Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
Know Better Learn Faster
Thao With The Get Down Stay Down and The Portland Cello Project at The El Mocambo in Toronto
Frank YangIf I’d managed to get to the El Mocambo on Sunday night in time to catch first act David Schultz & The Skyline, I think I could legitimately lay claim to have seen the longest bill – in character count, at least – of all time. But it didn’t happen so I had to settle for just one of the longest in recent memory, thanks to Thao with The Get Down Stay Down and The Portland Cello Project.
As the more insightful might have discerned, The Portland Cello Project is indeed a cello-based musical project hailing from Rose City. Though infinitely scalable when at home, the touring edition of the PCP numbered four cellists who entertained a reasonably healthy-sized Sunday evening crowd with some great banter and mostly-instrumental covers of songs familiar and unfamiliar, including ones by Pantera and Elliott Smith. For one song they were joined by Justin Power for an original number taken from their latest record The Thao & Justin Power Sessions and closed with an audience participatory “Hey Ya!”, assisted by the Get Down Stay Down.
If nothing else, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down are taking home some great road stories from this tour. Both the Portland Cello Project and Thao seemed to be in a state of disbelief of the previous night’s Hallowe’en show in Detroit where they played next door to an Insane Clown Posse party and its attendant hordes of Juggalos, and while Toronto couldn’t compare with that degree of absurdity, the band – and particularly deathly allergic bassist Adam Thompson – was haunted by a phantom cat, who could be heard meowing throughout the between-song lulls, but was never found.
None of the above had anything to do with the show itself, but were still key facets of a terrific evening because Thao with The Get Down Stay Down were all about having and providing a good time through jokes, stories, banter, beatboxing and oh yeah, the music. Until this night, I’d missed Thao every time they’d come through town as well as a myriad of opportunities at the last two SxSW’s but now, finally, I can add my voice to the chorus of those who extol their live show – in short, it’s fantastic. Though both of their records, 2008’s We Brave Bee Stings And All and this year’s terrific Know Better Learn Faster, crackle with a giddy energy, seeing Thao Nguyen utterly dominate the fretboard of her giant hollowbody guitar while lurching around stage and hollering into the mic is something to behold. Similarly, the intense rhythmic aspect of the band doesn’t seem to be done justice by the albums because live, everything felt like a dance song or at least one that you wanted to dance to whether you had any moves or not. They put on an unrestrained, joyous show that was made me simultaneously glad I finally made it out to see them, angry that I had waited so long and determined that I wouldn’t miss them again. And also grateful that at no point did Adam Thompson go into anaphylactic shock. A night of win.
Photos: Thao With The Get Down Stay Down, The Portland Cello Project @ The El Mocambo – November 1, 2009
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Know Better Learn Faster”
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Beat (Health, Life and Fire)”
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Swimming Pools”
MP3: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Bag Of Hammers”
MP3: The Portland Cello Project – “Travel”
MP3: The Portland Cello Project – “Tallymarks”
Video: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “When We Swam”
Video: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Cool Yourself”
Video: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Swimming Pools”
Video: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down – “Bag Of Hammers”
Video: The Portland Cello Project – “Tallymarks”
MySpace: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down
MySpace: The Portland Cello Project
Two Hours Traffic – who were just here last month, yes – have made another Toronto date for November 21 at The Garrison, but the difference is this one is an all-ages gig. Tickets are $10 in advance.
Final Fantasy will mark the January 12 release of Heartland with a hometown show that evening at the Mod Club.
It’s a double-shot of Dave Lowery when Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven hit the road together this Winter and stop in at Lee’s Palace on January 16. Cracker also have a new video out featuring one Patterson Hood.
Video: Cracker – “Friends”