Sometimes you go to a concert, sometimes the concert comes to you.
Throughout my journey to Africa, I experienced many new and wondrous things. On this particular day, I found myself on the edge of the Kalahari desert in Botswana. The Kalahari desert is home of the San people, an indigenous group of people who have been living in this part of Africa long before it was colonized by Europeans. Ignoring all aspects of modernization that most of the world has experienced, the San people have chosen to keep it real, by eschewing modern technologies and relying on old tried and true methods of hunter-gathering. You can call them the originators of eating local, if you will.
On this particular day (and probably every other day), the San people came to our camp site to show us the ways of their culture and also, to perform traditional singing and dancing. It seemed somewhat exploitative for a group of mostly white people to sit around a circle and watch indigenous people perform, but if you don’t feel quite exploitative visiting Africa on vacation, then you probably are not getting the whole experience anyway (for better or for worse).
Since I review shows for a living (not really), it would be an injustice to not review the show I watched this particular night. Taking place immediately after dinner, the setup had a nice visual effect as two large fires were setup on the “stage”. As we were near a desert, the heat had left us quite early on and the warmth from the fire provided a nice element to the venue. The San people performing consisted of seven members, four elder female members and three younger male counter parts, kind of like S Club 7. The group wore traditional San Bushmen clothing, which amounted to not much (also, kind of like S Club 7). The three males wore additional items on their legs which they would use to generate percussive sounds during their dancing.
Sitting in a semi-circle by the fire, the four women provided much of the vocals throughout the set. The three males mostly provided the dancing and percussion via dancing and stomps, including some impressive stomps of bare feet into the fire for dramatic effects. With songs about Zebras, Orixes and other animals, it was refreshing to hear a group sing about topics other then love, lost and politics. I didn’t understand any of the lyrics, not having learned the local dialect but there was a translator on hand to explain each track before it was performed.
Despite the group’s enthusiasm throughout the set, I couldn’t help but feel most of the music sounded samey. The ladies gang vocal style was impressive at first, but it was a key component of every track and also, there was not much harmonizing and so it did sound mostly chaotic for much of the set. This might be because I don’t understand the language of it. The dancing, however was quite unique and the visual flare of the two fires combined with the stomping and the uniform made for a rather interesting experience.
All in all a unique show that most people don’t get to see, the group didn’t come out for an encore despite rapturous cheers from the crowd and promptly left in a pickup truck after.
This past weekend saw the closing of one of the most divisive music venues in all of Toronto. The Guvernment/KoolHaus was a venue you either love, hate or tolerated. Whatever your feelings about it were, there was only one thing clear – you couldn’t really avoid it. Since we are quite a reflective group, I asked various members of the Panic Manual to share their feelings about it.
Ricky I wasn’t in Toronto at the time it was known as the “Warehouse” but rather only after it rebranded itself as the “Kool Haus”. Right away, I knew it wasn’t that cool, because no truly cool places would call itself cool. Furthermore, no really cool places would call itself cool with a k. It’s not 1985.
Thierry I’ll always remember the general sense of dread I felt when an artist I wanted to see was scheduled at the Kool Haus/Guvenment—it was slightly smaller than the one I feel when a show is announced at Sound Academy, but only because at the Kool Haus there was a 10 sq. ft. space in front of the speakers where the sound was actually pretty good!
Melody- I’ve never hated the Kool Haus. Sure, I’ve had bad moments there, but I’m smart enough to know that it had nothing to do with the venue and more to do with my own dumb decisions: choosing bad shows (a free k-os show because why the fuck not), choosing to show up early like an idiot (any band I idolized as a teen) and getting shit-faced (that’s how I dealt with that k-os show, I have no recollection of how I got to/from the venue) were all things I did to myself. Poor Kool Haus just facilitated my madness. Kool Haus was so indicative of my *~youth~* (yes, I guess I’m still living out my youth), it was the place where I’d eagerly fork over my cash, line-up early for the chance of seeing an artist come out of their tour bus to greet fans and willingly listen to great music in a shitty venue. There’s a reason why I haven’t gone there in recent years and it’s because I want to believe I’m an adult now. Kool Haus was a fun teenage fling of sorts, but I’d rather spend my nights watching Netflix in a cool house. Okay, that was lame.
Brent: I can remember my first show at the Koolhaus (then the Warehouse). It was in 1997. A bunch of high school friends and I took the GO train from Port Credit to see Suede. We were a bunch of pretty excited teenagers but more of it had to do with being a suburban kid downtown on a school night. Badass.
The disappointment of the night was that they didn’t come out for an encore, however, I was able to grab a setlist from the stage.
Gary: Ahhh The Guvernment. Even though I had a single, all-too-fleeting encounter with the Guv, I’ll always remember it fondly as the only time in memory when I was checked for guns going to a concert in Toronto. A fitting act for the big-brother. Although why one would check for weapons at the XX’s concert full of moody instrumental indie gothipster is anyone’s guess.
Ricky While most people seem to dislike the KoolHaus, I thought it was okay. I’ll tell you why
1) Options – Kool Haus is a larger size venue. Up until the Danforth Music Hall opened, it was mainly the Kool Haus or the Sound Academy. I would rather stab you in the face then go to the Sound Academy.
2) Location – For most people, the Kool Haus was a trek. It is queen’s quay and in the middle of nowhere. Guess where I work? On Queen’s Quay. For me, a show at the Kool Haus just meant I go for drinks after work in the St. Lawrence area and then pop on by to the Kool Haus. Since I really liked C’est What, it was pretty easy for me to go to a Kool Haus show. Unless it was a weekend.
3) Sightlines – For most part, the stage at the Kool Haus was not high enough. However, there is a certain sneaky spot way on the other side of the stage that is almost always empty. If you look at all my Kool Haus pictures, you will see that I am always in that spot.
Melody: Best shows off the top of my mind: Broken Social Scene, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Foals, The Kills, Haim.
Jack: I realized a dream when I saw My Bloody Valentine there back in the fall of 2013. Truthfully, I did feel like I was walking into the Cantina at Mos Eisley, and found myself worried I’d get an arm chopped off by a laser weapon at any moment. The band was not on good form, the Canadian roadies not having learned how to deal with the maelstrom of Kevin Shields; the crowd was eerily quiet, with a lot of awkward silence between songs; and one loud fan redefined obnoxiousness by shouting out that MBV was “THE BEST BAND IN THE UNIVERSE!” at every possible chance. Apart from these things, the Kool Haus provided me with an opportunity I would not have otherwise had. The blissful incapacitating of my ear drums by set’s end was all I needed to look back now and realize I have a fond memory of the place.
Thierry: I did see three great shows at these venues: the Decemberists (2006) and Ben Folds Five (2012) at the Kool Haus, and Miguel (2012) at the Guvernment. That last one also featured a typically mystifying Toronto audience that started leaving in droves when Miguel kicked into his set closing “Adorn”, perhaps to be able to get out of the parking lot before daybreak.
Paul: Some friends and I drove all the way to the venue once to see some metal band (not sure who, no one that great) before finding out it was sold out and then hanging out in the parking lot for a bit while we decided what to do. I think we just went for coffee like a bunch of un-metal losers. Lesson learned. Then there was the time I went on a date to a Sonic Youth show in 2004. It didn’t really work out, perhaps foreshadowing what would happen with Kim and Thurston or maybe because life isn’t actually like the “Dirty Boots” video. Still, Hair Police and Sunburned Hand Of The Man opened that show and I remember thinking they were both pretty rad at the time.
Brent: My highlight though was seeing Pavement for the first time at the Guvernment. Otherwise, I hated that place. It was difficult to get to by public transit, there was always a line that was usually freezing, and when you got inside it was always moist and sweaty. Keep the condo-hipsters down by the lake where they belong is what I say!
Gary: My only regret is that the Guvernment didn’t live long enough to see Ricky cement its reputation in a venue review along with an Etch A Sketch worth remembering. Perhaps we could do that for an epitaph.
Ricky: Kool Haus was home to some ridiculously good shows – Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Doves, Kasabian, My Bloody Valentine and LCD Soundsystem all come to mind. I think I will end up missing the Kool Haus, because it now means I’ll have to go to the Sound Academy more often.
RIP Kool Haus, you were never that kool, but neither was I.
Can you believe we are halfway throughout the 10’s?
Holy fuck. what the hell happened?
I was at a random gathering of humans this past weekend when The Killer’s Mr. Brightside came on and everyone collectively lost their minds and screamed and sang the lyrics as if their very being of existence depended on it (yours truly included). The next day, a friend commented on the situation and it got me thinking, now that we are a half decade clear of the 00’s, what was that generation’s go to dance floor rock anthem?
Is Mr Brightside truly the “Don’t Stop Believin” or “Living on the Prayer” of the 00’s? If not, what was?
Let’s take a look at a few popular songs that could potentially be the new rock floor anthem of the 00’s. Since I basically have ignored the radio since the internet came along, I will stick with indie-ish music in my epic search for the defining 00’s dance floor anthem.
White Stripes – 7 Nation Army Perhaps the most memorable riff and music video of the 00’s, this song really isn’t really danceable beyond a few freakout moments during the breakdown. Also, Hotel Yorba was better (although I once played that at a wedding and no one danced to it)
Modest Mouse – Float On
Amazing chorus, a constant beat and uplifting lyrics make this track a contender, but Isaac Brock’s vocals are just off kilter enough so that you can’t really fully memorize the whole song.
Franz Ferdinand – Take Me Out
The first time I ever heard this song, I had to listen to it again because I didn’t know what the fuck just happened. Then I spent a while trying to figure out if I should sneak it on to my best of 2003 compilation which I had just sent out a week before or something (I did). As awesome as this song is (and don’t you forget it is completely awesome), I don’t think people identify with this song emotionally as much as some of the other contenders on this list. They will just jump up and down to that glorious riff though.
The Walkmen – The Rat
Criminally underrated 00’s classic doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Despite it’s frenetic beat, it is probably way too dark to dance to on a glorious Saturday night although if you are pissed at someone, it would be pretty epic to scream “Can’t you hear me now, I’m calling out your name” at them. Actually any line from this song would work.
The Libertines – Can’t Stand Me Now / Don’t Look Back into the Sun
Too British, although you can bet some British lads are dry humping each other on the dance floor whenever this track plays at some greasy pub in London.
Arcade Fire – Wake Up
Life changing opening WHOOOOAAAAOOOOOOOAAAOOOAAAHHH part but then it descends into too much sadness before the inevitable end of track freak out. Wake Up is great but takes the audience through too much of a emotional gamut to be a true rock out anthem. No one wants to hear “our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up” during a dance floor rock out anthem moment.
Bloc Party – Banquet This song probably wasn’t as big as I think it was. I just remember mistiming one of the choruses at the Dance Cave once and put my hands in the air at the wrong time, which allowed my friend to laugh at me, forever scarring me on this song. This Modern Love however, is one of the ten best songs of the 00’s.
The Strokes – Last Nite
The runner up – memorable music video, good time vibes and lyrics everyone can sing in their sleep. The only thing that knocks this Strokes song off the mountain is that it’s actually impossibly cool. People can’t get dramatic to it. You can’t do group hugs on the dance floor to Last Nite for some reason. Also some people might argue that Hard to Explain was better even though the lyrics are too fast to be an anthem. No one would argue Somebody Told Me is better then Mr. Brightside, on the other hand.
The Killers – Mr. Brightside
In the end, it has to be Mr. Brightside. This song, like most Killer songs makes no sense lyrically (although if you read song meanings, there are literally essays trying to decipher this). The crazy thing about this track is, no one really cares that it makes no sense. It’s frenetic, dramatic and incredibly easy to memorize. Perhaps we all have listened to it so many times that we all have it memorized, I am not sure. Maybe it’s Brandon Flower’s enunciation. Who knows. Perhaps the magic of this track is that after the first chorus the song just repeats itself! It’s basically Dora the Explorer or something for drunk adults. Either way, completely danceable with karaoke lyrics, you simply can’t go wrong. I also think people like to sing the words “Destiny is calling me”. In a drunken haze, it can make the night seem bigger then it actually is.
By no means does this make Mr. Brightside the best song of the past decade, but when you are feeling nostalgic about the 00’s on a dance floor somewhere, you know you’ll get hit hard when this track gets played.