Saturday, June 12th, 2004
It Comes In Waves
A lot of locals whinge about NXNE, how it’s a rip-off for the bands, how it doesn’t really do anything to promote artists who need exposure, how it’s not a patch on it’s Austin-based namesake (SXSW), and you know what? All fair points. But being out around the clubs last night I can say that the punters were out in full force, flashing wristbands and club-hopping between gigs and having a good time. There was a real energy everywhere and it was thanks to people going to see live music – never a bad thing.
For my part, I was hunkered down in Healey’s for the Rainbow Quartz showcase. Touting themselves as “your source for perfect guitar pop”, they actually run three labels – Rainbow Quartz handles the guitar pop and Turquoise Mountain is home to their roots/alt.country acts. I’m not sure what Amethyst’s deal is. Anyway, last night’s lineup drew from the first two imprints and was Detroit-heavy, featuring The Waxwings, Volebeats, and Denise James – all from the Motor City – and Myracle Brah from the DC area.
Denise James had been getting the bulk of the local press and after seeing her set, I’m not sure why. Her stuff was pleasant enough in a late 50s/early 60s female pop singer/songwriter sort of way (I keep thinking of Petula Clark as a reference point though I really don’t know what Petula Clark sounds like), but not really remarkable. Not much in the way of stage presence, either. But hey, I guess someone likes her stuff – much of the crowd left after her set.
From their name, you’d expect Myracle Brah to be a bunch of sophomoric jokesters playing Blink-182-esque punk pop. Well they’re actually more collegiate-looking (in a seventh year of an undergrad arts degree frat boy sort of way) but otherwise you’re in the right ballpark. Big loud fuzzy guitars, high energy, fairly high humour quotient. Not very standout, but enjoyable enough live.
I really enjoyed the Volebeats. Great country-esque tunes (including a fantastic rearrangement of Abba’s “Knowing Me Knowing You”) and spot-on harmonies and perfomances. Stage presence was a little low – the big lead singer guy barely moved the whole set – but Matthew Smith’s (also of Outrageous Cherry) guitar playing had my attention for most of the show. The man can play some sweet guit-box. I was impressed enough to get up right after and buy a copy of their last album, Country Favorites. Thumbs up.
The act I was most excited to see was headliners The Waxwings. I’ve only got their first record, but it’s a great collection of Byrds-ish jangle pop and amazing vocals, so I was a little curious when the more recent bios kept describing them as an all-out rock band in the vein of the Stones or such. I mean, I like the rock, but love the pop – I was curious to hear what they sounded like now. I got my answer when one of the guitarists plugged in his Gibson SG instead of the Rickenbacker (they were both playing SGs, actually, for the guitar geeks) – they brought the rock. I don’t think the blues-rock of the Rolling Stones is the best reference, but they were definitely all about the high-energy riffage though the pop sensibility and harmonies were still intact, if a little diminished. They put on a very satisfying set but the new material didn’t make me rush out to buy the new record. It struck me as the sort of stuff that was more enjoyable live than on record.
I hadn’t been in Healey’s before, but the sightlines are pretty good for taking photos. They’d have been better if there weren’t tables butted up right against the front of the stage, but the shots I got turned out pretty well.
The Magnetic Fields’ July 2 show at Trinity-St Paul’s is sold out, but if you waited too long for tickets or want to see them twice, you’ll be pleased to know a second show has been added, same venue, for July 3. Double the Merrit, double the fun.
Sadly, Beulah’s threats to split up after the release of their last album Yoko appear to have come true. Billboard reports that the band will call it quits after a show in New York City on August 5. They will be survived by four superb albums, a slew of EPs and a tour DVD, A Good Band Is Hard To Kill, coming out later this year.
Watched Master & Commander: The Far Side Of The World last night, a film which easily takes the title of longest website URL in existance. I mean, look at it. It’s absurd. The film itself was alright – certainly looked great and was a decent enough adventure film. I just kept waiting for everyone to burst into song, a la Gilbert & Sullivan or The Pirate Movie. Which they actually did at a few points, but not in the way I’m talking about.
Oh, and if anyone is interested, Minneapolis’ The Honeydogs and locals Elliott Brood are doing an in-store at Sonic Boom at Bloor and Bathurst today at 2pm. I’d be going if I weren’t having to sit at home waiting for a bed to be delivered.
np – The House Of Love / 1986:88: The Creation Recordings