Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Thrush Hermit: photo by Michael Ligon
Update [Apr 2/2010, 12:42 pm]: My thoughts on Thrush Hermit and my review of their matinee show last Sunday are now up.
In the 90's heyday of Canadian indie-rock, Halifax's Thrush Hermit burst out of a burdgeoning east coast music scene providing infectious blasts of their own indie-pop-rock confectionary. It was many a Sunday night that Thrush Hermit provided a soundtrack as it seemed that Muchmusic's MuchWest and then Going Coastal would play a Thrush Hermit video almost every other week. While their peers Sloan may lay claim as the front-runners of that 90's east coast music scene having been signed to the majors first and laying the path for more east coast bands to become more popular, Thrush Hermit were always close behind. Releasing a series of EP's independently, a debut LP "Sweet Homewrecker" on the majors and arguably their finest and sadly their final LP "Clayton Park" back on an indie when the band called it a day in September 1999, it seemed premature, but in retrospect maybe it was the right decision and not just because the band's various members went on to further their musical careers. Joel Plaskett went on to make music with his band The Emergency(which featured fellow Hermit Ian McGettigan at one point) and ultimately solo, Rob Benvie released a solo effort, joined The Dears temporarily and went on to form Camouflage Nights with McGettigan, and pre-Clayton Park drummer Cliff Gibb apparently at one point went on to his own music pursuits under the moniker The Oracle of Impending Doom. But after hearing the four-piece perform last Sunday afternoon, what they claimed was their final Toronto performance ever, it was apparent that while the set was as infectious as I'd remembered, Thrush Hermit's legacy is sweeter for having left on a high note, their short but loved career a snapshot in time, their boy-ish looks, youthful enthusiasm and all.
Given the honour of opening the show was Toronto's Dinosaur Bones. For some reason I just never got around to checking out this band live until now. I'd been aware of the band since the beginning of 2009 and they've slowly built up a buzz (a buzz that is still relatively small, but a buzz nonetheless) but I've never been compelled to check them out. Shame on me. With the stage drenched in red light, the band's set of dark melodic rock full of textured guitar work, humming keys, thick bass and a good sense of dynamics turned out to be miles more intriguing than I'd anticipated. They forgoed indie rock aesthetics during their set(and what I've heard of their recorded output) for a more polished sound, though still raw enough that the music was/is still invigorating. With a 2008 self-titled EP, their recently released 2010 7-inch "Royalty/Ice Hotel", and a highly-anticipated full-length(whenever that may be), it's time I get more acquainted with the group.
It's hard to believe that I'd only ever seen Thrush Hermit live once, way back in 1995 when they performed as part of the Sloan-curated Edgefest 3 show down at the then-new Molson Ampitheatre. They had the balls to play a set entirely of Steve Miller Band covers. It was the pre-"Clayton Park" lineup of Plaskett, Benvie, Mettigan, and Gibb who took over Lee's Palace for three shows(two nights Fri & Sat, one matinee Sunday) last weekend, the matinee performance which I took in since I proscratinated on getting a ticket to either of the night shows which sold out. With the stage featuring the band's trademark "Rock N' Roll" neon sign which they'd brought out with them during their farewell tour in 1999, I think it was Plaskett who made a reference to "Back To The Future" and going back in time. It was a cross-catalogue setlist featuring almost everything I'd hope they'd would play. So yes, I didn't get "Heart Wrenching Man" (off of "Sweet Homewrecker") but got many favourites like "North Dakota", "Hated It", "French Inhale", "From The Back Of The Film", "The Day We Hit The Coast", "The Great Pacific Ocean", "Patriot", "I’m Sorry If Your Heart Has No More Room", and so on. As I'll say Plaskett has had the most notable music career of the bunch and his music possessing folkier strains and the other members been less active, their set last Sunday night was an opportunity for the band top play loose and ragged once again. Like possessing the spirit of Neil Young's great-loved band Crazy Horse, one of the highlights was the band tearing through the chaotic, noisy "Violent Dreams".
Musically, it was superb but energy-wise it didn't quite live up to my expectations. The crowd seemed less intense at times than I expected although I think it picked up during the latter half of the set, including the band's two encores. The band themselves put a decent amount of energy but part of me feels that the two previous night shows were probably the places to be and by Sunday afternoon the band were a little spent, understandeable. It's quite apparent, that at least with Plaskett, part of Thrush Hermit's catalogue is better left as part of their youth, in particular early EP tracks like "French Inhale" & "Hated It", tracks that exude a youthful, almost snotty, rock n' roll energy, but in mind seemed a little awkward compared to where Plaskett is now musically. But like the most timeless rock n' roll tracks, "From The Back Of The Film" will always feel good.
Photos: Thrush Hermit, Dinosaur Bones @ Lee's Palace (March 28, 2010)
MySpace: Dinosaur Bones
MySpace: Thrush Hermit