Monday, April 29, 2013

Little Green Cars @ Drake Underground, Toronto (March 28, 2013)

Little Green Cars: photo by Michael Ligon   Little Green Cars: photo by Michael Ligon

Blame it on Jimmy Fallon. Well, at least I will. Last month, Irish folk-rock band Little Green Cars had been booked for an intimate evening at the Drake Underground which I had not anticipate would sell out. But then just prior to their show in Toronto on March 28, fresh from their appearance at this year's SXSW, they got booked to perform live on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon for what was their American television debut. I guess at least a few people saw it as it appears remaining tickets for their Toronto show must have been snapped up. I'd first saw the band live during last year's CMJ Music Marathon in New York City and was impressed by the young band's full-fleshed folk-melodies and vocal harmonies but was primarily enamored by the vocals of the band's sole female member, co-lead vocalist Faye O'Rourke. For a band (which also includes members co-lead vocalist Stevie Appleby, drummer Dylan Lynch, bassist Donagh Seaver O'Leary, guitarist Adam O'Regan and Utsav Lav on keyboards) who've only been together for about 5 years and whose members are all only twenty years of age, give or take, they're quite impressive. The band's previous live show in Toronto had been in October of last year, also at the Drake Underground, on a triple bill, headlined by Glassnote Records labelmates Daughter, but this time it was the Irish group's turn. Having found out on the day of the Toronto show that it was sold out was a bummer but I was fortunate enough to snag a ticket from someone selling theirs and all of a sudden, problem was solved.

On a different night, maybe 5 years ago, I'd have been in a head-space to appreciate locals Grounders and their idiosyncratic indie-pop more. They have a lush, subtle psychedelic vibe that reminded me a bit of The Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev, but for some reason I was generally feeling indifferent about them, which is surprising since I enjoyed what I'd heard on their YouTube channel. And so after what seemed like a bit of an extended set up time, the band du jour, Little Green Cars took to stage to a warm welcome from the audience. They were only two weeks into their tour by that point and were fortunately still feeling energized it seems. From the band's recently released debut album entitled "Absolute Zero" [produced by Markus Dravs who also produced Mumford and Sons' Sigh No More and Babel and Arcade Fire’s Neon Bible] the band performed many of the songs off the album. To my understanding, a bunch of the songs reach back at least a few years and given the band's arduous touring over the same period, the band seem to have perfected their live show and vocal harmonies, delivering a fine performance that felt second-nature. The opened the show with an acapella number, "Red", showcasing their vocal harmonies in fine form. The band showed a knack for folk melodies and vocal harmonies (on tracks like "The River Song") not surprisingly reminiscent of current chart-toppers Mumford and Sons, but the young band showed they'd not abandoned the rock, delivering a spunky energy on tracks like "Big Red Dragon" and "The John Wayne". In between songs, vocalist Appleby recounted the band's tour in the form of a poem, and asked the crowd the best place to get poutine in Toronto, so while the band's songwriting may not reflect it, yes they did still have a sense of humour. As the set drew to a conclusion, the crowd clamored for an encore but we didn't get one. That was a slight disappointment on an otherwise impressive set from this fine young band.

Photos: Little Green Cars @ Drake Underground, Toronto (March 28, 2013)
Facebook: Little Green Cars
Twitter: Little Green Cars
Bandcamp: Little Green Cars
Soundcloud: Little Green Cars
YouTube: Little Green Cars
Video: Little Green Cars - "Harper Lee" (live session for The Line of Best Fit)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Hot Docs 2013 Preview

Hot Docs
  Mistaken From Strangers

Another edition of Toronto's beloved docmentary fim festival Hot Docs Just began yesterday but kicks in to full gear today. And I haven't really taken a gander at the schedule at all. No media accreditation this year so what ever I see this year will be on my own dime, but the festival has graciously given me access to screeners of some of the music documentaries, which I'm very appreciative so expect to see reviews of those in the future. With the Toronto International Film Festival, Hot Docs and the numerous smaller film festivals that Toronto plays host to, it's a great city to be a film fan. For much of my life I was very much a music fan but when it came to films I was very random, watching anything from whatever was coming out of Hollywood to the odd indie / art film. But over the the last 6 years (especially due to TIFF, but also due in no small part to great television programming which has become much more story-based) I think I'm slowly gravitating to film.  One of the docs I'm hoping to catch is one by Alan Zweig who's best known for Vinyl his introspective examination on the subject of vinyl record collectors. His new one is called 15 Reasons To Live, and is collaborative effort between Zweig and author Ray Robertson, the pair who started out as neighborhood acquaintances and is based on Roberton's book Why Not? Fifteen Reasons to Live. Music for me has always for the most part been about in-the-now ie. what mood / emotions I'm currently feeling. Documentaries / films go beyond your present state, to being much more expansive, whether it be educational, discovery, or opening one's self up to the realm of human emotions.

Back to the order of business. This is a music blog. Check out the list of music-related documentaries here.

The ones that have piqued my interest are as follows:

Mistaken For Strangers (Director Tom Berninger)
Video: Trailer

The Punk Singer (Director Sini Anderson)
Video: excerpt

Good Ol' Freda (Director Ryan White)
Video: SXSW review

Finding The Funk (Director Nelson George)
Video: SXSW trailer

Downloaded (Director Alex Winter)
Video: Trailer

Alias (Director Michelle Latimer)
Video: Trailer  

Muscle Shoals (Director Greg 'Freddy' Camalier)
Video: Trailer

Check out Hot Docs recommendations / reviews over at The Grid TO, NOW, Torontoist, The Globe and Mail, and The Toronto Star.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Canadian Musicfest - BADBADNOTGOOD, Cookie Duster @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (March 23, 2013)

Cookie Duster: photo by Michael Ligon
  Cookie Duster: photo by Michael Ligon

It took a while but here's the last part of my coverage of this year's Canadian Musicfest. I ended this year's festival, as a traditionally do, on the Saturday night and dropped anchor at the Horseshoe Tavern for two sets. At about a quarter past eleven, Toronto's Cookie Duster took to the stage. You can read up on the history of the band here but this is the project of Brendan Canning(of Broken Social Scene) and Bernard Maiezza, and the current lineup includes Jeen O'Brien, guitarist Matt Murphy(of Superfriendz) and drummer Damon Richardson (Danko Jones). I couldn't help but feel an Emily-Haines vibe emanating from vocalist O'Brien - she sang wide-mouthed with enthusiasm, and perhaps not as much swagger as Haines, but it appeared she was trying. It wasn't hard to imagine some of these songs as Broken Social Scene songs - songs that went from sprawling, to groove-based, and others which definitely presented their distinct pop choruses. The band's single "Two Feet Stand Up" from the lineup's 2012 full-length LP When Flying Was Easy was one of the more infectious songs I'd heard in a long time and I was glad to hear it live. Not everything was as instantly catching as that but in the end I thought the variety was refreshing. While one might think of the band as a supergroup of sorts, I really felt the members gelled well together.

Photos: Cookie Duster @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (March 23, 2013)
Facebook: Cookie Duster
Twitter: Cookie Duster
Video: Cookie Duster - Two Feet Stand Up (Official Video)

BADBADNOTGOOD: photo by Michael Ligon
  BADBADNOTGOOD: photo by Michael Ligon

With Cookie Duster's competent warm-up, I was ready to end the night with Toronto's BADBADNOTGOOD. Having missed seeing them live on numerous occasions, I made up my mind that this would be the night I would finally catch them. Comprised of Matthew Tavares on keys, Chester Hansen on bass, and Alexander Sowinski on drums, and on that night also including a Leland Whitty on sax and flute, the band worked the crowd hard with their sublime mix of free jazz, hip hop, groove. This was the band's first show ever at the Horseshoe Tavern, and there were moments of intense feeling in the crowd as individuals tried, with only partial success, to get a mosh pit going. As the band approached the conclusion of their set and appropriately prepped the crowd for one final blast of their sonic, almost punk-ish, fury, the crowd took the cue, a mosh pit broke out and in a fit of spontaneity I threw myself into it. Not the first time I've done that but not something I've done very often either, and but the rush you get from it is unlike no other. Yes, I ended up spraining my right foot [I think somebody stepped on my foot] and it took me several days before the pain subsided to a tolerable level, but it was totally worth it.

Photos: BADBADNOTGOOD @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto (March 23, 2013)
Video: BADBADNOTGOOD - UWM (Feat. Leland Whitty)
MP3: BADBADNOTGOOD - BBNG2 (full album) *

* or go to the band's website to download BBNG2 in CD quality format

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Canadian Musicfest - Charlotte Church @ El Mocambo, Toronto (March 23, 2013)

Charlotte Church: photo by Michael Ligon
  Charlotte Church: photo by Michael Ligon

Charlotte Church (yes, that Charlotte Church) came to town last month for a show at El Mocambo during Canadian Music Week. The Welsh soprano who's mainly known as an angel-voiced classical singer whose prodigious talent was first introduced to the masses in the late 90's before she even hit her teens. She branched out into pop in the mid-2000's with her album Tissues and Issues and then came back in 2010 with a singer-songwriter pop album Back to Scratch but at that point, although she was off my radar for that whole period. When I saw her name on the Canadian Musicfest lineup I didn't even have the intention of including her in my CMF schedule but when I checked out the video of the live session [her song "Nerve"] she did for The Line of Best Fit, I was actually floored. She's yet again branched off into a different direction, still displaying her powerful yet nuanced vocals but at least as displayed from the Line of Best Fit session, she's embraced an edgier musical direction.

Having been a Live Nation show meant that my CMW media pass didn't allow me to take photos at the show since I'd not gotten approval through Live Nation. I found it a little surprising, that on name recognition alone and that the festival had been prominently promoting her as one of the festival's feature acts, the El Mocambo was at most a little more than half capacity for Charlotte's set. It took a bit of time to set up after the openers (Folly and The Hunter), but then the band took the stage, with Charlotte eventually strolling on. Her wardrobe, her dress and face paint that was on the theatrical side, reminded me a bit of Bat For Lashes or the wilder moments of Kate Bush which was almost a disappointment since I was hoping to see the down-to-earth look she had in The Line of Best Fit session. But the theatrical look that Charlotte had this night never became a distraction once she opened her mouth. As was quite apparent from her set, she hasn't totally abandoned her classical vocal stylings - her vocals were quite powerful when they needed to be [with Charlotte soothing her voice with honey between songs], but there was also more nuance as she added a gentler touch at times, and wasn't afraid to even add effects to her vocals like vocoder or use a loop pedal. Musically, it was a mix of organic and electronic, post-rock, pop and ethereal, with two drum kits, guitars and keyboards, augmented at times with electronic flourishes. Performing songs off the first two EP's (of a series of five E.P.s) entitled One and Two respectively and even introducing a new song to the audience [which she'd prompted the audience to feel free to slow dance to the saddest song in the world], the mature musical direction that Charlotte has taken this time around feels quite natural and intensely satisfying.

Photos: Charlotte Church @ El Mocambo, Toronto (March 23, 2013)
Facebook: Charlotte Church
Twitter: Charlotte Church
Video: Charlotte Church - "Nerve" (live session for The Line of Best Fit)
Video: Charlotte Church - "Nerve" (live session for Saturday Night Show)
Video: Charlotte Church - "Glitterbombed" (music video)
Video: Charlotte Church - "Glitterbombed" (Live Jonathan Ross Show)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Canadian Musicfest -- The Grapes of Wrath @ Sonic Boom, Toronto (March 23, 2013)

The Grapes of Wrath: photo by Michael Ligon
  The Grapes of Wrath: photo by Michael Ligon

Yes, bands can have a second life, as proved by Kelowna, BC's The Grapes of Wrath. The band consisted of Kevin Kane and brothers Chris Hooper and Tom Hooper. The band's first album September Bowl of Green was released in 1984 although the band really hit their stride with 1987's Treehouse, the album that turned me on to them. I remember back then reading that they were Canada's answer to American band R.E.M. (who were also relatively early in their career), with their jangle-guitar pop sound. The band seemed poised for success, to an extent achieving it with 1989's Now and Again and 1991's These Days and then it seemed to abruptly end when Kane left the band. There was the Ginger period, basically Grapes of Wrath without Kevin Kane, but for all intensive purposes, I think most Grapes of Wrath fans (myself included) never gave them a chance. The Grapes of Wrath's trifecta of albums from 1987 to 1991, were all that really mattered.

But the core trio of Hooper / Kane / Hooper are back. The band released a singles compilation(featuring two new songs) entilted Singles last October and just released an album of new material, entitled High Road, this past March through Toronto's Aporia label. The trio, plus a forth (touring?) member, came to Toronto's Sonic Boom to play a warm-up set on the afternoon of Saturday March 23 (prior to their Canadian Musicfest showcase at the Dakota Tavern later that night). A small but dedicated crowd was on-hand, but it was quite noticeable that at least half the attendees there were there on a nostalgia kick - mothers with their young kids, dudes 35 years of age and up (myself included), the thirty-something couple dancing gleefully in the aisles especially during the band's performance of their older material. The band played a selection of their greatest singles showcasing their vocal harmonies, highlighted by a invigorating rendition of "Peace of Mind" and a plaintive "All The Things She Wasn't" and they also played new songs like the spright pop of "Good To See You" which would have fit in nicely on any of their older albums. It's funny how when I looked at them now, they virtually look the way as I remembered them back in 1987. And back to my introductory sentence - bands can have a second life. I wish them luck.

Photos: The Grapes of Wrath @ Sonic Boom, Toronto (March 23, 2013)
Facebook: The Grapes of Wrath
Twitter: The Grapes of Wrath
MySpace: The Grapes of Wrath
Soundcloud: The Grapes of Wrath - "Good To See You", "Take On The Day" *
Video: The Grapes of Wrath - "Piece of Mind" (music video)

* new songs included on the band's singles compilation Singles released in October 2012

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Summer Festivals 2013 - Edgefest '13

The initial lineup for Edgefest '13 (sponsored by Toronto radio station 102.1 the Edge and in association with Dine Alone Records) was announced a few days ago and, let's say it was underwhelming. OK, I'm being harsh; it's just not my cup of tea but I'm sure the kids'll like it.I guess I like Band of Horses, but I'm also way over them at the moment. Pulled from the radio station's website, it states Edgefest '13 is set to return to Toronto with 17 acts already confirmed to perform at Downsview Park on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. So if I'm reading that correctly, it appears there's still more to be announced. Anyone have any guesses? General Admission and VIP tickets go onsale this Friday April 12 at 10 am. There's a presale for Inside Edge members right now, ending April 11th at 10:00 pm EST (or until presale tickets sell out).

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Lowell, Savages @ Canadian Musicfest, Toronto (March 22, 2013)

Lowell: photo by Michael Ligon
  Lowell: photo by Michael Ligon

On the Friday night of Canadian Musicfest, I chose quality over quantity, only checking out two sets that night, but both buzz-worthy acts that in my opinion lived up to the hype. First up was Toronto singer-songwriter Lowell at Lee's Palace who was totally unknown to me before the festival. According to the her bio on the Canadian Musicfest website, over 4 days in April 2012, she worked in the studio with Grammy award winning producer Martin Terefe and the other members of the Apparatjik collective (Magne F (Aha), Guy Berryman (Coldplay) and Jonas Bjerre (MEW)) to create a mini-album entitled Apparatjik Presents lowell: if you_ _ can, 5olve thi5 jumble?, her debut which was released in late October 2012. Tagged as one to watch in 2013 by The Grid TO, she's only 21 years young but has already made some headway in Europe. Lowell's multiple appearances during this past Canadian Musicfest were apparently her first live shows in her hometown, and by what I heard at Lee's Palace that night, I was impressed. With a bank of keyboards in front of her and with a drummer accompanying her, it was a no-frills performance of subtle rhythms, whirring keyboards and Lowell's girlish vocals. I don't recall if she played her rhythmic pop single "Shake Him Off" but I can hear why she often has been compared to Swedish singer Lykke Li. I didn't quite get a full helping of her music since I arrived to the venue a little after she started her 9:30 pm set [the venue already being at almost 75% capacity] and her set seemed all-too-brief, but I look forward to checking her out live again. I'm usually hard to impress when it comes to artists / bands that are that young, so to come out of her set with my interest piqued was a nice surprise.

Photos: Lowell @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (March 22, 2013)
Facebook: Lowell
Twitter: Lowell
Video: Lowell - "Shake Him Off" (music video)

Savages: photo by Michael Ligon
  Savages: photo by Michael Ligon

Next up on my agenda were buzz act Savages from London, England who were scheduled to play a set at the Horseshoe Tavern at around 10 after 11 pm. This was the first of two appearance they had scheduled during the festival [they played a midnight set at Lee's Palace the night after]. I'd gone to the CMJ Music Marathon in New York City in October of last year and Savages were actually one of the buzziest acts of the festival, and I managed to not catch any of their appearances so I definitely thought I should make up for that. As dangerous-sounding as their name implies, the all-female four-piece consisting of Jehnny Beth on vocals, Ayse Hassan on bass guitar, Fay Milton on drums & Gemma Thompson on guitar, specialized in a spiky post-punk sound that had echoes of Siouxsie and The Banshees, Joy Division, Gang of Four, and Public Image Limited. The band had appropriately dark attire to go with their dark post-punk sound, Jehnny's stark vocal attack like a sonic punch in the face, while the band with Fay's propulsive drumming, Ayse rumbling bass, and Gemma's spiky guitar sound, sliced through the air. While Jehnny had an air of perhaps being a bit scary, she was really only like that when she zoned in to her vocal performance - she was quite thankful to the audience, the few times she spoke to us. I was too young in the late 70's / early 80's to have experienced the post-punk era first-hand, but this I imagine may have been the closest facsimile, minus the smartphone cameras that a good number of audience members had of course. The band's debut full-length entitled Silence Yourself is set to be released on May 7 via Beth's own label Pop Noire and through Matador Records.

Facebook: Savages
Twitter: Savages
Video: Savages - "Husbands" (live on Later with Jools Holland, 2nd October 2012)

Friday, April 05, 2013

Canadian Musicfest -- Mise En Scene @ Sonic Boom and Model Citizen, Toronto (March 22, 2013)

Mise En Scene: photo by Michael Ligon
  Mise En Scene: photo by Michael Ligon

What Canadian Musicfest could perhaps benefit from is alternate venues for bands to play in like instores. I'm kind of surprised that more unofficial in-stores / performances aren't organized around Canadian Music Week like what has happened, especially in recent years, during NXNE. Well, I guess NXNE's warmer weather does help. Local artist & brand development company Audio Blood were in charge of Canadian Musicfest's social media and also organized a bunch of instores at several different locations under the banner of CMW EXTRAS, giving some of the artist/band participants more opportunities for exposure. On the Thursday night of the schedule at 11 pm was the only official CMW set for Winnipeg female guitar/drums duo Mise En Scene but with having to work the next day, I wasn't particularly motivated to stay downtown and have to commute back to the burbs late for a second night in a row. However, since I knew Mise En Scene were going to be playing a few in-stores the next day, I didn't feel too bad for not going to their Thursday night set at the Bovine Sex Club.

That Friday, Mise En Scene had two instores - one just after work around 5 pm at Sonic Boom and then later that night around 8:30 pm at a clothing store in Kensington Market called Model Citizen, both of which I attended. The duo, consisting of Stefanie Blondal Johnson (guitar/vocals) and Jodi Dunlop (drums), were increased to a three-piece with a gent on bass for their Model Citizen in-store. Just when I thought the guitar / drums rock duo thing had been done to death, here comes along these gals who impressed the hell out of me. And no it's not just that they're cute girls (although that doesn't hurt). Musically, they reminded me of bands like Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast, Johnson with her bare bones guitar strumming and Dunlop with her tight and energetic drumming. The gals performed a great set of melodic tunes, showcasing a variety of musical styles including punk, garage and 60's pop. The better set of the two that day was in my opinion the one at Model Citizen. In the more intimate surroundings of Model Citizen, the band's energy was palpable and front-woman Johnson's enthusiasm was apparent as she got the crowd on-hand clapping. The band's debut full-length Desire’s Despair was released late 2012. In the end, it's only rock n' roll and from what I've heard, it's a fine effort.

Photos: Mise En Scene @ Sonic Boom, Toronto (March 22, 2013)
Photos: Mise En Scene @ Model Citizen, Toronto (March 22, 2013)
Facebook: Mise En Scene
Twitter: Mise En Scene
Bandcamp: Mise En Scene
Video: Mise En Scene - "Hey Velvet" (music video)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Canadian Musicfest - Aidan Knight @ Church Of The Holy Trinity, Toronto (March 22, 2013)

Aidan Knight: photo by Michael Ligon   Aidan Knight: photo by Michael Ligon

In past years, I'd normally take the Friday off from work just in case I had to recover from a late Thursday night during Canadian Musicfest but this year I was working. That I work in downtown Toronto worked to my advantage as I am down the street from Church Of The Holy Trinity which was featuring noon time sets on a few days during the festival. The noon time sets were hosted by CBC Music. I took a later lunch than usual and headed to the church for Victoria, BC singer songwriter Aidan Knight's 1:30 pm set. A small crowd filled the church's pews to take in the artist's set. He was backed with a band, with members on background vocals, keyboards, drums, violin, and the occasional brass (flugelhorn and trumpet), and Aidan either on guitar or banjo. Mr. Knight's songs were reminiscent of the folk-rock of Toronto's Great Lake Swimmers, both their hushed acoustic melancholia and more uptempo folk-rock. His quieter songs especially took full advantage of the church's exemplary acoustics. It wasn't a revelatory performance at all [God knows that indie-folk / folk-rock bands are a dime a dozen], but it was definitely a good first impression on me. Aidan's most recent full-length, Small Reveal, his second album, was released this past October and you can check it out at his Bandcamp page at the link below.

Photos: Aidan Knight @ Church Of The Holy Trinity, Toronto (March 22, 2013)
Facebook: Aidan Knight
Twitter: Aidan Knight
Bandcamp: Aidan Knight
Video: Aidan Knight - "Singer Songwriter" (Live on Exclaim! TV)

The Grove Music Festival Moved To Toronto / Niagara-On-The-Lake Residents Breathing A Sigh Of Relief

Via Art & Crafts Facebook page comes news that The Grove Music Festival which was originally suppose to be held in Niagara-On-The-Lake at The Commons At Butler’s Barracks National Historic Site on August 3 has now been moved to Toronto at Fort York Garrison Common for the same date. There's been a slight adjustment to the lineup for reasons unknown at present - Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Pretty Lights, and Bob Mould are no longer on the schedule - but at least the headliners are still there. As well the ticket price for the festival has been reduced to $59.50 - at that price for the lineup as it is, I think that's a pretty sweet deal. Niagara-On-The-Lake residents must be breathing a sigh of relief that the invasion of their quaint town has been thwarted.

Actually, an article on [from March 28] interviewed concert promoter Elliott Lefko, who was bringing the Grove Music Festival to Niagara-On-The-Lake and he stated that ticket sales for the festival had been slow, and given the huge investment the decision was made to move the show to Toronto.

Second Wave of Sled Island 2013 Announcements

  photo credit

From the Sled Island website comes a second wave of announcements for the festival which takes place in downtown Calgary Alberta from June 19 - 22, 2013:

"Lineup additions include Danish hardcore phenoms Iceage, indie rock royalty Superchunk, the Miami-based doom pop of Torche, The Night Marchers featuring members of Sled Island 2012 faves, Hot Snakes, psych-rock hype factory Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson, and prolific lo-fi folksters Mount Eerie performing with a full band. Also announced today is the mind-melting masters of hip hop jazz improvisation, BadBadNotGood, hyperbole-inducing Ottawa-based producer Ryan Hemsworth, frantic Vancouver punk rockers White Lung, artful R&B pop crooner Javelin and genre-defying Los Angeles DJ, The Gaslamp Killer."

Passes are on sale now - the Festival Discovery Pass is $199 and the Festival Discovery Plus Pass is $349. More information can be found here.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Canadian Musicfest - Alba Lua @ Silver Dollar, Toronto (March 21, 2013)

Alba Lua: photo by Michael Ligon
  Alba Lua: photo by Michael Ligon

Bordeaux, France is known for it's fine wines but if there's any justice, word will spread about young four-piece Alba Lua. The band explains their name as ʻa Spanish-Portuguese association that means the "moon of the dawn"- it describes that moment when something appears in some place where it shouldn't, and what first seems out of the blue shows in fact a real beauty.ʼ(via Originally a three-piece comprised of Pepo Durantez (lead-vox and rhythm guitar) Pascal Hoerner (lead guitar, backing vox and bass) and Renoi Jacob Mathieu (drums and percussion) when they released their debut EP Ballad of Joseph Merrick back in 2010, the band's now a four-piece and if were to deduce correctly, that fourth member must have been the gent on the Roland keyboard. This was the band's second and last set of the festival [the previous night, they had played an early set at Czechovski] and since there wasn't much of interest in bands / artists I wanted to check out that Thursday night, and given that Albu Lua had made my long list of bands to perhaps check out during Canadian Musicfest, I headed over to the Silver Dollar to check out their early set. Thankfully there was a small and just large enough group of people on hand to make the band feel welcome. Lead vocalist Pepo Durantez' face was for most of the night covered by his shaggy hair, with a cowboy hat atop his head, and that look made sense especially given the downtempo country-twinged, pop that began the set. Durantez' sang in a higher range that reminded me of Wayne Coyne from the Flaming Lips, and yes the Lips' psych-pop influences are there, but there were also elements of jangle, dream-pop and shoegaze with bands from Luna, Slowdive, and Deerhunter coming to mind. Initially I wasn't particularly fond of Durantez' vocals - I almost felt there was some sort of pretense behind it - but as the set went on, I realized how consistently melodic the songs were. The band pulled out some pedal steel guitar near the end and even delved into some Spiritualized-ish dissonance. As much as they reminded me of other bands, they distinguished themselves enough, especially with their grasp of melody, for me to appreciate them on their own merit. Alba Lua recently signed a record deal with Roy Music from Paris so look out for a release in the future.(via)

Photos: Alba Lua @ Silver Dollar, Toronto (March 21, 2013)
Facebook: Alba Lua
Twitter: Alba Lua
Soundcloud: Alba Lua
Video: Alba Lua - "Valley of Abra" (music video)

Canadian Musicfest - Mount Moriah @ Drake Underground, Toronto (March 20, 2013)

Heather McEntire of Mount Moriah: photo by Michael Ligon
  Heather McEntire of Mount Moriah: photo by Michael Ligon

After seeing Diana's set at the Mod Club, I could have just stuck around to see headliners, chvrches, a sold-out show as it was but I chose instead to hoof it down to the Drake Hotel to check out Durham, North Carolina country-rock band Mount Moriah. I first discovered them when I saw them at last year's CMJ festival in New York City when they played a Merge Records showcase (the label having released the band's second album, and their first for Merge, entitled Miracle Temple)and was quite taken by them so when I found out they were coming to Toronto for CMW and for their first ever show here, I penciled them in immediately. Consisting of the core duo of guitarist Jenks Miller and singer Heather McEntire (who met back in 2007 while both working in a record store in Chapel Hill; via Spin) as well as bassist Casey Toll and drummer James Wallace, the group humbly took the stage to a disappointingly thin audience numbering no more than thirty by my estimate. That disappointment aside, the group played an impressive set of Southern-fried country-rock that brimmed with a dark undercurrent, and if we were a quiet audience, and did not even edge closer to the stage on McEntire's encouragement, they didn't hold it against us. The band did their genre well, but most of my appreciation for them lay in vocalist Heather McEntire. McEntire's edgy haircut (think Tegan and Sara) belied a voice with a southern drawl straight from Emmylou Harris able to express heartache on quieter numbers and to belt it out with a spunkiness like a little firecracker on some uptempo tunes. McEntire's banter included the occasional "shucks" as she stated that they were from the south..."south of the south". I've heard of Southern charm, and she really had it. The band's date at the Drake was part of their extensive North American tour that they're on until at least the end of the June; the band were in Montreal for a show the day after and therefore could not have been booked for more dates during Canadian Musicfest. Hopefully, the next time the band hit Toronto, the word will have spread about the band and they will play to more people. Till then, I will maintain my bragging rights that me and and a small group of us caught the band's first ever show in Toronto.

Photos: Mount Moriah @ Drake Underground, Toronto (March 20, 2013)
Facebook: Mount Moriah
Twitter: Mount Moriah
Bandcamp: Mount Moriah
Video: Mount Moriah - "Bright Light" (music video)