Sunday, June 13, 2004

NXNE - Day 1: Don't Get Your Back Up

  • concert review: Sarah Harmer w/Fembots and Ox @ Lee's Palace (as part of NXNE 2004), Thursday June 10, 2004

    Sarah Harmer @ Lee's Palace (as part of NXNE 2004): photo by Mike LigonNXNE almost didn't happen for me this year. I was having trouble getting friends to come out and I also hadn't bought a wristband even up till the first night of the festival. So with this in mind, I made my mind up to, at least, to try to make it, solo, into the Sarah Harmer show at Lee's Palace this past Thursday. I am so glad I went! Firstly, they were selling NXNE wristbands at Lee's, so I decided to buy one since it was ony $22 and the cover for the night was $20. Secondly, it was just an amazing musical experience. I came after the first band, Ox, had already ended their set. Luckily, I was able to catch second openers, Fembots.

    Fembots' music is a strange amalgam of rootsy country mixed with indie rock. That's really the best description that I can come up with at the moment. The band is made up of 3 guys and a gal. Their lead singer was dressed in sort of a Cuban dictator military green hat and shirt. The girl playing violin, looked like she stepped out of Belle and Sebastian, and not surprisingly she provided some pretty violin accompaniement as well as background vocals. She reminded me of Isobel Campbell, ex of Belle and Sebastian, especially when she lowered her violin, and provided some pretty background vocals, as she gazed out over the audience. The music itself was pretty subdued and was fleshed out by guitar, drums, and keyboards. Songwise, nothing particularly stands out in my mind, but overall I remember liking what I heard. As well, they're on indie label Paperbag Records, which is quickly becoming my favourite indie label[home of also Stars, controller.controller].

    After the normal between-set wait, the lovely Sarah Harmer and her band made their entrance onto the dimly-lit stage. It was such a non-chalant entrance that most of the crowd hadn't immediately realized that it was Ms. Harmer. The crowd eventually caught on. On a sidenote, I'm really digging the higher stage since Lee's Palace renovated; I hadn't been in Lee's Palace for a while and I was pleasantly surprised how much better the sightlines were. I had staked out a spot near the front after the Fembots had finished their set. My proximity to the stage made me enjoy Sarah's performance even more. Sarah and the band were in high form that night both musically and in spirit. Sarah, at several times, made reference to this being a homecoming of sorts because Lee's Palace, if I remember correctly her saying, was the first place she played in Toronto when she started out. Ms. Harmer performed selections from both "You Were Here" and "All Of Our Names", and highlights included 'Lodestar', 'Silver Road', 'Pendulum' and 'Basement Apartment'. Sarah made the evening a fairly interactive one because between sets she had some interesting banter which prompted people to shout out comments. One example was when Sarah mentioned she was in[was going to?] Australia which prompted an audience member to yell out something about the Green Party. This subsequently led Sarah to further comment about Canadian politics and how it was an exciting election year, and then finally saying, towards the end of the evening, to "go vote you fuckers". Sarah rocks! The crowd was very appreciative, which led not to one, but two encores. If I remember correctly, she played at least two songs during the first encore, including my favourite 'Don't Get Your Back Up', me singing[or rather mouthing] the words to the chorus. I wasn't expecting a second encore, but when the crowd continued hootin' and hollerin' and the stage lights still had not come up after a minute or two, I decided to stick around. I'm glad I did because wonderful Sarah and band came back and performed a wicked bluegrass-influenced song which, if I remember correctly, was called 'I am the mountain' or something along those lines. Did I mention how radiant and pretty Sarah looked in her simple top and folksy skirt? Check out my pics![I did a little enhancment to the photos using Kodak Easyshare Software because the photos came out sort of dark and/or had red eye.] My first Sarah Harmer concert was a memorable one, and I left grinning all the way home!

    Hopefully, I'll have some comments up tomorrow about my Day 2(Friday June 11/04) NXNE experience including:

    - The Parkas @ Rancho Relaxo, 10 pm
    - Feist @ Reverb, 12 am
    - The Waxwings @ Healey's, 1 am

    Also stay tuned for my review of the gig at Comfort Zone on Satuday June 12, 2004 featuring Uncut and controller.controller, plus an all-girl band who I didn't catch the name of [Unfortunately, my friend and I skipped out on Death From Above and Tangiers who I had seen in the past but wasn't keen on seeing that night]. This technically was not associated with NXNE, but as some of the local papers have mentioned, the show was put on in direct opposition to the festival. I'm not sure how true that was but the venue was letting people with NXNE wristbands in. How nice of them.

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