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Posts Tagged ‘Gaslight Anthem’

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Entertainment

Phoenix, Hot Chip, Girl Talk, and more at The Grove Fest in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThere’s been a narrative this Summer about Toronto’s music festival scene going through a sort of Renaissance, with events like Field Trip, TURF, Mad Decent’s Block Party, and Riot Fest establishing both the city’s niche in the greater festival hierarchy – solid second-tier, not-quite-destination events for under 10,000 people – as well as affirming Garrison Common at Fort York as the perfect venue for said events in terms of size and location (unless you live in one of the condos next door in which case too bad). This past Saturday’s The Grove Fest wasn’t originally part of this narrative when it was first announced back in March, being set an hour away in Niagara-On-The-Lake, but it was certainly of interest to festival-goers from the 416 what with an eclectic lineup drafting off those acts commuting between Lollapalooza in Chicago and Osheaga in Montreal, boasting acts like Phoenix and Hot Chip.

But while the multi-genre/demographic randomness of the performers was reminiscent of the Rogers Picnics of the mid-’00s – The Roots with the New Pornographers and Bad Brains? Animal Collective with City & Colour and Dizzee Rascal? – the Grove Fest quickly began to feel more like the chronically snakebit Virgin Fests of the same era. Barely a month after being announced, the festival was moved from Niagara to the aforementioned Garrison Common in downtown Toronto – no official reason was given though soft sales and local opposition are reasonable suspects – and three acts dropped off the bill, with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Pretty Lights, and Bob Mould presumably taking advantages of out clauses in their contracts to book their own, more lucrative shows or just not bother. And just when it seemed the dust had settled, Swedish electro-party duo Icona Pop dropped off the bill earlier this week for their own unannounced reasons. Disappointing? Definitely. Disastrous? Not necessarily; the remaining lineup was still solid and guaranteed to put on a good show, and if enough people still showed up – and one would think the number of complimentary tickets circulating would more than make up for those who demanded refunds – it would still be a fun time.

Arriving a couple acts into the day – apologies Nightbox and Young Empires, had things to do – it was heartening to see that there was already a solid turnout, less concerned with the drama leading up to the day than the entertainment to follow. But things still weren’t quite clockwork – I thought I had arrived just in time to catch Wavves, as per the schedule on the festival website, but instead it was brash Brit newcomers Palma Violets who took the stage – the only thing more head-scratching than the switch was that hardly anyone seemed to notice or care.

This was Palma Violets’ third visit to Toronto since January, and it was good to see that their heavy touring schedule between then and now – to say nothing of actually releasing an album in 180 – had produced solid returns. Ironically, the rough-and-tumble pub rock persona that seemed a bit put-on in an actual bar came across much better on a large festival stage. Bassist “Chilli” Jesson had the moves for getting the audience engaged and the girls shrieking down pat, making up for guitarist Sam Fryer’s distraction at having to play through an amp that was buzzing louder than his actual guitar signal. As their set closer, they invited local political pundit and former punk rocker Warren Kinsella to contribute vocals on a cover by his old band, The Hot Nasties. Pretty sure no one knew who he was.

Photos: Palma Violets @ Garrison Common – August 3, 2013
Video: Palma Violets – “We Found Love”
Video: Palma Violets – “Step Up For The Cool Cats”
Video: Palma Violets – “Last Of The Summer Wine”
Video: Palma Violets – “Best Of Friends

I’d pretty much confirmed that Wavves and their stoner-garage-surf-pop wasn’t really my thing after seeing the at NXNE 2010, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t still be impressed at how they’ve improved as an outfit since then. Now a four-piece, with a second guitarist backing up frontman Nathan Williams, the material from their just-out third album Afraid Of Heights sounded more polished and sophisticated than their older stuff, but without sacrificing any of their stoned/snotty attitude – the melodies that had always been there were just moved more to the surface, and the songs benefitted for it. Their set was probably too short for some – it was just right for me – but those who want more should be pleased that Wavves are back for a headlining show at the Opera House on September 29 and Williams will probably be happy to be back with better on-stage sound.

Photos: Wavves @ Garrison Common – August 3, 2013
MP3: Wavves – “Hippies Is Punks”
MP3: Wavves – “I Wanna Meet Dave Grohl”
MP3: Wavves – “Cool Jumper”
MP3: Wavves – “TV Luv Song”
MP3: Wavves – “Horse Shoes”
MP3: Wavves – “Mutant”
Video: Wavves – “That’s On Me”
Video: Wavves – “Afraid Of Heights”
Video: Wavves – “Demon To Lean On”
Video: Wavves – “Sail To The Sun”
Video: Wavves – “No Waves”
Video: Wavves – “Post Acid”
Video: Wavves – “Bug”
Video: Wavves – “King Of The Beach”
Video: Wavves – “So Bored”
Video: Wavves – “No Hope Kids”

As mentioned, the original Grove lineup was a commendably diverse one and it’s a unfortunate that when the dust settled, it was basically split into half guitar rawk acts and half electro-dance acts, and sandwiched in the middle was Earl Sweatshirt. For those not up on their hip-hop who’s whos, Thebe Kgositsile was claimed to be the most talented of the Odd Future crew and after releasing his debut Earl mixtape in 2010, was sent to a boarding school in Samoa until his 18th birthday and basically disappeared from sight… until he didn’t. At any rate, Sweatshirt is now firmly back in the public eye with a new album in Doris ready for release in a couple weeks on August 20. If his mother was intending to deter him from a music career, she clearly failed. And if you thought that an act whose setup should have only required a live mic and a laptop plugged into the PA would have had the easiest setup of the fest, you’d have been wrong. Technical issues delayed the start of Sweatshirt’s set by a good 10 minutes, or a third of his allotted time. They eventually got things going and Sweatshirt delivered a set from the edge of the stage, his delivery low-key but intense and his short songs wrapped in a fair bit of conversational banter. It felt more like an introduction than a proper set, but if there was one thing the Grove was getting right, it was keeping on schedule, so on things went.

The Los Angeles Times and MTV have feature pieces on Earl.

Photos: Earl Sweatshirt @ Garrison Common – August 3, 2013
MP3: Earl Sweatshirt – “Between Friends”
MP3: Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”
Video: Earl Sweatshirt – “Hive”
Video: Earl Sweatshirt – “Whoa”
Video: Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”
Video: Earl Sweatshirt – “Earl”

It was easy to tell who the Gaslight Anthem fans were, because of all the acts they were the ones whose fans proudly wore their t-shirts, no doubt purchased at the many previous Gaslight Anthem shows they’d attended, including their show at the Sound Academy just last December. All of which is to say that the New Jersey outfit has clearly garnered a loyal fanbase over its seven-year, four-album existence. That said, this would be my first time seeing them and it’s kind of a shame that frontman Brian Fallon appears to be wearying of the E-Street allusions because likening them to a punk rock Springsteen is neither insult nor inaccurate, at least from a superficial, first-impression perspective. It was easy to see how the big, riff-fueld anthems of resolutely meat-and-potato rock’n’roll could engender such fan loyalty; it’s designed for rebellion, disaffection, and just being young. So while being an old person I didn’t necessarily feel it, I totally understood it. Kids, I was once like you.

Photos: The Gaslight Anthem @ Garrison Common – August 3, 2013
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “Here Comes My Man”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “Handwritten”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “45”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “Bring It On”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “American Slang”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “Great Expectations”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “Old White Lincoln”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “The ’59 Sound”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “I’da Called You Woody, Joe”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “Drive”

The setting for my previous and only Girl Talk experience couldn’t have been more different from this one, but even if there’s no comparing a 4AM set on the shores of the Mediterranean to a 7PM set in the shadow of the Gardiner Expressway, one thing was certain – it’d be a whole lot of fun. Bringing dancers from the crowd to fill out the stage while he kept the top 40/classic rock/hip-hop mash-up machine going, Gregg Gillis and company doused the audience in confetti, toilet paper, balloons, and good vibes. What’s to say? If you’ve seen/been to a Girl Talk show, you know exactly what it was. If you haven’t seen/been to a Girl Talk show, you should really see/go to a Girl Talk show.

The Stranger talks to Gillis about the art of the mash-up.

Photos: Girl Talk @ Garrison Common – August 3, 2013
MP3: Girl Talk & Jim Jones – “Believe In Magic”
Video: Girl Talk – “All Day”

Some would argue that it was an injustice giving Hot Chip just a 40-minute set; surely with five albums of fantastic electro-pop to their name and a reputation for stellar live shows, they should have gotten a little more time in? Perhaps, in the original Grove configuration of two stages tag-teaming sets it could have happened, but as it was, they – like everyone else playing – was up against the clock. But if there was a positive side to this, it was that they opted to fill every minute of the time they were given with the hits – less the ballads – and nothing but. I’d last seen them in April 2010 behind One Life Stand – I missed last Summer’s tour for In Our Heads – so my data points aren’t complete, but I daresay I’d not seen the band be so energized and into the performance before – it was like they were more into putting on a show than just soundtracking the party. And so despite sound complaints – prevalent throughout the day but especially critical for Hot Chip’s set – partying did occur.

Tom Tom has an interview with Hot Chip’s (relatively) new drummer, Sarah Jones, formerly of New Young Pony Club. If you were wondering. I was.

Photos: Hot Chip @ Garrison Common – August 3, 2013
Video: Hot Chip – “Don’t Deny Your Heart”
Video: Hot Chip – “Night & Day”
Video: Hot Chip – “Look At Where We Are”
Video: Hot Chip – “How Do You Do”
Video: Hot Chip – “Flutes”
Video: Hot Chip – “I Feel Better”
Video: Hot Chip – “One Life Stand”
Video: Hot Chip – “One Pure Thought”
Video: Hot Chip – “Ready For The Floor”
Video: Hot Chip – “The Warning”
Video: Hot Chip – “Over And Over”
Video: Hot Chip – “Colours”
Video: Hot Chip – “And I Was A Boy From School”
Video: Hot Chip – “Playboy”

The rise of Phoenix from likeable but hardly beloved indie-pop band to massive worldwide stars post-Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and, with the release of this year’s Bankrupt!, top-tier festival headliners, has been fascinating to watch. There’s those who don’t believe the band deserve it and are akin to one-hit wonders hanging out at the rock’n’roll hall of fame – and it’s true, with their ascent built largely on the back of one massive album or, more specifically, a couple of massive songs, their path to the biggest poster font is markedly different from those legacy acts with decades-long careers, even if their best work is inarguably behind them. But what that also means is that Phoenix’s fans are young and thus far less jaded or weary of festivals – so yeah, with the band having been off the road and out of sight for more than a couple years, their base is excited and sure as heck buying tickets to see them. The onus, really, is on the band to prove that they belong there. And based on their pulverizing one-hour, Grove-closing set, Phoenix belong.

Starting a bit late on account of setting up their massive light show gear, their set opened with a blazing “Entertainment” and, perhaps wanting to prove they didn’t need to hold their biggest songs back, were onto “Lisztomania” by the third number. What’s interesting is that fundamentally, Phoenix’s live show hadn’t really changed since I last saw them in June 2009 – Thomas Mars still climbs the monitors, gladhands the audience, and basically gives it his all while his five bandmates are as tight as tight gets – but the scale of the presentation has been necessarily amped up and what impresses is how naturally they’ve grown with it. They don’t seem at all out of place in the big spotlight, on the big stage, and if anything, they look as though they’ve been there all along and were just waiting for everyone to catch up with them. Even with just an hour to work with, they crammed in a baker’s dozen songs – including “Sunskrupt!”, their amalgam of instrumental “Love Like A Sunset” and mostly-instrumental “Bankrupt!” – as well as a huge finale/reprise of “Entertainment” to close the show. Phoenix skeptics may have a point in the long term; Bankrupt! is a solid record but hasn’t reached Wolfgang-level heights, so come their next album, it’s no sure thing that Coachella, Lollapalooza, et al will be calling, but for now, in 2013, this is where they belong.

The Grid grabbed an interview with Phoenix prior to the festival.

Photos: Phoenix @ Garrison Common – August 3, 2013
Video: Phoenix – “Trying To Be Cool”
Video: Phoenix – “Entertainment”
Video: Phoenix – “1901”
Video: Phoenix – “Lisztomania”
Video: Phoenix – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better”
Video: Phoenix – “Long Distance Call”
Video: Phoenix – “Twenty-One One Zero”
Video: Phoenix – “Run Run Run”

NOW, BlogTO, and The National Post also have reviews of the fest.

And so The Grove. While many aspects of the fest were well-conceived and seemed to be undone by pure bad luck, although that doesn’t excuse other issues with the event – poor communication, dodgy sound, expensive concessions – that promoters with the experience that Goldenvoice have (they do Coachella) should have avoided. It seemed that by show time, the organizers were just trying to keep their heads down and get it over with without anyone dying or losing more money and even if much of the audience weren’t actual paying attendees, they still deserved better. There’s no question that there exists an opportunity for a festival in Toronto on the same weekend as Lollapalooza and Osheaga – pretty much every band playing both will be driving down the 401 that August long weekend – but it’s hardly the no-brainer it might appear. Any event would be at the scheduling mercy of those two big players, and considering that both – especially Osheaga – counts a strong Toronto demographic in their attendees, there’s not a lot of incentive to make it easy for acts to play all three cities, not that it’s necessarily easy in the first place – logistics are a bitch. Still, I hope/believe that something will rise up to fill this niche – whether it’s The Grove, valuable lessons learned and ready for another round, or someone else who thinks they can get it right, we shall see. And if someone does try, they’d be well advised to consult The Grid‘s helpful roundup of some of the music festivals that have tried – and failed – to make it work in the 416. Man, this town.

Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Oblique City

Phoenix rises with new festival and cross-border shopping opportunities

Photo By Arnaud PotierArnaud PotierAs It’s been kind of funny to see the incredulity that has that has met the announcement of Phoenix as a top-billed act as the Summer’s festival lineups are rolled out in the US and Europe, with people scoffing “since when are Phoenix festival headliners?”. The answer, of course, being “since they began headlining festivals” – which is to say this year, following the massive success of 2009’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix and in anticipation of the April 23 release of Bankrupt!.

This elevation is obviously good news for those headed to Coachella, Primavera, or what have you – as well as for the French band, who are finding themselves in the enviable position of being able to gold plate anything they like – but is less good news for cities who don’t host big A-list Summer festivals… which includes Toronto. And while the return of something even on the scale of Virgin Fest seems unlikely – though you may recall Phoenix played the first one way back in 2006 with a decidedly non-headlining, early afternoon slot – we’re actually doing pretty well with somewhat smaller to-dos, particularly ones that are in a position to align with more established festivals relatively nearby. This year’s inaugural Toronto Urban Roots Fest is drafting quite nicely off of Ottawa Bluesfest and Montreal Jazz Fest, and yesterday’s announcement of The Grove Fest, taking place August 3 at The Commons at Butler’s Barracks in Niagara-On-The-Lake – looks to take full advantage of being located midway between Montreal and Chicago on Osheaga/Lollapalooza weekend.

Phoenix will headline this event – if that wasn’t obvious from the opening paragraph – and be joined by a diverse bill including Girl Talk, Hot Chip, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Pretty Lights, The Gaslight Anthem, Bob Mould, Earl Sweatshirt, Wavves, Icona Pop, Palma Violets, Young Empires, and Nightbox. It’s a lineup that spans the globe, is heavy on the dance party vibe but with a decent dollop of guitar angst. The bill actually feels like those Rogers Picnics that ran for a few years down at Fort York in that there’s something to satisfy everyone and something to annoy everyone – mostly Macklemore, I would imagine.

Early bird tickets go on sale today at 10AM for $74.50, and after those are gone regular passes are $79.50; VIP tickets are available for $140. And no, Niagara-On-The-Lake is NOT in Toronto, but a 90-minute straight shot down the QEW isn’t bad, and if you want to make a long weekend getaway out of it, Buffalo is just across the border. And you know you’ve been looking for an excuse to go to Buffalo.

The Line Of Best Fit has an interview with Phoenix.

Video: Phoenix – “Lisztomania”
Video: Girl Talk – “All Day”
Video: Hot Chip – “Night & Day”
Video: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Thrift Shop”
Video: Pretty Lights – “So Bright” (live)
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “45”
Video: Bob Mould – “The Descent”
Video: Earl Sweatshirt – “Chum”
Video: Wavves – “Sail To The Sun”
Video: Icona Pop – “I Love It”
Video: Palma Violets – “Best Of Friends
Video: Young Empires – “White Doves”
Video: Nightbox – “Relocate You”

And just as the likes of Field Trip and TURF further entrench Garrison Commons at Fort York as one of Toronto’s go-to Summer concert venues and former War Of 1812 battlegrounds as great places to throw parties – if only Olympic Island had seen bloodshed, perhaps it would have remaind in favour – southern Ontario concertgoers may want to keep Niagara-On-The-Lake’s Butler’s Barracks in their GPS. On June 29, it will also hosting a one-day mini-fest headlined by City & Colour and supported by Metric, Jimmy Eat World, Serena Ryder, and Yukon Blonde. Tickets for that are $64.75 and on sale now.

MP3: Metric – “Gimme Sympathy”
MP3: Jimmy Eat World – “Bleed American”
MP3: Yukon Blonde – “Fire”
Video: City & Colour – “Comin’ Home”
Video: Serena Ryder – “Stomps”

And back to TURF, another batch of acts has been announced for the four-day event running July 4 to 7. We’ve got Yo La Tengo, who will be playing on the 7th since they will follow headliners Belle & Sebastian on tour after that, and also JD McPherson, The Barr Brothers, and Larry and his Flask. Each week finds the lineup getting stronger and more eclectic; by the time the schedule and ticket information is released later this month, it should be a doozy.

MP3: Yo La Tengo – “Stupid Things”
Video: JD McPherson – “Fire Bug”
Video: Larry & His Flask – “Call It What You Will”
Video: The Barr Brothers – “Beggar In The Morning”

And in club show announcements – no, not everything is happening at a national historic site: Peter Murphy will mark the 35th anniversary of Bauhaus with a set comprised entirely of material of his old band. That happens May 10 at Lee’s Palace, tickets $29.50 in advance.

Video: Bauhaus – “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”

Doldrums will play his first show in town since last week’s release of Lesser Evil at The Horseshoe on May 11 – you know, in case there wasn’t enough going on that night with Foals, Charles Bradley, and The Breeders elsewhere in town. Tickets are $10 in advance.

MP3: Doldrums – “Jump Up”

If you’ve been waiting for Los Angeles buzz band Haim to come to town and are a Vampire Weekend fan, congratulations – the sister act have been named as support for their May 16 show at The Sony Centre. And if you’re not a Vampire Weekend fan… sorry, but you can at least take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not a Vampire Weekend fan.

Video: Haim – “Falling”

While it’s all well and good that Laura Stevenson is coming back to town – I enjoyed her set opening for Maps & Atlases back in August 2010 – I’m more excited that Brooklyn’s Field Mouse will be opening up for her at The Drake on May 21; verily do they hit my indie-pop sweet spot. Tickets for that are $12.50 in advance.

Video: Laura Stevenson – “Master Of Art”
Video: Field Mouse – “Glass”

The Shins have decided to take last year’s Port Of Morrow for another spin – they’ll be at The Sound Academy on May 22, tickets $34.50 general admission and $44.50 VIP.

MP3: The Shins – “Know Your Onion!”

It’s like a cross-generational synth-pop summit; Diamond Rings will open up for Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark at the Danforth Music Hall, both on the previously announced July 11 date and the just-announced July 19 second date. Tickets for both are $35 in advance.

MP3: Diamond Rings – “I’m Just Me”

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Long Vows

Band Of Horses, The xx, and some other concert announcements

Photo By Christopher WilsonChristopher WilsonBecause clearly I’m shit at this retirement or even just taking a day off thing… Some recent concert announcements with on-sales earlier than I’d have likely gotten to them otherwise. This is me. Thinking of you.

Band OF Horses were just here in August, yes, but that was in a sort of support role for My Morning Jacket and it was a good month before their new record Mirage Rock came out – today, I believe. And so to go with the new record are a batch of North American tour dates, including a stop back in Toronto at Massey Hall on December 5. Tickets for that are $42.50 to $49.50 and go on sale this Friday at 10AM. Presales are also likely, I leave those to you to sniff out.

There’s band features at Toro, Spotify, aux.tv, and Under The Radar. NPR also has a World Cafe session with the band.

Video: Band Of Horses – “Knock Knock”

Also back for seconds are The xx. They previewed Coexist here at the end of July, but are back as part of their full North American tour – as I predicted – with a show at Massey Hall on October 23. Tickets for that will range from $39.50 to $59.50 and go on sale this Thursday at 10AM. JAM has an interview with the band. Update: Beggars Canada has some presale info for Wednesday at 10AM.

MP3: The xx – “Angels”
MP3: The xx – “Sunset”

A little bit of an odd pairing, but a good one if you like guitars big and loud – The Gaslight Anthem and The Joy Formidable team up for a trans-Atlantic rock summit at The Sound Academy on November 25, tickets $26.50 general admission and $39.50 VIP, on sale Friday at 10. The Gaslight Anthem released Handwritten back in the Summer and The Joy Formidable are readying their second full-length Wolf’s Law for release next January.

MP3: The Joy Formidable – “Wolf’s Law”
Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “Handwritten”

Also offering a healthy amount of guitar pyrotechnics are Six Organs Of Admittance. They’re at The Drake on November 28 in support of their new record Ascent. Tickets are $13.50 in advance.

MP3: Six Organs Of Admittance – “Waswasa”

And while I’ve got you here, I may as well direct you to Rolling Stone where The Mountain Goats are streaming their new record Transcendental Youth ahead of its official release next week; Time also has a feature. They’re at The Phoenix on October 20.

MP3: The Mountain Goats – “Cry For Judas”
Stream: The Mountain Goats / Transcendental Youth

Wilco also have a new video, taken from The Whole Love. So watch that.

Video: Wilco – “Sunloathe”

Dum Dum Girls also have a new video, taken from their new EP End Of Daze, out today.

Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Lord Knows”

Ume have turned to Kickstarter to help record their next record.

Exclaim, Spinner, and The AV Club have features on The Afghan Whigs. They’re at The Phoenix on October 3.

Exclaim chats with Annie Clark of St. Vincent.

CBC Music talks to Josh Tillman of Father John Misty, in town at Lee’s Palace on October 27.

JAM and NOW talk to Dinosaur Jr, whose second of three nights at Lee’s Palace is tonight.

Exclaim, Austinist, NPR, and NOW profile Grizzly Bear, in town at Massey Hall tomorrow night.

Damnation.

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

CONTEST – The Gaslight Anthem @ The Sound Academy – July 14, 2010

Photo By Ashley MaileAshley MaileWho: The Gaslight Anthem
What: Arena-sized blue-collar punk rock from the wilds of New Jersey; Bruuuuuuuuce-approved
Why: They released their third full-length American Slang earlier this year
When: July 14, 2010
Where: The Sound Academy
Who else: The Menzingers and Tim Barry support
How: Courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got a pair of passes to give away for the show. Email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see the Gaslight Anthem” in the subject line and your full name in the body before midnight, July 12.
What else: Exclaim has the band on their cover this month

Video: The Gaslight Anthem – “American Slang”

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

My Best Friend Is You

Kate Nash, Brett Alaimo and Supercute! at The Mod Club in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhenever I see reviews of Kate Nash’s just-released sophomore effort My Best Friend Is You that put forward the tracks that represent her well-documented discovery of Riot Grrl as the standouts and bemoan the number of pure pop numbers on the record, I have to wonder if the writers of said pieces actually like Kate Nash. Because as commendable as it is that she’s seeking to branch out beyond her precocious piano girl image and explore her interest in louder, rawer sounds, the inescapable fact is is that she’s not very good at it.

In its finest moments, Best Friend finds Nash taking what made Made Of Bricks such a delight – the fast-talking sass and hooky piano-led melodies – and honing them further, exhibiting the growth you’d expect over three years without sounding too grown-up. Tracks like “Paris”, “Don’t You Want To Share The Guilt” and lead single “Do Wah Do” are immediate and indelibly catchy sugar bombs that hold up over repeat listens, and the like thankfully outnumber those where Nash attempts to get her punk on. While “Mansion Song” actually works better than you’d expect, segueing from profanity-laced spoken word intro into a clattering, stomping sing-along, other stylistic forays like “I Just Love You More” find Nash tries to sound angry and guttural but instead comes across as on the verge of laughing hysterically – probably not the desired effect – and the lo-fi “I’ve Got A Secret” just wobbles aimlessly. But missteps aside – Bricks had its share as well – Best Friend is a largely enjoyable listen that gives Nash fans what they want… and sometimes you have to take the crunchy with the smooth.

That said, the balance of the two wasn’t what many would have liked on Monday night at the Mod Club in Toronto. It marked the kickoff of her North American tour and in rounding up support acts, she didn’t have to look too far. Rachel Trachtenburg opened for Nash before – The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players opened up for her on a number of her 2008 dates – but this time, she was fronting her new band Supercute!, which teamed the 16-year old with 13- and 14-year old accomplices in shiny outfits and giant hair bows, playing Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd covers alongside self-penned songs about candy, hula-hooping and boys. It was short, sweet and strange. Considering that there would have been an hour wait between the end of Supercute!’s set and the start of Nash’s, the unbilled set by Nash guitarist Brett Alaimo was a welcome one. Playing mostly solo, except for one song where he was accompanied by the rest of Nash’s band, he was part Libertines, part Billy Bragg and part spoken-word poet/stand-up comic. Certainly a more enjoyable way to pass the time than constantly checking my mail (especially since I wasn’t getting much mail).

At this point it’s worth noting that this show was a) all-ages and b) sold-out, which is generally a recipe for a) feeling old and b) losing a few degrees of hearing from the squealing that inevitably occurs when the headlining act comes on stage. And so it was that the crowd went mad when Kate Nash finally followed her band onstage and seated herself at the keyboard with the empowering message, “A c*nt is a useful thing” emblazoned across a sheet draped off it (the message itself wasn’t censored, just my transcription). Grinning ear to ear at the enthusiasm of the crowd, she kicked off with Best Friend‘s “Paris”, which proved as excellent a set opener as it is an album opener, and straight into “Do Wah Do” and then Bricks’ “Mouthwash”, all sounding great and setting the tone for what was looking like a terrific show. She then surprised by moving over to guitar for the next song and remaining there for the next few numbers, all scrappy pop selections from the new record and all also sounding quite good.

The second half of the show was decidedly less triumphant, with the more questionable bits of her repertoire making appearances and Nash seemingly determined to redefine herself as guitar-wielding rocker chick right then and there. While some fans indulged her, even attempting to pogo or mosh a bit, most waited patiently for her to get back to doing what she did best. They were repaid with the likes of “Foundations” and “Very Merry”, but the show failed to end on a high note. Both main set closers “Mansion Song” and “I Just Love You More” came across more awkward live than on record – and as stated, the latter was pretty awkward to begin with – and the encore selection was b-side “Model Behaviour”, which gave Nash leave to do more shrieking and sent many heading for an early exit.

Poor finish aside, the night still went in the win column though only barely. This was my first time seeing Nash live and it was great to finally hear some of those songs done live – though more than three selections from Bricks would have been nice – and Nash’s rapport with her very devout fanbase was charming and fun to watch. But if she’s going to continue to try and be the second coming of Bikini Kill, she’s really going to have to work on her screaming.

The Toronto Sun, Spin, Exclaim, Chart and Panic Manual also have reviews of the show while The Daily Mail and Nylon have interviews with Nash.

Photos: Kate Nash, Brett Alaimo, Supercute! @ The Mod Club – April 26, 2010
MP3: Kate Nash – “I Just Love You More”
MP3: Kate Nash – “We Get On” (live at the BBC)
MP3: Supercute! – “Not To Write About Boys”
Video: Kate Nash – “Do Wah Doo”
Video: Kate Nash – “Foundations”
Video: Kate Nash – “Mouthwash”
Video: Kate Nash – “Pumpkin Soup”
Video: Supercute! – “Not To Write About Boys”
MySpace: Kate Nash

The San Francisco Examiner and The Portland Mercury interview The Wedding Present’s David Lewis Gedge.

Under The Radar talks to Ian McCulloch and The Centre Daily Times to Will Sargent, both of Echo & The Bunnymen.

The Music Slut asks eight questions of Los Campesinos!, who’ve finally beat the volcano and made it over to North America.

Camera Obscura, who were already on this side of the Atlantic when Iceland blew up, talked to Under The Radar at Coachella.

The Boston Herald interviews Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison. They’re at the Opera House on May 4.

Many – myself included – thought that two nights at the Sound Academy was overambitious for Jonsi, so it’s not surprising that the May 1 show has been canceled, leaving just this Friday’s April 30 performance. However the official reasons given aren’t ticket sales, but the logistics involved with tearing down the elaborate stage sets in time for a later event at the venue. Both nights were originally supposed to be with the venue in a theatre configuration, holding around 1200 if memory serves, but now the Friday show will be with the Sound Academy at full size. All Saturday tickets will be valid for Friday and refunds are also available. Unfortunate venue aside, all reports from the tour have been that the show is astonishing so if you can swallow the Sound Academy, it could be worth your while. Or even more disappointing.

The Summer concert season continues to shape up with a bunch more announcements to go with the slew that came yesterday. The Gaslight Anthem will be at the Sound Academy on July 14, presale already open. Their new album American Slang is due out June 14 and New Zealand City, Spinner and Gibson Guitars have features on the band.

Bear In Heaven and Twin Sister are teaming up for a Summer tour that stops in at the El Mocambo on July 15. Spoonfed interviews Bear In Heaven.

MP3: Bear In Heaven – “Bag Of Bags”
MP3: Twin Sister – “Dry Hump”

Their show at the Mod Club tomorrow having sold out in a hiccup, MGMT are playing a more appropriately-sized room in the Kool Haus when they return on August 5. Tickets are $35 in advance, on sale Friday.

I’m a little surprised that Australia’s Empire Of The Sun is fixing to do a few North American dates around their Lollapalooza appearance – 2008’s Walking On A Dream didn’t exactly do mad business over here. I still prefer The Sleepy Jackson to EOTS’ electro-disco-glam, but am intrigued by the Toronto date at the Sound Academy on August 8 as apparently the live show is a spectacle and a half.

Video: Empire Of The Sun – “Walking On A Dream”
Video: Empire Of The Sun – “We Are The People”

And CBC Radio 3 has revealed the first wave of acts playing this year’s Hillside Festival in Guelph on July 23, 24 and 25. Lots of familiar names, but still immensely quality – you’ve got Los Lobos, The Hidden Cameras, Basia Bulat, Calexico and Sarah Harmer, to name but a few. Tickets go on sale this Saturday.