There is no exact way for me to figure out how many bands I booked in 2011. Basically, here’s how my job as a talent booker at the Rancho works: Every single event or show that happens at Rancho is booked through me, but not every one of those shows is a TWM event; sometimes other people come in and use the room. Factoring those shows out, I figure I put on around 235 shows last year at Rancho — seriously, that’s a lot of shows and a lot of bands. Factoring in the festivals, I would say that is about 800 sets of music curated by TWM at Rancho this year. From those approximately 800 sets, I’ve picked 10 that stuck with me for being the most memorable sets of 2011 at Rancho.
They may have been memorable for the occasion, the performance, being monumental, or various other reasons. I explain my choices below. But man, what a year it was at the Ranch — when you see some of the omissions you’ll understand that statement for yourself.
#10: The Natural Shocks: Friday June 10th Complete with Comfortable Lighting album launch with Gay and Vista Vision
This was a really special set and show. Our head bartender, Greg LeGros, remarked to me during the show, “It’s like a Rancho family reunion up in here.” He was right — The Shocks feature my good friend Jeff Geady, a man I met at Rancho and who I am proud to call one of my best friends. On that night, everyone who knew Jeff over the years came out to support his band’s debut release. The Natural Shocks did not disappoint, rising to the occasion and the energy and playing a mammoth rockin’ indie set. The place was dancing, bouncing, hanging on every note, and laughing at every bit of hilarious banter. For that moment, the Natural Shocks were Toronto’s indie buzz band to watch. And we and the band will always have that moment, no matter what happens from here on out.
#9: Deadhorse: Weds May 11th
This set making the list is proof that to play an unbelievably awesome set you don’t even need to have a crowd full of people there to see it. Fuck, you barely need anybody there at all. Calgary’s Deadhorse brought their brand of swamp rock to the Ranch and I was beyond stoked. They are seriously one of the best bands in Canada right now and have a sound unlike anybody else. Only problem? Toronto was typically way too cool — some band with cute boys and disco drum fills were probably playing a buzz show at the ‘Shoe or something. Nobody came — I mean like, nobody. Maybe 20 people were through the door all night? I would not have blamed the band at all if they cashed it in and played a disappointing set, but they did not. Instead they rocked the snot out of the 20 people who were there and charmed the pants right off of them. In the end, they sold something like a dozen vinyl. Could you imagine your band got that type of conversion with merch sales normally? The music community might actually be profitable. Next time Deadhorse comes to town, stop worrying about being a hipster and get to the damn venue.
#8: Wild Domestic: Weds November 16th with Glory Glory and Youth Season
While I chose the Wild Domestic set, it should be noted that this was an amazing show, with all the bands playing sweet sets and an insanely inspiring atmosphere in the room all night, but Wild Domestic‘s set took the cake. Wild Domestic are a London-based band on Out Sound Records who have a neat setup featuring double drumming and very little in the ways of vocals. The insanely drum heavy setup reminds me of Pick a Piper or Caribou, but the band itself actually reminded me at times of a 2011 re-envisioning of Broken Social Scene, if that makes any sense at all. The floor was so packed with people trying to get as close as possible to what they were witnessing, it was insane. Wild Domestic was breaking that night and I’m not sure even they were aware of it. People have been talking about it ever since — that friends, is a set. They return to Rancho on January 28th. Save the date.
#7: Amos the Transparent return home: April 9th with The Cheap Speakers, Persian Rugs, and Oceans:
Before they were on Much Music, before they won the Big Money Shot, before Cool Planet had even met them, Amos the Transparent were an awesome Ottawa band looking for a shot in a city other than Ottawa. TWM gave them that shot and it was a match made in heaven. For a few years there, when Amos came to Toronto it was to play a TWM show; before long those shows were packed to the gills, people were singing along the words, and it was apparent that Amos was becoming a big deal in these parts. When that happened, it became harder to do shows with Amos, but the band never forgot and it was Jon Chandler himself who wanted to make a point of debuting the entire new album live for the first time anywhere at Rancho in April. And they did! They played the entire album and then did a bunch of older tracks in a set that pushed an hour and a half. Seeing a band like Amos in a room like Rancho is a special experience and people were aware of that, knowing how rare of an occurrence what we were actually witnessing was. A special night, one I won’t soon forget.
#6: Black Hat Brigade Reunion Set: December 3rd with Lordy Lordy, Buffalo, the Unquiet Dead, and Dave Whitty
That this set ends up taking #6 on this list is a sign of how many truly great sets we’ve had at the Ranch this year. I, more than almost anybody else, had continued to hope for a Black Hat Brigade reunion over the last few years, but even my hope was pretty much tapped when this show came to fruition. Yet there they were, original lineup together again playing through the choice cuts on what was a really underrated Toronto indie music career. The place was packed, the booze was flowing, it was December but the place felt like a July night it was so sweaty, and Black Hat Brigade rocked us right up and through last call. Was it the last time? Remains to be seen, but if it was, what a way to go out!
#5: Honheehonhee makes their Toronto debut: May 28th w/ the Spoofs and OPOPO
Honheehonhee played my 30th birthday AND an insanely great NXNE after party put on by myself and Buying Shots this year, so why this show? Because it was their first ever Toronto show! Everything else that has happened and will happen with this band begun when they took the stage at Rancho Relaxo on Sat May 28th. The venue was pretty packed, and a good chunk of you took my word on how awesome this band was going to be and came out. I’m not sure any of us expected it to be as great as it was, though. The show that led me to proclaim Honheehonhee as the next big thing out of Montreal. Don’t take that claim lightly. The last time I used it was for a little band getting their Toronto start at Rancho, by the name of Parlovr.
#4: Papermaps for my 30th birthday: Oct 29th with the Love Machine, Honheehonhee and Santa with Muscles
I gave serious consideration to putting this in my #1 spot — all of the next four slots, actually. Papermaps were fresh off playing CMJ, Halifax Pop Explosion, and a bunch of sets in between, and they returned to Toronto and a stage they know well at the Rancho. They did so dressed in awesome Devo Halloween costumes and they rocked the living fuck out of it! The thing aboutPapermaps is they are an indie-pop band who have kinda got fed up with always playing poppy music. That night they absolutely shredded it on stage. It was a triumphant return from their biggest tour as a band so far, an amazing memory for my 30th birthday, and a snapshot of a band setting up for big things in 2012.
#3: Alcoholic Faith Mission on Weds March 9th as part of CMW
When I looked through the list of acts playing CMW and listening to them all, one band stood out: Alcoholic Faith Mission. I wanted that band, I needed that band! I just needed to convince Zach and Cam over at CMW that they were destined to play that Rancho stage. Thankfully, they obliged. That week AFM played several sets at “better” venues. But to a man, everyone agreed it was the set at Rancho that was truly magical. From Copenhagen, Alcoholic Faith Mission played massive and complicated beautiful indie-pop. They had the Rancho crowd hanging on every note, breaking into thunderous ovations and screaming our praise after every song. The band almost didn’t know how to deal with it. Clearly they had expected a smaller or less tuned-in Weds night crowd, but they relished each and every second of it. This was Day 1 of 5 at the festival, but most of us who were there that night knew we’d see nothing better during the rest of the week. I, for one, did not.
#2: The What Cheer? Brigade: August 9th w/ Math the Band and Pants & Tie
When a 19-piece brass punk band gets in touch with you, you listen and you listen good. Immediately I wanted this show and I wanted it at Rancho. It took some prodding and even some fighting off other venues. Then it took a minor miracle at the border, but the band made it across. A few members were on the stage, and the rest of the band dispersed around the Rancho floor. The crowd was frantic, they’d gotten a taste earlier when the What Cheer? Brigade had marched right into Rancho playing and they had waited a few hours for more. Now they were getting it! I’m not sure the Ranch had ever been hotter, the floor almost buckled for fuck sakes! But on it went. If you left to get a drink it was nearly impossible to get back into the fray. That’s how jammed the place was and how close people wanted to be to something they may never see again. In the end, the What Cheer? Brigade marched down the stairs and out into the rain and played a two-song encore. I’m sure the neighbours loved it! But who cares? This was rock and roll, as pure as it gets.
#1: Krupke‘s farewell show: February 25th w/ the Ruby Spirit, Carlo Meriano and Tofu Meat
I’m not sure there will ever be another Krupke for me, a band so talented, so awesome, and so creative that they turned me (their manager) into a more creative person just by working with them. But like most great bands eventually do, they decided to break up. Their last show, at the Horseshoe Tavern, was one I couldn’t even be at. It gutted me. Then the band had an idea: One final show, their terms, their lineup and back where it all began, the Rancho. I exclaimed! And that’s how Friday February 25th came to be. The band came super early and transformed the Rancho stage to a heavenly looking set with clouds. They had death scenes cued up to project all throughout their set. And the stage was set for Krupke‘s imminent death. As last sets go, yeah it was painful knowing most likely I’d never see this again, but it was also a celebration. The band played a remarkable set with their original drummer Sep and the crowd rammed with people, to whom this band meant a lot, were dancing, singing along, and overcome with emotions. The Princess Bride death scene came on and the band (always with the theatrics) broke into a Krupkified musical rendition of the death scene. It was brilliant, it was exactly the type of thing that gave the band such massive potential and why the show itself was such a mixed bag of emotions for me. When it was done, there was an after party, but that set was enough for me. The Krupke I always wanted died that night, but they did it in a way I was okay with. We’ll always have Friday February 25th, my favourite set of the year.
Honorable Mentions: Just had to mention these sets, as they were so close!
Adverteyes on Jan 14th
The Skirt Chasers epic CMW set on March 12th
Archie Powell & the Exports at NXNE on June 17th
We Were Lovers on Oct 11th