Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Walkmen @ Lee's Palace (July 24, 2009)

Review to come. I know, I know it's a week from the show and no one cares anymore. Too bad, you're getting a review. Well, maybe.

Photos: The Walkmen @ Lee's Palace (July 24, 2009)
MySpace: The Walkmen

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Jenn Grant @ Harbourfront Centre Sirius Stage (July 24, 2009)

  Jenn Grant and friends @ Harbourfront Centre: photo by Michael Ligon
Jenn Grant @ Harbourfront: photo by Michael Ligon

It's rather natural for me to harken back to that day at The Casbah in Hamilton, Ontario in 2005 when Ms. Jenn Grant performed with Jason Macisaac and David Christiansen both of The Heavy Blinkers, performing Heavy Blinkers songs as a trio. It was a rather sparsely attended show but once Jenn sang I was totally blown away. With Jenn's own material(especially her first two albums "Orchestra For The Moon" and "Echoes" respectively) she's displayed her more than capable songwriting abilities, and whether her songs touch on pop, folk, or roots, it's the fact that they're memorable that ultimately makes her indispensable within the Canadian music landscape.

From her humble beginnings, it's amazing as well as deserved that she got to headline the main stage at Harbourfront Centre for the first night of the Canadian Voices festival. I'd got there late and only caught a few songs. During my brisk walk towards the stage I could hear Jenn play sinister, torch-pop of 'I Was Your Woman'. If I remember correctly she and her band also performed the bouncy 'Parachutes'. I couldn't forget her capable rendition of Neil Young's 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart'. Nearing the 11 pm curfew, an enthusiastic crowd response prompted Jenn and band to attempt to play another song, but to no avail. Even CBC Radio's Grant Lawrence came onstage, appearing to tell Jenn Grant that they weren't allowed to play another song. It did seem that she actually tried, but with no success as the mics were no longer on. But in a surprising turn, as patrons were already leaving, she and her band came back on to the stage motioning to the crowd that they were going to play one more song but unamplified. So the proper sitdown show turned into an intimate shindig as her and her band gathered at the centre of the stage with a bare minimum of instruments(I think there was maybe a clarinet, violin, and someone with a percussive instrument of some sort) and motioned to the crowd still there to gather around them, which meant that people tried to get as close as possible to hear her, even if it meant standing on the seats. Once we all positioned, myself standing on the edge of one of the rows of seats, Jenn with a few other singers and with the sparest of musical accompaniement, launched into a casual and fun cover of Wilco's 'Jesus, Etc'. Although I'd missed most of the set, that last song made the trip down all worth while.

Now if anyone has video of Jenn and friends performing that Wilco cover, I'll be eternally grateful.

And, by the way, Wilco play Massey Hall on October 14.

Photos: Jenn Grant @ Harbourfront Centre Sirius Stage (July 24, 2009)

More photos from the show over at The Singing Lamb. The Singing Lamb also had an interview with Ms. Grant. Upfront, The Harbourfront Centre Blog, posed 12 questions to Jenn, to which she have 12 succinct answers

It looks like Jenn's taking a break from touring for the rest of the summer, but you can catch her durnig some east coast dates starting the end of September into early October - check out her MySpace.

MySpace: Jenn Grant

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tokyo Police Club @ Mississauga Civic Square (July 24, 2009)

Tokyo Police Club @ Mississauga Civic Square: photo by Michael Ligon

Tokyo Police Club, a product of the suburbs (Newmarket that is) made a return to the suburbs with their Mississauga debut this past Friday night. Actually, they were suppose to have played Mississauga's Beating Heart Festival during the summer of 2007 but had to cancel that show for reasons I never really could confirm. Although if I had to guess, it may have been due that year to the band having been caught up in a whirlwind of publicity and perhaps didn't have the time to play a measly indie music festival in Mississauga when they could be playing higher profile gigs and festivals. I almost never forgave them for cancelling that show but I'm finally glad they finally came around to play a free show for us even if it took two years.

Performing as part of the My Mississauga music series at the outdoor stage set up in Mississauga Civic Square, a mostly all-ages crowd(many who looked not even of legal drinking age) had gathered for the show. Although it seemed like a relatively small crowd, as the start of the show grew closer, the crowd numbers seemed to exponentially grow. A definite help to anyone trying to write down the set list that night, the band had an easel on stage with each page of paper showing which two songs were next in the setlist, definitely stirring the crowd's anticipation at times.

It was an energetic set with the band playing all the favourites from their album "Elephant Shell" and their EP "A Lesson In Crime" plus their cover of The Rentals' 'Friends of P. Funny how I ignored them for so long, only giving a few of their songs a cursory listen and liking them but not wanting to explore them further, but since earlier this when I uploaded "Elephant Shell" to my iPod, I swell with Canadian pride every time I listen to it. The unbridled joy of youth dwells within the spiky guitars, jittery keyboards, vibrant drums, melodic bass lines, and the occasional shout-out lyric and when they sing "you don't need to change, the future is ours" you feel it. But what ultimately reels me in with the band, as they more competently displayed that night, is the band's grasp of melody. Catchy as fuck.

Every good band needs a theme song, perhaps one that even references their own name, so when Tokyo Police Club launched into "Cheer It On"(which has the band shouting out their band's name a couple of times during the chorus) during the encore, it was like an exclamation mark to a thoroughly exhilirating evening.

Photos: Tokyo Police Club @ Mississauga Civic Square (July 24, 2009)
MySpace: Tokyo Police Club

The Mississauga News has a brief write up on the show.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Frightened Rabbit, The Antlers, Our Brother The Native @ Horseshoe Tavern (July 22, 2009)

Frightened Rabbit @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon

Although aware of the buzz surrounding Frightened Rabbit, I never bothered to read any of the reviews about them. I knew they were Scottish which is always a draw for me because of their country's past fantastic musical output. But something about their band name conjured images of something darker, perhaps intriguing. So it is quite the surprise after listening to their album "The Midnight Organ Fight" recently to find out that they're more musically straightforward than I'd expected. Not to say they aren't good - in fact they're better than most bands who dwell within that rootsy, indie territory. Vocalist Scott John Hutchison's thick Scottish-accent wraps around every lyric with a sense of yearning and there's an urgency to the music combined with memorable melodies that makes it immediately appealing.

Before getting to Frightened Rabbit there was the task of getting through the opening bands. I showed up part way into Ann Arbor, Michigan's Our Brother The Native's set. Quirky sounds and rhythms from keyboards, guitar, and drums with a vocalist whose vocals were borderline grating didn't really impress the pop enthusiast in me. The individual elements were actually decent, and there were even hints of melody under the surface, but combined, let's just say it was difficult music.

I'd not been familiar with the next band either, and the particular endorsement by one person who said they were a Pitchfork band didn't get my hopes up. The space in front of the stage filled up quickly for Brooklyn indie-experimental pop 3-piece outfit The Antlers and let's just say I was surprisingly impressed. For an opener that night that I actually enjoyed, I have surprisingly little to say about them. They do possess a grasp of melody and restraint that I really didn't expect, their music built on a foundation of drums, guitar and keyboards, with simple but effective vocals. They were energetic enough when they needed to during their more upbeat material but could also easily settle into a more subdued mode during more ambient tunes.

Playing to a sold out show at the Horseshoe Tavern last Wednesday night, prior to the show I'd never have guessed the fervency of Frightened Rabbit's fans until I saw it that night. It was one of those nights that one like myself kind of felt left out because it seemed like everyone else knew the words to every song and were singing along enthusiastically. And as each song ended, there was a resounding response from the crowd that definitely had the band feeling good. The band played a sampling of songs off their most recent album "The Midnight Organ Fight" and their 2007 debut "Sing The Years". It's their most recent album which really made an impression on me, and the urgency of songs like 'The Modern Leper', 'Fast Blood', 'I Feel Better', and 'Heads Rolls Off' were particularly satisfying live, propelled by their solid drum beat. The chant of 'Music Now' unbeknownst to me was actually a song request for the song of the same name(off "Sing The Years") which the band did play eventually. The encore was a clincher for the evening if ever I've experienced one. After several minutes of intense applause and cheers from the audience, Scott came back to perform solo the track 'Poke', as he stepped forward to the edge of the stage and sung and strummed his guitar unamplified towards the crowd as the crowd sung along with him with the expected intermittent hollering from random concert-goers. After that the show ended with the rest of the band coming on to the stage to play 'Keep Yourself Warm with the made for singalong lyric "It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm" which the crowd sung with enthusiasm.

The setlist according to the photo of the physical setlist I took was:

Modern Leper / Fast Blood / Good Arms Vs bad Arms / I Feel Better / Yawns / Twist / Old Old Fashioned / Head Rolls Off / BackWards Walks / Music Now / Floating IN the Forth / Square 9 / Poke (encore) / Keep Yourself Warm (encore)

Photos: Frightened Rabbit, The Antlers @ Horseshoe Tavern (July 22, 2009)

MySpace: Our Brother The Native
MySpace: The Antlers
MySpace: Frightened Rabbit

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Music News / Concert Announcements

Yo La TengoYo La Tengo's new album "Popular Songs" is getting Matador Records' "Buy Early Get Now" (BEGN) treatment. What you get:

- CD or LP copy of Popular Songs, available for collection at a trusted physical retailer (easily found via the store finder on the front page) or via mail order on September 8.
- the full 128k album stream starting August 4, with exclusive bonus MP3s to follow.
- a vinyl LP featuring Yo La Tengo’s Orginal Score from the Motion Picture “Adventureland”
- a poster (design TBD)

For full details go here. As just reported, Yo La Tengo have a date in Toronto at The Opera House on October 3, tickets $25. Photo from

As Brooklyn Vegan reports Seattle indie-pop band Throw Me The Statue are touring with New Zealands' The Brunettes with a stop in Toronto on August 30 at a venue still to be announced. Mark your calendars.

Punk Rock Karoake takes over Lee's Palace on September 3. Check out the official website for the official song list and be prepared to sing along to your favourite punk rock classic. And if I actually had the nerve I'd probably pick The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks' .

Berlin resident / Toronto homeboy Gonzales is rereleasing his 2004 album "Solo Piano" as a Deluxe Edition on September 22 through Arts & Crafts. It'll be a 2-disc package with the original album on the first disc and and containing a bonus DVD, featuring the documentary film, "From Major To Minor", "the first long form video to document the outlandish and eccentric universe of Gonzales." To promote the release he'll be playing a hometown show at The Mod Club on September 30.

Kid Koala plays a 19+ early show(doors 7 pm) at The Mod Club on October 3, tickets $18.50.

A double shot of Portland indie hits The Mod Club on October 6 with Mirah and Norfolk & Western. Tickets $15.

Vancouver's Brasstronaut play Sneaky Dee's on October 17.

As chartattack pointed out Metric announced upcoming tour dates for Ontario and Quebec for this October including a date in Toronto at Massey Hall on October 20 with openers The Stills. And then maybe Metric may have played just about every large sized venue in the city. Next stops Ricoh Coliseum and ACC?

The Raveonettes are back with a new album "In & Out Of Control" being released through Vice Records on October 6 and they will be in Toronto for a show a the Phoenix on October 22, tickets $18.50.

As NME reports, NYC's A Place To Bury Strangers release their second album entitled "Exploding Head" on October 6 and will be at The Mod Club on October 27. Pitchfork reports that the openers will be Dead Confederate, and All the Saints.

Barrie indie rockers Fox Jaws return with a new album entitled "At Odds (or, Exercises in Separation While United in the Fall)" being released through local indie label Nevado Records on August 18 and while no tour dates are on the horizon you know they'll be playing in and around the city a bunch of times.

Portland's The Gossip have no date for Toronto lined up but they've always been good to Toronto in the past. And yet I've never gotten around to seeing them. I must remedy that next time they play here although I hope it's not a venue larger than the Phoenix. They have a whack of dates posted on their MySpace which will be in support of their new album "Music For Men" being released October 6. The first single is 'Heavy Cross' which is streaming at their MySpace and is featured this week as iTunes free Single of the Week.

I got an e-mail the other day about a book called "Our Noise: The Story of Merge Records: The Indie Label That Got Big and Stayed Small" (written by John Cook, Laura Ballance, and Mac MacCaughan) coming out September 15 through Algonquin Books that I'm looking forward to reading. Hey Superchunk(and while we're at it, Versus who apparently started recording a new album!), please come to Toronto!

NME reports that The White Stripes documentary "Under Great White Northern Lights" chronicling Jack and Meg White's 2007 Canada tour [remember all those uncoventional locations the band had played] will be premiering at this year's Toronto International Film Festival on September 18. You can view the trailer here. Jack's other band The Dead Weather play Kool Haus tonight which I don't believe is sold out.

NME also reports that UK's Zero 7's newest album is entitled "Yeah Ghost" and will be released September 7. It's suppose to be a more uptempo affair. NME has the tracklisting.

Looking forward to the Frightened Rabbit show at the Horseshoe tonight. It's sold out by the way, so don't bother showing up if you don't have a ticket. I'm a newbie myself but I was sent a digital promo of their album "The Midnight Organ" just recently and I'm enjoying it a lot. Love the thick Scottish-accented vocals. Nice melodic indie rock with attractive folk and country accents at times. Having not really listened to them that intently until recently, I realize they're more straightforward sounding than I anticipated but still interesting enough (I still wonder if they'd be as interesting if say the vocalist was American rather than Scottish. Hmmm?). Check out the video below (a stripped down, 3-song performance at the warehouse of Fat Cat Records, link via Brooklyn Vegan):

Video: Frightened Rabbit - "Old Old Fashioned", "Good Arms vs Bad Arms", "Modern Leper" (live acoustic @ Fat Cat Records)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beastie Boys' MCA Diagnosed With Cancer & Cancel Tour Dates / Music News / Concert Announcements

Ad-Rock & MCA of Beastie Boys

So the big news, and not of the good variety(although there is a bright light) is that Beastie Boys' Adam 'MCA' Yauch has been diagnosed with a cancer in his throat, supposedly treatable and apparently he's supposed to have surgery next week, but it means that all their upcoming tour dates for the moment have been cancelled including their headlining slot at Montreal's Osheaga Music & Arts Festival on August 2. MCA with Ad-Rock(Adam Horowitz) by his side filmed a short video clip making the announcement about the cancelled tour dates and his current health status and posted it on YouTube. MCA seems to be in good spirits and is totally optimistic, even chuckling during the video. Even more funny was that, MCA apparently hadn't told Ad-Rock the reason he'd asked him to come down to the studio(where they filmed the video), Ad-Rock in his t-shirt and his bed-head responding that he'd been on his couch watching TV. :) My thoughts and prayers are with you MCA:

YouTube: Beastie Boys' Adam "MCA" Yauch and Adam "Ad-Rock" Horowitz - "Yauch Announcement" [his health and cancelled tour dates]

NME reports that Saint Etienne will be releasing expanded 2-disc versions of their albums "So Tough" and "Sound of Water", the first disc of each being the original album and the second disc being an "...extra disc of session tracks, B-sides and extensive sleeve-notes." Check out the NME link for the tracklisting of each. Fortunately I'd seen them live at the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona in June. It seems like they haven't played Toronto in ages.

Kicking off a cool online music sessions series entitled "Uncovered" over at are Dinosaur Jr. doing an acoustic version of The Cure's 'Just Like Heaven'. Future session will feature other interesting acoustic covers including Murray Lightburn of The Dears performing a cover of Emily Haines' 'Doctor Blind'. To preview upcoming sessions, click here. Dinosaur Jr. bring it amplified to the Phoenix on September 30.

A lot of concert announcments(via Against The Grain & rootmeansquare respectively):

Brendan Benson will play The Mod Club on August 24, tickets $13.50 in advance and $15 at the door. His new album "My Old, Familiar Friend" is out August 18.

Yes they are still around, Living Colour are sure to bring out the nostalgia hounds when they play Lee's Palace on October 3. Wouldn't it piss some off if they didn't play 'Cult of Personality'? Tickets are $29.50 in advance and $35 at the door, either way a hefty price. As Reuters reported earlier this month, the band are readying a new album, their first in 6 years.

The Slackers bring their rude-boy sound to Lee's Palace on October 9, tickets $17.50 in advance and $20 at the door.

Australian indie guitar-drums duo An Horse return to Toronto for a show on at The Drake Underground on September 11, tickets $10. They'll also play the Rifflandia Music Festival in Victoria, BC which takes place Sept. 24 to 27[via chartattack].

Having just played the El Mo recently, Japandroids have already lined up another Toronto show for September 19 at the Horseshoe with Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band and Metz, tickets $10. speaks with the band.

Seminal Brazilian Tropicalia band Os Mutantes will be playing The Opera House on October 2, tickets $25. 19 + show. The band'll be celebrating a long-awaited new disc(their first in 35 years) entitled "Haith" to be released through ANTI- on September 8.

The following day(Oct 3) at the same venue, Yo La Tengo will be playing, tickets $25. Their new album "Popular Songs" is out September 8 on Matador Records. An mp3 of a song from the album is available below(it was also NPR's "Song Of The Day" on July 17):

MP3: Yo La Tengo - "Periodically Double Or Triple"

Already reported by Chromewaves, but what the heck I'll post it again - The Twilight Sad, BrakesBrakesBrakes and We Were Promised Jetpacks hit the El Mocambo on October 10, tickets $12.

They must love the Phoenix Concert Theatre as Peter, Bjorn and John seemed to have played it umpteenth times and will do so again on November 11, tickets $20.

Amy Millan returns with her sophomore full-length, "Masters Of The Burial", on September 8 and will play a CD release show at The Mod Club on October 14 with openers Bahamas. She'll being playing a free show down at Harbourfront Centre this Saturday July 25 as part of the Canadian Voices festival with opener Gentleman Reg.

The most recent Wilco mailing list update that some Fall show announcments should be made later this week. Also, look out for Jeff Tweedy on the next cover of Spin Magazine with accompanying cover story. Wilco played just over the border a few nights ago at Artpark in Lewiston, NY. The Buffalo News has a review of the show.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Neko Case, Jason Lytle @ Massey Hall (July 14, 2009)

  Neko Case's stage set @ Massey Hall (July 14, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon
Neko Case - stage set @ Massey Hall: photo by Michael Ligon

Foiled again by Ms. Neko Case's no-photos policy it was a bitter pill to swallow considering I had scored a front row seat for her show. Hey, but what is one to do? There was a time when I'd go to shows and not have a camera at all. So there was only for me to sit back and take it all in. It was just April 17 of this year since I'd last seen Neko live at Trinity St Paul's Church, itself a fabulous venue to see Ms. Case, but yes Massey Hall does trump it in spades.

Jason Lytle ex of Grandaddy and his band opened the show with their laid-back Californian take on Americana. With Jason's voice sounding a little like Neil Young at times, he had full grasp of melody throughout his songs, performed with keyboards, drums, guitar, and bass. At his most playful like on "Yours Truly, The Commuter" which combines a simple but effective keyboard melody with a more uptempo beat they were most enjoyable. However, the set suffered from a lack of energy(slower tempo songs / hardly any banter) which with it being dark and me sitting down, had at least myself almost falling asleep. If I recall, his only banter was mentioning that as any good American tourists would do, they'd be visiting Niagara Falls. Hey, wouldn't it have been more appropriate to say instead, the CN tower? I'm sure that'd probably have gotten a response out of the crowd. While I thought the response between songs was positive, as much as I appreciated and liked Jason Lytle's music, I didn't feel much investment in his set.

As could be expected for most artists who make their debut at Massey Hall, one could perhaps be a little nervous. Neko was definitely humbled and a bit of jittery when she stepped out onto the stage as the crowd roared with excitement. Neko wore a brown mini dress, with white translucent stockings and red heel shoes, with her fiery red hair falling over her shoulders. While Neko's nervous energy was most apparent between songs with several utterances of "oh my god" and "Massey Hall" within the same breath, Neko was able to get into a zone with each song performed. Her vocals soared amidst the acoustics of Massey Hall, sounding better than I've ever heard and the double-shot of "Blacklisted" tunes, 'Deep Red Bells' and 'I Wish I Was The Moon' steeped in their dark romanticism, were the best examples of Neko's exemplary vocals that evening.

Of course the setlist leaned heavily on Neko's most recent album "Middle Cyclone" and her previous "Fox Confessor Brings The Flood". We were fortunate that night that Ms. Kelly Hogan was in the house as apparently she'd been off(why?) but I almost can't imagine a Neko Case show without her, her role as a talented background vocalist as well as her role as comedic sidewoman(even Kelly jokingly referring herself as a 'fluffer') being firmly established. Kelly gave several shout-outs to Toronto's The Sadies that drew a cheer from the crowd. Neko and friends thankfully performed a few Sadies-penned tunes including 'If I Knew''If You Knew' and 'Hold On, Hold On' two dark uptempo twangy numbers which are two of my favourite Neko tunes. It did make me realize that while Neko's current band(Paul Rigby on guitar, Tom V. Ray on bass, Jon Rauhouse on pedal-steel, Barry Mirochnick on drums) are more than capable, they don't necessarily exude the energy of Neko's past backing band / Boyfriends membership. Of her current backing band, I was most impressed with guitarist Paul Rigby and his fluid guitar playing especially his fully-fleshed acoustic guitar picking on the stark 'Vengeance Is Sleeping' during the encore. As well, Jon Rauhause displayed a ferocity on his pedal steel at times(especially during 'Deep Red Bells') that earned him some audience hollerin' directed at him on a few occasions.

If anything was lacking during the evening was the lack of banter at times especially during Neko's frequent guitar changes between songs. This resulted in the pacing of the evening at least during the first half of the set being off. So while Neko's music and vocals alone were enough to be euphoric at times, it just seemed that sometimes we(or at least I) was twiddling my thumbs waiting for Neko to say something funny or at least start the next song quickly. It was really only during close to the second half of the set did the banter seem to pick up. Neko jokingly commented how Toronto's garbage strike was the cleanest garbage strike she'd ever seen. Later on, Neko's comment about Kelly's new bra seemed to lead into a hyper-spontaneous dialogue recitation between Kelly and Neko from I believe "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" - I know Neko mentioned something about Dolly Parton.

Did Neko conquer Massey Hall? Well, not quite. It was a humble debut that straddled the line between her nervous energy and her exquisite vocals. If anything her nervous energy was endearing. I've seen better shows of hers but really she's never had a bad show.

CityNews, NOW and chartattack all have reviews of the show.

MySpace: Neko Case
MySpace: Jason Lytle

Exclaim reports that Neko Case has recorded an iTunes exclusive featuring "...six newly recorded live tracks spanning her half-dozen albums, a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Don't Forget Me” and studio tracks picked from her recorded output", and also includes "...some spoken word explanations of her songs."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Broken Social Scene @ Harbourfront Centre (Sirius Stage) - July 11, 2009

Broken Social Scene @ Harbourfront Centre: photo by Michael Ligon

The cancellation of Broken Social Scene's Toronto Island show due to conflicting with the Honda Indy(and the band not wanting the noise from that to interfere with their music festival) may have been a blessing as the band ended up making up the date for fans with a free show at Harbourfront. The only other time they'd played a free show at Harbourfront was back in August 2004. A five year gap between those shows hardly constitutes a tradition but perhaps they can start one and play Harbourfront's main stage with a little more frequency. Harbourfront could barely contain the massive crowd that came out for the show last Saturday, so an annual or bi-annual show from them is probably out of the question, but if it takes them another 5 years to play Harbourfront again, let's just say I hope to be there.

Barely a week since last Saturday's show and my recollections of the show are like the best summer memories, a combination of memorable moments and blurry images. I was fortunate enough to get a photo pass for the show allowing me and small group of other photographers to shoot for the first 3 songs. Canadian film director Bruce McDonald was filming the show for posterity for a future concert film tentatively entitled "This Movie Is Broken" and is also inviting fans at the show to upload their own photos and video footage "to create a portrait of a hot July day in Toronto."

With the band returning to Harbourfront this warm summer evening after a five year absence since they first played the main stage, they took it as an opportunity for a reunion of sorts. The night was full of poignant, heartfelt and euphoric moments. More recently Broken Social Scene had been performing with the core group of Justin Peroff, Charles Spearin, Andrew Whiteman, Kevin Drew, Sam Goldberg and Brendan Canning and featuring guests like Julie Penner and Lisa Lobsinger(all who were in attendance that night) so it was a definite treat to see so many past members join them for this special evening. But rather than just emphasize the Broken Social Scene moniker, the spotlight was also given to various members' own projects. Three quartersHalf of Metric were in attendance with James Shaw on guitar, and Ms. Emily Haines joining in on vocals and one of the highlights of the evening was the stirring acoustic rendition of Metric's "Gimme Sympathy" with it's lyric "I can feel it in my bones" prompting an audience singalong. Mr. Evan Cranley from Star provided some nice trombone arrangements. Feist came out earlier and much to the glee of the photo pit (as some of us thought we'd not get the opportunity to photograph her up close during the first three songs) as she sung energetically during "7/4 Shoreline". Later, Leslie would break into her own "I Feel It All" for a few bars. Mr. Jason Collett seemed to be a particular favourite especially with his own tune "I'll Bring The Sun" which segued nicely into Guided By Voices' "Glad Girls" for a few bars, particular its lyric "And they're alright". Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and Amy Millan also each contributed a song from their own respective projects to the night's setlist. However, it was the old faves that ruled the night.

Like old times Amy, Leslie, and Emily collaborated with stunning results on the goosebump-inducing "Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old Girl" as the trio swayed to the song's mantra-like chorus. The rockin' "Almost Crimes" was an adrenalin rush as usual. It was the encore that was the clincher of the night for many including myself. The summer-y instrumenal "Pacific Theme" was a definite mood setter creating a euphoric rush that most people didn't want to come down from. During the opening guitar strains of "KC Accidental", Kevin immersed himself into the front rows of the audience, not as a performer but to become part of the crowd in worshipping the band's musical prowess as he raised his arms towards his bandmates, before he jumped back onto the stage to begin the song's vocals. For all intentions, this seemed like the band's last song as Kevin thanked the crowd and the band walked off but to the audience chant of "one more song", they came back for an ecstatic rendition of "Major Label Debut". A stunning conclusion to a stunning evening. The memories of the evening may likely fade away but it's the good feelings which will remain. Thank God for Bruce Macdonald for filming the night for posterity. I plan to upload my photos of the night to Mr. McDonald's film website soon and I'm looking forward to the completed project which I can only hope will include a photo or two of mine.

Photos: Broken Social Scene @ Harbourfront Centre (Sirius Stage) - July 11, 2009

Fortunately someone's posted the setlist online. Thank you. And apparently there's some video footage from the night on YouTube but I'll leave it to you to search for the videos on your own.

MySpace: Broken Social Scene

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Holy Fuck, Winter Gloves @ Harbourfront Centre - Sirius Stage (July 10, 2009)

  3/4's of Holy Fuck @ Harbourfront: photo by Michael Ligon
3/4's of Holy Fuck @ Harbourfront: photo by Michael Ligon

Part of the Beats, Breaks and Culture festival down at Harbourfront Centre last Friday Night, openers Winter Gloves and headliners Holy Fuck took to the Sirius Stage.

Montreal electro-pop act Winter Gloves brought some fun to the stage with their opening set. Sporting nifty melodies, enthused playing and vibrant vocals, the band combined hi-hat drum rhythms, subtle guitar, humming keyboards and a bit of xylophone. Vocalist maintained the most consistent energy at one point standing precariously on his keyboard stool before jumping back down to the floor. Good points aside their sound seemed lost on the large stage and more likely would be better enjoyed in a small venue.

That last point holds the same for Toronto instrumental band Holy Fuck. At the same time, as Holy Fuck are veritable music festival veterans having played many festivals including Glastonbury, I'd expected a more intense live set. Holy Fuck's brand of instrumental beat driven music combines live rock instrumentation like drums and bass with analog keyboards and other effects doodads creating the impression of electronic beat-driven music without using samplers. Sonically it's as exciting as one could imagine. However, the band positioned themselves and their instruments centrally onstage and while they'd exude enough energy locally I don't think the band made much of an effort to extend that energy towards the outer reaches of the audience. My impression was that there was a good amount of audience energy especially those directly in front of the band(and I was one of those in the front as I'd had a photo pass for the first 3 songs) but there was a dirth of energy especially near the back and to the side (where I ended up after the first 3 songs) where people seemed more concerned about talking and drinking rather than listening to the band. A comparison to last year's headliners Crystal Castles is useful - though Crystal Castles are only two persons, they(especially vocalist Alice Glass) created such an intensity with their energy(combined with their bordering-on-epileptic light show) that you couldn't be helped but be drawn in from whereever you were standing. So Holy Fuck did rock, but they could rock so much harder I'm sure.

Photos: Holy Fuck, Winter Gloves @ Harbourfront Centre - Sirius Stage (July 10, 2009)

MySpace: Winter Gloves
MySpace: Holy Fuck
Going to see Neko Case tonight at Massey Hall and I have a front row seat!

Also I'm excited about Echo and The Bunnymen coming to town on October 20 for a show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre to perform their classic album "Ocean Rain" with an orchestra! I bought my ticket last Friday just in case, and although I don't think it's a rapid-fire seller, I suggest not dawdling too long.

Finally, the lineup for this year's Virgin Festival Ontario was announced today. A 2-day fest happening Aug 29-30 at Burl's Creek Park in Orillia.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Polaris Music Prize Short List / Concert Announcements / Music News

Polaris Music Prize

The short list for this year's Polaris Music Prize was announced and the nominess are as follows: Elliott BROODMountain Meadows (Toronto, ON), Fucked UpThe Chemistry Of Common Life (Toronto, ON), Great Lake SwimmersLost Channels (Toronto, ON), Hey Rosetta!Into Your Lungs (and around in your heart and on through your blood) (St. John’s, NF), K’NAANTroubadour (Toronto, ON), MalajubeLabyrinthes (MontrĂ©al, QC), MetricFantasies (Toronto, ON), Joel PlaskettThree (Halifax, NS), Chad VanGaalenSoft Airplane (Calgary, AB), Patrick WatsonWooden Arms (MontrĂ©al, QC). Personally, I can't speak for any of them since I haven't heard any of these albums although I've heard a few songs here and there from some of these albums. (If I had to choose, I'd hope Great Lake Swimmers take the prize. )The jury seems to be a broad enough cross-section of journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and programmers across Toronto although perhaps there is a bit of a Central Canada bias and the jury selection's music tastes I'd guess tend towards indie than say hip hop and other more specific genres. Ultimately, I'm not surprised with the short list - I'm assuming that the final nominees were purely based on their popular vote and given that, the final short list was bound to skewer towards the more recognizable indie artists. Much criticism's been expressed about this year's batch and with much vitriol it seems, as if this year's choices aren't worthy for some reason. I think that's indie elitism creeping into the arguement. As much as we'd want our $100 or whoever to have made the short list, the final list is hardly a travesty...just thinking of the Junos and the Grammys makes me shudder. Metric are perhaps the biggest rock stars of the bunch but overall I don't think any of the artists are so financially well off that the $20,000 prize wouldn't be a blessing or or a nice bonus.

It's a strong possibility it seems that Nine Inch Nail could headline this year's Virgin Festival Ontario according to a post by Trent at NIN's website. That wouldn't totally suck actually. I'd saw NIN at the Sasquatch Festival a few years back and as big spectacular rock shows go, it was good.

In concert news, Andre Ethier is set to open for Destroyer(solo) at the Horseshoe on October 3.

Norweigan pop crooner Sondre Lerche rolls into the Mod Club on September 16 in support of his new album "Heartbeat Radio" out on September 8. Stream the new album over at Stereogum.

Brandi Carlile will be promoting her forthcoming studio album "Give Up The Ghost" on the road, stopping in for a show at The Mod Club on September 29. The release date of her new album will be announced in the coming weeks according to a post at her MySpace.

UK's Placebo will be playing Sound Academy on October 6 in support of their new album "Battle For The Sun" out now.

Ms. Hope Sandoval and her band The Warm Inventions return with a new album "Through The Devil Softly" on September 15 and plans to tour North America this fall with tour date in the UK and Europe to follow that. An mp3 from the new album is available for download:

MP3: Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions - "Blanchard"
MySpace: Hope Sandoval and The Warm Inventions

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Rodriguez @ Harbourfront (July 3, 2009) / Music News / Concert Announcments

  Rodriguez @ Harbourfront Centre: photo by Michael Ligon
Rodriguez @ Harbourfront Centre: photo by Michael Ligon

Sixto Rodriguez, who simply goes by Rodriguez, has an interesting story. He'd released a couple of Dylan-esque folk-rock albums in the 70's but radio ignored him. However it was two South African superfans of his who'd started a tribute website to him called The Great Rodriguez Hunt which one of Rodriguez' daughters had discovered in 1997 prompting her to post a message to its forum and subsequently being contacted by the fans who decided to promote him. Rodriguez toured South Africa a few times and in the past two years Seattle's Light in the Attic Records has re-released his albums "Cold Fact" and "Coming from Reality". Talk about second chances. This past Friday Rodriguez performed at the Sirius Stage down at Harbourfront for his Canadian Toronto debut [according to Eye, his Canadian debut was in Vancouver the week prior]. The story of his re-discovery and descriptions of him as the Brazilian Bob Dylan were enough to coax me down to the waterfront to check him out.

The somewhat frail though supercool gentleman was led out by a member of his backing band holding his arm until he got to centre stage. For his Canadian Toronto debut, his backing band consisted of some young musicians, a few I'd recognized as members of Toronto's Steamboat as well as ex-Bicylces bassist Randy Lee taking violin duty this night. A respectable crowd was onhand although not nearly as packed as it could have been but perhaps the dropping temperature[ok, it wasn't freezing but the breeze was enough to create a chill] was enough to keep a few a way that night. As first impressions go, his songs definitely warrant attention - the Dylan comparisons were definitely there[particularly in the inflection of Rodriguez' voice at times] but Rodriguez folk-rock melodies were ultimately his own and they were catchy at that. The backing band competently backed up the songs, notably Steamboat's Jay Anderson's playful drumming and Randy Lee's wonderfully sublime violin arrangements. Wearing a black hat and sunglasses, Rodriguez entertained the crowd here and there with some cool-cat words of wisdom about life and women drawing some chuckles from the crowd. Unfortunately he had to cancel his instore appearance for Soundscapes the following day so until next time he passes through town(and hopefully there'll be a next time), I do recommend you check him out. Funny how life works out, but as Rodriguez has done, when life gives you a second chance you have to reach out and grab it.

Photos: Rodriguez @ Harbourfront Centre (July 3, 2009)

Eye Weekly has an interview with Rodriguez and The National Post had a feature article on him last week.
I apologize for not posting any concert announcements or music news lately but with the warm weather and a hectic concert season can you blame me?

The Hidden Cameras are set to release their new album "Origin:Orphan" through Arts & Crafts on September 22. They have some select East Coast/Quebec dates this month. I hope they do decide to play a hometown show this summer(Joel please!). In exchange for your e-mail you can get a free mp3 download of new song "Walk On".

I picked up a ticket to The Hold Steady's show for Sunday September 26 thinking it'll probably sell out and as I thought it has. Fear not(at least for the moment), but a second show's been added for Saturday September 26, tickets $21.50. I hope the Sunday show kicks the Saturday shows ass.

Mr. Joe Pernice had to look no further than presumably down the street from where he and his wife live [ok, I don't know where they live exactly but he does admit living in Toronto's Little Portugal] to decide on a Toronto venue for his upcoming tour. He'll be playing The Dakota Tavern on September 15. Ticket info has not been confirmed yet.

In support of their newest album cheekily entitled "Art Brut Vs. Satan" released earlier this year the UK outfit Art Brut will be playing Lee's Palace on August 12. Tickets $17.50 in advance onsale this Thursday July 9.

The Minus 5 stop in at The Drake Underground on September 13 with openers Minus 5 offshots The Baseball Project and The Steve Wynn IV.

Oklahoma psych-pop outfit Starlight Mints drop their new album "Change Remains" on July 21 and will be hitting the road, stopping in for a show at the Horseshoe on August 9.

San Francisco's Sleepy Sun, who I'd caught in Barcelona at the Primavera Sound Festival, will be playing The Drake Underground on September 21, tickets $10 in advance onsale July 9.

Olympia, Washington's Calvin Johnson and Toronto's Andre Charles Theriault will be playing a backyard show in Toronto on July 25. Detail still to be confirmed. Check for updates over at Stille Post.

Sweden's Love Is All have compiled some of their own video footage into a neat little video for their song 'Vans, Vans, Vans' telling the true story of losing four van during their European tour last autumn but still miraculously not missing any shows. Oh, the life of a touring band.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sloan @ Mississauga Civic Centre (Canada Day - July 1, 2009)

Jay Ferguson of Sloan @ Mississauga Civic Centre: photo by Michael Ligon
Jay Ferguson of Sloan: photo by Michael Ligon

Mississauga's been upping the ante lately with some decent concerts for example having lined up Sam Roberts and Kathleen Edwards for the Mississauga Waterfront Festival that happened in June and lining up Tokyo Police Club for a free show at Mississauga Civic Centre on July 24. This past Canada Day at Mississauga Civic Centre featured headliners Sloan, playing Mississauga for the first time. Though perhaps most in attendance were there for the fireworks later that night, there were definitely some Sloan fans in the house ("Sloaaannnn"). There were some funny comedy bits from MC and Mississauga resident Mike Bullard - I'd thought he was sort of hit and miss when he had his late night talk show, but I thought he was funny this night. After some delays with Sloan's sound check and Mr. Bullard fulfilling his MC duties hilariously (saying the boys had just left Halifax airport and were now on their way), he finally introduced the band, saying how great they were the several times they appeared on his talk show, then introduced the four members one by one. The performance itself didn't surpass any of their previous shows I've seen - it was fairly routine with drummer Andrew Scott and bassist Chris Murphy exchanging duties at one point in order for Andrew sing lead vocals on 'People Of The Sky'(and other tunes) and Chris Murphy as defacto frontman getting the crowd to participate(either singalong or clapping) at just the right moments during certain songs. What it boiled down to was that they have such a great catalogue of songs that it's terrific to hear one song after the next. Fan favourites like 'Penpals', 'Everything You've Done Wrong', 'People of They Sky', 'The Lines You Amend', 'The Good In Everyone', 'The Other Man', 'Money City Maniacs' bookended the set list with the middle section featuring more recent material from "Never Hear The End of It" and "Parallel Play", albums I'm almost embarrassed to say I haven't spent much time with (although after that show I hope to make time for). I remember a time when Sloan used to be my favourite band although in recent years I've lost touch with them. But for them to play my hometown finally[it only took 18 years], it wasn't hard to remember why they used to be my favourite band.

Photos: Sloan & fireworks @ Mississauga Civic Centre (Canada Day - July 1, 2009)

MySpace: Sloan

Friday, July 03, 2009

Sonic Youth, The Entrance Band @ Massey Hall (June 30, 2009)

Sonic Youth @ Massey Hall: photo by Michael Ligon

More detailed review to come, perhaps. Short version - they played the whole of "The Eternal" apparently, and a few older ones, although none that I recognized. Also they played a Neil Young cover, but I didn't recognize it either. That said, I really enjoyed the show. Here's the setlist (courtesy of someone at Stille Post).

Photos: Sonic Youth, The Entrance Band @ Massey Hall (June 30, 2009)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Camera Obscura, Anni Rossi @ Lee's Palace (June 27, 2009)

  Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura: photo by Michael Ligon
Tracyanne Campbell of Camera Obscura: photo by Michael Ligon

There were so many music options in the city this past weekend(Pride, Toronto City Roots Festival, Toronto Jazz Festival, Zunior 5th Anniversary show at Tranzac) that I'd thought a simple gig at Lee's Palace might not suffice. However, I can always make an exception for Glasgow, Scotland's Camera Obscura whose magnificent pop melodies could send chills up my spine at just the right moments.

Chicagoan Anni Rossi, scheduled to have started her set at 10:15 pm according to the Lee's Palace website, finally came on after 10:30 pm. A deservedly sold-out show for Camera Obscura but a good number of patrons had shown up for Ms. Rossi's opening set. It was a pleasant introduction to her music. She had a creative and casual flair to her viola playing that was reminiscent to artists like Owen Pallett though perhaps warmer sounding than the starker tones that Pallett favours. Ms. Rossi, a petite brunette, stood on a suitcase of some sort which I'd thought she was using to raise her height on stage, but she actually used it to accompany herself with her own foot-stomping percussion. Anni's vocals had a nice clear timbre and range that reminded me of Regina Spektor. The combination of these components emphasized her well-developed melodies and song structure and produced a surprisingly rich sound. Too short of a set at 20 minutes as I thought she was only starting to warm up. It was hard to tell if people were enjoying her as a chatty crowd especially near the back may have pointed otherwise but the response between songs was enthusiastic.

It was not too hard for Camera Obscura to sell-out Lee's Palace considering they'd played well-attended shows in Toronto at larger venues The Opera House(in January 2007) and Phoenix Concert Theatre(in August 2007) in the past. I'd only given their latest album "My Maudlin Career" a cursory listen prior to the show, although their single 'French Navy' I'd listened to far more times on their MySpace. While the album hasn't yet made an impact as their previous album "Let's Get Out Of This Country" had immediately done, 'French Navy' is a succinct slice of pop and a great addition to their oeuvre.

The setlist was a mix of the new album and their previous and reaching back to "Underachievers Please Try Harder"(for 'Teenager') and "Biggest Bluest Hi-Fi" (for 'Eighties Fan'). For the most part the atmosphere within the crowd was a mixture of enthusisam and politeness. Camera obscura don't intend to impress visually (unless like myself you have a crush on Tracyanne or Carey, or you're the dude who yelled out to Tracyanne that he loved her) so the set's mostly reliant on the music and perhaps a bit of humourous banter along the way. Although the set started with some slower tunes, the more uptempo songs (like 'French Navy', 'If Looks Could Kill'[I couldn't help singing the lyric "Tell me where it all went wrong, Maybe I can make it better"], 'Let's Get Out of This Country') predictably got the crowd going. A move like inserting 'Toronto' within the lyrics of 'Forests & Sands' prompted a cheer from the crowd, a cliched move it was but it got the job done.. The lyric "But if the blood pumping through my veins could freeze like a river in Toronto" during 'Forest & Sands' also prompted a cheer from the crowd. Banter was minimal, but Tracyanne did thank the city for being the first sold-out show of the tour and mentioned hopefully they'll play a larger venue next-time and charge a lower-ticket price. The three-song encore which ended with the one-two punch of 'Lloyd Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken' and 'Razzle Dazzle Rose'[this song almost never fails to give me goosebumps] concluded the show on a high-note, a show that was predictably enjoyable for someone like myself who's now seem them live four times although is looking for a surprise or two from the band next time they roll through town.

Photos: Camera Obscura, Anni Rossi @ Lee's Palace (June 27, 2009)

Chromewaves and The Panic Manual have reviews and photos of the show as well.

MySpace: Anni Rossi
MySpace: Camera Obscura
Happy Canada Day everyone! So what will it be for me tonight? The Constantines and Chad VanGaalen down at Harbourfront Centre or Sloan here in Mississauga at the Civic Centre?