Tuesday, May 9th, 2006
Summer Doesn’t Count (Unless You’re Here With Me)
The 2006 edition Over The Top Fest (in conjunction with ALL CAPS) culminated in an 8-band matinee show at the Drake Hotel and hordes of concertgoers scurrying from the Underground to the rooftop patio to try and take in all the performances. I didn’t get down there till later so I only caught three of the acts, Toronto’s Wyrd Visions and Bicycles as well as the big draw (for me, anyway), Saturday Looks Good To Me.
Wyrd Visions was assigned to play the Drake’s fancy-shmantzy rooftop patio, the bright Spring afternoon a bit of an odd setting for his one-man, drone-folk creations. He started his set in an oversized hoodie that made him look more than a little like a Benedictine monk with an electric guitar, which is actually how he sounded as well. Each of his songs were extended repetitions of the same (or very similar) intricately fingerpicked guitar figures with a single fantasy-themed lyric repeated overtop like a mantra. It was quite hypnotic for the three songs I stayed for, but I then began to get a little antsy with it all and headed for darker environs.
The Bicycles I hadn’t seen in some years – I couldn’t call myself a fan of their overly cutesy pop, a little too deliberately twee for my tastes. But while the recorded output still sounds overly precious, their live act has really improved in the interim. Yeah, they all wear matching “B” t-shirts and even have life-sized cartoon cutouts of all the band member as the stage backdrop, but they’ve also gotten hella tight and even kinda ballsy – it’s amazing what a healthy dose of fuzz on the guitars can do for a band. Though still far too sugary for prolonged exposures, I will admit that with their sharp banter and goofy charm, they were a good deal of fun to watch. The band will find out how they fare away from home next month as they go on tour across North America with The Boy Least Likely To.
I will confess that I had hoped that with Betty Marie Barnes in town the night before with PAS/CAL that there might be a special one-off revival of the Every Night lineup of Saturday Looks Good To Me for this show – alas, not the case. The band continues on with the stripped-down four piece configuration that I saw at SxSW in March and in keeping with that, the set consisted almost completely of new material. While reinvention has long been a staple of SLGTM’s existance, it did make for a bit of a difficult set to really get into, even for longtime fans (though the cover of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “Holland 1945” was a nice bone to throw). Also, while some of the new material sounded like the classic Spector pop of the past, much of it also hinted at a more experimental and rockish direction. It’s no secret that Every Night is one of my favourite records of the new century so while I’m a little disappointed that Thomas seems intent on moving away from that sound, it’s also understandable that he wouldn’t want to try and top it. So while I will always come out in favour of artistic growth, it’s a shame that they’re road-testing the new stuff so far in advance of the new album coming out (Thomas joked about it coming out sometime in ’09) – I’d have loved to hear more of the familiar stuff, though that would have required certain extra band members… and we come full circle.
While the Bicycles’ set was quite full, it was a pretty sparse crowd for SLGTM, ostensibly the headliners on the day. Of course, they were running an hour late at that point so it’s entirely possible people were just worn out on the day and had gone home for some supper. But either way, it was a fine afternoon and finale to another terrific edition of Over The Top, certainly one of the annual highlights of the Toronto concert season. Photos here. Dear Drake – please buy some non-magenta gels for your stage lights. Thank you.
To learn more about the bands mentioned in today’s post, visit your local library. Or visit their MySpace pages (SLGTM, Bicycles). Wyrd Visions’ MySpace page is his website, so instead I direct you to Are You Familiar and Said The Gramophone, both of whom recently ran features on the man and the myth. And of course, you can download some MP3s:
And speaking of Wilco, Glenn Kotche gives Pitchfork a little news on where they are on their new album. Still no official word on the presale for their July 7th show at Massey Hall, but I’m guessing tomorrow 10AM… or at least I hope so. It’d suck beans if Massey Hall subscribers got first crack at noon…
The Toronto Star considers the advent of digital-media DJing to be the death knell for vinyl. Of course, according to the sidebar kids are starting to rebel against MP3 culture by discovering thrift store LPs, so who knows?
24: Okay, I have to ask. WHY IS THE FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS NOT MAKING COPIES OF THE RECORDING? Post it on Soulseek. Send it to bloggers labeled as a new Arctic Monkeys track. But no – the most urgent thing is to CLEAN UP THE AUDIO? It sounded fine when Jack heard it and the Heller heard it, why does the Attorney-General need it cleaned up? Is he an audiophile? Is evidence recorded at under 192kbps inadmissable? WTF? Ah. I want to strangle fictional characters. Not a good sign for my mental health. Anyway, at least the the plane chase was pretty damn good. Three more hours to go.
np – Crooked Fingers / Crooked Fingers