concert review: Little Girls, Steamboat, Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom (Toronto, Ontario) - April 18, 2009
Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom (April 18, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon
After a Record Store Day tour-of-duty (I hit up in order, Rotate This, Soundscapes, Criminal Records, Penguin Music, and Sunrise Records), I ended up at Sonic Boom who themselves were celebrating with an afternoon-into-evening full of instore performances from a sampling of Toronto indie up-and-comers. Having just trekked around Toronto, I managed to stick around for the first three acts.
For my first time seeing young indie pop hopefuls Hooded Fang I was fortunate as apparently they were considerably tighter than they'd been in some past shows. Playing pop music augmented by all the usual instrumental components (keys, guitar, bass, drums, horns, handclaps, and a smidge of accordion), they maintained a level of chipperness without thankfully being overly twee. As with many pop bands, they played music that sounded happy bit the lyrics revealed a more serious undertone. Perhaps their biggest strength (besides infectious melodies) were the alternating lead vocals - Daniel Lee with his suave approaching-on baritone, and Lorna Wright with her jubilant, clear timbre. They didn't outwardly express much more than a shimmy and shake (especially from Lorna and multi-instrumentalist Julia Barnes), but they're young and it's hopefully a component of their live show they'll develop over time.
Seeming like a 180 degree turn from Hooded Fang's sunny indie pop was next act Steamboat. Composed of a rhythm section comprised of a couple of people from Soundscapes and the remaining three members on lead vocals/keys, second keys, and guitar, they worked their bluesy, soul, rock angle (with a more than decent reggae cover thrown in) surprisingly well. Instead of coming off like a second-rate bar band, much of their strength in rising above that lay in the soulful lead vocals of Matt McLaren and his colourful Hammond(?) organ playing. Credit also should go to the band for being musically tight without treading into wankier territory. I wouldn't have thought the young'uns would have been much into it but they seemed to genuinely enjoy the set. Update: They have several shows coming up - April 25 at Tranzac, April 30 at Dakota Tavern and May 16 at Sneaky Dee's for a CD release.
Third act(and final act of the day for me) was fresh-out-of-the-box young Toronto 4-piece Little Girls, 'little' maybe in the sense of being slim enough to fit into slim-fit jeans, but they weren't girls. Prior to their set, I'd thought of skipping out on their set but overwhelming curiosity to find out who they were (and see if they were in fact some hip young all-girl band) convinced me to stay. Disappointment, on the visual front. Musically, I wasn't immediately impressed either, although I did appreciate their noisy, post-punk influences. They played pop music with noisier, murkier sensibilities and a minimalist D.I.Y. ethic. The vocals are a noisier, harsher version of sing-speak and lead vocalist Josh McIntyre pogoed and stumbled around the stage in an intoxicated-like fashion. Visually they screamed hip young, NME-approved band-du-jour, but it'll be interesting to see where they go from there. It was after all their FIRST SHOW EVER. They will play Rancho Relaxo on May 1 then the Over The Top Festival at Sneaky Dee's on May 10 before heading to shows in Montreal and Brooklyn.
It's Not The Band I Hate, It's Their Fans has a review also of these acts plus additional act Green Go who I unfortunately did not stick around for(maybe next time).
Photos: Little Girls, Steamboat, Hooded Fang @ Sonic Boom (April 18, 2009)
There's a cursory lineup of artists up now at the NXNE website. It's also been revealed that Atlanta's The Black Lips will be playing a free show during NXNE at Yonge Dundas Square on June 18 with Burning Brides and Melissa Auf Der Maur also on the bill. Presented by MySpace Canada.
Still kicking around, Cracker will play Lee's Palace on June 23, tickets $20.50 in advance.
Toronto's Slim Twig plays the Horseshoe on May 29 for a CD release of his debut full-length "Contempt!" out through Paper Bag Records on June 9. Tickets for the show are $10.
Pitchfork reports on the annoucement of this year's Lollapalooza (August 7-9) lineup. I haven't actually looked it. I'm rushing this post but I will look at it tonight.
This year's Summerworks Festival has a launch party on May 3 at The Theatre Centre (1087 Queen St. West) with music from Bob Wiseman, RAA's Nils Edenloff, and Foxfire. Via Stille Post.