Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007
Song Song Song
The Canada Day shows at Harbourfront Centre are quickly becoming a local tradition, and for good reason – free shows on the lake featuring top-notch Canadian talent are always a welcome event and as good a way as any to celebrate the nation’s birthday. Relative to some of the past performers (Feist, The Dears) it could be argued that this year’s bill of Final Fantasy and Do Make Say Think offered a little less marquee value as far as name recognition went but that didn’t mean that the venue wasn’t jam-packed before showtime with both fans and bystanders. And considering that not so long ago, “free Canada Day show” would have meant Moxy Fruvous at best, having a sprawling orchestral post-rock collective and solo looping violinist playing to the multi-generational audience certainly felt like cultural progress as a nation.
Do Make Say Think’s new record You, You’re A History In Rust is the first of their albums I’ve really been able to get into at all – I tried a couple of their older releases but while the musicianship on display is undeniably excellent, I found their compositions to be a little too abstract for me to get my pop-centric head around. Rust isn’t any less cerebral, but it seems to have some more weight to it and even a few tracks that you might call hooky. For this show, the 11-piece band filled an hour with their dense, complex and undulating sounds that veered from math to jazz to orchestral to straight out rock, usually in the same song. It was fascinating to watch them work though when all was said and done, like their records, their show still appealed more to my head than my heart. But Do Make’s fans, and they are many and loud, obviously get it more than I do because they were whipped into a frenzy by the show and helped energize the audience.
Though Owen Pallett has played stages the size of Harbourfront and larger before, they’ve usually been as member of bands such as Arcade Fire or The Hidden Cameras – seeing him up there, alone, in the Final Fantasy guise was a bit odd, at first. But rather than scale up his show to fit the venue, he succeeded at bringing the venue down to his preferred level of intimacy. As he did at the Tranzac back in February, Pallett stood off to the side of the stage while visuals projected onto a plain white sheet backdrop took centre stage. The winds off the lake caused some problems by blowing the overhead transparencies around but the atmosphere was simple and charming and an effective component of Pallett’s show. But even without the visuals, as long as Pallett had his violin, pedals, keyboard and microphones a terrific show was all but guaranteed.
Like the Tranzac show, the set list drew from both Final Fantasy albums including last year’s Polaris-winning He Poos Clouds but I think my high point came early on with his cover of John Cale’s “Paris 1919” – just like in February, Pallett offered up a beautiful reading that just made me happy, though hearing “This Lamb Sells Condos” in the shadow of all the condo developments along the waterfront had its own distinct irony. Unlike the Tranzac show, however, he took the opportunity presented by having Do Make Say Think on hand to perform some of his songs that don’t lend themselves to the man-plus-looper context and hearing “Arctic Circle” bolstered by what was essentially a full rock orchestra was breathtaking. The show was kept shortish, Pallett’s main set running just an hour including the encore, which in perfectly Canadian fashion he gave half of for Do Make to perform one more song. But wandering out along the waterfront in the shadow of our pimped-out CN Tower, it felt like a pretty good Canada Day to me.
The Toronto Star talked to both Final Fantasy and Do Make Say Think before Sunday’s show, while X-tra and The Manchester Evening News have extended conversations with Pallett. Do Make Say Think are playing the Guelph Hillside Festival at the end of this month and were supposed to have a headlining show at the Phoenix on October 20, but that date is now apparently going to be going to The New Pornographers – Filter has all other tour dates through the Summer and Fall, sans the Toronto show, though I would imagine that will be set and confirmed sooner rather than later.
Photos: Final Fantasy, Do Make Say Think @ Harbourfront Centre – July 1, 2007
MP3: Final Fantasy – “If I Were A Carp”
MP3: Final Fantasy – “Many Lives 49 MP”
Video: Final Fantasy – “He Poos Clouds” (YouTube)
Video: Final Fantasy – “This Lamb Sells Condos” (YouTube)
MySpace: Final Fantasy
MySpace: Do Make Say Think
Segue time! Final Fantasy was one of the artists who contributed to Stars’ stop-gap remix record Do You Trust Your Friends – well they will be back with a proper new record on September 25 with In Our Bedroom After The War, about which Pitchfork has details. Expect to hear the new material when the band plays V Fest on September 9.
And while I’m rounding up Arts & Crafts stuff, I should point out that the first MP3 from Kevin Drew’s solo record Spirit If…, out September 18, is up. The Scotsman has a conversation with Feist and exclamation-happy Welsh A&C signees Los Campesinos! release their debut EP Sticking Fingers Into Sockets over here this week – Spinner is streaming it and they’ll be in town August 7 for a free show at the Horseshoe to support, as well as playing the Hillside. May as well check out the videos from the EP while you’re at it, but check your insulin levels first. These kids could mess you up.
MP3: Kevin Drew – “TBTF”
Stream: Los Campesinos! / Sticking Fingers Into Sockets
Video: Los Campesinos! – “We Throw Parties, You Throw Knives” (YouTube)
Video: Los Campesinos! – “You! Me! Dancing!” (YouTube)
90s Can-rock heroes Eric’s Trip play a reunion gig at Lee’s Palace on September 15.
And finally, to wrap up this post-Canada Day post, Exclaim! has an interesting piece about Canadian artists whose career paths take them outside the Canadian label system – some cases in point, Basia Bulat and Born Ruffians, who instead struck deals with established international labels for their debuts (Rough Trade and Warp, respectively), rather than with a homegrown label. Good points are made for and against, though I will say for the umpteenth time that it’s a crime Ms Bulat’s record still isn’t available in this country. But while the artists in the article may not release their records here, they will play here – Basia Bulat and the Ruffians are both playing at Hillside as well as the Wolfe Island Music Fest in Kingston on August 11. Bulat is also doing a free noon-hour show in Dundas Square on September 12. The Ruffians are also opening up for Caribou (also in the article) on his upcoming Fall tour. And finally, We’re Marching On, who have a sidebar in the piece, are playing the Drake Underground on July 18 as part of a FilmCAN benefit.