Monday, March 21, 2011

Digits, The Einar Flaa Academy, Bonjay, The Zoobombs, The Peelies, Katie Goes To Tokyo, The Pack A.D. @ Canadian Musicfest, Toronto (March 12-13 2011)

  The Pack A.D.: photo by Michael Ligon

Update [March 26, 2011, 11:14 am]: Review now up.

Continuing on with the Canadian Musicfest coverage, I went full tilt on the Saturday night and even made it out to the Sunday night of the festival for a few shows. Digits is the stage name of Toronto's Alt Altman, a one-man electro-pop artist whose set I began Saturday night of Canadian Musicfest. An admirable effort at best, but unfortunately it didn't feel quite essential at least compared to other artists such as fellow Canadians Junior Boys who create music in a similar vein. Digits handled all duties himself - vocals, synth, programming duties and even a bit of bass and there were bright spots occassionally, especially in some of the programming, beats and synth arrangements but not enough overall to convert me wholeheartedly. But perhaps I was just turned off by a lack of visuals and stage presence, making it a bit of a boring experience. Surprisingly for an early set, the venue drew in a larger crowd than expected - not packed by an means, but nor did it remain empty as I thought it might be.

Next up, I jumped onto the Spadina south streetcar on my way to Global Village Backpackers Hostel down the street to catch Norweigan folk-pop band The Einar Flaa Academy. Named after the band's singer and songwriter, this live set was a stripped down acoustic performance with Einar Flaa on vocals and acoustic guitar sitting on a stool with Ole Marksten on vocals, sax and glockenspiel, and Monika May on vocals both also seated. The performance had very much a living room feel with the band set up within the hostel's sunken intimate bar area. As I understand Einar and Ole are full-time members of The Einar Flaa Academy but I think Monika May[a musical artist in her own right] was only a guest that night, but from the wonderful performance they gave, you'd have sworn that Ms. May was a full-time member. Monika's soulful vocals blended nicely with Einar's more folkish vocals and with Einar's acoustic guitar playing augmented by Ole's instrumental contributions with glockenspiel and saxophone it was an understated performance punctuated by well-written songs. Disappointly, it was a rather disinterested crowd on-hand it seemed(at the very least giving some polite applause), although I hope that didn't discourage the band from coming back to Canada.

My plans to see Nashville's Heavy Cream at Wrongbar were foiled, and not because I didn't get in to the venue, but because once I got in I found out the sets were running half an hour behind schedule. I caught the tail-end of The Pack A.D.'s set, chatted with Joe from Mechanical Sound Forest for a bit but then had to jet for the next band I hoped to see which was Toronto's Bonjay who were playing The Mod Club about a quarter after midnight. Indie rockers/hipsters beware but The Mod Club on a Saturday night is definitely a place you should NOT be - it's a Saturday night dance party featuring clubby music and not the good stuff it seems. At times, I just felt like I was in an episode of Jersey Shore. This would not bode well for Bonjay - it was the first time I'd heard the band live and I was totally digging their ragga / electro / r n' b 'ish tunes but except for a few select souls near the front, most of the crowd seemed disinterested or distracted. Bonjay's vocalist Alanna Stuart expressed a few times to the crowd that the crowd was too quiet but the crowd never seemed to really get into it like they should have. Alanna and the band(including producer Pho on synth as well as a live drummer) made a valiant effort, but the crowd plain sucked.

And so to end off the Saturday night of Canadian Musicfest, I took in a double shot of garage rock goodness, first with Japan's The Zoobombs at The Comfort Zone, and then with all-girl female quartet, Montreal's The Peelies playing at Silver Dollar. The Zoobombs, who I've seen during past visits to the city, are at this point beyond review, except to say they are just about the most rockin' band out of Japan ever, their mix of garage-y, r n'b rock, mixed with squelches of keyboard and sleazy guitar playing, is always a good time, kind of like experiencing a band who musically seem like a mixture between The Rolling Stones and Iggy and The Stooges. The Peelies brand of garage-y pop-rock was more subtle than The Zoobombs but was satisfying nonetheless, with the girls alternating vocals/instruments between songs, and performing from an amateurist angle but overall with a sense of fun and non-chalance.

Normally I'd have ended the festival on Saturday night but I couldn't resist in the end to catch Swedish band Katie Goes To Tokyo who were playing a set at Bread N' Circus. For a Sunday night there was actual a good turnout for them, although disappointedly everyone was seated although it was rather for comfort than intential disregard for the band as the crowd seemed to enjoy the set. The band were quite in the vein of fellow Swedes The Cardigans (well, mostly early Cardigans), with vocalist/songwriter Kathrine Bergström and her band(including keys, bass, drums, and guitar) playing a set of breezy, sunny pop songs songs like "Little Sister". Especially noteworthy, was that it was Toronto's own Carmen Elle on guitar who did a fantastic job on guitar with her sinewy, melodic guitar lines and on drums was Kathrine's album producer Mårten Tromm who also produced Canadian singer/songwriter Hawksley Workman and which led Workman to co-write a song with Kathrine entitled “Paper Moon”. Kathrine's most recent album My Naked Heart was recorded in Stockholm but mixed and mastered in Toronto, Canada. Small world.

Given that I was already downtown, I decided not to waste the opportunity to catch The Pack A.D. at the Horseshoe Tavern whose set the other night at Wrongbar I'd only caught the tailend of. It was a rockin' good time as the guitar/drums duo wailed through several blues-tinged garage rock. Like, The Zoobombs, and The Peelies the night before, old school rock n' roll will always have a place in this little heart o' mine. Rock n' roll is here to stay, and it will never die. And with that, another Canadian Musicfest in the books - see you next year.

Photos: Digits @ El Mocambo, Toronto (part of Canadian Musicfest, 12 March 2011)
Photos: The Einar Flaa Academy @ Global Village Backpackers, Toronto (part of Canadian Musicfest, 12 March 2011)
Photos: Bonjay @ The Mod Club, Toronto (part of Canadian Musicfest, 12 March 2011)
Photos: The Zoobombs @ Comfort Zone, Toronto (part of Canadian Musicfest, 12 March 2011)
Photos: The Peelies @ Silver Dollar, Toronto (part of Canadian Musicfest, 12 March 2011)
Photos: Katie Goes To Tokyo @ Bread n' Circus, Toronto (part of Canadian Musicfest, 13 March 2011)
Photos: The Pack A.D. @ Horseshoe Tavern Toronto (part of Canadian Musicfest, 13 March 2011)

MySpace: Digits
MySpace: The Einar Flaa Academy
MySpace: Bonjay
MySpace: The Zoobombs
MySpace: The Peelies
MySpace: Katie Goes To Tokyo
MySpace: The Pack A.D.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like another good time and it's fun to read about your experiences with more of "the rock 'n roll" this time around. Also, I can totally relate to the "catch a band at The Mod Club on a Saturday night" thing. Boy am I out of my element in that setting.