Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
NXNE 2010 Day Two
The Happy Hollows, Inlets, Gramercy Riffs and more at NXNE
Frank YangThe Friday night programme of NXNE didn’t have, at least for me, any must-see anchor act around which to plan my evening so, instead, I assembled an itinerary of acts I was curious about, had recommended or were just conveniently slotted. A smorgasbord of showcases, if you will, which could either turn out great or… not so great.
Things kicked off at Bread & Circus in Kensington, partly because of its proximity to Big Fat Burrito and partly because Christopher Smith was playing at 8PM. The Beckon Call was both the name of the Vancouverite’s band and his debut album, and though just a four-piece when their show began, there were still more of them in the room than audience. And while obviously no one wants to play to no one, the emptiness was quite suited to the spectral qualities of Smith’s delicate voice and slow motion folk-pop songs. And by their set’s end, there were many times more people in the room than on stage. Well, three times. Or so.
Photos: Christopher Smith & The Beckon Call @ Bread & Circus – June 18, 2010
MP3: Christopher Smith – “Gently, Gently”
MP3: Christopher Smith – “Piece By Piece”
Video: Christopher Smith – “Gently, Gently”
MySpace: Christopher Smith
It should have been a quick shot down College to get to the Whippersnapper Gallery, but that plan was foiled by the massive Taste Of Italy street fair which slowed things down considerably, but I still got to the space in time for Inlets. The project led by Sebastian Krueger wasn’t a far stretch from what I had just seen Smith do, but his compositions from Inter Arbiter had a more jazzy or baroque feel to it, and with more blood and sinew. Though nominally a three-piece live, they were a bassist and performed quite effectively as a two piece, putting the focus squarely on Krueger’s unconventional melodies and Intricatley shifty guitarwork. Music suited for sitting quietly on the floor of an art gallery to.
Six-string prowess was also on display at Lee’s Palace the next hour, courtesy of The Happy Hollows’ Sarah Negahdari. The frontwoman of the trio was like 2/3 of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in one, combining the on-stage energy and charisma of Karen O (and similar looks) with some insane guitar chops, a la Nick Zinner, albeit more shreddy than sound effect-y. Carrying the copious guitar solos which had Negahdari skipping and whipping around stage were punchy tunes from their debut Spells, equal parts glam, punk and prog. A wicked wake-up call for what had heretofore been a pretty sleepy night.
Photos: The Happy Hollows @ Lee’s Palace – June 18, 2010
MP3: The Happy Hollows – “Faces”
Video: The Happy Hollows – “Meteors”
Video: The Happy Hollows – “Big Bad Wolf”
Video: The Happy Hollows – “Vietnam”
Video: The Happy Hollows – “Death To Vivek Kemp”
Video: The Happy Hollows – “My Wet Tongue”
MySpace: The Happy Hollows
A trip down a Bathurst St jammed with traffic – road closures would be the recurring theme of the weekend – to Czehoski would bring the tempo back down, thanks to Denmark’s Katerine Ottoson, aka CALLmeKAT. The one-woman act offered a set of moody, slinky electro-lounge that thanks to an array of keyboards and her elastic voice, was able to engage but over the course of a set, the limits of her aesthetic became clear. The good songs were great but in the long run she needed more to offer the ears.
From there I doubled back to Kensington and Chinatown and the El Mocambo, where Haligonian Rich Aucoin was gearing up to show why people got so excited about his live shows. And even before they played a note, it was pretty clear what we could expect – the balloons, tambourines, beach balls and other party favours strewn about the stage telegraphed Aucoin’s dollar store Flaming Lips ambitions, and indeed his set was all about the party. With his bottomless bag of audience-engaging tricks, from songs comprised of call-and-response slogans and parachute play (like in grade school gym class), fun was pretty much guaranteed but taking a step back, it was hard to ignore that the songs didn’t really have much substance and were more soundtracks for the antics than standalone statements. Which is fine, but also kind of unfortunate. If he could couple the shenanigans with good and proper songs, then he’d really be onto something.
And then it was back to where the night began – Bread & Circus – though by this time of night it was quite full of NXNE-ers. The draw were Gramercy Riffs, in all the way from Newfoundland. Though their debut It’s Heartbreak didn’t make the Polaris Prize long list, it did garner enough positive chatter amongst jurors to warrant a look- and listen-see. And yeah, the pop-rock from the band ably fronted by Lee Hanlon and Mara Pellerin is eminently likeable and catchy, even when it’s delivered in as much of a state of inebriation as the band seemed to be. Straight ahead and built on big melodies and choruses with just enough frills and flourishes to catch the ear, Gramercy Riffs are still relatively unknown outside of The Rock but seem well on their way to rectifying that. Spinner also caught the show and talked to the band afterwards.
JAM and The Toronto Star talk to Sarah Harmer about plugging back in on her new record Oh Little Fire, out now. It’s streaming over at Spinner this week and she plays a sold-out record release show at the Palais Royale tonight.
Stream: Sarah Harmer / Oh Little Fire
Hercules & Love Affair will play a live set at the Mod Club on July 26.
Obviously waiting until their NXNE set was done to announce, Warpaint are coming back on August 11 for a show at Wrongbar supported by Javelin and Beach Fossils. Their debut album will be out on or around September 28. Update: Warpaint will also be opening up for The xx at Massey Hall on September 29. HMM.
Pop rules as Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin and Telekinesis team up for a Fall tour – SSLYBY in support of the forthcoming Let It Sway and Telekinesis for last year’s self-titled debut. The Toronto date is September 4 at the El Mocambo.
And it will get a little bit astrological when Stars and Young Galaxy play Massey Hall on October 23 as part of Stars’ Fall tour in support of the just-released The Five Ghosts. The Vancouver Sun, Spinner and Edmonton Journal have features on the band.