Tuesday, June 17th, 2008
NxNE 2008 II
Photo by Frank Yang
You know what they say about the best-laid plans. With the Killbeat/Kelp Records BBQ taking place at the Global Backpackers hostel just down the street from my office, I figured I could arrive right in time to catch the tail end of the day’s performances. Day shows aren’t really entrenched as part of the NxNE culture yet, certainly not anywhere near the scale as at SxSW, but this annual event was certainly becoming one of the daytime to-dos not to be missed.
I’d expected to be met with the rollicking rock sounds of Ottawa’s Camp Radio but unsurprisingly they were running late and I instead found the relatively quieter but still prone to noisy outbursts pop of The Violet Archers, the new outfit from former Rheostatic Tim Vesely. Pleasant enough to make mental note to give their new album Sunshine At Night a listen – I think I have a copy kicking around here somewhere. The Violet Archers play the Cameron House this Friday, June 20.
And then Camp Radio did take the stage (er, linoleum) and reminded me of what a great blast of hooky, straight-ahead rock their self-titled album. They cut their set a bit short in a futile effort to get back on schedule, but filled the time they did have with a hyper-energetic show that may not have been groundbreaking, but was certainly wall-shaking. And it blew some of the cobwebs out of my head, thank goodness.
Fellow Bytowners in the HILOTRONS may have been celebrating their inclusion the day before on the Polaris long list or may have just been smashed as a matter of course – that was sort of the purpose of the day – but they weren’t as tight, taut or impressive as I’d hoped based on what I’d heard on their Happymatic release.
By this point, the weight of the week was crushing my skull so I beat feet to get home and take a much-needed nap – it meant missing seeing The Blood Lines at the BBQ as well as Oh No Forest Fires at the Kathedral to start the night off, but it was an absolute necessity of survival. And there was one mother of a thunderstorm barreling down on us – I could see way too much lightning in the western sky for comfort as I biked over to Lee’s Palace for the Friday night main event.
There I was met by Uncut, a Toronto band that seems to have been around forever, opened for many big names but never quite managing to reach that next level of success. I think I’ve seen them at least three or four times incidentally, but never a whole set, and while I salute their perseverance and dedication to the fine art of volume, their blend of post-punk and textured noise didn’t manage to really engage me.
Bionic showed up with an axe to grind with, well, pretty much everyone. But jokingly so, I think. Between slabs of loud, hard rock riffage frontman Jonathan Cummins took shots at stoic Toronto hipsters, shoegaze fans and fellow Montrealers The Besnard Lakes. No matter who you were or what you were there for, he was ready to bait you – it was quite hilarious. But Cummins let his own indie roots show with the band’s closing number, a thundering face-kick of a cover of XTC’s “Travels In Nihilon”. Intense.
As they were taking the stage, Jace of The Besnard Lakes tried a little get-back at Cummins by trying to imitate his aggro vocal stylings. Not so effective. The rest of the Besnards’ set fared better, thankfully – I’ve seen them a goodly number of times now and they never disappoint. They didn’t set any new standards either, but it was interesting to see how much more efficient they’ve become, able to impress without extended jams or noodling. But it could also have been that they were as anxious to see the headliners as everyone else – bassist Olga Goreas mentioned how her old band in Vancouver opened up for Swervedriver back in the ’90s.
Photos: The Besnard Lakes @ Lee’s Palace – June 13, 2008
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “And You Lied To Me”
MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “For Agent 13”
Video: The Besnard Lakes – “For Agent 13”
Video: The Besnard Lakes – “Devastation”
MySpace: The Besnard Lakes
And Swervedriver. Yes. Though by convenience they’ve usually been lumped in with the “shoegaze” scene but in truth, they had little in common with the usual touchpoints of the genre – certainly as loud, but not nearly as noisy, and built more around being sonically propulsive than monolithic. But however you choose to regard them, they were unquestionably beloved and Lee’s Palace was beyond sold out and sauna-like in anticipation at the Oxford quartet’s return after more than a decade away.
While it might have been nice to say that the boys hadn’t changed a bit since their last visit, that’d be an outright lie. There was nary a dreadlock was to be seen – probably a good thing – and all four looked downright unassuming and wouldn’t have gotten a second look if they weren’t on stage. But there was no mistaking the sound they made, their pummelling rock juggernaut rides having lost none of their potency in the past decade. The set actually started slower than one might have expected, drawing on the defended by some but generally acknowledged to be flawed Ejector Seat Reservation and 99th Dream, but towards the heart of the set, when they rolled out the Mezcal Head and Raise classics, they found another gear and just took off. Numbers like “Duel”, “For Seeking Heat” and “Son Of Mustang Ford” were pure bludgeoning beauty and main set closer “Duress” was hazy psychedelic bliss. It’s not just as a fan that I say that most of Swervedriver’s repertoire has aged marvelously – it’s a statement of fact. Throughout, they were as good as anyone could have hoped though I found Adam Franklin’s utterly serene countenance to be curiously at odds with the band’s aural intensity. The man was positively zen up there, if completely soaked through with sweat.
Capping an almost two-hour set with a single-song encore of “Never Lose That Feeling” – truer words were never spoke – the band gathered at the back of the club to handle their own merch sales, which was a fine gesture but made for slow going as everyone lined up was seeking handshakes and autographs in addition to t-shirts, posters and CDs. Me, I shook Adam Franklin’s hand and made off with the pedals t-shirt straightaway to bed. 4AM was WAY past my bedtime, but so worth it. And a footnote from the show… I feel a real compelling need to get re-acquainted with my Fender Jazzmaster.
Photos: Swervedriver @ Lee’s Palace – June 13, 2008
MP3: Swervedriver – “Rave Down” (live)
MP3: Swervedriver – “Son Of Mustang Ford” (live at St Andrew’s Hall)
MP3: Swervedriver – “Duel” (live on Stockholm radio)
MP3: Swervedriver – “Last Train To Satansville” (live at Maxwell’s)
MP3: Swervedriver – “Bring Me The Head Of The Fortune Teller” (live on Stockholm radio)
Video: Swervedriver – “Never Lose That Feeling”
Video: Swervedriver – “Duel”
Video: Swervedriver – “Sandblasted”
Video: Swervedriver – “Son Of Mustang Ford”
Spiritualized have set up a new website at spiritualizedharmonies.com to celebrate the band’s almost 20-year history as well as the release of their latest, Songs In A & E. The National Post talks to Jason Pierce about his magical guitar. They’re at day one of V Fest on September 6.
Billboard has details on the release of Margot & The Nuclear So & So’s’ follow-up to The Dust Of Retreat and… it’s not simple. The long-announced title Animals! is now going to be applied to a vinyl release while the CD, which presumably is the album they actually expect people to buy and hear, will be called Not Animal. Both will be available digitally Clear? Didn’t think so. The Indianapolis Star has a little more info and some background from guitarist Andy Fry as to why things shook out that way. Both releases will be out October 7 and they will presumably be playing material from both records when they arrive at the Horseshoe on August 6.
Doing things more conventionally are The Dandy Warhols, who will release Earth To The Dandy Warhols on August 19. They’ll also be at the Kool Haus on September 13. They’re still a Kool Haus-sized band? Who knew. Wired also has an interview.
Tilly & The Wall’s O is out today and you can stream the whole thing at Spinner, as well as download the single and watch the video. They’re at the Mod Club on August 2 and Sentimentalist has a short feature.
And my episode of WOXY’s “Friends Of The Futurist” is now archived online so you can stream it and my bitching playlist, though I’m sorry to say they didn’t run my voice through the James Earl Jones filter like I’d asked.