Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rebel With The Ghost

concert review: Sons and Daughters, Bodies of Water @ Lee's Palace (Toronto, Ontario), March 26, 2008

Sons and Daughters at Lee's Palace: photo by Michael Ligon

God love those Scots. You'd never have guessed by their pale exterior that Scotland's Sons and Daughters were fresh off a stint at SXSW in Austin, Texas but there's no doubt they brought some heat of their own to Toronto when they stopped in for a show at Lee's Palace last Wednesday because it turned out to be a scorcher. As Chromewaves accessed, the healthy enough(though not packed audience) seemed to be the established fanbase and not new converts like himself, and I would no doubt put myself in the former. By my count this was the fourth time they've come to Toronto and the fourth time I've seen them live.

Promoting their latest disc "The Gift", but also delving into their older material as well, Sons and Daughters delivered a set that proved their ferocity as a live act in particular in the rockabilly-punk guitar licks of pompadoured guitarist Scott Paterson and the expressive, snarling vocals and posturing of vocalist Adele Bethel. While bassist Ailidh Lennon was fighting a flu that drew an 'awww' from the crowd when Adele mentioned it, Ailidh played on like a trooper and was gracious enough to accept a tissue from an audience memer standing near the stage. Drummer David Gow took up the rhythm section with vigor. To get back to Adele, dressed in short purple shorts and a sparkly gold top, her energetic presence on stage is as exhilirating as one can expect from a frontperson, and really she puts many other band vocalists to shame(male and female). In one word, sexy.

The new album "The Gift" is somewhat more polished than their debut "The Repulsion Box" but live songs like "Gilt Complex" and "Rebel With The Ghost" were as fierce as anything they've ever done, and still maintaining a hummability that made it all the more better. The highlights of the older material had to be "Dance Me In"(preceded with some banter about Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me To The End of Love" if I recall correctly) and "Johnny Cash"(who the singer/songwriter for which the song was named as well as Bob Dylan were Adele's father's two favourite musical artists as she told). I've mentioned in the past the description of "swagger and melody" in relation to Sons and Daughters(and also to UK band The Duke Spirit) - hmmm, swagger-pop? How does that sound as a genre name? "The Gift" is as good a representation of that sound as you can get.

The young Californian four-piece Bodies of Water were unknown to me prior to that night and I'd initially imagined something quiet and folky along the lines of Great Lake Swimmers. Not the case at all. The set was a pastiche of musical influences, one song somewhat different from the next. Arcade Fire-like group vocal dynamic, B-52's-ish new wave funk, and tex-mex guitar licks were just a few influences touched on. While this might sound a bit schizophrenic, their sound is actually more cohesive than that. It's pop music at it's base, sometimes dramatic and other times straight ahead, and in the case of their 'hit'(and set-closer) "These Are The Eyes" both of these things within the span of the same song. I was quite smitten with the energetic vocal performance of Meredith who even while she played the keyboards, managed to emote every vocal phrase with a gaze over the audience or an expression on her face which made her a pleasure to watch.

Photos to come. I've been lazy lately. Update: Photos now up.

More reviews/photos from the show over at Chromewaves, Condemned To Rock n Roll and Can't Hear You.... Thanks to Can't Hear You... for pointing the way to the video clip below.

Video: Sons and Daughters - "House In My Head" (live at Lee's Palace - March 26, 2008)

MySpace: Sons and Daughters
MySpace: Bodies of Water

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lust Lust Lust

concert review: The Raveonettes, Black Acid @ The Opera House (Toronto, Ontario), March 21, 2008

The Raveonettes at The Opera House: photo by Michael Ligon

It was Good Friday, this past Friday, that brought the double bill of The Raveonettes and Black Acid to The Opera House. Given Toronto promoter Dan Burke's Good Friday Jesus and Mary Chain Tribute Night from a few year's back(the one which spawned Toronto's The Diableros), it almost makes sense that JAMC aficiandos The Raveonettes would play a show in Toronto on Good Friday.

Opening the show were New York band Black Acid. They are a band whose name is descriptive of their music. The five-piece outfit play a dark stew of acid rock comprised of chugging basslines and rhythms, 3-chord guitar simplicity, and expressive, mic-distorted vocals. I'd never heard their music before that night and on it's own merits I wasn't impressed. Rudimentary musicianship aside(with a slight exception to the drummer who was a tad better at his instrument than the rest of them), their songs seem like half-baked ideas, lacking any sort of hooks to make the songs really pay off. Their lacklustre stage performance(especially that of vocalist Richard Fearless) made things even worse. After a little bit of internet research(ie checking out their MySpace), I found out the band is a supergroup of sorts comprised of Richard Fearless (Death In Vegas), Matty McDermott (Nymph), Oliver Ackermann (Place To Bury Strangers) Doug Marvin (Dirty On Purpose), and Ryan Hamilton (Coyote). I'm only familiar with Death In Vegas(although I've heard of Place To Bury Strangers and Dirty on Purpose in passing) and am aware of Death In Vegas' forays into rock music(from their roots as an electronica-based group) and while I can 'appreciate' Mr. Fearless' efforts to broaden his horizons with Black Acid, I'll conclude by saying, appreciating and liking are entirely different matters. Maybe next time.

Utilizing the same lineup as their show at Lee's Palace in October 2007, The Raveonettes, ostensibly the duo of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo, with touring drummer Leah Shapiro took the stage to an audibly receptive crowd. Not sure if it was sold out but it seemed like a packed house. This is one the few shows that I actually liked The Opera House over Lee's Palace in that visually there was something more eye-pleasing about the way The Opera House's drawn curtains framed the band on stage, in addition to a better use of light effects this time around. I think The Raveonettes were most exhilirating during their most sugar-coated pop tunes, recent songs like "Dead Sound" and "You Want The Candy" off "Lust, Lust, Lust", the 50s'ish "Here Comes Mary" off of "Pretty In Black" and pop gems like "Love Gang" or the noisy "Great Love Sound" off of "Chain Gang Of Love". Sune is a decent if not terrific guitarist and Sharin and Leah, if not somewhat more rudimentary in their musicianship, do provide a capable level and quality of sounds to bring the songs to life. I mean, I couldn't imagine Sharin not providing her lovely background vox nor Leah not beating on that snare drum in true Bobby Gillespie fashion. I wonder if'd be paying half the attention to The Raveonettes if Sharin and Leah weren't in the band but as long as they are, I might as well enjoy the eye-candy. And of course half of rock n' roll(beside the music itself), is looking good doing it. Taking a break from their pop tunes and showing a different side of their selves, the band came back for an encore to perform the outlaw countryish "Love Can Destroy Everything" and the sinister hypnotic "Aly Walk With Me". A satisfying set overall.

Check out my photos from the show over at my Flickr.

More reviews/photos over at Condemned To Rock N Roll, Lycanthrophy, chartattack and Mainstream Obscenity.

MySpace: The Raveonettes
MySpace: Black Acid

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Egg Hunt

Just clearing out some links and info below before the weekend's done and hopefully I'll have my review of The Raveonettes show at The Opera House from this past Good Friday up tomorrow:

Just around the corner on April 7 and 8, the one and only Jens Lekman returns to Toronto for two shows at The Music Gallery. The first night local Katie Stelmanis will play a short set and the second night Final Fantasy, Mr Owen Pallett will be there. Presented by Wavelength, the two shows are part of a fundraiser for The Music Gallery as well as a special addition to the Images Festival. Tickets are $20 advance at, on sale now(oh, and $25 at the door - advance tickets for the April 8 show might already be sold out.) Full details of the shows over at Stille Post.

Eye Weekly lists the The Teenagers at Lee's Palace on May 1, although the band's MySpace is still saying the venue's suppose to be Anti. Things should hopefully get sorted out soon according to Danieljosef in my last post's comments.

Brooklyn, NY indie bad Mobius Band have been added to the Black Kids/Cut Copy bill at Lee's Palace on May 9.

Kids, get your dance on - Diplo and Nasty Nav stop at Wrongbar on April 19 while Berlin DJ Ellen Allien is at The Mod Club on May 7. I believe both of these shows are performance(not DJ shows) but I'm only guessing since their respective MySpace sites don't seem to indicate they are DJ gigs.

Stay tuned this March 25 for the announcement of the lineup for the 2nd annual Sled Island Festival which takes place in various venues around Calgary from June 25 to June 28.

Looking to the summer, for more cultured events look to the Luminato Festival - there's already a schedule of events posted over at the festival MySpace.

Brooklyn Vegan has tour dates for Toronto comedy troupe Kids In The Hall who are jumping on the reunion bandwagon for a series of live shows in the US and Canada. Things get underway on April 4 and culminate with a hometown show at Massey Hall in TOronto on June 5.

Thank God for Youtube and for someone posting the videos for PJ Harvey 's recent performance/interview on VH1 Jo Whiley's Inside Track(and no, still no news of any North American tour dates):

Video: PJ Harvey - "Grow Grow Grow" - VH1 Inside Track (3/21/08)
Video: PJ Harvey - "Interview" - VH1 Inside Track (3/21/08)
Video: PJ Harvey - "The Devil" - VH1 Inside Track (3/21/08)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Over The Top

If spring is still holding out on us, at least the Over The Top Fest announcement gives us something to look forward to. As previously announced, the local indie music festival takes place April 30-May 4, 2008. The official band line-up announcement was made over at Stille Post yesterday(and you can also check out Chartattack's story on it which is a little easier on the eyes) and there's a number of artists that should pique one's interest. Most interestingly to me, The Inbreds' Mike O'Neil has a new act The Beginners that I'd like to check out especially if it is anything along the lines of his solo material or The Inbreds. Legendary-in-some-circles like Hamilton's Simply Saucer or psychedelic electronic duo Silver Apples are bands I'd like to check out for sheer curiosity, Silver Apples in particular for having read their name in print numerous times in reference to modern acts(like Stereolab) they'd influenced.

UK/French combo The Teenagers return to Toronto for a show at Anti on May 1st. Coincidentally I caught their music video for their song "Starlett Johansson" on The Wedge the other night and was taken by the song's almost perfect blend of euro-cool and American indie slackerdom. The song has such a delicious melody, that I can almost forgive them for their band name.

Video: The Teenagers - "Starlett Johansson" (music video)
MySpace: The Teenagers

During the month of April, Tranzac brings back Wombat Wednesdays with a weekly lineup of local indie acts to check out. Perhaps saving best for last, Snailhouse with Sandro Perri and Dan Goldman close out April with a show at the venue on Wednesday April 30. The full schedule is over at Stille Post.

We Are Wolves headline the Shit La Merde party at Sneaky Dee's on March 28, tickets $7.[more info over at Stille Post]

Indie-folkie Jeffrey Lewis has been added to the British Sea Power/The Rosebuds bill taking place at Lee's Palace on May 16. [via Ground Control Touring] Aversion has an interview with singer/guitarist Yan of British Sea Power.

Local indie rockers The Diableros have found a new organist - Craig Gloster(of Fjord Rowboat) has joined the crew, and Pete promises some shows in the near future. [from the band's MySpace blog]

Monday, March 17, 2008

North By Southwest

I hope this year's NXNE is at least half as good as SXSW seemed to be. I was scrolling through some photos over at Pitchfork(specifically the Pitchfork/Windish Austin Bash) and was in awe of the bands that were there(a lot of bands who I hadn't necessarily heard but at least bands I'd heard/read about and would have liked to check out based on such curiosity). Beats my method of checking out bands at NXNE and CMW which is less about buzz bands and big names and usually involves putting time into researching bands by checking out their MySpaces and reading band descriptions during the local weeklies festival coverage.

But fortunately, a lot of the bands that pass through SXSW have passed or will pass through Toronto. And in the case of some, like Jens Lekman, hopefully will make it to Toronto this year. (Anyone in the Jens Lekman camp reading this?) So really all that I have to regret missing is the SXSW festival atmosphere, and maybe the BBQ, right?

A few of the bands that stopped in at SXSW will be making their way to Toronto in the near future. The Raveonettes will be in Toronto next week on March 21 for a show at The Opera House, but in addition to that will be playing an instore at Sonic Boom earlier that evening[via Stille Post]. Scotland's Sons and Daughters will be in Toronto for a show at Lee's Palace on March 26. Both bands performed at SXSW, part of which was recorded by MPR's The Current for posterity. Check it out:

Audio: Sons and Daughters @ SXSW 2008 (live on MPR's The Current - March 13, 2008)
Audio: The Raveonettes @ SXSW 2008 (live on MPR's The Current - March 13, 2008)
Video: Sons & Daughters - "Gilt Complex" (live on MPR's The Current @ SXSW - March 13, 2008)
Video: The Raveonettes - "Dead Sound" (live on MPR's The Current @ SXSW - March 13, 2008)
Video: The Raveonettes - "Aly, Walk With Me" (live on MPR's The Current @ SXSW - March 13, 2008)

Still extolling the virtues of their most recent album 2007's "Under The Blacklight", Rilo Kiley return to Toronto for a show at the Phoenix on May 28. Full dates at Ground Control Touring. I'll vouch that their last show in Toronto(back in Sept 2007, also at the Phoenix) was a fun one.

My Old Kentucky Blog points out that Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis' friends and one time back-up singers The Watson Twins have signed to Vanguard Records and will release a new album on June 24th called "Fire Songs". [via Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands]

Halifax indie guitar-drums duo Museum Pieces return to Toronto for a show at Wavelength(ie a Sunday night) at Sneaky Dee's on April 27. More dates over at their MySpace.

Opening Tokyo Police Club's show at The Opera House on May 2 will be teen sister indiepop duo Smoosh and Montreal's Winter Gloves, well at least according to Pollstar.

Venerable Toronto Music Venue/Church The Music Gallery launched their new website yesterday.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Canadian Music Week - Day 3

I See Rowboats at Rivoli: photo by Michael Ligon

This past Saturday was more or less the conclusion of this year's Canadian Music Week for most people and what better way to prove how hardcore a festival-goer you are than with a blizzard. Okay, so maybe it wasn't anything near what the Prairies or the Maritimes would get, but some of us Southern Ontarians are wimps. Not me though.

Flash Lightnin' (6:30 pm at Phoenix): In a way, I think the blizzard actually helped me. I was able to get into The Breeders show at the Phoenix with my media pass only 45 minutes before The Breeders show began. Maybe people didn't make it to the show(or showed up late) because of the weather but in any I strolled in with my media pass with no problem. I caught the tail-end of openers Toronto bluesy, heavy-rock trio Flash Lightnin'. Their music's chock full of riffs and guitar solos, melding the influences of old blues and more modern sensibilities like ZZ Top(listen to "Coming on Strong" and tell me if ZZ Top weren't the first thing that popped into your head). The lead guitarist in particular was doing his darndest with his solos to get the crowd excited, and maybe a few at the front were, but the majority seemed only slightly interested. Me included. We were an indie rock crowd for the most part and we came to see The Breeders. Speaking for myself, it's not that I could get into Flash Lightnin on a different occasion[I mean, I like Led Zepplin, at least in small doses], but that night it wasn't the blues I was after.

The Breeders (7:30 pm at Phoenix): Dayton, Ohio's The Breeders, on the other hand, were one of my initial forays into indie guitar-rock[if you want to call 4AD indie] back in the early 90's with their "Last Splash" album and are as relevant today regarding my current music tastes as they were back last decade. On Saturday night, it was not The Breeders of yore[of either the "Pod" or "Last Splash" eras]. It was the Deal sisters, Kim and Kelley, along with a new supporting crew in tow - Mando Lopez on bass guitar, Jose Medelez on drums and Carrie Bradley on guitar/background vox. I'd read about past Breeders forays through town which could have been more miss than hit depending on whose account you paid attention to but their set over the weekend was a capable performance over all. Either sobriety is the in thing now, or people finally growing up but in The Breeders case, it seems they finally got it right in Toronto. Several new songs were introduced none of which I can actually remember except for the impression that I liked them and that they were a rational extension of the slices of weird pop nuggets that The Breeders have always specialized in. Instrumentally, I think their biggest asset right now is Jose's succinct drumming but otherwise the Deal sisters and the rest of the band were competent. In between the new songs, the set unfolded like a greatest hits album spanning their career from "Pod"(Beatles cover "Happiness Is A Warm Gun", "Iris"), one of personal faves "Safari"(from the EP of the same name), and "Last Splash"("Cannonball", No Aloha", "Divine Hammer", "Saints"). They also did a wicked cover of Guided By Voices' "Shocker In Gloomtown" which they originally released on their "Head To Toe" 7-inch. With the Toronto date only being their second show on their current tour, the smiles on band member's faces, and on the Deal sister's faces in particular were quite genuine. I wish them luck this time around and am looking forward to hearing the new album "Mountain Battles" being released through 4AD on April 7. Of course, old habits die hard - when a fan yelled out for them to play at his house, I swear Kelly asked(with a chuckle) if there were any good drugs there.

Jenn Grant (10 pm @ Rivoli): With the snowy weather and all and great Breeders show, I should have just went home but I decided to head down to the Rivoli to check out one of my current faves Jenn Grant. The whole night was part of a Nova Scotia showcase. With her band the Night Painters(Kinley on violin, Sean on bass guitar, and Glen on drums), Jenn played some current songs, and also introduced some new material as well. She continues to hover that rootsy, folky, pop territory she does so well and is as down-home modest as she's ever been. A shame that the crowd, at least those at the back were so chatty when Jenn began the her set solo but as the material got louder and more uptempo at least it drowned out chatter or otherwise people were starting to pay attention. Prior to "Dreamer", Sean handed out to the audience homemade egg maracas for which Jenn insisted that everyone particpate during the song and really that was one of the most fun things I took part in, and was one of the more memorable things of what was otherwise an all-too-brief set.

Dog Day (11 pm @ Rivoli): Next up were Dog Day who I'd already seen two days prior at the Horseshoe. Not much more I could add except that the set gave me a second chance to soak in their music's infectious melodies. One thing that was better this time was that I could hear the keyboard much better. Oh, and also Dog Day covered The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog". Interesting. However, if they're going to cover that song in the future, they'll need to work on their stage presence. It's after all, a punk rock song.

I See Rowboats (12 am @ Rivoli): I'm glad I stuck around for the five-member strong I See Rowboats, more than half of which could have qualified as a string chamber trio if they lost the drummer and guitarist/vocalist. With two members on violins and one on cello, it's obvious how strong the strings component is to the band's sound. I'd liken I See Rowboat's sound less to the chamber-pop sounds of bands like Ohbijou or even Belle and Sebastian but more to a dramatic, edgier art-rock sound. At their most accessible, "In Cars", they displayed a melodic sensibility that I wished they extended to all their songs. In any case, even if other songs weren't as immediately melodic, they were still intriguing in terms of it's textures - song that could on one end of the spectrum sound like a lament and on the other end, celebratory. Half the time you'd think they were an instrumental band but some songs did feature vocals from one of its two leading men, guitarist William Robinson and violinst Luke Fisher. Of the two, I liked Williams' better which reminded me of less - baritoned - but - just - as - suave Stephen Merritt. The crowd seemed to be either family, friends, or fellow Nova Scotians with a few of us locals thrown in but whatever the mix, there was an enthusiastic response. Although, no amount of begging will get you an encore during CMW.

And that's it for this year's edition of CMW. With a little research and a little luck on my side, my batting avg(in terms of good bands I saw) this year was quite good. I'm glad I got a media pass this year. Too bad about the weather, but if anything it separates the hardcore from those who aren't. Ha.

Check out my photos from the night over at my Flickr.

MySpace: Flash Lightnin'
MySpace: The Breeders
MySpace: Jenn Grant
MySpace: Dog Day
MySpace: I See Rowboats

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Canadian Music Week - Day 2

Tuire Lukka of Pooma at Rancho Relaxo: photo by Michael Ligon

Last Friday night, day 2 of CMW, was a much less planned out affair than the previous. I'd already decided that I was going to check out Finnish beat-driven shoegazery pop band Pooma at Rancho Relaxo at midnight but having looked through Eye Weekly's CMW guide a few times, nothing piqued my interest.

Yellow Wood (9:30 pm @ Rancho Relaxo): A few last minute MySpace surfing prior to heading downtown on Friday night and I made up my mind to try to see Windsorites Yellow Wood at Rancho Relaxo at 9 pm. I ended up leaving the house later than expected but got downtown to Rancho quarter after 9 pm thinking I'd only catch half a set but luck was on my side andn Yellow Wood went on a little bit after 9:30 pm due to the cancellation of one of the bands on the bill(fortunately it wasn't Pooma). I'm really glad I got to check them out a long with the respectable number of patrons(though far from packed) also there. Creating music in a similar vein to Toronto's The Coast, Yellow Wood specialize in atmospheric, sometimes anthemic, guitar-driven pop music. Add some keyboards and some drum programming, and well, forgive my grammar, but it was really good. As tight as they were, if Yellow Wood and The Coast were to go head to head, I still would pick The Coast because I think their melodies are a tad better, and there's more punch in The Coast's rhythm section, but Yellow Wood aren't too far off the mark.

Restlesslist (10 pm @ Sneaky Dee's): During my subway ride downtown prior to Yellow Wood's set, I'd already made up my mind that I'd try and catch UK band Restlesslist at Sneaky Dee's at 10 pm. I never got to check out their MySpace but I found Eye Weekly's description of them interesting( "...will appeal to fans of The Brakes and The Electric Soft Parade, but with influences from a host of obscure and mainstream artists including The Books, Anticon Records, The Unicorns, Joe Meek, The Chap and Gorillaz.") so I thought why not. Of course with Yellow Wood's set ending a little after 10 pm, I made a hop, skip and a jump down the street to Sneaky Dee's to catch only about 15 minutes or so of Restlesslist's set. It's a shame though I didn't catch more of it because it seemed like a pretty fun show. The young trio of gents(although according to their Myspace, there's more people in the band) created a melange of dance beats, samples, keyboard squelches and guitar riffs that seemed a little punk, a little Beck, and a little IDM. Mentioning how being in Toronto for CMW was the furthest they'd ever been from home, you could see that they were practically bursting from all the excitement. What little I saw and heard was decent. They're not necessarily something I'd listen to all the time but within the festival atmosphere variety is the spice of life.

10:30 pm or so rolled around when Restlesslist's set ended and I decided to go to the Drake to see if I could catch the tail end of Toronto's Laura Barrett's set and or Toronto electro-punkabilly outfit Slim Twig's set. Both acts were part of Toronto record label Paper Bag Records' showcase and since I had some time to kill before Pooma's midnight set at Rancho Relaxo I'd have been happy to just get into The Drake. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be because they weren't letting any more media passes in due to the club being near capacity. I decided not to push it, and I left - I figured the doorman would probably have to tell dozens more people they wouldn't get in either. Consider it my good deed for that day. I took the streetcar down Queen St to John St., grabbed a hot chocolate, and walked back to Spadina to take the streetcar back up to near Rancho Relaxo, making it about 10 minutes prior to Pooma's set.

Pooma (midnight @ Rancho Relaxo): I had high hopes for Pooma. I'd have to agree with Chromewaves(who was also at the show) who likens Pooma's music in part to those Danes Under Byen. Pooma give off a similar vibe, combining trip-hop beats, programming and guitars that alternately crash and reverberate, and Pooma tops it off with the sultry cooing vocals of female lead singer Tuire Lukka. In short, wasn't anything I hadn't already heard before but the studio versions of their songs that I'd heard on their MySpace were intriguing enough. Unfortunately, I found Pooma's set a little disappointing because confined to Rancho's tiny narrow stage and without the benefit of any real light effects, even though the music was decent, it was uninteresting visually[frontwoman Tuire is a cutie though]. Perhaps, this makes an argument that Pooma's music's meant for headphones or at least demands a better live visual element. Maybe they can take some cues from Under Byen's who's show at The Mod Club last year was both a musical and visual splendor.

Love Kills (1 am @ Rancho Relaxo):I decided to stick around for Toronto band Love Kill's set. Fronted by the honeyed voice of Heather Flood with her male counterparts taking control of the instrumentation, it's quite obvious they mine similar musical territory as Jesus and Mary Chain but actually they're more like The Raveonettes during their transition from the JAMC-influenced "Whip It On" to the 50's tinged "Pretty In Black". Love Kills performed a competent amalgam of both these influence but perhaps with a little more of garagey, sometimes bluesy, influence thrown in. Props to the lead guitarist for looking the part with the cool shades and I loved the JAMC-Bobby_Gillespie-influenced mallet drumming that formed part of their sound. Melodies on a song or two didn't really do it for me and the guitars seemed somewhat muted[I would have prefered louder, fuzzier guitars, or maybe even some feedback now and then] but otherwise it was a fun set that the crowd seem to like a lot.

Check out a few of my photos over at my Flickr.

MySpace: Yellow Wood
MySpace: Restlesslist
MySpace: Pooma
MySpace: Love Kills

Monday, March 10, 2008

Canadian Music Week - Day 1

The Acorn @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon

The Canadian Music Week concert series came to and end yesterday and despite the snowy weather(especially Saturday night) I made it out to shows on Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Let's break it down day-by-day starting Thursday. After attending the Immaculate Machine instore at Soundscapes I went to Royal York Hotel to pick up my media pass(!). With pass in hand, I'd already made up my mind up for that night. No club hopping for me on Thursday as I decided to park myself for most of the night at the Horseshoe Tavern for the Chart showcase as the lineup was arguably the best of the whole festival:

Immaculate Machine (8:30 pm): Victoria, BC trio Immaculate Machine opened the night up with their peppy pop-rock tunes, a delectable blend of guitar, keys and drums, infectious melodies and vocals that alternated between Brooke Gallup's suave singing and Kathyrn Calder's clear-toned pitch. Much of the set reminded me of their free set at Soundscapes earlier in the day, right down to bringing up the fact that they did a Mandarin version of "Dear Confessor" and then singing a bar of it for a laugh. One cool diversion for the Horseshoe set was that drummer Luke Kozlowski broke out into a deliriously excellent solo that I almost wouldn't have guessed he had in him.

Dog Day (9:20 pm): Halifax, NS' Dog Day were up next and I never realized how young they were until I saw them up their on stage. This was actually the first of two times I saw the band during the festival and the four-piece(two guys, two girls) won me over almost from the start with their arsenault of indie pop-rock nuggets. Electric guitar, bass and drums were the obvious starting point for the songs and keyboards were added to the mix although disappointedly buried too much in the background for my liking. I think their sound harkens back to melodic 90's indie rock like Superchunk and I think they do girl/boy vocals really well playing off bass guitarist Nancy Urich's sweet vocals against guitarist Seth Smith's casual singing style(IMO, similar to Weakerthan's John Samson). The band displayed an energetic and comfortable stage presence for the most part although they're quite modest when it comes to between-song banter. But hey, they're young and maybe they're best road stories are ahead.

Katie Stelmanis (10:10 pm): Chartattack recently pointed how critics described Toronto's Katie Stelmanis' music as a cross between Depeche Mode and Kate Bush and that's not too far off the mark as I found out during Katie's set. There was something very art-school punk about the music as Katie and her all-female backing band(on percussion, guitar and keyboards) performed a set of dramatic post-punk tunes that draped Katie's stark vocals and classically-influenced keyboard playing over metronomic percussion sounds and uncomplicated guitar and secondary keyboard arrangements. The minor-key melodies perhaps brought a little of gloom and drama to the Horseshoe's atmosphere, but you know, it was like watching theatre. It was an experience, and a good one . BTW, I loved how Katie billed her and the band as "WE are Katie Stelmanis".

Plants and Animals (11:10 pm): As Montreal trio Plants and Animals' star seems to rise with each passing day, I'm still ambivalent about them. They put on an energetic set for sure, but their music straddles an unhappy line(for me at least) between psychedelia(the good) and jam-rock hippiedom(the bad). The live set instrumentation was down to two guitars and drums so some of the lushness of the songs I'd heard from their studio recordings was obviously lost. Personal musical tastes aside, I enjoyed the set in doses, the energy was good and there were obviously many fans who really liked them, so more power to them.

The Acorn (12:10 am): As it turned out, I mustered up enough strength and I had to end my night with Ottawa band The Acorn's after midnight set, so apologies to Sun Parlour Players and Oh No Forest Fire for me not sticking arounding. I've seen The Acorn a few times live now and this set was their finest one yet, imo. The 6-piece specialize in intricate, sparkling melodic indie folk-rock, a less orch-flavored and more upbeat(at times) version of Ohbijou perhaps. To be honest, I haven't gotten around to listening to their most recent album "Glory Hope Mountain" very much, but apparently their set focussed mostly on it and definitely made a case for me to dig it out.

I have a relatively small gallery of my own photos from the showcase over at my Flickr.

Rachel Verbin has some great photos from the night over at Chart.

MySpace: Immaculate Machine
MySpace: Dog Day
MySpace: Katie Stelmanis
MySpace: Plants and Animals
MySpace: The Acorn

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Midnight Surprise

concert review: Lightspeed Champion @ Horseshoe Tavern (Toronto, Ontario), March 4, 2008

Lightspeed Champion @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon

I had a bit of a dicey drive in to Toronto from the 'burbs during a few evenings ago's evenings snowy conditions but in the end it was well worth it to see UK's Lightspeed Champion's Toronto live debut at the Horseshoe Tavern during Dave Bookman's no-cover Nu Music Nite.

Yes it was icy and snowy outside and Lightspeed Champion's Dev Hynes was dressed for the weather in a ski sweater and fur hat, but he was so comfortable on stage he hardly seemed to break a sweat(at least on his forehead - well except towards the end when he finally wiped his brow).

Nary a lap-steel in sight(as I'd heard on a song or two from his debut album "Falling Off The Lavender Bridge", Dev brought his songs to life(playing a set without a set list) with his solid but respectable guitar work, the complimentary violin arrangements of violinist Mike Siddell(played with the similar casual sonics of say Final Fantasy) and Dev's melodic vocals. Stripped down to the duo, the music was less pastoral/folk-rock from what I'd heard from the album and had a much more raw feel to it. The whole set musically was sublime.

Banter-wise, Dev sounded as seasoned as any music veteran, throwing out quips and comments with a rambolic charm. The obligatory comment about how much he liked Toronto was counterbalanced more specifically with how much he liked "this street"(Queen St) at least[you knew that that was the only part of Toronto that he probably he'd actually seen]. In introducing a new song, he went into a rambolic explanation of how 'new' the song was but in the end just admitted that most of the songs he was playing that night were new to us. Oh, and the refrigeration of beef story was priceless, but you had to be there.

Check out a few of my photos over at my Flickr.

More reviews/photos from the show over at Chromewaves, lyncanthropy, and The Panic Manual

MySpace: Lightspeed Champion

I just noticed that Toronto indie record label Unfamiliar Records has just relaunched a brand spanking new website, in no small part to celebrate their showcase with Musebox tonight at Wrongbar in Toronto. Unfamiliar will bringing tonight The Airfields and The Paper Cranes and filling out the rest of the line up are Toronto's Lioness, plus Norway's Syme and some other band called Boys In A Band. Full details here. And as the same Stille Post thread says here, look out for some upcoming Unfamiliar Records releases from The Paper Cranes, The Airfields(!), The Two Koreas, Snailhouse(!), The Clips and Chad Blue.

New Sub Pop signees(for US distribution) Foals make their Toronto debut on May 2 with a show at Lee's Palace. The band's album "Antidotes" is out in the US on April 8. As Pitchfork put is, the band perform ", feisty, post-punk tunes..." if that's your thing.

Cyndi Lauper's True Colors tour returns to Toronto for a show at Molson Ampitheatre on June 4. The official website hasn't been updated yet but Pollstar is listing it.

Good news, I got my CMW media accreditation. It's just a matter of going down to the Fairmont Royal York Hotel and registering onsite. Thanks to those who suggested I e-mail them about it.

Monday, March 03, 2008


In case you hadn't already caught the info over at Chromewaves, and since I was going to post it anyway, Criminal Records isn't about to let Soundscapes have all the in-store fun this week. Criminal Records will be hosting some instores of their own including The Burning Hell and Jenny Omnichord on March 6, Plants and Animals and Winter Gloves on March 7 and then March 8 which will feature Calm Down It's Monday (feat Julie Doiron & Fred Squire), Julie Doiron (solo), The Superfantastics and Dog Day. Check out the set times for all three days over at Stille Post.

And just when you thought Soundscapes didn't have any more instore left in them they announce that Bon Iver will be there for an intimate performance on March 5 at 4 pm.

If gawking is your thing several CMW attendees will be dropping into the Edge 102.1 FM studios(228 Yonge St.) - Sloan drop in March 4 at 4:20 pm, Danko Jones are there March 6 at 3:20 pm, and Jason Collett drops by March 6 at 6:15 pm. Sloan headline the Murderecords re-launch showcase at Supermarket on March 6 at 12:20 am(good luck in getting in to this one; I wouldn't hold my breath). Jason Collett is at Lee's Palace on March 6 at 11 pm. Danko Jones are at the Horseshoe Tavern on March 7 at 12:10 am.

The first mp3 from the upcoming Tokyo Police Club debut full length, "Elephant Shell"(out on Saddle Creek on April 22nd) is out there now. The band are at the Fairmont Royal York on March 8 as part of Canadian Music Week's The Indies awards show:

MP3: Tokyo Police Club - "In A Cave"

Stereogum has the new Immaculate Machine music video for their song "Dear Confessor". Immaculate Machine open the Chart CMW showcase at the Horseshoe Tavern on March 6 at 8:30 pm.

Apostle of Hustle aren't at this year's CMW, but they do have a new remix of one of their songs. Jim Eno of Spoon remixed "Chances Are" which you can download here.

Shelby Lynne brings her Dusty Springfield tribute to The Mod Club on March 31, tickets $20.00. Her Dustry Springfield tribute album "Just A Little Lovin'" is in stores now, some of which you can hear over at her MySpace.

Buck 65, Cadence Weapon, and Skratch Bastid are at Danforth Music Hall on April 25. Cadence Weapon's new album "Afterparty Babies" is out on ANTI- right now.

Texans' Eisley at at Lee's Palace on April 29 promoting their newest disc "Combinations".

According to Bookie, look out for Rilo Kiley to return to Toronto in late May.

Danish singer-songwriter and sometime Zero 7 vocalist Tina Dico will be back in Toronto at The Courthouse on May 12 promoting her most recent album "Count To Ten". Joining her will be UK singer songwriter Teitur his newest album "The Singer" which was released in Scandinavia last month and hits the rest of the world in March/April(well that's what the artist's website says).

I'm still waiting for Goldfrapp's return to these shores but in the meantime I recommend picking up their latest CD "Seventh Tree" out on Mute. The deluxe edition is one the most beautiful packages I've seen in a while and I'm enjoying it a lot these days. It has elements of the lush pop-tronica of "Felt Mountain" but it's not necessarily a return to that sound. In many ways it's a lot more direct and pop-oriented. Not to say it's simplistic, but the album's combination of acoustic and electronic elements feels a lot more organic and it has some of the prettiest melodies. "A&E", the album's lead off single is the most radio-friendly of their's I've heard so far and it's bound to annoy some Goldfrapp fans but I'm not one of them. Goldfrapp performed "Happiness"(my favourite song off the new album!) for BBC's Jonathan Ross over the weekend(via The Music Slut):

Video: Goldfrapp - "Happiness" (live on BBC Jonathan Ross program - March 2008)

Nicole Atkins performed three songs live("Maybe Tonight," "The Way It Is," and "Together We're Alone") for MPR The Current on February 26, 2008.

BlogTo readers voted for their favourite Toronto live music venues. Definitely can't complain with #'s 1(Horsehoe) and 2(Lee's Palace), although if it were me it should be the other way around.