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Posts Tagged ‘Hold Steady’

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Come As You Are

Giving thanks for “Whatever happened to Alternative Nation?”

Photo By Charles PetersenCharles PetersenFell into a long-form musical journalism rabbit hole recently via The AV Club’s “Whatever Happened To Alternative Nation?” 10-part series which actually ran almost three years ago but somehow got back on my radar, probably bubbling up to the surface in the wake of their recent redesign. If you haven’t read it, it covers the years from 1990 to 1999 through the lens of author Steven Hyden’s teen years, beginning with the rise of grunge at the start of the decade through the supremacy of nu-metal and chaos of Woodstock ’99 at the end of the century.

It was of particular interest to me because, though a few years older than Hyden and situated in the suburbs of Toronto rather than Wisconsin, it roughly documents my own journey of musical discovery in high school. Though Nirvana didn’t ultimately end up meaning much to me, I still very clearly remember hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the very first time on a friend’s Walkman in the cafeteria in the Fall of 1991 and being impressed that I could hear the string squeaks on the opening riff. And while I would like to pretend that I was into all the ’90s bands then that I love now – your Britpop, shoegaze, college rock, what have you – most of that was discovered retroactively, and that sort of personal revisionist history is addressed in part six; fact is, I was listening to the same now-acknowledged-as-awful radio rock as everyone else – yes I owned Throwing Copper but at least knew even then that Bush was awful – and only discovered or came to appreciate the good stuff after the fact. But better late than never, right?

In any case – it’s a well-written series that covers a lot of what anyone in their 30s lived through with the benefit of hindsight and historical insight, and worth reading if you’ve got some time on your hands and a copies of Siamese Dream and Definitely Maybe handy. Plus it lets me segue into some newsy bits from acts of that era who’re still doing stuff.

Video: Nirvana – “In Bloom”

For anyone who missed it, Tanya Donelly released the fourth volume of her Swan Song Series late last week and the bonus materials are particularly sweet and topical – ten demos of Belly’s debut, Star. And lest you think that’s the end of it, a fifth EP is in the works and I think I read somewhere that it’ll be out around February.

Stream: Tanya Donelly – “Salt”

Stephen Malkmus lists off the music he grew up listening to for The Guardian; his new album with The Jicks – Wig Out At Jagbags – comes out January 7.

Black Francis of Pixies discusses the band’s second act with The Guardian; they kick of their new tour at Massey Hall on January 15.

Seeing as how Andrew Rieger and Laura Carter opened for Jeff Mangum when he was here solo in August 2011, it makes sense that they’d bring the whole band with them when he does the same; Elf Power will open up both sold-out Neutral Milk Hotel shows at The Kool Haus on January 19 and 20. They released their latest album Sunlight On The Moon earlier this year.

Video: Elf Power – “Darkest Wave”

Guided By Voices has settled on a February 18 release date for their new record Motivational Jumpsuit – their fifth since the reunion and presumably the last with the so-called “classic lineup” with now-booted drummer Kevin Fennell. Rolling Stone is streaming the first preview track from the record.

Stream: Guided By Voices – “Littlest League Possible”

Superchunk have released another video from this year’s I Hate Music.

Video: Superchunk – “Void”

The 405 chit-chats with Sebadoh.

Dialing the Wayback Machine a little further, influential ’80s Los Angeles outfit and Paisley Underground pioneers The Dream Syndicate have made a date at The Garrison for February 8, tickets $30 in advance. The Chicago Tribune talks to leader Steve Wynn about the reunion.

Video: The Dream Syndicate – “That’s What You Always Say” (live)

And back to the 21st century, Entertainment Weekly has premiered the new video from Broken Bells’ forthcoming After The Disco, out January 14, and if you’d prefer a studio session version rather than a movie star-featuring version, head over to The Guardian. Broken Bells are at The Danforth Music Hall on March 3.

Video: Broken Bells – “Holding On For Life”

Saddle Creek songstress Maria Taylor has made a date at the Drake Underground for February 9 in support of her latest album Something About Knowing. Tickets for that are $11.50 and examiner.com has an interview with Taylor.

Video: Maria Taylor – “Up All Night”

Boston psych-folk trio Quilt have announced a Winter tour in support of their second album Held in Splendor, which comes out January 28th and from which there’s a video and stream to preview. They’re at The Drake Underground on March 3, tickets $10. Philthy has an interview.

Stream: Quilt – “Tired & Buttered”
Video: Quilt – “Arctic Shark”

Under The Radar gets a track-by-track walkthrough of Shearwater’s new covers album Fellow Travelers. The play The Horseshoe on March 27.

The Hold Steady are crowdfunding a new covers EP via PledgeMusic while they continue to work on a new album, due out in the new year.

Paste checks in with Colin Meloy about matters solo and Decemberist.

Magnet interviews Midlake, this week’s guest editors on their website.

The War On Drugs.

Drowned In Sound has an interview with A Place To Bury Strangers.

Bassist/organist Peter Bauer of The Walkmen tells The Washington Post that their upcoming shows in Washington DC and Philadelphia could be/will be the band’s last. Ever. For serious.

Having covered “Kill The Turkey” on last year’s Thanksgiving episode, it’s not really a surprise that The National would again spend American turkey day with Bob’s Burgers, and lo – Entertainment Weekly has an animated video of the band doing this year’s musical number, a salute to gravy boats. Happy Thanksgiving, America.

Video: The National – “Sailors In Your Mouth”

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

Toronto Urban Roots Fest Day Three

The Hold Steady, Frank Turner, Dawes, and more at TURF 2013

Photo By Frank YangFrank 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.

MP3: Drive-By Truckers – “Used To Be A Cop”
MP3: Old 97’s – “Brown-Haired Daughter”

Exclaim has specifics on the new double-album from Quasi, who are marking their twentieth anniversary as a band with Mole City, out October 1. There’s a trailer and advance MP3 to inspect.

MP3: Quasi – “You Can Stay But You Got To Go”
Trailer: Quasi / Mole City

Cincinnati CityBeat welcomes home native sons The National with a feature interview.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, who also just rolled out a new video from Specter At The Feast.

Video: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – “Hate The Taste”

Daytrotter has posted a session with Saturday Looks Good To Me.

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.

Video: Future Bible Heroes – “Living, Loving, Partygoing”

Titus Andronicus have rolled out a new album from last year’s Local Business and are already taking preorders for their fourth album, due for release next year.

Video: Titus Andronicus – “Still Life With Hot Deuce And Silver Platter”

Under The Radar interviews Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips.

Consequence Of Sound has compiled and impressive oral history of Big Star.

Saturday, June 29th, 2013

CONTEST – Toronto Urban Roots Fest @ Garrison Common – July 4-7, 2013

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangWhat: Toronto Urban Roots Fest, the inaugural edition of a new multi-day festival that’s aiming to do what Bluesfest does for Ottawa and the Jazz Festival does for Montreal – namely bring in a lot of bands that have little to nothing to do with the festival’s titular genre but make great music. And let’s not get pedantic about the “urban” part, hey?
Who: Arkells, The Barr Brothers, Belle & Sebastian, Camera Obscura, Neko Case, The Cat Empire, Dawes, Justin Townes Earle, Alejandro Escovedo & The Sensitive Boys, The Felice Brothers, Fitz & The Tantrums, Flogging Molly, Hannah Georgas, The Hold Steady, Larry and his Flask, The Lowest Of The Low, Matt Mays, JD McPherson, The Joel Plaskett Emergency, Xavier Rudd, The Sadies, She & Him, Skydiggers, Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Whitehorse, The Wooden Sky, Yo La Tengo
When: July 4 to 7, 2013
Where: Garrison Common at Fort York, Toronto
How: Single-day tickets for the show range from $50 to $60 in advance, but courtesy of Collective Concerts, I’ve got one pairs of passes for each day of the festival to give away. To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to TURF” in the subject line and your full name in the body along with which days, in order of preference, you’d like to attend – consult the schedule for who’s playing when. Contest closes at midnight, July 2, 2013.

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Thick As Thieves

Widowspeak and The Auras at The Garrison in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangObjectively speaking, there’s not a world of difference between Widowspeak’s 2011 self-titled debut or the follow-up Almanac, released in January of this year. You can file them both quite comfortably under “the soundtrack to dreams of dusty country roads”, not too far from lazy but not inaccurate reference points Mazzy Star and Cat Power, but something about Almanac grabs me the way that Widowspeak, as much as I dug it, didn’t. And it’s not something as simple as they’re getting more dynamic or rocking out harder, as refresher listens to their debut confirm there’s no shortage of volume spikes amidst the sleepiness. There’s just something more present, more assured, in Almanac‘s grooves – like lucid dreaming versus wake-walking. Whatever it is, I love it, and so their show at The Garrison on Monday night – their first non-festival headline date in Toronto – was a must-go on my calendar.

Local support came from The Auras, signed to Toronto’s Optical Sounds and labelmates with B-17, whom I’d just seen just a few days earlier; if there’s some sort of shadow conspiracy to get me more attuned with the city’s psych-pop scene… then it’s working. Mind you, The Auras didn’t impress the same way that B-17 did, but they’re not really built to. Comprised of fresh-faced youngsters rather than scene veterans, they were a bit of a mish-mash visually – a mass of paisley, headbands, shaggy hair, tassels, and with half the six-piece band in sunglasses, all bathed in their a bring-your-own light show. Sonically, they felt more like a a psychedelic jam session, rotating through four lead vocalists and possessing more of vague mandate to sound like a more shambolic, polite Black Angels than a firm mission statement. Understand that this is not a complaint, but actually more a point of envy. Having a group of like-minded players to jam, gig, and record with sounds like the best thing ever, actually.

I saw Widowspeak twice last year – in the same room at NXNE and a few months earlier at SXSW – but this time there was a new rhythm section in place and a fifth member in the fold on guitar and keys. The heart of the band, however – Molly Hamilton and Robert Earl Thomas – were still there, ever front and centre. Opening with Almanac leadoff “Perennials”, the template for the show was quickly established – Hamilton serenely cooing into the mic while Thomas got to play the role of guitar hero, although he would have been more effective at it had his guitar not been the quietest of the three on stage; a little more volume would have helped his leads achieve the prominence they deserved and might also have quieted the reasonably-sized if disproportionately chatty crowd audience.

As the show progressed, the chatter either diminished or the genuinely interested moved up to the front – in either case, they were drawn in by the performance, which maintained the same basic rhythm through the better part of an hour, offering a good mix of Almanac and Widowspeak material though sadly omitting two of my favourite new songs, “Devil Knows” and “Spirit Is Willing”. They did shift gears slightly towards the end with a cover of Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game” – yeah, having Hamilton wrap her voice around it is a bit on the nose, but still gorgeous – and a keyboard-led “Thick As Thieves”, before closing with a relatively raucous “Ballad Of The Golden Hour” and “Harsh Realm”. An encore wasn’t a foregone conclusion, but Hamilton was enticed to come back out for a final number, a reading of “Limbs” done solo because the rest of the band didn’t know how to play it, and were also busy selling merch off to the side. A modest finale to a modest yet wholly enjoyable show.

Iamnosuperman and Good Times have interviews with Robert Earl Thomas and The Riverfront Times chats with Molly Hamilton while El Paso What’s Up talks to both.

Photos: Widowspeak, The Auras @ The Garrison – April 16, 2013
MP3: Widowspeak – “Ballad Of The Golden Hour”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Sore Eyes”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Gun Shy”
MP3: Widowspeak – “In The Pines”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Devil Knows”
MP3: Widowspeak – “Harsh Realm”
Video: Widowspeak – “Locusts”
Stream: The Auras / The Auras

Not necessarily enough show announcements this week to devote a post, but still a few things of note. Seattle’s Cave Singers will bring their new album Naomi – released last month – to town for a show at The Horseshoe on June 17, tickets $15. There’s a feature on the band at 85-26.

MP3: The Cave Singers – “Black Leaf”
MP3: The Cave Singers – “Swim Club”

California’s Rogue Wave are back with a new record in Nightingale Floors coming out on June 4, and are teaming up with Brooklyn’s Caveman, who just released their second self-titled album, for a Summer tour that hits The Mod Club on June 25, tickets $18.50/.

MP3: Caveman – “Easy Water”
Stream: Rogue Wave – “College”

Another bi-coastal bill will team Californian psych-pop outfit Woods, still working last Fall’s Bend Beyond, with New York ’90s indie rock revivalists Parquet Courts and their debut Light Up Gold for a date at The Horseshoe on July 17, tickets $15.50.

MP3: Woods – “Wind Was The Wine”
MP3: Parquet Courts – “Borrowed Time”

Los Angeles’ Julia Holter brings last year’s Ekstasis to The Drake on July 17, tickets $16.50.

MP3: Julia Holter – “In The Same Room”

Consequence Of Sound, Spinner, Vulture, and Spin talk to Thermals frontman Hutch Harris and PopMatters to drummer Westin Glass about their just-released new record Desperate Ground, and they also talk to The AV Club and Clash respectively about action movies. The Thermals are at The Horseshoe on May 21.

MTV Hive and Stereogum have features on The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose new record Mosquito arrived this week.

Interview and The Victoria Times-Colonist talk to Sam Beam about the new Iron & Wine album Ghost On Ghost.

PopMatters, eMusic, Forbes, and Spin have features on The Flaming Lips and their new album The Terror.

The National Post talks to Steve Earle about his latest The Low Highway.

Ra Ra Riot is streaming the single they’ll be releasing for Record Store Day this Saturday via T Magazine. The Alternate Side also has a session with the band, who are here on May 25 at The Sound Academy supporting The Shins, then back for the Field Trip fest at Garrison Commons on June 8.

Stream: Ra Ra Riot – “All I Fear”

Stereogum has a stream of The Hold Steady’s contribution to this week’s Game Of Thrones closing credits, while Wired examines the intersection of the kingdoms of Westeros and the world of indie rock. The Hold Steady are here as part of the Toronto Urban Roots Fest on July 6 at Garrison Commons.

Stream: The Hold Steady – “The Bear & The Maiden Fair”

NPR has a Tiny Desk Concert concert with Yo La Tengo, one of the names at the final day of the Toronto Urban Roots Fest at Garrison Commons on July 7.

Kurt Vile is also playing TURF Sunday; Noisey has an interview with him about being a rocker parent rocker.

Janelle Monáe dishes a bit to Billboard about her long-awaited second album The Electric Lady, due out later this year.

Stereogum have premiered the new video from Low’s The Invisible Way.

Video: Low – “Just Make It Stop”

Okkervil River’s Will Sheff has squeezed another video out of his Lovestreams side-project.

Video: Lovestreams – “There’s Video”

NPR welcomes Local Natives for a World Cafe session.

Monday, April 15th, 2013

Born Innocent

Redd Kross and B-17 at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe weather may have been nigh-on dreadful last Thursday night, but it was going to take more than Winter’s last gasp to keep Toronto from venturing out to catch the long-awaited return of some colourfully-named Californians been pioneers at melding punk energy and pop sensibilities since adolescence. No, not Green Day at the Air Canada Centre, silly. I’m talking about Redd Kross at The Horseshoe.

Though they returned to active duty in 2006 following a decade’s hiatus, the Los Angeles-based band’s activity has been somewhat sporadic, though it did include a somewhat random but wholly welcome appearance at NXNE 2008. Only with last Summer’s release of the excellent Researching The Blues – their first album since 1997’s Show World – did the fully commit to being an active, creative concern and even then, thanks to Steve McDonald’s touring commitments as a member of OFF!, it took them this long to put together an east coast tour to support it. Though considering that a tour was never a foregone conclusion, complaining about the wait just seems petty.

Their lead-in act was locals B-17, a relatively new outfit whose members have been fighting the good fight in the Toronto club scene for years now. And while I never really kept up with any of those other acts – Action Makes, The Hoa Hoas, The Easy Targets – if they were anything up to the level of B-17, then I was missing out. B-17 offered an inspired mix of garage rock rawness, a steady Krautrock-hewn drone of a groove, and psychedelic trippiness. They were simultaneously relentlessly steady, thanks to Nick Kervin’s rock-solid drumming, and unpredictably explosive, usually detonated by Calvin Brown’s lead guitar, with guitarist Richard Gibson and bassist Clint Rogerson keeping things tuneful while trading lead vocal duties. It’s probably overly optimistic to think that their debut EP Wishing Won’t Make It So will break the band to any wider audiences than their previous projects reached, but for those for dig on what’s in B-17’s payload, it’s right on target.

When Redd Kross were here in 2008, I only had 1993’s power-pop masterpiece Phaseshifter as a reference point, but an unfamiliarity with the rest of the material didn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the show, so immediate and infectious is the riff-powered, glammy bubblegum rock they’ve perfected over a 30+ year career. This time out I also had Blues and 1987’s Neurotica in my system, though relative to the hardcore Redd Kross fans that made up most of the audience, I was still a newb in relative terms. Which was fine; we weren’t there to compare cred – at least I hope not – but to just have a good time. And if there’s one thing Redd Kross are about, it’s a good time. For all the descriptors and adjectives that get attached to rock’n’roll, “fun” isn’t one that gets used nearly enough, but there’s probably no better word to describe what’s being had both on stage and off at one of their shows.

The McDonald brothers’ devotion to an ideal of rock’n’roll of big riffs, hooks, and showmanship has been unwavering since they started the band at the ages of 15 (Jeff) and 11 (Steve), and is still evident in the look of glee on their faces as they perform. I was a bit surprised that guitarist Robert Hecker – a… distinctive visual presence in the band last time out and still part of the band when Blues was recorded – was absent (he no longer tours with them) but his replacement Jason Shapiro was more than up to the task of trading riffs with the elder McDonald and keeping the energy levels elevated.

Kicking off with “Linda Blair” – the first song from their first album, Born Innocent – the band paid fairly equal due to the breadth of their catalog, personal highlights being Blues standout “Stay Away From Downtown”, non-album single “Switchblade Sister”, and a deliciously pummelling “Jimmy’s Fantasy” from Phaseshifter – one could easily forget that for as bubblegummy/poppy as Red Kross can be, they could also be as heavy as hell. Though the main se only clocked in at 50 minutes, the encore basically constituted a second set, running nearly another half hour and including a run-through of their original debut EP Red Cross, or so I was told. it was denoted as “E.P.” on the set list and though I didn’t recognize any of it, being fast, furious, and dedicated to the memory of Annette Funicello, it felt perfect regardless – kind of like the entire show.

Phawker has an interview with Jeff McDonald while The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, NOW, and Philadelphia Inquirer talk with Steve.

Photos: Redd Kross, B-17 @ The Horseshoe – April 11, 2013
MP3: Redd Kross – “Stay Away From Downtown”
MP3: Redd Kross – “Researching The Blues”
MP3: Redd Kross – “Ballad Of A Lovedoll”
Video: Redd Kross – “Stay Away From Downtown”
Video: Redd Kross – “Yesterday Once More”
Video: Redd Kross – “Jimmy’s Fantasy”
Video: Redd Kross – “Lady In The Front Row”
Video: Redd Kross – “Annie’s Gone”
Video: Redd Kross – “1976”
Video: Redd Kross – “Ballad Of A Lovedoll”
Video: Redd Kross – “Deuce”
Video: Redd Kross – “Blow You A Kiss In The Wind”
Stream: B-17 / Wishing Won’t Make It So

DIY talk to Hutch Harris of The Thermals about their new album Desperate Ground, out tomorrow, Apri l6. They play The Horseshoe on May 21.

The Guardian and NPR have feature interviews with The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose new album Mosquito arrives tomorrow, April 16.

Pitchfork, Consequence Of Sound, Rolling Stone, Interview, and eMusic get into the heads of The Flaming Lips, whose new record The Terror comes out on April 16.

Sam Beam of Iron & Wine talks to Spin about their new album Ghost On Ghost, from which they’ve premiered a new video at NPR. The record is out tomorrow.

Video: Iron & Wine – “Joy”

Canadians can now stream The Low Highway – the new album from Steve Earle – at CBC Music. Non-Canadadians can now wait for a non-geoblocked stream to surface. Or just buy it when it comes out tomorrow. In the meantime, read these feature pieces at The Wall Street Journal and The Arts Desk.

Stream: Steve Earle & The Dukes (and Duchesses) / The Low Highway

Stereogum has a stream of The Men’s contribution to Sacred Bones’ Todo Muere Vol. 3 compilation, their contribution to this year’s Record Store Day exclusives going on sale this Saturday, April 20.

Stream: The Men – “B-Minor”

Following Titus Andronicus on on Twitter can be exhausting – Patrick Stickles does like to tweet – but also informative. For example, last week they tweeted what the album art for Local Business was actually supposed to look like as well as why it doesn’t, and also offered up a free download of out-of-print live album The Innocents Abroad. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on May 2.

The Wall Street Journal has premiered a stream of another new track from the forthcoming She & Him album Volume 3, coming May 7. They play the Toronto Urban Roots Fest (TURF) at Garrison Commons on July 4.

Stream: She & Him – “I Could’ve Been Your Girl”

The Guardian gets to know Dungeonesse, side/solo project of Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner, whose self-titled debut comes out May 14. A new track from it is now available to stream.

Stream: Dungeonesse – “Nightlight”

Rolling Stone talks to The National about their new record Trouble Will Fine Me, which is out May 21 and from which they’re now streaming a second new song. They headline Yonge-Dundas Square for NXNE on June 14.

Stream: The National – “Don’t Swallow The Caps”

Bazan/Johnson/Kadane2-powered Overseas have premiered the first video from their self-titled debut at Paste. The album is out June 13.

Video: Overseas – “Ghost To Be”

Billboard finds out what’s going on with The Hold Steady, who will be at TURF at Garrison Common on July 6.

DIY interviews Kurt Vile, one of the acts closing out TURF at Garrison Common on July 7.

With the Afghan Whigs taking a breather, Greg Dulli talks to Billboard about the projects he’ll be tackling next, including a collaborative album with Steve Kilbey of The Church.

NPR has posted a video session with Caitlin Rose.

The Fly talks to Local Natives.

The Line Of Best Fit and Billboard have interviews with The Black Angels.

Soem reading for those of us whose hobbies include festival lineup-spotting: pieces on how Phoenix became this year’s go-to festival headlining act at Grantland and Stereogum, and Billboard speculates what Coachella was thinking making The Stone Roses one of the headliners for their opening night.