Sunday, March 06, 2005

Mo' Funky

concert review: Canadian Music Week @ various venues(Toronto, Ontario), Thursday March 3, 2005

The Zoobombs at Silver Dollar: photo by Mike LigonThe Beautiful Losers(9 pm @ El Mocambo): My first thought would have been to say that that was a terrible name for a band but then maybe they named themselves after Leonard Cohen's book. If that were true, does that make the name anymore bearable? It's hard to pinpoint exactly what it was that I didn't like about them. The songs were catchy at times and they were excellent musicians. The band consisted of four gents on violin, bass guitar, guitar and acoustic guitar/vocals. They also had some pre-recorded backing tracks if I wasn't mistaken. My gut reaction said that production was just a little too pristine for my liking. Their sound leaned a little to far towards the adult-alternative format for my liking. Next.

Shawn Hewitt and The National Strike(10 pm @ Horseshoe Tavern): I scooted on over to the Horseshoe for Shawn Hewitt's 10 pm set which had just begun by the time I got there. Good set of prog-rock songs with a carefree sort of indie-rock vibe and soulful, emotive vocals from Shawn. The bass guitar and drumming in particular were quite distinct and added alot of flavour to the songs. Mr. Hewitt put on an energetic performance, at one point in the set picking up a pair of claves and proceeding to bust out into a funky dance routine. He tried to get the crowd to join in the verse to one of his songs but was only semi-successful. 'A' for effort, but maybe a a little too intense for everyday listening.

A Northern Chorus(11 pm @ El Mocambo): After Mr. Hewitt's set, I jumped on the street car towards Lee's Palace and made an attempt to get into the Cuff The Duke/Guitar Wolf show. Unfortunately, the show was sold out and the doorperson told us that it was unlikely that most of the wristband holders lineup would get in. Decided to scoot back to the El Mocambo where I caught about 3 songs from A Northern Chorus. I was disappointed I didn't catch more of their set. Leaning towards the more atmospheric side of the shoegazer genre(sort of like Mojave 3), but with prominent cello instrumentation and more impassioned vocals. Lead vocals alternated between two gents in the band and the celloist's arrangements(alternating between sweeping bow strokes to modest finger plucking) added dimension to the tunes. Subtle melodies weaved their way in and out of the instrumentation. Very nice.

Raising The Fawn(12 am @ El Mocambo): Up next were Raising The Fawn, a Toronto 3-piece led by Broken Social Scene guitarist John Crossingham. John has a nice sort of falsetto style of singing and is by far the favourite part of their music. The songs were sort of hit and miss. Most of the songs followed the conventional indie-rock mold. At times the songs were very good, such as on the pop tune which featured a great melodic bass guitar arrangement. Other times, songs either took a little while to get going, or were drawn out and didn't go anywhere. The band was giving away some free 3-song CD samplers at the merch table so I'll have to give it a listen before making up my mind about their music.

Damon and Naomi(1 am @ El Mocambo): It seems after Raising the Fawn's set, a fair number of people started to leave, leaving only a smaller but dedicated group of music fans(including myself) to watch Damon and Naomi. It didn't seem to faze them one bit, although there was some concern on their part that the loud gig upstairs at the El Mocambo would be too much of a distraction for their quiet and intimate set. At one point they decided to begin their set and it seemed at that point that the sound level at the upstairs gig magically faded to a quieter volume. Damon was on acoustic guitar and Naomi was on keyboards and electric guitar and their songs featured mostly spare instrumentation. They played mostly tunes from their most recent CD "The Earth Is Blue". I've never really been a fan of Damon's voice, and more often it was the songs featuring Naomi's lovely vocals which were melodically stronger. We were able to encourage the duo to come back on stage for an encore, when they performed a cover of a song by a Japanese artist(I forget the name of the artist, but the song title was something like "I am a flower") which had lyrics written by a serial killer. It was little more energetic than their usual fare and it featured a slide guitar riff by Naomi. It's a little hard to define what their sound is although in most simplistic terms I could say that it takes a minimal approach combining melodic elements of folk, pop and experimental.

The Zoobombs(1 am @ Silver Dollar): Since the Silver Dollar is just down the street from the El Mocambo, I decided to see if I could catch a bit of the Zoobombs set. Knowing the cramped dimensions of the Silver Dollar, I was able to make into the venue no problem. I thought it would be packed to the rafters but found that I was able to comfortably able to make it to a decent spot near the stage. The Zoobombs were already heavy into their set. I estimated that I caught at least a good half an hour of The Zoobombs(including an encore) and it was intense to say the least. Ranging from some funky soul jams, to some noisy experimental excursions, within the span of a half an hour or so it was very satisfying. (I would later find out, when I caught a full set of The Zoobombs on Saturday night at The Comfort Zone, that over a longer period things can begin to sound a little samey).


Update: hyperlinks, photo above added. [photo above of The Zoobombs at Silver Dollar]

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