Friday, July 02, 2010

Canada Day the Sled Island Way

My first night of my first ever Sled Island was not exactly a roaring success music-wise; after abandoning the hopes of seeing the Pack A.D. at the ridiculously crowded Ship and Anchor, I spent the evening downing wine at the Living Room with my best friend, her mom and her mom’s friends (yay for keeping it in the family!). After, I stumbled to the “secret” BeatRoute afterparty, but decided to make it a relatively early night.

For Day 2, I was determined to soak up as much as I could to make up for the previous night’s lack of musical activity, so I started early with the afternoon show at Republik. Though it was sadly empty for the tail end of the Boys Who Say No set – which is a shame, because it seemed like a good show – Chain and the Gang took the stage to a filled-out crowd. What Chain and the Gang lack in lyrical variety they more than make up for in stage presence; lead singer Ian Svenonius gives the distinct impression that he may be a time traveler from some indeterminate distant future where white disco suits are back in fashion and dancing has devolved into some sort of hybrid between the 1950s jitterbug and some kind of wild epileptic seizure. Throughout the show, Svenonius talked about everything from the inherent contradiction in rock ‘n’ roll to Prince Charles’ (not-so) slender arms.

Needless to say, San Francisco’s Ty Segall had a hell of an act to follow, which he recognized by joking that it was “not fair” to play after Chain and the Gang. He and his band definitely held their own with their performance, but in a very different way than the previous band. Chain and the Gang’s songs are rather formulaic, but they have a larger-than-life presence onstage, with plenty of between-song banter and WTF? appeal. Ty Segall, on the other hand, is less of a showman and more of a musician, up onstage to share his well-written songs. As a lover of over-the-top performances, I have to say that Chain and the Gang won my vote for this afternoon show.

Later that evening, my slight lingering hangover led me to appoint myself designated driver, which naturally upped the badass quotient of the night considering I’m currently piloting my parents’ old minivan. First it was off to Dicken’s, where Mico were celebrating their tenth year as a band with a show that wasn’t particularly attention grabbing. The highlight of the evening – and probably the whole day – was the weird and wonderful set from hip-hop/rock indies Why?. Though it started on a bad note with a ridiculous thirty-minute sound check, they more than compensated with their colourful show. Lead singer Yoni Wolf has a quirky Urkel-esque quality to him that enhanced their already great performance.

Much like Ty Segall earlier in the day, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists had a tough act to follow, but the punk rockers were not going to be intimidated by a strong opener. Their music has a way of taking complete control over your body, reaching inside your chest to pump the blood from your heart and jerking your head back and forth relentlessly, blatantly ignoring the complaints from your neck. Crowd surfer after crowd surfer launched themselves into the surging audience, which got ever rowdier and seemed poised to explode at any moment.

Leaving Ted Leo a few minutes early, I raced across town in the minivan to try and catch the Black Lips show at the Legion, only to find out that it had been delayed half an hour, so I moved on to the Palomino where a small motley group of characters were in the basement preparing for the poorly-attended By Divine Right show. The sad truth is that while the three guys in By Divine Right seem like really nice and talented people, they just aren’t the band they used to be.

Overall, Sled Island proved that the best way to enjoy Canada Day is with a mix of punk and weirdo rock, and I can't wait to see what else Calgary's best indie festival has to offer this weekend!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

And then there was mayhem...

Ahhh, Sled Island. This raucous festival was first unleashed upon me last year, and it blew my mind. The plethora of great bands, the (not-so-secret) secret shows, and the absolute madness of being part of a collective entity of freaks, geeks, and bicycles (and I mean this in the utmost of good ways) running around downtown like a crazed, disorganized swarm of vermin ready to feast upon ill-prepared venues.

To say that I was excited for this year's iteration would be an understatement.

However, my festival experience this year started off in a bizarrely PG-13 manner. My good associate in mischief Sebastian and I began the Wednesday by heading down to Cantos to check out 40 Gun Flagship, an up-and-coming alt metal/hard rock/punk/whatever band. Now, I knew coming in that this was going to be an all-ages show, but I certainly wasn't expecting these ages to include anyone older than, say, 25. A lot of kids showed up with their moms in tow, creating the weirdest of vibes. As soon as one woman started handing out what looked like treat bags (so very Grade 1), we decided that it was time to migrate. To their credit, 40 Gun played a solidly respectable set, getting the kids jumping up and down on spot or whatever the hell it is kids do when these days when they're amped on music.

But what happened? Where was the ubiquitous zanity that had triumphed last year?

Oh, wait, there it was, setting up at The Ship & Anchor.

Bogus Tokus, a quirky little stoner-thrash ensemble, dominated the Ship like no band I've ever seen. They got on the tiny stage and only moved a collective 19 inches their entire set, but hot damn could they shred. And shred and shred and shred and shred. Shred shred shred shred. Every new song would start with a creative, slow little intro before descending into enough shredding to cut up the clothes of the first two rows of people. Now, I'll give the Ship credit for being smart enough to keep their shows free, allowing anyone and everyone access (if you can withstand the monstrous line), which creates more dollaz for them, but this really did a disservice to the band. More than half the people in the bar had no desire to watch those long-haired hooligans do their thing (which was shred, in case you didn't know already). The people that DID pay attention to every little riff, however, certainly got a joyous kick in the ass.

Quintron and Miss Pussycat at the Legion soon followed. Use your imagination to picture what a band with a name like that would sound like and you'll get the picture, but still be completely way off. In fact, I don't have the words in my current lexicon to even come REMOTELY close to describing this alien two piece's sound or style. What I can tell you with full certainty, though, is that they were adored by the giant, dancing, drinking crowd that came to see them, and that they're a must-see act this Saturday at Tubby Dog. In fact, I fully predict that poor little hotdog house to be transformed into some sort of spacecraft and hover off into the night sky before the set is up.

I popped into Vern's quickly afterwards to catch the tail end of Battle Snakes garage-punking it up, but was very dismayed at how small the crowd was, especially considering how much these guys tore it up at the Palomino at last year's festival. Regardless, they played with the ferocity of a Tasmanian Devil high on Red Bull and ecstasy to the dedicated fans that showed up, giving me one last push of energy to move on with my night.

The true highlight of the first night of the festival, however, was the "secret" after party show that went down at the Beatroute office. I say "secret" lightly because that poor little office was ill-equipped for the hordes of festival-goers that arrived in droves, looking to keep their nights going into the wee hours of the morning. Bands played, beers were drank, and the true spirit of the festival emerged: a group of happy music lovers from various scenes and genres uniting to celebrate an awesome start to an awesome festival. The fact that so many people showed up is a testament to the strong music scene that Calgary has, as it was ultimately word of mouth that brought so many enthusiasts together to share the stores of their nights across downtown and keep creating more.

If Round One was any indication, I can't even predict what the next three days have in store.

Friends, Thai Thi and a free bike

My first show of the night (after I pried myself away from old Big Bang Theory episodes on my computer) was Deerhoof at Central United Church. My friend Jordie showed up from a barbecue he attending with a new free bike that had been given to him. Apparently he has really good bike karma. We tasked him with leaving the bike unlocked as much as possible to see how long it takes before his new wheels are stolen. I'm not sure if he believes that he will still have it by the end of the weekend, but I have faith in Calgary and I want to prove it's safer for bikes than Vancouver. I didn't catch local veteran Lorrie Matheson opening the show, although it would have been neat to see him play the church, especially since he had Scott Munro and Chris Dadge of Bug Incision as part of his backing band - seriously how awesome are those guys. Lorrie is one of those musicians who has been playing forever and has earned people's respect because he's really good and also, very kind. But I have never seen him live because whenever he's playing a show, I always think that I will catch him the next time. I really need to see him play very soon.

Deerhoof were their usual charming and quirky selves. Having seen Deerhoof before, I knew what to expect. Satomi Matsuzaki has boundless energy and does some weird dancing, Greg Saunier is his crazy drummer self and the band puts on a great show. This time was a little different as Ed Rodriguez joined the band since I saw them last. I'm not sure how much the dynamic of the band has changed, but for the most part, it seemed like they were four separate entities that happened to be onstage with each other, barring a few short moments of interaction. There wasn't as much Satomi dancing as I've seen in the past, maybe because she played bass for most of the band's tight set. And the set seemed to have a lot more interesting instrumental work than I've seen them do in the past. Greg stepped out from behind the drums and made a point to mention that this is the band's first time in Calgary, a statement that was preceded by a long and awkwardly paused bit of talking wherein he claimed to have stage fright while talking to the crowd. It was tough to tell if it was a put-on or if he really is that awkward. it was kind of endearing.

Hunger pangs were calling and some of my festival mates were in dire need of nutrition so I took them to Thai Tai. Being Vietnamese sub experts, they were quick to inform me that Calgary prices are double those of Vancouver Vietnamese subs, but apparently what we lack in cheapness, we make up for in size. Calgary subs are double the size of Vancouver's - take that former hometown!
When we got to Broken City, I was surprised to see how few people were there. I guess I thought that since the owner of the club put on the festival, his home show would be packed. We arrived in time to catch Vancouver band B-Lines play their noisy energetic punk. Apparently the Dyck brothers (vocalist Ryan and drummer Bruce) have a bit of a reputation in Vancouver, and not just for being really tall. Ryan is a great frontman, engaging the crowd and stalking the stage. And he's really tall. The band's set began to fill up as it went on and I think they won the crowd over, but I had to run so I could catch Chain and the Gang at the Legion.
One thing I've noticed about Sled Island is that it seems like everyone is riding bikes to the shows. Good work Calgarians - you go with your environmentally friendly selves.

Chain's set was delayed by an extra 15 minutes, which meant I was able to catch a bit of Brooklyn's Golden Triangle. This might be one of my new favourite band's - thanks Sled Island. With elements of surf, garage and other types of awesome from decades of music past, Golden Triangle was a really fun band to watch. I described them to a friend as being like Alison Mosshart of The Kills and The Dead Weather cloning herself so there are three of her and they all sang in harmony together and are badass. Depending on how you feel about her, this may make you think the band is either really rad, or really annoying. I choose AWESOME!
Have I mentioned yet that it was INSANELY hot inside the Legion? Because it was/is.
Chain and the Gang was sweet. The set was packed and most of my friends were there so I'm guessing that while his name may not mean much to the general public, Svenonius is a mega-celebrity to intelligent music fans. So much so that when he was wooing my friend's girlfriend during the set with some erstwhile serenades, he thought it was cool and a badge of honour.
And now a word from Whitney: For those lucky enough to catch Ian Svenonius and his newest funky garage group Chain and the Gang at the packed Legion upstairs lounge should consider themselves fortunate. Svenonius made it a theme to remind his audience that he, and implicitly, his audience is “privileged”. This is true not only because the former Nation of Ulysses and Make-Up singer Svenonius and his gang put on a stellar audience-participation-required set but as in past projects, political and sociological themes have tended to be a central theme. This was again the case last night at the legion. All of us are privileged to be able to go to a festival and see great bands all week long! Svenonius made sure we didn’t forget it and made us dance all at the same time.

People crowded around the band in the cozy atmosphere that is the upstairs legion. Some on top of tables and chairs and even some of the opening bands’ guitar amplifiers (watch where you stash your stuff bands!) Everyone in the room found a dance surface to get down on – whether it was people shimmying on table tops or even Svenonius climbing up top of the PA system and onto the bar itself (for this he apologized to those that might end up eating off the bar, but claimed he has really clean shoes – Svenonius only walks on the cleanest parts of the sidewalks, never the cracks.)

For a lot of festival goers, Chain and the Gang is a huge draw. Svenonius has been keeping it real in the music scene since the late 80s. His bands have been incredibly successful as far as independent punky garage acts go. Sled Island was smart to book the band for three shows during the festival’s four days. Those that missed the band last night hopefully caught them at the Republik this afternoon or will see them at Broken City at around 1 am (Broken City standard time). Missing Chain and the Gang would be a definite Sled Island faux pas.

I took a little break after the Chain set, mainly because how do you top that?I caught most of The Duchess and the Duke's set. This band seemed to be very popular with other bands, who showed up in sort-of droves. Their songs were slow and melancholic and a good soundtrack for a conversation about sexy musicians and South by Southwest. They sounded like basement music, the kind of stuff that you would put on while lounging around and daydreaming, but bittersweetly. It was a nice palate cleanser, but a little too slow for a night that still had some steam left in it.

The night finished with a muggy experience at the Beat Route office party, and a walk to my car at 3am. Yay for Day 1. Day 2 will be a long one.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

NXNE - The Headlining Day

No matter who was talking, or where the conversation was taking place, it seemed like only a matter of time until the chatter turned to the largest name on the bill for the festival: Saturday night had arrived and Iggy Pop and the Stooges were to play the mainstage at Yonge Dundas Square. There was palatable excitement on patios and on the streets as everyone geared up to catch the punk forefathers' set.

Considering we had yet to hang out at the mainstage, and the fact that the afternoon's line-up included bands like Wavves and the Raveonettes opening for the Stooges, a hot afternoon in the beer gardens seemed like the thing to do. Surfer Blood was the first band we caught, but their set was all but terrible. Marred with technical difficulties, and compounded by a lack of charisma in front of a decent-sized crowd, the Florida indie surfer rockers' set was a complete letdown. Even their critically acclaimed single, "Swim," failed to really win anyone over.

Wavves set up next, dressed in sloppily tie-died shirts and colourful pants. Perhaps better known as Jay Reatard's backing band, with Billy Hayes on drums and Stephen Pope on bass, Wavves have enjoyed some critical success since the release of their self-titled debut in 2008. Their noisy, lo-fi punk was filled with poppy hooks that were enjoyable in the warm Yonge Dundas Square and their zany antics entertained the increasingly packed public space.

Wavves' Nathan Williams (guitar) and Billy Hayes (drums)

By the time the Raveonettes started their hour-long set, there was a vibrant current running through the crowd. Not only were the Raveonettes the last opening band for the festival headliners, but the Danish noisy alt-rockers, equally inspired by the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Velvet Underground, were also heavily anticipated. Through a cloud of fog, guitarist and vocalist Sune Rose Wagner and bassist and vocalist Sharin Foo, who was wearing her trademark black polka-dot dress, stepped onto the stage and greeted an audience that was in the thousands. The Raveonettes whipped through a set that undoubtedly converted many to their own brand of early '90s-inspired, guitar driven, noise rock.

A different kind of Foo fighter

Regardless of the strength of the Raveonettes' set, everyone was undoubtedly waiting for the Stooges' set. Flight cases were opened to reveal their guitar amps, a large drum kit was wheeled forward, and thus, the NXNE mainstage was primed for the punks' triumphant return to live performance. As soon as frontman Iggy Pop's wiry, lanky, topless form cooly sauntered onto stage, the entire square and beyond — the surrounding roads had been closed to allow for greater capacity — exploded in ecstasy. The crowd at the front of the stage messily thronged and surged in time to the opening song, "Raw Power." Pop himself seemed to revel in the glorious mess he created below, wrapping his torso around the microphone stand and contorting his frame in the most serpentine positions.

Raw power

The whole hour-and-a-half set was exactly what you could have expected: the music was loose and comfortable, the Stooges — or, as Pop put it, early in the set, "the remains of the Stooges" — were obviously having a fantastic time, and it was wildly exciting to hear classic tracks like "Gimme Danger," "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell," and, not least, "Search and Destroy" played live. And seeing Iggy Pop and original guitarist James Williamson was definitely a wonderful treat to cap an already stunning festival. But, as the set progressed and I roamed the square, moving from the very front of the stage to the sidelines and then to the back, I couldn't help but feel increasingly soured on the whole production. Because that is exactly what it was: an overdone production that seemed antithetical to the Stooges themselves. The Stooges used to play to indifferent and hostile crowds in seedy dives, and while it would be unfair to romanticize those sets as objectively better than the one on Saturday night in front of a veritable urban arena, it still felt hugely disconnected to watch Pop wind his way through "Shake Appeal" or "I Wanna Be Your Dog" underneath massive neon billboards selling thirteen-dollar H&M dresses.

Perhaps the most punk man at the festival?

More than that, the Stooges' music is meant to be intimate. It is meant to be in-your-face, savage and uncomfortable. Pop used to mangle his body in service of a nihilistic anarchy that eventually became punk in order to get a rise from his hostile crowds, in order to express, in whatever words he could, the incredible anger and angst he felt. The Stooges' music is dark and scary, revealing parts of the human psyche that are perhaps best left untouched. To hear the powerful opening verse to "Search and Destroy" — "I'm a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm/I'm a runaway son of the nuclear a-bomb/I'm a world's forgotten boy/The one who searches and destroys" — is to access a deep dissatisfaction with the world around you at large. Iggy Pop fully considered his Michigan hometown a war zone and was desperate for love in the middle of a firefight, for someone to save his soul: a tormented soul, a lost soul, a soul that grew up in a world that was illegible.

All of that was lost on Saturday night at Yonge Dundas Square, underneath the happily beaming neon advertisements and family-friendly mainstage. It was tough to, near the end of the set, catch a glimpse of Williamson soloing or Pop dancing through Playstation and Virgin Mobile banners, jutting up proudly from the tents set up at the back of the square. It was almost surreal to wander over to a street on the side and find that a double-decker tour bus had parked itself plumply in front of the Hard Rock Cafe so that tourists — either to the city, to the festival, or to the music itself — could calmly snap photos from the top deck in order to take back home and placidly share the next day. Worst of all, the sheer size of the event made it all seem like a transaction: not an economic transaction, since the mainstage itself was a free event, open to anyone in Toronto, but a cultural transaction. What was traded during the Stooges' set was presence for status-producing cultural capital. Just being there was enough — no one had to, or could, ultimately, feel anything. People could calmly shuffle and bop to "1970" as if it were another Top 40 song to be consumed — and reconsumed in stories the next hour or day, stories that are intrinsically and systemically designed to return high cultural profit margins. The sheer scale of the production was, ultimately, the production's downfall: it collapsed underneath itself because punk, proto-punk, honesty — whatever it is that was originally felt in 1969 when the optimism of the flower generation woke up to a grisly hangover — was never meant to support such a large, universal, event. The music was amazing, to be sure, but it was meaningless.

Although, as Johnny Rotten once said of the Sex Pistols' reunion in 1996, perhaps this sort of orchestration is more punk than any gutter show could ever be. It was undoubtedly effective: I hated everyone and everything as I stalked away.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

NXNE - Friday Night in the Dark

As if to set the mood for another sticky night of rock and roll, a good chunk of downtown Toronto was plunged into an eerie blackout just as the sun ceded to darkness. Bars and clubs emptied out into the street and the night air was exuberant with cries of laughter and car horns.

Way out west on Queen St, at the Gladstone Hotel, an enormous line of indie kids wound its way down the street. Inside, dd/mm/yyyy were setting up an array of pedals, broken cymbals, keys and guitars in front of a replete hotel lobby. After a lengthy set-up, the experimental post-punks started a set that was, not surprisingly, heavily tailored for the predominantly hip audience. The quintet played tightly and confidently, though they seemed somewhat distant and cooler than thou for the adoring audience.

Not pictured: a plethora of pedals.

As soon as their set was up, C'mon was ready at the front of the stage, road-torn 4x12s — actually haggard from touring rather than the carefully broken amps used by dd/mm/yyyy — rearing to blow the dwindling crowd away. As was to be expected, the Gladstone emptied out somewhat after the indie darlings' set, but the Toronto/New Orleans band was undaunted. To be sure, as soon as their sparse stage was set — just two guitar amps, a bass amp and the drums — C'mon played one of the best opening songs I've seen in a while. In just a few short minutes, frontman Ian Blurton called out anyone who remained after dd/mm/yyyy's set who was expecting more of the same, soloed wildly through the crowd, gave his guitar to an audience member, inviting him up on stage, and smashed his beer bottle on the far wall. In short, he woke the crowd up with nothing short of a kick to the teeth.

Rock and roll, the way it's meant to be played.

For the entirety of their 40-minute set — a set that was pushing up against the next time slot, to the consternation of the stage manager — C'mon refused to let up. A dedicated group of fans near the front rocked out, which the band seemed to appreciate, since most others in attendance were content to bob their heads in time with the raucous, loud and obnoxious rock and roll. Bassist Katie Campbell (ex-Nashville Pussy) tore her Rickenbacker bass apart as if she was trying to exorcise demons, thrashing on stage so much that her strap-lock button broke, forcing her to her knees as she didn't miss a beat.

A quick change of venue — and, decidedly, of pace — saw us arrive at Czehoski for Brooklyn three-piece Brit & the Cavalry. The jazzy rock band, fronted by the very talented Brit Boras, played a mellow show that delighted those few sitting at tables at the back of the narrow venue. Though it was perhaps not the best remedy for a Friday past midnight, it was still a talented set.

At one point, she was even double tapping the melodies!

Unfortunately, the rest of the line-up for Friday night was less appetizing. As we hung around outside, wondering where to head next, we ran into Sarah Ford, who passed on a rumour that Iggy Pop and the Stooges were playing a secret, intimate, show far west on Queen. Deciding it was unlikely, though too good a rumour to ignore, off we went to the Cadillac Lounge, only to be disappointed. Iggy Pop was not there and in his place was a mediocre band called Flashlight Radio. A quick cab ride solved that problem, though, and soon we were back at the Bovine to see Thee Oh Sees play their secret show at 2 am.

Friday, June 18, 2010

NXNE - Day Two - Dragging ourselves home while people go to work

If there is one thing that Calgary lacks, it's a bar with the kind of attitude that literally hangs off the wall at the Bovine Sex Club. This long, narrow, dark hideout on Queen St W has seen its fair share of legendary shows throughout the years, and it is easy to see why: it is the kind of bar where rock and roll triumphantly claws back to the gutter, stealing back the thrill of speed and fearless bravado in the face of death from those who shed their black jeans for ill-fitted cut-offs. The black piping that separates the stage from the venue looks violently ominous, as if more than one zealous fan has been impaled in ecstasy.

Of course, the downside to the Bovine is that early shows tend to be less-than-spectacularly attended. By the time garage rock darlings miesha & the spanks took the stage at 9pm to open the night's proceedings, only a few outsiders had wandered in from the sunny sidewalk. Those in attendance — including a bike rebellious bike courier intent on taking down the G20 and band members from the rest of the bill — certainly enjoyed the duo's strong set. This was only the fourth set with new drummer Stu Bota, and though they are still looking to dial in that tight chemistry that forms over time, it is clear that Bota adds a new dimension to the spanks' tunes, easily shuffling underneath frontwoman Miesha Louie's dirty guitar and powerful voice.

Miesha Louie, comfortable even at a sex club for farm animals.

As luck would have it, the Torontonian version of miesha & the spanks, the similarly styled little foot long foot, was playing at a venue not too far from Bovine. A short jaunt up Spadina later, and the newly-augmented three-piece was barreling through their set. Frontwoman Joan Smith seemed at ease with the gathering crowd, wielding her large, hollow-body Yamaha and confidently blasting through the part rock and roll, part roots, part country — with a little bit of punk mischief — set. Though she and drummer Isaac Klein have been a two-piece since the beginning, this was the first show with their new organist, Caitlin Dacey from Bella Clava, who had played a showcase at the Hideout right before rushing over to El Mocambo. Dacey's distorted organ tone was a fantastic complement to an already strong duo, giving the songs more body and weight, especially on the bass end. Along with a new member, Smith unveiled some new songs, including the tentatively-titled "Neko Case Hate Fucks Kurt Cobain."

Thankfully, Joan Smith did not hate fuck Cobain.

Back at the Bovine, Northern Australians Terracotta Pigeons

were in the midst of their genre-bending set. At times metal shred,

at times funky, and, incredibly, at times almost rapped, the Pi

geons certainly demonstrated that they have years of experience behind them. While their songs sometimes faltered, borrowing from genres too far removed from hard rock to be effective, it was an overall good set. Drummer and vocalist Steven Smith takes direct cues from Mike Patton in both his drumming style and vocal delivery and it works well for him — he has the strength and stamina to keep up with the demanding performance and still be a vocal presence from behind the kit.

The highlight of the night, though, by far, was the first 222s show since 1981. The 222s are amongst Montreal's first punks — they released their debut in 1978 — and still today, three decades later, have the angst energy and charisma to slay the packed audience at the Bovine. This is really the beauty of large festivals like this: it gives bands like the 222s the opportunity and venue to reform, more often than not as a one-shot deal, and showcase themselves to an entirely new audience. The 222s are classic late-'70s punk and seem to be an amalgamation of their punk peers: vocalist Chris Barry is a cross between Johnny Rotten and Joey Ramone, alternatively sneering and lurching over the barrier, singing with an energy that surpasses punks half his age. Guitarist Pierre Major was slightly subdued, dressed in a CBGB shirt and checkered bondage pants, but played with flawless precision, soloing effortlessly and confidently. The full house loved the performance and it is fortunate that it is not their only set of the festival. The 222s were simply amazing.

Chris Barry, like the '80s never happened.

As soon as the 222s strummed their last chord, it was time to run to the Dakota Tavern, where the Japandroids were playing a secret show. Like any good secret, though, everyone seemed to know exactly what was going on, and the basement tavern was packed to capacity, sweaty, and not even remotely sober. On the small stage, the Vancouver garage rock duo that has rocketed to fame on the strength of their debut, Post-Nothing, played a short, 40-minute set, but it was, like all Japandroids shows, nothing short of controlled mayhem. Within the first notes of "The Boys Are Leaving Town," the dance floor was foaming with spilt beer and sweaty bodies. Guitarist and vocalist Brian King was in fine form, wrenching fuzzed out chords while drummer David Prowse loped along on easily and fluidly. While they haven't released any new full-lengths, they have been busy with a stream of EPs and singles, and, early on a Friday morning at the Dakota, they revelled in being able to share their latest with an adoring crowd. By the time they played their last song, "Heart Sweats," no one wanted to see them off the stage.

Brian King, this time, without his floor fan tousling his hair.

Back to the hotel...

Up today: Brant Bjork, Bad Tits, Flatliners, C'Mon, Mini Mansions, Sex With Strangers, the 222s (again!) and more!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

NXNE - Wednesday, June 16

Ah, that new festival smell. As downtown Toronto alternated baking and soaking in the fickle June weather, NXNE got underway with not a little aplomb. After a fun afternoon hanging out at the NXNE headquarters at the fancy Hyatt, where more than scruffy drunk rocker seemed out of place, to the dismay of the hotel's regular patrons, the first festival chords were struck.

Without a doubt, the main draw for the evening was Eagles of Death Metal at the Phoneix Concert Theatre. Only the first 200 fans were let in, which guaranteed jostling and name-dropping at the door to see charismatic frontman Jesse Hughes tantalize and tease all the "beautiful baby girls" in the audience.

Off the beaten path, however, hidden away in the Kensington Market, the Supermarket was host to a slightly unofficial showcase. Even though the bill, which included The Treasures from Toronto and the Manvils from Vancouver, was not officially announced in any of the programs floating around the city, the headliners still managed to draw a handful of grateful fan away from the bigger-draw shows.

By the time I made it to Supermarket, The Treasures were taking the stage. A country quintet that almost seems out of place in Toronto, they played a competent, if slightly tepid, set. It was clear that most of the people in attendance were there to see the Manvils, but the Treasures still managed to get some feet tapping and some hips shaking.

The Manvils owned the bill last night, however. The trio played an energetic and rowdy show that refused to slow down. Showcasing songs primarily from their full-length, the Manvils played with a confidence that betrayed their humble demeanours. It is clear to see why the Vancouver rockers are quickly gaining recognition across Canada: full of hooks and attitude, they play an accessible, polished rock and roll that skirts the line between '60s pop and early-'70s proto-punk. Frontman Mikey Manville was an imposing figure on the stage, sharing the front with bassist, Greg Buhr. Songs like "Turpentine," "Substation," and "Strange Disaster" were catchy and immaculately performed, with just the right amount of live grit to provide fans familiar with the album cut some new surprises.

After the Manvils' set at Supermarket, a quick jaunt to the Bovine Sex Club for a late , 2 am, show was in order. Local punk rockers the Victim Party were making their way through a loud and enthusiastic set that commanded the room. Sounding like a cross between celtic punks Dropkick Murphys and the legendary Misfits, the six-piece annihilated the punk venue. Sporting two vocalists, two guitarists and a tight rhythm section, the band was appropriately loose for the late night and in good spirits. They played with youthful energy that was cause for celebration and more drinking. While there were those who hid in the back, preferring conversation to music, they were heavily outnumbered by the mass of bobbing fans at the front of the venue.

An excellent start to NXNE, to be sure! Up tonight: miesha and the spanks, little foot long foot, Mini Mansions, the 222s, and so many more!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

May 2010 :: BeatRoute Magazine

The May issue of BeatRoute is online and on the street now throughout Alberta (Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Banff and Canmore) and British Columbia (Vancouver, Victoria and Nanimo). Check out this month's issue for features on Public Enemy, Buzzcocks, Henry Rollins, The New Pornographers, Jamie Lidell and more!