Wednesday, March 27th, 2013
Savages, Limblifter, and more at Canadian Musicfest
Frank YangIf you’re ever debating what to do on a given evening of either Canadian Musicfest or NXNE, you can always do far worse than to simply post up at either The Horseshoe or Lee’s Palace for the entire evening. These Toronto anchors always host a solid bill of bands, both local and international, buzzy and unheralded, covering a swath of genres that will surely have something to delight the ears. Granted, I was there with a more specific mandate than to just take in some music – I wanted to see Savages – but still opted to spend the whole night there and see some other acts I’d not seen before. Because isn’t that the point of these things?
Vancouver’s Zolas drew the opening slot and my immediate impression of their lanky, piano-heavy and slightly funky rock was that they sounded like Spoon, but those comparisons became less valid as the set progressed. The ingredients were similar, but their recipe drew more from laid-back, ’70s pop-rock than the tense, ’80s post-punk influences of the Austinites. This didn’t make their set any less enjoyable, but I can’t say I wasn’t a bit disappointed that they weren’t a more adventurous outfit. Still, their sound was a crowd-pleasing one and when frontman Zachary Gray left the stage to sing the final song from the audience, it felt like he had been invited rather than invaded.
Photos: The Zolas @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
Video: The Zolas – “Escape Artist”
Video: The Zolas – “Cab Driver”
Video: The Zolas – “Knot In My Heart”
Video: The Zolas – “No Talking”
Video: The Zolas – “The Great Collapse”
There’s almost no chance I’d have ever seen Dustin Bentall & The Smokes perform if not for the inherent eclecticism of club festival lineups. Not because I’d have gone out of my to avoid them, but because their brand of unaffected roots-rock ceased being the sort of thing that piqued my curiosity some time ago. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining, because it absolutely was – Bentall has an easy charm and his songs a friendly familiarity that helps compensate for the rather pedestrian songwriting, to say nothing of the live show – Kendel Carson’s aggressively virtuosic lead fiddle playing could make anything sound amazing.
Hamilton’s Young Rival have been kicking around for a while now – six years and two albums, says Wikipedia – but our paths had yet to cross, or at least until last month when one of their clips was shortlisted for the Prism Prize. In any case, I was advised just before their set to expect something between garage rock and power pop, and while this was true, their set tilted much more towards the former. They offered great guitarwork and a solid rhythm section and songwriting which while not the most memorable, was more than serviceable for rock’n'roll. I would have expected more showmanship from a power trio as tight as they were, but while they weren’t disinterested, they also didn’t seem especially fussed about wowing the audience.
Photos: Young Rival @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
Video: Young Rival – “Two Reasons”
Video: Young Rival – “Nothing You Know Well”
Video: Young Rival – “The Ocean”
Video: Young Rival – “Authentic”
Video: Young Rival – “Your Island”
It was good to see that each of the acts on the bill had their own fanbase turn out, based on the enthusiasm of varying percentages of the audience and the constant turnover of the folks gathered up front, but for me it was London four-piece Savages who were the reason for being here this night. Not because I’m a huge fan, but because I’m not. Or more accurately, I was curious to see if the hype around a band with hardly any recorded output and yet just signed to one of the most respected labels around was justified. And for the record, their “they’re amazing live” reputation actually counted as something of a strike in my books, since talking about the performance before establishing the songs are there raises flags with me.
In any case, Savages took the stage certainly looking as you’d expect – lights dimmed, faces stern, and dressed all in black save for frontwoman Jehny Beth, who in addition to looking an uncanny hybrid of Ian Curtis and Sinead O’Connor, also wore a pair of bright red heels. And for the next 40 minutes, it was all business – that business being a relentless, sonic pummeling of the post-punk variety, all hard edges and not so much interested in hooks as stabs. Each song had a distinct musical angle to distinguish it from the others without compromising their aesthetic consistency, but this wasn’t always enough to make them memorable, particularly measured against the standard of their two best songs and set closers, “She Will” – which was highlighted by drummer Fay Milton absolutely destroying her splash cymbal – and “Husbands”. No question Savages put on a good show, but I will still reserve judgement until the May 7 release of Silence Yourself when I can hear if they’ve got the songs to back up the performance.
There’s probably a rule somewhere that you can’t call it a festival without some ’90s-vintage reunion act, and that’s where the night’s ostensible headliners Limblifter came in. I wouldn’t say I had any particular affection or enmity towards the Vancouver band, having liked some of their hits back in the day and been indifferent to others, but I could think of worse things than to hear “Vicious” live. It’s worth noting that just as frontman Ryan Dahle has aged remarkably well over the past 15 years, Limblifter’s sound has also held up pretty well. Their slightly strangled, angsty grunge-pop is still very much of an era – on hearing “Screwed Up” I half-expected a space-time wormhole to open up and drag me back to my sophomore year (this would not have been a good thing) – but enough of their repertoire is strong enough melodically to still impress so many years hence; to wit, “Tinfoil” still sounded great. And as evidence that Limblifter was still a going concern in 2013, they introduced some new material that didn’t feel out of place with the old. Whether the folks in attendance were actually interested in adding to their Limblifter collection rather than just hearing the old tunes remains to be seen, but for this night, at least, they were loving it.
The KW Record has an interview with Limblifter.
Photos: Limblifter @ The Horseshoe – March 22, 2013
Video: Limblifter – “Perfect Day To Disappear”
Video: Limblifter – “Wake Up To The Sun”
Video: Limblifter – “Cordova”
Video: Limblifter – “Vicious”
Video: Limblifter – “On The Moon”
Video: Limblifter – “Ariel Vs Lotus”
Video: Limblifter – “Tinfoil”
NOW and The Montreal Gazette talk to The Besnard Lakes about their new album Until In Excess, Imperceptible UFO, out April 2. And if you were thinking that it was about time an advance stream of the album surfaced, you would be correct – CBC Music has it (for Canadians).
Stream: Young Galaxy – “New Summer”
The Toronto Sun, Black Book, and amNY chat with Stars, BlogTO with The Darcys, and The Georgia Straight, Vue, Playback, and FFWD with Hayden – all of whom are part of the Field Trip festival at Garrison Common on June 8.
Video: Kestrels – “Drowning Girl”