Friday, April 14th, 2006
Raised By Wolves
By my count, I missed both Voxtrot and Irving a combined 54 times at SxSW last month, give or take. Being two of the buzzier bands at the fest, they were playing shows left, right and centre in Austin and I somehow managed to skip them all – no mean feat. But that’s okay, because last night’s gig at Sneaky Dee’s had been on the calendar for some three and a half months and I figured that surely, way up north, there wouldn’t yet be such a crush of hip kids in the know. In reality? Not so much the fact.
The club was pretty packed early, thanks in no small part to Toronto-spawned openers Spiral Beach, whose keyboard-driven, dorkily precious new wave seemed pretty popular with the locals. Looking like Jenny Lewis with three impossibly-curly headed brothers, they were hellaciously tight and undoubtedly entertaining, if not particularly my thing. Some of my compatriots, however, were quite blown away by them, so give them a listen anyway.
Irving and Voxtrot, who hail from Los Angeles and Austin respectively, proved to be rather an inspired touring bill. Both have brand-spanking new releases as of last week and both trade in classic-sounding guitar pop, but get there in distinctly different ways. Irving draw elements from five or six decades of pop music and mash it all together into something that sounds distinctly modern yet timeless while Voxtrot unabashedly owe their existance to the 60s via the 80s but thanks to some supremely sharp melodic and songwriting sense, neatly avoid any “retro” tags that might get thrown at them.
Because of some unspecified holdups getting from Montreal to Toronto, neither band had the opportunity to soundcheck beforehand and as a result the evening was a little slow-moving with set-ups and getting everything sorted. But both bands were able to rise above the minor technical difficulties and put on terrific sets. Irving have more than their fair share of vocal talent, with all five members contributing either leads or harmonies as they plowed through their set of high-energy power pop, drawn mainly from new full-length Death In The Garden, Blood On The Flowers. Bonus marks to keyboardist Aaron Burrows for his t-shirt which read, “Canada – Fits Your Budget”. Awesomeness.
At the end of Voxtrot’s set, singer Ramesh Srivastava dedicated much-requested “The Start Of Something” to a Toronto girl in attendance with whom he’d lived in Scotland for a few years. It makes perfect sense that he spent Voxtrot’s embryonic years in the UK, because their sound is so immersed in classically British stylings, yet (thankfully) without any of the Anglophile affectations that plague so many other similarly-influenced acts. Instead, they’ve mastered the art of the hook and the beat, blending Smiths-y jangle and lyricism with uptempo, dance-friendly rhythms. Ingredients that are sure to guarantee a positive response in oh-so-Anglo-friendly Toronto, and that Voxtrot surely did. The unplanned encore of “Missing Pieces” was nearly derailed by a nonfunctioning guitar (apparently they’ve been plagued by gear maladies the whole tour) but was eventually pulled off as a splendid finale to the show.
Yes there are pictures. No they aren’t ready yet.
Come back later. Come back now. But in the meantime, check out this brief interview with Srivastava about their new EP Mothers, Sisters, Daughters & Wives, which just came out officially last week. It’s an excellent complement to their first first EP, though a lot less influence-on-the-sleeve than that one. Which while it may make it a little less immediate, is undoubtedly a sign of growth. Listen to the title track here:
Some shows – Calexico will bring their ruinous garden to Toronto for a show at the Phoenix on July 5. No other North American dates announced yet. And Mark Kozelek will be at Lee’s Palace on July 12, full dates here. Ever notice that Kozelek never comes up here with his band(s)? It always seems to be just him. Wonder why that is.
My post punctuality has totally gone to shit this week. But come on, today’s a holiday. Celebrate. If we took a holiday, took some time to celebrate, just one day out of life? It would be so nice.
np – Aloha / Some Echoes