Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Canadian Musicfest in Toronto (March 12, 2009)

concert review: Canadian Musicfest (part of Canadian Music Week) in Toronto - March 12, 2009

2/3's of Rural Alberta Advantage @ Gladstone Hotel: photo by Michael Ligon
Paul Banwatt and Amy Cole of RAA: photo by Michael Ligon

Not much club hopping this night as after starting my night at Rancho Relaxo I parked it for the rest of the night at Eye Weekly's 3-way Throwdown over at Gladstone Hotel. I was spared the frigid temperatures for the most part, but on the other hand staying in one venue and standing up is actually more tiring that hopping from venue to venue for an entire night. Thankfully, the Gladstone's CMF lineup was interesting, if not stellar.

9 PM - We See Lights @ Rancho Relaxo

Scottish folk-rock outfit We See Light ushered in my Canadian Musicfest experience this year and were one of the highlights. While it was a thin crowd (perhaps some of which were probably members of other bands performing that night), it didn't seem to phase the band at all. The young band do have a certain fashionable indieness about them but their music is of the good honest songwriting variety, their tantalizing melodies performed with electric and acoustic instrumentation and wrapped up beautifully by their thick Scottish vocals, most notably of the band's lone female vocalist Ciaran McGuigan. Their first single "Parachutes" (a love song that draws on the analogy of a parachute as they sing 'break my fall' in unison) is off their upcoming album "Ghosts and Monsters" - it's a wonderful song that makes the transition from the in-unison-sung "Break my Fall" to the charming alternating boy-girl verses that follow. Ciaran was gracious enough to give me a free CD sampler when I asked if they had any CD's. Consider yourself fortunate if you were able to see this Scottish outfit at any of their other showcases during Canadian Musicfest.

10 PM - Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship @ Gladstone Hotel

This was only the second time I'd seen Ms. Deveaux and co. live since 2006 and she's as down-to-earth a performer as I'd remember her being. For the most part, though she did let the music speak for itself from the countrified melancholy pop of her debut (from which I recall she only played one song) to her most recent album "Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship" (which the set was heavy upon) extending the sound of her debut with meatier instrumentations most notably in guitarist Mike Feurstack's bright and brilliant guitar arrangements. She's one of the most approachable artists I've ever had the pleasure of chatting with, if ever so briefly, and while she did make reference that she's fairly under the radar in Toronto and hence hasn't toured here much, I do plead that Toronto music fans check her out.

Myspace: Angela Desveaux & The Mighty Ship

11 PM - The Week That Was @ Gladstone Hotel

Inked as the Toronto debut of UK's The Week That Was, it was a four member version of the band that imparted their proggish pop tunes upon the audience. Although I did mention the word 'pop' it's more a description of their sprightly textured guitar and keyboards instrumentation and less of a focus on obvious melodies. In spots, they did remind me of XTC. I've read that they've had up to 12 members in the band, but without the benefit of members on flute, horns and the such, the four-member version came across with a rockier flavour. Their music does present a certain amount of enjoyability at least in terms of their tight succinct instrumentation, and while the crowd seemed to have a positive, if polite, reaction, a few more obvious melodies wouldn't have hurt.

12 PM - Slim Twig @ Gladstone Hotel

Think an even more freak-out version of Mr. Jon Spencer, Toronto's Slim Twig siphons his obvious love for rockabilly (reverbed drenched vocals and guitar) through experimental, whigged out means, incorporating electronic effects, skronky keyboards and a Fall-like angularity. By no means my regular cup of tea but his guitar and vocal work was incendiary at times and I did enjoy the set's visceral energy. And as I'd told a fellow blogger, I'd much rather listen to Slim Twig than a conventional boring band.

1 AM - Rural Alberta Advantage @ Gladstone Hotel

I have no reasonsable explanation as to why it took me so long to see Toronto trio Rural Alberta Advantage live but damn they're good. What's most impressive is even the most rudimentary of instrumentation (acoustic guitar[Nils Edenloff], drums[impressively played by Paul Banwatt], xylophone, tambourine, handclaps[the last 3 instruments enthusiastically performed by Amy Cole], vocals) cannot deter from the fact that their songwriting is impeccable and their songs are catchy as fuck. Adding to their musical abilities, they were confident onstage and were able to encourage the audience to participate if at least to enthusiatically clap along to the songs. On more than one occasion I recall reading articles/blog posts pondering why they still are not signed yet, and I must emphatically add to that sentiment. It's only a matter of time.

MySpace: Rural Alberta Advantage

Photos: Canadian Musicfest - March 12, 2009

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