Monday, December 6th, 2004
Shake The Sheets
It seems laughable now that when the year began, I was openly concerned that Ted Leo wouldn’t come and tour up here after a poorly-attended show at the Rivoli in the Spring of 2003. Proving that he is a man of great magninamity as well as active sweat glands, last night marked his third visit to our humble burg. His two previous shows at the Horseshoe were barnburning affairs and he’d have a hard time topping them on the third go-around. I had forgotten that it was an all-ages show until I got there and realized that I felt old enough to be a chaperone or something. Apparently Ted Leo appeals to kids of all ages. Literally.
In order to make the event all-ages, they had to hold it at the Mod Club, which is more than double the capacity of the Horseshoe. I had some concerns that this would result in a seemingly sparsely-attended show, but I guess the strategy paid off as while it wasn’t sold out by any means, it still looked like a good crowd and was probably equivalent to a packed ‘Shoe . The early start time allowed for a pretty big freaking bill, with tourmates Matt Pond PA and the Pharmacists sandwiching local acts The Junction and The Meligrove Band. Granted, all the acts – headliner included – had shorter sets, but the collective quality of music was worth the long night.
Matt Pond PA started things off – they’re a band who I’ve been meaning to investigate for a couple of years now, but had never gotten around to it. My loss. I was very impressed, to say the least – the songs, arrangements, very effective and tasteful use of cello, all right up my alley. They reminded me a little of Sea Ray with a little less spaciness, but that may be just because I have very few reference points for indie rock bands with cello. And they get points for seeming to be big fans of Canada, references to our home and native land popping up in at least two albums and the maple leaf adorning the artwork of their latest album Emblems, which I got a copy of at the show. The only thing that didn’t impress me was Matt’s need to retune after every song, and not just a little. Dude, if your guitar – which doesn’t even have a vibrato system – can’t stay in tune for even one song, something’s not right. Anyway, a late addition to the bill, but definitely a good one.
Mississauga’s Meligrove Band were, again, an outfit that had been recommended to me a constantly over the last couple years but who I’d not quite gotten around to hearing. And while I still haven’t heard the records, I can’t imagine they’d be quite the same experience as their live show – couldn’t hear the vocals but the rocking spoke for itself. They’re definitely one of the most animated bands I’ve ever seen, channelling some serious British Invasion mojo. They were a ridiculous amount of fun to watch, leaping all over the stage and distributing take-home tambourines to the audience for a the set closer. A scissor-kicking good time (though I don’t think I actually saw any scissor kicks), I can’t imagine how they’d have had the energy to play any longer than they did, but I suspect they would have.
I was a little cynical of The Junction to begin with, with thier fancy 5-string bass and matching bright yellow track jackets (with embroidered names, no less), but was more than happy to change my opinion after just a couple songs. Take the worst hybrid funk-soul-rock band imaginable, and then imagine their complete opposites – that’s the Junction. Very energetic and fun, keyboardist Joel (if his jacket was to be believed) did a fine job as MC working the crowd and generally pushing the party vibe. While I’d never heard of them, they must have had a pretty decent-sized fanbase in attendance, judging from all the singing along. A bit of an odd choice on the bill but a good one.
And finally, Ted Leo. Ssadly, last night’s show was not as good as either of his last two performances. Besides barely clocking in at an hour including encore (though I suspect there was a curfew in effect), the band seemed a little out of sorts at times. While they absolutly hit a few numbers, “Me and Mia” in particular, I don’t think they quite managed to hit their groove. I also blame the fact that he was using a Marshall stack instead of his trusty old Music Man combo, which was relegated to furniture duty… of course, that was the amp that slowly self-destructed all the way through his last show, so maybe using the backup wasn’t a bad idea. Anwyay, the relative poshness of the Mod Club was also an odd fit for Ted, his music seems better suited to bars and clubs than theatres… or maybe it was just the smoke machines and pink spotlights that didn’t seem right. As always, though, Ted was personable and chatty with the crowd, commenting that it had been a really bad November but he was remaining upbeat. As a tribute to the Toronto crowd, the band did a quick cover of the coda to “Spirit Of Radio”, which thrilled me but was probably lost on a good portion of the crowd. “Rush? Who’s Rush?” Sigh, kids these days.
So yeah, while Ted’s set was a little bit of a letdown, though I would never call him disappointing, the show in its entirety was a terrifically good time. Cheers to Eric Warner and Whacked Out Productions for not only assembling the show, but making it work. Photos will be up tomorrow – I got in too late and was too tired to go through them all last night. Four bands = a lot of pics, you know. But if you’re aching to look at Ted’s smiling mug, check out the galleries from either of his last two shows (March and June).
And as the perfect chaser to last night’s show, I found a used copy of Dirty Old Town, the Ted Leo documentary/concert film which intersperses interview footage with their performance at the Siren Festival at Coney Island last Summer. I’ve only gotten through the bonus features so far, but the performance during the blackout of last August (while feeding off a generator from a Starbucks truck) was just awesome. Looking forward to when I get a chance to watch the feature.
For all you disbelievers – Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as Johnny Cash and June Carter in Walk The Line, the Johnny Cash biopic coming out next year (if the link doesn’t work, go here). I think they’re looking pretty damn good… From Golden Fiddle. Update: Another pic of Phoenix as Cash.
Anyone have any experience with Hostony.com for webhosting? Too good to be true? Should I be concerned that their contact info puts them in Jersey, UK?
np – Matt Pond, PA / Emblems