Tuesday, November 28, 2006

My Children Be Joyful

concert review: As The Poets Affirm, Rock Plaza Central, Timber Timbre @ The Boat(Toronto, Ontario), November 24, 2006

Rock Plaza Central @ The Boat: photo by Michael Ligon

It was close to a year ago since I'd first downloaded a few mp3's from Toronto band Rock Plaza Central[it was December 10, 2005 to be exact according to the time signatures of the mp3's on my hard drive]. I think I was motivated to check 'em out, probably having seen a post or two about them on Stille Post(likely the band themselves posting their own show dates). I don't even remember listening to the mp3's although I'm sure I had but soon moved on to other music. So if it took Pitchfork-approved track and album reviews to get me to really take notice, well then so be it. I took the opportunity to finally see Rock Plaza Central live this past Friday night at The Boat in Toronto and it was a relevatory experience.

Rock Plaza Central were sandwiched between opener Timber Timbre from Toronto and headliner, Ottawa's As The Poets Affirm whose CD Release show it was. Timber Timbre's set of rustic, acoustic, dark country blues started off the night on a mellow tone, and aesthetically set the stage for Rock Plaza Central's vibrant, artier, country-ishness. Timber Timbre used some sort of looper to loop guitar arrangements within songs but more impressively on one song he looped a variety of percussive instruments, shakers and other sounds into an unbelievable collage of natural sounds. Finishing off the evening were As The Poets Affirm, who were the odd men out of the night given the two previous artists country leanings. I will get to Rock Plaza Central's set soon enough, but I must mention it was a shame that the crowd thinned out a bit for As The Poets Affirm's set. They displayed an admirable set of influences ranging from its scratchy post-punk guitar sound, to some avant-garde horn instrumentation, to more conventional indie-rock melodicism, with a touch of dance-punk groovability. It was a shame I didn't have more energy[was it just me, or are the floors at The Boat hard on your feet?] but I ended up having to sit on the floor like a few other people. If more people had stuck around, I think there would have been a more energetic vibe in the audience than what had actually surpassed. But As The Poets Affirm did their darndest to keep up the energy level by prompting a little handclapping. Also, their lanky, bespectacled drummer has an awesome fluid drumming style which was so fun to watch.

So if Timber Timbre and As The Poets Affirm were the slices of bread, well then Rock Plaza Central were the filling. It was quite obvious that most people were there to see their set. Performing songs mostly off their last two releases, this year's "Are We Not Horses?", and 2003's "The World Was Hell To Us", it was a set which possessed a dynamic quality, from hushed country-folkiness, to artier, noisier dissonance, to klezmer-like frenziedness, and one song(possibly "Gutterdance") that reminded me of an Arcade Fire-like pop epicness. The six member group which included members on violin, horns, guitar, banjo, accordion, and drums was rounded out with a friend on standup bass guitar. With lead vocalist Chris Eaton's distinctive vocals which sounded to me like it was always bordering on a warble, I thought his vocals fit nicely with the rustic quality of the music. At various points in the set, I think almost every band member had their musical moment in the spotlight, but I was particularly fond of the two-person(sometimes three-person) horn section, their female violinist's violin arrangements, and their guitarist's creative guitar work. I've been listening to "Are We Not Horses?" a lot lately, and while I think it isn't a perfect album it has it's share of great songs, probably not more better exemplified than the exhilirating "My Children Be Joyful", which was also one of my favourite songs of their set at The Boat. So yes, I wholeheartedly recommend you go see them.

Here are my photos.

Here's a copy of an e-mail the band received from a person whose four-year old daughter and nine-year old son are fans of their latest CD "Are We Not Horses"? This is one of the most precious things I've read in a long time.

According to their MySpace, Rock Plaza Central have the following upcoming show dates:

Dec 19 2006 8:00P @ Tranzac(Toronto,ON) w/ The Carps, Cities in Dust and Shit la Merde
Jan 6 2007 8:00P @ Tranzac(Toronto, ON) RocknRoll Wedding 4 with Lullabye Arkestra, Mantler
Jan 13 2007 10:00P @ Zaphod's(Ottawa, ON) with As the Poets Affirm and My Dad vs Yours

Rock Plaza Central @ MySpace
As The Poets Affirm @ MySpace
Timber Timbre @ MySpace

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