Category Archives: live reviews

10 Things I Learned at NXNE from the Perspective of the Promoter/Sponsor at Rancho

10: Champion Lover is a name that Toronto is going to have keep on its radar in the weeks and months to come. Yes, this band is composed of ex-Black Devils Brigade members, but that is where the comparison ends. They are both heavy, but Champion Lover are way noiser, more experimental, and a much more intense listening and watching experience. If they build on this first show, the sky is truly the limit. Continue reading

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CMW 2012: Friday: Cai.ro, Patti Cake, James and Blackburn, Meanwood and Wild Domestic

So not quite as on the ball about this review, which is in no way a reflection of the bands I’ll be discussing but more of an admission about my own laziness. But now I’ve pulled my socks up, or Dan threatened to take all the Keith’s away and make me watch The Birds forever, so it’s time to talk about that magical night, last Friday!

Cai.ro – Rancho Relaxo, 8 pm

I’m going to start off by saying that I’m not sure the above photo is actually of Cai.ro. I took too many crappy photos and too many days have passed and my best guess is that it is, but, mea culpa if ain’t. This was a great set to start my night with. Cai.ro have a kind of whimsical and complex folk-pop sound that I really like and it was exactly what I wanted to hear as I finished off the much needed 8 pm coffee. The second band of the festival to put some effort into doing some interesting lighting to complement their sound, I really appreciated the added touches that pulled the show together. I would definitely see this band again and have given their EP, Young Love, a few listens this week.

Patti Cake – The Silver Dollar, 9 pm

It’s no secret that we at TWM love Patti Cake. Terri already posted a very favorable review of this set and  back in September I was on hand when Dan Gorman played a cutthroat game of Jenga with Kritty Uranowski and Dan Bedard in this great interview. I first heard Patti Cake last summer on a Wednesday night. I was at Rancho totally by chance, I had been cat-sitting for Dan and Terri and had forgotten to return Dan’s house keys so I stopped by just as the band was setting up and it was the luckiest accident because I fell completely in love with their retro rock sound. Kritty has the kind of charisma and style that makes you rethink all of your previous life choices (jumpers are amazing, not weird!) I am a total sucker for anything that sounds like it might be influenced by 60s pop and with Kritty’s vocals and her charming as hell lyrics there is nothing I don’t like. If you don’t already have a copy of their EP Prime Minister of Cool Chicks you better correct yourself, and soon.

James and Blackburn – Rancho Relaxo, 10 pm

I had an inkling I would like these guys before I even made it out on Friday after seeing updates on Twitter suggesting that they had brought homemade cookies to sell at merch.  Personally, I like to bribe people with baked goods and considering how many awesome hugs I’ve been getting from Rancho head bartender Greg LeGros after plying him with cupcakes on Sunday I gotta say it’s a winning strategy. My first non-cookie related impression of this band was that they all looked quite young and that the drummer was in bare feet, so I was totally blown away by the maturity and depth to the vocals. Though the vocal effects didn’t always work for me, there was lots of reverb, I liked the way it made them stand out in the traditional indie rock genre. Their sound had a certain heft to it and they tried some interesting things, though again sometimes I got lost in the jamming.

Meanwood – Rancho Relaxo, 11 pm

I’m fairly certain that I was the only person at the bar who did not know this band, or at least the lead singer, Viktoria, but I took notice after their set. On their bandcamp their sound is listed as country, soul and rock and roll and that is no fucking joke. The vocals alone are worth the price of admission and when added in with a group of skilled musicians you have a sound that grabs hold and doesn’t like go until its well and done with you. I’ve barely taken their EP, Trials, off rotation all week. And in case you don’t understand just how badass this band is let me tell you the story of their bassist, Eric. Early last week Eric was hit by a streetcar while riding his bike. By a goddamn streetcar, and that shit is no joke. They were able to get a replacement to play the show and Eric was up front during the performance with his arm in a sling and then he jumped on stage to play the last two songs. Check this band out, I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Wild Domestic  – Rancho Relaxo, I don’t know. Late.

This may surprise you, but I can be a whiny brat. I get overtired and I eat too much sugar and I’m a terror to deal with and at that point I try to be considerate and sit at the bar and keep my mouth shut and just watch a movie until I can act like a human being again, so I’m afraid I have nothing to say about the wonderful bands that played between Meanwood and Wild Domestic because I was watching Beetlejuice. I pulled myself together for this set though because I love Wild Domestic, which came as a surprise to me when I first saw them play because I am not usually a fan of long songs or instrumental tracks because I have a short attention span but this band has me hooked for every second. Two kits and two guitars that weave a sound that goes from soft to loud seamlessly and is so damned captivating that I am always left wanting more when it’s over. Also, the lead singer has really fantastic hair. It’s a similar length and colour to mine but his always looks so shiny and perfect. I wonder if he conditions. But to conclude on a music related note, Wild Domestic released their self titled debut album back in November and it is five tracks of straight up awesome.

Meghan Swinkels

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CMW Nights #3 & #4: Cousin, Parlovr, Meanwood, Wild Domestic & More

Oh, what a whirlwind Canadian Music Week was — especially Friday and Saturday. I’ve compiled both nights into one post, so I’ll get right to the goods instead of going on about how the weather took a nose-dive after Wednesday and Thursday (brrr!). Continue reading

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CMW Night #2: Reversing Falls, Last Years Men, HonHeeHonHee & More

Thursday night was a hot one. Maybe not outside — it was pretty much perfect out there — but standing shoulder to shoulder inside the venues got sweaty quick. That didn’t stop me from seeing some pretty great bands, so let’s start. Continue reading

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CMW 2012: Thursday: Adam & The Amethysts, Filligar, Honheehonhee and more!

Yesterday I said that the first night of CMW would be hard to beat and with the humidity bearing down I thought I might be in for a long night, but then day two came along and knocked my socks off courtesy four out-of-towners and one hometown hero.

Adam and the Amethysts – El Mocambo, 8 pm

It isn’t a good sign when you’re flagging on the second day of a festival, so I grabbed a triple shot latte in Kensington on my way to the first venue and it put me in the perfect mood for Adam Waito’s blend of atmospheric folk-pop. I’ve been a fan of Adam and the Amethysts for some time but until last night had never seen them live. They lived up to every expectation, down to the lighting across the stage. With a workman’s lamp hanging from the mic stand, a vintage lamp by the pedals and a handful of mason jars wired with tiny lights that imitated fireflies, they couldn’t have set a better scene for this acoustic set. Accompanied by Rebecce Lessard on keys and cello, Waito managed to make the cavernous room felt like an intimate gathering of friends. Though both Lessard and Waito were suffering from post SWSX colds, neither faltered for a moment.

Filligar – Rancho Relaxo, 9 pm

On arriving at Rancho I discovered that the scheduled band, Mister Loveless, had been replaced in a last minute change by a Chicago foursome called Filligar. No one in the room knew what to expect, in fact most didn’t even know the band’s name, but by the time these guys had finished their second song the audience was fully won over, dancing and yelling and demanding more. By far the most high energy act I’ve seen in a long time, at one point the frontman almost danced through the drum kit, Filligar is a fantastic example of the kind of dirty blues-rock that only Chicago musicians can make. They received the first encore demands I’ve witnessed for the festival, but the gents demurred, instead pointing out that they’ll be at the Dakota tonight at 1 am. I highly encourage you to be there.

Modern Superstitions – The Silver Dollar, 10 pm

As I’m sure anyone who can attended a show last night can attest, the only time you could catch a breeze was during those brief moments between venues. I won’t kid, I spent more time than usual lingering on the sidewalks last night, but especially before hitting the Dollar. I must admit, I’m not a huge fan of this venue. Although this year they seem to be running on time and working with a great sound mix, I still can’t get past the awkward shape of the room. No matter where I stand, I always feel awkward. That being said, it didn’t take long for Modern Superstitions to take my mind of those petty concerns. A group of young Torontonians (their label website lists them as teenagers, but based on the fact that they were enjoying some brews on stage, and the guitarist made a tongue-in-cheek quip about Molson M, I can assume they are of drinking age,) this band has a fantastic punk sound with pop influences. Fronted by Nyssa Rosaleen, who embodies that estimable Joan Jett “fuck you” style, Modern Superstitions makes no compromises when it comes to their live show.

Galaxie – El Mocambo, 11 pm

By the time I made my way back to El Mo the main floor was sold out, but since I’d gotten my stamp at an earlier performance I was able to make my way in. Considering that a fair few spots were being held for advance ticket holders who probably only intended to show up for Martha Wainwright and/or The Dears, it wasn’t entirely surprising that despite a large crowd outside hoping to get in, the room itself was only half full as Montreal’s Galaxie took the stage. While I’ve seen the band name around, in particular on the Polaris list, I’d never heard their music and based on the fact that no less than 12 photographers were jockeying for position at the stage during the set, I guess I’m the last to know. Opening with an instrumental tune, Galaxie took no time in establishing a fast pace of hard rock. While I definitely enjoyed the set, unfortunately the sound mix never quite came together. With enough bass to rattle my teeth, it took me two songs to figure out that they were singing in French and while the two female vocalists were able to cut through the reverb, I was never really able to discern the frontman’s voice. Still, a solid performance and an album I’ll definitely be checking out.

Honheehonhee – Rancho Relaxo, 12 am

This is embarrassing to admit, but for a hot second I considered staying at El Mocambo for Martha Wainwright’s set and bailing on seeing Honheehonhee. On paper, it made sense. I’ve seen Honheehonhee multiple times, and there’s something very compelling about a female artist with an album called I know you’re married but I have feelings too. Thankfully, I wised up and headed back to Rancho because, a) You can never see Honheehonhee enough times ,and, b) I’ve seen those guys run bare assed into the Atlantic Ocean in mid-October (you can see our video of this magical time here on the site with our Halifax Pop Explosion 2011 coverage.) I am very sad for you if you haven’t seen this Montreal band before because they take their shows to a whole new level of energy, sweat and tomfoolery. Honheehonhee has an infectious and hook-laden rock sound that will get under your ribs and leave your feet sore from dancing, and the crowd last night at Rancho sure seemed to agree. Many were familiar enough with the songs to sing and yell along, and then the lazer-esque synth intro to A. Is for Animal opened half the room started clapping in recognition. Let’s be honest, these guys have the best dance moves, the best beards, and the most fun. What’s not to love?

Meghan Swinkels

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CMW 2012: Wednesday

Let’s face it, coming off a gorgeous sunny day with a temperature of about 23 degrees, the first night of Canadian Music Week wasn’t going to have to try hard to make me happy. Any CMW evening that doesn’t include rain, freezing rain, or snow is alright by me. Having said that, the quality of artists I had the pleasure of seeing last night would have made me happy (or at least willing) to trudge through a foot of snow.

Revelstoke – Rancho Relaxo, 8 pm

Earlier this week our own Dan Wolovick previewed some of his picks for bands playing Rancho during the festival and based on his post I was excited to check out Toronto’s Andrew Seale. Performing under the name Revelstoke, Seale brings a whimsical perspective to the traditional lo-fi experimental pop genre. Utilizing looping effects on stage, Seale blends deceptively simple melodies to create a rich, layered experience that might make one think that they’re listening to a full band. At one point during the show, Seale jumped down from the stage and coached the audience into singing a chorus, which was then looped throughout the song. With a steady and enthusiastic stage presence, the crowd was more than happy to sing along.

The Unquiet Dead – Rancho Relaxo, 9 pm

Another band that was previewed on the site by Dan, The Unquiet Dead put on a show that will be tough to beat for me. Having never heard their music before, or read Dan’s preview, oops, I had no idea what I was in for when I made my way to the front of the room for their set. First of all, I couldn’t believe how many band members were crowded onto that stage. A Windsor collective of 12 musicians, The Unquiet Dead would have been remarkable if only for how seamlessly they performed together, always in tune and on time with various harmonies, notes and percussion. Dan described their sound as a blues-twinged country-folk-gospel blend and he was not kidding around. Quite frankly, if the vocals and percussion on the track Lord Loves A Workin Man doesn’t give you chills you might need to get your ears checked.

The Washboard Union – The Silver Dollar, 10 pm

For the only venue change of the night I headed to The Silver Dollar for The Washboard Union to keep up the bluegrass country vibe. Another ensemble group, Union is a seven piece from Vancouver that features a blend of percussion, fiddle, guitar, banjo, harmonica and yes, a washboard. These guys gave a high energy performance that made me feel like I was seven beers into a good night at a Legion dance back home, a damn good time for those who didn’t have a rural upbringing.

Traveller and Fortune – Rancho Relaxo, 11 pm

Back at Rancho I was intrigued to see a double bass on stage as Traveller and Fortune were setting up. A four piece from Australia, Traveller and Fortune are a folk band with a pleasant sound and an endearing stage presence, but ultimately it failed to hold my attention and after three songs I gravitated to the back of the bar. Perhaps it was just too much of a tempo change after the heady country-bluegrass acts of earlier, or maybe it was the lure of my favourite sci-fi horror flick playing at the bar (Event Horizon, if you’re curious) but Traveller and Fortunate didn’t make much of an impression on me.

Armen at the Bazaar – Rancho Relaxo, 12 am

I would hope that anyone reading this is familiar with the music of Montreal’s Armen Bazarian. As Armen at the Bazaar he is a slim wizard behind a table steeped with electronics. Utilizing a MacBook, a loopstation and his own voice, Armen provides an electro-pop experience that is like no other. Beyond just being wildly danceable, his beats and loops and lyrics will make you think. A man who can build a haunting and beautiful song with the lyrics of I’se the B’y is one to be reckoned with.

Meghan Swinkels

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Day two of Halifax Pop Explosion: Hue,

Deadhorse

Day number two did not start off as planned.  We hustled down to Tribeca to catch Hue.  We were on time; the venue not so much.

Turns out the festival thought there was a house sound tech, and the venue thought HPX was providing one.  The result was a messy situation which put things about 40 mins behind. Continue reading

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