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Archive for July, 2007

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Hillside 2007 II

So despite losing over an hour to being lost on Saturday night and for a while feeling at real risk of being eaten by wolves or abducted by aliens, I managed to make it home and was back up in Guelph early Sunday afternoon, somewhat rested and caffeinated and ready to take on the rest of Hillside. Or at least some of it.

Even though she was one of the acts I most wanted to see, I arrived a little late to Angela Desveaux’s set and apparently missed her cover of The Band’s “I Shall Be Released”. But I did catch the second cover in her set – a splendid reading of Gram Parsons’ “Juanita” – and between that and the original material from both from Wandering Eyes and as yet unreleased, I was more than satisfied. Desveaux isn’t a riveting stage performer but her arresting voice and terrific balance of country, rock and pop more than compensates.

Photos: Angela Desveaux @ The Island Stage, Hillside Festival – July 29, 2007
MP3: Angela Desveaux – “Heartbeat”
Video: Angela Desveaux – “Wandering Eyes” (MOV)
MySpace: Angela Desveaux

I was also really looking forward to seeing Elvis Perkins having missed seeing him a number of times since his debut Ash Wednesday was given wide release back in February. And maybe it was that anticipation that left me a touch disappointed in his set – it was decent enough, but Perkins seemed a little perturbed up there, perhaps himself disappointed in the dozy crowd who seemed more interested in napping than watching he and his band Dearland perform. The bright afternoon sunshine also didn’t seem the most complimentary setting for Perkins’ songs, which despite the sometimes upbeat veneer (bonus points for the marching band drum) are decidedly nocturnal in spirit. But on the plus side, it did prompt me to revisit the record and remember why I was looking forward to seeing him play in the first place. Chart caught an interview with Perkins before his arrival at Hillside.

Photos: Elvis Perkins In Dearland @ The Main Stage, Hillside Festival – July 29, 2007
MP3: Elvis Perkins – “While You Were Sleeping”
MP3: Elvis Perkins – “All the Night Without Love”
MP3: Elvis Perkins – “Ash Wednesday”
Video: Elvis Perkins – “All the Night Without Love” (YouTube)
MySpace: Elvis Perkins

I think I spent the next hour sitting in the sun and feeling all of my clothing become lightly saturated with sweat. Information I’m sure you needed to know.

The Lake Stage tent was packed for the next band on my schedule, local heroes The D’Urbervilles who invited a host of guests to come onstage and play with them. I remembered walking away from a show of theirs mostly indifferent but this performance showed what sort of difference a year can make. The quirks that seemed like affectations last time now seemed to fit much more naturally and their lean blend of scratchy rock and deep grooves just came across a lot more confidently and impressively. The enthusiastic hometown crowd was right to be proud.

Photos: The D’Urbervilles @ The Lake Stage, Hillside Festival – July 29, 2007
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Spin The Bottle”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “We’re Blowing Up”
MySpace: The D’Urbervilles

It’s always a treat to see Basia Bulat and her band play but it was a pleasant surprise that they turned out to be the highlight of the day. Though in hindsight, it shouldn’t have been – her songs are the perfect soundtrack for warm Summer afternoons. Some familiar tunes got fresh looks like the Spector-ised drums turned “Before I Knew” into a ’50s rock swinger and the handful of new songs performed also sounded marvelous. It seemed a fair-sized portion of the audience wasn’t too familiar with her stuff before seeing her play, which is understandable – Oh My Darling doesn’t get a domestic release until September 18 – but I can’t imagine anyone in attendance wasn’t won over. Every time I’ve seen her play, Basia seems genuinely astonished that the audience loves her music – me, I’d be astonished if anyone didn’t.

Photos: Basia Bulat @ The Lake Stage, Hillside Festival – July 29, 2007
MP3: Basia Bulat – “Snakes & Ladders”
MySpace: Basia Bulat

The final act of the fest – for me, anyways – was Toronto’s own Ohbijou who, like Bulat before them, are always a delight to see live and it appeared the word on this band is out because the tent was overflowingly full of fans. It’s been fun watching Ohbijou’s live show develop over the last while and how they’ve been able to get more lively – even a bit rambunctious – onstage without compromising any of the sweetness of their songs. Though they weren’t technically closing the night on this stage, they played like they were.

Photos: Ohbijou @ The Lake Stage, Hillside Festival – July 29, 2007
MP3: Ohbijou – “Misty Eyes”
MP3: Ohbijou – “Steep”
Video: Ohbijou – “The Woods” (MOV)
MySpace: Ohbijou

And with that, I began the long walk down the hillside and back to the city. Though I would have liked to have stayed later and seen both Ani DiFranco and Born Ruffians, it simply wasn’t going to happen. Worn out from two days of being beaten by the heat like a rented mule and a bit fearful of getting lost in the dark again, I headed back home all full of music and nature and good vibes. I’d heard for years now how special the atmosphere at Hillside was and now, having finally seen it first hand, I will concur. The Hillside experience really is different from other music festivals.

And I think that’s mainly because it’s not a music festival in the classic sense – it’s more of a happening that people plan to attend no matter who’s playing. They come for the community and the camaraderie and with faith that the festival programmers will assemble a lineup worth seeing. The setting is beautiful, people are relaxed and friendly and not at a loss for personal space (read: it’s not overcrowded). It’s easy and fun for city folk like me to poke fun at the hippies but I don’t think there’s another group that could make an idea like reusable dishes from the food vendors, washed by volunteers, work. It’s a no-brainer idea but probably not a scalable one, sadly. For some reason I just can’t imagine Lollapaloozans being conscientious enough to bring their dishes back to a drop-off bin.

Part of secret to the festival’s success is that while its profile and demand for tickets grows every year, the event itself doesn’t grow. Attendance is limited to under 5000 each day for both site capacity and general logistcal reasons and while it’s frustrating for those looking for tickets – three-day passes were sold out almost as soon as they went on sale this year – I think it’s also essential to helping maintain what keeps it special. I’m not entirely certain I’ll be back next year, I think I’d like to mix my festivals up from year to year, but I completely understand why some are counting down the next 360-some days till next year’s edition. I’ll be back again before too long and I’ll remember to bring my swimming trunks.

CBC Radio 3 has wrapped up their coverage of Hillside and eye has posted their report from the whole weekend. Non-hippie festival resumes tomorrow.

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Hillside 2007 I

There was merchandise available at this year’s Hillside Festival with the clever slogan “Thrillside” emblazoned on it – this I take a little bit of issue with. If they wanted a suitable adjective/awful pun, they should have gone with “Chillside”.

Held on an island conservation area in the northeast corner of Guelph for the past 24 years, Hillside has a reputation for being one of the mellowest, most laid back music festivals you’ll ever find and now having attended my first one this past weekend, I can say that it’s a reputation well-earned. I skipped out on the Friday night events just because I couldn’t make it out there in time, nor did that night’s lineup really entice (but CBC Radio 3 was there and have a report).

My Saturday afternoon arrival was just in time to catch the Pop Montreal showcase out at the Lake Stage, which like its compatriot the Island Stage, was a big beer tent structure filled with picnic table seating and a sturdy but makeshift stage constructed from plywood atop some steel girders (the main stage, on the other hand, was a fancy permanent structure with an impressive green roof).

The first performer in this mini showcase was Katie Moore. Moore started my day off ably backed by some of the other performers on the bill in a short set of slow-burning country and breezier bluegrassy fare, all served up with a smile.

Photos: Katie Moore @ The Lake Stage, Hillside Festival – July 28, 2007
MySpace: Katie Moore

When Moore finished, half her band stuck around and reconfigured themselves as the hotly-tipped trio Plants & Animals, newly signed to Secret City Records. Specializing in a fascinating blend of math, prog and country, they managed to sound otherworldy and salt of the earth at the same time. Think of them as occupying a similar cosmic plane as The Sadies yet in a completely different orbit. Quite possibly as good as everyone says they are.

Photos: Plants & Animals @ The Lake Stage, Hillside Festival – July 28, 2007
MySpace: Plants & Animals

The next while was spent lolling about in the sun, people watching and running into familiar faces. Lolling stopped when it was time for Forest City Lovers to take the stage. Though based in Toronto, the band has deep Guelph roots and that was evident from the hearty and supportive crowds that turned out to greet them. Their sprightly folk pop sounded terrific, their songs’ inherent Winteriness taking on a different character when heard in the bright Summer sun. Their set included a few new songs that weren’t aired last time I saw them and offered a tantalizing taste of what’s to come when their next album is released this Winter.

Photos: Forest City Lovers @ The Lake Stage, Hillside Festival – July 28, 2007
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Scared Of Time”
MySpace: Forest City Lovers

Their set was followed by some drifting around the festival grounds, inspecting the tie-dye shirt and bongo drum vendors, catching a tiny bit of a workshop helmed by Ron Sexsmith, having a sausage and generally people-watching.

As evening rolled in, I headed over to the Island Stage where The Besnard Lakes, just that day recipients of a big feature in The Globe & Mail, were taking the stage. Playing a keyboardist short, their show was slow and stately and if they weren’t playing in a beer tent beside a lake at sunset, might have even been a bit sinister. Beneficiaries of some incredible sound from the PA (actually, the sound everywhere was some of the best I’ve ever heard in any setting), the Besnards’ triple-guitar interplay and spot-on, soaring vocals harmonies made for a set that was beautiful and really kind of astonishing, even to someone who’s seen them before.

Photos: The Besnard Lakes @ The Island Stage, Hillside Festival – July 28, 2007
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “And You Lied To Me”
Video: The Besnard Lakes – “For Agent 13” (YouTube)
MySpace: The Besnard Lakes

As the day gave way to night, so too did the lineup take on a more rock-friendly vibe. Or in the case of Dragonette, dance-rock. Fronted by Martina Sorbara, who had played Hillside before in a past life as a folk singer, the band ditched the heavy synths of their recorded output for a lean, classic rock configuration (guitar, bass, drums, vox) with some samples and triggered beats where necessary. They brought a good dose of energy to the day’s performances but they couldn’t help coming of as an ersatz version of Metric, though less confrontational, charismatic and more interested in partying than politics. eGigs UK has an interview with the band.

Photos: Dragonette @ The Island Stage, Hillside Festival – July 28, 2007
Video: Dragonette – “I Get Around” (YouTube)
Video: Dragonette – “Take It Like A Man” (YouTube)
MySpace: Dragonette

As for the real Metric, their face and voice – Emily Haines – was setting up at the main stage for what would be the last of her shows in support of her solo endeavours. Accompanied by a one-man Soft Skeleton on keys and backdropped by clips from the films of Guy Maddin, Haines delivered a downbeat but not dour set of piano pieces that were rather poignant. And by taking the time to interact with the audience, smile and even lead the crowd in an odd but well-intentioned clap-along, it was quite a world of difference from her first Metric-era solo performance almost exactly three years ago.

Photos: Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton @ The Main Stage, Hillside Festival – July 28, 2007
MP3: Emily Haines – “Rowboat”
MP3: Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – “Dr Blind”
Video: Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton – “Dr Blind” (MOV)
MySpace: Emily Haines

I opted for electro-rockers Shout Out Out Out Out to close out the evening over The Dears, who I’d seen three time in the past year. As it turns out, I could have done both as the Edmontonians’ set was only starting when the Dears were halfway through their. Their set was delayed for 40 minutes after they forgot a synth sampler, essential to their show, in their hotel room. The Island Stage was beyond packed with people looking to get their dance on, and to their credit they waited patiently if a bit disgruntledly, not really appeased by the band’s attempt to make nice by tossing fresh fruit into the crowd. The equipment eventually did arrive, however, and SOOOO were pretty damned awesome in the double-drummer, triple-bassist, scissor-kicking, mic-spinning, cowbell-banging, vocoder-junkie kind of way that we’ve all seen a million times before. The truncated set was a shame, but as they say – ’tis better to have shaken your sweaty ass for a short while than to never have shaken it at all.

Photos: Shout Out Out Out Out @ The Island Stage, Hillside Festival – July 28, 2007
MP3: Shout Out Out Out Out – “Dude You Feel Electrical”
MySpace: Shout Out Out Out Out

And thus ended day one. While the trip up was mostly uneventful, on the way back I made the mistake of assuming the car in front of me leaving the conservation area was heading back the way we came and following it. As a result, I got completely lost. Nothing like driving around the unlit backroads of Wellington County at 1 in the morning without a map or even any idea which way is north. Good times indeed.

CBC Radio 3 and The Globe & Mail have got their Saturday reports online as well. Check back tomorrow for Sunday’s happenings and a general festival wrap-up.

Friday, July 27th, 2007

Harvest Festival

There’s an interesting editorial piece in this week’s eye, wondering what it would take for Toronto to host a really world-class music festival, something perennial and world-renowned, along the lines of Coachella or Glastonbury. They’re talking, of course, about the big one-off outdoor types that are as much about the locale as the event and not the touring types like Ozzfest or Warped, nor the club crawlers of which we’ve got plenty (NxNE, CMW, OTT, etc).

The timing of the piece is intended to coincide with this weekend, which finds three major fests taking place in and around the city. Wakestock out on the Islands, the Rogers Picnic downtown at Historic Fort York and Hillside a little ways outside of town in Guelph. Wakestock bills itself as “world’s largest wakeboarding event” (though admittedly, the music is ancillary to the sports), the Rogers Picnic – which may or may not be a renamed Dog Day Afternoon from last year (the Metric-headlined event, not the Sadies hoe-down outside Guelph) – boasts a solid lineup that is geared both to urban and indie rock audiences (though the fact that you can’t bring drinks of any kind puts lie to the “picnic” part of their name) and celebrating something like its 24th year, Hillside is world-renowned though its reputation is still more as a folk fest than the far less genre-specific event its become in recent years. Guelph is not Toronto but are you telling me that people from less than an hour outside Chicago don’t feel that Lollapalooza is theirs?

But the event that most closely resembles what the article says it wishes to see is Virgin Fest though the piece seems to dismiss it because… what, you can’t camp there? Granted, it’s easy to dislike V Fest if you’re so inclined – last year’s event went off with many hitches and left a sour taste in peoples mouths (one year on, still no make-up date for The Flaming Lips) and there’s also the matter of selling advertising on every available surface. The UK edition has been around long enough that the event has an identity separate from the title sponsor but here, it still smells to some like a giant cellphone ad.

But putting that aside, the V Fest lineup stands up against many of the US fests that the piece extols – maybe fewer in total, but still top caliber. Bjork, Smashing Pumpkins and The Killers are headliners wherever they’d play (don’t take this as an endorsement from me, just a statement of fact). If this year goes well and the name starts to carry more (positive) cachet, that can only help the talent draw for future editions and before you know it, you’ve got a festival that gives Toronto the “world-class” music fest the piece yearns for. As for the no-logo aspect, I do wonder why Montreal is able to put on the Osheaga fest (this year on the same weekend as V Fest) with many/most of the same artists as V Fest but without the saturation branding…?

But I’ll never argue against more excellent music fests within walking distance – seeing what Ottawa’s Bluesfest has become makes me sad that ours died a few years ago – so the suggestions that there are some new, festival-worthy venues in development is exciting though I can’t imagine where they’d be. I hope to god that taking Molson Park/Park Place in Barrie out of mothballs isn’t in the offing – anyone who’s sat in traffic for hours and hours on the 400 trying to get up there knows what it is to be in hell. Better/more frequently utilizing the Islands also has its appeal, but the ferryboat logistics and hard curfew are somewhat limiting factors. As for the Downsview site, well it’s been some years since I’ve had cause to hang out on a decomissioned air force base, but isn’t that place mostly just concrete? Not especially appealing though neither is a desert or mudpit, yet those settings seem to draw the kids in anyways.

Anyways. Much rumination over nothing. I’m off to Hillside tomorrow so this place will be pretty quiet till Monday, when I will hopefully have a coherent wrap up of the first day’s action. So without further ado, let’s clear out some content.

Filter spends a weekend in New York City with Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke. They’ll be spending at least part of a weekend in our city when they play the Ricoh Coliseum on September 28.

Salt Lake Weekly and The Georgia Straight get to know St Vincent, Minnesota Public Radio has a session with Annie Clark available to download and eye reviewed her show at the Horseshoe last week.

Pitchfork has got the first video from Kevin Drew’s Spirit If, out September 18.

The Yeah Yeah Yeahs talk to Billboard about how things are going on their third full-length album. Their just-released Is Is EP wasn’t new material, but older recordings that didn’t make either of the first two records. The Associated Press also has an interview with Karen O.

The Times gets acquainted with Loney, Dear.

Magnolia man Jason Molina talks to Pitchfork about his forthcoming Sojourner box set, out August 7. Molina and co are at Lee’s Palace on October 5.

CBC Radio 3 interviews Sean Moeller, the man behind Daytrotter. Congrats to the site on their 1,000,000th download.

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

Computer Age

My MacBook Pro finally arrived yesterday, so I’ve been installing software, moving files and generally feeling my way around. It’s got that new computer smell. Only hiccup I’ve found so far is that it can’t update my iPod, which is formatted for Windows. Which means that I’ve got to figure out where/how I’ll be storing my music (the internal hard drive just isn’t big enough), move the files and reformat the iPod for OSX. PITA. But since I was spending most of last night mucking around with it, I didn’t really have the chance to assemble a coherent post. So instead, you get a bit of a dog’s breakfast of stuff. Hopefully back with something more together tomorrow.

But since I know all you Macolytes are dying to a) pat me on the back and b) pat yourselves on the back, make yourselves useful and recommend me some software. I need an HTML editor, along the lines of Homesite, a decent FTP client and an IM client – something that combines MSN, Yahoo and AIM would be nice as well as retaining email notification functions for the first two. Stick with Mail or install Thunderbird? And anything else that make my life more interesting/entertaining.

Harp welcomes Buffalo Tom back, finds out where they’ve been and where they came from.

Richard Thompson talks to icWales about some of the difficulties he’s facing on account of his being Muslim.

Pinback will be at Lee’s Palace on October 12, tickets $15. They’re touring in support of their forthcoming record Autumn Of The Seraphs, out September 11.

Stream: Pinback – “From Nothing To Nowhere”

Caribou are playing a secret show at the Rivoli on September 30 – details on how to get tickets at their website, via For The Records. It was supposed to be a secret, Mike. GEEZ. Their new album is Andorra is out August 21 but you can stream it all right now and watch the first video.

Video: Caribou – “Melody Day”
Stream: Caribou / Andorra

The Russian Futurists will be playing a CD release show for their new compilation Me, Myself & Rye at the Drake Sky Yard this Saturday afternoon at 3PM. Thanks to Vlada for the tip-off.

MP3: The Russian Futurists – “Paul Simon”
MP3: The Russian Futurists – “A Telegram From The Future”

Hey look, The National on Letterman. And they brought the horns! Oh the horns.

Video: The National – “Fake Empire” (on The Late Show with David Letterman)

Exclaim! salutes Spoon.

Allmusic has a tete-a-tete with Yo La Tengo’s James McNew about the Motor City, manners and pizza.

The Globe & Mail talks to Emily Haines about her relationship with her father. She’s playing Saturday night at Hillside.

New Pornographer Carl Newman discusses chilling out on Challengers, out August 21, with NOW. They’re playing the Rogers Picnic this Sunday and are back on October 21 for a show at the Phoenix.

Drowned In Sound talks to The Twilight Sad’s Andy MacFarlane about the tremendous response Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters has gotten both at home and abroad.

Chart asks Fields about their day jobs. And fennel drums.

The Phoenix attempts to create a definitive list of the top ten influential post-punk, proto-indie rock records of all time. Knives… out. Actually it’s a pretty good list – you’d have a hard time arguing against any of the inclusions.

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Stuck For The Summer

I always find it a bit tough previewing a show or reviewing an album just days before I see said act live, and then have to write up a review. After all, I’d have surely used up all my good material in the first go-around, leaving me with… what for the follow-up? Just a review of the show, I guess.

Case in point, PEI’s Two Hours Traffic, whose new record Little Jabs I gave the once-over on Sunday and in celebration of the record’s release yesterday, they played a free show at the Horseshoe last night before a pretty full and enthusiastic room. And anyone who wasn’t paying attention at first was before long, their perfect pop is just that irresistible. As a live act, Two Hours Traffic aren’t going to win any awards for on-stage antics or excess charisma. Instead, the quartet concentrated intently on playing their songs and playing them well and in this, for thirty-plus hook-filled, harmony-laden minutes, they succeeded. They sounded exceptionally tight, yet played with just enough looseness to offer some extra bounce relative to the studio recordings.

And what this show did more than anything was give me an even deeper appreciation for Little Jabs‘ perfect blend of breeziness and earnestness, and I already liked this record quite a bit. Songs that were stuck in my head from listening to the record repeatedly last week came even more alive and I’m actually a bit worried that they won’t be leaving anytime soon (I went to bed with “Nighthawks” in my head and woke up with “Heroes of the Sidewalk”), though there’s far worse cranial soundtracks one could have. It’s always exciting to see a band as young and fresh-faced as these guys are achieve as much as they already have. It’ll be fun to watch where they go from here (I mean that figuratively – literally, they’re going to play continuing to tour Southern Ontario including a Saturday afternoon set at Hillside in Guelph).

The band talks to Exclaim! about the origins of their band name (Shakespeare!) and life in the littlest province (expensive but relaxed!) while Durham Region News asks them about recording the album. Director Ron Mann talks to Chart about making the band’s video for “Jezebel”. They’re also featured this week at I Heart Music.

Photos: Two Hours Traffic @ The Horseshoe – July 24, 2007
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Stuck For The Summer”
Stream: Two Hours Traffic / Little Jabs
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Stuck For The Summer” (YouTube)
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Jezebel” (YouTube)
MySpace: Two Hours Traffic

Drowned In Sound has info on Land Of Talk’s new album… except it’s their old album. Except not. The band will re-release Applause Cheer Boo Hiss in the UK on October 22 – by my count the fourth release of this album – but with three extra tracks, thus bumping it up from mini-album status to official full-length. But where are these tracks from? Freshly recorded and a preview of the next record? Cast-offs from same? Dug out of the vaults? Ask them when they play the El Mocambo on September 4.

Some digging has revealed that Nicole Atkins & The Sea will indeed be on the bill with The Raveonettes at Lee’s Palace on October 14 – this comes from tour dates posted by Gliss, who themselves are also on the tour. Indisputable proof? Not really, but enough that I’ve added it to my calendar. And so should you.

Ryan Adams returns on September 21 to play a venue a little more spacious than last time… Massey Hall. Full tour dates at Pitchfork.

Ohbijou will be playing a free show at Harbourfront Centre on August 10 as part of the Hot’N’Spicy Food Festival. Because if there’s two adjectives I think of when I think of Ohbijou, it’s “hot” and “spicy”.

Sloan and The Golden Dogs will make up one power-poptacular bill at the CNE Bandshell on August 25. I’ve no idea if these shows are extra admission or included with entrance to the Ex.

Exclaim offers a quick guide to all of this year’s Polaris Music Prize nominees including The Dears, who tell Chart that after this weekend’s festival double-header at Hillside on Saturday and the Rogers Picnic on Sunday, they’re done playing live for the year and are working on their next album.

The Guelph Tribune previews Hillside.

Muzzle Of Bees gets nine questions with Grizzly Bear’s Ed Droste. Droste and the Bear will be in town on September 20 for a show at the Mod Club – full Fall tour dates at Pitchfork.

The Village Voice tries to talk to Voxtrot, gets a fire drill instead. They’ll be at the Mod Club October 10.

Pitchfork has details on Jens Lekman’s new record Night Falls Over Kortedala, out in North America on October 9.

AOL Music Canada and The Toronto Star consider the current reunion trend, using Smashing Pumpkins and The Police as case studies, and not necessarily in a good way.