Tuesday, June 19th, 2012
The Men, The Black Belles, The Seedy Seeds, and more at NXNE
Frank YangWith most club-level festivals, some intense venue-hopping is par for the course and in a city with a downtown as spread out as Toronto, the logistics of getting from point A to point B in the allotted time can be an art form all its own. Unless you do things as I did on the Thursday night of NXNE and basically plant yourself at one intersection and let the bands come to you. This wasn’t an arbitrary decision, mind. Dundas-Ossington has gone from borderland outpost to hot spot in the past few years and between The Dakota, Painted Lady and Garrison, you can generally count on a good number of live music options on a regular night, never mind during a festival.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that every option will turn out to be a good one. I feel like there’s some rule that says every time I got to a multi-band bill at The Garrison, one of them will be a solo guy with a keyboard and pedals who will try my patience. This time out it was Kentucky native James Friley, who operates as Idiot Glee, and while it wasn’t necessarily terrible, the Animal Collective-ish aesthetic of effected vocals, looped rhythms, and triggered noises doesn’t do anything for me when it’s done well – Idiot Glee wasn’t even interesting enough to be annoying. It just goes to show – what maybe works in a studio or even on record doesn’t necessarily do so live. Some things just aren’t meant for the stage.
The avoid a second Mac DeMarco set in as many nights, I then hopped around the corner to The Painted Lady where Cincinnati trio The Seedy Seeds were setting up, and their set of unabashedly quirky, geeky power pop was just the thing to pick me back up. They were armed with a kitchen sink’s worth of synths, banjo, acoustic, percussion, accordion – and on-the-fly instrument changes between them – to say nothing of the harmonies, but rather than allow it to become sonic clutter, it was all in service to the song and the melody. It was fun and danceable, even though the close quarters in the bar meant the band was doing the most dancing – though the burlesque dancer on the bar seemed to be moving to her own soundtrack.
Photos: The Seedy Seeds @ The Painted Lady – June 14, 2012
Video: The Seedy Seeds – “Telephone The Constrictor”
Video: The Seedy Seeds – “Verb Noun”
Video: The Seedy Seeds – “I Am The Conductor”
Video: The Seedy Seeds – “Drive Me To The Center”
Back at The Garrison, Mac DeMarco fans were clearing out and Grass Widow fans were filing in. I was neither, having heard nothing of the latter besides seeing some of the kerfuffle about that heinous Vice review (no linkbait biting, sorry) of their third album Internal Logic which was enough to reaffirm that I will never read Vice but didn’t persuade me to give the album a listen. In fact, only when they took the stage did I know they were a three-piece (the aforementioned piece tipped me off that they were all female) and only when they said they were from San Francisco did I know they were from San Francisco. I probably could have guessed the garage pop thing, though. The were exceedingly sloppy at first but got within the parameters of acceptable within a few songs, even flirting with charming at points. That sweet spot remained a moving target through their sets but it a few of their jams landed it quite effectively. Still not feeling like checking out the album, though.
Photos: Grass Widow @ The Garrison – June 14, 2012
MP3: Grass Widow – “Time Keeps Time”
Video: Grass Widow – “Fried Egg”
Video: Grass Widow – “Shadow”
Video: Grass Widow – “Milo Minute”
Video: Grass Widow – “Give Me Shapes”
Video: Grass Widow – “Tattoo”
Nashville’s The Black Belles may have been another female power trio (they’d recently contracted from a quartet), but they couldn’t be more different from the band before them. Being a Jack White production, it was a foregone conclusion that they’d have a) a strong aesthetic – sheer black dresses, witchy velvet hats, sexy-goth makeup, check – and b) a classic rock vibe. Unfortunately, the Third Man association also meant that hooks and melody were a secondary concern to a) and b) and so while they looked good and sounded heavy, the songs didn’t have a lot of staying power. I’ve no doubt that their label associations will take them a long ways, but at some point they’ll need some tunes to back it all up.
For a lesson in balancing out heavy with hooks, you needn’t look any further than the night’s headliner – New York’s The Men and their latest Open Your Heart. If you wanted to hear many of those hooks this night, however, you would have been best served going home and putting the album on the turntable because the live show was an electrifying dose of punk rock thunder. The songs were there, but just as launching pads for the pure, aural adrenaline delivered via riffs, solos, and hollered vocals from any and all of their three lead singers. It’s hard to pick one thing out of the tumult to focus on, but recent addition Ben Greenberg – prior to March they didn’t have a bassist at all – would be a good one; running his bass through a guitar amp and pummelling chords, he was more third (albeit baritone) guitar than traditional bass, but was still the anchor, the ragged, jagged pulse of the band. How they did it before he joined, I can’t imagine. Unsurprisingly, their set was like a call to action for the moshing-inclined so despite trying to stick it out up front for as long as possible, I retreated to the back for the last few songs. With a few shows on their NXNE schedule, there were other opportunities to see them in probably less rowdy environs, but really – a dark, sweaty bar was really the only correct setting for this. Invigorating.
Matador has finally confirmed details of the new Cat Power record, which will indeed be called Sun and be out on September 4, a week earlier than expected. The first track is available to download and The Stool Pigeon has posted up the full interview with Chan Marshall about the new record; it was only excerpted last week.
MP3: Cat Power – “Ruin”
A touch short notice but if you’re around the Soundscapes area at 6:30PM tonight, pop in to catch an in-store from Michael Kiwanuka before he heads over to The Phoenix for his headlining show. BBC America and The Winnipeg Free Press have interviews with the singer.
Weezer has reached another career milestone; they’re now playing casinos. They’ll be in the area on September 14 with a date at Casino Rama. I’m certain this is actually in Rivers Cuomo’s master plan.
Video: Weezer – “The Good Life”
And folks, the show announcement I’ve been waiting on forever is here – The Afghan Whigs at The Phoenix on October 3. I daresay that there’s not a band I’ve listened to more this year. Tickets are $35 and the presale goes Wednesday morning at 10AM, link and password at Collective Concerts. This. Will be. So. Good.
Video: The Afghan Whigs – “Crazy”
And some interesting exchanges of ideas on the whole topic of illegal music downloads, first from a 20-year old at NPR, then a rebuttal/open letter from David Lowery (Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven) at The Trichordist, and some points at both from Laura Snapes of Pitchfork/NME. Really worthwhile reading if just to remind yourself that this is still a thing and it still affects artists.