Sounding like they should be playing one of those hip Parisian night clubs circa 2008, Toronto duo Electric Youth continue to build their resume leading towards the launch of their debut album Innerworld. Much like their breakthrough track (A Real Hero from Drive), this track soaks in heavy synthesizers with dreamy vocal works and makes you think of those long drives on a cool brisk summer night. I don’t have a car so I wouldn’t know.
Live music in mid-July has a tough time. The air is thick with festival memories and summer playlists. Everyone is rocking that favourite song in their heads. How do you keep up with all that competition? Well, you step on the stage at the Horseshoe Tavern on Friday, July 18th and play a killer set. And that is exactly what Elsa, The Shilohs, and the Fresh and Onlys showed up to do.
The opening locals, Elsa, played steady jangle pop that could have rocked a little harder in different directions. At several moments in their set, I felt the weight of the Cure’s wake threatening to pull me under — I needed something to stir it up, and it just never came. But that’s not a big complaint compared to the impressive ability of every member of the band: in terms of precision, the performance was flawless. And they admitted the material was freshly minted at the start of things — the wheels are still a little squeaky. I’m looking forward to seeing things develop for these guys.
Things changed direction with the first out of town appearance of the evening. The Shilohs look like a classic rock and roll band. Singer/ guitarist Johnny Payne was decked out in full Jan and Dean style 60s surf get-up. Guitar squeal-meister Mike Komaszczuk looked like he’d stepped off of Teenage Fanclub’s bus, long, curly hair connoting dirty guitar shredding. And drummer Ben Frey and bassist Dan Colussi had the tour blinders on, heads ducked down into their work, having seen it all and knowing there was more ahead.
The music these four gentlemen produce together is stunningly arranged, and a perfect fit for the gritty stage at the ‘Shoe: alt-country swells of twang and shuffling drums accompanied diplomatic dual vocals (shared amongst the three string players). At many moments, Payne appeared caught in an eddy of pure song, unable to stop shaking from one leg to the other, while Komaszczuk kept to his conservative, string scattering place at the back of the stage. The performance was impressive. The album is even better; did you know it was recorded at the excellent and now non-existent Mushroom Studios in Vancouver? Well, it’s true.
Before The Fresh and Onlys took the stage, I stumbled downstairs to tend to the ever-constant side effect of a great Friday night. Several girls were clustered round the green room. “You mean this isn’t the bathroom?” Chuckles from the band members inside. By the time I got out of my anything but green room, everyone was sitting down together, having a Toronto-San Fran summit. The easy camraderie continued upstairs when it was revealed that it was singer Tim Cohen’s birthday. A song was sung. Cake was served. Then the band played its newly-released record House of Spirits front to back.
The Fresh and Onlys are a solid, temperate psych operation, capable of swaying with the best of them. Just check out “Animal of One” to see for yourself. Their presence on stage is mystic and dream-like. “Dream Girls,” one of the newest tracks gets my top vote.
Lots of hum-worthy material came out of the evening. If I felt left out of the noise of Friday by the end of the night, that’s only because I wasn’t entirely ready to lay back and let the good vibes stroll. I wanted something heavier. Don’t you wish you could leave your baggage at home sometimes and just enjoy the music?
There are some sounds you can insert into any song and immediately make me a fan. You’ve got hand claps? Already love it. Nananas? Gimme some more. Heyheyheys? I’ll take two.
So there was no way I wasn’t going to be a fan of Gedeon Luke and the People’s ‘Hey (That’s what I say)’. Incorporating hand claps, nananas and heyheyheys like the champs they are, this song is a toe tapping, funk-infused, masterpiece of soul – give it a listen:
Editors note: if you look at like that on a street, you are almost asking for a pigeon to shit in your mouth.
It’s not everyday that your favorite guitarist comes to town.
It’s also not everyday Bernard Butler comes to town either.
The elusive musician is best known as the guitarist of Suede. He left the group halfway through the recording of Dog Man Star, leaving us with all the what ifs in the world. The Butler led Suede is basically my favorite band of all time so count me among the large list of people who constantly wonders what might have been.
Since Suede, Butler has had his hands producing music for the likes of the Libertines, Duffy and Kate Nash. His imprint on the UK music landscape is undeniable.
And there he was at the Drake Underground on Thursday night, as unassuming as ever playing in support of Ben Watt.
To not talk about Ben Watt would do the man injustice. A legend in his own right, Watt is perhaps best known for his partnership with spouse Tracey Thorn in the group Everything But The Girl. This year saw the release of his second album, a dark and personal record named Hendra. his previous record was released on 1984 so it’s suffice to say that the man doesn’t release an album unless he’s got stories to tell.
Ben Watt played a methodically paced show, pausing frequently to tell us stories about each track. The man has had a rough few years, but despite that, he sounded rather great. His vocals have a really soft tone about it and his ability to pen catchy and personal tunes easily separates him from your standard Starbucks coffee house singer. Having not experienced his music at all prior to the show, I came away rather impressed by it all. Bernard Butler would saunter on and off the stage as needed and well frankly, I was mesmerized every time he was on just watching him play. I am not a guitar player by any stretch but I would say he is pretty damn good. Honestly, the whole show I was turned into a fanboy and was all like “Bernard Butler’s 10 (and then 5) feet in front of me”. I don’t think that happens often. He didn’t kick into any sudden Animal Nitrate riffs, but that would have been pretty disrespectful, so I could understand.
With so much history in the room on Thursday, the concert quickly turned into a neat cozy personal and intimate affair. The Undergound was only partially full which sort of gave the crowd a sort of special feeling. Basically one of those “hey can you believe who is actually playing this tiny room” kind of vibe. I certainly couldn’t, and it was great.