Monday, September 17th, 2012
Black White & Blue
Ladyhawke and Computer Magic at The Hoxton in Toronto
Frank YangIt would have been nice to think that the many well-dressed folks milling about on King West Saturday evening were winding their way to The Hoxton, where New Zealand’s Pip Browne – aka Ladyhawke – was set to make her first Toronto appearance in almost three years exactly. But no, they were probably just out taking in the final night of TIFF, because The Hoxton was basically empty when I got there.
Being an early show with a curfew, waiting around for the more fashionably late wasn’t an option to Computer Magic got to play for a mere handful of people. The project of Brooklyite Danielle Johnson, they played as a two-piece with Johnson on keys and vox and a drummer. It wasn’t much and their on-stage mobility was decidedly limited, but they more than made do. Johnson’s synth-pop melodies were both hooky and interesting, and while her drummer favoured the pads on his hybrid acoustic/electronic drum kit, the fact that he could hit the conventional drums and hit them hard gave it all a lot more power and presence than you would have expected. My understanding is that some live versions of the band have guitar and bass to fill things out, and while I don’t doubt the extra bodies make for a more compelling live show, Computer Magic as a duo had all they really needed to make a good impression – namely, solid tunes.
For reasons entirely not her fault, Ladyhawke’s first Toronto show in September 2009 was something of a clusterfuck. It was part of a seemingly-cursed tour presented by celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, beset by low attendance, a patchwork bill, and a self-destructing headliner in Ida Maria who bailed from the tour entirely the day of the Toronto show. Ladyhawke’s first set as the de facto sole headliner of the tour was actually fine, showcasing the ridiculously catchy ’80s-styled pop of her self-titled debut, but it’s hard to separate the performance in memory from the circus that surrounded it.
This outing came without the sideshow, thankfully, but also without the degree of buzz that was there the first time around. Her second album Anxiety has been rather unjustly dismissed for being built more on guitars than synths, but the electro-pop movement that she was lumped into back in 2009 was no longer fashionable anyways and if she’d stuck with the same formula, the complaints would probably be that she was sounding dated. Fact is, the change in instrumentation is more cosmetic than fundamental; the songs on Anxiety are less immediate than those on Ladyhawke, but also less obvious. Pip Browne’s melodic instincts are still more than intact, though, and it’s a solid work that will age quite nicely.
It also meant that the couple hundred people in attendance – the room had thankfully filled in some – were genuine fans, else three years behind on hearing what was supposed to be hip. Fronting a five-piece band where, perhaps fittingly given their shift in direction, the massive drum sounds and big, fuzzy guitars often drowned out the keyboardist, the Ladyhawke live experience hadn’t necessarily become more exciting. Though friendly, they’re still very businesslike on stage, having evidently drawn on plenty of glittery/glammy ’80s sonic influence but not the excess of presentation. Browne’s vintage Bryan Adams t-shirt got the most audience approval and the guitarist Danny Blanco provided most of the on-stage animation, which wasn’t really much. But the low-key presentation meant that they were able to power through an extensive set list, cramming eighteen songs into an hour and change including an unexpected cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” to open the encore. See, she knows her ’60s as well! And she knows how to write great songs that don’t need the benefit of a gossip blogger patron or fleeting musical fashionability to impress.
Computer Magic has a bunch of EPs available for free download.
Photos: Ladyhawke, Computer Magic @ The Hoxton – September 15, 2012
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive”
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive” (acoustic)
MP3: Ladyhawke – “Black White & Blue” (acoustic)
MP3: Computer Magic – “Grand Junction”
MP3: Computer Magic – “Electric Fences”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Blue Eyes”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Sunday Drive”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Black White & Blue”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Magic”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Paris Is Burning”
Video: Ladyhawke – “My Delirium”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Dusk Till Dawn”
Video: Ladyhawke – “Back Of The Van”
Video: Computer Magic – “Trinity”
Video: Computer Magic – “The End Of Time”
Evidently with a little time to kill before hitting the stage at The Great Hall on the evening of September 18, DIIV will be setting up at Sonic Boom’s Kensington location for an in-store on Tuesday afternoon at 5PM. They just released a new video from their debut Oshin last week.
Australian folkies Husky have a date at The Drake Underground on November 12 in support of their debut Forever So. They were here back during Canadian Musicfest, if you think you might had seen or heard them before. A Daytrotter session with the band also just went up.
Dash Shaw and John Cameron Mitchell offer more a short film than video as their contribution to Sigur Rós’ Valtari “Mystery Film Experiment”, using both “Rembihnútur” and “Ekki múkk” as a soundtrack to their clip.
Video: Sigur Rós – “Seraph”
Laetitia Sadier has premiered a new video from Silencio. She plays The Drake on September 18 and Laetitia Sadier – “Find Me The Pulse Of The Universe”