Tuesday, July 9th, 2013
Toronto Urban Roots Fest Day Three
The Hold Steady, Frank Turner, Dawes, and more at TURF 2013
Frank YangWait, what happened to Toronto Urban Roots Fest day two? Exhaustion and a backlog of Hannibal happened, but I was mostly recharged and ready to go for the full-day programmes down at Fort York over this past weekend; Saturday, in particular, was not to be missed as it would be the day that the “R” in “TURF” would stop standing for “roots” and most definitely stand for “rock”.
Los Angeles’ Dawes straddled those two solitudes quite nicely, mind, with their sweet Laurel Canyon-inspired harmonies and songwriting and edge-of-jam-band – yet always totally tasteful – guitar solos courtesy of frontman Taylor Goldsmith; it was an ideal balance of crunchy and smooth, if you’re given to peanut butter analogies. But as solid a frontman as Taylor was, the band’s secret weapon was his brother Griffin, who contributed astonishing backing vocals from behind the kit along with some killer drummer face for good measure. They didn’t draw the biggest mid-afternoon crowd – possibly because they had another headlining show slated for Lee’s Palace later that night – but when those who were there were called on to sing along in “When My Time Comes”, they sounded legion. Very impressive.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune has an interview with Dawes.
Photos: Dawes @ Garrison Commons, West Stage – July 6, 2013
MP3: Dawes – “If I Wanted Someone”
Video: Dawes – “From A Window Seat”
Video: Dawes – “When My Time Comes”
Video: Dawes – “Time Spent In Los Angeles”
Video: Dawes – “Love Is All I Am”
You could arguably file Dartmouth’s Matt Mays alongside Dawes in record stores where “roots-rock” is a distinct thing, but he definitely dwells far more toward the rock end of that spectrum – those who found Dawes a bit sedate or polite was probably delighted by the balls-out approach favoured by Mays and his crew. Though undoubtedly still shaken by the sudden passing of guitarist Jay Smith barely a month earlier, from a performance point of view they were firing on all cylinders with a stock of tunes tailor-made for playing loud in the Summer sun. Theirs was a set of dueling guitars and whipping sweaty hair, and I think my favourite part of their set was after a a particularly energetic number, Mays mouthed “how long?” to the stagehand and incredulously repeated, “Twenty-five minutes?!?” – they were not pacing themselves, and the show was all the better for it.
Photos: Matt Mays @ Garrison Commons, East Stage – July 6, 2013
Video: Matt Mays – “Indio”
Video: Matt Mays – “Take It On Faith”
Video: Matt Mays – “City Of Lakes”
Video: Matt Mays – “Cocaine Cowgirl”
Video: Matt Mays & El Torpedo – “On The Hood”
Video: Matt Mays & El Torpedo – “Tall Trees”
Though as I understand it, he’s a pretty big star in the UK now, I’d somehow managed to never hear Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls before their set, and all I had to go on was that apparently he gets compared to Billy Bragg a lot. Which is cool, because I like Billy Bragg. As it turns out, that’s not the best reference point because Turner really doesn’t sound like Billy Bragg. Handsome and poshly-accented, his songs sound political but are far vaguer than anything Bragg has ever penned, favouring pub-friendly anthemicism to fiery activism and commentary; more Pogues than Clash. But while it’s unlikely to incite a revolution, that everyman approach makes for some rousing music and there’s no debating his ability to stir up a crowd. Energetic and charismatic, he was quick with the banter and expressing his appreciation for the city – he’s no stranger to Toronto stages – and curried some domestic favour with a sharp cover of The Weakerthans’ “A Plea From A Cat Named Virtue”; a canny move, as everyone loves a cat song.
RTE has an interview with Turner.
Photos: Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls @ Garrison Commons, West Stage – July 6, 2013
MP3: Frank Turner – “The Roads”
Stream: Frank Turner – “Plea From A Cat Named Virtue”
Video: Frank Turner – “The Way I Tend To Be”
Video: Frank Turner – “Recovery”
Video: Frank Turner – “Four Simple Words”
Video: Frank Turner – “Sailor’s Boots”
Video: Frank Turner – “Wessex Boy”
Video: Frank Turner – “If I Ever Stray”
Video: Frank Turner – “Peggy Sang The Blues”
Video: Frank Turner – “I Still Believe”
Video: Frank Turner – “Try This At Home”
Video: Frank Turner – “Isabel”
Video: Frank Turner – “Poetry Of The Deed”
Video: Frank Turner – “The Road”
Video: Frank Turner – “Long Live The Queen”
Video: Frank Turner – “I Knew Prufrock Before He Was Famous”
Video: Frank Turner – “Reasons Not To Be An Idiot”
Video: Frank Turner – “Photosynthesis”
Video: Frank Turner – “The Real Damage”
Video: Frank Turner – “Vital Signs”
Video: Frank Turner – “Casanova Lament”
My relationship with Toronto’s own Lowest of The Low is a long one. Anyone who knew me in my late teens/early twenties – or read this post from 2007 knew that they were easily my favourite band going and hugely important to me, and so when they announced that after their 2000 reunion turned into a going concern, they were again hanging it up for good with a final hometown show that December, it stirred all kinds of memories and nostalgia and whatever, and I bid them farewell. Well, of course they didn’t actually split up, as some 2010 one-off shows turned into tours and more shows and though I probably wouldn’t have gone to them anyways, I felt that I needed to boycott them on principle. Happily, I’ve gotten over myself and allowed that the band is allowed to do whatever the hell they want, and thankfully was able to actually enjoy their TURF set rather than grumble about it.
Interestingly, they were back down to a four-piece – founding bassist David Alexander remained absent, but utility player Lawrence Nichols was no longer in the fold – and while they did roll out some new songs, noting that they were going back into the studio to record a fourth album, it was the old tunes that made the day. I still know all the words to “Eternal Fatalist”, “Bleed A Little While Tonight”, and “Rosy & Grey” and probably will until the day I die – and even though Stephen Stanley’s guitar was nearly inaudible in the mix for the first half of the set, I was able to hum every solo as well. They weren’t that tight up there, certainly not compared to the full-time touring outfits sharing the bill with them, but were good enough for rock’n’roll and Hawkins is still a sharp and funny frontman. Not sure about that hair, though, Ron.
Photos: The Lowest Of The Low @ Garrison Commons, East Stage – July 6, 2013
MP3: The Lowest Of The Low – “Gamble”
MP3: The Lowest Of The Low – “The Dogs Of February”
MP3: The Lowest Of The Low – “Bleed A Little While Tonight”
MP3: The Lowest Of The Low – “Subversives”
MP3: The Lowest Of The Low – “The Unbearable Lightness Of Jean” (live)
Video: The Lowest Of The Low – “Rosy & Grey” (live)
Video: The Lowest Of The Low – “The Last Recidivist”
Video: The Lowest Of The Low – “Eternal Fatalist”
And then The Hold Steady. Because I’d seen them so so so many times in a three-year span, I didn’t realize that it had actually been over four years since I saw Craig Finn and the boys do their thing. The upside of this is that it made our reunion at TURF all that more joyous, though anything Hold Steady is bound to be joyous regardless.
After a series of introductions – festival organizer intro-ed sportscaster Dave Hodge who intro-ed superfan Frank Turner who finally intro-ed the band before running down into the pit to rock out to the show – The Hold Steady took the stage to the biggest cheers of the day and put on a clinic about the power and celebratory spirit of rock’n’roll. Powering through a seventeen-song set that gave about equal time to all their records including the new one they’d be going into the studio to record this week, the band were in excellent form with Finn in extra-good spirits from seeing his Minnesota Twins shut out the hometown Blue Jays down the street earlier in the afternoon. Having missed the Heaven Is Whenever tour entirely, it was my first time seeing them without keyboardist Franz Nicolay, and while his keyboard flourishes and sartorial flair were missed, new guitarist Steve Selvidge endeared himself with some Thin Lizzy-esque lead lines with Tad Kubler. And even after it was done, it wasn’t as the roaring audience demanded that rarest of beasts – an encore from anyone but the last act of the night, they rip-roared through “Stay Positive”; Frank Turner leapt onstage to add vocals, but we all knew the “whoa-oh-oh”s. Exhausting and exhilarating.
Photos: The Hold Steady @ Garrison Commons, West Stage – July 6, 2013
MP3: The Hold Steady – “Hurricane J”
MP3: The Hold Steady – “Sequestered In Memphis”
MP3: The Hold Steady – “Stay Positive”
MP3: The Hold Steady – “Chips Ahoy!”
MP3: The Hold Steady – “Stuck Between Stations”
Video: The Hold Steady – “Stay Positive”
Video: The Hold Steady – “Chips Ahoy!”
Video: The Hold Steady – “Stuck Between Stations”
Video: The Hold Steady – “Your Little Hoodrat Friend”
Video: The Hold Steady – “The Swish”
Speaking of rock… Drive-By Truckers haven’t been through town in a while – not since November 2011 behind their last full-length Go-Go Boots, what with both Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley working on solo projects and the departures of bassist Shona Tucker and guitarist John Neff, but the Truckers are back on the road and will be at The Phoenix on November 2 with Old 97’s, who themselves haven’t been to town since Spring 2011, along as support. Not sure if this means there’s new records on the way from either of them, but I get the feeling folks will be perfectly happy to hear the old stuff. NYC Taper has posted a recording of an Old 97s show in Brooklyn last week, if you want to hear what Rhett and the boys are sounding like these days.
Future Bible Heroes have released a new video from their latest album Partygoing, which will surely make up for the sting of knowing that their show at Lee’s Palace, originally set for later this month, has been canceled. But that happened ages ago, so you already knew that, right? Right.