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Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

I Gotta Tell Ya Fellas, This Is Pretty Terrific

Oh No Forest Fires, Make Your Exit, Clothes Make The Man and The Balconies at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangPeople traditionally go to great lengths to avoid getting a lump of coal for Christmas but there’s something to be said for getting a big pile of rock for the holidays. And it was rock – and lots of it – on offer Saturday night at the Horseshoe for Jingle Bell Rock, an evening presented by promotions company Audio Blood Media and media partners aux.tv and Exclaim. The lineup featured four bands from the Audio Blood roster – Oh No Forest Fires, Make Your Exit, Clothes Make The Man and The Balconies. The opener and closer were personal live favourites so even though I didn’t know the middle acts at all, odds were pretty good that it’d be a great show.

I’d seen The Balconies a couple times since they moved to Toronto from Ottawa and began gigging their asses off, and they’ve yet to deliver anything but a cracking good set. As always, the power pop of their self-titled debut was lean and lethal and the trio had energy and charisma to spare, rewarding those who’d had the foresight to show up early with a terrific set. I was recently asked in a sort-of poll for a UK website what my Canuck tip for 2010 was – I went with The Balconies, calling them “an inevitability” (do I need quotes to quote myself?). This show was a reminder of why. Their next local gig is January 6 at Supermarket.

From there it was into the, “…and you are?” portion of the night. Clothes Make The Man were certainly keeping in the rock theme of the night, perhaps moreso than any of the others. You had to feel for frontman Ryan McLennan’s vocal cords, so throat-shredding and raw was his delivery but even so, was still able to carry a melody and even convey some gentleness when called for. Which, honestly, wasn’t that often – the quartet was here to be loud and heavy and just tuneful enough. Mission accomplished.

Make Your Exit had a decidedly different mandate, playing the role of sensitive, jam-friendly collective for the evening. Their set was all grand arrangements, emotive melodies and layered harmonies – enough to put most of those around me into a collective swoon but leaving me largely umoved. Certainly I was able to appreciate the musical ability on display, objectively, but any grab for the heartstrings missed the target. Hey, win some, lose some.

Oh No Forest Fires were, as the kids say, made of win and provided just the jolt of energy I needed to make it through the remainder of the night. Led by frontman and human superball Rajiv Thavanathan, their gleeful, ADD-addled prog-punk had the band bouncing around the stage as the blew through material from their debut mini-album The War On Geometry which, in the spirit of the season, they were offering for free to anyone who asked for a copy. Also festive was their set’s finale, which saw the Horseshoe stage being swarmed by most/all the other bands and those who put on the show for a madcap Christmas medley of “Silent Night” and “Feliz Navidad” that would have made Jose Feliciano proud… assuming he’s secretly a musical anarchist. A fitting cap to a holiday celebration the way they all ought to be – sweaty and ear-bleeding.

Photos: Oh No Forest Fires, Make Your Exit, Clothes Make The Man, The Balconies @ The Horseshoe – December 12, 2009
MP3: Oh No Forest Fires – “Robin The Boy Wonders”
MP3: Oh No Forest Fires – “It’s Not Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye”
MP3: Make Your Exit – “Through The Winter”
MP3: Clothes Make The Man – “Telescopes”
MP3: The Balconies – “Serious Bedtime”
MP3: The Balconies – “300 Pages”
MP3: The Balconies – “Smells Like Secrets”
Video: Clothes Make The Man – “Privy”
Video: Clothes Make The Man – “Singles Only”
MySpace: Clothes Make The Man

Since this has started out as a sort of holiday post, now’s as good a time as any to round up some of the many, many, many seasonal musical giveaways that seems to be popular right now. Lucky Soul have gathered all the artists on their own Ruffa Lane label to give away a Christmas tune. They’ve themselves done a cover of Mud’s “Lonely This Christmas”, Montt Mardié has discoed up Wham!’s “Last Christmas” while Swedish glammers Napoleon and London folkies Grantura offer original compositions. Lucky Soul’s second album A Coming Of Age is currently on target for a March 2010 release.

MP3: Lucky Soul – “Lonely This Christmas”
MP3: Montt Mardié featuring Le Sport & Mr Suitcase – “Last Christmas”
MP3: Napoleon featuring Ali Howard – “Midnight Train to Arhus”
MP3: Grantura – “Holly”

Dean & Britta are giving away both sides of their 2008 Christmas single, a cover of Roger Miller’s “Old Toy Trains” and “(S)He’s Coming Home” by The Wailers. And as an early Christmas gift to longtime fans, The Line Of Best Fit reports that all three Galaxie 500 albums will be reissued on March 22 of next year by Domino Records in deluxe CD format, each album featuring a bonus disc previously released by Rykodisc on its own, and on heavy 180-gram vinyl. More immediately gratifying these interviews with Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips at Ladygunn.

Anni Rossi is offering a special gift to those who sign up to her mailing list; Future Sounds reports said gift is an EP of Christmas tunes, one of which is “Silver Bells”.

MP3: Anni Rossi – “Silver Bells”

Jason Lytle is celebrating the holidays by giving away a free EP at his Bandcamp site.

Ear Farm has curated a terrific album of holiday tunes featuring artists such as Asobi Seksu, Sharon Van Etten and Julie Doiron, and is selling it for a paltry $5 with all proceeds going to benefit the Association to Benefit Children.

Looking past Christmas – as in the day after – the Drake Hotel has released the lineup for their annual “What’s In The Box?” Boxing Week concert series. As always, cover is $5 and some of the performers helping make sure those of us still working through the last week of December are bleary-eyed and unproductive are The D’Urbervilles, By Divine Right, Pick A Piper and many more.

Also hosting a series of shows that week with a food drive angle is The Garrison – specifics are still forthcoming but a list of some of the bands participating has gone up over at Stille Post.

Toronto label Out Of This Spark will make the end of the holidays and return to the humdrum of the working week a little more bearable on January 22 when they hold their third anniversary bash at the Garrison. The bill will feature The D’Urbervilles, Forest City Lovers, Evening Hymns and Jenny Omnichord – a lot like this year’s lineup.

Looking a little further ahead, New York synth-pop duo Phantogram will be at the Drake on February 20, tickets $10. Their debut full-length Eyelid Movies will be out on February 9 of next year.

MP3: Phantogram – “When I’m Small”

The Morning Benders will return to the Drake Underground, where they played in February, on April 14 as part of a North American tour in support of their new album Big Echo, out March 9. Tickets for the show are $11.50.

MP3: The Morning Benders – “Waiting For A War”

Yeasayer, who are directing all their website traffic to the one specially set up for their new single “Ambling Alp”, will be at Lee’s Palace on May 1 in support of their new album Odd Blood, out February 9. Tickets $18. There’s an interview with singer Chris Keating at BBC Radio 1.

MP3: Yeasayer – “Ambling Alp”
Video: Yeasayer – “Ambling Alp”

By : Frank Yang at 8:19 am
Category: Concert Reviews

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

RSS Feed for this post5 Responses.
  1. Joe says:

    There’s partial lineups showing for the Garrison boxing day gigs at their rigourously minimalist website (http://www.garrisontoronto.com/).

  2. KristofferAG says:

    The link to The Morning Benders is dead, it should be http://www.themorningbenders.com.

    I really wish I had the opportunity to go to Out of This Spark’s show, looks like a great lineup.

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