Friday, May 18th, 2007
I did not have a good Tuesday. Already stressed from having twice as many days worth of things to do before I left on vacation than I had days to do them, it was one of those days at work – not one those days, one of THOSE days. Sufficed to say, by the time I got home I had half a mind to just go down to Massey Hall, sell my Arcade Fire ticket to the first scalper I saw who didn’t look to have any communicable diseases and just go back home, watch the now-canceled Veronica Mars and go to sleep. I mean, I didn’t even like Neon Bible all that much and my seat was kind of crap. But, of course, I didn’t do any of that because it would have been overdramatic and silly. But it should give you some idea of my spirits going into the show.
I’d give Plague Park, the debut from openers Handsome Furs a quick listen earlier in the day and was reminded that Dan Boeckner was the vocalist in Wolf Parade that I didn’t mind so much. And despite not having much affection for his main band (though I mean to give them another shot), I rather enjoyed the Handsome Furs stuff, both on record and live – though dressed up in some rather raw synth/blues clothing, there were some classic rock songs underneath that reminded me, though the reference point is way overused these days, of Springsteen. And while this is the part where I’d usually say that the two-piece (guitar and keys) band configuration is unnecessarily limiting, for Handsome Furs I think it actually works just right. Nice stuff.
The Arcade Fire stage setup was an interesting one, with a number of circular screens set up around the back perimeter of the stage, vertical neon lights around the front and a mountain of amps, organs, drums and equipment in the middle of it all. When the lights dimmed at around 8:40 (early shows!), a short film of what looked to be a televangelist-type rambling on was shown on the screens until the band took the stage and opening with a massive church organ swell, it was “Black Mirror” and we were off. Arcade Fire have always been a wholly impressive live band – I’ll wager many of their fans were converted at a show as opposed to by the album – but watching them on the legendary Massey Hall stage, they seemed far more assured than I’d ever seen before. In the past, it seemed like they were attempting to harness an energy that was always within their grasp but also had them at its mercy – this time, they were in full command and were electrifying from start to finish.
Some may yearn for the days when the band played loft parties and tiny clubs, but seeing them in a hall as massive and packed as Massey was an experience that I wouldn’t give up for any of those (except maybe bragging rights). Arcade Fire aren’t about intimacy, they’re about grandiosity. Maybe that’s why their records leave me a little cold, they just can’t contain everything the band is trying to convey. In fact, a live Arcade Fire show is probably more like musical theatre than a typical concert in terms of spectacle, even though the band doesn’t really do anything overtly actorly in the course of the show. But the stage dressings for the current show – the fisheye cameras placed around the stage and projected onto the screens, the projections onto the stage curtains, all certainly felt very theatrical.
It’s probably a bit hackneyed to say, but if I were a religious person this was a day that would have driven me to find some solace in church. And while much of Arcade Fire’s themes are overtly religious (the did dedicate “(Antichrist Television Blues)” to the late Jerry Fallwell), that’s not what made the show feel so spiritually vibrant – it was the sense of celebration and musical communion between the band and the congregation, 2700 strong, the fact that Massey Hall was, for an hour and a half changed from a concert hall into a cathedral. Maybe a bit effusive but I can say that while I didn’t find God in the Arcade Fire nor did I become any bigger a fan of the band than I was before, on that night, after that day, this show was exactly what I needed.
Naturally the local media was also in attendance – the show got thumbs up from The Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Torontoist and Chart while The Globe & Mail was rather less impressed. eye was in attendance for the Wednesday night show and Michael Barclay has posted the source interviews for this AOL piece from January in three parts at Radio Free Canuckistan.
Photos: Arcade Fire, Handsome Furs @ Massey Hall – May 15, 2007
MP3: Arcade Fire – “Black Mirror”
MP3: Handsome Furs – “What We Had”
Video: Handsome Furs – “Dumb Animals” (MOV)
MySpace: Arcade Fire
The Village Voice talks to Matt Berninger and Aaron Dessner of The National and MusicOmh to Berninger alone.
The AV Club has now posted that promised interview with Jeff Tweedy.
Filter gets to know Band Of Horses.
Salt Lake City Weekly chats with Craig and Tad of The Hold Steady.
Sad news from Land Of Talk – in an interview with Gen Art Pulse, Liz Powell revealed that drummer Bucky Wheaton had left the band and was being replaced by a friend by name of Eric (no surname given). While I’m obviously disappointed to see the wicked chemistry of the band disrupted, I assume Wheaton will still appear on the majority of the forthcoming full-length album. Help welcome Eric to the band when they play the Horseshoe on May 28 opening for The Rosebuds.
Pitchfork has release details for the solo debut of former Concretes singer Victoria Bergsman under the name of Taken By Trees. Open Field will be out June 18 worldwide except for the US, which will have a release date announced eventually.
…And that’s everything. That’s all I’ve got before departing this godforsaken continent. I’ve queued up some little daily blips while I’m away so you don’t get too lonesome, but I’ll be back properly and (hopefully) refreshed in some way first weekend of June. Thanks, and see you later.
Saturday, April 14th, 2007
Now that my attendance at Lollapalooza 2007 is far from a sure thing, I’ve begun examining festival options a little closer to home. As I mentioned before, Hillside in Guelph the weekend before is looking pretty attractive but there’s also a pretty impressive to-do happening the weekend after a few hours east on the 401.
The ninth edition of the Wolfe Island Musicfest will be happening on August 10th and 11th on Wolfe Island, one of the Thousand Islands outside Kingston, Ontario. Fittingly, the headlining act on the Saturday, the main day of the fest, will be Wolf Parade but the rest of the lineup is just as impressive, featuring Holy Fuck, Apostle Of Hustle, Chad Van Gaalen, Born Ruffians, Spiral Beach, Basia Bulat, The Abrams Brothers, The Ride Theory, Nich Worby and most excitingly for me, Weeping Tile.
For those unfamiliar, Weeping Tile was Sarah Harmer’s band in the mid-90s before she struck out as a solo artist and one of my favourite acts during their too-brief existence. Though not too far removed from Harmer’s recent work in songwriting terms, Weeping Tile were electrified, considerably louder and all-around scrappier. If you only know Harmer via her folkier solo records, you might be surprised to know that the lady can rock out but believe you me, she can. I thought they were wonderful and when they parted ways in 1998 after one EP and two full-length albums, it was a sad day. The last time I saw them was at a Christmas reunion show at Lee’s Palace way back in 2001 but they still do the occasional special gig around their original home base of Kingston, hence their appearance at the Wolfe Island show. They also just contributed a song to The Secret Sessions, a tribute album to The Rheostatics, who played their final shows a few weeks ago.
I got the following MP3 off a sampler sent to radio stations around the release of their second album Valentino in 1997 – it’s a French version of the first single, “South Of Me”, intended to make them superstars in Quebec. I don’t think it worked, but it’s an interesting curio.
MP3: Weeping Tile – “Au Sud De Moi”
But back to Wolfe Island – in addition to the main to-do on Saturday, there’s the Hootenanny Review taking place the night before, featuring Jenny Whitely, Luther Wright (Luther was/is Weeping Tile’s lead guitarist), Julie Fader and Jim Bryson. The festival is a charity event intended to raise funds for the Wolfe Island Community Centre and environs. Tickets for the Hootenanny are $15 and for the festival, $25. On-site camping will be available for $10. For those who rarely leave the city (I’m looking at you, self), Wolfe Island is approximately three and a half hours east of Toronto.
As for Hillside, they’re not slated to announce their lineup until the May issue of Exclaim! hits the streets in the last week of this month, but some names who will be in attendance have been trickling out here and there (Sweet Static has been doing a fine job of digging up the info). So far, it looks like we’ve got Chumbawumba and Shout Out Out Out Out on Friday, Do Make Say Think, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings on Saturday and Alejandro Escovedo on Sunday with Basia Bulat, Born Ruffians, The Dears, Mad Violet, Angela Desveaux, Ohbijou and Mother Mother also appearing at some point over the weekend of July 27 to 29, amongst many many others (info culled from various hopefully reliable sources). If you’ve got more info or names, please leave a note in the comments. But no matter who ends up playing, if tradition holds it will sell out incredibly fast and be a great time regardless – or so I’ve been told by folks who’ve gone in the past. This year I’ll find out for myself.
NOW talks to Tony Dekker of Great Lake Swimmers, who played both Wolfe Island and Hillside last year and are playing two shows at the Church Of The Redeemer tonight. And if that’s not enough for you they’re also doing an in-store at Soundscapes tomorrow afternoon at 4PM. If anyone wants to go to the late show tonight, I have an extra ticket for said performance that I’ll let go for less than the $15 face. If you’re interested, email me.
Paste sends Said The Gramophone to visit with Arcade Fire (who headlined Hillside two years ago) in their converted church/studio/hall of justice. They’ve announced the openers for their two Toronto shows at Massey Hall on May 15 and 16 – support will come from The Handsome Furs, the side project from Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner. That could be alright though coming on the same day that they announced The National were a string of US dates for the Arcade Fire, it’s a little underwhelming.
The National have set up a minisite for their new album Boxer, out May 22. On it, they’ve collected all the video teasers for the album released so far around the internet (including this one for “Gospel”, premiered right here) which are themselves taken from the Vincent Moon documentary on the band, A Skin, A Night. I’m saving my thoughts, comments on the record for closer to the proper release date, but I will reiterate what I’ve said in brief before – Boxer is amazing. Especially played loud.
And finally, Editors have been added to day two of V-Fest and Cat Power is back in Toronto for her fourth show (counting both Lee’s Palace sets) in ten months on July 10 for a show at The Phoenix. Yeah, we’ve been getting a whole lot of Chan.