Thursday, December 28th, 2006
Speak To Me Bones
Tuesday evening marked the first night of The Drake Underground’s What’s In The Box? Boxing Week music series, featuring five bands every night through December 30 for $5. Of course, what you save on cover you pay for in drink prices, but whatever.
I got there a bit late, missing all but the very end of Foxfire Forest’s set but what I heard of their bizarro indie-lounge sounded pretty good, despite some symptoms of Toronto collectivitis (huge lineup, over the top stage hijinks). I expect our paths will cross again in the future.
The first whole set I did see was from Toronto’s We Are The Take, and the experience was not unlike being force-fed a loaf of Wonder bread. Sounding like an unholy melange of Coldplay, John Mayer and Great Big Sea, they produced some of the most banal, MOR-with-a-bullet rock I’ve heard in a long time (and not long enough, as far as I’m concerned). While they had good chops, they haven’t yet reached that level of bland slickness that will earn them that coveted spot on a generic romantic comedy movie soundtrack but when they do? Look out. Seriously.
With her bandmates decamped to the Maritimes for the holidays, Land Of Talk’s Elizabeth Powell was next up for what was intended to be a solo show but ended up being not so much. She started with some selections from Applause Cheer Boo Hiss accompanied on electric guitar, which when stripped of the driving rhythm section sounded all the more spidery, tense and anxious and reinforced the Cat Power-ish qualities of Powell’s voice. But while it sounded fine, It was obvious she wasn’t totally comfortable playing without her band and a few songs in she half-jokingly invited anyone in the audience to come up and play drums for her – an invitation that the drummer for Foxfire Forest accepted. While he mostly kept things simple for presumably not knowing the songs, he was able to mostly read the dynamics and give things a solid energy boost and helped Powell loosen up some. It’s good that he was more than up to the task because I can think of few things more potentially awkward than having a stranger come on stage to play and risk them not having any idea of what to do.
Powell closed off with a couple songs accompanied on acoustic by her (boyfriend?) JS Williams including “Nothing Up My Sleeve”, a cover taken from Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot demos collection. Wholly unexpected but a real treat, which is pretty much what you could say about the whole set. Powell performing solo isn’t a dramatically different affair than a proper Land Of Talk show but in lieu of finally getting a LoT headlining show someday, somewhere (please!), I’ll take what I can get.
And if you’re going to the Drake for any of the remaining nights, note that things start on time at 9PM.