Monday, December 9, 2019

The Futureheads - Institute Dec. 6 '19

Cut Glass Kings
It was so odd to be in a nearly desolate Institute. Seriously, it seemed like there were 25 people in the whole place when we entered at 6:20pm on a Saturday night in December. Too bad for those that had tickets because the two-piece guitar and drum duo were putting on a decent show. Loud and full of classic rock (not Classic Rock) riffs they powered through the set, seemingly not put off by the attendance that didn't even double during their short set.

Indoor Pets

Still playing to a cavernous (and cold!) space, this four-piece put on an enteraining set of poppy, indie rock somewhere in the realm of Weezer Green-era, though perhaps that was just the singer's Rivers glasses that got me thinking that. His glasses sat upon his nose which did most of his singing, in a very distinct, minorly annoying, nasal fashion. It was definitely unique but once I got over it I was happy to report that the boys did a fine job of beating their recorded-music expectations.

The Futureheads
Celebrating a fifteen-year anniversary of their beloved self-titled debut the Sunderland quartet, that often sing a-cappella like a barbershop quartet, were playing it in its entirety on this evening. Having caught them way back in the day, originally as Franz Ferdinand openers and after that whenever they toured through Toronto, it was definitely a night rooted in nostalgia. And even though they did play through the old tunes it isn't a band strictly revelling in the glory days as they still have the musical interplay that always set them above the rest. Not to mention comical interplay too as they interluded songs with origin stories and any chance to get a lick in on each other. One such story did both in telling how The City Is Here For You To Use was about the then-sixteen year old drummer crying in a tube station in London when they first started gigging there. Another revealed that the singer used to have to write the bass parts as well since the bass player wasn't good enough yet and they remarked that one with a particuarly "fruity bass line" (their words) must have been as a punishment for pissing him off. "Here, try and learn this, ya tall c*nt." From opener Le Garage, through highlights such as Decent Days & Nights, "not every song needs to be about something" Alms, nearly instrument-free Danger of the Water, and frenetic First Day they proved that they've still got the magic. Yet it was in the closing two tracks that they absolutely won me back over. As always the split-chanting crowd gave their amazing take on Hounds of Love true glory but equally good was Man Ray to close it all down. Their quote-unquote lead singer was battling a throat infection so they rightly took a break following the album but were gracious enough to return and burn through a few more for us. Fittingly they played three highlights from the recently released Powers that you'd think they would be touring, and the material held up. I'm particularly partial to Good Night Out but Jekyll and Electric Shock were good too. As a finale they threw another classic, Beginning of the Twist, before waving us off having surely pleased longtime fans and excited those catching them for the first time alike.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Weakend Friends - Baby G (Toronto) Nov 12, '19

Weakened Friends
It was a frigid Toronto winter evening outside but the lucky and the brave were inside the Baby G. Consisting of Sonia singing and guitar, Annie on bass and backup vocals, plus fill in drummer (Zack?) these were the Weakened Friends. Super grateful for the small gathering who had come to see them they delighted with a perfect set of punk rock. Relating with us by Sonia having grown up in an unnamed Toronto suburb ("you know where Canada's Wonderland is?") the band is now based in Portland, Maine but holds a special spot for Toronto. Having just played a warm up gig for Pup in Halifax (where those Haligonians bought up all the vinyl!) I'd have thought the city taste makers would be all over this trio but they are obviously sleeping. That's alright, I'll be the one saying "I saw them play on a Tuesday at the Baby G and it was superb.

Baby Band
Baby Band the band, playing at Baby G the bar, are still teething. Literally giggling over with enthusiasm they can't quite make up for the lack of polish. The songs were straightforward enough yet it seemed that each of the four of them was stumbling on the regular. The backup vocalist ought to stick to the fringes and the whole crew really needs to hit the rehearsal studio hard before pushing out into the real world. There are some novel ideas here, the Sad! Gay! Broke! chant intro for one song seemed to resonate with some in the room, including the headliners, but the whole set could use some work.

Monday, September 30, 2019

End of the Road 2019 - Friday - Pottery, Spiritualized +

Kicking the festival off for me was Pottery, an all-male five-piece from Montreal (and no, I didn't go see them just because they're Canadian). With every one of them contributing on vocals I quite enjoyed their set in the Tipi Tent. Even intra-song they kept things interesting with shifting tempos and enough musical changes to keep me guessing and earn that "genre-defying" label.

A last-minute addition to the bill I wasn't familiar with them but had heard some applaud the announcement. Despite my open mind I couldn't really get into them as they seemed to be jam-band that just wandered rather than leading me to any musical heights. When their finale seemed to be winding down I turned to leave and did not look back when after a few moments pause they picked back up into more of the same.

Spiritualized have apparently been gazing into the galaxy for ages, as have I, and yet I've never caught a glimpse of them. Friends were pumped for this and I'll admit there were moments of grace and beauty, as J. Spaceman guided the journey via his guitar from his seated position. Across from him was a line of guitarists which layered all on top of each other. Furthermore there were three women raising their voices to the heavens while performing synchronized shimmies, and a drummer. It was quite ethereal and worked under the stars of the late summer evening. Familiar with I'm Your Man it stood out though the rest seemed to all come back around in a similar vein. The most disappointing part was that they closed on a long-winded take on a gospel song that did not pack much punch.

Someone from the Green Man Festival had post that Jockstrap was a standout for them which is why I ducked out of Spiritualized to give them a try. Wasn't worth the two minute walk over to the tent for a smorgasbord of "art" that was all a load of crap. Nobody needs a multi-minute flute solo, the very reverbed rap of the lead female singer hit no marks, meanwhile the four-piece string section went essentially untouched. The final straw was when they played for about 30 seconds before being cut out completely and returning to the flute. What a load of shite.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Spielbergs, Yr Poetry, Wood & Nails - Sunflower Sep 21/'19

Speilbergs were a strong musical presence, with blistering rock music coming out of their drum, bass, guitar, keys and massive hair. They weren't overly animated but sounded great, almost recreating a good chunk of their debut album This is Not the End (maybe even in order?) The biggest disappointment was that after already having their venue downgraded from the Flapper the room was only partly filled which perhaps contributed to the singer cutting a song towards the end of the set before wrapping up in under 40 minutes. In conversation he claimed to be getting over a bad cold though blaming the lacklustre music support from the Brummie indie scene on a Saturday night might still be appropriate.

Yr Poetry were not something that I thought I was going to like at first blush. Perhaps it was that they were just a guitar and drum duo and I thought the previous act, Wood & Nails, deserved the sweeter opening slot or perhaps it was the singer's voice and demeanour. However I very quickly warmed up to them and all of those things flipped to be positives. Their songwriting was surprisingly varied despite the basic instrumentation and the guitar-neck-only playing through his pedals sounded surprisingly excellent. Apparently they were/are members of Johnny Foreigner which meant nothing to me but might to you.

Wood & Nails came out and instantly sounded like a bunch of great bands all at once, not in a generic way but a familiar way that drew me to them instantly. I tried to play spot the influences but couldn't put my finger on it.. maybe something like The Ataris? Regardless all four appeared as polished and poised musicians playing earnest indie punk rock and I loved the entire set.

Mutt were on when I got in and I quickly realized I'd seen them rather recently opening for Press Club. That time I'd given them a full chance but had found their female-fronted rock sound to be very straightforward with little to differentiate it or interest me so I bowed out after a song.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Glass Ceilings, Myriam Adams, La Dharma, Crymson - Hare & Hounds - Aug 11/'19

Glass Ceilings were a split gender four piece. The bassist was business like in her playing while the guitarist happily played his parts. I wish the singer had shown some more pizzazz or stepped up the vocals that were audible but could have used some oomph. Their music is great and I enjoyed the 8 or so song set though it didn't feel like it brought anything more than is already on record. All in all I wouldn't go out of my way to catch them again, at least not until there's new music released.

Miriam Adams - A bunch of kids but sounded pretty sharp and the music popped. Singer definitely had a presence and though I only caught the final two songs it was enough to make me wish I'd arrived earlier. For the closer they tried to get the crowd jumping and to be fair it kind of worked out, even if supplemented strongly with friends and family.

La Dharma - This four piece make some really slick, slightly synthy, pop rock with their shoegaze guitar but rock elements otherwise, stemming in part from their intense drummer. Fronted by a guy that could probably do a decent 1975 karaoke, who also tickled some keys, they went through about 7 proper tunes that everyone seemed to enjoy, in as laid back way. Highlights were Sirens and Need Me to Know You early from the EP, but their "most dance" tune, Perfume, was also a treat and Devil was a perfect way to close out. 

Crymson - Four lads playing some reasonably straightforward pop rock. Nothing super compelling recorded from what I had heard and the live show started off with me wondering if I'd be bored too. Once their gimmicky outfits - a sailor shirt and baby sailor hat, sunglasses drummer etc. wore off after 30 seconds it was time for the music to fill the room. Granted it didn't smash expectations but I didn't leave and the second last song featured some standout drumming, nicely interspersed with the guitar work. The last songwas catchy enough to get the crowd moving so they did alright. 

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Laura Veirs - St Pauls Church - Feb 8, '19

Sam Amidon
The opener, Sam, varied his guitar playing throughout to cover a few different genres between folk, indie and traditional. Quite skilled and professional he was a match for Laura who he would have up on stage with him nearer to the end of his set. 

Laura Veirs
Laura came on to the cheers of the church crowd. Commenting on the pulpit, layered in candles, she made the space her own. Her guitar playing is understated and appears effortless even when she is bending it to her whim while mixing music from her catalogue. I'll admit I only gave her latest album a proper go based on my love for the Case/Lang/Veirs disc from a few years ago but fortunately she played a healthy selection from each of these and the other cuts were in no way lacking either. Swapping between acoustic and electric the show seemed to fly by, as we were entranced by her musical prowess. Repaying the favour she brought Sam back up on stage to join her again partway through and he stuck around for awhile. Although they were a good fit I may have preferred solo Veirs to the duo. Either way it was a beautiful show in both setting and show.

Vistas, Circa Waves - Institute - April 23, '19

As promised the Edinburgh buzz band of the moment, Vistas, took to the stage with the 4 of them at a combined age under 70. The kids in the crowd about the same vintage were pumped up and before the end of song one were pushing back to start a pit. Perhaps not yet commanding the stage with swagger they at least looked comfortable up there and properly played their instruments to boot. The drummer seemed to be taking his job very seriously and it paid off while the singer was just as good with his electric axe as the mic, chatting Birmingham up a little too. Guitar and bass to the sides diligently did their jobs while everyone ate it up. To be honest, the first half of the set was above average but not necessarily standout, however by the time they hit their groove it got real good. Calm was the highlight for me, both recorded and live now, though Retrospect and closer, Tigerblood, were also done real well. By the time they're done with their autumn headline tour I'm sure they'll be fully set and ready to take on the world.

TNC - The Night Cafe
The four lads had the crowd pushing around from the get go, but it was one of those kind of shows as between sets felt like a club night at Snobs with the chanting along and jumping up and down. I'd be fine with it but the activity didn't match the music. It was fairly straight tempo rock, sang with a decent voice that wasn't as Liverpudlian as their banter. The singer and drummer chatted a little, mostly drumming up sales for their upcoming headline tour and merch. The penultimate song had all the womenfolk singing along "you're addicted to me" while the finale brought the tempo up slightly for people to bop around to again.

Circa Waves

This might be the type of showmanship that the guys from Vista could draw inspiration from. The four members came on stage with swagger - I mean you've got to when you have enough strobe lights to brighten a coal mine and five cannons spewing pyrotechnics meters into the air. Musically I would hope that Vistas will take their strong start and surpass the offerings from these fellas - not that CW are bad with their upbeat indie rock but there are higher heights to hit. Time Won't Change Me went over well with me, while most anything else went down with the hyperactive young crowd. I'll admit that I sheltered just under the overhang to avoid dripping beer and too much of the constant swell that consumed most of the dance floor. That wasn't even when the band tried to split the audience to have them collapse on each other as a singalong hit. The set closer was Fire that Burns, appropriately using orange strobes and a spray of sparks as background. Despite one of the quietest, most lacklustre encore breaks (grumble, grumble, entitled generation..) Circa Waves came back for a couple anyhow, of course. Sticking with the literal they played Goodbye - not sure if it's a normal phenomenon for half the crowd to get on the shoulders of the other half to sway along to this ballad. As true finale they asked the seated upper deck (of a near sellout) to stand up and singalong as they fired up the pyro again.