Concert Review: US Girls, June 15, Yonge-Dundas Square

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, North By Northeast | Leave a comment

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The last couple of years have seen NXNE take a bit of a sharp decline, with the focus moving away from the club-level shows and towards the ultimately failed experiment of the Portlands fest-within-a-fest. Generally, many were less than impressed with the direction NXNE seemed to be going. Our coverage of NXNE on this very site also reflected this, with phrases like: “Holy crap what the hell happened to NXNE?”, “NXNE is not what it used to be”, “NXNE is a tiny shell of its former self” and “Let’s face it, NXNE is dead” coming up in our reviews over the past two years.

Thankfully, NXNE is not dead yet and seems to be making its way towards a recovery of some sort with this year’s move back into its old stomping grounds at Yonge-Dundas Square anchored by a fairly stacked lineup that included the likes of Chvrches, Lights, Big Freedia, Tinashe, and Torres taking to the stage (although not the regular stage at YDS – NXNE set up a separate new stage out on Yonge Street for some reason). The first night of the big, free, outdoor shows started things off strong with a solid lineup that included Jazz Cartier, Azealia Banks, and recent Polaris longlist nominees US Girls.

Taking to the stage at 7:00pm, US Girls’ Meghan Remy made a strong impression right off the bat as she took to the stage and asked the gathered crowd to close their eyes and imagine what this space had been used for in years gone by, in the days “before H&M, before LED and NXNE.” In a sense, she was perhaps trying to reclaim the space, or at least to get people thinking about how we use that space. It was a memorable moment for sure.

US Girls impressed with a set that showcased the talents of Remy and her stellar band as they ran through songs off of their latest release In A Poem Unlimited. The band’s mix of thoughtful and political lyrics alongside danceable, disco-inspired grooves made for an inspiring and entirely memorable performance.

Concert Review: Jack White, June 9, Budweiser Stage

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

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Sketch by Damien

Jack White was in town last Saturday to promote his new album (mixed reviews but still hit #1 in Canada) and you would think all the talk would be about his illustrious career, how he would blend his new material with his old, would he play some White Stripes or Raconteurs or Dead Weather songs, or maybe other things like that.

But nope. Everyone just talked about Yondr.

You see, Jack White implemented a no phone policy and Yondr fulfills that requirement by providing everyone with a pouch to put your phone in for the duration of the concert.

There are some pros, I get it, but it also does a good job changing the conversation about the show since it’s at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Anyways, on to the show. It was surprisingly satisfying. I don’t know why I was surprised, because I have always enjoyed shows with Jack White, but it seems like recent years have painted Jack in a different light – like he’s gone off the rails or can’t control his own worst tendencies as a musician or something. Well, as he proved Saturday night, he still got the songs and the back catalog to reach into.

I didn’t really like his dark blue and black aesthetic he has going on now, but the White Stripes were legendary in how they looked and it’s hard to compare. What I did notice was that Jack White likes to have steps on the stage, for him to walk up and down on whilst he is shredding the guitar. The man is still a great guitar player, and his style of singing hasn’t really changed. They are rapid fire lyrics that go up and down, loud and soft and in that voice that is only Jack White’s.

I was delighted to hear some classic White Stripes songs such as a modified version of “Hotel Yorba,” “Dead Leaves And The Dirty Ground,” “Fell in Love With A Girl” and of course, set closer “Seven Nation Army.” Man, “Seven Nation Army” is a freakin’ epic song. It’s probably got one of the most overplayed riffs of all time but that’s because it’s just great. It’s actually one of the few Jack White songs you can actually sing, which is strangely weird.

I also appreciated hearing “Steady As She Goes,” one of the Raconteurs songs that seems to have stood the ravages of time. I think I like that song more now than I did when it came out. In terms of his new material, it’s not awful as many people have claimed, it’s just … different. “Connected By Love” is an attempt in a new direction and I kinda like it. I’m also very glad he decided to not close with it. Among his solo stuff, “Sixteen Saltines” is just a great rocker.

I think one of the differences between his old act and his solo act is that sometimes the cleaner two person sound highlights his songs just a bit better, but who am I to judge?

Anyway, a pleasant night all around.

Concert Review: Gomez, June 5, Danforth Music Hall

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment


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Hard to believe it’s been twenty years since Gomez released their debut album Bring It On yet here we are twenty years later celebrating that record’s release at the Danforth Music Hall. I was actually surprised at the size of the crowd since the band played to a much smaller crowd just a few years ago in support of their last record. I guess anniversary tours bring out the nostalgia in everyone

From the opening notes of “Get Miles” to the closing track “The Comeback”, it became fairly obvious that this is a record that has aged rather well. Playing the first leg of their North American tour, the band looked in top form despite occasionally forgetting how certain songs were played. One of the beauties of a Gomez show is just seeing how well the band utilizes the three singers different voices. I mean, all Gomez fans knows the voices of Ben Ottewell, Ian Ball and Tom Gray, but to see it in action is always a treat.

For example, on their classic “Get Myself Arrested”, it’s not quite noticeable on record but when you see them sing, “Don’t try and call me, I’m immobile man, yes I am” and then you realize that Ben only joins in a the “I’m immobile man” part, you are like, wow that’s pretty cool.

Anyways, the live rendition of the album sounded great with the three singles getting a nice sing along. Of course post album, the band dived into the greatest hits portion of the night which finally included their single “We Haven’t Turned Around”, the only “rock ballad” of the night, as quoted by Ben Ottewell. They encored with a rocking version of “Airstream Driver” and “How We Operate,” reminding everyone that Gomez can bring the rock when they want to.

A pleasant night all around

Field Trip Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Alvvays, Etc

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment


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It was a dreary rainy Sunday for day 2 of Field Trip but that most certainly did not stop ANYONE from having an amazing time. The lineup for day 2 was stacked. At the top of that lineup was Yeah Yeah Yeahs, returning to Toronto for the first time in a few years. So let’s start with them.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Yeah Yeah Yeahs are awesome live and nothing you say can convince me otherwise. Karen O is a certified rock star that is maybe the most captivating person to watch on the stage to have emerged in the past twenty years. Dressed like a cross between the coolest Doctor Who or the fanciest luchadore, Karen O just put on a fantastic show. She’s got the rock pose down pat, her growls and dancing during the song energizes the crowd and just the way she will put one leg on the monitor, lean forward and urges you. You know you have the right captain. That’s not saying Brian or Nick Zinner didn’t do a terrifc job, they were equally great of course, but just not as mesmerizing.

It’s also great that the songs have aged very well. Not a single song of theirs sounds dated, even “Sacrilege,” a single off the mostly ignored fourth album, sounded strangely in place besides all the hits. “Zero,” “Heads Will Roll” and “Gold Lion” all got people moving. Then there was “Maps.” An absolutely beautiful track that had the entire festival crowd silent and singing along.

Set closers “Cheated Heart” and “Date With the Night” left the crowd all worked up, although if there’s one minor gripe, it’s that the part in “Cheated Hearts” where Karen O goes into the crowd and gets each person in the front to sing got a bit long (she did this the last show too). A minor complaint for what was otherwise an amazing show. Maybe the best headliner ever at Field Trip.

Allan Rayman

Not entirely sure who he is, or how he got the closing slot on the small stage, but apparently Allan Rayman is a mysterious singer from Toronto who looked like a cross between Jared Leto and Father John Misty. Moving around the stage in a half drunken manner (although that’s probably how he moved) Allan Rayman sang some stellar r&b tunes to a crowd that was really into his music. I’m not sure how I feel about his raspy voice but the man’s got a presence on stage and that goes a long way.

Alvvays

Alvvays are a perfectly fine band. They have put out two amazing records and I’ve seen them a few times live now but as of right now, their shows are just okay. I guess it’s a byproduct of their music, which has that soft dreamy pop like sound, but also has a very limited range in terms of tempo. They just don’t do that much on stage and with two albums sounding somewhat similar the music kind of blends together after forty or so minutes. Still, I loved their second album and hearing “Dreams Tonight” live was a treat. I do wish it was sunny and warm outside for their set, as that is the perfect environment to hear them live.

Cuco

My favorite discovery from Field Trip, Cuco plays this kind of stoner synth experimental slacker rock-rap music that’s hard to describe. Just 19, the band shows a wide range of musical influence in their music. I think if Animal Collective grew up in 2010 in Southern California and had a bunch of diversity, they would make this type of music. Even though they were somewhat all over the place, it all worked magically well. I’m definitely checking them out in the future.

Allie X

One of my favorite underrated pop acts to emerge recently, Allie X gets the award for putting the most effort despite having a early time slot. The singer dressed like a star and played songs new and old to a mostly appreciative crowd. Songs like “Casanova” had people moving and it was a great way to start off the day.

All in all, a fun day in the rain.

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