Tuesday, March 15th, 2011
Canadian Musicfest 2011 Day Two
Karkwa, Esben & The Witch, Adam & The Amethysts and more at Canadian Musicfest
Frank YangThe Friday night of Canadian Musicfest saw the only bit of club-hopping that I’d be engaging in over the weekend, but even that was just across a couple of blocks in Parkdale, and I took a streetcar. No, not so much with the spirit of the club-level festival.
Stop one was the Drake Underground for Olenka & The Autumn Lovers. I’d seen them just a few weeks prior, but while that show had been as a stripped-down four-piece, advance billing promised a full lineup for this one. But instead of the stage-filling configuration that played The Garrison in October 2009, this show was again Olenka Krakus with Sara Froese on violin, Kelly Wallraff on cello and Tyler Belluz on upright bass. And if there’s any trace of disappointment in that, it’s just because it meant that some of the songs from And Now We Sing that required a fuller presentation would again be left out of the set. And yes, this show was similar if not identical in structure to the Horseshoe show but actually probably better overall thanks to the more intimate setting encouraging a more conversational tone between Krakus and the attentive audience. Don’t get me wrong – I still love these songs and am happy to hear them however they’re presented, but if next time out they bring a drummer along… I won’t be upset.
Spinner has an interview with Olenka Krakus.
Montreal’s Adam & The Amethysts made a positive impression with their debut Amethyst Amulet back in 2008, but kind of fell off the radar since I saw them live that Summer. That looks to change with the impending release of their second album Flickering Flashlight, and while details of that release are still forthcoming their showcase did a good job of reminding why they were worth paying attention to in the first place. Their appreciation and affinity for classically-styled, music in the vein of The Zombies is still as sharp as ever, their songs all understated hooks and sneaky sophistication. I wasn’t able to stick around for the whole of their set but was there long enough to whet my appetite for the new record. Hope it gets out sooner rather than later.
Chart has thoughts on their set.
Then it was further into the dark heart of Parkdale to Wrongbar, where 2/3 of what would have been the best bill of the festival were ready to make an argument that it still was. Leading their case was reigning Polaris Music Prize winners Karkwa, who’d been spending no small amount of time since the win last September introducing themselves and the winning record Le chemins de verre to English Canada. And making those introductions by way of live performance was really putting their best foot forward as their show was nothing less than electrifying. I’d seen them play at the Polaris gala and while I didn’t know it at the time, that was Karkwa at their most subdued what with frontman Louis-Jean Cormier on piano – and while that was fine, having him brandish guitars as he did this night made for a very different sort of show.
My French hasn’t gotten any better since September so I still didn’t understand any of what they were singing, but the collective musicianship of the band and melodic and visceral impact of their songs needed no translation. Not even Le chemins de verre properly captured the intense dynamics and surprising amount of brutalism (a good thing) that was on display here. I know that there was a fair bit of head-scratching when Karkwa won the Polaris, both with respect to who they were and whether they deserved it. The former shouldn’t be an issue anymore and the latter? Just go see them live. And make sure the guitars are out.
Photos: Karkwa @ Wrongbar – March 11, 2011
MP3: Karkwa – “Dors Dans Mon Sang”
Video: Karkwa – “Le pyromane”
Video: Karkwa – “Echapper au sort”
Video: Karkwa – “Marie tu pleures”
Video: Karkwa – “Oublie pas”
Video: Karkwa – “Échapper au sor”
Video: Karkwa – “À la chaîne”
Video: Karkwa – “Combien”
Video: Karkwa – “La facade”
Video: Karkwa – “La fuite”
Video: Karkwa – “Vrai”
Video: Karkwa – “Le coup d’etat”
Video: Karkwa – “Poisson cru”
It took a while to tear down after Karkwa’s set – to say they’ve got a lot of gear is an understatement – it didn’t take long to get Brighton’s Esben & The Witch, who don’t need a whole lot in the way of equipment to build their dark, atmospheric sound, to get ready to go. This show was considerably different from their local debut supporting Foals back in September; whereas that one came across as decidedly primal and amorphous with its heavy percussion and free-form vocals, this performance had much more structure, dynamics and overall intent – as though the building blocks that had been present but strewn about in the Fall had now been assembled into something using their debut Violet Cries as a blueprint. But even though it was more controlled, there was still plenty of intensity on offer be it from Daniel Copeman’s hair-whipping guitarwork, Rachel Davies’ plaintive vocals or any or all of the band beating the bejesus out of a single floor tom. Though Esben in general isn’t really my thing, I think I still prefer the album to the live show – it offers up their songs in their most fully-formed state – but neither form is boring.
Chart also has a review of the show.
Video: Mogwai – “San Pedro”
MP3: Yuck – “Get Away”
With the April 12 release of their self-titled debut just about here, Jonny – aka Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci’s Euros Childs – have announced a North American tour that kicks off with two nights at the Drake Underground in Toronto on June 3 and 4.
Video: Jonny – “Candyfloss”
The Quietus has details on the extensive series of Suede remasters and reissues that will be getting rolled out starting May 30 and ending June 22. I am loathe to re-buy these albums, particularly on CD, but man I can’t imagine not having the “definitive” Dog Man Star. Damn you, Suede.