Wednesday, August 20th, 2008
Good Flying Day
Photo by Frank Yang
I’m very much an urban soul, but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to get back to the country every now and again – at least once a year, at least, for the Dog Day Afternoon mini-fest that takes place annually at a small farm just outside Guelph, Ontario. Sure, I’ve only been going two years now, but it’s such a comfortable setting I have no problem making it a tradition.
This year’s edition on Sunday marked the party’s tenth anniversary and to mark the occasion… well, they pretty much did the same thing as always. Why mess with a good thing? As always, the incomparable Sadies would be on hand to close things out and the rest of the bill was made up of talent mainly from the Toronto and K-W/Guelph region as well as from further afield. Though there had been vague threats of rain the day before, we were treated to a beautifully sunny day, perhaps feeling a bit more early Fall than late Summer, but splendid nonetheless for the couple hundred (maybe) guests lounging around in lawn chairs and on blankets, working hard at doing nothing.
Kitchener’s One Heart Many Hands was originally slated to kick things off, but had to withdraw and was replaced with a couple of Guelph artists. One Kevin Barnhorst got the opening slot and playing solo on electric guitar, offered a short set of singer-songwritery pop that probably sounded fuller in the context of his band, Elbow Beach Surf Club.
He was followed by Jessy Bell Smith, who impressed armed only with her Gretsch and a big voice. Though naturally inclined to country-soul stylings, she showed she was more versatile than just that with a set peppered with covers ranging from Nina Simone to Bruce Springsteen to a hilarious, rapid-fire version of Akon’s “Smack That”. Folkified rap covers are a bit cliche, but when they’re done as well as this one was, they’re still tremendously entertaining.
I’d seen Toronto one-man space-rock act Now YR Taken a few times before and always felt that while his instrumental compositions, built on guitar loops and drum machine samples, were quite impressive, his songwriting and vocal work really didn’t measure up and diminished the overall experience. This time out, he stuck largely to the instrumentals and despite some technical glitches managed to create an interesting and hypnotic electronic-y atmosphere that contrasted but didn’t conflict with the decidedly rural setting. Unfortunately, he opted to end his set with an almost completely non sequiter, a capella version of G’N’R’s “Don’t Cry” – not just a quote, but an entire verse and chorus. Odd and unnecessary.
It was nice to see Guelph native Gentleman Reg perform live again – it’d been a while. And while he hasn’t released a record since 2004’s Darby & Joan, he hasn’t been idle – he was now sporting a pretty impressive beard. Accompanied by a drummer and thus breaking the solo act trend so far, he played a set of angelically-voiced pop comprised of old favourites as well as some new material from his next album Jet Black, which is unfortunately no longer coming out in October but has been pushed back until the new year. There will still be some touring in the Fall, however, so at least there’s that.
The D’Urbervilles marked the start of the “rock” portion of the day, and the four-piece brought in in fine style, playing tight, taut and lightly funky new wave from their fine new album We Are The Hunters. While the open-air setting probably made it feel a bit less impactful than if it’d had been experienced in closed quarters, it was still a rousing set that raised the bar as far as energy went. Still, I expect their set to be much more punch-in-the-facelike when they open up for Land Of Talk at Lee’s Palace on September 27.
Where The D’Urbervilles were ultra-tight, Halifax’s Dog Day were a decidedly shambolic, but charmingly so. Like the band before them, the effect of their grunge-friendly, melodic pop was mitigated somewhat by the pastoral setting – the blasts of fuzz guitar seemed a bit at odds with the bales of hay and fields of sunflowers behind the band – but I still enjoyed their set though neither time I’ve seen them live has been as satisfying as the recordings that make up last year’s Night Group LP.
Up to this point, the lineup had been largely of the alt.rock variety, whereas last year there was more of a prevalent roots vibe to things. Penultimate act The Shovels certainly made up the twang quotient, the five-piece coming off like a very proficient country-western house band. There was certainly nothing revolutionary about the band’s output – male/female vocals, pedal steel, hot lick guitar solos – but it was friendly and well-played.
Also unlike last year, the Sadies weren’t stuck in traffic and were able to take the stage on time, just as the sun was setting, and put on one of their trademark amazing shows. I’ve seen the band maybe a half-dozen times now, and they’ve never given anything less than 100%, it’s remarkable. Spinning a set of psychedelic country/surf/punk-and-roll, the brothers Good and compatriots Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky again made a case for themselves as one of the most talented bands in the country today.
One new (to me) addition to their repertoire was a cover of Love’s “A House Is Not A Motel”, which fit them so perfectly that I hope they somehow become the spiritual keepers of the song, in the same way that Calexico have essentially adopted “Alone Again Or”. Their version was just sublime. When they closed out their encore with a call for requests, they sadly declined to give the Judas Priest song a go, instead opting for Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine”, but I have a feeling that if they’d gone with the Priest, they’d have a) actually known exactly how to play it and b) absolutely killed it. If you go to either of their shows at the Horseshoe on October 3 or 4, I suggest you demand they play Judas Priest. Don’t take no for an answer.
Sun, straw, Sadies. Cheers, Dog Day Afternoon. See you next year.
Chart was also in attendance and has a review.
Photos: Dog Day Afternoon 2008 – August 17, 2008
MP3: The Sadies – “Anna Leigh”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Hot Tips”
Video: Dog Day – “Oh Dead Life”
Video: Gentleman Reg – “The Boyfriend Song”
Video: Jessy Bell Smith – “Archie”
MySpace: The Sadies
MySpace: Dog Day
MySpace: The D’Urbervilles
MySpace: Gentleman Reg
Final Fantasian Owen Pallett talks to New York Magazine about his forthcoming EPs – Spectrum, 14th Century and Plays To Please – which are due out this Fall. No word on the Heartland full-length, so presumably that’s been pushed back until 2009. Final Fantasy plays the Danforth Music Hall on August 27.
Pitchfork talks to Carl Newman about putting away the New Pornograper overcoat for a bit and putting the A.C. name tag back on in order to turn out his second solo record Get Guilty, tentatively due out in January of next year.
Young & Sexy have a date at the Drake Underground on October 11.