Monday, November 16th, 2009
Something Hiding For Us In The Night
The Wooden Sky, Hooded Fang and Brian Borcherdt at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangIn leading up to Friday night’s show at Lee’s Palace, I’d wondered aloud as to why it had taken The Wooden Sky so long to play a proper hometown show, what with their latest record, the ex If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone having come out all the way back in August. Walking into Lee’s, I got my answer – they were building their sets. The stage was breathtakingly decorated with all manner of props and sculptures built of paperback books and pages, which my iPhone photo does not do justice (yes I had my regular gear with me and no, I didn’t take a proper picture – shut up). In both concept and execution, it was one of the coolest things I’d seen as far as art installations go, certainly better than stuff I’d seen at Nuit Blanche – big salute to artists Chris Mills and Tim Oakley for their work. So yeah, I was wholly impressed before a single act had taken the stage. A good sign.
Brian Borcherdt is certainly best known as co-leader of Holy Fuck, but before achieving instrumental electronica fame he plied his trade in a range of rock bands and as a solo artist, and it was the latter that kicked things off Friday. Armed with just a Jazzmaster and material from last year’s Coyotes, he showed off his more atmospheric if not quieter side, songwriting chops and an impressive voice that obviously doesn’t get called on much in Holy Fuck. He was joined by Julie Fader, with whom he’s setting out on tour, and then invited his drummer/collaborator on brand-new project Fields Of Fur and turned the rest of the set into a rehearsal of sorts, showing off his more rock-worthy side.
I had caught Hooded Fang a few times at the start of the year. Even then, over the span of just a month, they became a much more improved outfit, trading some amateurishness for assuredness without giving up the sense of fun and whimsy that gives them much of their charm. They still sound like Los Campesinos! crossed with Saturday Looks Good To Me, trading some of the former’s frantic tendancies and the latter’s Motown debt for an extra dose of tweeness and some of the distinctively Toronto big-band chaos (Hooded Fang numbered seven members). They still add a little more saccharine than I like in my musical diet, but there’s no arguing their upwards trajectory – look for their debut album early in the new year.
Not to suggest in any way, shape or form that they don’t deserve it, but when did The Wooden Sky get so many fans? The last few times I saw them were in basements or as openers and while they’ve certainly been around long enough to have amassed an audience, the size and enthusiasm of the crowd on this night was a surprise. Mind you, the fact that much of the audience seemed to be dewy-eyed girls implies the band has an appeal beyond their songcraft that I hadn’t picked up on before… Regardless, Lee’s was damn near full and dressed to the nines and The Wooden Sky took full advantage of the opportunity.
Their last Toronto performance, an intimate in-store at Sonic Boom in August, showcased the band’s intimate side just as Gone largely does – plumbing the still, deep reservoir of wistfulness and melancholy to impressive effect – and while they didn’t give that facet of their music short shrift, it was good – no, great – to see them get loud and raucous again. Featuring guest appearances from members of The Magic, Forest City Lovers and Evening Hymns, the set drew from both Gone and their first record under the Wooden Sky mantle, When Lost At Sea and presented a portrait of a band whom you could still accurately call roots-rock, but who were clearly using roots as precisely that. A foundation on which to draw on and grow something new from, and with Gone as a watershed record for the band and one I have no shame in saying I didn’t realize they had in them, I can’t wait to see where they go from here. The (wooden) sky is the limit.
BlogTO also has a review of the show. The Wooden Sky continue touring through Ontario and Quebec the rest of the month and there’s interviews with frontman Gavin Gardiner at Pulse Niagara and Brock Press. The Yarmouth County Vanguard talks to Brian Borcherdt.
Photos: The Wooden Sky, Hooded Fang, Brian Borcherdt @ Lee’s Palace – November 13, 2009
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Bit Part”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “Something Hiding For Us In The Night”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “North Dakota”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “The Wooden Sky”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “Land Of Giants”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “The Pageant”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “Circles And Blocks”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me)”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “When Lost At Sea”
Video: Brian Borcherdt – “Scout Leader”
MySpace: Hooded Fang
MySpace: Brian Borcherdt
The two sides of Forest City Lovers’ imminent “Phodilus and Tyto” 7″ single are currently available to stream on the band’s MySpace. The 7″ should be available for purchase on November 20, the tracks will also be available to purchase digitally and a video for the b-side of “If I Were A Tree” is also imminent – all of which does a good job of building excitement for the band’s third album, currently targeted for a late Spring/early Summer 2010 release.
Most of the live music-oriented New Year’s Eve events around town tend towards the country-rock vein – which is fine – but for those who prefer a little less twang in their “auld lang syne” – also fine – there’s an impressive to-do at the Tranzac that evening featuring performances from Gentleman Reg, The Magic, Jim Guthrie, Diamond Rings and Laura Barrett, amongst others. Tickets are $12 in advance and do not include cold buffet or little plastic cups of flat champagne.
There’s a video session with The Wilderness Of Manitoba up at Southern Souls and another MP3 from Hymns Of Love And Spirits available to beguile. They play The Holy Oak (Bloor and Landsdowne) on November 21.
Another Monsters Of Folk video.
Black Cab Sessions drives School Of Seven Bells around Austin in exchange for a song. Alejandra Dehaza talks to NME about preparing to record album number two, entitled Disconnect From Desire and due out sometime in the middle of next year.