concert review: Fucked Up, Final Fantasy, $100, Vivian Girls @ Sneaky Dee's (Toronto, Ontario), October 30, 2008
One of the most stacked indie rock bills took over Sneaky Dee's last Thursday night kicking off a 'Fucked Up Weekend', as you may well know was a series of shows local hardcore act Fucked Up were playing at Sneaky Dee's and a few other venues over Halloween weekend to celebrate the release of their new album "The Chemistry of Common Life" out on Matador Records. The Thursday night show at Sneaky Dee's was dubbed by some as 'indie night' to the distaste of others, but it was right up my alley. Ok, I'm an indie rock wuss. After a bit of confusion at the door trying to find my name on the prepaid list I finally got in.
While I'd already been running a little late, the confusion at the door only guaranteed that I'd missed first opener, Toronto's Katie Stelmanis' set in its entirety. There was a bit of a delay it seemed as Brooklyn's Vivian Girls worked out the kinks during their soundcheck - they would later reveal they had border troubles, I believe they didn't have their own instruments with them and were borrowing someone's instruments. Finally getting things worked out, the female trio donned their witches hats in honour of Halloween, hats which they'd picked up at Walmart, and sped through a set of garagey indiepop tunes. Reminiscent of bands like The Aislers Set (yes!), and Black Tambourine (a band whose music I've been indulging in recently), the noisy thrashy mix of bass guitar, guitar and drums was sometimes a little overwhelming, but when the ladies' pretty vocal melodies rose above the din, it was all worth it. Breaking a few guitar strings(without time to restring) could have perhaps ended the set early but the girls continued onward.
Local urban country outfit $100 kept the Halloween festivities going as they came out in face makeup made out to look like heard wounds. Playing a robust, twangy country sound perhaps the best part was vocalist/lyricist Simone Fornow. Wearing an old Van Halen band shirt, I really enjoyed Simone's twangy vocal delivery that had a particular zeal in my opinion, and although she never necessarily belted out like say Neko Case, her vocals felt very comfortable. As she'd gaze across the audience with the mic in one hand and a foot resting up on the monitor, at that moment that her eyes seemed to affix to you, you could feel her connection. The band themselves were tight and overall they were an invigorating jolt to my country music tastes which for the past year or so had been somewhat dormant.
As Mr. Owen Pallett aka Final Fantasy's last few hometown gigs have been in venues larger than Sneaky Dee's like the The Music Hall and The Great Hall, it was a real treat to catch him in the intimate confines of Sneaky Dee's. No fancy visual projections, nor band accompaniement this time, it was just Owen (wearing a Lakers jersey) on vocals, violin and looper. Playing mostly new songs from his EP "Spectrum, 14th Century" and some others, Owen's choirboy vocals and melodic, almost percussive violin arrangements were both in top form. A few minor glitches apparently and Owen did acknowledge a slip at the end of his last song with the timing of the looping track ending perhaps being a bit off. But such imperfections just added to the charm of the performance.
Maybe I should apologize now because I wasn't necessarily going to stick around for Fucked Up, although I did end up staying for their whole set. I've already established my indie-rock wussness above. I like my loud rock n' roll as much as the next person, but I'm not that keen on hardcore in particular, part of it being that the youth culture associated with it(ie. slam dancing, moshing, whatever kids are doing these days) is just something I just feel out of touch with me being in my, ahem, thirties. I was pleasantly surprised that Fucked Up! surpassed my preconceived notions of hardcore being all gutteral vocals and primitive guitar work, by adding melodies, thrilling guitar riffs and drum fills, and at times approaching an early-Clash sonic influence. Within such a sonic stew of musical mayhem, the gutteral vocals were like a punch in the face, feeling like an assault on all your senses. An intense mosh pit formed at the front of the stage at times with only a select group of brave souls choosing to infiltrate that circle while the rest of us chose to take safer ground. Did I mention I'm an indie rock wuss?
Stuart Berman has review of the show over at Eye Weekly.
MySpace: Vivian Girls
MySpace: Final Fantasy
MySpace: Fucked Up