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Posts Tagged ‘Volcano Playground’

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Coco Beware

Caveman, Hospitality, and Volcano Playground at The Horseshoe in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangIt’s quite possible that people headed out to the Horseshoe on Wednesday night because both halves of the touring bill consisted of New York-based bands with a good head of steam and impressive record label behind them – Caveman, having just signed to Fat Possum and Hospitality preparing to release their debut record very shortly on Merge. Either or both could reasonably emerge as one of the year’s rookie success stories, and who wouldn’t want the bragging rights to say they saw them early on at a little club show? Or it could have been that this was one of the first tours of the young year and folks wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to take in a little live music. In any case, there were a surprising number of folks were out to see a couple of mostly-unknown acts.

Locals Volcano Playground opened things up and some may recall that I’ve felt the space-rock outfit had potential based on a couple live shows. I was pleased to see that their rate of growth as a band between those two shows had continued on – though it had apparently cost them a guitarist at some point along the line – and the style-hopping that marked my earlier impressions had settled into a rhythmically strong and ominously atmospheric aesthetic. Unfortunately, refining their strengths put their weaknesses into starker contrast and their distracted, mumbled vocals and general lack of any kind of stage presence felt more frustrating than they’d been in the past – especially when they prove they can do better, evidenced by the set highlight wherein guitarist/bassist Jackie Game managed to channel Rachel Goswell in a decidedly Souvlaki-esque number. A full-length debut is due out this Spring; fingers are still crossed that it’s a good one.

I went on a bit about Hospitality back in December and as one of the perks of doing what I do, have been enjoying the sprightly, ’80s-echoing but freshly-brewed guitar pop of their self-titled debut for a while even though it’s not out until January 31; had they not been playing, I’d have probably stayed home and slept. What with Amber Papini’s sweetly quirky vocals being such a key facet of their sound, it was a little dismaying that they were buried for the first bit of their set but on the bright side, it did allow one to appreciate the intricacies of their musical arrangements and the twisty guitar interplay between Papini and Nathan Michel as well as bassist Brian Betancourt’s Clean t-shirt – talk about wearing one’s influences. In any case, the mix was sorted out within a few songs, Papini’s voice was again front and centre and balance was restored to the universe and the rest of their spirited set.

My first impressions of Caveman in a live setting was that the complaints I’d had about their debut Coco Beware had been alleviated thanks to the judicious application of volume – it’s hard to fault something for being overly floaty when it’s pounding your eardrums. But while their combination of heavy percussion and echo-driven blooms of guitar were impressive at first, it quickly became formulaic and didn’t do as good a job of distracting from the largely mid-tempo monotony of their material and overall shallowness of their sonic stylings. As with on the record, a few of the songs managed to stand out from their peers, but many of the subtle touches were overpowered by the loud and all told it wasn’t enough to keep me interested. It should be noted that my opinion seemed to be in the minority – the band clearly already had a fanbase hereabouts – but by the time their hour-long set was done, I was mostly just patting myself on the back for having enough self-restraint to not jump onstage and turn off the guitarist’s delay pedal, if only for a moment.

BlogTO was also on hand and has some thoughts.

Photos: Caveman, Hospitality, Volcano Playground @ The Horseshoe – January 11, 2012
MP3: Caveman – “Thankful”
MP3: Caveman – “Easy Water”
MP3: Caveman – “Old Friend”
MP3: Caveman – “Decide”
MP3: Caveman – “My Room”
MP3: Hospitality – “Betty Wang”
MP3: Hospitality – “Friends Of Friends”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Anywhere”
Video: Caveman – “Easy Water”

It’s in support of Adam Cohen, sure, but it’s worth noting that Rachael Yamagata will be in town on February 11 for a show at the Mod Club. Her new record Chesapeake came out last Fall and Spinner had an interview in December.

MP3: Rachael Yamagata – “Starlight”

Sleigh Bells may have pushed back the release of Reign Of Terror a week to February 21, but they’re still going ahead with the tour in support of it, and that now includes a February 18 date at The Phoenix, tickets $25 in advance.

MP3: Sleigh Bells – “Infinity Guitars”

YACHT have set course for a North American tour that brings them and last year’s Shangri-La to Wrongbar on February 23.

MP3: YACHT – “Dystopia (The Earth is on Fire)”

Another new song from Craig Finn’s solo debut Clear Heart Full Eyes is available to stream at Stereogum; the record is out January 24. He also talks food with eater.com.

Stream: Craig Finn – “New Friend Jesus”

A second song from School Of Seven Bells’ third record Ghoststory is available to hear ahead of the record’s February 28 release date.

MP3: School Of Seven Bells – “Lafaye”

The first taste of The Magnetic Fields’ return to synthesizers – Love At The Bottom Of The Sea, out March 6 – is now available to stream. They’re at The Sound Academy on March 30.

Stream: The Magnetic Fields – “Andrew In Drag”

Black Cab Sessions takes Chairlift for a ride while Pitchfork sits them down for a chat. Their Something is out January 24 and they’re at The Horseshoe on March 28.

I-D has a video session with Sharon Van Etten. Her new record Tramp is in stores February 7 and she’s at Lee’s Palace on February 14.

Exclaim reports that The Kills will release a new EP led with Blood Pressures track “Last Goodbye” – for which they’ve just released a video – and b-sided with a trio of covers. The EP is out February 14 and the band is at The Kool Haus on February 7.

Video: The Kills – “Last Goodbye”

LCD Soundsystem hasn’t been in the past tense for very long now, but long enough for there to be a documentary film on the band that will be premiering at Sundance in a couple weeks. It’s called Shut Up And Play The Hits and there’s a trailer.

Trailer: Shut Up And Play The Hits

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Oh Fortune

Dan Mangan and The Daredevil Christopher Wright at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangMuch of Dan Mangan’s appeal comes from his everyman-ness – and his beard, if you ask certain friends of mine – so when he was playing the back rooms of bars, as at The Rivoli in October 2009 or The Horseshoe in April 2010, it felt perfectly natural. Those shows also felt utterly jam-packed – because they were – making it unlikely that the club circuit would be able to serve his ever-growing audience for very long. And so when he played Trinity-St. Paul’s in his last proper Toronto show last October, it felt like he’d made a significant step up.. or so I’d imagine – I missed that show, making this past Friday night’s performance at The Queen Elizabeth Theatre in support of Oh Fortune the first time I’d be seeing Mangan in such a formal setting. Or as formal as you could get with a Hallowe’en theme park located around the corner.

Openers The Daredevil Christopher Wright were certainly impressed with the venue. The Madison, Wisconsin trio said as much during their set, between showing off songs from their new EP, The Longsuffering Song. Their whimsical, carnival-like musical sensibilities and endearing presence was easy to enjoy, but with the instrument swapping and impeccable harmonies, it was impossible to not notice the formidable musicianship and sophisticated songwriting underneath. It was no stretch to say that while they’re not nearly at a point in their career to be headlining theatres like this, they’ve got the talent to get there. Or to a big top. Whichever.

Dan Mangan, on the other hand, had already grown comfortably into the posher surroundings. Fronting a seven-piece flannel orchestra, he opened with Oh Fortune‘s “About As Helpful As You Can Be Without Being Any Help At All” – complete with wall of noise introduction – and over the next hour and fifteen, took full advantage of the room’s acoustics and the capabilities of his band to reproduce the complex textures of the new record. I was sorry I missed The Crackling, who’d opened up the night, as they were made up of some members of Mangan’s band and really stood out in bringing his songs to life and in many cases, eclipsing the recorded versions. In particular, the effected/delayed trumpet of JP Carter was used as a ghostly sonic backdrop for much of the show and the barber shop harmonies that opened up “Some People”, to say nothing of the big instrumental jam in the bridge, were remarkable enhancements.

But just as I described Mangan’s steady presence in the sonic swirl of Oh Fortune, so too was he a rock of solidity throughout the show with his mostly-acoustic guitar, gravelly voice and thoughtful, empathic songs. Interestingly, even with so much going on sonically I found myself compelled to pay even more attention to Mangan’s lyrics in this live setting and more fully appreciating the way he balances simplicity and depth in his songs. A particular standout was “Basket”, from Nice, Nice, Very Nice, which Mangan said was a birthday request though its ruminations on aging make it kind of a grim birthday tune.

Though the set was relatively short, Mangan managed to fit an impressive number of tunes into his allotted time and also a goodly amount of banter; this may have been physically the furthest he’s been from his audience, but he was still able to reach out and connect with them and make it feel intimate. After ending the main set with an aptly-named “Jeopardy” – his amp was making unhappy noises and threatened to blow up at any moment – he returned for the encore solo at first, inviting the audience to sub in for Veda Hille on “The Indie Queens Are Waiting”, offering a faithful reading of Neutral Milk Hotel’s “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and then closing out with a full band “Robots” – of course” – and placing his mic facing out into the crowd to play chorus while he went for a wander in their midst. A fitting end to a show that was eminently satisfying, with Mangan proving that his charms easily translate into larger rooms and larger audiences. There weren’t any surprises, but then that’s not his game – he wasn’t here to argue or debate or make bold declarations; simply to play his songs and strike up a conversation with friends. We were all friends here.

BlogTO also has a review of the show and NOW, Uptown, View, The Manitoban, The Cord, and The Toronto Star all have interviews with Mangan.

Photos: Dan Mangan, The Daredevil Christopher Wright @ The Queen Elizabeth Theatre – October 28, 2011
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Oh Fortune”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Road Regrets”
MP3: Dan Mangan – “Robots”
MP3: Dan Mangan w Shane Kyczan – “Tragic Turn Of Events”
MP3: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “The Animal Of Choice”
MP3: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “The East Coast”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Rows Of Houses”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Sold”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Robots”
Video: Dan Mangan – “The Indie Queens are Waiting”
Video: Dan Mangan – “Road Regrets”
Video: The Daredevil Christopher Wright – “Stewardess”
Stream: The Daredevil Christopher Wright / The Longsuffering Song

Feist talks to HitFix and has also released a video taken from her show at the Glenn Gould Studio in early October, which will be broadcast on CBC Radio 2 tomorrow night – November 2 – at 7PM. She is at Massey Hall on December 1.

Video: Feist – “Caught A Long Wind” (live at Glenn Gould Studio)

The Washington Post talks to Katie Stelmanis of Austra, who are at The Phoenix on December 1 and whose set at Moogfest this past weekend is streaming over at NPR. Both support acts for that show – Young Galaxy and Tasseomancy – have also just released new videos.

Video: Young Galaxy – “Phantoms”
Video: Tasseomancy – “Black Milk”

Heavy Weather has posted a video performance by Bruce Peninsula recorded atop Signal Hill in St. John’s, Newfoundland. And while there, they also chatted with The Telegram.

The Ottawa Sun talks to Chad VanGaalen.

Daytrotter has posted a session with The Wilderness Of Manitoba.

The Darcys have announced they’ll play an in-store at Kops Records on Queen West on November 7 starting around 1PM for a sort of teaser of their full show at The Horseshoe on November 18.

MP3: The Darcys – “Shaking Down The Old Bones”

Pitchfork have inaugurated their new Frames animated feature by turning Fucked Up into a cartoon with Damian Abraham narrating the story of his first stitches.

And finally, how much does Toronto love My Bloody Valentine? Enough to stage not one but two concert events honouring the twentieth anniversary of Loveless, that’s how much. The first, Toronto’s Loveless, goes this Friday, November 4, at the Toronto Underground Theatre and will feature performances from Ruby Coast, Volcano Playground and others – admission $10 at the door. And as a bonus, event organizers Gold Soundz have assembled a Loveless tribute album comprised of Toronto artists – many of whom are playing the event – as well as Memoryhouse and Silver Dapple.

The other event is a Wavelength joint called Lovel(in)ess which will feature a complete reading of Loveless by an assemblage of local players calling themselves So Much Sorry as well as a set from Flowers Of Hell and MBV covers from a variety of other acts. That one takes place November 18 at The Garrison, admission $10 or pay what you can.

MP3: Heartbeat Hotel – “To Here Knows When”
MP3: Memoryhouse – “When You Sleep”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Come In Alone”

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

Electric Band/Lights Go Up

Rocktober giveaways: Wild Flag vs Fucked Up and more

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThey don’t call it Rocktober for nothing. Only March, with its legions of bands crossing the continent en route to SXSW offers nearly as many live music options as October and with such a plethora of shows to choose from, conflicts are inevitable.

October 11, in particular, offers a tough choice for Toronto concert-goers: on one hand, you’ve got Sleater-Kinney/Helium/Minders supergroup Wild Flag making their Toronto debut at Lee’s Palace on the back of their excellent self-titled debut, and on the other you’ve got hometown hardcore heroes Fucked Up playing their first local non-festival/non-opening show at The Mod Club in support of their latest opus David Comes To Life. I can’t even tell you which I’d choose. Wild Flag put on a fantastic rock show, all dueling guitars and Carrie Brownstein scissor kicks, while Fucked Up’s anarchic live shows are legendary and frequently bloody. As sad as I am to be missing both of these what with being in Iceland, I’m glad I don’t have to make a tough decision. I’d probably just end up sitting at home watching television.

But to help you resolve the dilemma, I’m at least taking the financial factor out of the equation. Courtesy of the good folks at Collective Concerts and Embrace, I’ve got two pairs of passes to give away to each show (the Wild Flag tix are $20 in advance, Fucked Up $17). To enter, email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to spend Rocktober with…” in the subject line and in the body, put your full name and which show you want to see. If you refuse to get off the fence or just want to hedge, you can put both but rank them in order of preference. And if you’re underage, just put Fucked Up – Wild Flag is 19+. Contest closes at midnight, October 9.

NOW interviews Wild Flag’s Carrie Brownstein, Cleveland Scene Rebecca Cole.

MP3: Wild Flag – “Romance”
MP3: Wild Flag – “Glass Tambourine”
MP3: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Ship Of Fools”
MP3: Fucked Up – “A Little Death”
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”
Video: Wild Flag – “Romance”
Video: Fucked Up – “The Other Shoe”
Video: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”

But wait! There’s more! Embrace and LiveNation have been extra-generous with a pile of shows next week that they want to let people into; some are very much within my usual wheelhouse of coverage, some not so much, so it’s a free-for-all-for-free. Basically, if you want a shot at passes to any of the following then email me at contests AT chromewaves.net with “I want to see (insert name of band)” in the subject line – and you actually put that verbatim I may well delete your entry – and your full name in the body. Winners will be drawn and notified on October 10; feel free to enter as many as you like but if you win multiple shows on the same night, I reserve the right to send you to whatever one will allow me to spread the prizes around the most – but you can note in your entries which you’d prefer and that will be taken into account. ANYWAYS. I have two pairs of passes to give away for each of the following:

Swedish electro-pop outfit Little Dragon @ The Hoxton, October 12 (19+)
MP3: Little Dragon – “Feather”

Brit-pop/Bro-pop revivalists Viva Brother @ The Horseshoe, October 13 (19+)
Video: Viva Brother – “Darling Buds Of May”

Toronto space-pop up-and-comers Volcano Playground @ The Garrison, October 13 (19+)
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”

Mercury-nominated Irish singer-songwriter Lisa Hannigan @ The Mod Club, October 15 (19+)
Stream: Lisa Hannigan – “A Sail”

PJ Harvey fans and Southwest Airlines non-fans Uh Huh Her @ The Phoenix, October 15 (19+)
Video: Uh Huh Her – “Black & Blue”

Black Crowe gone solo Rich Robinson @ The El Mocambo, October 15 (19+)
MP3: Rich Robinson – “Lost & Found”

Victoria, BC-based electro-pop duo Data Romance @ Wrongbar, October 15 (19+)
Stream: Data Romance – “Spark”

And in other news.

PS I Love You has made their cover of Rush’s classic “Subdivisions”, which appears on their just-released Figure It Out compilation, available to download. Paul Sauliner talks to Rolling Stone about his appreciation for the Canadian standard.

MP3: PS I Love You – “Subdivisions”

The Besnard Lakes will warm up for their October 13 show at Lee’s Palace with an in-store at Sonic Boom’s Annex location that afternoon, starting at 4PM. Madison.com talks to Jace Lasek of the band.

MP3: The Besnard Lakes – “Albatross”

One of the best acts I saw at NXNE this year was Vancouver garage-soul outfit Chains of Love. Do yourself a favour and see them when they play The Horseshoe on November 8, and you don’t have being broke as an excuse because it’s free, yo. FREE.

MP3: Chains Of Love – “You Got It”

Bruce Peninsula have released a video from their just-released Open Flames. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on October 27 to play it live.

Video: Bruce Peninsula – “As Long As I Live”

Canadian Interviews interviews Canadian Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage. They play The Phoenix on November 17.

Paste and NOW profile Feist, who has a date at Massey Hall on December 1.

Already scheduled to be there on October 25 supporting Still Corners, California’s Ganglians will headline their own show at the Drake Underground on November 25. Friends – as in the band from Brooklyn, not as in “Dionne Warwick and” – will open up.

MP3: Ganglians – “Jungle”
Video: Friends – “Friend Crush”

Just in time for their show at Lee’s Palace tonight, Ra Ra Riot have a new video from The Orchard.

Video: Ra Ra Riot – “Shadowcasting”

Phantogram will release a new mini-album on November 1 entitled Nightlife; the first MP3 from it is now available to download.

MP3: Phantogram – “Don’t Move”

Paste has The Hold Steady by for a video session.

Billboard chats with Wilco’s Pat Sansone about how they almost released The Whole Love as a two-part album, Deathly Hallows-style.

NYC Taper is sharing a recording of Explosions In The Sky’s NYC show from earlier this week. They’re at The Sound Academy tomorrow night. The Detroit News, Toro, The Des Moines Register, The Tulane Hullabaloo, and The Pitch all have features on the band.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

NXNE 2011 Day Three

Dum Dum Girls, Diamond Rings, Stars and more at NXNE

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangOne crucial way that NXNE has become more like its bigger, cooler acronym-a-like cousin SXSW is the increase of day shows to go along with the official evening showcases. Of course, I didn’t actually go to any of these new daytime events – the only afternoon party I hit up was one that had been happening for the last few years, the Kelp Records BBQ at the Global Village hostel, this year co-presented by the Brits at The Line Of Best Fit. After all – they had free food, cheap drinks and a solid lineup of bands. What else does a body need?

And as a bonus, I was able to catch a couple bands that otherwise would have required more hopping around in the night time. First up were The Elwins, an almost distressingly young outfit from the suburban wilds north of Toronto. Distressing because for all their fresh-faced earnestness, they possessed a polished and sophisticated pop sensibility that artists many years their elder would be envious of (and they just generally made me feel old). Hearing the amount of detail and ingenuity that had gone into their songs, you’d be tempted to think there was some pop genius sven gali behind them but I suspect that it’s all them and that’s remarkable. Their debut album And I Thank You is finished but, I believe, looking for a home. It deserves one.

BlogTO chatted with the band pre-fest. They play the Silver Dollar on July 21.

Photos: The Elwins @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: The Elwins – “Time To Kill Time”

I’d seen Saskatchewan’s Slow Down, Molasses and heard their debut I’m An Old Believer back in Fall 2009 and filed them into the ever-growing “has great potential, not there yet” file in my mind. With the release of their second album Walk Into The Sea, I was happy to move them up into the far more spacious “definitely getting there” section of my grey matter. It’s still unquestionably roots rock at its core but the band are able to take it into less-travelled territory, getting noisier where necessary but remaining heartfelt and melodic. And when you’re able to go from twang to a My Bloody Valentine cover and do it well, as this six-piece did whilst crammed into the tiny stage area set up on the hostel’s patio, then you’re onto something.

Photos: Slow Down, Molasses @ Global Village – June 17, 2011
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “Late Night Radio”
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “I’m An Old Believer”

From the laid back patio shows, things went to the mainstage at Yonge-Dundas for what became a sort of Polaris Prize sampler, with all three acts having been named to the long list the day before. Leading off was Diamond Rings, whom in my mind I’d seen a million times but in fact had not since SXSW 2010 – well over a year. And while there’s only so many changes a solo act can make to their stage show, there were a few notable changes. While it was still just John O’Regan, his keyboard and his guitar, the unicorn tapestry which used to grace his front of the former had been traded in for a more professional “Diamond Rings” banner and oh yeah, he was playing in front of thousands of people. The relentless touring and becoming BFFs with Robyn has clearly paid off because the response that Diamond Rings was getting from the decidedly younger-skewing audience was entering teen idol territory. And unsurprisingly, the show was more polished than I’d ever seen it, incorporating bigger beats, some sweet dance sequences and just generally more crowd-pleasing. I’d always thought there was a limit to how much O’Regan could do with the Diamond Rings persona, but maybe I was wrong.

Diamond Rings has just announced a tour with Twin Shadow, that includes a date at The Mod Club on October 3, tickets $15 in advance.

Photos: Diamond Rings @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “Wait And See”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Something Else”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Show Me Your Stuff”
Video: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
Video: Diamond Rings – “Wait & See”

Land Of Talk and I got our start at this very festival five years ago and while it’s only two and a half kilometers or so from The Boat in Kensington to Yonge-Dundas Square, the figurative distance covered by the band in that time is far greater. Long-gone is the scrappy power trio that wowed me so long ago, replaced by a five-piece band – six if you count Gentleman Reg in his Light Fires guise of “Regina Gentlelady” on backing vox for a few songs – and including Snailhouse’s Mike Feuerstack on guitar; certainly not the same players as last September at Lee’s. In fact, I would be hard-pressed to remember the last time I saw Land Of Talk with the same lineup twice in a row – the only constant being frontwoman Liz Powell. In any case, this was easily the largest setting I’d seen the band in and it was satisfying to see just how well their tense and yearning songs were able to scale up in presentation, helped no doubt by the three-guitar attack. It wasn’t their tightest show, but even so there was plenty of impact to be felt.

Photos: Land Of Talk @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Swift Coin”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “May You Never”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
MP3: Land Of Talk – “Corner Phone”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
Video: Land Of Talk – “It’s Okay”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Troubled”
Video: Land Of Talk – “The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Some Are Lakes”
Video: Land Of Talk – “Speak To Me Bones”

Stars had graduated to playing this size of show for a while now, so it wasn’t surprising that their show was tight and polished, not unlike their music itself. Stars have hit on a winning formula in crafting their romantic, synth-tinged pop and while it can get a bit samey over the big picture, on a song by song basis, it’s hard to argue with their effectiveness – songs like “Ageless Beauty”, “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead” and “Reunion” are pretty much post-millenial Can-rock classics, and for good reason. The thousands packing the square were certainly happy to eat it all up as well, from the tossing of roses into the crowd to Torquil Campbell playing up the Montreal-based band’s Toronto roots. For a free fan- and family-friendly show on a warm Summer’s evening, you couldn’t really ask for anything more.

Spinner has an interview with Torq Campbell.

Photos: Stars @ Yonge-Dundas Square – June 17, 2011
MP3: Stars – “Going, Going, Gone”
MP3: Stars – “Fixed”
MP3: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
MP3: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
MP3: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
MP3: Stars – “On Peak Hill”
Video: Stars – “We Don’t Want Your Body”
Video: Stars – “Fixed”
Video: Stars – “The Night Starts Here”
Video: Stars – “Take Me To The Riot”
Video: Stars – “Reunion”
Video: Stars – “Ageless Beauty”
Video: Stars – “Your Ex-Lover Is Dead”
Video: Stars – “Elevator Love Letter”

Done with the big stage for the evening, it was off to hit the clubs starting with Rancho Relaxo. There it was Volcano Playground, who impressed with their potential at the Wintergaze show back in December; I was quite interested to see how much further they’d come in the past six months. The answer: some ways. There was a lot of instrument swapping but the transitions were smoother than last time and didn’t disrupt the flow of hte show. Opening with a moody drone, they played a shortish set of spacey pop that didn’t sound distracted, kept moving by a heavy rhythmic element. At their best, they sounded reminiscent of Slowdive if they’d mixed the ideas of Pygmalion and Souvlaki and gotten a lot heavier, and when not at their best the potential of what they might do was still evident. I’m happy to keep them on my, “keep a solid eye on” list.

Their next show is July 10 at The Garrison.

Photos: Volcano Playground @ Rancho Relaxo – June 17, 2011
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Anywhere”

At this point, my original plan had been to call it an early night for lack of anything I particularly wanted to see in the immediate area I was in. But when the Twitters brought word that one of the secret guest slots which peppered the schedule was going to be filled by the Dum Dum Girls, whom I’d resigned myself to missing, and that said show was happening across the street from where I was – albeit two hours hence – I had to stick it out. And sit through Rusty. OK, I suppose I could have just sat outside on the curb for a couple hours, read a magazine, but instead I opted to take in a ’90s Can-rock reunion that god knows I never asked for. If it’s not clear, I’d never been a fan of the band when they were MuchMusic/CFNY staples but clearly many others were, because the ElMo was packed with thirtysomething bro-types who were stoked – the only word to describe it – for their heroes’ return. And to be fair, they sounded pretty good considering that none of them (I think) carried on in music in any meaningful way after their dissolution over a decade ago. Though shorn of his signature dreadlocks, Ken MacNeil was still in pretty good voice (or as good as his raspy style required) and they collectively were pretty tight – a benefit, I suppose, of not having especially complex material to relearn. But they showed a good sense of humour about their age and the reunion and seemed genuinely grateful that their fans were still there.

Photos: Rusty @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
Video: Rusty – “Empty Cell”

“Are you ready for us?” Dee-Dee Penny of Dum Dum Girls was talking to the sound guy, but could easily have been addressing the couple hundred or so who’d stayed up till 2AM to see them play a second set of the night, following their sold-out appearance at Lee’s Palace earlier on. Cramming a busload of tunes into a half hour set, Dum Dum Girls proved why they were a cut above the other bands currently riding the girl-group/garage-pop wave – besides the most impeccable stage outfits, impressive musicianship and an innate coolness that just can’t be faked, they’ve got terrific songs that would be standouts in any production aesthetic. And they’ve got great friends, as proven when Crocodiles, fronted by Dee-Dee’s husband Brandon Welchez, popped by following their own set at the Silver Dollar across the street and offered both a 40 of whiskey and their services as backing dancers for their last song. Totally worth staying up for.

Photos: Dum Dum Girls @ The El Mocambo – June 17, 2011
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “D.A.L.”
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “He Gets Me High”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout”
Video: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

Spinner talks to Nicole Atkins about her latest video, which they’re also conveniently premiering. Brightest Young Things also has an interview while The Herald-Citizen talks to her about her Bonnaroo experience.

Video: Nicole Atkins – “My Baby Don’t Lie”

Similarly, Spinner has the new video from and a conversation with Alela Diane, who will be at Massey Hall on July 14 opening for Fleet Foxes.

Video: Alela Diane – “Desire”

NPR coaxes The Decemberists behind a Tiny Desk and gets them to put on a show. They’re persuasive like that.

The National Post, The Globe & Mail and NPR have interviews with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, in town at the Sound Academy on August 8.

Each Note Secure talks to Daniel Kessler of Interpol. They’re at the Rogers Centre opening for U2 on July 11.

Rolling Stone finds out what’s next for The Strokes from Nikolai Fraiture and Albert Hammond Jr; a new record and probably some North American dates in the Fall once the European festival season is done.

PopMatters talks to Erika Anderson of EMA, in town at The Garrison on July 23.

Those suffering from Grizzly Bear withdrawal will be pleased to know that bassist Chris Taylor has struck out on his own under the guise of CANT and will not only be releasing his debut album Dreams Come True on September 13 – details at Exclaim – and be taking it on the road. Full dates still to come but Toronto gets a taste on October 21 at The Garrison, tickets $14.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

What Do You Wanna Do?

Louise Burns and other gentle suggestions for NXNE 2011

Photo By Michelle FordMichelle FordAnother year, another NXNE, another NXNE preview post. I’ll apologize in advance if this one’s a little less thorough or exploratory than previews past, as travels and general business has taken up time that would usually be spent cruising band websites and Myspaces Facebooks, Bandcamps and Soundclouds.

But I can offer one unconditional endorsement for the coming week, and I’d like to think it’s not a wholly obvious one: Vancouver’s Louise Burns. Her debut Mellow Drama came out a couple months ago and sat in my CD stacks until some recommendations both personal and professional prompted me to dig it out and give it a spin and wow. Gifted with a crystalline voice possessing just the right amount of twang at the corners, Burns puts it to work on a remarkably strong set of songs born of a love of classic ’50s and ’60s rock’n’roll but grown to feel timeless rather than throwback. While not the most universal reference point, readers of this here site will appreciate how high praise it is when I compare her to Nicole Atkins in influence and aesthetic, though with less torchiness and more jangle in the mix. Dig those Pretenders guitar tones.

I’m quite taken with this record and so was pretty happy when Burns was a late addition to the NXNE lineup; her showcase goes 9PM on Saturday night, June 18, at Supermarket. Southern Souls has a video session with downloadable MP3s to check out.

MP3: Louise Burns – “Drop Names Not Bombs”
Video: Louise Burns – “What Do You Wanna Do?”

And here’s the day-by-day of stuff that, should you find yourself looking for something to check out, I think may be worth your while. I’ve left out some perennial recommendations because, well, that’d be kind of redundant, but they still have my implicit endorsement.

Wednesday, June 15
Young Contrarians @ Rancho Relaxo, 8PM – advertised to me as a fun sort-of side-project of local musicians who rarely play, the samples of their lightly synth-y, New Wave pop is better than lots of what I’ve heard from deadly serious, full-time bands. Check out the tune on their NXNE profile and tell me I’m wrong.

Lower Dens @ The Garrison, 10PM – hypnotically atmospheric Baltimore outfit finally returning to Toronto for a couple of NXNE shows, this one and another at 1AM on Thursday, June 16, at Lee’s Palace. One of the bands I really hope to catch but won’t be surprised if I miss completely.
MP3: Lower Dens – “Hospice Gates”

Ume @ The Drake Underground, 11PM – the Austin-based power trio who’re personal favourites will be previewing their new album Phantoms, due out on August 30. They always put on an absolutely scorching live show courtesy the guitar heroics of frontwoman Lauren Larson.
MP3: Ume – “The Conductor”

The Postelles @ The Garrison, 11PM – New York guitar-pop band that sounds like a New York guitar-pop band, which is to say kind of throwback garage-y and a lot catchy. Billboard and The Washington Examiner have features.
MP3: The Postelles – “Hold On”

Library Voices @ The Rivoli, 12AM – unflappable Saskatchewan collective who’ve endured theft, floods and living in Saskatchewan to keep putting out upbeat, catchy pop will release their second album Summer Of Lust on August 23. NOW, The National Post and The Leader-Post have interviews.
Video: Library Voices – “Drinking Games”

Thursday, June 16
Evening Hymns @ The Music Gallery, 8PM – Toronto duo built around the duo of Jonas Bonetta and Sylvie Smith will be previewing their second album, as yet untitled but due out in the Fall, in pretty much the most perfect setting short of a mist-covered mountaintop. Spill has an interview with Bonetta.
MP3: Evening Hymns – “Broken Rifle”

Fucked Up @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 8PM – the chance to see the 2009 Polaris Prize winners do their crowd-invading, half-naked thing in a public square is not to be missed, nor is the opportunity to hear their latest opus David Comes To Life live. They’ll also play Wrongbar at 1AM the same evening. The National Post has a feature.
MP3: Fucked Up – “Queen Of Hearts”

Modern Superstitions @ The Garrison, 9PM – constantly on my festival “you ought to see” lists because, well, you ought to see them. Their catchy garage-pop get better every time out.
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”

The Two Koreas @ The Velvet Underground, 10PM – in brief: local rock scribes form rock band, make surprisingly good guitar-rock record, get other local rock scribes to recommend seeing them and regret no longer being in bands.
MP3: The Two Koreas – “Midnight Brown”

Cowboy And Indian @ The Comfort Zone, 10PM – CRUCIFICTORIOUS!
MP3: Cowboy And Indian – “Ledbellies”

Slow Down, Molasses @ The Dakota Tavern, 11PM – sprawling Prairie collective who’ve found an extra dose of cohesion and rock on their second album Walk Into The Sea
MP3: Slow Down, Molasses – “Late Night Radio”

Evan Dando & Juliana Hatfield @ Lee’s Palace, 12AM – one of Alternative Nation’s original power couples, now back together and doing… I’m not exactly sure. But expecting to slapped upside the head with ’90s nostalgia probably isn’t unreasonable.
Video: The Lemonheads – “It’s A Shame About Ray”
Video: The Juliana Hatfield Three – “Spin The Bottle”

Bruce Peninsula @ The Rivoli, 1AM – local gospel-blues-folk choir continues their gradual return to active duty with their first live show in what seems like forever. Their second album Open Flames is out this Fall
MP3: Bruce Peninsula – “Light Flight”

Friday, June 17
Art Brut @ The Mod Club, 9PM – hilarious and whip-smart Brits will showcase their new record Brilliant! Tragic. Paste has a profile.
MP3: Art Brut – “Lost Weekend”

Volcano Playground @ Rancho Relaxo, 11PM – Atmospheric synth-pop made right here in Toronto that pulls together all manner of influence into something impressively unique. A local act to keep an eye on, whether at NXNE or not.
MP3: Volcano Playground – “Waiting”

Julianna Barwick @ Wrongbar, 11PM – Haunting, ambient soundscapes built on layers of vocals and imagination.
MP3: Julianna Barwick – “The Magic Place”

Swervedriver @ The Great Hall, 12AM – British shoegaze legends making a rare appearance in these parts… even if their last appearance in 2008 was at this very same festival.
MP3: Swervedriver – “Last Train To Satansville” (live)

Dum Dum Girls @ Lee’s Palace, 12AM – sun-kissed Californian garage-pop from the guaranteed best-dressed band at the fest. Including Devo. Spinner and NOW have interviews.
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Jail La La”

Olenka & The Autumn Lovers @ The Gladstone Hotel, 12AM – London orchestral-folk faves finally return with a new, full lineup that should allow them to recreate more of if not all of their gorgeous And Now We Sing album
MP3: Olenka & The Autumn Lovers – “Odessa”

Rouge @ Sneaky Dee’s, 3AM – if for some reason you’re still awake and looking for something to do, their electro-pop will make a compelling argument for dancing, dancing, dancing.

Saturday, June 18
Cults @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 7PM – possibly the buzziest of all the buzz bands playing the festival, thanks to the love for the retro-pop that adorns their self-titled debut. They also playing at midnight at Lee’s Palace on June 17. Filter and Boston Globe have features.
MP3: Cults- “Go Outside”

Bellewoods @ The Dakota Tavern, 9PM – raggedly lovely and rockingly downcast alt.country outfit preparing for the upcoming release of their debut Don’t Rely On Me
MP3: Bellewoods – “Take Me Out”

Devo @ Yonge-Dundas Square, 9:30PM – They’re legends, they’re the headliners, they’re free. Are they not men? They are DEVO.
Video: Devo – “Girl U Want”

Smoke Fairies @ The Dakota Tavern, 10PM – English folk-blues duo specializing in tight harmonies and creepy atmosphere. Tour Dates has an interview.
MP3: Smoke Fairies – “Strange Moon Rising”

Peelander-Z @ The Comfort Zone, 12AM – A single look should be all you need to know if you want to see the planet’s premiere Japanese action comic punk band. They also play an all-ages show at Sneaky Dee’s at 5PM that afternoon. Spinner has an interview.
MP3: Peelander-Z – “Tacos Tacos Tacos”

Chad VanGaalen @ The Great Hall, 12AM – The release of Diaper Island brings Canada’s premier weirdo-pop auteur back to town. The Take and National Post have interviews.
MP3: Chad Vangaalen – “Sara”

Secret Cities @ The Dakota Tavern, 12AM – Classic, lightly psychedelic pop low on fidelity but high on songs, hailing from the music hotbed of Fargo, North Dakota. They’re also playing 9PM Friday at Wrongbar and 5PM Saturday at The Rivoli
MP3: Secret Cities – “The Park”

Obviously, this is just a tiny sample of what’s on offer this week at the clubs around town – to be honest, I haven’t even sorted out what I’m going to be seeing so I can’t very well say with any authority that these are the acts you should be seeing. But hopefully there’s something in the selections above that click with you and at least register as an option for your festival itinerary. And if you need more, check out festival previews at Spin (focusing on worthy Torontonian acts), OTM, BlogTO, Toro (two-parter) and The Line Of Best Fit

And note that these only covered the official evening showcases; while things are still far from Austin-scale, there’s more day shows and whatnot this than I ever recall, which is good news for everyone – particularly underagers and people without the time/money/energy for the club crawl. There’s a number of in-store shows, the Kelp Records/Line Of Best Fit BBQ on Friday, an Rdio-sponsored thing and BrooklynVegan-branded boat cruise on Saturday afternoon and the Live In Bellwoods performances in the park running afternoons from Thursday through Sunday to name the ones that are on my radar. And there’s also a launch party for the just-released Static Zine on the Sunday, which will feature live shows at both Sky Blue Sky Sandwiches and in Christie Pits.

Update: Just posted – Spinner’s as-comprehensive-as-you’ll-find guide to NXNE afterparties, day shows and secret shows.

So yeah, NXNE. Here we go.