Friday, June 12th, 2009
Telekinesis, An Horse and Oh No Forest Fires at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto
Frank YangSo if an artist has already proven themselves to be gifted at both writing a song and recording it, as was the case with Michael Lerner of Telekinesis, is it really fair to expect them to be superb live performers as well? Especially if you take into account the fact that the album – Telekinesis! – was essentially a solo project and the band assembled after the fact? I say not really. Obviously a scintillating stage show would be welcome, but I went into Wednesday night’s show at the Horseshoe with modest expectations.
And anyways, any cravings I had for manic rock shenanigans were well satiated by local openers Oh No Forest Fires. I’ve tried in the past to accurately describe the quartet and their sound, but think they themselves did so more succinctly by namechecking The Dismemberment Plan in their NXNE one-line RIYL. This isn’t to say they sound like the the dear, departed DP, but they are similar in the way they meld virtuosity with anarchy and make it power-pop sweet without compromising their weirdness quotient. Their compact warm-up set drew heavily from their 2008 debut The War On Geometry and featured lots of sweaty flailing and great tunes. Long set or short, these guys always give a tremendous effort and don’t disappoint.
Aussies An Horse I’d seen during CMW and the duo were certainly making the most of their work visas, this being their third show in Toronto in the past three months. The hard work appeared to have been paying off, however, as a pretty good-sized crowd had gathered by the time they took the stage and kicked off a set that was far superior to their CMW one if for no other reason than singer/guitarist Kate Cooper was able to perform without fear of being electrocuted by poorly grounded equipment. You’d be amazed how much mortal fear can disrupt a performer’s vibe. She was also sporting a new guitar, a very fetching racing-striped orange Fender Mustang with a P90 in the bridge which significantly beefed up their sound – it may seem a minor thing, but when you’re working with as few ingredients as An Horse are, every bit counts. Unchanged were the quality of the tunes from their debut Rearrange Beds – taut, anxious and melodic, and worthy of the attention the audience was giving them.
Most drummers with songwriting ambitions will do anything to get out from behind the kit and play frontman. Not Michael Lerner. A one-man show through the writing and recording of his debut album, when he put together his touring band he opted to take the role of drummer for himself. Now I know as well as anyone that finding a good drummer is probably the hardest part of assembling a band, but watching them set up the stage with the drum kit right up front, I had to wonder if this was going to be a good idea. And watching Lerner drop his sticks at least twice during the first song while not singing directly into the mic, it really appeared as though it wasn’t but within a couple of tunes, he’d settled in some and was mostly keeping it together. There were still more gaffes than you’d have gotten with a dedicated drummer and I think he gave up on singing the second verse of “Tokyo” entirely, but by and large acceptable. On the unqualified positive side, the songs really came kicked in a live setting, benefiting from some of the ragged energy the quartet imbued them with. They weren’t the most charismatic bunch but were exceedingly friendly and looked to be having a great time, cracking jokes and poking fun at one another. With an album barely a half hour in length, it wasn’t surprising their set was short, padded out with a sprightly Kinks cover, and while I don’t know if they left anyone wanting more, no one was left wanting either. Hopefully next time around they’ll have polished up just a bit more – maybe Lerner will have a better grip on those sticks – and maybe have some more tunes in their bag.
I Heart The Music has an interview with Oh No Forest Fires, whose next gig is this Thursday evening at the Drake Underground as part of I Heart Music’s NxNE showcase. Love Shack, Baby talks to An Horse.
Photos: Telekinesis, An Horse, Oh No Forest Fires @ The Horseshoe – June 10, 2009
MP3: Telekinesis – “Coast Of Carolina”
MP3: Telekinesis – “I Saw Lightning”
MP3: An Horse – “Postcards”
MP3: An Horse – “Camp Out”
MP3: Oh No Forest Fires – “It’s Not Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye”
Video: Telekinesis – “Tokyo”
Video: Telekinesis – “Awkward Kisser”
Video: An Horse – “Camp Out”
MySpace: An Horse
Los Angeles’ Airborne Toxic Event have a date at the Phoenix on October 19.
Video: Doves – “Winter Hill”
Under The Radar has confirmed that the Jim James/M Ward/Conor Oberst-powered supergroup The Monsters Of Folk have gone from a strictly touring concern to a studio one, and will release their debut album on September 22.