Monday, April 2nd, 2012
The Wedding Present, The Jet Age, Toquiwa and Zarigani $ at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangSomewhere over the last few weeks Sunday night’s Wedding Present show at The Horseshoe got co-opted as the “closing party” for Canadian Musicfest, an appellation I personally refused to acknowledge. The 21st anniversary show for Seamonsters? Absolutely. The tour in support of their just-released new record Valentina? Certainly. Closing party for a festival that at no point acknowledged the band as part of their programme or acknowledged they were exponentially greater than most everyone else who played? Not so much. But I suppose if you got in for free on account of having a CMW wristband, then you probably weren’t complaining.
And if you got there in time to see the openers, you were probably a little confused. Which is fair. Of the two bands listed as accompanying The Wedding Present on this Spring tour – Washington D.C.’s Jet Age or Tokyo’s Pinky Piglets – it was never clear which was going to be at the Toronto show, which was right at the changeover point of the routing. As it turned out we were getting both but even so, there was some further confusion as Pinky Piglets no longer existed having opted to change their name to the more cryptic Toquiwa and even then, they weren’t the band that took the stage first – that was the drum and bass duo called Zarigani $, who were also Toquiwa’s rhythm section and completely unbilled; I wouldn’t have even known what they were called had it not been for the helpful sign hanging off a keyboard stand. Got all that? No? That’s okay. They played some cartoon version of punk-prog for about 15 minutes – far too short a set to try and bridge the cultural divide and understand it – and then brought out two more members and transformed, Voltron-style, into Toquiwa.
And though no less bizarre to behold, they were at least somewhat easier to get a handle on. The addition of a guitarist and lead singer solidified a kind of punk/rockabilliy aesthetic, though still totally cartoon-like. The quartet looked like they were plucked straight off the playground of the Tokyo chapter of The School Of Rock, though the ease with which singer Asuja pounded back a beer adorably solicited from the audience was a hint that they were a bit older than they looked. In any case, it was energetic, ridiculous, gobs of fun and the band thanked The Wedding Present for taking them out on tour by covering “Kennedy” in their own unique manner.
The Jet Age, on the other hand, were about as opposite a band as you were likely to find, comprised of three guys who appeared to have lived through and learned from the days of ’90s college rock. They were a pretty straight power trio playing pretty straight rock with hints of hardcore in their DNA, each player clearly proficient with their instrument but having a fair bit of trouble sounding like they were actually playing with one another instead of overtop, falling out of time with each other on more than few occasions. Their monitors may have had something to do with it – their timing seemed to improve after some adjustments to their mixes – but that didn’t do anything to address the fact that their songs were, at best, unmemorable.
It sounds a bit perverse, but I actually had to make every effort to avoid seeing The Wedding Present at SXSW. They were playing a number of shows there but only one was a Seamonsters recital – I was actually there right before they went on and fled – so I would have had to catch at least two of them to equal this one and festival burnout notwithstanding, seeing them back in Toronto seemed the most logical thing to do. And kudos to The Wedding Present for being clever enough to keep me coming back; this would be my seventh time seeing David Gedge and company in the past decade or so, most recently in April 2010 doing Bizarro. So you’d think that I could skip one, but not seeing/hearing them play Seamonsters wasn’t even on the table – it’s easily my favourite Wedding Present record, marking the point at which they really evolved beyond being a clever singles band with a distinctive sound to an outfit capable of creating complete albums that were both emotionally and sonically rich.
Which is not to say that just hearing them showcase Valentina wouldn’t have been sufficient draw. Whatever he’s called his project, Gedge has been a remarkably consistent songwriter over the past quarter-century and even with the four-year layoff from El Rey, he’s not lost a step. It doesn’t break new ground – at this point, that’s not something to be expected – but does prove that the failures and foibles of romance will always be fertile ground for someone like Gedge to till and Valentina confirms that his lyrical edge is sharp as ever and musically, well loud guitars really never go out of style.
Unlike the Bizarro show where they had no new record to push and were thus able to preface the main event with a random selection of material drawn from throughout their career, this night’s first act leaned heavily on Valentina but the back catalog sprinkles – particularly “Quick Before It Melts” from the Cinerama years and Take Fountain closer “Perfect Blue” – were unexpected but tasty. That’s an upside of a band with a signature sound – with nothing ever sounding out of place in the set, you never know what they’ll pull out of their hats.
Well with the Seamonsters set, I suppose you knew exactly what they were going to do, and even though this was far from the same band that recorded that record – all the non-Gedge members were long gone and even this 2012 lineup was different from the one here last time, longtime bassist Terry de Castro having retired at the end of 2010 – they still attacked the material with the intensity you might expect from those who originally crafted it. I’d heard many of the songs included in sets before – and they were usually highlights – but played end to end they were able to recreate that crucial dimension of its flow, with all the churn, drone and lurch of the recording. It didn’t reproduce the gut-punch I felt when I heard it the first time, but it recalled it and that’s really all you could ask for. And while the band stuck to their tradition of not playing encores, that they played two more songs after the final note of “Octopussy” died out – not the bonus tracks from the US edition, that’d have been too much to hope – felt just as good.
And so what’s next? It’s still a few years before the 20th anniversary of Watusi; maybe the band will have gotten the right back and the album back in print by then? Be kind of an odd anniversary show otherwise. Or maybe a return to Cinerama! I’d be there. And possibly the only one.
Photos: The Wedding Present, The Jet Age, Toquiwa, Zarigani$ @ The Horseshoe – March 25, 2012
MP3: The Wedding Present – “You’re Dead”
MP3: The Wedding Present – “The Thing I Like Best About Him Is His Girl Friend”
Video: The Wedding Present – “You Jane”
Video: The Wedding Present – “You’re Dead”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Don’t Take Me Home Until I’m Drunk”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Ringway To Seatac”
Video: The Wedding Present – “I’m From Further North Than You”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Don’t Touch That Dial”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Interstate 5″
Video: The Wedding Present – “Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family”
Video: The Wedding Present – “No Christmas”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Loveslave”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Boing!”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Come Play With Me”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Silver Shorts”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Three”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Go Go Dancer”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Blue Eyes”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Dalliance”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Crawl”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Brassneck”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Why Are You Being So Reasonable Now?”
Video: The Wedding Present – “Nobody’s Twisting Your Arm”
Video: The Jet Age – “I Want You”
Video: The Jet Age – “I’m Starting To Wonder”
Video: Toquiwa – “Tokyo Merry Go Round”
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Stream: Lightships / Electric Cables
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Video: Niki & The Dove – “Tomorrow”