Thursday, December 15, 2011
Austra: photo by Michael Ligon
Kicking off a busier month of concert-going than usual for me these days was Toronto's Austra at the Phoenix Concert Theatre at the beginning of the month. The bigger ticket that night was Feist at Massey Hall but there seemed to be a full-house (if not a sold out one) for the homecoming show for Austra who'd been making waves and touring all year.
Doing double-duty that night were twin sisters Sari and Romy Lightman aka Tasseomancy who to me were better known as Austra's dynamite backup vocalists / all-around foxy side women. It was only more recently that I found out that the sisters use to be Haligonian indie folk duo Ghost Bees. Joined by male musicians on keys and drums, the gals stark vocals complimented the lilting folk melodies and subtle instrumentation nicely. Haunting at times, and sonically interesting throughout, they aren't your average folk band.
Since the release of their self-titled debut full-length in 2007, Montreal's Young Galaxy were a band I'd suspected would have hit it big by now, which if they had, it'd have been deserved. The band's soaring, dream-pop melodies were never really the mainstream, as mainstream pop has gone over the last five years, but in my opinion could have crossed over easily if only the fickle music buyer had taken notice. With the release of their third album Shapeshifting released earlier this year, it seems that band has discovered dance music, as was obviously displayed by the band during their set preceding Austra. With the entire band dressed in white, including female lead vocalist Catherine McCandless in a flowing white top, it was a visually attractive presentation. Musically, it was quite apparent that the band's recent forays into dance-inflected pop is what's floating their boat these days. A part of me misses their earlier dream-pop sound, but the band seem like a more stimulating live band this time around, especially Mccandless' vibrant movements and tambourine-shaking onstage.
Austra's debut album Feel It Break released this past May I will have to say is my favourite Canadian album of the year. Featuring vocalist Katie Stelmanis' stark operatic vocals against a backdrop of pulsating rhythms and synth, along with a bevy of great melodic tunes, it's just such a fantastic listen. Stelmanis greeted the crowd and told us that just a year ago they'd play their first headline show at the Bovine Sex Club and now they were playing their biggest show yet in Toronto, this time at the Phoenix. I was fortunate to catch them live at the sweaty and intimately confining Wrongbar earlier this year during Canadian Musicfest so it's a shame to say that this show at the Phoenix just did not reach those euphoric levels I'd experienced at Wrongbar. I wished the crowd had shown more energy, like the pulsating, dance-infused crowd that greeted Austra earlier this year. The crowd at the Phoenix was wholly appreciative for sure, but definitely lacked the energy that they should have had. given the band's exemplary musicianship. Perhaps the post-midnight set was frustrating for some that Thursday night for those who had to work the next day, but hey, you're only young once.
Photos: Austra, Young Galaxy, Tasseomancy @ Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto (December 1, 2011)