Thursday, August 5th, 2010
The Morning Benders at The Big Chill in Toronto
Frank 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”
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.
Video: Jonsi – “Animal Arithmetic”