Wednesday, February 24, 2010

El Perro Del Mar, Taken By Trees @ The Mod Club, Toronto (February 21, 2010)

El Perro Del Mar @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael Ligon
  El Perro Del Mar: photo by Michael Ligon

It was a female Swedish double bill which took over The Mod Club in Toronto this past Sunday with Taken By Trees and El Perro Del Mar. Having not heard the most recent material from both artists - Taken By Trees (the solo project of Victoria Bergsman ex of The Concretes) whose most recent album is 2009's "East of Eden" and El Perro Del Mar's mini-album "Love Is Not Pop" also released in 2009 - the unexpected diversion from their past sonic pop palettes took me off guard at first but in the end it was refreshing. In retrospect I'm more compelled now to want to listen to their respective albums if only for their uniqueness and sense of adventurism, both opener and headliner utilizing rhthym and bass (and in the case of Taken By Trees some world music influences) much more strongly than I'd ever anticipated.

During her days with the more conventional indiepop-based band The Concretes, Victoria Bergman's vocals were of a nature, to put it mildly, non-descript, so Taken By Tree's most recent album's dressings in rhythm and world music instrumentation are intriguing. Such world music influences from what I've read may have been a product of her recording her most recent album in Pakistan. She manages to do the world music influences justice at the same her pop sensibilities still, for the most part intact. Victoria does not have the most engaging stage presence, although she did ask the audience for a lighter which an audience member graciously lent her so that she could light some incense laid out on the stage in front of her. The bottom-end of their live set was particularly strong with some good distinctive drumming, and heavy bass grooves.

I can't think of anyone in recent in recent memory who's gone through a transformation both physically and musically from the first time I'd seen them live to seing them live currently as El Perro Del Mar has. El Perro Del Mar's Sarah Assbring has transformed herself from a modest, twee-folk-pop chanteuse (as I'd seen her back at the same venue in March 2007) and has now grown out her hair to lengthier, blonder(?) strands, with a slightly more glammed up look and striving towards a more extroverted rhythmic pop approach - think Cocteau Twins filtered through "Avalon"-era Roxy Music and fitted with a rhythmic step. Sarah was just so much more emotive on stage this time around, swaying and dancing for most of the set, when she wasn't playing acoustic guitar. With a song like "Heavenly Arms" her physical gestures were a very literal expression of the song title as Sarah outstretched her arms to the audience and swayed for most of the song, even persuading a select few members of the audience to double-clap on beat. Another highlight was her much applauded cover of The xx's "Shelter", a generally favourable cover adding some urgency to the song with a faster tempo and a solid drum beat although on the downside perhaps loosing some of the original's tension. I should note that Sarah's backing band was 3/4 of Victoria's band, apparently a very efficient way for an opener and headliner to tour(although technically, I believe this was more of co-headlining tour). I found the guitarist during El Perro Del Mar's set to be particularly distinctive alternating between strums, subtle riffing and sinewy guitar lines, giving the songs a very good texture. Although, as rhythmic as both Taken By Trees' and El Perro Del Mar's set were, it was still a relatively mellow vibe, the not-quite-sold-out crowd only really expressing moments of enthusiasm between songs. Mellow, yes, but with a dose of refreshingness, it was damn near perfect for a Sunday night.

Melody at chartattack, Bob at It's Not The Band I Hate..., Paul at The Panic Manual, Scott at Exclaim, and Frank at Chromewaves have reviews of the show. aNewCanadian has a 5 min 35 sec video clip from the show.

Photos: El Perro Del Mar, Taken By Trees @ The Mod Club, Toronto (February 21, 2010)
MySpace: Taken By Trees
MySpace: El Perro Del Mar

Monday, February 22, 2010

Basia Bulat @ Soundscapes, Toronto (February 16, 2010)

Basia Bulat @ Soundscapes: photo by Michael Ligon
  Basia Bulat: photo by Michael Ligon

Having treated fans to an apparently well-enjoyed show at the venerable Trinity St. Paul Church in Toronto back in mid-January, one probably wouldn't have expected London, Ontario singer-songwriter Basia Bulat to be back in these parts so soon. However, with a recently released new album "Heart Of My Own"[it's album cover, one of the loveliest things I've seen in a long time] to promote, I guess it wouldn't hurt to give fans another opportunity to see her live. Last Tuesday she played a well-attended instore at Soundscapes in Toronto. Most everyone sat on the ground which I'm grateful happened since I now had an unobstructed view and on a humourous note Basia said it reminded her of childhood storytime. Her stories of current though are of love and relationships, and Basia alternating from song to song between acoustic guitar, Autoharp, and a third stringed instrument played on her lap, used her expressive vibrato to communicate those tales. I haven't listened to her new album yet unfortunately but was quite excited to hear her perform "In The Night" from her debut album. She performed the whole set unamplified which made the set especially intimate. Ending the set with an accapella rendition of an old gospel spiritual(with the humourous occurence of her foot-stomping causing a few CD's on the shelves nearby to fall before she restarted the song by clapping and stomping her foot softer), I'd forgotten how wonderful musically as well as charming she is.

It's Not The Band I Hate, It's Their Fans has a rundown of the set as well as some photos from closer up. Another fan perspective of the instore from James Hong Conjecture who says her next show in Toronto will be in June.

Photos: Basia Bulat @ Soundscapes, Toronto (February 16, 2010)
MySpace: Basia Bulat
Video: Basia Bulat live @ Soundscapes, Toronto, February 16 2010 (highlights)


ps. My review of the Mumford & Sons show at Lee's Palace on February 15, 2010 is now up. I'm now all caught up with all my show reviews from the past few weeks. Hopefully, I'll stay on track and post more timely. Hope is the key word.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mumford and Sons, Sunparlour Players @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (February 15, 2010)

  Mumford & Sons: photo by Michael Ligon

Update[Feb 22/2010, 10:23 pm]: Review now up.

If there had to be one word, well actually two words hyphenated, that could best represent the night of February 15 at Lee's Palace, it would be 'foot-stomping'. Opening the show were local roots outfit Sunparlour Players, with the bluegrass-influenced UK hot commodity Mumford & Sons headlining.

I arrived a tad late to an already fairly packed venue a little into openers Sunparlour Players set. The band, who as far as I know are currently a trio, were playing this night as a duo compreised of Andrew Pennersings on guitar, banjo and perhaps a few other things and Michael Rosenthal on drums and percussion. Their third member Dennis Van Dyne wasn't there, although not to say he isn't necessarily important, but as a duo they were very effective. Mr. Pennersings' lead vocals displayed a grit that could be nuanced on quieter, folkier tunes but achieved an intensity on their more raucous material. A good sense of melody overall, their musical influences ranging from rock n' roll, country, blues, and folk were more than competently displayed. It'd been clear from song to song how much the crowd were appreciating the set and as their final song burst at the seams with a gospel energy that could barely be contained, my only reaction was 'wow' why had I never seen them live until now given the ample opportunities they'd performed around town over the last several years. My reaction seemed to be the major consensus as the crowd roared at a level usual displayed for a headliner's best show. Had the headliners that night not been Mumford & Sons, I'd have imagined a major upstage. The band's most recent album is 2009's "Wave North".

West London four-piece Mumford and Sons had quietly sold out their debut Toronto headlining gig weeks before the show and with little to no Canadian press that I recalled other than Chromewaves' recommendations, the reaction amongst some local music bloggers was how. As the crowd was comprised largely of young to mid-twentysomethings, my only guess was that young adults these days are much more music savvy than I'd thought - either that or else I'm relatively out of the loop. So I purchased a ticket to the show weeks before on a gamble, having only finally listened to the band's album on the day of the show, and I'm glad I had the foresight to pick up a ticket for the show before it sold out. I cannot see how this show won't make my end-of-year fave shows of 2010 list. From the moment that band stepped onto the stage, the crowd reaction was intensely excited.

To quote their bio, their music is an "old-time sound that marries the magic of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young with the might of Kings Of Leon". While there's a simplicity in their musical setup comprising of group vocals, keys(Ben Lovett), acoustic guitar, stand up bass(Ted Dwane), hand percussion, drums, banjo(Winston Marshall), and a kick drum(played by lead vocalist Marcus Mumford), there was a richness to their melodies and performance. Particularly effective was lead vocalist Marcus Mumford's ability to sing, play guitar and play the kick-drum all at the same time. Call them bluegrass for these modern times, they displayed the same urgency as the folk-infused indie rock of Scotland's Frightened Rabbit[who've coincidently have caused a similar stir when they've played Toronto], except without electric guitars. For a band whose debut album (entitled "Sigh No More" which was recorded Markus Dravs who also recorded Arcade Fire's "Neon Bible") which hadn't actually been released in Canada until the day after the show, there was a surprising number of people who knew the words to the songs. With physical looks on their side, they had many of the female contingent swooning. And as exemplified by Marcus Mumford's comment the band voted that bassist Ted Dwane was the best-looking guy in the band (a crack at his poofy haircut I believe), the bad also a sense of humour and fun. Though they'd formed in 2007, it's still relatively early in their career, but the future looks bright. They even made their network television debut on Late Show With David Letterman a few days ago. Those boys are going places.

Chromewaves, The Mad Ones, and She Does The City have reviews of and or photos from the show. Update: Jen and Amanda from Sticky Magazine have their review and photos of the show now up.

Photos: Mumford and Sons, Sunparlour Players @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (February 15, 2010)
MySpace: Sunparlour Players
MySpace: Mumford & Sons
Video: Mumford & Sons - "Little Lion Man" (live on Late Show With David Letterman, February 17 2010)


Working on the Mumford and Sons review still(Update: it's now up) but I just got my review up for the Wavelength 500 show that took place at Steamwhistle Brewery on February 11, 2010.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Holy Fuck, The Russian Futurists, Diamond Rings, Fembots, Professor Fingers @ Steamwhistle Brewery, Toronto (February 11, 2010)

Holy Fuck: photo by Michael Ligon
  Holy Fuck: photo by Michael Ligon

Update [Feb 21/2010, 5 pm]: Review now up.

The week of February 8 was a busy concert week for me with my Monday to Thursday booked in a row. I don't remember the last time I had four nights of shows in a row but in recent years such a schedule seems like a daunting on. Fortunately I can say in retrospect that all shows were good to above average shows. I did manage to squeeze in the Thursday night show of Wavelength 500 happening down at Steamwhistle Brewery, the least I could do for the venerable Toronto institution. On the bill was Toronto DJ Professor Fingers opening the show, but it was the rest of the bill that I was really excited to see, including a reunion of sorts with Toronto's Fembots who've been pretty quiet lately, Toronto hot commodity Diamond Rings, the resurfacing of Toronto electro-pop band The Russian Futurists, and headliners Holy Fuck.

One half of Toronto turntablist duo Insideamind, Professor Fingers was already working his turntable magic for the early crowd. Although, the crowd seemed generally indifferent to the beats and scratches, it was certainly good mood music for the audience who were busier getting their drink on, not such a difficult task with the alcohol and drink concessions that dominated the left side of the room. Certainly there was a bit of a corporate feel to the surroundings with the drink concessions, the food concessions near the back, and the overall aesthetics of the view of the CN tower and surrounding highrises through the windows but overall it was a comfortable space providing decent sightlines.

While things toned down musically for Fembots' set, there seemed to be a decent bit of enthusiasm for the outfit's eclectic roots rock songs. Fembots founding members Dave MacKinnon and Brian Poirier traded off lead vocal duties while Mr. MacKinnon alternated between guitar and keyboards. The Hylozoists' Paul Aucoin was also onhand to infuse songs with subtle vibraphone arrangements. I'll admit I lost track of Fembots after their wonderful 2005 album "The City"[the band did perform "Count Down Our Days"] and hadn't heard a note of their most recent effort, 2008's "Calling Out". They were a little out of place on that night's electro-oriented bill but at the very least politely appreciated.

Diamond Rings' John O'Regan seemed especially glammed up for the night's festivities, seeminly doing himself up with more makeup than ever and rocking the acid wash jean jacket, zebra-inspired spandex pants and construction hardhat. I've already expressed my adulation for Diamond Rings simple yet effective electro-pop tunes. Alternating between guitar and keyboards, O'Regan seemed especially elastic when he busted out his over-the-top dance moves. A spectacle to behold, but fortunately he has the tunes to back it up.

Toronto's The Russian Futurists have been quiet of late(their last album being 2005's "Our Thickness") but are planning to release their newest album "The Weight's on the Wheels" this summer. Founding member Matthew Adam Hart is of course still there but rounding out the lineup was touring member Scott Farmer on Keys, Sofia Silva (of Toronto's Planet Creature) on bass, and Shout Out Out Out's Clint Frazier on drums. Russian Futurists appeal to my musical geek sensibilities in somewhat the same way UK's Hot Chip having been making an impression with me recently, with their quirky melodies and vocals, electro-pop rhthyms and instrumentation combined with more conventional rock instruments. But at the same time there's something very sultry in the dense sonic package that the Futurists deliver. Good reintroduction to the Toronto crowd and there'll be another chance to check them out live when they play a set at Lee's Palace on March 12 as part of the Billions / Chromewaves showcase during Canadian Musicfest.

Toronoto electro-rock instrumental assaultists Holy Fuck demonstrated their energetic talents to the crowd's delight. Utilizing conventional rock instruments like bass, guitar, and drums they interspliced various sonic affects into the fold using devices like a 35 mm film synchronizer. Those who are in the know will be familiar with Holy Fuck's instrumental beat-driven meltdowns and they certainly got the crowd going, at one point a mosh pit forming a few rows back from the stage. I eventually had to run for cover since I had my camera in possession but that short period of intense activity was enough to get my adrenalin going. I'd been a little disappointed with the outfit's headlining set at last year's Beats, Breaks and Culture festival at Harbourfront Centre - they displayed a little more restraint that time but their set at Wavelength showed me how hard they could rock it like I knew they could. The length of their set including encore brought the conclusion of the night to a later time than I expected but definitely not for naught.

Kudos to Doc Pickles for his sort of comedic, verbose introductions of each band and congratulations to Wavelength for a show well done.

Photos: Holy Fuck, The Russian Futurists, Diamond Rings, Fembots, Professor Fingers @ Steamwhistle Brewery, Toronto (February 11, 2010)
MySpace: Professor Fingers
MySpace: Fembots
MySpace: Diamond Rings
MySpace: The Russian Futurists
MySpace: Holy Fuck


If you're interested, my review of the Gentleman Reg show at The Drake Underground last week is now up.

Also, public service announcement, but at the moment I have no commenting system because Haloscan have discontinued their service. I have exported my comments off Haloscan in the meantime, although currently Blogger doesn't have the means to import these comments into their commenting system. I'll figure something out. Actually, I'm having trouble enabling Blogger's commenting system onto my blog. So, if you have any suggestions, please leave me a...oh, forget it. (Facebook friends can reach through Facebook, but all others please reach me through e-mail, my e-mail link which is on the sidebar near the top of the page).

Got Blogger comments working - had to redo my blog template in the process, but the site's more navigable and a tad cleaner looking now. It'll do at least until I decide how I really want to revamp this blog. Only downside right now is that although I've exported all my previous Haloscan comments into a file but Blogger has no way of importing them. Wordpress seems the direction to go but I'll have to explore that a little more. So shoot off a comment if you so desire, at least so I can test that little 'Recent Comments' widget on the sidebar.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gentleman Reg, By Divine Right, The Balconies @ The Drake Undergound, Toronto (February 10, 2010)

  Gentleman Reg: photo by Michael Ligon

Update[Feb 18/2010, 11:50 pm]: Review now up.

Just my luck it had to be a particularly chilly night last Wednesday, the night of an indie rock triple-bill happening down at The Drake Undergound. It'd been a while since I'd been to a show at that venue. Ultimately, the advance ticket I had didn't go to waste as I dragged myself down to the Drake for the second of Gentleman Reg's weekly residency at The Drake Undergound happening in February. Reg's weekly residency at the Drake during the month of February was in promotion of his recently released digital-only EP entitled "Heavy Head". Also on the bill that night were Ottawa transplanted trio The Balconies who I'd been meaning to catch live for sometime, and Toronto music vet Jose Contreras' band By Divine Right.

The Balconies warmed up the thinner-than-expected crowd with their hooky, textural pop-rock songs with lead vocal duties alternating between the effervescent vocals of guitarist Jacquie Neville and the more laid back vocals of bassist Steve Neville (Jacqui's brother). Jacqui, looking more than a little Suzi Quatro-esque wearking a tight black pants and top combo, definitely put a lot of passion into her performance, reflected in her facial expressions and guitar playing while the rhythm section kept things tight on the backend. While I can't say every song was a winner in my books, their batting average was high with hooky tracks like "Elephant Lamp".

It's been quite a while since I've seen By Divine Right. If memory serves me, it may be bordering on a decade the last time I'd seen them live. Really, was it July 1, 2001 that I'd last seen By Divine Right live when they played the third stage at Molson Park as part of Edgefest? While By Divine Right's been an ongoing concern this whole time, their record release schedule's slowed down in recent years, with the band's most recent record being 2009's "Mutant Message" and the record prior to that being five years before with 2004's "Sweet Confusion". I'd really only been familiar/a fan of their 2001 LP "Good Morning Beautiful" (their song of "Hugger of Trees" is fantastic) so I'm relatively out of touch with the band. The current version of the band is a trio, Contreras of course taking lead vocal duties as well as guitar, with David Joseph(wearing a t-shirt that read "The Titty Shaker") on drums and the bearded(looking a little like Devendra Banhart) Michael Milosh on guitar. Age-wise, you could consider Mr. COntreras as somewhat of an elder statesman of the Toronto music scene, but there was no doubt that his songs contained as much youthful rock n' roll energy as anything released by any of the younger acts now running this town. There was a very casual flair to the brash guitar playing and drum arrangements. But even moreso than such rock n' roll energy was that Mr. Contreras' pop sensibilities were still intact. Over the course of the set, the melodic sensibility tended to meader a bit (such as on one drumless, atmospheric track featuring all three members on guitars) but overall the band and the music were immediately likable.

I don't remember the venue being packed to the gills but the crowd did seem to thicken nicely for By Divine Right and then Gentleman Reg. Reg gave props to both openers with special props to Jose who Reg had mentioned that it was such a long time ago, around the mid-90's, that he and Jose had last shared a stage. Mixing the set with old faves and some new songs, the perpetually good-spirited Reg peppered his inbetween-song banter with some funny comments such as mentioning he took Robaxin for his back, pondering whether it was a bad idea to take it with alcohol (which he admitted he did), but in any case his back pain was gone. The band's current lineup of Reg as well as Dana Snell (drums, vocals), Kelly McMichael (keys, vocals), and Jon Hynes (bass, vocals) plus one other guest(a blonde girl who joined the band for a song or two on keyboards, background vox, and tambourine), were as crack as could be. Details of songs at this point are sort of foggy, although definite impressions were made on me of how good Reg's melodies are at times. Over the multitude of times I've seen Gentleman Reg perform over the last year or so, Reg has consistently given his all, whether it be as the perpetual opening act in any number of venues small and large he's performed in Toronto, or at this headlining gig at the intimate Drake Underground. Class act all around. Saving perhaps the best for last, Reg pulled out for the encore crowd fave "The Boyfriend Song" which I believe a female member of the audience personally approached Reg at the front of the stage begging him to play. Sending at least the front crowd into a dancing frenzy, I couldn't think of a better way to saunter off back into the chilly night.

Photos: Gentleman Reg, By Divine Right, The Balconies @ The Drake Undergound, Toronto (February 10, 2010)
MySpace: The Balconies
MySpace: By Divine Right
MySpace: Gentleman Reg


Just got my review up for the Laura Marling show which took place at Lee's Palace on Tuesday February 9.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Laura Marling, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (February 9, 2010)

  Laura Marling: photo by Michael Ligon

Update[Feb 17/2010, 11:50 pm]: Review now posted below.

What I know about British singer-songwriter Laura Marling is quite limited. She just turned 20 years of age on February 1. Her debut album "Alas, I Cannot Swim" was released in February 2008 and was nominated(although, did not win) that year's Mercury Prize. Her second album entitled "I Speak Because I Can" is coming out March 22. It is the release of her second album that had brought Ms. Marling over to North America for a brief tour jaunt including a nearly sold-out date in Toronto at Lee's Palace a week ago Tuesday. She'd been on my radar for a little over a year now, although I did little during that time to really explore her music so it was much to do with buzz that motivated me to pick up a ticket for the show. Originally scheduled for the much more intimate Drake Undergound in Toronto, the show was later moved to Lee's Palace. Little did I know that she had much more of a following than I anticipated.

With me arriving a tad late for opener, Denverites Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel, there was already a healthy crowd onhand. The top-to-bottom denim clad Mr. Ratlieff performed a selection of delectable folk-rock tunes with band The Wheel delivering a good dose of melody and acoustic instrumentation including guitar, stand up bass, drums and female background vox. But it's Nathaniel's engaging vocal drawl that gave the songs teeth and the few songs where it was just him and bespectacled backup singer Julie Davis performing together, even the chattery back bar was not enough to deter the attention of most of the crowd who seemed to enjoy it immensely.

At twenty years of age, most girls that age aren't really that mature. Even Ms. Marling, as she strolled onto stage, could easily be underestimated. She looks her age, perhaps even acts her age given some of her goofy banter. However performance wise she exuded a quiet confidence usually displayed by performers twice her age. Backing her up as a band, were opener Nathaniel's band The Wheel, fleshing out her tunes as she performed a set evenly split between her debut album and her upcoming new album. She also played a competent cover of Canadian icon Neil Young's "The Needle and The Damage Done" preceding the performance with some spontaneous banter, then realizing that she was indeed IN CANADA, and suddenly feeling an intense pressure. That was perhaps expressed more for humour's sake than anything else because her cover of Neil's song was lovely. Overall, what's most astonishing is the strength of the song's. If this Toronto performance was representative of her usual live sets, Ms. Marling had a refreshingly understated sense of her self. Even when the songs aspired towards a more urgent nature, she never forced it. Vocally she could be as lovely, fragile and restrained as Joni Mitchell or perhaps Beth Orton, but there was no doubt she could display more soulful tones in her singing like fellow UK up and comer Florench Welch (of Florence + the Machine). So for a performer that I had spent little time with their music with and had purchased a ticket for their show based mostly on buzz, the gamble paid off. A truly wonderful show from a performer that no doubt should have a long career ahead of her.

I jotted down the setlist as best I could and this is what I came up with - the words in square brackets indicate what album each song came from:

Your Only Doll (Dora) [Alas] Devil's Spoke [Speak] / Rambling Man [Speak] / I Speak Because I Can [Speak] / Ghosts [Alas] / My Manic and I [Alas] /
Night Terror [Alas] / Goodbye England [Speak] / The Needle and The Damage Done (Neil Young cover) / Hope In The Air [Speak] Rest In My Bed / Alpha Shallows [Speak] / Encore: Alas I cannot swim [Alas]

update: Updated setlist above as per the one posted at

Chromewaves, The Singing Lamb, Much Music, The Panic Manual, and Pandamonium also have their own reviews and or photos from the show. Happy reading.

Photos: Laura Marling, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel @ Lee's Palace, Toronto (February 9, 2010)
MySpace: Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel
MySpace: Laura Marling


ps. I have my review now up of The Magnetic Fields show from last week which took place at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Magnetic Fields, Laura Barrett @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto (February 8, 2010)

  Stephen Merritt: photo by Michael Ligon

Update[Feb 17 2010, 12:36 am]: Review now up.

It was a musical epiphany that one evening in the mid-90's that I'd first heard The Magnetic Fields' song "100, 000 Fireflies" on CBC Radio's Brave New Waves. The song's enchanting, delicate female vocals, it's metronic backbeat and simple yet effective piano arrangement, it's hopelessly romantic lyrics - to this day it remains one of my favourite songs ever. Somewhat surprisingly, it took me a while to explore Mr. Merritt's catalogue. Early on, his 6ths project and it's album "Wasps Nest" was a good representation of Merritt's sensisbilities with's it's electro-pop instrumentation, simple yet highly effective melodies and Merritt's skewed romanticism and it featured a range of vocalists that, at the time, were more attractive to me than Merritt's baritone. "Wasps Nests" remains my most listened to and favourite Merritt album ever although with his Merge Records release "Get Lost" I came to appreciate Merritt's baritone much more. It's only in more recent years that I'd gotten around to purchasing his subsequent 6ths release "Hyacinths and Thistles", and other Magnetic Fields albums like "The Wayward Bus/House of Tomorrow", "The Charm of The Highway Strip" and just last year had purchased his triple-album epic "69 Love Songs" while on vacation in Barcelona. Part of me believes that the only thing from diving head first into his ouevre was that he hardly came up to tour in Toronto/Canada. It's nice to cross The Magnetic Fields off my list of bands I hope to see one day as I did last week at Toronto's sold out show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Leading up to The Magnetic Fields' long-awaited and highly anticipated set was opener Laura Barrett. I believe I'd only seen her once live several years back at the Brampton Indie Arts Festival and while I've always appreciated her whimsical vocals, tinker-toy melodies and her identifiable kalimba playing, I don't think I've ever truly grasped her music within my conventional indie-rock upbringing. Expanding her lineup to include Randy Lee on violin, Dana Snell as multi-instrumentalist and on backup vox, and a third gentleman[I apologize, I don't know his name] on glockenspiel, with Laura on vocals and kalimba, there was richness to their overall sound, taking full advantage of the venue's pristine acoustics, at least from where I was sitting. And perhaps it's just me but Laura's vocal phrasing just seems so much stronger - she has a decent range and she holds notes just long enough that lyrics flow one and into each other nicely. I highly commend Laura and her band for performing an understated yet highly confident set. And of course, Laura's quirky humorous banter is always charming.

It's the occasion of The Magnetic Field's recently released album "Realism" that brings the band out of hiding but as it turned out they performed a good selection of songs from many of their past releases including several from Merritt's 6ths project. I'm more in tune with The Magnetic Fields' electro-pop leanings and have even embraced Merritt's baritone and but the acoustic performance for the evening was impeccable. The new album's songs which are based in acoustic instrumentation were superbly performed but it was the older material that garnered the most attention. Stripped down to acoustic instrumentation like cello, banjo, ukele, keys and autoharp, Merritt faves like "You and Me and The Moon", or 6ths songs like "Falling Out Of Love With You" and "Movies In My Head" were still indentifiable and highly enjoyable. The most enjoyable element perhaps(aside from Stephen's droll banter) were the vocals, from Merritt's baritone to Claudia Gonson's airy vocals and Shirley Simms twang-inflected singing style. The crowd itself was as sedate as they come - no spontaneous singing or clapping from what I remember - but still I had such a large impression that the crowd was intensely enjoying themselves (the between song crowd reaction of course was a dead giveaway). Merritt in his Ralph Lauren polo cable-knit sweater and kaki baseball cap, and his band members conservatively dressed, looked more like a college study group than a band. Merritt's onstage demeanor is more that of arrogant, non-chalance but on the other hand his dry wit and droll sense of humour expressed during spontaneous moments of banter were never in question. Yes, looks can be deceiving and The Magnetic Fields are prime examples of that. I'd no sooner go more into more hyperbole but let's just say the evening was outstanding. My one lone criticism was the last song of the encore and the night, "100 000 Fireflies" with the band performing an adequate acoustic rendition, though far less superior than the song's original studio version. Hey, the fact that we got the song at all made me extremely happy.

Chromewaves, Much Music, and chartattack have reviews and photos from the show.

Photos: The Magnetic Fields, Laura Barrett @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto (February 8, 2010)
MySpace: Laura Barrett
MySpace: The Magnetic Fields

Monday, February 08, 2010

Great Lake Swimmers @ Sonic Boom in Toronto (February 5, 2010) / Concert Announcements (February 9, 2010)

Great Lake Swimmers @ Sonic Boom: photo by Michael LigonI was fortunate to take in the instore performance by Great Lake Swimmers last Friday at Sonic Boom in Toronto. As a teaser for their proper show which was at Trinity St. Paul's the following day, the instore turned out to be quite substantial itself, with the band performing a good twelve songs for the fairly packed crowd onhand. A five member setup with Tony on guitar/vox, Darcy Yates on bass, Greg Millson on drums, Erik Arnesen on guitar, and and a fifth member on violin/background vox[who I apologize for not getting their name], the band devoted much of the set to the most current album "Lost Channels" which I'd unfortunately not heard prior to the show. They also played several older tunes including the dreamy, sepia-tinged "Moving Pictures, Silent Films", as well as the shuffling, folky "Your Rocky Spine" and the more uptempo "I am Part of a Large Family", the latter featuring the audience clapping throughout the song. The new material, or at least some of it, seems to have a more conventional, rootsy sound, complete with rootsy fiddle playing or country rock sound - case in point, "Pulling On A Line" from the new album is a perfectly competent roots rock song, but does somewhat pale in comparison to the older material in terms of effect. I appreciated the set overall, and at 12 songs long[setlist courtesy gittingsc] and the instore being free, there was no doubt that we lucked out.

gittingsc, myslowdescent, and Ivys League have photos from the instore.

Great Lake Swimmers played Trinity St. Paul's in Toronto the following night and The National Post and NxEW review the show.

Photos: Great Lake Swimmers @ Sonic Boom in Toronto (February 5, 2010)
MySpace: Great Lake Swimmers


If saddened by the fact the Thrush Hermit sold out their two night stint at Lee's Palace in Toronto for March 26 and 27, it's good news that they've added a third show[albeit, an all-ages one] for Sunday March 28. It's a matinee performace with doors at 2:30 pm. Tickets are $17.50 advance, $20.00 @ the door, and go onsale Wednesday February 10 at 10 am EST.

San Diego's The Soft Pack stop in for a show at the El Mocambo on April 7. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door, and go onsale February 10 at 10 am EST.

The estrogen-band-named double bill of Girls(from San Francisco) and Dum Dum Girls(from NYC) take over the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto for a show on April 9. Tickets are $16.50 advance, $20.00 @ the door, and go onsale February 10 at 10 am EST.

Land of Talk play Lee's Palace on April 8. Tickets are $10.00 advance, $12.00 @ the door, and go onsale Friday February 12 at 10 am EST.

You Say Party! We Say Die! have a wack of new tour dates up now including a date at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on April 2.

80's post punk pioneers Killing Joke are coming to Toronto for a show at the Phoenix on May 25. Tickets are $25.

Finally, The National have added a second show for Toronto at Massey Hall on Wednesday June 9(the first show being the previous night). Tickets are $53.50 in advance and go onsale Friday February 12 at 10 am EST. Don't dawdle this time if you dawdled for the first one.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Canadian Musicfest Announcements / Concert Announcements / Music News (February 4, 2010)

  photo by Michael Ligon
Diamond Rings @ The Mod Club: photo by Michael LigonJanuary's gone and my February concert schedule looks busy but my March schedule looks even busier not even counting this year's Canadian Music Week. So while precious little of the actual CMW(or more accurately, Canadian Musicfest) schedule has actually been announced yet, Toronto promoter Dan Burke has already announced his NeXT-at-CMW shows running March 11, 12, 13 at The Velvet Underground, The Silver Dollar and The Comfort Zone. Mr. Burke's never been shy about reminding us how he used to run his own mini-festival AGAINST CMW but has now partnered with CMW to bring in a slew of worthy acts to town. Here is this year's NeXT-at-CMW lineups: L.A.'s Nightmare Air will headline The Velvet Underground from March 11-13 with Toronto's The Two Koreas co-headling on March 13. The Dexateens from Tuscaloola, AL will play The Comfort Zone on March 12 with Toronto's Huron & Ian Blurton/Happy Endings and CATL. The Pop Montreal showcase takes over The Silver Dollar on March 12 with a stacked bill that includes Gemma Ray from the UK, Toronto's Diamond Rings, Montreal's Parlovr, PS I Love You from Kingston, and The Peelies from Montreal. The March 11th bill at The Silver Dollar will include Toronto's Dinosaur Bones, American guitar-drums duo Japanther and Toronto country-rock outfit The Treasures. Psychedelia takes over The Comfort Zone on March 13 with one-shot Montreal with The Black Feelings and two-shots Toronto with The Hoa Hoas and Action Makes. The bill at The Silver Dollar on March 13 will feature Detroit's 72Blues, and Toronto's Darlings of Chelsea as well as The Easy Targets. The Comfort Zone on March 11 will feature a reunion with Montreal hardcore act Homicide as well as the heavy rock of Diemonds. Whew! Check out all the details at Stille Post.

Also just announcing their CMW schedule is chartattack who historically have had some decent lineups for the festival, this year being no exception. The chartattack showcases for CMW will take place exclusively at Horseshoe Tavern from March 11-13. The March 11 lineup will feature Ottawa's Amos The Transparent, Guelphites Green Go, Toronto's Hollerado and Great Bloomers and Montreal's The Besnard Lakes. Things get a little more slick for March 12 with Bend Sinister, The Dudes, Jets Overhead, Melissa Auf Der Maur, Hot Hot Heat, and Paper Lions. For the final day of the festival, March 13, charttack ends off on a very high note with Yukon Blonde, The Balconies, The Wooden Sky, Two Hours Traffic and The Junction. There are a few gaps in chartattack's schedule still so it'll be interesting who they'll get to fill 'em. View the schedule(with times) over at chartttack.

Too many concerts, too little time but here's a few more to note, the next four courtesy of Collective Concerts.

The Horseshoe Tavern on March 26 will feature Jon Langord and The Sadies with Burlington Welsh Choir, and The Good Brothers. Tickets $13.50 advance($15.00 @ the door), onsale today at 10 am.

Lawrence, Kansas post-rock outfit The Appleseed Cast play Lee's Palace on April 19, tickets, $13.50 advance($15.00 @ the door), onsale today at 10 am.

San Diego's The Album Leaf play Lee's Palace on April 28, tickets $12.50 advance($15.00 @ the door), onsale today at 10 am. The band's fifth album is entitled "A Chorus Of Storytellers" and is now through Sub Pop.

Scottish indie folk pop outfit Frightened Rabbit are set to return to Toronto for a show at The Opera House on May 4. If their show in Toronto at the Horseshoe Tavern last July was any indication, this one should be equally pleasing. Tickets for their show at The Opera House on May 4 are $15.00 advance($18.00 @ the door) and go onsale today at 8 am. The band's new album "The Winter Of Mixed Drinks" is set for release on March 9 through FatCat Records.

Staunchly independent Toronto record label Unfamiliar Records are celebrating their 5th anniversary with what else but a live showcase. Details still are to be announced but it'll be taking place March 5. Label founder Greg Ipp will DJ the night, and the live acts will include Makeout Videotape from Vancouver, and locals The Two Koreas, Rattail, and Stop, Die, Resuscitate. Download Makeout Videotape's "Heat Wave" EP for free: - Password: freeheatwavedownload .... View the show poster over at Stille Post.

Courtesy of local indie record label Out of This Spark (who sadly I missed their recent 3rd anniversary celebration show) have a lovely lineup at the Tranzac's Main Hall on March 25 with Snailhouse (featuring a full band) and Evening Hymns. Tickets are $10 at the door only. Via Stille Post.

Dust off your Doc Martens, Fred Perry shirts and Ben Sherman(ok, I actually wear Ben Sherman, but I'm not a mod) as The Specials (yes The Specials!) are coming to Toronto for a show on April 19. It's at Sound Academy unfortunately. Tickets are $36.50(or $46.50 for VIP Balcony seats) and go onsale today at 10 am. Toronto's only one of seven dates in North America so that's pretty special(pun, intended). As Billboard reveals, this reunion features the original lineup minus keyboardist Jerry Dammers. Also look for the band to perform live on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon on April 13.

It's a little strange to see that Specials' peers The English Beat are playing the much smaller Lee's Palace(compared to Sound Academy) on May 18, but then The English Beat as far as I know is really only vocalist/songwriter Dave Wakeling with a band that does not feature any other members of the original UK lineup(most notably Ranking Roger). Tickets for The English Beat's show at Lee's in May are $23.50 advance($27.00 @ the door) and go onsale February 5 at 10 am. Openers for the show are Toronto's Rebel Emergency.

So I got my ticket for The National who are playing Massey Hall on June 8. I opted to not go through the presales last week and then I totally forgot about logging in to for the public onsale last Friday morning(January 29) but I ended up purchasing a ticket that night online and lucked out with a left centre floor seat in second row. How effin' sweet is that? $63 well spent I say.