Monday, June 30, 2008


concert: The Hidden Cameras @ Pride (Toronto, Ontario) - June 28, 2008
"the hidden cameras played a goth show with a choir of golden ghosts! it was great. think people were surprised by the screaming and ghoulishness, nice and refreshing to see the new stuff. plus a german punk song?!@#$ wtf? so fun."

via Dead Cops @ Stille Post

The Hidden Cameras @ Pride 2008: photo by Michael Ligon

The Hidden Cameras @ Pride 2008: photo by Michael Ligon

The Hidden Cameras @ Pride 2008: photo by Michael Ligon

More photos over at Flickr.

MySpace: The Hidden Cameras

Sunday, June 29, 2008


concert review: Ohbijou @ Harbourfront Centre (Toronto, Ontario), June 28, 2008

I caught a relaxing mid-afternoon set with Ohbijou down at Harbourfront Centre yesterday. They were playing as part of the A Rocky Mountain High: The Banff Centre festival. During the hour long set, they of course played tunes off their debut "Swift Feet For Troubling Times" but also played a couple of tunes they'd wrote during their residency at The Banff Centre earlier this year, including one which was about the devastating Queen St. fire from earlier this year. Recalling that new song in particular, it's not much different than any of their other sensitive, plucky-stringed chamber pop tunes - if it ain't broke, don't fix it I guess. It was a great vibe overall with a nice breeze off the lake, the rain holding off, and a procession of pirates (yes pirates - how they related to the festival, I still don't know) marching across the Harbourfront boardwalk behind us during which Ohbijou had to halt their performance to comment on the oddness of it all. Later on, dance beats wafting over to us from a nearby ship prompted Casey to cheekily say that that was where the afterparty would be.

Casey Mecija of Ohbijou @ Harbourfront (June 28, 2008)
Casey Mecija of Ohbijou @ Harbourfront: photo by Michael Ligon

Ohbijou @ Harbourfront (June 28, 2008)
Ohbijou @ Harbourfront: photo by Michael Ligon

More photos over at my Flickr.

MySpace: Ohbijiou

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Follow These Eyes

As per Stille Post, The Warlocks play an instore at Sonic Boom this Thursday June 26th at 6pm prior to their proper gig at Lee's Palace that night.

The Pride Toronto festival's coming up this weekend, and well the obvious thing for me is to, well perhaps, check out the music. The Wellesley stage on June 28 between 7 pm and midnight looks like a big dance party(check out the official site for the schedule) while The Hidden Cameras play the South Stage that night sometime between 9 pm and midnight. Pre-7pm highlights on September 28 include The Spice Girl's Melanie C performing a set at 6 pm on the Wellesley Stage. There's a post up at Stille Post with the lineup for June 29 for the Alexander Parkette Stage (behind Buddies in Bad times @ 12 Alexander St) - I only recognize Toronto's Stop Die Resuscitate who are playing at 5 pm and more excitingly, Ari Up (of The Slits) is playing at 8:30 pm.

Old news that Martha Wainwright is headlining this year's Canada Day festivities at Harbourfront but it gives me an excuse to link to her recently archived video at FabChannel of her concert at the Paridiso Club in the Netherlands and her recent session for KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic.

Snailhouse plays a CD release show on July 3 at The Drake Hotel for his upcoming new album "Lies On The Prize" out via Unfamiliar Records and Sonic Unyon on June 27. Samples from the new album and more tour dates over at his MySpace. Openers for the show are Tusks and Alison Outhit. Via Stille Post.

According to Inland Empire Touring, Icy Demons are at Sneaky Dee's on July 24.

Start of a trend it seems - first the TV On The Radio show at Kool Haus on July 2 was downsized to Phoenix(btw, I hate when bands don't update their official websites with such changes) and now according to Ground Control Touring the same thing may have happened to The Go Team!/CSS/Matt and Kim show - it is still taking place August 5 but possibly now at the Phoenix. So far and the band's MySpace sites still say Kool Haus but I won't be surprised if the show has been downsized to Phoenix.

Two bands I haven't heard of, Brooklyn-ites Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts are at Sneaky Dee's on August 6.

The Toronto theatre/arts-oriented Summerworks Festival takes place August 7 to 17 and does include a music component featuring a variety of local indie acts performing at The Theatre Centre (Queen & Dovercourt) over the course of August 8-16. Check out the schedule. Details of the music series have been conveniently condensed over at Stille Post.

Perhaps influenced by Stephen Malkmus' decision to finally come back to Toronto(July 16 at Phoenix), Mallkus' one-time cohort in Silver Jews, David Berman, will bring Silver Jews to Toronto for a show at Lee's Palace on September 2. Tickets $15.00.

South American latin-trip-hop artist Federico Aubele plays the Rivoli on September 6. Tickets $12.50.

The Muchmusic Blog points out that Moby will be DJ'ing at this years Virgin Festival in Toronto on September 7 as confirmed on his website.

A whopping $25.50 (I can't resist, but touch me I'm sick) will get you in to see Mudhoney at the Horseshoe on September 19.

Finally, The Wedding Present (who just recently released their newest album "El Rey") only have one North American date lined up for New York City at Southpaw on October 9, but Brooklyn Vegan points out that tour dates are apparently being lined up for "USA and Canada for September into October". Yay!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Waiting For The Next Music Format

Billy Bragg @ HMV [Yonge & Bloor] (June 17, 2008)
Billy Bragg at HMV: photo by Michael Ligon

Prior to his proper gig at Harbourfront, Billy Bragg performed a brief solo acoustic instore at the grand reopening of HMV's Yonge and Bloor location this past Tuesday. I missed a bit of it but did catch full performances of 'Waiting For The Great Leap Forward' (with some timely, biting lyrical changes which ponder the next music format that's forthcoming) and set-closer 'A New England' during which Billy encouraged an audience singalong especially during the chorus. Even during the brief time I was there, I still managed to catch some of Billy's humourous banter. He spoke about his son who's in that period of discovering his own musical tastes and Billy recounted how his son would him ask whether he heard of artists like Jimi Hendrix and Kansas, at which the audience chuckled. Given the mention of that latter band, Billy instead turned his son onto The Clash's "London Calling" which had the audience roar with approval only to have Billy respond that now his son's into Green Day. Ha ha.

A few more of my photos are over at Flickr.

MySpace: Billy Bragg

Thursday, June 19, 2008

NXNE 2008 - Day 3

concert review: NXNE @ various venues (Toronto, Ontario), June 14, 2008

Jeff McDonald (Redd Kross) @ Lee's Palace (June 14, 2008)
Redd Kross' Jeff McDonald at Lee's Palace: photo by Michael Ligon

Julie Doiron [MySpace] / Calm Down It's Monday @ Sonic Boom (6 pm)

It was serendipitous that Sonic Boom added Sackville's Julie Doiron for an early evening instore set which I was able to attend since I missed Julie's set at the Horseshoe the previous night (due to choosing to see Young and Sexy at Sneaky Dee's instead). Performing with her Calm Down Its Monday other half Dick Morello on drums with Julie on guitar and vocals, it seemed as if Julie's been revelling in her recent Eric's Trip shows as her guitar sounds during this set were of the fuzzy electric variety. That combined with the drums, there was more oomph in the instrumentation and even in her vocals which I don't normally associate with Julie's usually gentle almost fragile nature. She's no Broken Girl anymore. Unplanned it seemed, she asked if anyone wanted to hear some Calm Down It's Monday songs and then with a little encouragement her and partner switched rols. Instrumentally, there was little difference between CDIM's and Julie's set, though CDIM's songs were IMO had a rootsier flavour. Julie on drums at one point mentioned her fifty something mother was taking drumming lessons and was technically a better drummer than her but Julie said she taught her a few licks.

Catnip [MySpace] @ Rancho Relaxo (9 pm)

Saturday was riddled with public transit troubles as I found out. I headed down to Harbourfront to kill some time and check out what was going on for Luminat'eau. Quarter to 9 I decided to head to Rancho Relaxo by streetcar only to find out that there were some changes to he route (ie. I had to take one streetcar, transfer to a bus, then take another streetcar). Basically it made me late for Australia's Catnip who had likely took the stage promptly at nine as I think I arrived there around 25 minutes after and barely caught a couple of songs. Having sampled their hazy, ambient pop soundscapes over at their MySpace and liked what I head I was somewhat disappointed that Catnip were performing as a duo rather than a full band. I guess it's not necessarily fair of me to judge them based on only a couple of songs but with only Nerida Trask on vocals(and melodica at least on one song) and a guitarist, and without the benefit of at least a drummer, their set didn't capture the atmosphere of their recorded output which had drawn me to them in the first place. Take this as constructive criticism and not a slight against them.

Adam and The Amethysts [MySpace] @ Silver Dollar (10 pm)

Montreal's Adam and The Amethysts (which features Adam Waito who also plays in Miracle Fortress) chose NXNE as their live debut and Adam and the three other members(two females on guitar and keyboards, and a gent on drums) seemed to make a good impression their first time out. All in all it was your standard, simple indie pop/rock fare performed with a nonchalance but above all the songs had some nice melodies. Their female vocalist used a toy microphone on one song to provide some echo(but only half successfully) to her background vocals and on a few songs they brought out another young gent to play some extra percussion. In a rare NXNE occasion, the crowd convinced them for an encore, which Adam eventually provided but only him solo performing a somewhat folky, rootsy number. Hey, does anyone think Adam's a deadringer for Jamie Oliver? Adam and The Amethysts next play in Toronto on July 26 at Sneaky Dee's with Think About Life and Miracle Fortress.

Aleks and The Ramps [MySpace] @ Rancho Relaxo (11 pm)

It was a hop, skip and a jump back to Rancho Relaxo, which in a way was a blessing since it conserved my energy for what would be a somewhat tiring ordeal for the rest of the night after Australian band Aleks and The Ramps' set. From the getgo I knew they were going to be interesting given their 80's gym attire. Their lone female member wore a 80's tank top/shorts outfit and looked adorable. One of the guys wore a t-shirt which read 'Italians Do It Better'. They started out their set on the floor in front of the stage doing some co-ordinated dance moves before picking up some percussive instruments lined up on the floor in front of them then running around the venue and dancing before jumping on to the stage to perform the rest of the set. At their heart they're a zany indie pop band (who reminded me of Architecture in Helsinki) with all the usual rock band instrumentation plus banjo but with an experimental/noisy element. At times I wondered if their experimental/noisy side was just a coverup for a lack of musicianship but then realized it wasn't - it was just an element they chose to incorporate into their sound (think Wilco and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot"). Sometimes I wished they'd tone down their experimental/noisy side and let the melodies shine through but that's just my preference. Even a song like the Magnetic Fields-ish "Hey Owl" (heard on their MySpace and which drew me to them in the first place) suffered IMO somewhat under the weight of the denser instrumentation they chose to perform the song this night. That said, it was still my favourite song of their set.

This Is Radio Freedom @ Holy Joe's (12 am)

Public transit was shit even more than usual with a combination of route changes and detours due to construction and the neighbourhood festival happening in Little Italy. A combination of walking/running and catching at least one streetcar and I finally made it down to Holy Joes but only to catch the last few songs of UK's This Is Radio Freedom's set. As small as a room as it is it still wasn't packed to the rafters but their were a good number of people there for the size of the room which made it appear respectable. The song I most wanted to hear, their single "Bombthreat", they saved for last making my whole ordeal just getting down there all worthwhile. Fantastic single. The few other songs I'd heard weren't quite up to that level but still worthy listens. Their brand of melodic anthemic rock music (with some electronic elements mixed in at times) seems ready-made for an outdoor festival stage, apparently something they've experienced in their native UK, and hopefully sometime they'll get to experience in North America in the future.

Redd Kross [MySpace] @ Lee's Palace (1 am)

I was never a huge Redd Kross fan. I could and can still only name two songs of theirs by name ('Jimmy's Fantasy' and 'Lady In The Front Row', both of which they performed this night). But, it turned out to be an exhiliratingly, good time and what better way to end off my NXNE. A set of glammy, pop numbers, insanely great guitar work by Robert Hecker, a band decked out in nice cool suits, and the extremely witty and charming banter of lead vocalist Jeff McDonand all contributed to a thoroughly appreciated set by the fans in attendance. At one point, Jeff pulled a digital camera and started to film the audience in order to gather evidence for his preteen daughter(apparently a Jonas Brothers fan) that people in Toronto really like Redd Kross. I'm sure we gave her more than sufficient evidence [check out the video at about the 4 min mark].

And so ends my NXNE for another year.

Check out my photos from Day Three of NXNE over at my Flickr.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

NXNE 2008 - Day 2

concert review: NXNE @ various venues (Toronto, Ontario), June 13, 2008

The Pack A.D. @ Sneaky Dee's (June 13, 2008)
The Pack A.D. at Sneaky Dee's: photo by Michael Ligon

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists [MySpace] @ Yonge Dundas Square (9 pm)

It was a dream come true for me that NXNE got Ted Leo and The Pharmacists to play a free set in the heart of downtown Toronto. Ted and the group played mostly old faves plus several new tunes with the incendiary spunk they're known for and one of the musical highlights was their integration of Daft Punk's "One More Time" during one of their own tunes(which title escapes me at the moment). I half expected some political banter though Ted did make some some humourous comments along the lines that Canada's motto should be the country of polite discourse, making some sort of reference to some comments being made to him by fans near the front of the stage. Ironically, there was some older man in the crowd waving an American flag and spitting out expletives about Canada I think and and how the US was better, or at least that's what I think he said. A little later on, some younger guy started ingratiating himself to that older guy, then suddenly took the US flag out of the guy's hand and threw it away and then had a laugh about it. He had it coming. As the thunderstorm clouds gather over us the rain started to fall slowly and then faster as Ted and the band finished out their set in fine rock n' roll fashion just as the full-on downpour began. Good thing I had my umbrella.

Great Lake Swimmers [MySpace] @ Reverb (10 pm)

I originally had nothing on my sched for 10 pm but with the torrential downpour I decided to go to the Reverb to check out the pastoral, folk-rock sounds of Great Lake Swimmers, moreso because it was only a streetcar ride down Queen St for me (and no I hadn't even realized the irony of the torrential downpour and seeing Great Lake Swimmers). Playing as part of a CBC Radio showcase, I only managed to catch a few songs of Tony Dekker and his band who were playing to a packed house. Following Great Lake Swimmers was Toronto's Laura Barrett. I wonder how much of a crowd stuck around for her because it seemed like half the crowd(me included, though I was only leaving because I wanted to check out Young and Sexy at Sneaky Dee's) was exiting the venue after Great Lake Swimmers' set.

Young and Sexy [MySpace] @ Sneaky Dee's (11 pm)

I've been meaning to see Young and Sexy live for a while and had managed to miss every one of their past shows in Toronto. I'm not particular familiar with their catalog save for a select few songs but still those few songs I've heard were impressive works of pop sophistication albeit performed with an air of nonchalance. I've read accounts that they aren't a great live band, and perhaps on a certain level they don't have much of a live show, but like seeing that other west coast pop band The New Pornographers, sometimes the songs are enough. Young and Sexy had some nice melodies, with instrumentation that was sometimes airy but other times adding a little more intensity. Some insane fan at the front of the stage was dancing up a storm, initially entertaining, but then it was just a distraction. Vocalist Lucy Brain acknowledged him and mentioned to the crowd that he was a superfan from back west who came to many of their shows.

The Pack A.D. [MySpace] @ Sneaky Dee's (12 am)

I stuck around for The Pack A.D. who I'd heard good things about and the female guitar/drums duo did not disappoint. They were one of my favourite sets of the festival. The White Stripes comparisons are accurate but more specifically only as it relates to The White Stripes garage rock interpretation of the blues. Guitarist plays with a fiery intensity, playing some great guitar riffs and bluesy slide guitar and she sings like Janis Joplin, while drummer Maya Miller keeps the beats simple allowing Becky's voice and guitar to really take centre stage. Fave moment of the night was when Becky laid her guitar on the floor and strummed it with reckless abandon.

The Diableros [MySpace] @ Silver Dollar (1 am)

This was the first time in a while of seen The Diableros live and the first time since the personnel changes in The Diableros who's only original members are founder Pete and guitarist Ian, and now add Keith[on guitar] of Hamilton Trading Company, Mike [on drums] of Proof of Ghosts and Craig [on organ] of Fjord Rowboat. The songs blend of groaning organ, ringing and washes of guitar and Pete Carmichael's vocal yelp were great to get acquainted with although it seemed they played mostly newer songs becaues I think I only recognized one tune off of their debut. With the addition of Mike on drums, he's added a little more rhythmic texture as I'd always found orginal drummer Phoebe Lee more simplistic - not a bad thing per se, but I think I like Mike's drumming better.

Check out my photos from Day Two of NXNE over at my Flickr.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NXNE 2008 - Day 1

concert review: NXNE @ various venues (Toronto, Ontario), June 12, 2008

Olenka and The Autumn Lovers @ C'est What (June 12, 2008)
Olenka and The Autumn Lovers at C'est What: photo by Michael Ligon

Let's get right to it.

Two Hours Traffic [MySpace] @ Sonic Boom (7 pm)

After a little snafu with getting my media pass at NXNE headquarters at the Holiday Inn on King St., I figured I'd start the night out early and check out Charlottetown powerpop four-piece Two Hours Traffic who were playing an instore at Sonic Boom. Just when I thought powerpop was dead, Two Hours Traffic renewed my faith in it, performing a tight set of fully fleshed out pop tunes, injecting tasty bits of melodic guitar chords and keyboards and lead vocalist Liam Corcoran's effortlessly casual yet tuneful vocals. I chatted briefly with fellow music blogger HistoryJen who called them 'cute', and with good looks on their side, they should be huge. Well it wouldn't hurt.

The Mahones [MySpace] @ Yonge Dundas Square (8 pm)

The Mahones set was more of an afterthought since I had time to kill before 9 pm and Olenka and The Autumn Lovers' set at C'est What. Specializing in the same brand of Irish folk/punk that Ireland's The Pogues made famous, The Mahones were perfectly competent I guess and their mostly black attire suited their image just fine. Like any respectful artist, lead vocalist Finny McConnell gave some props to one of his favourite punk bands Teenage Head who were headlining the bill that night and for whom The Mahones appropriately warmed up the crowd. As an aside, I thought I'd mention that their blonde female bass guitarist is quite the looker. The Mahones will be playing the Annex Wreckroom this coming Thursday June 19 as part of Punk Aid 4 - Sick Kids Hospital Benefit.

Olenka and The Autumn Lovers @ C'est What (9 pm)

My favourite discovery of this year's festival was London, Ontario's Olenka and The Autumn Lovers led by lead vocalist Alexandra Krakus leading a merry band of musicians including a mini string section, stand up bass, accordion and glockenspiel. No drums surprisingly. Fans of Basia Bulat and Beirut are sure to be drawn to Olenka and The Autumn Lovers who delve into similar musical genres like folk-rock, rootsy pop('Flash In The Pan') and a bit of country but also add some elements of Eastern European folk music(like on 'Iron Pump') utilizing accordion and glockenspiel, and waltz-ian time signatures. Like Basia Bulat, Alexandra exuded a natural charm and displayed a genuine fondness for the live performance despite the small crowd on hand (although I think her mom was in the crowd). The Eastern European influence did become more prominent on a few raveups reminiscent of indie fave Beirut's interpretation of the influence, including at least one which she sang in her native Polish. I think it's only time before Toronto and beyond are fawning all over them.

The Wet Secrets [MySpace] @ Horseshoe Tavern (10 pm)

Already running late on schedule having to make my way westward from C'est What, I ditched options to go to see Medallions at Rancho Relaxo and Rah Rah at The Boat and when I got off the streetcar at Queen and Spadina I decided to go check out Edmonton's The Wet Secrets who I'd glanced at their name and photo in a profile in NOW earlier in the day. I hadn't actually had a chance to read the profile but their photo looked interesting. I got into the venue as the band apparently had just begun, and the place was pretty packed. Led by bassist/vocalist Lyle Bell of Shout Out Out Out Out and his shouty/raspy vocals with a drummer, keyboardist and featuring a prominent two female horn section (trumpet & trombone), the entire band was in full marching band attire, and added to that the ladies wore the tallest platform boots I think I've ever seen and wore marching band headwear. The whole wardrobe was perhaps a bit campy, but then this afterall is rock n' roll. With song titles like 'Get Your Own Apartment', it was all good rock n' roll fun.

Small Sins [MySpace] @ Horseshoe Tavern (11 pm)

I decided to stick it out at the 'Shoe to see Small Sins. Only casually familiar with the electro-pop sounds of Toronto's Small Sins, I was rather taken back when the live set ended up being more guitar driven than I expected. They didn't necessarily trade in the keyboards and electronic rhythms but featuring more prominent guitar, their sound was much more powerpop. The tunes were frequently energized by percussionist/'clap assassin' Kevin Hilliard who rocked out hard - the guy's insane and I mean that in the nicest way. I quite underestimated Small Sins draw as they always seemed to fly under my musical radar but the band translated their energy to the crowd and the crowd appreciatingly reflected it back.

Money Mark [MySpace] @ Horseshoe Tavern (12 am)

So what if most conversations I overhead before Money Mark's set was one person saying to another that Money Mark is the keyboardist for Beastie Boys. I'll admit that was my only point of reference and in that regard his playing, mostly of the soulful, funky variety, was outstanding. Money Mark strolled onto the stage holding a tape recorder which was playing some jazzy, swing music then proceeded to hold it up to the mic and against an electric guitar, seemingly experimenting with the sounds he could produce and amplify. Performing with a band including a fellow keyboardist, the set was an eclectic mix of various styles including funk, soul, and even Billy Joel style piano-pop, with vocals from Money Mark that were similar tone in my opinion to Damon Albarn but without the British accent of course. It was all new to me although it was audibly apparent that there were some hardcore fans in the house. Money Mark even took a turn at guitar, bringing out the instrument which apparently was one he owned for years and was in fact the first guitar he ever owned. Terrific set overall, although when it was over I was glad since my own tiredness was setting in.

These New Puritans [MySpace] @ Reverb (1 am)

I gathered enough strength (the fresh air walking from the Horseshoe to the Reverb did me good) to go and check out NME-approved UK's These New Puritans. The four-piece (3 gents and 1 girl) looked barely out of highschool though performed with enough confidence that gave the impression of a more seasoned band. Lead vocalist Jack Barnett Jack Barnett, wearing a gold feathered metallic looking shirt exuded a confident stage presence with the rhythm section of twin brother George Barnett on drums and Thomas Hein on sampler and bass guitar showed enough spunk of their own. Band member Sophie Sleigh-Johnson behind the keyboard and Mac laptop seemed barely able to crack a smile nor move at all that I wondered if she was actually doing anything other than pressing a few buttons and looking pretty. The bigbeat, danceable post punk tunes were carried with urgency by the Jack's ever constant sing-speak reminiscent of The Fall's Mark E. Smith. Many younger twentysomethings seemed to have made it out to their set and as the set gained momentum the crowd got increasingly in to it to the point that a mosh pit formed and a audience member or two actually tried to stage dive/crowd surf. Hey they're not necessarily my thing, but I can see why the kids like 'em.

Check out my photos from Day One of NXNE over at my Flickr.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Number One

concert review: Lightspeed Champion, Flowers Forever @ Lee's Palace (Toronto, Ontario), June 11, 2008

Lightspeed Champion at Lee's Palace: photo by Michael Ligon

I can't speak firsthand about first openers Charleston, North Carolina's The Explorers Club, although I heard they were all sorts of Brian Wilson-esque goodness, but second openers Omaha, Nebraska's Flowers Forever and headliners UK's Lightspeed Champion were as opposites as two could bands could be playing on the same bill.

Glow-in-the-dark, larger than life, cut-out, faces adorned the stage, with moments of smoke-machine billowing and eerie lighting set the mood for Flowers Forevers sinister punky, garage pop. I hadn't known until after the fact that, Derek Presnall, is the guitarist and vocalist for indiepop outfit Tilly and the Wall so maybe that ignorance made me approach Flowers Forevers set with an open mind. I've read several items on the band that make the accusation that Derek's change in musical direction with Flowers Forever sounds forced, but honestly I though Flowers Forever were decent. Though, perhaps on a bill as a warm-up to the pure pop sounds of Lightspeed Champion is a little weird.

If Flowers Forever's set was a little too jolting to the system, Lightspeed Champion's set was as a good a remedy as one could get. Stepping it up from playing as a duo, when Dev played with violinst Mike Siddeel at the Horseshoe Tavern in March of this year, they were joined by a drummer(Anna Prior) and bass guitarist this time around, fleshing out songs off of "Falling Off The Lavender Bridge", and later on in the set utilizing the configuration on a surprising rocking rendition of the Star Wars Darth Vader Theme. Other than the latter's obvious benefiting from the full band, I found myself feeling that Lightspeed Champion's set back in March was the better one. I'd probably feel differently if I could hear the female drummer's background vocals better (like Emmy The Great's delicious background vox on the album), but otherwise the added drums and bass guitar this time around wasn't nearly as much of an improvement as I'd hoped for for songs that were already great performed with just guitar, violin and vocals.

Even on an off day Dev's banter contributions are still as charmingly goofy than most, but even still, banter quantity was less this time around than last. He apologized for being 'anti-social' when he took a moment to discuss the NBA finals with a fan near the front of the stage who apparently brought it up. He also complimented the venue and it's high stage - ok, so that wasn't funny, but hey a compliment's and compliment, and if there's a music venue comparable to Lee's Palace anywhere with a stage as high or higher than Lee's Palace, I want to know.

My photos from the show are over at Flickr.

Reviews of the show over at Chromewaves and It's Not The Band I Hate....

MySpace: Flowers Forever
MySpace: Lightspeed Champion

Friday, June 13, 2008

NXNE Picks

A lot to still catch up on including the Lightspeed Champion show at Lee's Palace this past Wednesday, and my NXNE experiences yesterday evening[best act I caught yesterday evening was Olenka and The Autumn Lovers at C'est What - look out for them]. Don't count on me posting any NXNE recaps until at least after Saturday.

I didn't get around to posting my NXNE picks for Thursday prior to the festival starting but here are a few of my picks for the rest of the festival (obviously, I won't be at all of these):

June 13, 2008
06:00 PM Ladyhawk Yonge-Dundas Square
07:00 PM The Death Set Yonge-Dundas Square
09:00 PM Oh No Forest Fires
09:00 PM Ruby Coast Drake Hotel
09:00 PM Calm Down It's Monday Harlem
09:00 PM Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Yonge-Dundas Square
10:00 PM Great Lake Swimmers Reverb
11:00 PM The Superfantastics Clinton’s
11:00 PM young and sexy Sneaky Dee’s
11:00 PM Laura Barrett Reverb
12:00 AM The Pack A.D. Sneaky Dee’s
12:00 AM Will Currie and The Country French Drake Hotel
01:00 AM The Diableros Silver Dollar Room
02:00 AM Special Guest Sneaky Dee’s

June 14, 2008
09:00 PM CATNIP Rancho Relaxo
09:00 PM Bran Van 3000 Yonge-Dundas Square
10:00 PM Adam & The Amethysts Silver Dollar Room
10:00 PM Erin Lang Savannah Room
11:00 PM Foxfire Reverb
11:00 PM Ruth Minnikin and her Band Cadillac Lounge
11:00 PM The Two Koreas El Mocambo (Down)
11:00 PM aleks & the ramps Rancho Relaxo
12:00 AM The Luyas Silver Dollar Room
01:00 AM ESCALATE! Rex
01:00 AM Entire Cities Cadillac Lounge

June 15, 2008
10:00 PM THIS IS RADIO FREEDOM El Mocambo (Down) Closing Party

Hey Darlin' Don't You Look Fine

concert review: Grand Archives, Sera Cahoone @ El Mocambo (Toronto, Ontario), June 6, 2008

Grand Archives at El Mocambo: photo by Michael Ligon

The much recently balleyhooed Seattles' Grand Archives apparently played a mere five songs at its debut show which got them a contract with Sub Pop who released recently their self-titled debut album. Of course, there's the Band of Horses connection as Grand Archives frontman Mat Brooke was once a BoH guitarist. Currently touring with Grand Archives is Mat's fellow former Carissa's Wierd (precursor to Band of Horses) bandmate Sera Cahoone who recently released her debut CD "Only as the Day Is Long" on Sub Pop back in March. The vibe at the El Mocambo last Friday was a relatively relaxed one, as what better what to tour then to tour with friends.

I only caught part of Sera's set, but what I caught was as impressive as first impressions can get. Playing with a band, Sera and her bandmates performed a set of melancholy country, folk-rock music using a combination of electric and acoustic instrumentation. The strength of the melodies and Sera's forlorn vocals were the best elements of the music in a genre that easily can fall by the wayside in less capable hands. The highlight of the set for most people it seemed was Sera's set closer when Grand Archives' Ron Lewis joined Sera and her band on stage for some added percussive elements and which ended with the group harmonizing in a spectacular finale worthy of the Grand Ole Opry.

Grand Archives were somewhat anxious as to what the Toronto reaction might be as Mat mentioned that the reception in another city (I think he mentioned Montreal) was quiet. With the relatively small El Mocambo at less than capacity, it could have easily been a laid back vibe, but as Grand Archives performed (with a few thank yous and other banter thrown in), the crowd's response was greater and greater. Part of it you'd have to chalk up to the strength of the songs. Grand Archives performed much of their self-titled debut plus a few new ones and Mat did at least one song solo during the encore. They're similar in vein to the reverb-drenched pop rock of Band of Horses on one level. However, Grand Archives tone down the reverb and place more emphasis on vocals and harmonzing and also seem to have a more varied sound overall over the course of their set list, utlizing some playful whistling on 'Minitiare Birds', getting a little country as on "A Setting Sun", playing some sombre-toned pop like on 'Sleepdriving' and their piece de resistance, 'Torn Blue Foam Coach' which is as sublime for it's vocal harmones between Mat and Ron as it is for the way it gradual builds from its quiet beginning to its full band charge. So far, it's my FAVOURITE song of the year. Mat made reference to Bob Saget who somehow influenced the writing of 'Torn Blue Foam Coach' - perhaps the band were relaxing on a torn blue foam coach, and Full House was on televesion - but however he did influence them, all I can say is, thank you Bob Saget.

Photos from the show over a my Flickr.

MySpace: Sera Cahoone
MySpace: Grand Archives

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

These Days

The National @ Molson Ampitheatre (June 8, 2008)
The National at Molson Ampitheatre: photo by Michael Ligon

Modest Mouse @ Molson Ampitheatre (June 8, 2008)
Modest Mouse at Molson Ampitheatre: photo by Michael Ligon

R.E.M. @ Molson Ampitheatre (June 8, 2008)
R.E.M. at Molson Ampitheatre: photo by Michael Ligon

concert review: R.E.M., Modest Mouse, The National @ Molson Ampitheare (Toronto, Ontario), June 8, 2008

It may have been somewhat egoistic for R.E.M. to devote much of their set this past Saturday to tunes off their most recent album "Accelerate" and latter-era obscure album tracks. On the other hand such confidence did pay off as some (well actually a lot of) the newer material had its moments, resonating with a melodicism and energy that's on par with R.E.M.'s decent songs.

As expansive as first openers The National's sound is, it wasn't enough to draw more than a polite response from the half full ampitheatre. It was brief set which leaned towards songs off "Boxer" was satifying musically and the expanded horn section was appreciated. However, on a pure energy level, the energy was practically sucked out. The band performed adequately but in terms of translating that to the audience it just didn't happen. Perhaps an early evening time slot in a half-full ampitheatre setting, with most people for the most part looking forward to R.E.M. and maybe Modest Mouse is not the best circumstances to experience The National.

On the other hand, second openers Modest Mouse drew a little more energy from the crowd with pockets of people in the stands(like the group of young girls sitting a row behind me) even standing up for their set. I've never devoted much time to listening to them on CD honestly. Most naysayers of the band blame vocalist Isaac Brock's whiny vocals. They're not the most attractive vocals necessarily but I actually I'm quite comfortable with them. Set closer 'Float On', admittedly, was the only song of theirs I could actually name but I found that the rest of the set, while unfamiliar to me, had a melodic, rhythmic, almost Talking Heads quality that was quite enjoyable.

With the sun setting, after respectable sets from openers The National and Modest Mouse, R.E.M. took the stage against a backdrop of a video screen that projected images of the band and geometric patterns and shapes for the entirety of the set. As the set unfurled, I realized how much of it was unfamiliar to me. I jotted down the set list as much as I could, but most of it ended up being lyrics and strings of words rather than actually song names. I'll admit, I was mainly an R.E.M. singles fan (and a fan of a few album tracks here and there), but as the set progressed I discovered gems that made me wish I devoted more time to R.E.M. The set was a good mix of fan favourites, latter era album tracks and a healthy dose of tunes off of "Accelerate" and for the most part treaded an mid-tempo to upbeat pop-rock territory. At times, the set changed pace like the sombre "Drive" or the sublime all-acoustic take on "Monster" track 'Let Me In'. However, it seemed like R.E.M. had it's mind on rocking out and they did with songs like encore opener, "Accelerate" track 'Supernatural Superserious', a fantastic melodic zip-through of a song. It was about midway through their set I began wondering whether the song requests from the audience might start, and one of the tracks that I was hoping they would play they suddenly began, with the laid-back, melodic 'Electrolite'. It was however the fan favourites like 'Losing My Religion', 'The One I Love', and encore closer 'Man On The Moon' that sparked mass-standing-up and audience singalongs.

Mr. Stipe made an effort to engage the audience, if not with his dancing, then at least banter-wise. Mr. Stipe was as nice as could be giving a shout-out to Toronto's Mary Margaret O'Hara who was in the house, and thanking Toronto video production team Crush for producing the video for their song "Hollow Man" and who were also apparently in the audience. Making reference to the hot weather in Toronto, he said it made him(a Georgian) very happy, which drew a chuckle and a smile from the crowd. Giving insight to their song 'Houston', Michael Stipe described it as a response to the US government's reponse to the Katrina Hurricane in New Orleans. Michael also urged everyone to pass by the Amnesty International table, though I doubt most people actually made it there.

The icing on the cake for me was when they brought up current Modest Mouse guitarist Johnny Marr (one of my fave guitarists of all time) to add some jangle to 'Fall On Me', and the added bonus to hear live that vocal interplay between Mike and Michael was pure heaven. A song about the environment never sounded so good.

My photos from the show are up at my Flickr.

Chartattack, The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, Eye Weekly, Chromewaves, and It's Not The Band I Hate... review the show.

You can download audio of the show over at dimeadozen. [via].

MySpace: The National
MySpace: Modest Mouse
MySpace: R.E.M.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Made Of Stone

Spiral Beach posterEye Weekly's Sarah Liss spoke with Spiral Beach about getting busted recently for illegal postering. (NOW also reports on the incident.) I do feel sorry for them though I do find the fine was overly high. Indie bands be careful where you poster. Sarah mentions that Spiral Beach have some 'fundraising' (ie. busking) gigs coming up starting tonight 6pm at Brunswick & Bloor, Saturday at 6pm outside the ROM, and on Sunday in Kensington Market. Stay tuned for more details of a benefit show planned at the Whippersnapper Gallery for June 20. [photo swiped from NOW]

Eye Weekly chatted with Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard (whose band headlines a mini-festival show at Toronto Islands tomorrow). Death Cab For cutie performed a session for MPR: The Current and The Smudge Of Ashen Fluff has graciously split the songs into separate mp3's available for download. It looks like the rain is gonna hold off for the most part tomorrow, though it's gonna be HOT. Have fun if you're going.

According to this Facebook Event page, Toronto record store Criminal Records will be hosting an NXNE-associated multi-band instore on June 13 (5 pm - 8 pm) featuring Mardeen, The Superfantastics, The Amazing Shotgun Jimmie, Old Man Luedecke, Calm Down It's Monday and (maybe?) Attack In Black.

Van Morrison has some select North American dates in July including a show at Massey Hall on July 7. Presale tickets for the Toronto show are already sold out. I'm not sure when the public onsale will be.

July 19, this year's Open House at The Tranzac goes down with a multitude of local indie acts, headlined by Fembots, Castlemusic, and The Burning Hell. Doors at 8 pm. Tickets $10 advance/$12 door. More details over at Stille Post.

With a new double CD 32-song retrospective entitled "Spirituality: The Consummate Compendium -- 1983 - 2008" coming out through Warner/Rhino on July 8, Vancouver's Spirit Of The West will celebrate a month later with a show at Horseshoe Tavern on August 1. The have a slew of tour dates beginning at the end of the month.

Pollstar indicates that Steve Earle and Allison Moorer will be at Gage Park in Hamilton, ON on August 8 and that date is confirmed at Steve Earle's website. It's a FREE show btw, as Steve Earle and Allison Moorer will be participating in Festival of Friends.

They broke up in 2006 which disappoint me but it seems that the split was short-lived as Vancouver's The Organ have decided to regroup. The CBC Radio 3 blog reports that this fall will see the light of a new 6 song EP "Thieves" from the gals. The EP is to come out October 14.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Harbourfront Summer Festivals 2008

Harbourfront Centre has launched a snazzy new website for it's upcoming summer festival season. The schedules for about half of the Harbourfront's World Routes festival's are now posted including A Rocky Mountain High: The Banff Centre (June 27-29), Canada Day (July 1), Beats, Breaks & Culture (July 4-6), Ritmo Y Color, and Tirgan: Iranian Festival (July 17-20). Other Harbourfront festival schedules now up include Luminat'eau (June 13-15) and Franco-Fete (June 21). With this much(and more) going on in Toronto this summer for free, there should be plenty to keep one entertained.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Parks and Rec

In my last post I mentioned that the planned shows for NXNE that are suppose to take place in various parks/street locations around the city weren't listed(except for a few shows) in the NXNE schedule. However, over the last few days I see that has changed. Actually, one of those sets took place near my work today over at the College Park Parkette with local Jennifer Foster playing a set. I was too busy munching on my delicious $2.99 hamburger at the nearby Richtree patio to listen to Jenn's set, but yes, outdoor sets like this are really a great idea. The Yonge-Dundas Square NXNE lineups for the end of this week(Thursday, Friday & Saturday) will likely draw big crowds, but there are variety of other alternative venues around the city that'll be hosting some live sets too.(My pick is UK's This Is Radio Freedom who'll be playing a half hour set at Metro Square [King & John Sts.] on June 12 at noon - their song "Bombthreat", streaming over at their MySpace, is a bristling, anthemic Brit-rock tune.) Peruse the NXNE schedule and see what interests you. (I'm slowly putting together my schedule for NXNE. Any recommendations? I'm mostly interested in club hopping and checking out the lesser known acts.)

In other news, Chromewaves points out that The Watson Twins come back to Toronto for a quite an affordable(and sure to be enjoyable) evening at Lee's Palace on July 15, with opener Tim Fite. Tickets only $10. The gals debut full-length "Fire Songs" will be released June 14.

The Mexican Elvis, El Vez stops in at Horseshoe Tavern for a show on August 9[via The Windish Agency].

Handsome Furs return to Toronto for a show at Lee's Palace on August 22, with openers The Witchies[via Inland Empire Touring].

Eric's Trip at The Mod Club tomorrow night? Hmmm, I'm still pondering about going. I always liked them but I never really listened to them much. But I just finished listening to their album "Forever Again" and it reminded me how much I loved their song "My Chest Is Empty". It breaks my heart every time I listen to it.