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

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