Monday, April 19th, 2010
Sloan at Sonic Boom and The Tallest Man On Earth at Criminal Records in Toronto
Frank YangThere was a stretch a few years ago when it seemed like there was a domino effect with record stores in Toronto closing up shop – a moment of silence for Flash & Crash, Driftwood, CD Exchange, Urban Sound Exchange, Edward’s Record World, CD Replay, Second Spin, Sam The Record Man, Music World and a special tear for Stinky’s (aka Cactus) back in Oakville. This was alarming on so many levels; personally, because I spent more than a few weekends digging through their bins for stuff and if they went away, I’d have to find something new to do with my time, and within the bigger picture because this was a crucial part of the musical ecosystem being clear-cut and no how the digital zealots wanted to spin it, mass extinction of music brick-and-mortar retail is NOT a good thing.
Some cynical types look at events like Record Store Day as last-ditch stunts with no lasting impact on halting the decline of music sales; over the long term, maybe they’re right. But on Saturday, roaming around Toronto, I saw no shortage of people up way early to line up for the exclusive RSD goodies without even worrying about what they’d cost and, throughout the day, wandering the streets with bags that could only contain 12″ discs of vinyl (or linoleum tile samples, I suppose). No doubt some were caught up in the trending topic frenzy and others were unscrupulous speculators, but overall, I can’t imagine people who would bother buying vinyl one day of the year and not at least some of the other 364, and so liked what it said about the health of music retail in the 416 (and the vinyl resurgence) – at least right now.
Besides sales and low-run goodies, there was also the attraction of in-store performances to get folks into their local record shops; up in the Annex, Sonic Boom was running the equivalent of a multi-stage, multi-floor festival and down on Queen West, Criminal Records booked an 11th hour performance from Kristian Matsson, whose show at the El Mocambo that night as The Tallest Man On Earth was sold right out. With word getting out just three hours or so before he took the small stage, but those who did get word were treated to a short but impressive three-song set, demonstrating why so many were so excited about him and his latest record The Wild Hunt. Though clearly worn out from the drive from Montreal, Matsson delivered a surprisingly physical performance, roaming the store’s compact stage, and singing in a voice that was richer-sounding (to these ears, anyways) than on record. It barely ran fifteen minutes but certainly had me listening to his stuff with new ears.
And it was fortunate that it was short because it gave me time to bike up to Sonic Boom for Sloan’s RSD10-closing set. While the former BiWay has the city’s finest in-store space in their vinyl basement, complete with wood paneling, they’d gone to the trouble of erecting a larger and higher stage towards the back of the main floor for the day’s events, allowing everyone a far better view of the performance. This was the first time I’d seen Sloan play since their V Fest showing in August and while that was entertaining in its utter farcicality, this one was a much more solid showing even if I barely recognized any of the material.
That’s a bit odd, considering I’ve been a fan since the Peppermint days – albeit less so in recent years – but the band were really getting into the record collecting spirit of the event by playing only b-sides and rarities. Ironically, the releases that they drew from – the B-Sides Win compilation and Hit & Run EP – are digital-only releases, but they’ve also recently pressed all of their studio albums on vinyl so we’ll call that a draw. Set list obscurity aside, it was still a wholly entertaining 45-minute set thanks to the informal setting and the fun of watching the band try to pull off songs they probably hadn’t played in years and some which they admitted had never been performed live before. It was also good to see Chris Murphy recovered from the broken collarbones which hobbled him at V Fest and able to shoulder his bass guitar again. I expect they’ll break out the fan favourites when they play Yonge-Dundas Square for another free show on the Friday night of NXNE, so it was cool to see such a unique set though I’d point out that B-Sides Win opens with an alternate version of “Underwhelmed”… could they not have slipped that in there and still stayed true to their edict for the evening? Ah well.
Oh, my Record Store Day haul? Not much, really – just The Bird & The Bee’s Interpreting The Masters Hall & Oates cover record and the Fanfarlo 7″. Don’t worry, I have no shortage of music to get through.
NPR has a small feature piece on the start of and importance of record stores and Record Store Day.
Photos: Sloan @ Sonic Boom – April 17, 2010
Photos: The Tallest Man On Earth @ Criminal Records – April 17, 2010
MP3: Sloan – “I’m Not A Kid Anymore”
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “King Of Spain”
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden Of Tomorrow”
Video: Sloan – “Witch’s Wand”
Video: Sloan – “The Rest Of My Life”
Video: Sloan – “The Other Man”
Video: Sloan – “Money City Maniacs”
Video: Sloan – “The Lines You Amend”
Video: Sloan – “The Good In Everyone”
Video: Sloan – “Coax Me”
Blur’s Record Store Day reunion single “Fool’s Day” is now available to download off of their website in MP3 and WAV formats for free.
A note to anyone headed to tonight’s Specials show at the Sound Academy – you’ve probably been informed via official channels, but if not, tonight’s performance has been postponed due to medical emergency. Tomorrow and Wednesday’s shows in New York are still on, but the Toronto performance will take place the week of August 4 – same venue – at a precise date to be announced this week. Tickets for this show will still be valid for that show, refunds available at point of purchase until June 28. The Toronto Sun has an interview with guitarist Lynval Golding about the reunion.
Also out May 4 – and sure to help create an unofficial Record Store Day customer surge that day – is Together from The New Pornographers. Carl Newman talks to Pitchfork about the records that have soundtracked his life thus far. They play the Sound Academy on June 15.
Tragic news from You Say Party! We Say Die!, whose drummer Devon Clifford passed away on Saturday night after suffering a brain aneurysm onstage Friday evening. CBC Radio 3 has official statements from the band’s label and Clifford’s family while The Globe & Mail reports on some of his good works in the community. Deepest sympathies go out his friends and family. Update: There’s a beautiful tribute up at the Vancouver Sun.
Vancouver’s Salteens will release their first album in forever (seven years, actually) in Grey Eyes later this Summer – but first will come the Moths EP on May 11; stream the EP at their Bandcamp and download a track now.
June 9 will be the date of a very special benefit concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall. Alli’s Journey is a charity dedicated to providing support and resources for young people battling cancer, and their annual Take My Hand benefit show will take place at the when and where noted above, and with the following who’s: Jully Black, Amanda Martinez, Ohbijou, Dan Mangan, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Aion Clarke and Evening Hymns, with more still to be announced. Floor tickets are on sale now for $99 (scroll down), and cheaper balcony seats will be available come May. It’s great music for a great cause.
And perhaps of interest to folks who like getting paid for stuff – there’s a pretty cool company looking for participants for some live music research. If you live in Toronto, New York, or LA, fill out this survey to apply; if you’re selected, they’ll pay you $25 for half an hour of your time. And if you’re wondering, I do know the people doing this and they’re legit. Their cheques will clear.