman and his band of equally charismatic characters took the stage. Dedicating his set to Kimberly Father John Misty started the set with album opener “Fun Times In Babylon” – if you haven’t watched Tillman’s interview with CHART Attack last time he was in Toronto please do, then you’ll understand how awesome this really is. With the first few notes booming throughout The Opera House, Tillman took control of the audience and never looked back.
For the large majority of the crowd already familiar with Father John Misty, no time was required to fall into a sync dancing and grinning from ear to ear. For the rest of the crowd, it didn’t take long for them to follow suit as well.
Complete with Tillman’s suggestive and eccentric dance moves, “Only Son of a Ladies Man,” “Nancy From Now On,” and the road tripping, “I’m Writing A Novel,” made for a trio of very moveable songs. Sceptics were turned into believers. Ending their incredible set, which saw the band perform well over half of their Fear Fun record, the stage darkened, suitably setting the mood for the gloomy and chilling take on “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.”
Accompanied by guitarist Logan Hyde, Trevor Powers (aka Youth Lagoon) provided a much mellower vibe for the rest of the show. With his relatively fast rise to fame, The Year of Hibernation marks Youth Lagoon first and only album. The set showed how easy it is to get swept into a Youth Lagoon trance.
Like the album, Youth Lagoon’s live show saw Powers and Hyde create DIY honest Synth-pop sounds, quickly turning The Opera House into a very dreamy landscape, barley able to drown out the chatty Cathys at the back of the venue.
Despite a surprising lack of dancing, though to be fair, the lush Pop sounds are not the easiest to dance to, Powers’ high and, at times, squeaky tenor voice did not deter fans from showing their love after every song played, especially the crowd pleasing “17.”
Proving to be a very interesting tour duo, both Father John Misty and Youth Lagoon have a firm grasp on their music styles and have no trouble entrancing their audience in their own distinct ways.
– Laura Stanley
Pit, middle, or seats with a bird’s eye view; all that mattered on April 28 was that you had one. Red Hot Chili Peppers fans filled up every seat in the Air Canada Centre as they watched the Los Angeles Funk-rockers put on a legendary performance, despite the lack of response their latest album, I’m With You, has gotten.
Saturday was the second night of their sold out shows, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers brought a sense of nostalgia as they played a set-list full of their older songs, but also featured some of their latest work as well. With the same energy, charisma, and choice of fashion, the Red Hot Chili Peppers took on the stage as if it were still the ‘90s.
The Air Canada Centre was full of fans that ranged in age, and having a good seat hardly mattered because the sound was powerful, giving everyone the full experience no matter where you were seated.
Anthony Kiedis and Flea, both sporting one long pant leg, and one short with a knee-high sock, stormed on stage along with drummer Chad Smith, and guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, opening with their recent single, “Monarchy of Roses.”
Following with the upbeat hit, “Dani California,” Klinghoffer took the spotlight with his solo. The nostalgia and excitement continued as the Red Hot Chili Peppers broke out into “Scar Tissue,” followed by the bass-popping hit “Can’t Stop.” As the night progressed, it’s safe to say that the crowd was more enthusiastic about the older tracks as opposed to the newer cuts off of I’m With You. Other highly anticipated songs they played included “Suck My Kiss” with Easy-E’s “Boyz-n-the-Hood” intro, “Under the Bridge,” “Californiacation,” and “By the Way.”
Bass-slapping, blue-haired, and shirtless, Flea did not fall short of any expectations. Despite his age, Flea still managed to hop around the stage while note-popping, and even walked on his hands at one point. Kiedis joined Flea’s exuberance with matching attire, a distinct moustache and partly shaven head. It’s hard to believe that both will be turning 50 later this year.
Similarly, the Will Ferrell look-alike, Smith, pounded away on drums, stealing the show with the amount of energy and passion he puts into his playing. Being the latest addition after replacing John Frusciante in 2010, Klinghoffer seems as though he’s always played with the band. He’s not as crazy as the rest of them on stage, but still does not disappoint.
After their final song, “By the Way,” ended, it comes to no surprise that Smith was the first of the four to take the stage once again and start playing. Smith’s jam was soon joined in by Klinghoffer, who now was wearing a Toronto Maple Leaf jersey, and their Brazilian touring percussionist, Mauro Refosco, who played on I’m With You. As the three jammed, Flea slowly joined them. Finally, Kiedis made his way on stage and the Red Hot Chili Peppers broke out into “Sir Psycho Sexy,” and also covered Robert Johnson’s “They’re Red Hot,” and Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere.”
Ending with “Give It Away” the Red Hot Chili Peppers left the fans more than satisfied with the performance they put on. The night went to prove that age is nothing but a number, and their music, silliness, style, and energy is something that you simply can’t stop.
– Emily Rivas
I saw Thomas Dolby on what to the best of my memory seems like a Monday a few weeks ago. Maybe Friday. I know I ditched something I would normally have attended in order to see him play. So I can only imagine it was worth it. But what do I know?
I do know that I walked into the Mod Club with no expectations at all. I had no idea. Maybe I was expecting camp ‘80s tunes. I must have been. Of course I was. The only song I really knew was “She Blinded Me with Science” (for which Dolby had a brilliant preamble). But what does a campy ‘80s ex-Pop star sound like? What was he going to do after that song? Maybe he’d go and blow my mind. He did play keys for Bowie after all. And I remember digging “Hyperactive” when I was in high school. Maybe Shatner would appear (I kept my fingers crossed well into the encore even though I knew it was ridiculous).
I had brought my father along as my plus-one thinking to myself, this could be weird. I thought maybe he might provide a link to the past, to what these shows were supposed to be like. But there was no shortage of wizened grey folks to observe (my dad isn’t wizened, by the way).
We arrived late, one song into his set, which we guessed was the set of a younger man, some opening act fresh out of Clubland, UK, as we climbed the sticky stairs to the balcony. You’re not allowed to stand on the stairs. It’s up or down, mister. Do not linger.
There were two people on stage at the time, a tall thin man on the keyboard and a slightly shaggier version of him on the electric guitar. Mr. Keyboard, aka Dolby, with a strange hat I was never quite able to grasp the details of – this was primarily due to the wandering light show, the one thing that I might have actually expected. Maybe. Subconsciously. Dolby had a real decent voice. Sort of similar to David Bowie’s at around 50 years old, when he went from looking like some alien to looking like your hip Aunt Deb.
Most of all, Dolby is sharp on the banter. He doesn’t give the impression that he’s tired of performing or writing music. He seemed just as happy to play his old hits as he was excited to play new material, which I appreciate and respect, Dolby. Because I know you probably weren’t.
He comes off as a real bright fella, especially for someone with a minibar lounge sort of trailer hooked up to the back of his tour bus with a defunct satellite dish and a busted umbrella sticking out the top.
I think Dolby as a character was the best part of the show. It was an infinitely more intimate show than I’d anticipated. The four-piece band was tight – of course they were, he’s not touring the world with hacks – he brought up the opening act, a Folk duo from the UK who I regret missing, to play the banjo and fiddle. They could’ve been a little louder, but banjo should always be louder. He even brought some Hamilton guy along to play accordion on a few songs. Dolby claims Dude-Hamilton had bought the squeezebox off of him years ago over the internet. I don’t think my Dad believed him. I don’t know myself, but I’m a sucker for a story. Dolby was chalk full of them. And it turns out I’m a sucker for ‘80s camp, synthesizers, the odd disco move. I really liked Dolby’s act. He had the sort of presence and joy on stage that any good performer needs. You could tell. Everything about the show said “This is important to me. I’m excited about this, and I hope you are too.”
– Anthony Damiao
Few things in life are worse than the male nipple. Why do rockers feel the need to peel their shirts off and showcase their scrawny torsos? Before The BCASA (officially known as The Bill Cosby Anarchist Society of America, if you’re not into the whole brevity thing) played even one note, all three members were topless. The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern simultaneously bemoaned “Why?” – The BCASA continued on anyway. Soon the shirtlessness was forgotten in an effortless flow catchy power Punk. As the saying goes, you write about what you know – and the young garage punkers did just that, ripping through tracks like “Mortal Kombat,” “Street Fighter 2 Turbo,” “Street Fighter Alpha 3,” “Cowabunga Dude” and “The Ballad of Casey Jones.” Anyone care to dust off their old 16-bit Sega? Unfortunately the genre ‘Nerdcore’ has already been tagged by the Hip-Hop scene, but The BCASA unleashed Hardcore punk straight to the nerd vein. And they did so seamlessly with great call and response vocals and tight showmanship. Dudes… great fucking show.
On any given night Nashville Pussy could headline the Horseshoe. But when they tour with Eddie Spaghetti and the Supersuckers, they happily take the opening slot. The sleazy rockers, hailing out of Atlanta, Georgia, pounded and wailed their way through the set. Lead singer Blaine Cartwright used his redneck trucker’s cap to harness the audience’s energy while attempting to blow an amp with his rugged vocal styling. As at any Nashville Pussy show, Vancouver’s Ruyter Suys, the group’s lead guitarist, dominated the stage with her monster axe solos (only outdone by her ability to headbang her huge blonde perm for the entire set). The Pussy spread out tracks from their entire career, covering all five albums to the delight of the crowd. From the band’s 1998 debut, Let Them Eat Pussy, through High As Hell (2000), and up to 2009’s From Hell To Texas, nothing was missed. Any fan of southern fried Rock ‘N’ Roll needs to see Nashville Pussy perform live.
Every time the Supersuckers set foot on stage they do so in an effort to fight mediocrity in Rock ‘n’ Roll – and Thursday night at the Horseshoe Tavern was no exception. “Are we not the best Rock ‘n’ Roll band in the world? Or is that someone else? No. That’d be us,” Eddie Spaghetti banters, shamelessly self-promoting his band. And he believes his own hype too. If the audience isn’t in agreement with the lofty proclamation when the show starts, they certainly are by the time it ends. At the very least the audience is willing to entertain the notion that Punk rockers dishing out a side of Country twang could be the greatest Rock band in the world.
From the first pounding drums and fierce guitar work, Spaghetti holds the audience in the palm of his hand. All the while Dan “Thunder” Bolton and “Metal” Marty Chandler both crush out electric guitar riffs. The crowd sings along, flips the bird on cue, and guzzle beer right along with the four-piece. The Supersuckers work hard for their audience, and their audience doesn’t fail to notice, rocking the fuck out for the entire set. Eddie Spaghetti ended the show by pontificating about the trials and tribulations of the bass guitar during an extended version of “Born With A Tail.” The rest of the band proceeded to shred some basslines on Spaghetti’s old, tattered four-string. Even Chango Von Streicher managed to play bass and drums at the same time – one stick slapping the strings, the other keeping time on the skins. The show ended with a bow from the band, as the Supersuckers exited the stage to meet and greet with their fans.
After The BCASA finished their set earlier in the night, lead singer Nick Raz said, “If you didn’t like us, you still get to see Nashville Pussy and Supersuckers. So stop complaining.” Spot on. And since you already know the wonders of Nashville Pussy and the Supersuckers, go check out The BCASA’s album Fuck It Up Hard!
– Joe Veroni
The story behind the Bowerbirds new album, The Clearing, is one packed with real life human drama – a Shakespearean-esque tale of love lost and found between bandmates, and couple, Phil Moore and Beth Tacular, and of illness and a near death experience, suffered by Tacular.
So with all these raw emotions for fodder, one would expect them to show all their feathers at a live show. And yet, it wasn’t the Bowerbirds who had us in their talons at The Garrison – it was the opening band, Dry the River. The British act exploded onto the stage in a glorious frenzy of falsetto vocals, violin and crashing guitars.
It’s never a good thing when the opening act upstages the main band, and Dry the River’s colorful display only made the Bowerbirds performance’ seem a little pale in comparison.
The Bowerbirds came on stage in stark contrast with the sweaty-hipster openers, looking quite ecofriendly and minimalist as they fiddled with their equipment. They kick-started the show with “This Year,” singing, “This year we need a deeper frost,” but they didn’t quite thaw out until a few songs in.
Singer Moore seemed to be on the verge of spitting hot fire at times during performances of “Walk the Furrows,” and “Stitch the Hem,” but the heat seemed to wane in other performances, like in “Overcome with Light” which flamed out at the ending.
The band spent most of the evening performing songs from their new album The Clearing, but there were some old gems like “House of Diamonds” and “Northern Lights” from their debut album, Upper Air. And of course there was the crowd-pleaser, “In Our Talons” from Hymn for a Dark Horse, which was made into a gorgeous stop motion video filmed by Torontonian Alan Poon, who Moore gave a shout out to.
The band didn’t engage with the crowd very much, and Moore emerged from his stage bubble sparsely-once to tell the audience where they were from (Iowa), to show his appreciation to the crowd (“Thanks for coming out on a Tuesday night!”) and to introduce Beth as his girlfriend. “It has been a pleasure sharing vocals with Beth Tacular,” he proclaimed.
Tacular and her beautifully fragile voice proved to be a strong support throughout the night What is a shame is that she tends to shy away onstage.
In fact, the only strong stage presence is Moore, and a band that does not make. The cohesion – and strangely enough, chemistry – between band members appeared to be a little lacking.
The show wrapped after a strong rendition of “Tuck the Darkness In,” followed by a demand for encores, which seemed only fair, considering the wealth of songs they could choose from.
The good news for fans of the Bowerbirds is that they enjoyed a lovely, if not a little hurried, performance. The bad news (which is perhaps good news for Dry the River) is that The Bowerbirds were upstaged by a band that is no doubt going to take flight very soon.
– Andrea Pare
It’s been ten years since The Black Keys released their first album, The Big Come Up, and it seems they really have come up in a big way. Their show at the Air Canada Centre was large in every sense of the word: a giant venue, an immense crowd and a gargantuan sound.
The Ohio-based duo was preceded by The Arctic Monkeys in front of 20,000 expectant faces. Hard-hitting and to the point, the Monkeys’ new sound produced plenty of adrenaline to make way for the main act. And once señores Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney got on stage the energy in the arena became electric.
It seems appropriate that The Black Keys have named their new album El Camino, a reference to the very old-school Chevrolet vehicle that is confusingly not the car on the album cover (actually a Plymouth Voyager). Apparently the naming of the album was all a big joke that eventually took on more significance when Auerbach and Carney discovered that el camino is Spanish for “the path,” representative of the journey they have gone through to get here.
And they really have arrived. Kicking off the show with the smash hit holiday classic “Howlin’ For You,” Los Llaves Negros (Spanish, of course, for The Black Keys) lit up the stage and kept it going with the bad-ass bass-driven beat of “Next Girl”: “Oh my next girl, will be nothing like my ex girl/ I made mistakes back then, I’ll never do it again.” Paradoxically they followed this up with “Run Right Back,” the catchy chorus thumping: “I run right back I’m sure, I run right back to her.” But who was paying attention to the order of the songs and their coherence? What kind of nerd? OK. I was.
The Keys seriously rocked the house. It’s hard to deal with such a big venue, most of the crowd being so dispersed and far away in the stands. But looking around, it was obvious everyone was seriously into the gritty riffs of Auerbach’s guitar and Carney’s inspired drum playing. A lot of amazing drummers don’t actually look the part, and Patrick Carney is no exception; yet his hunched-over intensity is something to marvel at. The man can play the drums.
Take nothing away from Dan Auerbach. From the soulful rhythm of “Dead and Gone” down to the head-bopping “Lonely Boy,” the lead singer kept the crowd on their feet and shouting throughout the whole set and clamouring for more once it was over. And it was only after about five minutes of sustained screaming that the duo re-emerged and produced what was probably the most impressive performance in “Everlasting Light.” Auerbach showcased his vocal range by singing the whole song in a smooth falsetto while an enormous disco ball descended and infused the whole place with glimmers and awe. It made the night complete even before my personal favourite, “She’s Long Gone” and the raunchy “I Got Mine,” where they went back to the earlier sound that brought them up.
From the early Bluesy recordings, reminiscent of Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker, made on an 8-track tape in Carney’s basement – to sold-out shows in big sports arenas, The Black Keys have really come a long way to get to the top. It’s definitely well-deserved. Their old-school sound is a breath of fresh air between the overdone muck that passes for music in this day and age.
– Raquel M. Dreesen
If I hadn’t been riding in a cab to the show I would have had to double check my directions. After arriving at the Empty Bottle in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village I couldn’t believe that a band like The Twilight Sad would venture from Kilsyth to Chicago to play in a corner dive bar. If I hadn’t seen the band’s bassist lingering around the swag table (which flanked a Ms. Pacman cabinet) I’d have called the whole operation into question. No punches pulled, the place is a dive, though a dive in the best possible sense – a local joint where you’d go to see your cousin’s band play a set of Ramones’ covers, but only because of the $3 Shiner Bocks. The walls are held together by thousands of staples, the wallpaper comprised of the impressive shards of posters documenting past acts. Tattoo-sleeves on the bartender. Multi-colored Christmas bulbs dangled above the stage. Chiaroscuro spots at the side of the stage, that would in due time, obscure all of my attempts at in-concert photography.
Micah P. Hinson warmed up the early crowd with some standard-fare singer-songwriter angst while my party warmed up the back end of the bar. The penultimate band, a Bay Area export by the name of Young Prisms, provided a pleasant smattering of Jesus and Mary Chain covers, which actually turned out to be their original material. The curious footnote about the Young Prisms’ set, which proved to be a harbinger of things to come: we couldn’t tell if the supposed lead singer was actually singing. I changed my viewing angle of the stage so that the microphone wasn’t blocking the lead singer’s mouth. Yes, indeed, she’d been singing. News to us.
More about the venue. Imagine an L. Place the bar along the long upright and a two-tiered riser for concerts in the short end. The stage at the crux and a brick column flanked by doorways directly in front with room for about two dozen spectators between the stage and the column in a crowded mass. With Stella in hand I pushed near the front end of the bar in anticipation of the Twilight Sad. Though it wasn’t really anticipation per se since they were already on stage testing and honing levels without much fanfare. And then they paused. James Graham huddled over the microphone, wilting inside himself. A pause before synth and haunting distorted bass reverb commandeered the Empty Bottle. Graham’s body seethed with intensity as he brooded the opening of “Kill It in the Morning,” the concluding track on their latest album, No One Can Ever Know. No translation necessary. Not that deciphering his thick Scottish accent proves necessary to getting lost in the music or understanding Graham’s cryptic lyrics – but because it was almost like he wasn’t singing at all, despite the clear intent and focus on consuming the microphone. The swell of synth and percussion near the end of the song resonated with the largely idle crowd, causing the first head widespread lost-in-the-music head nods and air drumming. With the vocals drowned out by a wall of reverb, I relocated to the two-tier risers, figuring on improved sonic fidelity.
“Don’t Move” followed, but instead of reverb distorting their sound, percussion overshadowed the mix. Only when drummer Mark Devine launched the recognizable opening drum cadence for “That Summer, at Home I Became the Invisible Boy” did a song resemble an album recording. Graham belted the repeated chorus “Kids are on fire in the bedroom” clearly and intentionally, the minimal reverb finally allowing an aural connection to the singer, but these connections seemed localized to songs from their prior albums. Fan favorite “Cold Days from the Birdhouse” and “Reflection on the Television” succeeded due to a more minimal, precise mix of vocals, drums and guitar. “Cold Days” in particular offered Graham’s voice a chance to come into focus. He lingered on particular passages, slowed the tempo, played with our expectations and highlighted a sadness in the song’s chorus that isn’t wholly apparent on the album version.
But this highlight came too late in the show, perhaps, to hook anyone unfamiliar with the band’s catalog. Those already familiar with The Twilight Sad and their music would have reveled in the chance to witness Graham, in the way the prior music generation witnessed Ian Curtis’ localized intensity, his ability to command a two foot space on a stage and thereby an entire room. The orchestration sustaining his performance on stage, eyes closed, lost in the synth and reverb. Songs from No One Can Ever Know, as great as they are on the album, amplified too large for the space and drowned even Graham’s confident vocals. Poor Stephanie Hodapp of the Young Prisms’ never stood a chance.
Still trying to find that sweet spot, that spot that allowed each component of music to flourish, I nestled into the small crux of the “L” next to the brick column directly in front of the stage and located a semblance of fidelity just as “And She Would Darken the Memory,” a favorite track from Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, concluded. Even the accent-clouded lyrics of the chorus “And their friendly faces with put on smiles” emerged through the din with a measure of intelligibility. Sigh. Once the Twilight Sad left the stage after their curious closer, “At the Burnside” – a song noted for its notorious “wall of sound” comprised of wailing guitar, piano and percussion – I reported my finding to my party, now nursing their final drinks at the rear of the bar. They shrugged and we wandered out into the snowy Chicago evening. We caught a cab and I spent the entire time questioning what went wrong, my voice too loud for the silent cab. I began the process of turning down the volume on the synth and reverb still echoing in my head. I questioned the choice of venue and the sound engineers but never the band. Not even once. The performance was there and showcased brilliantly in fits and spurts. But in the end, I decided that maybe this venue, this corner dive, was precisely the place that the Twilight Sad could be themselves, baring their damaged souls but still hiding among the reverb and causing everyone else to question, exactly, what it all means.
– Jay Patrick
A night of chaos, controversy, high energy, sweat, violent moshing, and some Tim Hortons jokes was all it took for Mindless Self Indulgence to prove to their Canadian fans that they can still put on an unforgettable show.
“I remember the first time we played in Toronto, we played with Korn and everyone already seemed to know who we were by the time we got here,” said Steve, Righ?, adding, “We have a very soft spot in our hearts for Toronto.”
Mindless Self Indulgence (MSI) had not gone on tour since supporting their If in 2009. Despite the lack of a new album, the Phoenix Concert Theatre was full of fans anxious to see what kind of stunts the band would put on.
The opening act was Hyro Da Hero, a rapper who with his backing band combines elements of Hip Hop and Rock to define his own sound. Although touring with Mindless Self Indulgence seems unexpected, Hyro put on an energetic performance and had great stage presence. It seemed as though the majority of MSI fans were not so into Hyro at first, but as soon as he split the great sea of fans in half, centered himself in the crowd and asked for a hug from everyone, a mosh broke out. The MSI fans were now in their natural environment.
Hyro had built up the hype for Mindless Self Indulgence, but the crowd would have to wait a total of 30 minutes until the anticipation was broken by the band making their grand entrance while the American national anthem played in the background. The anthem soon broke out into the opener, “Shut Me Up,” where MSI established the energy and performance level which would be carried out throughout the remainder of the night.
Although it has been a while since MSI had toured, they delivered a show straight from the days of their formation in the mid ‘90s. Frontman James Euringer (Jimmy Urine), 42, still finds himself wearing fairy wings scribbled with profanity and putting on girl panties on top of his slacks while jumping from one side of the stage to another. Similarly, LynZ still has her legendary bass backbend going strong, while Righ? and Kitty are just a non-stop supply of energy.
Highlights of the performance included an Acapella cover of Method Man’s “Bring the Pain,” where the crowd sang along with Euringer as it broke out into the full band version that everyone is familiar with. Euringer also recited the Team Rocket speech from the original Pokemon series and later announced that his taxidermied dog, Chauncey, would be retiring from his on-stage appearances during shows.
Mindless Self Indulgence played a plethora of favourites such as “Tornado,” “Stupid MF,” “Never Wanted To Dance,” “Tight,” “Issues,” and “Faggot.” The synth-driven, programmed tracks, accompanied by distorted guitar, punchy bass, fast-tempo drums, and a hint of Euringer’s aggressive singing and timeless, high-pitched falsettos, made for a soundtrack that kept the crowd’s energy at an all-time high for the entire night. The band ended their setlist with “Straight to Video,” but encored with “I Hate Jimmy Page,” which then led to Euringer performing solo to Metallica’s “Master of Puppets.”
It’s safe to say that everyone in the pit ended up drenched in their own (and most likely everyone else’s) sweat by the end of the night. For some fans, this show was their first. However, dedicated fans were surprised at how long the set actually ran, and were more than satisfied with the overall performance.
When asked what she thought of the fans after the show, Kitty said that they were “on fire. I love Toronto. We look forward to Canada on every tour,” said Kitty when asked what she thought of the fans at the end of the show.
With the same controversial messages, racial slurs, quirky jokes, and memorable performances, MSI never seems to age, making them an original force to be reckoned with. They won’t stop until they have offended everything, and everyone, but will show you a good time while they’re at it.
– Emily Rivas
In an intimate Dakota Tavern setting, Scarlett Jane put on a clinic of how a great Roots Rock band should sound. The extensive touring experience between the band leaders Cindy Doire and Andrea Ramolo was more that apparent when they hit the first note of the evening. They sounded seasoned and tight, getting the crowd on their feet and tearing up the 10”x15” dance floor.
The band played a dynamic mix of ballads and upbeat heel kickers which they pulled from their huge grab bag of material that spans from Cindy and Andrea's respective solo careers along with the great songs from SJ’s upcoming album. Those who were new to hearing the band were instantly impressed and buzzing about the great vibe and presence the band displayed before the packed crowd. Canadian songwriting heavyweight Ron Sexsmith was also in attendance sharing with me his very positive feedback on the performance.
Songs that impressed: “Stranger;” an incredibly moody song that has all the right musical elements, which the band nailed. The beautiful vocal harmonies and subtle drums were wrapped in a comforting blanket of reverbed guitars and keys, simply stunning! “Wild Fire,” one of the band’s upcoming singles, is an infectious and upbeat tune with an irresistible chorus that soars with great harmonies and a thumping backbeat.
Scarlet Jane has many great days ahead of them, and if they keep up their current pace they’ll end up a household name before too long.
– Andre Skinner
The fact that all-ages concerts in Toronto are far and few between was evident before the Bombay Bicycle Club show as several audience members were being dropped off in front of the venue by protective parents. The sheer diversity of the audience lined up outside to enter the Phoenix proved how rare and special a show like this is, a fact that was lost on no one. Hailing from Britain, Bombay are known for their eclectic mix of Indie Rock and harmonious undertones. The band that regularly sells out 1,000-plus capacity venues in England made their second trip in less than a year to Toronto to a welcoming fan base.
The show began with Lucy Rose, who draws comparisons to the Nico to Bombay Bicycle Club's The Velvet Underground, provides backing vocals on several tracks on the Bombay album. Playing all original songs, with only her sweetly fragile voice and oversized guitar for accompaniment, Rose quickly impressed the crowd and easily won over several new fans.
After a short break The Darcy's took the stage and nearly shattered the venue in the process. Effectively demanding the audiences' attention with their mix of psychedelia-infused abrasive Rock, they quickly launched into a set that was way too loud in the best way. For a band that has battled hardship (from the loss of their lead singer and having all their equipment stolen), seeing their deeply-rooted chemistry and proficient musicality showcased their resilience and dedication to their music. As they ended their set, they left to a greater applause than that entering and succeeded in preparing the audience for the night's headliners, Bombay Bicycle Club.
As the lights dimmed, the beginning hum of their hit single “How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep” lingered as the band took to the stage and prepared to play. The building excitement of the crowd reached near epic proportions when lead singer Jack Steadman began to sing and dove headfirst into what would become a passionate and well- received set. Playing an equal mix of material from their last three albums, Bombay Bicycle Club easily lived up to the hype they received from numerous media outputs around the world and proved themselves as one of England's greatest exports. Easily blending the Indie-pop of their self-titled debut, the soulful, acoustic side of Flaws and diverse range from their latest output A Different Kind Of Fix, they showcased their skill as a band incredibly comfortable with all their material. For a band associated with melodic Rock and introspective vocals, they had the stage presence of any stadium band and the new take on each song added another dimension to their overall performance.
Probably the most surprising of all was the high level of energy the band sustained throughout the entire set, and the equal level of energy reciprocated by the crowd. The importance of the band to the audience was apparent with the crowd screaming along each lyric of each song and the band reciprocating with turning the mic to the audience on several occasions.
As a whole, the Bombay Bicycle Club quite easily accomplished their goal as a touring artist. They took their material and gave their audience the special emotional connection achieved only through live music. It was clear that the show served its role as a vital concert to many young fans. To many, it was a cumulative of months' of listening to an artist that meant the world to you and the audiences' sheer joy at seeing their favourite band live was rampant and wonderfully refreshing.
– Melissa Vincent
To say that Sharon Van Etten rocked the house – the house being Lee’s Palace – in an untraditional way Tuesday night would not only be very accurate, but it would sound kind of lame. Oh well, the damage has been done, but there really is nothing else necessary to say when diluting the entire performance into one opening sentence. Especially when the sentence, as lame as it might be, sums up what was entertaining and salient about the concert. The main aspect of the show I appreciated immensely was how the band maintained the delicacy of the albums during the set. One of the main defining characteristics of Sharon Van Etten’s music is a pervasive, delicate tone. To stray from that tone would be uncharacteristic. Far too often Rock bands play a show where they “up the ante” by making everything loud and in-your-face, even though their music does not necessitate a louder and more bombastic sound.
During Van Etten’s performance I was reminded of a Great Lake Swimmers show I went to two years ago at the Royal York Hotel for Canadian Music Week. The band came out and played louder, and more happening versions of their songs. The performance ultimately suffered because part of what makes Great Lake Swimmers so endearing is their delicate tone. Stripped away of an essential idiosyncrasy, the music ceased to have the value of the recorded versions. To my great satisfaction, Sharon Van Etten did not do this. The band didn’t feel the need to compensate for a lack of a traditional Rock ‘n’ Roll element because they didn’t need to. There was already so much to love about the songs, and seeing Sharon give a flawless and ostensibly effortless performance was evidently everything the crowd at Lee’s Palace needed to hear.
– Joe F.
For those waiting in the bitter cold to enter the Kool Haus to see The Kills again for the second tour of their album, Blood Pressures, it was worth it. For those (such as myself) freezing in line to get into the venue and see them for the first time in Toronto, it was worth it even more.
Having played at The Sound Academy in Toronto last May, The Kills came around this time to the Kool Haus with supporting bands Hunters and Jeff the Brotherhood. If there is anything that all three bands have in common, it’s stage presence. The evening was one full of energy on the stage and in the crowd that had the whole venue jam-packed.
Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Hunters opened the night getting the crowd to bob their heads to the beat while they rocked the stage. The chemistry between singer/guitarist Derek Watson, and frontwoman Isabel Almeida definitely got a reaction from the audience, but what struck the crowd most was when Watson crowd surfed while still playing his guitar.
“That was the first time I’ve ever seen a guitarist crowd surf,” I could hear from behind me in the crowd.
The Nashville brothers, Jake and Jamin Orrall, of Jeff the Brotherhood, had a slightly larger crowd than the act prior to them, but that might have been because they just performed at a later time. Either way, their Psychedelic/Garage sound, along with the smoke machines that accompanied them on stage caught the audience’s attention and built up the energy in the pit. However, what got the crowd really going was when Alison Mosshart of The Kills joined the brothers in their closing song. Seeing Mosshart come on stage before The Kills’ set was a real tease, and it made waiting for the stage crew to set up The Kills’ leopard print backdrop even harder. But the Kool Haus eased the tension by treating the audience to The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind” and “She’s Lost Control” by Joy Division.
By the time The Kills walked on the stage the Kool Haus had reached its capacity limit. Cheering and cameras held up in hopes of snapping a good picture welcomed the band on stage. Though they usually use drum machine for live performances, the duo added two drummers whose playing resembled that of the Blue Man Group. Not only did the added drummers contribute to The Kill’s rhythm, but they had a certain aesthetic appeal that added to the performance as well.
Opening with “No Wow” set the atmosphere for the night – pure Rock ‘n’ Roll. Jamie Hince and Mosshart know how to dominate the stage and their audience. Though Hince usually occupies one spot for the entirety of a show, he managed to strut front-stage while shredding a solo while Mosshart accompanied with rhythm guitar for a couple of songs. However, Mosshart put everyone in a trance while her vocals ranged between Grungy-Garage tracks, to a soulful, heartfelt sound of the Blues. Possibly being one of the greatest frontwomen today, Mosshart can dominate any instrument she plays – from the drums on “Pots and Pans,” to a keyboard solo in “Baby Says.”
Although The Kills were touring for Blood Pressures, their set-list included at least one song from every album. Covers included “Crazy” by Patsy Cline, and The Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” which was performed during the encore.
Engaged and wanting more is how The Kills left their audience. It was a memorable performance with a grungy atmosphere that transcended what the Kool Haus usually doles out. One thing’s for sure, if The Kills tour Blood Pressures a third time, it will still be worth going to see.
– Emily Rivas
Little City is a tight act with drive. I’ve seen plenty of bands who are capable of putting on an equally solid show. But with ten folks on stage at once… I can’t say I have. I’ve also never felt so helplessly unable to leave the front row. The temptation to step away and grab a drink, join the bathroom queue or shake the hands of attractive strangers was entirely non-existent. Why, you ask? You didn’t ask? I’m telling you anyway. Let me count the ways…
918 Bathurst is a terrific venue. The band had rented it out for what I can only assume were two reasons. The place is really good looking. It’s a great stage with a terrific backdrop. With the impressive film crew working away behind and above the scenes – Little City wanted to make this show count. That is to say, with it being filmed live, they wanted to make it count more than usual. They had a humungous boom cam! You just don’t waste shit like that. Then, when you take into account the structure itself, and how the sound just shot through the rafters and buried itself in the walls, the ceilings and the fans, this had all the makings of a great show. After one too many performances that have been sullied by mucked up sound and lousy rooms, this show had my attention as soon as I glanced the venue.
Whoever’s booking for Little City sure knows how to put together a bill. The Elwins and Rival Boys were terrific in their own right. I’d rave about them too, but I want to stay on assignment. (Email me to know more about these terrific bands!)
Little City is a front row band. I briefly listened to their set from the back of the 300 capacity room (which they nearly filled), but the stage pulls you in. Slinking and subtly elbowing my way to the front (sorry!) I was turned to jelly. Part of it was getting lost in the strange nameless emotion in singer/multi-instrumentalist Frances Miller’s eyes as she sings, enticing you to search your soul, your ears, the words and her beautiful voice for some sort of connection to whatever it is she’s dialed into. Maybe it’s the child like joy of watching Jordon Axani seriously rock out for a straight hour; or watching Shaun Axani’s more aggressive side creep up on the mic, him toting his guitar into the audience and going nuts. Perhaps it was just piano virtuoso Trevor Kai’s delightful getup! Was it coincidence that it matched his accordion? Part of it is the plain sight of ten folks on stage having a terrific time. It makes you wonder why anybody on earth would ever take up any other occupation – which funny enough, they all do. Beautiful rootsy singer Frances is writing a masters’ thesis, Shaun teaches at a university, bass player Dave Clarke works full time at a studio… the list goes on.
In an interview Shaun Axani (songwriter) expressed his love of playing live music. He’s only just now getting comfortable with the recording process, which you wouldn’t know by listening to their phenomenal EP. For him, the record exists in order to promote the live show. Artistically speaking anyway. This is the sort of show you go to if you want to hear the songs organically constructed, right in front of you, not simply reproduced verbatim from the record. Their songs have more punch live, more energy. It’s not a matter of whether they’re better or worse live as opposed to being recorded (though the latter is certainly not the case). Both are excellent and uniquely their own sound. They’re just different forms of art, different mediums.
Little City is an eclectic band; I try to use that word in the least snobby way possible, because their music maintains a certain accessibility. Leaving all their more cerebral, deeper qualities aside, they’re just plain fun! Having “stolen the show” at Canadian Music Week last year, the three-year old band is finally gearing up for a tour outside of Ontario and Montreal, so keep an eye out for their East Coast shows (you can find them at LittleCityBand.com) and tell your friends. Don’t miss out! Their new single “Sperry” is available now!
– Anthony Damiao