This is the first of two posts. Look out for another coming soon, featuring reviews of Bombay Bicycle Club, J Mascis (of Dinosaur JR), Protest the Hero and more…
Canadian Music Week, or Canadian Music Fest—honestly, at this point I’m not sure which is which—is a blur for media and musicians alike. For five days, starting last Wednesday and ending tonight, Toronto is taken over. Bars, concert halls and even the prestigious Royal York Fairmont Hotel are held captive by dudes with beards, girls with bad haircuts and eager but demanding publicist types.
This year I decided to take it easier than I have in years past, and rather than blindly stumbling from bar to bar, I decided to pick and choose my spots. For me, Canadian Music Fest started on Thursday with the Wilderness of Manitoba who were, for lack of a better term, fucking awesome.
I’d only been exposed to them through a few videos posted over on the forums, but I liked what I heard. I liked it even more live.
Playing a relatively short 35 minute set, it’s pretty surprising how many sound shifts they went through. They started with cello accompaniment, and brought a lot more ambient sounds than you’ll typically hear in the Toronto folk scene. The drums were pretty overpowering—they were thunderous and crashing, again not something you’ll usually hear in folk. Not just in their first few songs but throughout their set there was a real sense of texture to their music,…
So there I was about to write yet another blog about yet another event that I had attended, when I thought to myself “Davey, you can’t write a full blog about the SoundWave Festival. It would turn out like ‘War & Peace’ and the entire SputnikMusic Blog machine would blow up. Plus, you need to stop talking about YOUR experiences (that’s what lists are for) and give the Sputnik-ites out there what THEY want”.
So last week I ran a poll (you probably missed it) as to what you all want & three main answers stood out: (1) Jonny Craig to give you the MacBook you paid for, (2) Sex & (3) Chan to review the new Aiden album about to be released. Those points seemed irrelevant to my blog, so I took the next three best responses and decided to roll them into this one all-encompassing blog. Ladies & gentlemen, I give you (1) Metal, (2) Huge headlining acts, & (3) A tour around Australia!
Prior to our tour beginning however, a disclaimer must first be aired for legal purposes: SputnikMusic shall take no responsibility for any motion sickness caused by unsteady hand-held cameras used in the making of the following videos. The same goes for deafness caused by varying volume levels, seizures caused by blinking lights, and blindness caused by the brightness of security vests.
Our tour today – just like the SoundWave Festival – starts in the north-eastern city of Brisbane, where it is sunny one…
Apart from the day itself being one almighty rock, punk & metal-fest that never fails to please, another great aspect of Australia’s SoundWave Festival are the related sideshows which take place. These shows (which have come to be known as Sidewaves) often see 3-4 bands from the festival placed together on the one bill. As you can imagine, they are exceptional value for money, as well as being an effective way to solve clashes on the day. Examples of Sidewaves this year were (a) Social Distortion, Gaslight Anthem & Feeder, (b) Rob Zombie, Murderdolls, Monster Magnet & Dommin, (c) Sum 41, The Blackout, There For Tomorrow & Veara, (d) Pennywise, Millencolin & The Mad Caddies, and (e) Stone Sour, Coheed and Cambria, Sevendust & 36 Crazyfists. The Sidewave I chose to stroll along to however was the “can’t miss” trio of Anberlin, The Starting Line & Bayside.
Having previously seen them live a couple of times, I already knew that NYC’s Bayside were one of the best live bands going around. It only hit me on this night however, that they are also one of the few bands who sound great right from the get-go. They either sound-check all day or are just that damn good. Kicking off with energetic new track ‘Already Gone’, the ‘Killing Time’ opener felt like it had been on their live set for the past decade, with the way in which the audience were singing along even if they had barely heard the song before.…
I think it goes without saying that when it comes to the indie music universe, there was no more celebrated reunion in recent memory than that of seminal Canadian post-rock ennead Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The announcement that they were going to be curating the 2010 All Tomorrow’s Parties Christmas event in Minehead, England created such a wave of excitement that when Godspeed You! Black Emperor expanded their comeback to include a series of tours in Europe and North America tickets sold out almost as soon as they went on sale. On February 22nd, 2011 their reunion tour made its way to Pomona, California, the first of two stops in Southern California (the other being at the Music Box in Hollywood a day later).
Joining Godspeed You! Black Emperor for the night was the stoner-drone band Om. Om took the stage right before nine o’clock. Consisting of bassist and vocalist Al Cisneros (the name should be familiar to anyone who has listened to the pioneering sludge band Sleep), Emil Amos on drums (who also plays in Grails), and multi-instrumentalist Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, Om’s spiritual bass grooves entranced the crowd at the Fox Theater for a solid forty minutes. Playing a set consisting mainly of tracks from their God Is Good album, Cisneros’ rolling bass grooves and zen like vocals had the audience hypnotized, but this was the calm before the storm, as when it became time towards the latter half of their set, things became more ferocious,…
It’s fair to state that most of my previous gig attending experiences have been relatively limited to the rock / pop-punk / post-hardcore spectrum. I’ve never really considered going to too many indie gigs (how UnSputnik of me), despite liking my fair share of bands that could loosely be categorized as such. Most indie music seems best enjoyed via headphones when in a certain mood, rather than in a live setting… So I’ve always imagined if I did attend such a concert, I’d just be one of Win Butler’s friends standing there with my arms crossed, drinking one beer per song. I’d need something extra to be entertained; a strings or horn section, a crazy front-man or a stage invasion! English band Foals seemed the perfect (pardon the pun) antidote for my situation; a group whose debut LP was filled with catchy & energetic math-rock, and whose follow-up was simply too f*cken fantastic to ignore.
On an extremely humid Thursday night when floods were ruining cities to the north & bushfires were ravaging cities to the west (seriously, our climate is screwed), Mr & Mrs. Boy wandered on over to The Palace Theatre in downtown Melbourne in order to witness the aforementioned Brits. First up however were Brisbane indie-poppers Last Dinosaurs, a quartet who initially did not seem like a good match for such a gig. Having heard all of 4 tracks from the band prior to this night, I had pegged them as more of the Vampire Weekend style…
(Photos: Loreana Rushe)
As recently as a year ago, this gig would not have been possible – at least in the order in which the acts took to the stage on Saturday night.
Local act Adebisi Shank’s career trajectory has been well-documented in these pages (though whispers of a US release in the offing may well be new), but the rise of Chicago’s Maps & Atlases has been steeper still, from a college band mixing Tera Melos-inspired math rock with freak folk to cracking the Billboard charts with their debut LP, Perch Patchwork, earlier this year. Saturday’s stop in Whelan’s was the final stop on their first European headlining tour – an event drummer Chris Hainey’s parents marked by flying over from the States (and boy did they stick out, as American tourists are legally obliged to do).
It turns out Maps & Atlases weren’t the only ones saying goodbye, though Adebisi Shank will surely be more relieved than sorry to see the back of this country: the Wexford/Dublin trio are to take on Japan for the jillionth time in support of the recently-released This is the Second Album of a Band Called Adebisi Shank. Taking to the stage around the 8.30 mark (an early start for a two-act gig), the Shank pushed all the right buttons, sounding markedly tighter than they did even a month ago when they headlined the State vs. Nialler9 gig in Dublin’s Mercantile Bar.
There’s an old football…
With the onset of daylight saving time a mere thirty hours away and a couple of relatively warmer days just gone, the mood of the punters entering Mebourne’s Festival Hall (not so affectionately known as Festering Hall) on this particular Friday night seemed just a little more jovial than usual. Those who arrived early would have been treated to Perth act The Chemist… For this attendee however, it was to be dinner and drinks that would win out, before arriving for the surprisingly well-known international supporting act; Los Angeles alternative rock quartet Silversun Pickups.
It says something about the progression of the Australian music industry when a local band – and not exactly one which the average Joe on the street would even know – can attract such an acclaimed international support. And while there could easily have been a case for this to be a true co-headline show, Silversun Pickups fans would be treated to their own headline slot (albeit at a smaller venue) three nights earlier. On an early trip to the men’s room for yours truly, urinal talk suggested the crowd were rather evenly split as to who they were there for. And even when one already inebriated man was at a loss as to who these “Pickups” were, all was ok when he was told they had a “chick” in the band.
Brian Aubert with his “lazy eye”.
Even on record, Silversun
Having already broken out in his native England, Frank Turner is a rising star in the US punk community as of late. As if his signing to Epitaph for all his releases stateside wasn’t enough of a sign that the British singer-songwriter has been gaining his footing in the states, successful tour spots with The Offspring and Social D on top of a number of headlining runs all across the country have exposed Frank to thousands of new fans. Last night at the Troubadour, located in the west-side of Los Angeles, a sold out crowd sang their hearts out to a venerable folk-punk smorgasbord. Even California punk legends such as NOFX’s Fat Mike and Bad Religion guitarist/Epitaph Records head honcho Brett Gurewitz could be seen roaming the grounds among the fans.
The night began with Lansing, Michigan’s Cheap Girls. The only act of the night that didn’t feature acoustic guitars, Cheap Girls took control of the gathering crowd with their upbeat Texas is the Reason by way of The Replacements brand of crunchy, no-frills rock and roll. Given the context of the rest of the night, they were a wonderful appetizer to the main course of Andrew Jackson Jihad and Frank Turner. The only downside was that given the crowd’s unfamiliarity with their material and the incredibly low placement of singer and bassist’s Ian Graham’s vocals in the overall mix killed the potential audience participation factor during their performance.
Despite Frank Turner’s name being on top of…
Not far removed from the middle of winter in the southern hemisphere, it was a cold and wet Melbourne that hosted Jared Leto & Co. at Festival Hall. Touring on the back of their disappointing 3rd album ‘This Is War’, this tour was for some reason titled ‘Into the Wild’. I’d research why, but the fact this blog has been written 2 weeks after the event should tell you how motivated I am at present.
- The best seat in the house?
The venue is not exactly much loved around these parts since (ignoring its summer air-conditioning issue which leaves it feeling like a sauna) it is spatially challenged. Spreading sideways instead of back, even some of the best seats in the house (ignoring a limited capacity balcony section which is centrally located) leave attendees with too much of a side view feel. Thankfully, yours truly had one of those best seats for this particular concert since there was no way I was going to submit my ears to the screaming 13 year old girls on the venue’s floor section… The fact that the floor section was also unlicensed is irrelevant… Well, not really, but anyway…
- The Art
Arriving as the support band was playing their first song; it was not a great surprise to see The Art receive a lukewarm response. Previously
Leading up to this weekend, shows have been hard to come by this calendar year, however that was about to change. On Thursday I was going to see The Antlers with Dinosaur Feathers while on Sunday I planned on seeing Cap’n Jazz twice, once with Lightning Bolt and No Age and the other with Gauge.
Image Credit: Chris Wang
Thursday night, The Antlers played a free concert as a part of the Hudson River Park’s River Rocks concert series at Pier 54. The picturesque night started with melodious three-piece known as Dinosaur Feathers. While they will not blow anyone away with any sort of dramatic climaxes or intricate passages, Dinosaur Feathers make up for that with their precision and dreamy pop songs, such as “Teenage Whores.” Unfortunately for Dinosaur Feathers, the generator powering the show went down during the middle of their set, which caused a nearly thirty minute delay and Dinosaur Feathers to play at about a quarter of the original volume without electronically produced drums supporting their sound, all while organizers scrambled to get another generator for The Antlers’ set. Dinosaur Feathers could have easily stopped playing, but they persevered through the technical difficulties, and they deserve a heap of credit for keeping a somewhat disgruntled crowd happy.
Once The Antlers took the stage, another generator was in place and the sun was setting over the Hudson. Flowers lined two keyboards as “Kettering” began ever so softly. One detail that…
After an exhausting Friday night, which in keeping with the day before it didn’t end until sunrise the next day, Saturday would prove to be the death knell in SputnikMusic’s head-first dive into NXNE 2010.
Like the day before, my Saturday started at the Dakota Tavern to see Jack Marks and his Lost Wages, a sometimes six, sometimes seven piece country outfit led by singer-songwriter standout Jack Marks. Like Sandman Viper Command of the two previous days, Marks and his band of mice-fights are a bit of an ol’ faithful for me. In truth, I’ve long since lost count of how many times I’ve seen them over the past year; a handful of times at the Cameron House, some more at Dakota’s and a few other little gigs around the city (my favourite being in the bar-room of the Tranzac, which was in the middle of hosting a barbed-wire wrestling event in its main room).
Arriving to see a surprisingly sparse Dakota Tavern I took my perch on the bar-rail, sitting behind none other than A.A. Bondy and his Farmville enamoured bassist, to catch what would prove to be a familiar but all the while noteworthy performance from one of Toronto’s finest roots acts. Working through his usual mix of songs from his debut Two of Everything and his upcoming, seemingly still untitled new release, Jack Marks and his Lost Wages did their best to draw in a seemingly filled with media personal and executives. A showcase in the…
If I thought Day 1 was packed, Day 2 took things to a whole new level, making it extremely hard to walk anywhere efficiently (and definitely not without a group constantly linking hands), and making the floor of the main stage a lost cause before I even arrived. I dared to see some trance at the Neon Garden when I first arrived, catching Aly & Fila and a whole bunch of fluorescent-painted individuals who must’ve been the happiest concertgoers I’d seen yet just fist-pumping like it was Jersey Shore West Coast-edition. Next up was will.i.am at the main stage, who stuck out like a sore thumb on the lineup sheet and played a predictably oddball set heavy in funk classics to liven the crowd up as the sun began to set.
Photo courtesy of Spin.com
Filipino/Dutch DJ Laidback Luke followed will.i.am, and was playing when what was easily the most surreal experience of the festival occurred. The floor had long been closed to any more spectators, but as Luke continued to play unruly concertgoers began to wash over the high fences barricading the stands from the floor, spilling onto the floor and causing absolute havoc among security. The sound was soon cut off, and from my vantage point way up in the stands, the combination of what looked to be a surefire riot, helicopters suddenly swooping low overhead, and the stadium in a frenzy, was terrifying but really, really fucking cool all…
Over 80 artists and DJs. Five stages running the gamut from house to dubstep to trance and more. 185,000+ people attending and dancing until 2 a.m. over two days. More Ecstasy pills than the population of Los Angeles. Calling the annual L.A. Electric Daisy Carnival a mere “rave” is an insult to something that has to be considered one of the largest music events in the world, not to mention an intense kaleidoscope of sounds and visuals that require far more work and setup than your average festival show. Oh, and don’t forget the varied array of carnival rides, from your standard Ferris wheel and fun house to spinning tops and massive swings (best ridden sober). With such a breadth of artists and experiences to be sampled it’s practically impossible to catalogue every highlight of the weekend, and the fact that the Coliseum grounds where the event was held was nearly impossible to traverse effectively past sundown made it difficult to see everyone I wanted, but those I did rarely disappointed.
…and this was EARLY
Opening at 2 in the afternoon every day, the festival was already jam packed by the time I arrived (usually around 4-ish), and like Coachella before it, EDC’s popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years. The main stage (the Coliseum stadium including the floor) was half empty during the Friday headliner in 2009; this year they closed off floor access before sunset,…
Friday, June 18th.
Much like the day before it, North by Northeast’s Friday schedule would prove to be chocked full of music-y goodness. So much that it all seemed to overlap. My plans were to start the day off in the late afternoon by seeing Neutral Uke Hotel perform on a patio at Yonge and Dundas Square. Needless to say, I slept in. So then I figured I’d see them a few hours later, playing a 9 o’clock set at The Painted Lady. Well, that didn’t happen either, since I discovered shortly thereafter that Old Man Luedecke was also playing a 9 o’clock set just a few doors over at The Dakota Tavern. Needless to say I decided on the latter; while the prospect of a ukelele-fronted Neutral Milk Hotel cover band was peculiar and promising, and their press release was certainly enthusiastic, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see one of Canada’s finest songwriters up close and personal. Plus, if we’re talking plucky sounding instruments, I’ll take the banjo over the uke ninety nine times out of a hundred. So I’m sorry, Neutral Uke Hotel, for passing doubly on my intentions to see you. It just didn’t work out.
Old Man Luedecke, beardless for the first time in 14 years.
I’m glad I ended up where I did since Old Man Luedecke was absolutely incredible. Playing to a packed house, Old Man Luedecke…
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