Friday, October 30, 2009

The Raveonettes, The Black Angels @ Phoenix Concert Theatre (October 22, 2009)

photo by Michael Ligon

Update [Oct 31/09, 5:50 pm]: Review now below. Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been a holiday which draws me to music that isn't necessarily Halloween-themed but is of a particular mood that makes it a good soundtrack. The double-bill of Austin's The Black Angels and Danish band The Raveonettes who played the Phoenix Concert Theatre about a week ago would have made one of helluva of Halloween show in my opinion.

Openers, Austin 5-piece The Black Angels performed a setlist that sounded like a murky stew of psychedelia, drone-rock and The Velvet Underground. Backed with a rhythmic drum stomp, woozy surf guitar tones, and casually-cast vocals, the band played on stage bled mostly in red light, fitting illumination given the sonic aesthetics.

Danish rockers The Raveonettes, on the heels of their newest album "In & Out of Control", came on stage with a good amount of fanfare from the audience but delved almost immediately into their set. Frontman Sune Rose Wagner decked out in a black-and-white striped shirt and slim trousers and bassist Sharin Foo wearing a 60's influenced black mini dress traded off lead vocals as well as singing together through a balanced setlist that as expected focused on the new album as well as their previous effort 2007's "Lust Lust Lust". The setlist also included a few songs from each of their earlier releases, "Whip It On", "Chain Gang Of Love" and "Pretty In Black". With reverb-drenched pop songs mingling with more sinister-sounding garage rock tracks, the band plodded through the set with nary a word. Close your eyes and you'd get drawn in to the ambiance of it all, but otherwise they aren't the most visually enticing band to watch on stage, Sharin Foo notwithstanding. However, there were moments of visual stimulation, especially later in on the set as the strobe lights kicked in and the band dove into episode of guitar dissonance. Fittingly, the band ended the night on the uptempo pop magnificence of "The Great Love Sound", a shining light relative to the overall darker-toned setlist.

As a soundtrack to Halloween, The Black Angels and The Raveonettes were particularly fitting. Some bands are just not meant to play during the day, so as Halloween night is upon us, put on a Raveonettes or Black Angels tune and enjoy.

Photos: The Raveonettes, The Black Angels @ Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (October 22, 2009)
Myspace: The Black Angels
Myspace: The Raveonettes

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Echo & The Bunnymen @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto (October 20, 2009)

Update [Oct27/09, 11:50 pm]: Wonderful show by Echo and The Bunnymen last week which was hard to put into words until now, but here I go finally.

I've been basking in the dreamy memories of Echo and The Bunnymen's performance last week at Queen Elizabeth Theatre to perform their classic fourth album, 1984's "Ocean Rain" with an orchestra in tow. It was a mini-orchestra about 9 or 10 members strong complete with conductor and while it doesn't even come close to the 35-member orchestra that participated in the recording of the original studio album, it was as close to the real thing as I could have imagined. I have vague memories of seeing the music video for "The Killing Moon" on Much Music or hearing the song on CFNY back in the 80's but I'd only acquired a vinyl copy of "Ocean Rain" back in the 90's[which has multiplied into several more copies I'd picked up on the cheap - and no I don't plan to get rid of them or sell them]. I upgraded to a CD copy which I picked up at the Flagship Sam The Record Man before it closed but it was only last year that I'd really obsessed about it when I'd just about christened my new Zune mp3 player with it[along with a few other albums] and had it on repeat for the whole summer. It was a real treat to hear the album live with an orchestra as it was fully intended to be heard.

Before the piece de resistance "Ocean Rain" portion of the evening, the band warmed up the crowd with a 'hits' set. Brief as it was, the setlist touched on their first three albums "Crocodiles", "Heaven Up Here" and "Porcupine" as well as several latter day songs including a couple from their most recent album "The Fountain". I was just so glad to hear key tracks like "Rescue", "Bring On The Dancing Horses"(off of "Songs To Learn and Sing"), and "The Cutter" the latter prompting some a fit of selective dancing in the audience, all swaying arms and moving side to side as if it were the 80's all over again. I must mention that the attendance was comprised of many fans 3o years of ag and up, myself included, so no doubt there was a nostalgic element to the show. As I'd heard the older material, I realized how well it's held up, and while lead vocalist Ian McCulloch is sounding a little gravelly-voiced, he's still sounding much like his old self while guitarist Will Sargeant supple guitar playing is still a joy to hear. But as latter day tracks like the stupendously infectious "Stormy Weather"(off of "Siberia") had shown, Echo continue to be relevant also. As musically superb as it was up to that point, it was easy to forgive them for not being the most animated bunch. Although such presentation did in a sense help to uphold a mystique of a band that I'd for the most part visualized as stark, mysterious figures I'd seen them on their early album covers. However, once the perpetually-sunglass-wearing Mr. McCulloch had spoke a few words, I'd realized he was pretty much a regular Joe, especially as I recalled gave a shout out to his hometown of Liverpool, England, then said something about football, which prompted an audience member to stand and show his jersey [which I presume was maybe, Manchester United?].

After a 20 minute intermission, and as the excitement in the audience was about to burst, the band and orchestra took the stage and dove right into "Silver", the first track off of "Ocean Rain". But man those strings, oh those glorious strings. It was pure heaven. As the band performed, the audience's eyes were drawn to the black and white images of the band in their hey day, projected behind the band who for the most part stood in shadow or dim lighting for most of the evening. There's something very poignant about seeing photos of bands in their youth although perhaps none more poignant than seeing photos of former member Les Pattinson or the late Pete De Freitas which drew an extra response from the crowd. "The Killing Moon" was obviously the 'hit' everyone was waiting for and was hard for me not to sing a long at times. Front to back, it's such a terric album but hearing "Crystal Days", "My Kingdom" and "Seven Seas" were my particular favourites. While the original album was barely 40 minutes it was pretty obvious that the band might come back for a few more, and come back they did, performing a couple more including their big hit "Lips Like Sugar", revved up in the guitars it seemed for the new millenium but drawing me instantaneously back to 1987 when I was an awkward teen obsessed with music and bands like Echo and The Bunnymen, The Smiths, Jesus and Mary Chain and New Order. Some things never change.

Check out a review and photos of the show over at Chromewaves.

Photos: Echo & The Bunnymen @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto (October 20, 2009)
Myspace: Echo & The Bunnymen

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event, The Henry Clay People @ Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (October 19, 2009)

Update [Oct 22/09, 1:01 AM]: Review now posted below.

The Airborne Toxic Event's last show in Toronto back in March at The Mod Club, sold out at that, was an extremely satisfying show on all fronts including a rapturous audience, an equally enthusiastic band and a taut performance. It was a show that had a sense of occasion, most definitely illustrated when the audience was invited to jump onto the stage for their last song during the encore to celebrate the conclusion of an extremely successful show. Their majestic art-pop opus "Sometime Around Midnight" may have been the only song of theirs I knew at the time and to me still is their best song, but they managed to perform a selection of tunes, that though may have a high let's-spot-the-influences-quotient ["Sometime Around Midnight" is their Arcade Fire song] but were still dutifully performed.

Glendale, California's The Henry Clay People had seemingly just begun their set when I got to the venue. The Henry clay People, as they'd displayed when they also opened for The Airborne Toxic Event back in March at The Mod Club, played their brand of rock n' roll that continues to sound like "Wowee Zowee"-era Pavement with vocalist Joey Siara sounding very much like Stephen Malkmus and the band demonstrating some competent rock riffage although Henry Clay People drop Pavement's slacker-tude for more genuine and skillful musicianship. The band performed telling covers including a medly that merged their own original with Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side", The Rolling Stones' "Can't Always Get What You Want" and even respectable, if tongue-in-cheek sampling of headliner Airborne Toxic Event's "Sometime Around Midnight". They ended their set with a well-intentioned cover of David Bowie's "All The Young Dudes". Overall, they do play above-average heartfelt rock n' roll and so as The Hold Steady may hold the rock n' roll fort on the east coast, The Henry Clay People dutifully represent in the west.

The Airborne Toxic Event's return to Toronto was marked this time with a step up to a larger venue, the Phoenix Concert Theatre, and their return was greeted by the audience with a hero's welcome. Although I don't think it was sold out, it did seem pretty close to being by the time the band took the stage. The setlist was obviously rooted in their debut self-titled album and also included a few new ones, and a choice selection of covers. "Sometime Around Midnight" still remains their best song, although I found it strange they'd performed the song around three quarters of the way into the main set rather than end the main set on a high note. As with openers The Henry Clay People, it was The Airborne Toxic Event's choice of covers which were telling. During the band's brief acoustic set where the band set up their acoustic instruments(simple drum kit, violin, stand up bass, guitar(?)) and performed closer to the front of the stage while vocalist Mikel Jollett sat down stage left [coincidentally, right near I was standing] they'd performed a few originals before a brief interlude into Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire". Later on they'd did a brief medley of The Smiths' "Ask" and "Panic". During one of their encores they performed with the help of The Henry Clay People a rousing rendition of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died" during which the audience were at the pinnacle of being at their most energetic and responsive.

The sense of occasion that greeted their last show in March 2009 at The Mod Club wasn't quite there this time around in my opinion, but there's no doubt that the audience and band were equally psyched for this show. The air of complacency wafting over from the chatty crowd in the back was especially audible during the band's brief acoustic set but otherwise did little to detract from the audience's enjoyment. Personally, as I've listened to their debut more often recently, I realize that they're a band that holds their musical influences near and dear to their hearts, perhaps a little too tightly at times. Fault them as we may at times for that(and some like Pitchfork who've condemned their debut album outright), but I can't deny that they do have something.

Also check out the photos and review of the show over at At The Rock Show.

Photos: The Airborne Toxic Event, The Henry Clay People @ Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto (October 19, 2009)
Myspace: The Henry Clay People
Myspace: The Airborne Toxic Event

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wilco, Liam Finn @ Massey Hall in Toronto (October 15, 2009)

: photo by Michael Ligon

At last Thursday's Wilco show at Massey Hall, the second night of a two-night stint, for much of the night I was waiting for Mr. Jeff Tweedy to call us a bunch of motherfuckers like he did back in 2006 at the same venue. To put in more in context, the reason Mr. Tweedy resorted to cussin' us out back in 2006 was that he was trying to get us to all stand up, which we eventualy did. So when the band returned to Toronto to play Massey Hall in June 2007, there was a visceral energy within the audience, with many standing up right from the start of the show. As appreciative as the audience was for Wilco's show last Thursday night at Massey Hall, there seemed to be a level of restraint in the crowd, and from my fairly central balcony seats was quite apparent. A few expletives from Mr. Tweedy might have jarred some from their catatonic state.

Missed opener Liam Finn's set entirely, although I'd had every intention to catch it. Not realizing that road construction had closed off some of my usual parking spots on Queen St. and every other parking in the vicinity of Massey Hall taken, eventually I'd found a spot a little further away but only at the price of walking in to Massey Hall just as Mr. Finn's set concluded and everyone was filing out for a bathroom break. Ran in to Chromewaves, who I'm sure'll have his review posted tomorrow. Looking on the bright side, me missing Mr. Finn's set means less to write for this review. (In any case, Liam's back for a show at Lee's Palace on October 29 with opener Miracle Fortress.)

Last Thursday's show was my second Wilco show this year. Earlier in the year during my vacation trip to Barcelona, I capped off my nine days in the city seeing Wilco at Barcelona's opera house, L'Auditori. Terrific venue, terrific enthusiasm from the crowd, and terrific energy from Mr. Tweedy and the band, it was a wonderful way to spend my last night in Barcelona. So while last Thursday's show, paled in comparison as an experience(for me), a Wilco show's a Wilco show, and it turned out to be a satisying musical evening.

It took Jeff about eight songs into their set before he'd offered a greeting to the crowd, and part of me imagines if he'd said anything sooner to the crowd, the crowd would have been more energetic. From my vantage point from my fairly central balcony seating, it seemed much of the balcony was pretty catatonic remaining seated while the gallery seating crowd had pockets of people standing, and from what I could see of the floors there seemed to be more energy down there. And there was the crux. The non-uniformity of the crowd energy was a drag. Not to say that I'm the most extroverted person but at least I was nodding my head and whooping it up at some key musical points, which is more than many around me in the second-level balcony seats had done.

Cutting out "Summerteeth" entirely yet even reaching back to "A.M" during the encore, the setlist focused on the new album "Wilco (The Album)" as well as their previous three efforts "Sky Blue Sky", "A Ghost Is Born" and "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot". So the initial disappointment of not hearing usual "Summerteeth" inclusions like "Via Chicago" or "A Shot In The Arm" was shortlived as the rest of the setlist touched on many Wilco favourites, new and old. There were the singalongs like the soulful "Jesus, Etc"(which had Jeff letting the audience sing the first half of the song by themselves before Jeff and the band joined in later) and the main-set closer piano bounce of "Hummingbird". There were the Nels Cline-guitar workouts on songs like "At Least That's What You Said", "Handshake Drugs" and "Impossible Germany", with Nels monumental guitar solo on the last mentioned song at least awakening some momentarily. Some of the most satisfying songs were the straigt-ahead rockers like "Wilco (The Song)", "Kamera", "Walken" and "Casino Queen". Of the new songs, the folk-rock ambiance of "Deeper Down" with Nels on pedal steel was particularly effective.

It was the encore that was perhaps the most successful and invigorating segment of the show, motivating some of us like myself to finally stand up and enjoy ourselves. A band theme song like no other, the encore lead off with the scruffy guitar squall of "Wilco" (The Song), leading into the goosebump-inducing melancholy of "Misunderstood". Liam Finn and band mate would join Wilco on a charming rendition of "California Stars". Undoubtedly it was the next song "You and I" featuring a guest appearance from hometown girl Leslie Feist that had everyone in rapture as audibly could be heard as Feist walked onto the stage, performed the song dutifully then left the stage. Such a treat it was for us to see her since she hadn't made an appearance the previous night. The show could have perhaps ended on that high note but as if to expend us of all our new-found energy entirely, the band ran through the next three uptempo songs, "Casino Queen", "Kingpin" and "I'm A Wheel" forcefully before bidding goodnight and promising to return for a cross-country Canadian tour in the new year. No Toronto date on that leg but that Hamilton date [February 23, 2010 at Hamilton Place Theatre] is looking mighty tempting.

There's more discussion of that show over at the Via Chicago forums.

The National Post and BlogTO have reviews of the show. Eye has a review of Wilco's Wednesday night show at Massey Hall.

Photos: Wilco @ Massey Hall in Toronto (October 15, 2009)
MySpace: Liam Finn
MySpace: Wilco
Video: Wilco (w/ Feist) - "You and I" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of lubicon)
Video: Wilco (w/ Feist) - "You and I" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of cabinboy15)
Video: Wilco (w/ Feist) - "You and I" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of tigsy23)
Video: Wilco - "Jesus, etc" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of tigsy23)
Video: Wilco - "Impossible Germany" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of tigsy23)
Video: Wilco - "Bull Black Nova" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of mediapartyvideo)
Video: Wilco - "California Stars" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of mediapartyvideo)
Video: Wilco - "Casino Queen" (live @ Massey Hall, October 15 2009) (courtesy of the2scoops)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Built To Spill, Disco Doom @ Lee's Palace in Toronto (October 6, 2009)

Built To Spill @ Lee's Palace: photo by Michael Ligon

Update[Oct 15/09, 12:21 pm]: my review, err, ramblings of the show are now below. Next show on my schedule - Wilco at Massey Hall tonight, October 15 (and hopefully that review won't take me a week to get up).

Boise, Idaho's Built To Spill were a band that I'd somehow had missed the boat during my indie rock upbringing in the 1990's so in some respect I'm sorely underqualified to review their show last Tuesday night at Lee's Palace(the first night of a two-night stint) with anything other than a gutteral reaction. So even though the band had made the leap to a major label(Warner Brothers) in 1997 with their album "Perfect From Now On"(an album I've yet to hear - shame on me, right?) it was only with 2006's "You In Reverse" I gotten down to listening and admiring them.

Consistent with most of my recently attended shows, I'd only caught part of the opening act's set. At the point that I entered the venue, Swiss four-piece Disco Doom were in the midst of a drawn-out storm-approaching guitar - bass - drums instrumental coda. That song plus the samples I'd heard on their MySpace which displayed their dynamics-abound guitar indie rock were enough for me to feel just an ounce of regret for not catching more of their set.

As unfamiliar Built To Spill's set was to me, with the exception of the several "You In Reverse" tracks they performed, overall it was a satisfying set. Orange - Kurt - Vonnegut - t-shirt wearing frontman Doug Martsch led the band through a set touching on their newest album "There's The Enemy" as well as pogoing through their catalogue to the crowd's delight. I really enjoyed their musicianship which was full of teeth especially in terms of guitar sonics and arrangements as well as its solid rhythm section and yet at the same time there was a nice melodic sensibility. And though I'd fully anticipated an evening of rock, it turned out to be more of the listening and head nodding variety than full-out head-banging and fist-pumping. Perhaps it was a little low-energy at times, but for the most part I was more than satisfied with the musical quality. And thus, I have a little bit of back-catalogue exploring to do.

Check out Pete Nema's and blogTO's reviews of and photos from the show. Chromewaves has a review and photos of the band's second night show on October 7.

Photos: Built To Spill, Disco Doom @ Lee's Palace in Toronto (October 6, 2009)
MySpace: Disco Doom
MySpace: Built To Spill

Friday, October 09, 2009

Bob Mould @ The Mod Club in Toronto (October 5, 2009)

Bob Mould @ The Mod Club in Toronto (October 5, 2009): photo by Michael Ligon

Update[Oct 13/09, 11:50 pm]: review now up, and only a week later!

Kicking off his brief North American tour in Toronto last Monday night at The Mod Club before he heads over to the UK in December was Mr. Bob Mould promoting his new album "Life and Times". I was first and foremost a fan of his through his band Sugar in the 90's and it was only laziness really that stopped me from exploring his Husker Du and solo work with any sort of eagerness. With hopes I'd hear a few Sugar tunes and maybe a familiar Husker Du song or two I eagerly awaited Bob's set.

It's expected that Monday night shows are sometimes a hard sell but I thought that perhaps Mr. Mould would have drawn out a larger attendance. By no means was it empty by the time Bob and his drummer and bassist hit the stage but neither was it sold out. That said, for opener Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson the attendance was sparse. I'd only caught the tail end of Miles' and his band's set, but my impressions of the 25-year old Brooklynite's music are at best vague. A little raggedness in its folk-rock instrumentation? Perhaps a little Bob Dylan influence? I enjoyed the samples on Miles' MySpace much better than the few songs I caught live which for some reason I remember being a bit more plodding. Perhaps next time.

If Mr. Mould proved anything at his show at The Mod Club last Monday night, he's maintained a relevancy with his songs that shall never go out of style. Drawing out to the show fans that visibly were fans of his back in his Husker Du and Sugar days and younger music fans who I'd assume had an appreciation for his old songs and perhaps his newer material, the setlist seemed to be a fair sampler of his work, albeit limited to key parts of his catalogue. It was reasonable to expect that Bob would play a bunch from his new album "Life and Times" which he did, but the rest of the set was limited to selections from his Husker Du and Sugar days as well as "Workbook"-era solo material. Obviously, I'd love the Sugar material which Bob and band performed with a bit more raggedness than on record. Physically, Bob seemed as energetic as ever on stage as he churned out his guitar chords and vigorously sung his lyrics. With less hair on his head[which seemingly has transposed itself now as facial hair] than in his younger days, and with Bob wearing glasses[yes, I know he's been wearing glasses for a while now], he's visibly older but still possessed much of the same energy as I'd ever seen/heard him[which was only in video format] in his younger days. That said, Bob did tone things down a few times picking up the electro-acoustic guitar with a highlight being a stupendous reading of Husker Du classic "Hardly Getting Over It". My favourite Sugar/Bob Mould song ever(and one of my favourite songs ever) "If I Can't Change Your Mind" was initially not on the setlist so it was with utter surprise that instead of ending off the encore with "JC Auto" we instead got "If I Can't Change Your Mind". He's playing it a little faster and scruffier these days but just to hear the song's melody, lyrics and guitar chords was pure joy. Thank you Bob.

And if merch was your thing, you'd not have contained yourself when you saw the quantity of Sugar and solo-work merch(including tapes, CD's, vinyl, t-shirts, and DVD's) that Bob brought for sale. With much of the older items at $5 a pop it was a good opportunity to fill out your Sugar collection or pick up the vinyl.

Photos: Bob Mould @ The Mod Club in Toronto (October 5, 2009)
MySpace: Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
MySpace: Bob Mould

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Yo La Tengo, The Horse's Ha @ The Opera House (October 3, 2009)

Yo La Tengo @ The Opera House: photo by Michael Ligon

Update [Oct 12/09, 12:18 am]: Review now up.

While Nuit Blanche was to(and eventually did) take over my senses last weekend, my auditory senses were once again given the pleasure of hearing Yo La Tengo live, this time around at The Opera House earlier in the evening. Touring to promote their most recent album "Popular Songs" out on Matador, I'd only made an effort to finally listen to the album just prior to the show, but it was immediately apparent that the band's pop sensibilities were as strong as ever.

I was running slightly behind schedule, making into the venue just after openers Chicago's The Horse's Ha had begun. At the time I hadn't realized that the crystalline vocals I'd heard were of Freakwater's Janet Beveridge Bean. The music, embellished with subtle acoustic instrumentation and cello, was of a folk-ish quality that while had its merit was only slightly of interest to the chatty crowd. That said there was a polite expression of appreciation by the crowd but as an opener for Yo La Tengo they seemed a little out of sorts in my opinion. As an aside I just like to mention that I'd spent my first 10 minutes of my arrival at the merch table, eventually buying a t-shirt(which turned out to be small when I got home, grrr) and exchanging a pleasantries with Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan to who I'd mentioned I'd seen Yo La Tengo performing in Barcelona at the Primavera Sound Festival earlier in the year and was looking forward to seeing perform again that night.

With a catalogue as expansive as Yo La Tengo, they have virtually any number of setlists they could have pulled out of their hat, and that night it was all about pop music. Steering clear from their harsher, noisier experiments for the most part, it was surprising how low-key, and pop-based the set list was, coinciding nicely with the similar tone of their most recent album "Popular Songs" which there was a heavy emphasis on. All three members(Georgia, Ira, and James) traded off lead vocals during the night with the mood shifting as members also switched up on instruments. The nine-minute plus slow-building 'More Stars Than There Are In Heaven' was a surprising choice for their second song. 'Periodically Double Or Triple' was a fun organ-based, minimalist soul track. 'If It's True' had a cool Motown-ish melodic quality. The psychedelic-tinged 'Here To Fall' reminded me that they aren't all about brushed drum rhythms and minimalist bass lines. The remainder of the setlist was a patchwork of their past catalogue with a bunch from "I Can Hear Your Heart Beating As One"(highlights including the James-sung 'Stockholm Syndrome' and the main-set closer sugar-rush of 'Sugarcube') and a few select tunes from other past albums. As the setlist revealed, there were also a few covers thrown in from Devo and The Velvet Underground during the band's two encores. It was a thoroughly enjoyable if not too exhausting of a set which in a way was a blessing for those of us who planned to take in Nuit Blanche after midnight. And it was all too funny when Ira wished us happy art-gallery hopping.

Also check out Chromewaves' photos and review of the show.

Photos: Yo La Tengo, The Horse's Ha @ The Opera House in Toronto (October 3, 2009)
MySpace: The Horse's Ha
MySpace: Yo La Tengo

Monday, October 05, 2009

Glass Candy, Desire, Parallels @ The Garrison (October 1, 2009)

Glass Candy @ The Garrison: photo by Michael Ligon

Update [Oct 11/09, 4:02 pm]: Apologies for the untimeliness of this review. There were other more important things I was preoccupied with but I hope to get back into the fold soon.

I'd disappointedly missed out on tickets to the Sufjan Stevens show at Lee's Palace on October 1 so instead I decided to take in the show at The Garrison featuring a dancier bill than I'm usually found at. Headlining the show was Portland electro-disco duo Glass Candy who I'd actually been intrigued to check out ever since hearing their stone-cold-classic disco-soul track "Rolling Down The Hills" a few years ago. Based out of New Jersey label Italians Do It Better, their label-mates Montreal's Desire were also on the bill with Toronto synth-dance trio Parallels starting out the night.

Initially I was a little disappointed that the show had been moved from The Great Hall on Queen St. to the newly opened Garrison on Dundas near Ossington. The Garrison lacks The Great Hall's historic design details and is instead a very bare-bones establishment with a bar and tables visible through it's window front and a back room music space. Over time it'll be interesting to see how the venue establishes it's identity. The venue's apparently the new venue for Wavelength and while Sneaky Dee's may be the sentimental preference for many Wavelength regulars, I must inform that The Garrison's stage has better sightlines overall and could very well be easy to convert to(just hope they still have the cheap beer). And with the Dakota Tavern just down the street and several other bars and establishments in the area, perhaps Dundas and Ossington will be the destination of choice for some in the future.

Toronto's Parallels opened with their cool, dark synth-pop and while the 11 pm opening band start time was already making me anxious, I settled in front-stage left to absorb their set. Since first seeing them live at the Reverb during NXNE in June, I'm more or less indifferent about them. I'd favour more icyness a la Ladytron in the vocals from vocalist Holly Dodson but the icy synths from Joey Kehoe and the bubbling electro beats were decent. Drummer Cameron Findlay given his pedigree as ex-drummer of Crystal Castles not surprisingly provided much of Parallels' momentum. I'm still uncertain whether Holly's use of vocoder at times was a good or bad thing. I'll take Parallels in small doses for the time being at least only because they pursue a genre that is particularly lacking in Toronto.

With producer Johnny Jewel at the helm of both Glass Candy and Desire, it harkens back to the days of disco divas when it was the vocalist that established the identity of a song. While Glass Candy's been in existence for several years, Johnny Jewel's relationship with Desire vocalist Megan Louise is relatively new. With Nat Walker on drums, Johnny on beats and synth, and Megan on vocals they pursued a sound that favoured less of Glass Candy's buoyancy for a darker, cooler dance pop sound with washes of synth, leaner beats and clearer vocals. On the downside, there was a triteness to the lyrics at times that was sometimes hard to stomach. It was those times, I'd wished she sing more often in French than she did that night.

With Glass Candy vocalist Ida No and producer Johnny Jewel on synth and production, they concocted a stew of scintillating disco-pop tracks for the hungry crowd. Not surprisingly, the Toronto audience showed a bit of restraint to 'get into the groove' so to speak, but others were more freely expressive. Johnny Jewel's production in Glass Candy showed more textures and details than he did with Desire, and combined with Glass Candy vocalist Ida No's free-spirited stage presence as she danced and moved with abandon, it was one of those ree - your - mind - and - your - ass - will - follow kind of shows. With the show's conclusion approaching 2 am, we were all a bit tired I'm sure, but it was all worth it to witness a Glass Candy performance. Now if only they'd performed "Rolling Down The Hills".

Photos: Glass Candy, Desires, Parallels @ The Garrison in Toronto (October 1, 2009)
MySpace: Parallels
MySpace: Desire
MySpace: Glass Candy

Saturday, October 03, 2009

The Hidden Cameras @ Goodhandy's (September 29, 2009)

update [Oct 4/09, 11:19 pm]: Review now posted below.

The Hidden Cameras @ Goodhandy's: photo by Michael Ligon

It was Goodhandy's, a little hidden grotto (at least to me) at the intersection of Church and Richmond Sts. in Toronto which was the site for The Hidden Cameras' special record release show for their new album "Origin:Orphan". Tickets for the show were given away with a limited number of their new album sold through local record shows Rotate This, Soundscapes and Criminal Records or online through Arts & Crafts. With the album selling for $13.99 at Rotate This, a free ticket to the show was a nice bonus. Even if I'd already picked up the album, purchasing the album again just to get the concert ticket would have been more than worth it (and then of course, I could have given the CD away to a friend, sell it to a used CD shop or perhaps just leave it on someone's doorstep). Whether it was a sly method for Arts & Crafts and or the band to pad album sales as someone at Stille Post hypothesized or if it was just a nice promotional gimmick, in the end it was the fans that won.

With no prior knowledge of Goodhandy's, it was immediate that I realized it was a club that catered to the gay community - of course there was much evidence, although the ads in the men's washroom with guys with their cocks hanging out definitely gave an impression that this wasn't Lee's Palace or Horseshoe Tavern. Ultimately, it was not too surprising a choice of a venue I guess given the band playing that night. Actually, it's a nice little venue with a good stage and a standing area balcony that overlooked the main floor. Indie rock shows are apparently not their forte but perhaps in the future, in between the dance and sex show nights, they'll branch out to indie rock.

As a record release party would dictate, the Cameras' Joel Gibb declared they wouldn't be playing any old songs and the band played their new album "Origin:Orphan" in its entirety. Prior to the show, I'd only heard first single 'In The NA' which I thought was a good uptempo addition to their ouvre but hearing the rest of the album for the first time I realized how consistently good it was. Musically they still maintain a balance between a melancholy folkiness and their sunnier pop side although there seems to be a bit of a darker streak that runs through the album. With a track like the more ambitious 'Walk On' it utilized a commanding horn section(for the show playing from the second floor balcony overlooking over the audience. Also for lead off track 'Ratify The New' the band came onto the stage dressed in black hoods, like part of a secret society, with the song beginning ominously with a lengthy keyboard drone before building to a cacophonous climax.

But the Cameras still possess their sunnier side as lead single 'In The NA' illustrated. The Cameras even performed a more groove-oriented dance number for which Joel encourage the audience to dance to(and with the upper balcony eventually revealing a band of gold-sheeted ghosts dancing vigorously along), presumably trying to get us out of our shell as we'd been generally quiet between songs. Joel stuck to his word, at least for the main set, that they'd only play songs off the new album but of course they came back for an encore. The encore turned out to be one song which Joel said that the last time they'd performed it was when they played the Metro Theatre (which if you go by the band's show history was back in 2001). Overall, the main set thoroughly illustrated in my opinion how good the new album is. Perhaps it's time for them to reclaim their title as Toronto's best current band.

The band are currently on tour in Canada and the U.s. from now till December. They play the James St. North Arts Crawl in Hamilton, Ontario on October 9 and end this tour leg on December 5 back in Toronto at The Opera House.

Photos: The Hidden Cameras @ Goodhandy's in Toronto (September 29, 2009)
MySpace: The Hidden Cameras
Video: The Hidden Cameras - "In The NA" (music video)
Video: The Hidden Cameras - "He Falls To Me" (live)

Friday, October 02, 2009

The Hold Steady, Still Life Still @ Lee's Palace (September 27, 2009)

Update [Oct 3/09, 4:59 pm]: review now up

The Hold Steady @ Lee's Palace: photo by Michael Ligon

I'd suspect that wherever The Hold Steady play they're greeted like hometown heroes, and in Toronto you can count on no less. Selling out two shows at Lee's Palace way in advance and with their live album "A Positive Rage" released earlier this year to flock, seeing them live is the way to truly experience them as I did on the second night of their two-show stint, also the last night of their Canadian dates.

Local's Still Life Still opened the show with a tuneful racket that beared a passing resemblance to their labelmates older brethren Broken Social Scene. Maybe I was just a little turned off by their over abundance of enthusiasm the first time I'd seen them live when they opened for Stephen Malkmus at the Phoenix Concert Theatre last year (not to mention that Fleet Foxes cancelled their opening slot that night). The enthusiasm seemed a little more natural and in check with the tempo of the music this time around so I was more focused on the music and on at least a few occasions I was taken by their scruffy melodicism. I could imagine having at least a few of their tunes on a mixtape (ok, I mean iPod playlist).

On any given occasion one is fortunate to see The Hold Steady live I'd imagine it could be one of the best shows you'd ever experienced. I'd seen them live for the first and my only time back in October 2006 at the Horseshoe Tavern which was stupendous in its own right, and the show last Sunday night was as good if not better. I know it's a good show when the energy of both the band and the audience drives me to pogo, which I rarely do. I must say it's transcendental. With the band's Springsteen-ish, though perhaps punk-infused, riffage, combined with university - teaching - assistant - looking lead vocalist Craig Finn's bordering - on - stream - of - consciousness sing-speak, the band ran through a sweat-filled set that spanned their four studio albums, slowing things down every now and then for both the band and audience to catch their breaths. A rock show on a Sunday night never felt so good.

Photos: The Hold Steady, Still Life Still @ Lee's Palace in Toronto (September 27, 2009)
MySpace: Still Life Still
MySpace: The Hold Steady