Tuesday, August 17th, 2010
Versus and Soft Copy at Lee’s Palace in Toronto
Frank YangI don’t really maintain any sort of live music “bucket list” – I find the very notion a bit creepy – but there are bands whom I’ve long wanted to see but never gotten the opportunity for whatever reason. Near the top of the list are New York’s Versus, whom I discovered just after they finished promoting their last record Hurrah, back in 2000. Of course, at the time I didn’t know that they’d basically be going on a decade-long hiatus after frontman Richard Baluyut moved to San Francisco. That they weren’t going to be coming around any time soon became clear as every member began rolling out their own projects and aside from very occasional one-off gigs, Versus remained dormant.
But a move back to the east coast by Baluyut took the band out of mothballs and though the band is down to a trio, their new record On The Ones And Threes sounds like almost no time at all had passed between it and Hurrah. It’s still split between guitar-driven ragers and more thoughtful pieces, marked with Baluyut and Fontaine Toups’ distinctive vocals both together and apart and though still quintessentially ’90s college rock in spirit, doesn’t feel out of time or fashion in 2010. It’s a good record and perhaps more importantly, an excuse to tour again for the first time in a decade.
This tour brought them to Lee’s Palace with Merge labelmates and fellow ’90s survivors Polvo, though a lack of history with the headliners and questionable ability to stay upright made it unlikely I’d stay late enough to see them play. I did arrive in time to see local openers Soft Copy, however, and am glad I did both for their own set and the greater role they’d play in the evening’s narrative. To the former, the trio wore their post-punk influences squarely on their sleeves, drawing in particular from Mission Of Burma’s more melodic side. They had all the tension and intensity you’d want from an act trading in that sound, but with an immediate tunefulness that made them accessible to anyone. With two albums in Wolf, Wolves & More Wolves and Vicious Modernism under their belts, they’ve been around a little while as a unit and individually in various bands a hell of a lot longer, but they were a new find to me and a good one at that.
The constants in Versus have always been Richard Baluyut and Fontaine Toups – the rest of the band has been a bit of a revolving door even though they’ve often kept it in the family. For this iteration of the reunion, original drummer Ed Baluyut was back on the drummer’s stool on the record which is why it was surprising when they started playing, accompanied by Margaret White on violin and keys, Ed wasn’t behind the kit. No one was. They played a couple songs with this setup, Toups seeming to attack her bass extra heavily for some percussive effect, and it sort of worked – especially with White’s violin adding un-Versus-ish textures – but I was starting to think that I’d have to put an asterisk beside my “yeah, I finally saw Versus” anecdote when someone came out from the side of the stage and got behind the kit: Soft Copy’s drummer, Paul Boddum.
As Richard would explain, a new baby had necessitated Ed’s return to New York, leaving the band short-handed and so Boddum – who happened to be a sizable fan of the band – was enlisted that afternoon to fill in, though only in principal. They had no rehearsal or sound check and this was their first time playing together, but even without those qualifiers Boddum did a hell of a job pinch-hitting. Fills were kept simple and a couple of cues were missed, but you could see the band get more comfortable with the arrangement as the set progressed and by the set’s end, when the older material circa The Stars Are Insane was aired out, they were practically grooving and Baluyut was able to dig in to some fierce guitar work. I don’t doubt that had the proper line-up been in place, the show might have been a bit better paced or had some more momentum behind it, but this was just cooler to see and they sounded pretty great regardless. They wrapped their set to tremendous applause, Polvo went on, I went home and Paul went with Versus to play with them in Montreal.
Soft Copy’s next show is this Wednesday night at The Shop at Parts & Labour.
Photos: Versus, Soft Copy @ Lee’s Palace – August 13, 2010
MP3: Versus – “Invincible Hero”
MP3: Versus – “Deseret”
MP3: Soft Copy – “Hot Cakes”
MP3: Soft Copy – “Extra Cirricular”
MP3: Soft Copy – “First Date”
Video: Versus – “Scientists”
MySpace: Soft Copy
Billboard profiles Ra Ra Riot as they prepare for the of their sophomore effort The Orchard, which isn’t out till next Tuesday but is now streaming in whole at NPR. There’s also a new video from the record but only Americans are allowed to see it – foreigners can watch the ad, but not the vid. They’re at the Molson Amphitheatre on August 28. Video: Non-geoblocked version of the vid now up.
Paste and Filter have features on Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, who just released their new record Let It Sway, currently available to stream at MBV Music. They’re at the El Mocambo on September 4.
Belle & Sebastian have revealed the REAL artwork to their new record Write About Love, served up a video clip from an alleged band-themed TV show with a snippet of a new song and given the record a release date – October 12. That is, incidentally, the same day that the band will be playing Massey Hall in Toronto so yeah, that’ll be a bit of an occasion.
Video: M.I.A – “XXXO”
OK Go return for a show at The Phoenix on October 14, tickets $20 in advance.
So much of the chatter yesterday was about how Scott Pilgrim vs The World did so poorly at the box office (coming in #5 with $10.5 million in the US) and with some taking some schadenfreude about how despite all the online buzz leading up to its release, it still did relatively poorly. That’s bunk. This film may as well have been called Scott Pilgrim vs The Fated For Cult Movie Status – there’s nothing about it that implies it would have made big bank. Not the cast, not the director, not the premise and certainly not the setting (Toronto? Pah). In fact, it’s remarkable that it was even made in Hollywood. If it just happens that a disproportionate percentage of the otherwise small target demographic is on Twitter, well there’s nothing to be done about that and I do believe that most everyone who expressed excitement about the film before release will go out and pay to see it – it simply won’t add up to much compared to folks who’ve apparently been counting the days until a new Dolph Lundgren film came out.
Anyways, I saw it on opening night (of course) and by and large loved it. It was a little odd having it shift from following the books almost verbatim to being its own thing midway through the Lee’s Palace fight and I was disappointed that none of Honest Ed’s, Sneaky Dee’s or the Reference Library made an appearance, but by and large it was as faithful to the text and the spirit of the source as it could be while still being a decent movie. That came at the expense of some/a lot of the character depth – neither Scott nor Ramona ended up with much explanation for why they were how they were – but so be it. It was still tremendously fun and entertaining and I eagerly await the infinite iterations of the DVD/BR editions. And since there wasn’t going to be a sequel anyways, there’s really no concern about how much or little money it makes. That’s Universal’s problem, not mine.
Filter has a great piece on another film that was probably too weird for the world at the time of its release… and even now – The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I won’t lie – I can’t see John Lithgow as anyone but Dr. Lizardo and hold out hope that someday, we’ll see Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League make it into production. And come on – best closing credits/theme music ever.