Monday, May 16th, 2011
Shad and Miracle Fortress at Wrongbar in Toronto
Frank YangThere’s not a lot of cross-Canada tours that skip over Toronto, but the Exclaim/Scion-sponsored country-wide trek headlined by Shad, and for this leg also featuring fellow Polaris shortlist alumni Miracle Fortress, looked to be doing just that with Thursday night’s show at Wrongbar presented as a private show, attended by contest winners and attendees of Exclaim’s 19th anniversary party which went before the show. But it’s not as though either artist had been strangers hereabouts lately – both performed in March as part of Canadian Musicfest, and both had more upcoming local dates over the next couple of months; if you wanted to see either of them, you will still have your chances. If you wanted some of the tasty hors d’oeuvres and free beer that was being handed out to party guests… well, sorry – can’t help you there.
But if you were curious about how the show itself went, that I can comment on. I’ve already talked about how much I like Miracle Fortress’ second album, the gorgeous blend of new wave and classic pop that is Was I The Wave?, and so was pretty excited to see/hear it live armed with an intimate knowledge of its contents rather than just the one-week head start I had in March. And while this performance was pretty similar in structure and presentation to that previous show – Graham Van Pelt on guitars, keys, and general sonic sorcery and Greg Napier on drums, a few laser-lighting and strobe effects and a lot of darkness – there were a few fresh observations.
In particular, the realization that as much as Van Pelt is often characterized as preferring to studio to the stage and only touring because it’s necessary, the live Miracle Fortress experience is as intricately arranged and choreographed in its way as the record – whereas the touring incarnation of Miracle Fortress changed a fair bit over the course of promoting 2007’s Five Roses, it’s pretty clear that Van Pelt knew exactly how he wanted Was I The Wave? to be presented live. The way that the duo are able to recreate all the nuances and textures of Was I The Wave? while incorporating a few more visceral live flourishes to keep it from feeling to pre-programmed was quite impressive, as was the fact that even with all the multi-tasking he needs to manage, Van Pelt’s vocals were pitch-perfect. In short, Miracle Fortress sounded fantastic.
And while Shad is always fantastic live as a performer, you couldn’t say that his hour-long headlining set sounded fantastic. Somehow Miracle Fortress’ elaborate setup was easier to amplify than Shad’s mic, turntable and bassist because he had to fight his way through feedback, poor levels and generally muddy sound. Luckily, though, he was in a fighting mood and despite all of that, he put on the most aggressive show I’ve seen from him yet. I don’t mean that in any sort of confrontational sense – that’s not Shad’s game – but just in the amount of energy and enthusiasm he put into it. If you’ve seen him before, you know that his baseline is pretty energetic; this was better.
For his set, he drew heavily on last year’s breakout TSOL and took advantage of the city to invite some guests out; Lisa Lobsinger of Reverie Sound Revue and Broken Social Scene to reprise her parts on “Rose Garden” and Grand Analog’s Odario Williams to take lead on their track “Electric City”, on which Shad guested. But from my perspective, the most memorable guest was the hopefully drunken girl who barged her way to the front for the last few songs of the set and proceeded to writhe and gyrate all over the stage monitors like she was auditioning for a Warrant video. I’m really not sure what she was trying to accomplish – though if it was to be laughed at by the rest of the audience, the club staff and security she succeeded – but as many points as Shad scored for the rest of his set, he gets bonus for not getting distracted. Wish I could say the same but I was doing my best to not get elbowed in the head by her dance moves. Memorable, if nothing else.
BlogTO was also on hand for wasabi mashed potatoes and a review of the show. Ca Va Cool , hour.ca, The Vancouver Sun and See interview Graham Van Pelt; Was I The Wave? gets a US release tomorrow. Shad will be playing at showcase to be announced as part of NXNE and also a free Canada Day show at Metro Square as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival. Miracle Fortress will be at The Phoenix on June 9 as support for Junior Boys. Update: Shad will perform at The New Social on June 18.
Photos: Shad, Miracle Fortress @ Wrongbar – May 12, 2011
MP3: Shad – “Rose Garden”
MP3: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
MP3: Shad – “I’ll Never Understand”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Raw Spectacle”
MP3: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
Video: Shad – “Keep Shining”
Video: Shad – “We Myself & I”
Video: Shad – “Rose Garden”
Video: Shad – “Yaa I Get It”
Video: Shad – “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home”
Video: Shad – “I Don’t Really Like To”
Video: Shad – “Brother (Watching)”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Maybe Lately”
Video: Miracle Fortress – “Have You Seen In Your Dreams”
Modern Superstitions quietly rolled out a sharp new video a couple months ago. Worth a watch, as is the band themselves.
Five words that I never thought I’d see together – Fucked Up and Air Canada Centre (unless it was in the context of how the Leafs do on the ice). And yet Toronto’s premiere hardcore outfit will indeed be going arena-sized on August 9 when they open up for Foo Fighters. And on top of it all, Montreal pop-punkers from the ’90s The Doughboys are back together and will also be on the bill. Fun fact – my band in high school covered The Doughboys’ “Shine” because I liked playing the riff. Yes, I basically made a hash of it every time; I fail to see what that has to do with anything. Fucked Up’s David Comes To Life is out June 7 and the band have released a mini-doc video talking about the new record.
Efforts to catch Sloan’s in-store at Sonic Boom on Saturday were largely foiled thanks to the TTC, who got me there about 40 minutes later than expected. As a result, I couldn’t see anything and there won’t be much writeup beyond saying that The Double Cross continues to impress me with how top-to-bottom great it is, they’re still not nor will they likely ever be an airtight live band but that’s part of their charm and I’m going to have to hit their June 22 show at The Mod Club now. In the meantime, check out this Q&A with Patrick Pentland as the band prepare to commandeer the Magnet website for a week, this guided tour of Sloan’s rehearsal space at Metro, this review/reminiscence of the record/band from Dave Ullrich of Inbreds at Thick Specs and two more installments in their video tributes – a choral “Everything You’ve Done Wrong” and celebrities choosing their favourite Sloan albums.