Saturday, June 14th, 2008
Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk
Photo by Frank Yang
I will confess that this was a show I really wouldn’t have expected to happen. It was perfectly logical that Lightspeed Champion would stop into town as he did in March as that was en route to his carpet bombing of Austin with performances during SxSW, but that he’d return so soon – and in a full band configuration rather than a duo – was a real surprise. Not because it wasn’t justified – Falling Off The Lavender Bridge remains one of my favourite albums of the year so far – but because it didn’t necessarily seem like Dev Hynes’ project was getting much traction in North America beyond the devoted Anglophile community, Conan O’Brien appearances notwithstanding, and mounting a full North American tour might not be the most sensible thing. But understand, this isn’t me complaining – just musing. Obviously someone saw a financial rationale for bringing Dev and co back to the continent and to them, I say “thanks”.
For this tour, Lightspeed Champion had picked up a couple of newer American acts as support, South Carolina’s The Explorers Club and from Omaha, Nebraska, Flowers Forever. The former is frequently pitched with simply as, “If you like the Beach Boys…” which while accurate, doesn’t paint nearly the whole picture. Yes, they frequently tread down the classic pop trail blazed by the Wilson clan and with their unbelievable five-part harmonies and four strong lead vocalists, it’s hard to find other reference points to do them justice. And really, if you CAN sing like the Beach Boys, why on earth would you NOT sing like the Beach Boys? But beyond their vocal prowess, the Explorers Club are gifted songwriters, musicians (their quadruple-guitar freak-out cover of “Johnny B Goode” was something to behold) and really engaging and entertaining performers. They definitely set the bar high for the rest of the evening.
A bar which Flowers Forever didn’t clear. At all. An outfit noteworthy as the side-project of Tilly & The Wall, it came off as a guy desperate to prove that he had some punk rock cred beyond being the dude in the band with the the cute tap-dancing girl. With a stage setup consisting of green floodlights, smoke machines and a trio of large, grotesque screaming head cutouts, the quartet seemed have a mandate to scare grade schoolers. Musically, they were loud and vaguely psychedelic, but anything interesting they might have had to offer in that direction was overshadowed by unfocused anger and random swearing. Juvenile much? Hopefully this little exercise has gotten that out of Pressnall’s system and he’ll be on his best behaviour when Tilly & The Wall come back to town on August 2 at the Mod Club.
When I’d first heard the words “Lightspeed Champion” and “full band” used together, I had fanciful visions of Dev Hynes accompanied by not just a rhythm section, but a full string section and Emmy The Great on vocals, set to recreate the full lushness of Lavender Bridge for my listening pleasure. Well the reality did indeed include the rhythm section, but that was the extent of it. Still, the addition of just those two players significantly altered the dynamic and presentation of the album’s material. Anna Prior, formerly of Leeds’ Dead Disco, not only handled drumming duties but more than ably covered some of Emmy’s vocal parts (and adorableness quotient) though not as loudly or as frequently as I’d have liked, but even a little went a long way.
But recreating the orchestrated wonder of the studio recording obviously wasn’t on the agenda – with the more conventional rock band setup (though again with Mike Siddell on violin) things were arranged relatively louder and heavier, though not to the detriment of the songs and based on the new material that was aired out, that seems to be the direction that Hynes’ songwriting is going anyway. With a (relatively) more structured set than he played in March, he also took the opportunity to trade the acoustic in for electric for a goodly portion of the set and demonstrate some serious chops that weren’t necessarily spotlighted on Bridge. His goofball humour was also on display, with between-song banter including asking the audience what they had for dinner and engaging in some discussion about the ongoing NBA finals. And of course, the hat. Last time in town, they played on the evening of one big-ass snowstorm so the big furry hunter’s hat was an understandable accoutrement. In the middle of Summer? Not so much, especially with Lee’s Palace’s air conditioning on the fritz. But the highlight, as I’m sure they intended, was the big rock reading of the Star Wars theme – Imperial march segueing into the main theme – leading into “Midnight Surprise”. Awesome.
Photos: Lightspeed Champion, Flowers Forever, The Explorers Club @ Lee’s Palace – June 11, 2008
MP3: Lightspeed Champion – “Everyone I Know Is Listening To Crunk”
MP3: Lightspeed Champion – “Waiting Game”
MP3: Flowers Forever – “Black Rosary”
MP3: Flowers Forever – “Beach Bum”
MP3: Flowers Forever – “Happy New Year”
MP3: The Explorers Club – “Do You Love Me?”
Video: Lightspeed Champion – “Galaxy Of The Lost”
Video: Lightspeed Champion – “Tell Me What It’s Worth”
Video: Lightspeed Champion – “Midnight Surprise”
Video: Lightspeed Champion – “Midnight Surprise” (short film)
MySpace: Lightspeed Champion
MySpace: Flowers Forever
The Boston Globe talks to Will Johnson, whose Centro-Matic were also in town on Wednesday night at the Horseshoe. Did anyone go? How was it? No regrets on my part but I’d have liked to have caught that show as well. I should have asked someone to grab me a copy of Dual Hawks.
Thanks to Torr for the tip-off that Neil Halstead will be releasing his second solo record Oh! Mighty Engine on July 29. Neil will be as close as Oro, Ontario on the shores of Lake Simcoe with label-boss/surfing buddy Jack Johnson on August 3, but apparently a proper tour is in the works for the Fall.
The Old 97s stop by Spinner’s Interface for a session and have also got a new Tricia Helfer-powered, kung fu-ed video from their new album Blame It On Gravity. And speaking of BSG, that was a pretty dense mid-season finale, n’est-ce pas? Final scene was sort of what I expected, but still something to see. And now we wait till January for the last episodes. JANUARY. Frack. So glad that Weeds is back this week, otherwise I’d be ALL out of TV. And that’s just not right.
Also with a new video are The Besnard Lakes, who just opened up for Swervedriver on Friday night and will do the same for My Morning Jacket on Monday at the Kool Haus. That is what we call padding the resume.
Daytrotter features up a session with Headlights and also an interview with The Ting Tings, who’re in town at the Mod Club on Tuesday. Congrats to Kim and Diana who won the LPs and the passes to the show. And there’s a new video for that song. Yes, that one. No dancing silhouettes, though.
And though it’s been a bit lean in the last while, there’s some show announcements to get to. First, TV On The Radio’s July 2 show at the Kool Haus has been moved to the Phoenix. Half the capacity means twice the intimacy! I think.
A precise release date for Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s’ Animals! remains to be set, but some touring has been confirmed – they’ll make their Toronto debut on August 6 at the Horseshoe, tickets $10.50. They were supposed to check that off their to-do list back in April 2006 but had to cancel the show after their van checked out on them. Best of luck to them making it up here this time around.
Oneida are at Lee’s Palace on August 15, tickets $8.50. Their new album Preteen Weaponry is also out in August.
Cuff The Duke will do a two-night stand at the Horseshoe on August 22 and 23, tickets for each show $12.
If you think the great reunion trend is limited to British shoegaze bands and American post-punk outfits – mid-90’s veterans of the college circuit are also getting into the act. Case in point, Winnipeg’s Watchmen are back together and will be at the Horseshoe on September 26. Tickets $20.
At the other end of the spectrum, new kids Black Kids will release their Bernard Butler-produced debut Partie Traumatic on July 22 and have booked a Fall tour to support. The Toronto date will be at the Mod Club on October 5 and tickets are $20.
And finally, Pinback will be at the Mod Club on October 7, tickets $16.