Monday, March 14th, 2011
Canadian Musicfest 2011 Day One
Young Galaxy, Miracle Fortress, Imaginary Cities and more at Canadian Musicfest
Frank YangSomeday, possibly not too far in the future, I will have to either admit that Canadian Musicfest begins in earnest on Wednesday nights now, and not Thursdays as it has in the past, or begin ignoring it completely. It’s currently even odds as to which it’ll be. But either way, the 2011 edition started for me on Thursday evening at Lee’s Palace, which would be my only stop for the evening. Hey, it’s not my fault that the programmers put together a bill worth staying put for. Though it is my fault that I’m lazy. Anyways.
I’ve seen The Wilderness Of Manitoba a number of times, most recently last November. And while the intervening months have been eventful for the band, most particularly in the form of a US release for their debut When You Left The Fire come May – their live show continues to be refinements of that with which they’ve been building their audience for the last while. Which is to say, pretty harmony-laden folk-pop that served as a welcome acoustical blanket on a damp, cold night as this one. It was good to see that when obliged to fill the largest room I’ve seen them in, at least, there were not only able to embiggen their sound to fill it out, but they did so by adding some instrumental breaks that introduced a welcome little bit of darkness and/or even chaos to the edges of their sound. Given how good and versatile players they all are, it’d be nice to see the musicianship of the band be given as much weight as their vocals. Or they should go completely post-rock their next time out.
Photos: The Wilderness Of Manitoba @ Lee’s Palace – March 10, 2011
MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Hermit”
MP3: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Mother Song”
Video: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “Orono Park”
Video: The Wilderness Of Manitoba – “November”
At first I thought it was odd that I hadn’t seen Miracle Fortress since Summer 2008, but while Graham Van Pelt hasn’t been completely in hiding since then, he hasn’t provided a lot of opportunities to see his solo project live. Partly because he was concentrating on his disco-rock outfit Think About Life and partly because, apparently, it takes a while to completely deconstruct and reconstruct yourself creatively. This, at least, was what could be inferred from his set, which completely eschewed his 2007 debut Five Roses in favour of new material from his second album which is being teased with the acronym WITW? and is due out in April. The My Bloody Beach Boys ’60s/’90s dreampop of the debut has largely been checked in favour of a sleeker, more synthetic ’80s-ish Depeche Shop Boys sound – albeit more guitar-heavy – and while the aesthetic shift take a moment to adjust to, what matters is that Van Pelt’s impeccable songcraft still underpins it all and it sounds fantastic. In addition to the stylistic shifts, Miracle Fortress has also shed the conventional band configuration that it grew into circa Five Roses and this time out, was just Van Pelt on guitar and synths, a drummer basically doubling the pre-recorded rhythm tracks and a laser-light show which probably could have used some smoke machine support for full effect. Still, for such a limited setup, the show had a lot of physicality and energy and affirmed that if you’d forgotten about Miracle Fortress and their greatness over the past few years, prepare to be reminded.
Photos: Young Galaxy @ Lee’s Palace – March 10, 2011
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Maybe Lately”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
Winnipeg’s Imaginary Cities must have felt like they won the lottery when tapped to open up for Pixies on their upcoming North American tour, but judging on their Canadian Musicfest set if they’re going to make the most of the opportunity, they’ve got a little more work to do on their live performance. What they can’t do much about, and probably shouldn’t, is their material, which is solid if not overly remarkable pop-rock – it’s not their fault that it’s rather conventional-sounding next to the Pixies’ genre-bending/defining body of work. But the delivery of said material could be improved; while it certainly looked like they were having a good time, with bandleaders Rusty Matyas and Marti Sarbit looking all smiles on stage, they moved and performed with a decided stiffness and self-consciousness, like when Matyas went for the foot-on-the-monitor move at a moment when not only was he not taking a solo, but his guitar wasn’t even audible in the mix. But to their credit, the show and the material both improved as their set progressed and it became clear that they excelled at the mid-tempo pop numbers rather than when trying to rock out.
The rehabilitation of Young Galaxy around these parts has come a long way thanks to their latest album Shapeshifting, but that re-appraisal hadn’t yet extended to their live show. A poor first impression in early 2007, wherein they seemed to be some combination of bored and stoned, was mitigated somewhat in Summer 2008 opening up for Death Cab on the Islands and I was hoping that this outing, bolstered by the best material they’ve had to work with, would move them firmly into the plus column.
About midway through their set, Stephen Ramsay apologized to the audience for not being “slick” yet with regards to their show, and it wasn’t unjustified – there were some sound issues, the four-piece band had a lot of gear to wrangle and they weren’t going to be mistaken for a well-oiled machine. But despite the hiccups, it was impressive how well they were able to find the right balance of organicness and synthesis, maintaining the studio-ness of the recordings’ while giving them the humanity necessary to make them come along on stage. And it had the desired effect on the audience, as the well-filled room was dancing – or at least swaying – with the pulse of the music and it didn’t go unnoticed on the band. Ramsay and the decidedly pregnant Catherine McCandless were clearly pleased with the turnout and the response, appearing more engaged and probably feeling pretty validated in the risks taken to get to this point – clearly the critical rebirth of Young Galaxy extended to themselves.
Photos: Young Galaxy @ Lee’s Palace – March 10, 2011
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Peripheral Visionaries”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “We Have Everything”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Cover Your Tracks”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Long Live The Fallen World”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Outside The City”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Come And See”
MP3: Young Galaxy – “Swing Your Heartache”
Video: Young Galaxy – “We Have Everything”
Video: Young Galaxy – “The Alchemy Between Us”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Outside The City”
Video: Young Galaxy – “Come And See”
A little bit of sleuthing my Exclaim has revealed a June 7 release date for Fucked Up’s new record David Comes To Life. They also reported last week that the band would be performing a live soundtrack to the 1928 silent film West Of Zanzibar as part of the Images Festival. It’ll happen on the closing night of the festival, April 9, at the Toronto Underground Cinema and cost $12 in advance.