Monday, July 28th, 2008
Whats Yr Rupture?
Photo by Frank Yang
Call it a bait and switch of the best kind. Saturday night’s soiree at Sneaky Dee’s was billed as a Miracle Fortress show – perfectly logical, considering last year’s Polaris finalist had the highest profile of the four bands on the bill, and were certainly the draw for me who hadn’t seen them since Pop Montreal last year. But upon arrival, it was revealed the final two acts had swapped slots, and that the Fortress of Miracles would be the penultimate act while Graham Van Pelt’s other band – Think About Life – would close things out.
This was an eminently logical decision – those who were there to see the “big” band would get to do so that much sooner and be on their way that much sooner, and TAL’s fierce live reputation would be a difficult, if not impossible, to follow. But hey, what’s a little headliner haggling amongst family? And it was a family affair, with three of the four bands sharing members including the first act up, Adam & The Amethysts with 50% Miracle Fortress personnel. I wrote up their debut Amethyst Amulet last week and while to say they did a fine job of reproducing their musical travelogue to Thunder Bay may sound like faint praise, it’s not intended as such. It’s quite a good record and that the four-piece was able to reproduce the little tics and details so well is no mean feat. A longer set would have been nice, but there was much to get through this night.
The only non-MF related band on the bill was Ruby Coast, who drew a large and rowdy contingent from their hometown down for a night in the big city (Aurora is a suburb north of Toronto). Their spirited set ably demonstrated the perks and downfalls of being exceptionally young (fresh out of high school). On the pro side, they demonstrated terrific energy and a musicianship that was miles ahead of anyone I knew in a band when I was in high school. On the con side, they wore their influences very clearly on their sleeves, and those influences read a little too much like their north-of-Toronto peers. Take the sprightly, pop-punk of Tokyo Police Club and mix in some of the Born Ruffians’ idiosyncrasies and you’re pretty much there, though there’s a latent potential there that if nurtured properly could see them blossom into something entirely their own. But with TPC frontman David Monks supervising the re-recording of their debut EP, that’s not likely to happen in the immediate future. Good thing they’re still young. Ruby Coast were featured in this week’s eye and will be at the Horseshoe on August 6 opening for Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s.
Miracle Fortress’ set began as the project originally did – with Graham Van Pelt solo, surrounded by noisemaking toys. Since turning the project into a live proposition, there’ve been some growing pains as the grandiose sonics of Five Roses were adapted to a conventional band format – the first few shows I saw weren’t entirely successful, but they were definitely getting better each time. Now it seems that they’ve gone in the other direction, adapting the band – now a five-piece – to serve the original vision of the songs. Or at least that’s what I perceived, it’s entirely possible that I’m making stuff up. Either way, Van Pelt looked as comfortable up there as I’ve seen them so however they’ve done it, they’ve grown into quite a decent live act. Their set blended old material and new and reminded that even though Five Roses is only just over a year old, some new work would be greatly appreciated. It was also a bit shorter than I’d have expected, but hey – the weren’t the headliner anymore and Van Pelt needed to save some energy for the nightcap.
I didn’t get too far into Think About Life’s self-titled debut when I gave it a spin a few years ago, don’t rightly recall why but it was probably too noisy and frantic for my tastes. And though it sort of goes against what I was saying a couple weeks ago, it took until I saw them live to get why their fans are so devout – it gives them all an opportunity to mosh like it’s 1994 again. From note one, the crowd was going nuts, frontman Martin Cesar was going nuts and I was thankful for my relatively well-protected position wedged between a PA speaker and bass bin. If anyone was going to smash into me, they were going to smash into a very large, heavy and fixed speaker cabinet first. But beyond the utter chaos of the performance, the band actually sounded better than I remember from the recording. The lo-fi (lack of) sheen was gone and the power of the band, even without their bassist, and strength of Cesar’s vocals, even while pogoing around the stage and into the audience, was much more evident. After a set that was so exhausting to watch I couldn’t imagine actually having to perform it, the audience still called the band back for an encore, testing the structural integrity of Sneaky Dees’ floor for one more song. Amazingly it held up, and while I’m not hunting down another copy of the album, I might well go and see them live again. After I’ve made sure my life insurance is paid up.
Photos: Think About Life, Miracle Fortress, Ruby Coast, Adam & The Amethysts @ Sneaky Dee’s – July 26, 2008
MP3: Think About Life – “Paul Cries”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
MP3: Ruby Coast – “Brittle Bones”
MP3: Adam & The Amethysts – “He Passed Away (The Darkness In His Head)”
MP3: Adam & The Amethysts – “Sonic Youth Centre”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Maybe Lately”
MySpace: Think About Life
ArtistDirect discusses cursing and income with Aimee Mann. A note – in a PR email the other day, I saw Aimee’s August 28 show with Squeeze listed as being at the Danforth Music Hall. Every other listing I’ve seen still says it’s at the Kool Haus, but if you’re the paranoid type, I’d suggest double-checking the venue before heading out.
Also on NPR is a stream of last week’s Spiritualized show in Washington DC, while The Chicago Sun-Times offers up an interview. Apparently the serenity of last year’s Acoustic Mainlines tour has been jettisoned in favour of volume. Lots of it. Bring your earplugs when they play V Fest day one on September 6.