Friday, August 28, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (August 28, 2009)

Sorry again for the lack of updates. Summer's just about coming to an end. We're all shedding a tear or two I'm sure. At least I have Virgin Festival @ Molson Ampitheatre to look forward to this weekend. Fortunately, I got a reviewers pass - I was a little disappointed to not get a photo pass but I'm over it(ok, maybe I'm lying a bit) - it seems like I'll probably be at the mainstage a lot, although I'm looking forward to The Rural Alberta Advantage's headlining set at the Boardwalk Stage at 9:10 pm - yes I will gladly miss some of Ben Harper and The Relentless 7's set on the mainstage for RAA.

To get you in an RAA mood, RAA's Nils Edenloff performed a solo acoustic session for Luxury Wafers. Check out the exclusive videos and mp3's.

If it weren't for the Pixies going on at Virgin Festival on August 29 at 7:40 pm I'd probably have considered scooting on over to the CNE and checking out Tokyo Police Club at the Bandshell at 7:30 pm. But maybe you should.

If I haven't run out of steam after Virgin Festival concludes on Sunday night(August 30), perhaps I'll scoot down to The Boat whose lineup will feature Secretly Canadian's Throw Me The Statue, Sub Pop's The Brunettes and Dead Ocean's Nurses. Via Stille Post.

Also on August 30 is another edition of Wavelength at Sneaky Dee's featuring some nice lounge pop from Maylee and Pegwee Power!!! at 12 am, as well some indie-folk from The Weather Station at 11 pm and Wilderness of Manitoba at 10 pm. Also via Stille Post.

Happening tonight is the Friends In Bellewoods II (CD compilation of some of the city and country's best musical artists - check out Narratives for more info) show happening at Lee's Palace with Bocce, Ohbijou (special set with guests), Forest City Lovers, and Evening Hymns. Tickets $15 at the door and music starts at 9:30 pm.

If you aren't going to Virgin Festival on Saturday(Aug 30) why not check out the all-day Friends In Bellewoods II show happening at Tranzac starting at 12:10 pm. There's also a BBQ! The set-times for this shindig are as follows:

12:10 – Bruce Peninsula
12:45 – Kate Rogers
1:20 – Great Bloomers
1:55 – Sylvie Smith's Country Band
2:30 – Sebastien Grainger
3:05 – The Low Notes
3:40 – The Phonemes
4:15 – Tusks
4:50 – Canadian Wildlife
5:25 – The Cutting Edge (mmbrs of the Wooden Sky and Ohbijou)
6:00 – Dinghies (Stringer/WAMO/Ohbijou)
6:35 – Kite Hill
7:10 – Bellewoods
7:45 – Lisa Bozikovic
8:20 – Kids On TV
8:55 – Emma McKenna
9:30 – Germans
10:05 – Snowblink
10:40 – The Acorn

Another indication of summer coming to an end are the announcements for the various University orientation events going on over the next several weeks. Playing Ryerson University's annual orientation concert at Toronto Islands on the afternoon of September 9 will be Girl Talk and K'naan. I'm not sure how easy it is to crash this but it's worth a try. K'naan is a busy beaver this year and he'll also be playing York University's Yorkfest orientation concert on September 23 along with The Stills, Snow, Rival Boys, Affinity and DJ Manifest. Yorkfest apparently is hard to get in to if you are not alumni or a student. University of Toronto's orientation concert which is scheduled to take place Friday September 4 at the school's back campus apparently announced the lineup but haven't yet updated their website. Anyone know? I've checked this out a few times over the last several years and it's definitely crash-able - no barriers whatsoever.

On Saturday September 5, at a location to be announced [to be announced on September 4 to ticketholders only] the music lineup will feature Final Fantasy, Gowns, Huckleberry Friends, Wyrd Visions, and Carl Didiur. Starts at 7 pm with Carl and Final Fantasy will end things off by 11 pm. An afterparty is promised at 11:30 pm at a bar in a nearby strip mall. Tickets are only available IN ADVANCE for $10 at Rotate This and Soundscapes. Final Fantasy's new album "Heartland" is set for release in early 2010 - oh and congrats on him signing to Domino Records in the UK. Mr. Pallett coincidentally produced a few tracks on Pet Shop Boys newest album "Yes" - Pet Shop Boys are the penultimate act of Day Two(Aug 30) of Virgin Festival in Toronto at Molson Ampitheatre.

I've yet to check out a single instore at Criminal Records in Toronto but perhaps I'll get to one soon. Daredevil Christopher Wright plays an instore tomorrow August 28 at around 6 pm (nice-sounding melodic indie rock) and Cuff The Duke play an instore on September 8 (celebrating the release of their new album "Way Down Here" that same day) - for the moment you can hear Cuff The Duke's new album here.

Joe Pernice performs a session for the Interface. Mr Pernice will play a show at Dakota Tavern on September 10.

Toronto's Everything All The Time are interviewed over at The Singing Lamb. They played yesterday at the Horseshoe. I didn't go. I suck. Frank did. Look for his review.

Someone may have already mentioned this but I'll mention it anyway - Osaka, Japan's Shonen Knife play the Horseshoe Tavern on October 18, tickets $15.50 in advance. More tour dates over at the gals' MySpace. The girls' newest album is entitled "Super Group" and was just released this week in North America through Good Charamel Records.

MP3: Shonen Knife - "Super Group"
Video: Shonen Knife - "Super Group"

As a recent Wilco mailing list update indicates August 27 saw the release of the hi-fi vinyl reissue of Wilco's "Summerteeth". Similar reissues will follow for "A.M" in September and "Being There" in October. Each vinyl reissue is of 180-gram quality coming in a gatefold sleeve and including a copy of the full album on CD. You can preorder all 3 in a special bundle here. Wilco are touring this fall and are in Toronto for a two-night stint at Massey Hall on October 14-15...I'll be at the second show, Left Centre Balcony, Row F. Should be stellar.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Concert Announcements / Music News (August 19, 2009)

Apologize for the lack of posts lately, but who says you haven't been getting along fine without me. Family's been taking much of my time lately with my father's 75th and my nephew's 18th birthdays being celebrated last weekend with a big bash and my 12-year old nephew and his little sister leaving today for Italy for a month. And then of course work's been busy. I'm thankful that summer's finally arrived and I hope to make the most of what remains of it before Labour Day rolls. It's also been one of those weeks where I've been pondering the future of this here blog. Posting once a week feels wholely insufficient. At the same time, I don't necessarily have the time nor want to devote all my time to this blog when of course there are other things in life. Concert reviews remain the crux of the content but writing up reviews and processing photos and posting them online in a timely manner continues to be difficult to do, especially weeks when I have several shows. During my concert-going down-time, I'm finding hard to get motivated to write about anything. Album reviews? Artist profiles? Concert announcements? Music news? The latter two I'll probably continue to post about occasionally although sometimes it seems a little redundant when resources like Stille Post are around. The former two, I hope to post more frequently of but I'll likely keep things simple and concise - many days I'd rather be listening to music than writing about it but if I fancy any new music I hope to write a few good sentences about it. I recently got my new iPhone 3GS so I hope to stay connected to the Internet more frequently. So I'll see how things go from here on in. I'll play it by ear. Wish me luck.

Filing under maybe - I'll - finally - make - it - to - a - British - music - festival - next - summer, NME reports that Pete Doherty says The Libertines' plans to reunite for UK festival gigs next summer hoping that member Carl Barat will soon agree. Their debut album "Up The Bracket" has been getting a lot of play on my iPod in my car this summer.

No plans are on the horizon for a New Order reunion but member Bernard Sumner doesn't seem to care as his new band Bad Lieutenant have released their debut single online as NME reports. The track 'Sink Or Swim" can be heard at the band's MySpace. The band's debut album "Never Cry Another Tear" will be released on October 5.

According to the Facebook event page, Junior Boys are at Tattoo Rock Parlour on August 25. The Facebook event page says it's a live set. Sorry I don't have any ticket info. Also related to the band, their track 'Dull To Pause' is Starbucks' iTunes pick of the week - you can pick up a promo card at participating stores. Update: A closer look at the JPEG of the gig poster on the Facebook event page indicates that Junior Boys are doing a DJ set - I thought so since a live gig would have probably been better advertised.

Via Chromewaves, Hope Sandoval long-awaited return to Toronto will be at The Mod Club on October 7 in support of her and her band The Warm Inventions' new album "Through The Devil Softly" being released September 29.

And given Chromewaves positive response to Micachu & The Shapes' show at the El Mocambo last month, I'm tempted to check out the return performance when Micachu plays Lee's Palace on September 29. (ps. not sure of this show anymore since the date on the MySpace has mysteriously disappeared - although the cached version of the MySpace clearly indicates the Toronto date and a bunch of other North American dates which are now no longer listed) Update: Thanks for Frank in the comments for pointing out that Micachu's tour dates have been cancelled. Dang.

The Stranglers' frontman Hugh Cornwell plays The Mod Club on September 17 in support of his new album "Hooverdam" being released September 8.

In support of their upcoming third album scheduled for release this November, NYC's The Bravery play The Opera House on October 6.

Pitchfork reports that UK electronic-dance act Basement Jaxx have scheduled some North American dates including a date in Toronto on November 3 at a venue called Century Room which I've Google-d is located at 580 King Street West, apparently a nightclub.

The Sadies play the Horseshoe on September 12, tickets $15.

The Antlers(who'd I caught recently opening for Frightened Rabbit at the Horseshoe) return for a show at the Horseshoe on September 24, tickets $10.50. The band just released their new album "Hospice" through Frenchkiss Records.

The Avett Brothers bring their hurtin' Americana to town for a show at the Horseshoe on September 30, tickets $17.50.

Albertan Corb Lund brings his own hurtin' country music when he returns to town for a two-night stint at the Horseshoe on Oct 22-23, tickets $20 each.

Congrats to Toronto's Little Girls who'll release their debut album "Concepts" through Paper Bag Records on October 13. They'll open for psycho garage outfit Monotonix at Velvet Underground on October 7.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

St. Vincent, Gentleman Reg @ Horseshoe Tavern (August 8, 2009)

  St. Vincent @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon
St. Vincent @ Horseshoe Tavern: photo by Michael Ligon

You read the name of a music artist on the internet or in print or see photos of them enough times and it's bound to pique my interest to check them out when they come to town even if I've hardly heard a note of their music. That is the case with Annie Clark aka St Vincent who's touring in promotion of her recent album "Actor", stopping in for a sold-out show at the Horseshoe this past Saturday night.

Opening the show was local Reg Vermue who goes by Gentleman Reg who's seemingly been touring non-stop but still found the time to open for this night. I only caught his live set briefly at this year's Pride and the first and only other time I'd seen him live was back in 2005 at Tranzac as part of the farewell show to Guelph indie record label Three Gut Records. I'd primarily only known Reg as a some-time member of gay-friendly indie band The Hidden Cameras. Reg with a band in tow that included drummer Dana Snell(of The Bicycles) plus members on keyboards and bass played a set of gay pop-rock songs. Ok, 'gay pop-rock songs' might be somewhat of an over-generalization but it does at least apply part of the time. Reg's tunes had an exceptional melodicism and the instrumentation thankfully had an oomph(especially Dana's drumming) giving the songs a certain emphatic delivery. Reg came off as a frontman both humble and humourous, the latter especially when he asked the audience whether they like his black shirt, then asked them if they wanted to rip it off, adding further that it was a particularly 'rippable' shirt. His most recent album "Jet Black" is out now through Arts & Crafts, and maybe I should check it out.

Admittedly, I hardly heard a note of St. Vincent 's music before deciding to pick up a ticket for the show weeks ago. Yes, popular(well, popular in terms of blogger/critic hype)opinion can sway me. Or perhaps, it was just the numerous lovely photos of Ms. Annie Clark which did it for me. But also the numerous album reviews were of particular persuasion as well. What was apparent immediately listening to St. Vincent's set was the dichotomy that could be found within the sonics of the music, between prettier sounds and harsher ones. Annie's angelic vocals gave the quieter, folkier material a particular etherealness and other prettier sounds could be found for example with the woodwinds and violin within some songs. But as if to balance it out in some sort of musical yin & yang, there were also bits of fuzz-tone guitar played by Annie and on one track skronky saxophone that expressed the band's 'uglier' sound. One song title I recall Annie mentioning was called "Laughing with a Mouth of Blood" a phrase she described as a reference to a comedic joke that's funny but also perhaps hurtful, a further reflection of the yin & yang that St. Vincent is about. There was a whimsicality & playfulness at times during the show but there's no denying that perhaps there was a bit of melancholy now and then.

Photos: St. Vincent, Gentleman Reg @ Horseshoe Tavern (August 8, 2009)
MySpace: Gentleman Reg
MySpace: St. Vincent

Monday, August 10, 2009

Osheaga Music and Arts Festival @ Parc Jean Drapeau, Montreal (August 1-2, 2009)

Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs @ Osheaga Festival: photo by Michael Ligon

It's always daunting writing a review of a multi-day concert festival, so rather than work up a headache over it let's just stick to the highlights. Compared to past Toronto Virgin Festivals which took place over at Olympic Island, Montreal's Osheaga Music and Arts Festival which took place at Parc Jean-Drapeau was such an easier experience. The Metro runs from the mainland right over to Parc Jean-Drapeau on the island. The 2-day festival was operated over four stages with two side stages which were down a path at the farther edge of the island while the two main stages were side by side. The two main stages alternated performances so that as one stage concluded the other stage would begin the next set almost immediately or with minimal wait time.

During the first day of the festival, a friend and I caught La Roux, K'Naan, Elbow, Jason Mraz, The Roots, and Coldplay. La Roux's electro-dance-pop was enjoyable although I wasn't really in the mood for it that sunny afternoon. Toronto's K'naan was far more enjoyable than I expected, fusing hip-hop, r'n'b, pop and his Somalian upbringing into songs that were danceable and singable. I particularly liked his song "Wavin' Flags" which featured K'naan prompting the crowd to sing along to the chorus. UK's Elbow turned out a gratifying festival set of their emotive pop-rock. I'm not a fan of Jason Mraz - I guess he does a capable job of his blue-eyed soul and r'n'b although I found him particularly out of place amidst the mostly alt-rock acts of the weekend. The Roots were by far one of the best sets of the weekend playing many of their most well known songs, and throwing in some great covers like Guns n' Roses "Sweet Child O' Mine" and Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up". Say what you will, but Coldplay know how to headline. Playing many of their most well-known songs, they also kept things interesting by playing some more intimate performances at different stages setup in the crowd. They even did a touching acoustic tribute to Michael Jackson with a fantastic cover of "Billie Jean". Oh, the yellow balloons during "Yellow" and the confetti bombs later on were magnificent. Off to the right of the stage in the distance, an unrelated fireworks display added a further visual element to the already memorable set.

Day Two of the festival my companion and I took in The Ting Tings, Vampire Weekend, Rufus Wainwright, The Decemberists, Arctic Monkeys, Tiga(well I caught him brifly myself), and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The early part of the day experienced some torrential downpours even during part of The Ting Tings' set. I'm not too much a fan of them at least compared to the friend I was with but they put on a fun festival set I guess. The sky would clear up basically for the rest of the day after that thankfully. Vampire Weekend's set was neither here nor there for me - I don't hate 'em, but I don't love 'em either - but seeing them play the same stage that Coldplay played the night before, I realized that Vampire Weeked are no where near capable of playing a stage of that size. They have some fun songs, but on a such a big stage, they're boring to watch. Another of the greatest sets of the weekend belonged to hometown boy Rufus Wainwright playing a solo set of his torchy, cabaret-like pop songs. His mom Kate McGarrigle joined on piano for Rufus rousing rendition of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". Rufus also performed a fantastic cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Confined to a festival-length set(ie. about an hour), The Decemberists', dressed to the nines, took the stage to concentrate on their most recent album "The Hazards of Love" - proggish, conceptual, and dramatic. It's quite different from the sea-shanty folk-pop of their older material, but the new material's also of the type that really fit well on a big stage. I'd stuck around for the first part of Arctic Monkey's set, enough to see they've grown shaggy heads of hair and to experience their scrappy pop-rock, before venturing on my own to the MEG stage to catch a bit of Montreal DJ Tiga who was stirring up a dance storm as the day turned to night. I headed back to the Arctic Monkey's just in time to hear off in the distance as they segued into their hit "You Look Good On The Dancefloor". Unfortunately, my solo venture to Tiga's set made it difficult for me to hook back up with my friend for Yeah Yeah Yeahs set so with a quick text to meet afterwards, I positioned myself as close to the front of the stage as I could possibly get and settled in for the YYY's. One could argue, without much debate, that Karen O is Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I can't possibly imagine the band without her. A commanding front-person both vocally and visually, she sung with energy and emotion and presented herself in a dizzying array of colorful attire and costume. Karen sent out a special message to Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch and wishing him well during his current health issues. I was initially disappointed that Beastie Boys had to cancel their headlining slot but Yeah Yeahs more than stepped up to the plate. And wasn't that giant eyeball as part of Yeah Yeah Yeahs stage set up just friggin' fantastic?

Photos: Osheaga Music and Arts Festival @ Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal (August 1, 2009)
Photos: Osheaga Music and Arts Festival @ Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal (August 2, 2009)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Rural Alberta Advantage, Hooded Fang @ Horseshoe Tavern (July 30, 2009)

  Rural Alberta Advantage @ Horseshoe: photo by Michael Ligon
Rural Alberta Advantage @ Horseshoe: photo by Michael Ligon

I've been back from the Osheaga Festival in Montreal for a few days now but been lazy about writing lately so I apologize. Coincidentally, Toronto's own Rural Alberta Advantage played Osheaga although I missed them but fortunately I'd caught them a few days prior when they played a hometown CD release show at the Horseshoe Tavern for their debut album "Hometowns" recently released in the US through Saddle Creek.

Opening the show were curiously-named Toronto band The Wilderness of Manitoba, a band name who in my mind conjures images both mythical and mysterious in quality. A sampling of their tunes over at their Myspace reveals indie-folk songs that are sombre in quality with a nice meshing of male and female vocals and spareness to the instrumentation. I'd arrived late and only caught the tail-end of their set during which I'd also been chatting with someone, but what I recall hearing from the band was more upbeat folk-rock and little less interesting than what I recall from their MySpace. Call me a sucker for the quiet stuff. I do hope to catch a full set from them in the future.

The first and only time I'd seen Toronto indie-pop band Hooded Fang was at an instore at Sonic Boom on Record Store Day back in April. While that performance was generally tight, this time around it was a looser, less-perfect performance. Lead vocalist Daniel with his makes-all-the-girls-swoon suave vocals and female vocalist Lorna whose whose own sweet vocals were attractive traded off vocal duties throughout the night but sparkled best on their song 'Land of Giants' on which they both sing.
On 'The Pageant' Lorna referred it to as their 'sexy' song, a song that sounded like a modernized version of lilting, fifties-melody, doo-wop song. The gang went on full-on twee on the keyboard-pop, female sung 'Circles N Blocks'.Add in some nicely added trumpet and trombone at times and it was a formula that definitely harkens back to my indiepop tastes from over a decade ago. I'm not saying they sound dated. They definitely seem to be in a minority in Toronto playing indie-pop and I'm glad they do it well.

I run in to and meet various bloggers, photographers, and strangers at various shows but it seems that Toronto's Rural Alberta Advantage was a unifying factor as it brought many of the people I've met or recognized from other shows, all to one place. Nice to meet a few new people and see old faces. But it wasn't just blogger central of course as the show was sold out (and really us bloggers don't make up but a miniscule portion of the music fans/concert-goers in Toronto). This being only the second time seeing RAA live(the first time being during CMW back in March at the Gladstone, I will vouch that it only took but the first time seeing them live to be convinced of their impeccable talent. Their deceptively simple set up of acoustic guitar [Nils Edenloff], drums [played impressively by Paul Banwatt], xylophone, tambourine, handclaps [the last 3 instruments enthusiastically performed by Amy Cole], and vocals are all that was needed to reveal songs that are full of melody and lyrical richness. They've been pegged as an indie-folk trio but make no mistake of them being mellow - they played with an energy and enthusiasm that trumps that of most amplified bands. At the same time, it's not about making a racket(although Paul Banwatt's drumming was fluid as a waterfall), but they're definitely based in song and songwriting. The hometown crowd(myself included) made them feel more than welcome. There were some overly enthusiastic individuals like the drunk dude and his equally drunk girlfriend who were yelling constantly it seems, or in the girl's case hugging or touching random persons like myself. And while some perceived such behaviour as an element of douchebag-ness, you can't deny that it added an element of entertainment and made the night memorable. Although, the band concluded the night with a 3-song encore, it was main-set closer 'Edmonton' which made it for me - strummed four-chord guitar, with both Paul and Amy both banging out on drums and Nils singing 'What if I'm only satisfied when I'm at home, Sittin in a city that'll never let me go' - gives me a lump in my throat every time I hear it. Although if Nils was feeling torn between Toronto and his home province of Alberta, I think that night Toronto felt like home.

Photos: Rural Alberta Advantage, Hooded Fang @ Horseshoe Tavern (July 30, 2009)
MySpace: The Wilderness of Manitoba
MySpace: Hooded Fang
MySpace: Rural Alberta Advantage