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Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Big Echo

The Morning Benders at The Big Chill in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt could have been an interesting study in contrasts if I’d bothered to go to both free shows happening in Toronto yesterday evening. Down at Union Station, you had local aspirant arena rockers Metric drawing throngs while shutting down a key chunk of downtown at rush hour as part of a cell phone launch for a major international corporation. And up in Little Italy, there was Christopher Chu – one quarter of California’s pop merchants The Morning Benders – leading fans and passers-by in singalongs from a makeshift wooden stage outside an ice cream parlour, presented by the independent record store around the corner. Guess which one I went to? Yeah, the one with free ice cream.

Chu and his compatriots had been through town a number of times already this year – including the acoustic gig, yesterday evening’s second night opening up for The Black Keys at the Kool Haus would their fifth Toronto performance of the calendar year – but in this day and age, that’s to be expected when you’ve got a record that could well be your breakout album as The Morning Benders do with their 2010 sophomore album Big Echo. Their 2008 debut Talking Through Tin Cans established the Berkeley-based outfit as knowing their way around a pop hook, but it was on the follow-up that they, assisted on production by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, put together a distinctive sonic identity. One which did recall Grizzly Bear’s a bit, yes, with its epic scale, cavernous reverbs and edge-of-otherworldly ambience, but with more direct and less precious songwriting.

Not that you’d have gotten any of that from Chu’s solo performance on Wednesday afternoon. Seated on a stool with an acoustic guitar and clearly enjoying the laid-back vibe of the afternoon, he solicited requests from the audience and appeared pleased with some of the “deep cuts” being called out. Over the half hour set, he rattled off selections from both records, gamely attempted a cover of The Cardigans’ “Lovefool” (making it as far as the first chorus), tested out a new song inspired by Annie Hall and closed out with Big Echo‘s “Excuses”, backing vocals provided by all of those in attendance. It was a nice, low key way to distract oneself from the city’s sweltering humidity – thanks in no small part to the free ice cream. Did Metric have free ice cream? I think not.

Chu also promised that he and his band would be back yet again this Fall, presumably for a headlining tour. Is six shows in one calendar year for a touring band some sort of record? I think it may be.

Photos: The Morning Benders @ The Big Chill – August 4, 2010
MP3: The Morning Benders – “Promises”
MP3: The Morning Benders – “Grain Of Salt”
Video: The Morning Benders – “Promises”
Video: The Morning Benders – “Waiting For A War”
Video: The Morning Benders – “Damnit Anna”
Video: The Morning Benders – “Boarded Doors”
MySpace: The Morning Benders

Pitchfork talks to Win Butler about Arcade Fire’s Terry Gilliam-directed webcast from Madison Square Garden tonight and an upcoming project with director Spike Jonze The New York Times talks to Gilliam about the show and Rolling Stone gets some details on their dedication to analog on The Suburbs. They’re at the Toronto Islands on August 14.

Janelle Monáe has a new video from The ArchAndroid, which I just picked up this weekend and may well be as mind-bending as everyone is saying it is. She’s the warm-up for Arcade Fire on the 14th on the Islands.

Video: Janelle Monáe – “Cold War”

Queens Journal profiles The Sadies, who round out the Toronto Islands show on the 14th.

NOW tries to find out what The Hidden Cameras have in store for their Summerworks shows at the Lower Ossington Theatre tonight and tomorrow.

Baeble Music is streaming a full show from New York featuring Stars. They’re at Massey Hall on October 23.

eye has a feature piece on Forest City Lovers, who will be playing an in-store at Soundscapes on Tuesday at 7PM and a proper record release show for Carriage on Thursday night at the Great Hall.

In talking to NME, long-time R.E.M. compatriot Ken Stringfellow says the band’s new album is sounding “very old school”. It’s due out next year.

Filter profiles Autolux, who’re at Lee’s Palace on August 24.

Jose Gonzalez’s band Junip will be hitting the road this Fall with Sharon Van Etten; both have new records coming out – Junip with Fields on September 14 and Van Etten with Epic on October 5. They’re at Lee’s Palace on November 5. NYC Taper has a recording of Sharon Van Etten’s show in New York from last week.

MP3: Junip – “Rope And Summit”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”

Clash interviews The Drums. They’re at the Mod Club on October 20.

The Vaeslines have made the title track from their new record Sex With An x, out September 14, available to download. They’re at the Horseshoe on October 30.

MP3: The Vaselines – “Sex With An X”

NOW profiles Wild Beasts; they’re at the Mod Club on August 9.

Jonsi has released a new video from Go.

Video: Jonsi – “Animal Arithmetic”

By : Frank Yang at 8:31 am
Category: Concert Reviews

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

    Metric didn’t have free anything except for a sales pitch from Samsung but the crowd kept that to a minimum but chanting “Metric” incessantly. No doubt it was hot for a bit(although it eventually cooled down) and crowded but such shows are really not about being up close. I’m not a huge Metric fan, but they do have some good tunes but yesterday’s show wasn’t so much about the music as for the concept of holding a free rock show in the downtown core. Such things should happen more often, even if it’s corporate sponsored. Free ice cream would have been nice, though. ;)

  2. Paul says:

    Frank, no comment on the incredibly stacked Imagine Concert line-up? :)

  3. Frank Yang says:

    it’s not even worth mocking. Even the CNE Bandshell is laughing at them.

  4. Steve says:

    Hey Frank,

    That Interpol show is not sold out. Do people not care anymore? I thought Kool Haus would be small for them.

  5. Stephen Frost says:

    wow. are they doing six shows in every city everywhere?