Concert Review: Austra, May 27, Echo Beach

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Last year, the CBC Music Festival really came through with an impressive lineup featuring such names as Alvvays, Tanya Tagaq, and The New Pornographers. By comparison, this year’s lineup left a little something to be desired. Walk Off The Earth? I get that they’re quite popular but that popularity is largely built on gimmicky YouTube videos and live, they’re so relentlessly cheerful that they make Up With People seem like GG Allin. It’s not my cup of tea by a longshot, but hey, give the people what they want I guess. Regardless, there were still some intriguing names on the lineup, and in my books, the highlight of the day was easily Austra’s performance on the Q Stage.

After an introduction by Q host Tom Power, (who seemed strangely preoccupied with a t-shirt cannon) the band started things off with the title track off their excellent new album Future Politics and definitely made a strong impression on both the uninitiated and the hardcore fans up front. New songs like “Utopia” and “I Love You More Than You Love Yourself” blended seamlessly with earlier tracks like “Lose It” and “Beat And The Pulse.” And while the band’s moody electronic sound is probably better suited to a late night performance in some dimly lit nightclub, they still put on quite the show and the songs sounded just as good during daylight hours on an outdoor stage.

Also, I’m not gonna lie – that t-shit cannon was a little bit cool.

Concert Review: The XX, May 23, Echo Beach

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The xx forever

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Man, The XX were awesome on Tuesday. It’s hard to believe it’s been seven years since I’ve seen them live, but they have improved a lot since I saw them on a bill with Hot Chip. In town to promote their excellent new album I See You, The XX played a super fun, confident and epic set that basically screams “we should headline festivals now”. As everyone has noted already, this rendition of the XX seems happier than the previous moody version and maybe we all bought into that narrative but the show they put on essentially became a full on party.

It’s amazing to see how good Jamie XX’s production is. Even if he’s behind Romy and Oliver on the stage, there is no mistake that his influence has grown within the band as his status grows. The dude turned “Shelter” into a dance tune and added additional depth to each song. As excellent as their albums are, The XX are actually better live, which is hard to believe. Highlights for me included “Infinity” (one of my fave XX songs), the dance version of “Shelter,” the set closer “Loud Places” and the encore, which consisted of “On Hold,” which is as close to a stadium anthem as you’ll get with the XX. Just for good measure, they also played “Intro” in the encore as well.

It’s been seven years since I last saw the XX. There’s no way I will wait that long again.

Concert Review: Happyness, May 23, The Garrison

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It’s a bit of a shame that London band Happyness played to a somewhat sparse crowd at the Garrison on Tuesday night – perhaps it was the fact that it was a Tuesday, or that there were several other concert options to choose from throughout the city that night, or maybe it had something to do with the somewhat last minute venue change. Whatever the reason, they put on a solid show regardless, playing a mix of songs from their two full lengths as well as last year’s Tunnel Vision On Your Part EP.

The band is touring behind their new album Write In, which sees them expanding their sound while still retaining the basic core. The Pavement/Wilco/Teenage Fanclub influences heard on their debut Weird Little Birthday are still evident but the new album sees them expanding their sound with a bit more melodicism coming through and a broader range of sounds and influences coming into the mix.

Referring to themselves as three and a half English boys who were far from home, (the “half” being the auxiliary fourth member Paul Abderrahim, who’s French) Happyness focused mostly on the music, leaving the stage banter to a minimum other than a few slightly awkward (though still quite humorous) comments throughout the earlier half of their set. Towards the end though, they opened up a bit more, telling a funny story involving Win Butler and their show in Montreal the previous night before launching into their Butler-referencing set closer “Montreal Rock Band Somewhere.” Apparently they got a bit psyched up when they spotted the Arcade Fire frontman entering the venue and were convinced he was there to check them out. As singer/guitarist/bassist Jon EE Allan put it though, the story ended more like an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm than anything else, with Butler apparently leaving five minutes before they took the stage. Oh well. At least they got a cool story out of it.

Song of the Day? Easy Love – No One Like You

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It’s finally hot outside here in Toronto, time for a summery and fun song that will brighten your day. Easy Love is a band from California that is on Burger records. Honestly, those two facts should give you a pretty good idea of what to expect.

Here’s the song, listen to it.

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