Wednesday, March 28th, 2012
Canadian Musicfest 2012 Day One
Aerials Up, Old World Vulture, Squarehead and more at Canadian Musicfest
Frank YangBack to back festivals! What a great idea. Just prior to heading out to engage with Canadian Musicfest’s 2012 edition, I took a look back at years past and noticed a couple trends – one, that I usually complain about the lineup (check!) and that as a result of not wanting to see the same old same old, I try to branch out and see new and unknown acts, usually from foreign climes, with little background and no guarantee of quality… with consistently mixed results. Would the class of ’12 fare any better? Let’s find out.
Toronto/St. Catharine’s quartet Old World Vulture didn’t really fit into the “unknown to me” category as I’ve been writing them up and recommending them since 2009 but this would actually be the first time I’d ever gotten around to seeing them live, so in that sense it was new. They were playing the upstairs of The El Mocambo, where I don’t think I’d set foot in nearly a decade – since the Blow-Up Britpop nights moved to other venues – and having undergone some renovations since then, it felt both unfamiliar and nostalgic. Not that that was either here nor there – Old World Vulture’s loud and heavy sound was about as far removed from The Wannadies as you were going to get and they were going to keep my attention firmly in the present. In a sense, it’s good that the post-rock genre is rather formulaic as it forces purveyors of it to find a unique angle; Old World Vulture set them apart with their synth leads, which were most interesting when evoking a ’70s sci-fi film vibe. Elsewhere, they were more reminiscent of mid-era Mogwai with less reliance on the loud-quiet thing and more on maintaining a steady, lumbering menace. I was glad to finally be able to tick “see Old World Vulture” off my to-do list.
It’s no short hop from the El Mo to The Drake, but I made pretty good time in hoofing it from A to B in order to catch Scottish collective Aerials Up make their Toronto debut. Looking at the band – a co-ed collective of happy young people brandishing an assortment of rock and orchestral instruments, you might think you know exactly what to expect: big, exuberant pop with multi-part harmonies and swells of strings bouncing off crunchy electric guitar… and you’d be about right. But even though they don’t add anything new to the style, they don’t make it feel any more played out thanks to their enthusiasm, charm, and likeable tunes. The turnout was decent enough for the gig though it was a bit hard to say how many were genuinely paying attention – even when exhorted by the band to stand up, some wouldn’t give up their seats. The Daily Record reports on some of the fundraising efforts the band undertook to afford to come over to Canada.
Photos: Aerials Up @ The Drake Underground – March 22, 2012
Video: Aerials Up – “I Am”
Video: Aerials Up – “Superglue”
It was then a streetcar ride down Queen to get to The Rivoli where the Irish showcase had been chugging along all night. I arrived in time to see Dublin’s Cloud Castle Lake get started, I thought their moody, ambient approach promising – vocalist Daniel McAuley certainly had a falsetto that you could build impressive things around. But within a few numbers it became clear that their songs were not going to coalesce into more coherent songs, and instead would remain sketches more interested in allowing the vocals to roam than offer a memorable listening experience, the extended breaks between songs fiddling with the laptop not helping matters either. A few pieces did possess enough structure to offer optimism about the future and there’s no question they’re in possession of some impressive instruments to work with, but they really need some melodies.
On the other hand, Dublin’s Squarehead were pretty much as advertised: a scrappy power pop trio with garage-y and punkish tendencies It did take a few songs for the expected raucousness to kick in – they seemed to need a little time to warm up – but their acceleration was steady and by the end of their set, they were getting pretty punchy up there. A fun and tuneful set that made up somewhat for the fact that I didn’t get home till 2:30AM and all the SXSW recovery that I’d been stockpiling through the week was basically all squandered.
Nebulously-named buzz band the praise for their new record Open Your Heart into town for two shows – June 14 at The Garrison and June 15 at Wrongbar. And if you intuit from the timing and frequency that this’ll be for NXNE, you get a cookie.
Stream: Mission Of Burma – “Dust Devil”
Paper talks to Annie Clark of St. Vincent/. She has a couple of collector-interest releases coming up – a 7″ with two new tracks for Record Store Day on April 21 and a deluxe edition of Strange Mercy called – wait for it – Stranger Mercy that comes with a DVD of her 4AD Sessions and attendant promo videos on May 8.
The National Post and Chart talk to Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells. Their show at The Phoenix now in the books, their next visit will come April 27 and 28 at The Air Canada Centre opening up for Red Hot Chili Peppers.