Tuesday, June 19, 2012

2012 Toronto Jazz Festival Picks

  Nellie McKay

Whether it be folk, blues, or jazz, over the years music festivals have been broadening their spectrum to include artists that perhaps may have not been included under the original mandate of the festival. The Toronto Jazz Festival has not been alone in that respect. My experience with the festival in past years has been minimal but the few times I'd actually seen artists playing during the festival [keys-bass-drums groove trio The New Deal in 2004 and gospel/soul legend Aretha Franklin last year ] they were both not jazz artists. Purists may scoff but then festivals are expensive and they need to draw in an audience somehow so I don't blame the Toronto Jazz Festival for being more inclusive of the acts that it will accept. In the end, I think it's win-win for everyone.

The jazz purists will probably hate my following list, but this is rather geared more toward non-purists like me who would want to explore what the Toronto Jazz Festival has to offer. Here's what has piqued my interest:

June 22
Janelle Monae (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - Kansas City-born pompadoured female r n b, soul artist who I first saw live opening for The Arcade Fire at Olympic Island in Toronto in August 2010. As a vocalist and performer she comes across as a combination of James Brown, Prince and Michael Jackson. Her debut album The ArchAndroid, released in 2010 was a critical success.
Video: Janelle MonĂ¡e - Faster (Live on Later with Jools Holland)

The Shuffle Demons (Shops at Don Mills, 8 pm) - Toronto jazz-fusion, sax-heavy group who had a surprise Top-40 hit in Canada with their single "Spadina Bus" . Since 1986 the band have released 5 full-lengths, had broken up in 1997 then reformed in 2004 and released a Greatest Hits album that coincided with a reunion tour that year and are continuing to tour until this day.
Video: The Shuffle Demons - "Out of My House, Roach" (music video)

My Favorite Robot (The Hoxton, 10 pm) - "My Favorite Robot is the trio of Jared Simms, James Teej, and Voytek Korab, three Canadian DJ/producers who in a space of a few short years have become a central part of the global electronic music scene."(via)
Video: My Favorite Robot @ BPM

June 23
Destroyer (Opera House, 9 pm) - Project of Vancouver-based singer songwriter Dan Bejar known for is enigmatic vocals and his melodic sensibility. Prolific in his own right with Destroyer and know for his contributions with Vancouver supergroup The New Pornographers.
Video: Destroyer - "Savage Night at the Opera" (music video)

Meech (The Hoxton, 10 pm) - "Meech is a DJ/Producer from Toronto, Canada. He has performed throughout North America & Europe, consistently winning fans with his diverse musical style.... Meech is set to release with American imprint Fool's Gold and is set to remix for the Parisian label Ed Banger Records."

Bettye Lavette (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - American soul artist who'd remained in obscurity until she achieved wider success in 2005 with her Joe Henry produced full-length I've Got My Own Hell To Pay released through -ANTI. In 2007 she released another full-length, also released through -ANTI, entitled The Scene Of The Crime where the band Drive-By Truckers acted as her backing band.
Video: Bettye Lavette - "Talking Old Soldiers" (music video)

Get The Blessing (Outdoor Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 5 pm) - Bristol, UK based jazz rock quartet who "...were formed when Jim Barr (bass) and Clive Deamer (drums), the rhythm section from the trip hop group Portishead, teamed upwith Jake McMurchie (saxophone) and Pete Judge (trumpet) over their mutual appreciation of Ornette Coleman." (via)
Video: Get The Blessing - "OCDC" (music video)

June 24
The Bad Plus (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - American Midwestern-bred drums-bass-drums trio mixing jazz, rock and pop formed in 2000 and have released 7 full-lengths to date, 2010's Never Stop being the most recent. The band have also recorded covers of songs by artists ranging from Nirvana, David Bowie, Neil Young, Pixies, Ornette Coleman, and Radiohead.
Video: The Bad Plus - "Karma Police" (Radiohead cover)

June 25
Robert Glasper Experiment Featuring Bilal (Enwave Theatre - Harbourfront Centre, 7 pm) - "Glasper's music can be described as "experiments with space, rhythm and chord textures", creating a vast array of sound. He has said that he tries to make the music flow in a way more like a hip-hop beat, trying to always leave the music open for someone to rap over." (via) Philly native Bilal is a neo-soul, r n b vocalist who has released 3 full-lengths to date since 2001 his most recent being 2010's Airtight's Revenge.
Video: Robert Glasper - Always Shine (Feat. Lupe Fiasco And Bilal) - David Letterman 2-29-12

June 26
Frisell Plays Lennon featuring Bill Frisell, Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr, and Kenny Wollesen (Enwave Theatre - Harbourfront Centre, 7 pm) - "In September 2011, Frisell released All We Are Saying, a full-length offering of his interpretations of John Lennon's music. Frisell's quintet includes violinist Jenny Scheinman, pedal steel and acoustic guitarist Greg Leisz, bassist Tony Scherr, and drummer Kenny Wollesen." (via)
Video: - Bill Frisell - "Julia" (Beatles cover)

June 27
Ziggy Marley (Phoenix Concert Theatre, 9 pm) - Following in the footsteps of his father, legendary reggae artist Bob Marley, Ziggy has been prolific in his own right over the last two decades releasing albums both with his siblings as Ziggy Marley and The Melody Makers as well as a solo artist. His most recent album is 2011's Wild and Free produced by Don Was.
Video: Ziggy Marley - "Look who's dancing" (music video)

June 28
British Jazz Showcasae: "Made in the UK" (The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar, 3pm) - Billed as a British / UK showcase it's more accurately a Scottish showcase, with all three acts originating from Scotland. Featuring guitar / organ / drums / electronics trio Breach Trio, guitar / trombone / drums outfit NeWt, and world class piper, saxophonist, and whistle player Fraser Fitfield who's a contemporary composer and musician with roots in traditional Scottish folk music.
Video: Breach Trio - There it is at Glasgow Jazz Festival
Video: Out of the Box - NeWt with Silke Eberhard
Video: Signs Of Life | Fraser Fifield & Graeme Stephen

June 29
Keys N Krates (The Hoxton, 10 pm) - "...combine live instrumentation, turntablism and live sampling to remix existing pop music and samples from MGMT to Jay-Z right before your eyes. Pushing the envelope beyond the ideals of laptop-centric remix culture, this unique trio changes the game by bringing an explosive live analog presence to their sought-after sound and performance. " (via)
Video: Keys N Krates - "Unforgettable" Drake Remix

June 30
Becca Stevens Band (Horseshoe Tavern, 10:30 pm) - Band fronted by New York based jazz, pop,folk artist and guitarist Becca Stevens. Performing originals and in the past has performed covers from a diverse range of artists including The Smiths, Animal Collective and Usher.
Video: Becca Stevens Band - "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" (The Smiths cover)

Nellie McKay (Horseshoe Tavern, midnight) - American singer-songwriter and pianist who made a splash back in 2004 with her debut album (double length) Get Away From Me and has released 5 albums to date. Her lyrics have generally been playful and her music has spanned genres ranging from jazz, rap, disco, and funk.
Video: Nellie McKay - "Mother of Pearl" and "If I Had You"

July 1
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars (Toronto Star Stage at Nathan Phillips Square, 8 pm) - It's an intriguing story how this group's members were all refugees of a Guinean refugee camp, having fleed their country's capital of Freetown when civil war broke out in 1991. The group was founded by musician Reuben Koroma, a refugee from Sierra Leone's capital city, and with his wife, Sister Grace, they joined up with other musicians they knew from back home to provide relief to their fellow refugees through music. The members of the band returned home to Freetown years later to continue to play as a group and record their music and the band's story was captured in the 2002 documentary, "The Refugee All Stars". The band released their debut album Living Like A Refugee in 2006 with their followup Rise and Shine in 2010. The band's most recent album Radio Salone was released earlier this year.
Video: Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars - Goat Smoke Pipe (Live on KEXP)

Idioteque (The Rex Jazz & Blues Bar, 10:30 pm) - Although many of us were disappointed that Radiohead's show at Downsview Park recently had to be cancelled (due to a tragic accident), could a Radiohead tribute band band be the next best thing. From what I've read, Idioteque are Toronto’s top Radiohead tribute band, and comprised of some of Toronto’s top young jazz musicians performing note-for-note reproductions of songs taken from Radiohead’s eight studio albums. (note: also check out The Music of Radiohead w/ Josh Grossman's Toronto Jazz Orchestra playing the same venue preceding Idioteque at 7:30 pm)
Video: Idioteque - "Bodysnatchers" (Radiohead cover) (live at The Piston on October 27, 2011)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

NXNE Picks (June 16-17, 2012)

  Warm Myth: photo by Reynard Li

Although, I'd mentioned in my previous post NXNE was a washout because of going to the Radiohead show at Downsview Park tonight, the opportunity has risen that I may check out some of the afternoon NXNE events and depending on the time that me and my brother get out from the Radiohead show, perhaps I'll check out a later night NXNE set. And while I've see The Flamings Lips several times live (both locally and abroad), part of me will miss seeing them play a free show in the heart of downtown Toronto. I hope there's some wicked overhead photos taken of the show that will hopefully surface on the web. So here goes my picks for NXNE for tonight and tomorrow.

Saturday June 16, 2012

Afternoon ----- As they've done for the past several years, Sonic Boom Records who moved months ago from their original location on Bloor St. West of Bathurst to their current location inside Honest Ed's just down the street, will continue their NXNE tradition by hosting a slew of live acts this afternoon. Some may miss that basement stage of the old location but onward and upward this should be a fine afternoon. Check out the lineup. Or else one might fancy the NXNE Day Party @ 218 Brock Ave where each of the bands on the lineup will be performing 10 minute sets. Another option which is a little less guaranteed at this point is the Bruise Cruise sponsored by M for Montreal and BrooklynVegan with bands performing on a boat for the afternoon - there's an RSVP which is now closed but I've heard (and this may or may not be true) that if you show up and they still have room, you may still get on-board. Finally there's the in-store down at Urban Outfitters (235 Yonge) street which will have sets from Vacationer, Zulu Winter, Young Magic, and DIIV between 1-4 pm (via).

2 pm ----- If you happen to be down near the Waterfront, maybe check out female Toronto-based, rapper Masia One who'll be performing at the Redpath Stage at Harbourfront Centre. I kind of forgot how ridiculously talented she is. I remember back in 2003 when she had named her debut album "Mississauga" (as a tribute to all the Mississauga-based friends and business associates who helped her launch her rap career) and being a Mississauga, I never forgot that.

8 pm ----- Warm Myth was a totally unknown entity to me until I'd read in the NXNE guide that they are the "secretive new project of Casey Mecija of Ohbijou. For stratospherically inclined fans of Washed Out, Memoryhouse et al." They'll be playing an early set at The Garrison tonight. I'll have to catch them another time.

9 pm - 11 pm ----- Unfortunate timing for any other artist or band playing during this two hour time slot because when Oklahoma psych / weirdo-pop veterans The Flaming Lips come to town to play a free outdoor show, they will trump everything else. Even if you're not a fan of their music, their live show has to be witnessed. C'mon, frontman Wayne Coyne walking around in a transparent giant bubble over the crowd - why would you want to miss that?

10 pm ----- If I had to choose I'd probably be at the Rivoli to check out Swedish duo The Deer Tracks based on the recommendations of Chromewaves. Although, the Bowie-esque, indie-pop of Toronto's Mac Demarco, who is playing the Silver Dollar, is very, very tempting.

11 pm ----- I caught the garage-y, Dylan-inflected vocals Vancouver outfit Indian Wars when they played Static Zine Issue 4 Launch at vinyl / vintage clothing outlet Of A Kind this past Wednesday. They're playing a set at Sneaky Dee's (and if you don't catch them then, they are also playing a set later that night at Dakota Tavern at 2 am.) Another option is new-ish Toronto folk outfit BEAMS whose demo (up for listening on their Bandcamp) is pretty impressive.

11:15 pm ----- If it was at all possible I would be heading to the Phoenix Concert Theatre for the long-awaited return of 90's Chapel Hill, North Carolina indie rock legends Archers Of Loaf. Their show isn't officially an NXNE one but the band's tour documentary "What Did You Expect?" did screen this year as part of the NXNE film festival. From someone in the known, advance tickets have apparently not sold as well as hoped so I implore both NXNE and non-NXNE patrons to head down and score a ticket for perhaps will be your last time to catch the band live in Toronto.

Midnight ----- If I'm back from the Radiohead show and downtown in time, I'm still not fully committed to anything in this time slow, but it'd be a tug of war between punky rock n' roll of Teenage Head at The Great Hall, the dance-rock tunes of Young Empires at Horseshoe Tavern or the emo-ish sounds of Rival Schools at Wrongbar.

1 am - L.A.'s Bleached play their 3rd and final show of their 3-night stint at the Silver Dollar tonight. But then there's Aussi, now NYC-based, duo WAZU whose dark electro-pop stylings is tempting - they're also playing a set Sunday night at Rancho Relaxo at 9 pm.

Sunday June 17, 2012

Afternoon ----- It's Father's Day people. Let's spend time with our dads.

9 pm - 11 pm ----- In all likelihood, Saturday will be the last day of NXNE for me, but if I do get tempted to venture out it'll be for the free show down at Yonge Dundas Square headlined by Ghostface Killah and Raekwon.

Friday, June 15, 2012

NXNE Picks (June 15, 2012)

  Widowspeak (via)

One day of NXNE down for me and tonight for all intensive purposes may be my last official night of the festival - I'm going to the Radiohead show on Saturday night so NXNE festivities that day are pretty much a washout, although I may try to catch a late-night NXNE set or two, and Sunday night is Father's Day and I will most likely have some plans that day with family but I may perhaps check out the Ghostface Killah / Raekwon show at Yonge Dundas Square later that night. That said here's my picks for today where you might find me (or where you should be):

2-10 pm ----- NXNEXPERIMENT II - billed as the ultimate daytime party of the summer, it'll take place at 214 August Avenue in Kensington Market in some back alley, but with the festival buzz of acts like The Men, Doldrums and Mac Demarco as part of this bill, this one's sure to be busy. It's $10 at the door. Check the link for complete details.

7:30 pm & 8:30 pm ----- With not much else I really want to be doing around this time, I may just hang around Yonge Dundas Square and soak up the sounds of synth-y Arts & Crafts indie supergroup Eight and A Half and jammy rock trio Plants and Animals. Of course, there's the free schwag, ice cream samples, and Monster energy drinks to take advantage of down there too.

9 pm ----- So far the only act I've chosen for this time slot is dark-pop London duo 2:54. Does their video for their song "Scarlet" tempt you? Whether I make it for this all depends if I stick around for Plants and Animals at Yonge Dundas Square or come up with a totally different option.

10 pm ----- As I've already caught Hooded Fang's set at the Horseshoe yesterday, I'll be skipping their set at the Silver Dollar tonight. In brief, I'll say they've progressed from their sunny, pop leanings, towards an almost punkier direction. I like it. My only other choice for this time slot is Oxford, Mississippi heavy guitar / drums duo Bass Drum Of Death [which may be the best band name I've heard in a long time] who'll be rocking out down at Wrongbar. Oh, God that would mean a commute clear across town. I may need to find another option.

11 pm ----- I think the electro-RnB of Brooklyn outfit, Friends, who are playing Lee's Palace should be fun. Other options include the garage-goth outfit The Black Belles who'll be playing their second and final set of the festival at the Horseshoe Tavern.

Midnight ----- I've not heard a lick of their music but breaking news reveals that Yamantaka // Sonic Titan have been shortlisted for this year's Polaris Music Prize. Which I would imagine make getting into their set at The Garrison tonight near impossible. The joined forces of Andre Williams and The Sadies looks tempting but I'd imagined that be hard to get into as well. Bleached who'll be playing the second of their 3-night sting at the Silver Dollar may be where I end up or perhaps it'll be The Men at Wrongbar.

1 am ----- The hazey pop of New York Band Widowspeak was something I'd enjoyed when I caught them at the CMJ Music Marathon last year. They'll be playing The Garrison tonight and it would be nice to revisit them. My other option currently on the table is a forgotten but were never gone 90's act called Smoking Popes who are best known for their 1995 song "Need You Around". Yes this is a purely nostalgic option.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

NXNE Picks (Thursday June 14, 2012)

Purity Ring
  Purity Ring

It'd been my intention to have had my picks up earlier this week but that just did not happen what with NXNE sneaking up on me, me catching up on some belated blog posts (Hot Docs), posting my review of the recent Rufus Wainwright show, and well just being a bit lazy. Unfortunately, I didn't get up my recommendations for yesterday's NXNE shows although I did pick up my media pass at the Hyatt Regency where I caught a Q & A with the thoroughly ridiculous but admittedly entertaining crew of Epic Meal Time, and then headed over to new vinyl / vintage clothing outlet Of A Kind which was hosting a NXNE-related event with a trio of bands plus the Static Zine crew on hand who were celebrating the launch of Issue 4 (the NXNE edition) of their zine. They've stated they will not be posting concert reviews of anything of the bands they see during the festival but rather will be writing about their experience and if their recap of Wednesday's events is an indications, it's been fun times so far.

I'd intended to get up a post today with my recommendations for today through Sunday but that's just not going to happen, but I will get up today's(Thursday) recommendations and I should have up Friday through Sunday's recommendations either tomorrow or over the next few days:

Afternoon ----- Later this afternoon I'll be heading over to Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island for a free show featuring Chicago's Smith Westerns and Toronto's Dusted, the melodic folk project of Brian Borcherdt (of Holy Fuck) playing as a duo with Leon Taheny, the latter from whom you can expect a record on Polyvinyl later this summer . Sponsored by Jansport Bonfire Sessions, local artist Emily Bitze created a poster for this event, and concertgoers will receive limited edition silk-screened prints at the show along with JanSport giveaways throughout the event. The event does require an RSVP which is already closed unfortunately, but I'll let you know how things went if I make it in.

9 pm ----- Ex-Constantines Steve Lambke's solo project Baby Eagle has been off my radar for a while but he's apparently back and will be playing an early set at The Great Hall. I'll probably be down at the El Mocambo to check out Toronto shoegaze / post-grunge duo Beliefs.

10 pm ----- Another local act who've been off my radar for a few years is chirpy Toronto indiepop outfit Hooded Fang and they'll be playing down at the Horseshoe Tavern. My plan B will be Toronto duo Army Girls who I'm inclined to give a second chance given the adulations that have been laid on them by many although when I'd seen them play live back in May 2011 I hadn't been particularly blown away, although I'm a big fan of vocalist/guitarist of Carmen Elle who've seen play live with many artists around town.

11 pm ----- The neo-psycho-pop of Brooklynites Young Magic seems interesting and they'll be playing at Wrongbar while I've been itching to see Toronto free-jazz trio Badbadnotgood who'll be playing The Hoxton and have been racking rave reviews all over. But to avoid the hubbub over at Wrongbar and with the likelihood that I'll get to see Badbadnotgood play another time, I'll probably head over to The Garrison for San Franciscan female post-punk trio Grass Widow (who I've read have been described as a cross between The Slits and The Shrangi-las) whose most previous album Past Time was released in 2010 through Kill Rock Stars and whose most recent album Internal Logic was released this past May through HLR.

Midnight ----- It's a toss up between the all-female goth-garage-stomp of Nashville's The Black Belles, signed to Jack White's Third Man label and who'll be playing at The Garrison or the DIY bubblegum punk of Los Angeles duo Bleached who'll be playing a set at the Silver Dollar. Mind you both bands will be playing multiple sets during the festival so I could perhaps skip this time slot and grab a bite to eat. Win-win.

1 am ----- Ok maybe I'll see Badbadnotgood at The Hoxton at this time slot but otherwise I have a but of a hankering to catch the recent 4AD-signed Montreal indie electronic duo Purity Ring who'll no doubt be attracting a crowd down at Wrongbar. Otherwise, another buzzed act this year, Brooklyn noise-punk quartet The Men who'll be playing The Garrison may just be where I end up. There's no guarantee I'll get into any of these sets given the buzz of all these artists. This is when it's important to have a plan D, E, and F.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review -- Rufus Wainwright @ David Pecaut Square, Toronto, part of Luminato Festival (June 10, 2012)

Rufus Wainwright
  Rufus Wainwright: photo by Michael Ligon

Without question, Canada's most prominent renaissance musical artist these days is Montreal native Rufus Wainwright, and with the release of his seventh studio album, the Mark Ronson-produced Out Of The Game he broadens his musical palette even further. I'd last seen Rufus when he performed a solo set in 2009 at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal, his mother Kate McGarrigle still living at the time even performing with him. It was a special set and did give me the itch to see Rufus perform live again. Performing down at David Pecaut Square to a packed audience as part of the Luminato Festival, Rufus introduced selections from his new album and played a bunch of crowd favourites.

Rufus started out the set on a subtle note with "Candles" from the new album, singing acapella and with some members of the band contributing a few harmonies later on. He continued with a few more songs ("Rashida", "Barbara") from the new album, this time with the band which showed Rufus more laid-back than I've ever seen him, and displaying Ronson's imprint all over them, with some subtle soul, r n' b and pop nuances. It was with Poses "Greek Song" that Rufus delved into his past catalogue, calling the song a romantic song and an ode to his boyfriend. Although Rufus' sister Martha was in attendance and would join him in song later in the set, she didn't sing with him on his most well-known hit "April Fools". It still sounded wonderful.

There were poignant moments during the set as well. Acknowledging the late Levon Helm of The Band, Rufus performed 2004's "The One You Love" on which Helm had drummed on. Except for some faint chatter at the back and noise from the street, the audience grew quiet as Rufus and his sister Martha Wainwright performed a duet of their late mother Kate McGarrigle's song "I Am A Diamond". Although prior to that sublime performance, Martha feigned some sibling squabble with her brother, that she had to come out on stage in her relatively plain ward robe, while exclaiming to Rufus that he had to come out "...in that fucking outfit" (referring to his glammy / glittery outfit. The poignancy of the set at that point in time continued with Rufus on piano on the melancholy "Respectable Dive" singing "But I’m not able to put my cards on the table, And if you only knew of the hand I was holding".

While he'd referred to his significant other as his boyfriend earlier on in the evening, at this point then referred to him as his fiance, and that he was now out of the game (and that it was a nice place to be), segwaying of course to a performance of title track of his new album, with it's sunny, Californian vibe. Rufus bantered late that they're now "...deep into the California sound of the album..." and then jokingly said "I love L.A. -- why would I be wearing this..." (referring again to his glammy outfit).

Other highlights of the night included the cover of his dad Loudon Wainwright III's "One Man Guy" with just acoustic guitar and some lovely 3-part harmony and Rufus solemn rendition of his 2007 song "Going To A Town". Rufus would later return for an encore performing solo on piano on his 2003 song "Dinner At Eight" and then, urging the crowd to dance he ended the night with "Bitter Tears" from his new album. With the spectacular, "un-Canadian" weather which Rufus jokingly had referred to it, and with the stellar selection of tunes Rufus and band had performed, it was one of the most enjoyable outdoor shows I've experience in a while.

Photos: Rufus Wainwright @ David Pecaut Square, Toronto, part of Luminato Festival (June 10, 2012)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hot Docs -- Reviews (May 4-6, 2012)

  Charles Bradley: Soul Of America

With North By Northeast this week about to take up all my time, I figured I finish up the last of my reviews from this year's Hot Docs:

Welcome to the Machine [ROM, May 4, 4:00 pm]

This was an interesting documentary interweaving director Avi Weider's own story of the premature birth of his newborn triplets and their subsequent dependence on a high-tech neonatal unit with commentary from various individuals and academics on the relationship between humans and technology. I don't know if the documentary so much seeks to answer the question whether technology is good or bad as much as it provides a forum for both sides of the argument to be presented. The documentary no doubt shows that technological developments have led to great advances in human history but at the same time, mostly through the words of the Unabomber's manifesto, presents technology as the source of many ills in society.

The Relationship Doctrine Of Don Blanquito [TIFF Bell Lightbox, May 4, 7:00 pm]

I'm not sure of director Roger Nygard's premise with this short. Rio de Janeiro-based rapper Don Blanquito is by all accounts crude, misogynistic, and chauvinistic and this documentary short has him talking about his views on women, and relationships and having sex. You can't help but laugh at much of what Blanquito says but was it Nygard's intent that this be humourous for humour's sake or was this suppose to be ironic? I couldn't tell but in 7 minutes it was over anyway.

Sexy Baby [TIFF Bell Lightbox, May 4, 7:00 pm]

Directors Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus who met while working for newspaper The Miami Herald have crafted an interesting documentary in Sexy Baby. Three seemingly different females are presented - a 13 year-old Manhattan-nite going through that difficult parental phase, a retired porn star who now teaches pole-dancing and seeks to be a mother and wife, and a young adult female about to go through labiaplasty surgery as she feels it would boost her self-esteem. But as the documentary attempts to illustrate, there is a similarity between all three. The sexualization of females in the media and the prevalence of online porn have been contributory factors to sexual attitudes amongst females and as I view the documentary the sexual attitudes of the three females in this documentary have walked a fine line between exploitation and empowerment.

Radioman [Cumberland, May 5, 4:15 pm]

I don't recall if the documentary ever mentioned his real name, but to most he's only known as Radioman. Formerly a homeless alcoholic although eventually establishing housing [inheriting his deceased mother's house], he has been a fixture on NYC film sets for many years, been an extra in over 100 films and hobnobbed on film sets with many a celebrity. The documentary shows Radioman [known as such because of the radio that is always to be found tied around his neck] to be an unusual character - unkempt, loopy, filled with a bit of piss-and-vinegar, but at the same time intelligent and strangely charming. The documentary follows Radioman to Hollywood in his attempt to get into the Oscars, and his ultimate disappointment when he never makes it in, realizing that his privileged status within the NYC film-set industry won't cut it on the west coast. Back on the film sets of NYC is where Radioman finds his true happiness and calling. What's revealing about the documentary is Radioman's home life, capturing the life of a hoarder in movies and film memorabilia. The documentary shifts to a discussion of the passing of his mother many years ago and at this point I wonder whether underneath Radioman's unusual behaviour and his compulsion for film's and being part of New York City's film industry lies an anguished man. After the film, there was a Q & A with the directors who subsequently were able to get Radioman [who was back in NYC] on the telephone and one thing was for certain from that conversation - Radioman exudes true contentment and that was truly admirable.

I Beat Mike Tyson [Cumberland, May 5, 6:30 pm]

Every one has a story, and for boxer Kevin McBride it was that he beat Mike Tyson. But rather than that be the catalyst for acontinued and winning career, Mcbride never fulfilled that and may have to hang up the gloves. There's only so much beating one man can take. This 13-minute documentary short, tells McBride's story efficiently, almost poetically, and displays a loving husband and father who may have never had the might as much as other contenders in the boxing world, but did definitely have his heart in it.

Charles Bradley: Soul of America [Cumberland, May 5, 6:30 pm]

Brooklyn-ite Charles Bradley is the subject of this fine documentary. What's so intriguing about his story is how long his soul vocalist talents went un-nurtured. Yes, he'd been a fine James Brown impersonator under the name of "Black Elvis" playing some local establishments but it wasn't until New York City soul record label Daptones Records' Gabriel Roth discovered him that he got the opportunity to develop his talent for a wider audience. It's not a comprehensive biography of his life by any stretch but rather touches on milestones and painful episodes on his life which defined him as an individual while at the same time focusing on some of Bradley's live performances as well his home-coming show preparations for the release of his debut album "No Time For Dreaming" released through Dap-Tone Records. This is a gem of a story, and really it's just the beginning for Mr. Bradley. Here's to many more years.

Tchoupitoulas [TIFF Bell Lightbox, May 5, 10:00 pm]

Directors, brothers Bill and Turner Ross follow three African American brothers as they venture into the night life of the French Quarter in New Orleans. With the ages of the brothers ranging from approximately 10-14 years old, the adult night life world they enter is a source of discovery and wonder. Seeing things they shouldn't be seeing and hearing things they shouldn't be hearing, it's a coming of age event enfolding in front of the camera. The youngest brother approaches the situation with more innocence as one might expect and when the boys miss the last ferry home, there's a heightened sense of anxiety from the youngest, extending their night mission to an all-nighter and making it a night they likely remember for the rest of their lives. I have no idea as to how the directors removed their liability had the boys been harmed during the filming (as apparently the boys had snuck out of their house for this) and while there were some slow moments during the film, this was a generally intriguing idea.

Planet of Snail [TIFF Bell Lightbox, May 6, 2:00 pm]

The most poetic of all the documentaries I'd seen this year, director Seung-Jun Yi observes the life of an inspiring young Chinese couple, both with disabilities (the tall lanky husband who is deaf and blind, and his much shorter wife whose height is a result of a spinal deformity) as they navigate day-to-day tasks and obstacles which most of us take for granted, and as they lean on each for support, both physically and emotionally. The camera follows the couple with a non-intruding lens, observing the couple as well as individually during the most routine of tasks (changing a light bulb, eating) as well as during almost spiritual moments such as their afternoon walk during which the young man's experience of nature is both auditory and tactile. Theirs is an almost symbiotic relationship, and at times the issue of their relationship as one of convenience, rather than love is discussed. However as the documentary will reveal, this really is an extremely tender portrait of a couple who love each other and who want to take care of each other and experience life together.

Only The Young [TIFF Bell Lightbox, May 6, 4:30 pm]

That a camera was present to catch the transformative summer that the three teenagers (the subjects of this documentary) experience was the most surprising element to me in this documentary. The camera captures life in a desert town, where there's not much to do, alternating it's focus between the friendship between two skater, punk-rock boys, Garrison and Kevin, and the friendship and on-again-off-again romance between Garrison and a girl named Skye. Garrison is the level-headed one between the two boys, and relatively more introverted than Kevin who's more spontaneous and a bit of a goofball. Skye is much like many young girls at her age, interested in boys but also with hopes of her own, looking forward to adulthood when she can hopefully leave the confines of her desert town. Emotional moments abound throughout the film, as the teens experience one last summer together with events in each of their lives that will lead to them parting ways. Literally in the making is their transition from the innocent facets of their youth (budding romances, skateboarding, punk rock music, dressing up for Halloween) to the unknown trappings of what their oncoming adulthood will bring. I was surprised by how comfortable each of them were in front of the camera, to the point I questioned how much direction they may have been taking from the characters, but that aside, this was a poignant coming of age tale. And on a musical note, the obscure soul songs that peppered the soundtrack were superb. Must find the names of those songs.