Monday, May 8th, 2006
Everything Is On
The popsters, the soulsters and the shoegazers. Saturday night saw a typically eclectic bill step up as part of this year’s Over The Top Fest – Detroit’s PAS/CAL, Chicago’s Catfish Haven and New York City’s Asobi Seksu, all making their debuts in Toronto.
PAS/CAL opened things up with a dose of giddy pop music, Casimer Pascal owning the stage like Jarvis Cocker raised on Motown rather than the Walker Brothers. They were the only real unknown quantity of the night for me, and were certainly a very pleasant surprise. I’d feared from the quick samples I’d heard that they’d fall on the wrong side of fey for my tastes, but live they had just the right balance of muscle, fop and humour (thanks in no small part to a thunderous drummer). Lots of fun and a nice new discovery.
Gears shifted abruptly for the middle act, with PAS/CAL’s eight-piece pop carnival giving way to Catfish Haven’s rock and soul power trio. In the wrong hands, George Hunter’s voice could be a dangerous weapon for the forces of overemoting and general cheese, but in Catfish Haven it’s a thing of wonder. Raw, passionate and urgent but unwaveringly melodic, it made gems like “Please Don’t Go” and “Madaline” sound like long lost classics from the Stax vaults. And they were easily the loudest acoustic guitar-led combo I’ve heard in ages. Awesomeness. For more Catfish Haven, check out my post from a few weeks ago.
I had Asobi Seksu’s first record and saw them at SxSW last year, and moderately enjoyed but wasn’t over the moon about both. For the record, I found it to have moments of greatness but had a little too much filler and a little too obvious in its influences (J-pop, MBV, Lush, etc). The live show was a little low on energy and charisma though to be fair, playing at 2 in the afternoon to a barely-populated Emo’s outside isn’t really the best environment for any band. Anyway, much progress has been made since those initial judgements. Their new album Citrus (out May 30), is so head and shoulders above the debut that it’s not even funny. Yuki’s voice is stronger, her melodies more complex and catchy and the shifts from Japanese to English lyrics feels much more natural. Overall, the songs are just so much better and fully-evolved – very exciting that they’ve reached the next level so quickly. Naturally, having so much better material can only help the live show and that it did. Still hellaciously loud, their stage presence is conveyed not by dancing or antics, but through volume and being utterly enveloped by the music they’re creating. And strobe lights.
I’d like to think that on any other night where there wasn’t so much going on in town, there’d have been a much larger crowd in attendance – but as it was, there was a decent-sized audience for all three bands. There was actually a fourth band added to the bill late that went on after 1AM, but I was done for the night and missed them. Awesome Color did get some love from those that stuck around, though, and will be touring with Sonic Youth this Summer. Impressive.
There’re some MP3s from all three acts below, and of course you can hear more at their respective MySpace pages (AS, CH, P/C). Check out photos from the show here. Nice ones from the PAS/CAL and Catfish Haven sets and passable ones from Asobi, who uttered the five worst words any concert photographer can hear – “turn down the stage lights”.
Merge has let drop a couple release dates for the new albums from M Ward and Lambchop. Their new albums Post-War and Damaged, respectively, will both be out August 22 and be available with the special Merge vinyl/MP3 Happy Meal offer. This is Lambchop’s first proper studio record since 2004’s Aw, C’mon and No, You C’mon double-albums. The released an archival collection of bits and bobs called The Decline of Country & Western Civilization (The Woodwind Years) in April.
John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats offers up a list of songs you should hear for eMusic. The Goats’ Bablyon Springs EP is finally available over here via Moops Music for the very reasonable price of $5.99 and they should have a new record out this Fall. Via Largehearted Boy.
np – The Go-Betweens / Oceans Apart