Tuesday, June 12th, 2007
Real Live Version
Though it was a game-time decision, I decided to bail on the Dinosaur Jr show at the Phoenix on Friday, opting to concentrate on the Voxtrot gig at Sneaky Dee’s instead. And by “concentrate”, I mean take the time to eat something resembling a proper meal and watch some TV before heading out for the evening to catch the late half of their double-header.
The appeal of tourmates Au Revoir Simone is obvious – three pretty girls in Summer dresses playing gentle pop music over banks of whirring synths and drum machines. What’s not to like? Their latest record The Bird Of Music is pretty much a study in breeziness – pleasant and refreshing but not exactly what you’d call substantial. Live, they remedied this somewhat by simple virtue of being able to turn up the low end and move some air and hit the keyboards that much harder. Particularly entertaining was watching Heather D’Angelo banging away at her keyboards and jumping up and down like she was in Motorhead. Breezy it may have been, but sometimes that’s exactly what a Summer evening calls for (though it was actually pretty cold for early June) and their three-part harmonies would be welcome any time of the year. They return for a headlining show at Lee’s Palace on August 15.
Middle act Favourite Sons didn’t fare as well. There was a tangible hostility from the band as they took the stage to play songs from their record Down Beside Your Beauty – mayhap the early show didn’t go so well? – and it was returned in turn from the audience. Their rather ponderous, over-emoted rock came across a bit of a wet blanket on the evening and when some of the audience turned to heckling, frontman Ken Griffin flipped the bird without missing a beat. Methinks this wasn’t the first time he’d gotten such a welcome and I get the feeling it won’t be the last.
Voxtrot’s star has risen considerably since their last pass through town in April of last year, so the fact that they were still playing the same tiny club this time around guaranteed that this was going to be an intimate kind of show. The occasion for the tour was the recent release of their long-awaited full-length Voxtrot, which has been getting mixed reviews relative to the uniformly rapturous praise their EPs got. While the record’s not flawless – not at all – I find some of the criticisms to be overly harsh. The band had made their name with perfectly pop-sized discs that left the listener craving more and the album experience is considerably different. It’s a denser record both sonically – strings appear on more than a few tracks, maybe too many – and lyrically – Ramesh Srivastava’s penchant for wordiness is in full effect here – and with less overt hooks and a rather cheesy foray into piano balladry (“Real Live Version”). Repeated listens prove rewarding, though, with the strengths coming more to the fore and the shortcomings fading to the background.
But that’s the record, and this was the live show. I’d forgotten just how much fun Voxtrot were live, how easily they tap into the spirit of pure guitar pop with Srivastava full of manic energy and bounding around the stage like a man possessed (he still does his jump-up-and-down dance). The audience, still shaking off Favourite Sons’ dour set, was ready to party and the net result was a super-fun, if somewhat short, show. It seemed to me that the setlist seemed to lean more on the older material than stuff from the new album, which I found curious, but considering the great response it got from the crowd you couldn’t call it a miscalculation. I wonder if they followed the same strategy for the early show or mixed it up some more? Either way, the set we got made for a terrific time and after a quick, one-song encore the band went across the street to DJ an after-party at a bar and I went home and slept for ten hours. Everybody wins.
If you haven’t, check out the Reaching For Lasers minisite the band has assembled documenting the recording sessions for the album. Voxtrot is back in town on June 20 for a free show/television taping at the Berkeley Church – if you want to get on the guest list, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and “Voxtrot” in the subject line.
Photos: Voxtrot, Favourite Sons, Au Revoir Simone @ Sneaky Dee’s – June 8, 2007
MP3: Voxtrot – “Kid Gloves”
MP3: Favourite Sons – “Tall Grass”
MP3: Au Revoir Simone – “A Violent Yet Flammable World”
Video: Voxtrot – “Steven” (YouTube)
Video: Au Revoir Simone – “Fallen Snow” (YouTube)
MySpace: Favourite Sons
MySpace: Au Revoir Simone
Pollstar has got The New Pornographers as taking part in the Rogers Picnic on July 29 at Historic Fort York. This is the party that’s being headlined by The Roots and also featuring a slew of acts including the reunited Bad Brains, The Dears, Apostle Of Hustle and others. It’s unknown if it will be the full Bejar and Case-powered lineup taking to the road this Fall (but skipping Toronto for the moment) but I suspect not. They’ll surely be previewing material from Challengers, out August 21, which you can pre-order now and get a bunch of bonus goodies. The details seem rather complex so I’ll let you go read them yourself but in the meantime, check out the first MP3 from the record.
NME has got solo dates for solo Super Furry Gruff Rhys in support of his album Candylion. The Toronto date will be September 25 at the Rivoli, so local fans had best get on that fast whenever tickets go on sale – they won’t last long.
Also coming soon – Animal Collective are at the Phoenix on September 8.
The Toronto Sun talked to Lou Barlow about squeezing a new album out of the Dinosaur Jr reunion.