Monday, August 17th, 2009
Spin The Bottle
The D'Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers at The Theatre Centre in Toronto
Frank YangWhen the Summerworks festival last year decided to incorporate a music program into its already-established showcase for independent theatre, it seemed an ambitious yet eminently logical way to introduce fans of one art to the other – see am up-and-coming play, stick around for a couple up-and-coming bands. Has it worked? One can only hope, though considering Thursday night’s show was the first one I’d made it to either last year or this and I didn’t come early for the play, I may not be the best sample group.
The bill that finally got me out to the Theatre Centre, the decidedly charming in-the-round performance space underneath The Great Hall, featured a couple acts I’d seen together back in January at the Out Of This Spark anniversary show – The D’Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers – who were and still are two of the finest acts yet to fully seep into the city’s collective unconsciousness. Both acts have been working on new recordings – the D’Urbs seeking to follow up their 2008 debut We Are The Hunters and Forest City Lovers crafting their third album after last year’s Haunting Moon Sinking – so I had expected to hear some new material showcased alongside old favourites. The bands, however, had different ideas.
The fact that the stage was set up to accommodate two bands side by side was the first sign that this wasn’t going to be a typical show, but Forest City Lovers started off typically enough with the quartet showcasing their charming and understated folk-pop, led by Kat Burns’ haunting vocals. Surprisingly, the excused themselves after only about four or five familiar selections with bassist Kyle Donnelly breaking into the deep groove of The D’Urbervilles’ “Spin The Bottle” and the rest of the band finger-snapped and shouted their way offstage, West Side Story style, as the D’Urbs came out and took over. Donnelly stayed put, since he was also the D’Urbervilles bassist and would the musical lynchpin for the evening. Like their labelmates, The D’Urbervilles set was short and comprised mainly known material, though delivered with enough gusto and enthusiasm to make up for some of the slop around the edges of their delivery. I’ve seen them tighter before, is all. They also wrapped after just five songs, but promised something special coming up after a short intermission.
And if anyone in the audience hadn’t figured it out yet, it because clear what that was when the drummers for both bands took their seats behind their respective kits and kicked into an adrenalized version of Forest City Lovers’ “Country Road”. Yep, for one night only, it was going to be a Forest D’Urberville supergroup or, as they called, the Out Of This Spark Family Band saluting their label boss on the occasion of his birthday. As they alternated between selections from each band’s catalog, it was somewhat revelatory how energized the usually more sedate Forest City Lovers material sounded with the D’Urbervilles’ big rock injection. I’m not suggesting they invest in the Marshall stacks, but that extra dimension could be something to explore. And as for The D’Urbs, their big sound just got bigger, but Burns’ harmonies were a nice if mixed-too-low addition. You couldn’t call the resultant seven-piece a study in musical precision – they’re stylistically a little to disparate to go together like chocolate and peanut butter and at points it wobbled as if one were literally sitting on the others’ shoulders whilst playing – but the sense of fun being had onstage was undeniable and irresistible and more than carried the night.
There’s some video of the show at Morning Noon Night. Forest City Lovers play next at Lee’s Palace on August 28 – details on that show below. The D’Urbervilles are playing V Fest Ontario at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 29.
Photos: The D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers @ The Theatre Centre – August 13, 2009
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Dragnet”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Spin The Bottle”
MP3: The D’Urbervilles – “Hot Tips”
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Scared Of Time”
MP3: Forest City Lovers – “Oh Humility” (live)
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Pirates”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Song For Morrie”
Video: Forest City Lovers – “Please, Don’t Go”
MySpace: The D’Urbervilles
MySpace: Forest City Lovers
So while there wasn’t much (if any) new material from either band aired during the show, both Forest City Lovers and The D’Urbervilles contribute new tracks to the second Friends In Bellwoods double-CD charity compilation, those just two of 39 good reasons to pick this record when it comes out August 25. Like the first edition did back in early 2007, Friends acts as an excellent snapshot of everything musical and wonderful going on in Toronto and southern Ontario right now, boasting new tracks from established local heroes like Final Fantasy and Great Lake Swimmers, bands of the moment like The Rural Alberta Advantage, Basia Bulat and The Acorn and a slew more that will send you scrambling to Google in search of a MySpace so you can find out who the heck they are. And of course, there’s the charitable aspect – like the first comp, which raised over $11,000, all proceeds from the record and attendant shows will go to the Toronto Daily Bread Food Bank.
And what of those shows? The launch party for the first edition at the Tranzac ended up beyond sold out, the lineup of those shut out stretching up and around the block (including yours truly) so they’re expanding the launch festivities this time around. The first event goes this Wednesday night, August 19, at the Gladstone and features performances from Gentleman Reg and Katie Sketch (formerly of The Organ), Diamond Rings, Ohbijou’s Casey Mecija and Emma McKenna, but the big to-dos will happen the weekend following the album’s release. First off on the 28th at Lee’s Palace you’ll have Ohbijou, Bocce, Forest City Lovers and Evening Hymns – tickets $12 in advance – and on Saturday, they take it back to the Tranzac for an all-day blow-out, starting at noon and featuring short sets from many of the bands on the record including The Acorn, Bruce Peninsula and Sebastien Grainger, amongst many others. Admission for that is $10 at the door or $8 with a non-perishable food item. That does not include broccoli.
Mentioned above was Diamond Rings and mentioned throughout today’s post The D’Urbervilles – if you like the latter, you should check out the former. Not because the The D’Urbs’ post-punk and Diamond Rings’ DIY glam sound particularly alike – they don’t, really – but because Diamond Rings is the synth-happy, one-man-band alter-ego of D’Urbs frontman John O’Regan. His debut release is a split 7″ single with PS I Love You, his side of which has a new video. And courtesy of the band/man/experience, I’ve got a copy of the 7″ – which comes in decadent purple coloured vinyl – to give away. If you want it, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want a Diamond Ring” in the subject line and your full name and mailing address in the body, and get that to me before midnight, August 20. And note that in addition to the Friends In Bellwoods show on the 19th, there’s Diamond Rings shows in Hamilton at This Ain’t Hollywood on the 20th and in Guelph at Kazoo! 76 on the 21st. Also check out an interview from last month at Steel Bananas.
Also be sure to head over to Soundscapes’ YouTube channel, where they’ve posted videos from Ohbijou’s in-store there back in June. And check out interviews with the band over at Chart, ExclaimTV and The Line Of Best Fit.
And speaking of TLOBF, they continue to demonstrate their mad love of Canada by assembling a third compilation of Brit-approved Canadian content, free for the grabbing. So go grab.
The Toronto Star sits down with Joe Pernice in the Toronto coffee shop where he wrote most of his debut novel It Feels So Good When I Stop, located some 200 metres from the Dakota Tavern where he’ll be performing on September 24. Well you can’t say the man doesn’t support his own neighbourhood. Which is as good an excuse as any to point out these episodes Indie Rock Cribs that the man whipped up a few years back. Still hi-larious.