Concerts

Livestream Concert Review: Voivod, June 27, Hypercube Sessions

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

Never ones to simply rest on their laurels, Montreal prog metal masters Voivod have never once stopped innovating over the course of their career, always offering up something interesting and creative with each new release. That said, it’s always nice to look back at the classics now and then, and that’s just what Voivod has been doing with a series of recent livestreams focusing on some of their earlier works, the latest of which saw the band revisiting their 1988 concept album Dimension Hatröss.

After a brief intro laying out the basic story of the album followed by a montage of each band member’s face in closeup, Voivod launched into their set, starting (obviously) with “Experiment”, the first track off the album. From there, the band locked into the pummeling groove of “Tribal Convictions”, one of the highlights of the entire set alongside later tracks “Technocratic Manipulators” and “Cosmic Drama”. The band’s performance was impressive throughout, though perhaps the most memorable moment came not from the performance itself, but from an intermission of sorts halfway through their set.

At the midpoint, we were treated to an interlude featuring the band unloading and unpacking a case belonging to former guitarist and founding member Denis “Piggy” D’Amour, who passed away in 2005. That case, stored at Jason Newsted’s studio and untouched since 2003, clearly brought back a lot of memories for the band, with vocalist Denis “Snake” Bélanger describing it as “like a time capsule.”

Amongst the items found within that case were two toy rayguns, fairly apropos considering the notable sci-fi bent of much of Voivod’s work. Amazingly enough, those toys guns still worked and they even made an appearance as part of this show, with Snake firing them off and incorporating the sound into the band’s set closing performance of Neal Hefti’s “Batman” theme. It was a nice moment that saw the band remembering and honouring a fallen comrade.

All in all, the band sounded quite impressive, both from a performance and a production perspective. While livestreams such as this can never really take the place of a live concert, this one did serve as a reminder not only of how good Dimension Hatröss was (and still is) but also of what a formidable live entity Voivod is.

Livestream Concert Review: Billy Strings, March 26, ACL Live at the Moody Theater

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

The notion of musicians touring around and playing to empty rooms across the country while the audience stays home and watches on their screens is very much a sign of the unique times we’re living in, and it is also most definitely an odd one.

But that’s just what Billy Strings has been doing, having just wrapped up a tour of livestreamed shows from iconic venues across the U.S. that culminated in this past Friday night’s show at Austin’s Moody Theater. While I haven’t seen more than a handful of livestreams over the past year, our recent coverage of SXSW got me back in the habit of writing live(ish) music reviews, so I figured why not keep the streak going and keep it Austin-based (even if I can’t be in Austin this year) by checking out the show.

Taking to the stage with his three piece band (made up of banjo, mandolin, and upright bass), Billy Strings started things off strong with “Secrets”, its lyrics such as “we’re all a dollar short and every one of us is running out of track” certainly resonating with the times.

Strings and his band played an impressive show full of originals and covers of tunes such as “Ole Slew Foot”, “San Antonio Rose” and “Big River” that highlighted their incredible musicianship. Strings also gave each of his bandmates a moment in the spotlight, with each of them taking lead vocals on a song during the night.

While Billy Strings would probably best be described as a bluegrass musician, he’d hardly be considered a purist when it comes to influences. I hear a lot of Tony Rice in Strings’ sound, and like the late bluegrass legend, Strings incorporates a lot of different elements from various genres into his playing, from the jazzy “newgrass” sound pioneered by Rice to a lot of psychedelic influences and even some straight up rock. All of those influences were made evident over the course of the evening, as Strings and his band ran through two full sets before ending things off for the night with a simple, “See y’all later. Thanks so much for hanging out with us.”

SXSW Online 2021: The Recap

Posted on by Paul in South By Southwest | Leave a comment

GrrrlGang-Damnably-Showcase--scaled

SXSW Online 2021 is now in the books. It was a good time, despite not really being quite like SXSW in a normal year. As usual, the Panic Manual crew convened to break down the good, the bad, and the lack of breakfast tacos.

Best Act?

Paul: All the acts on Damnably’s showcase were great, but Grrrl Gang especially stood out for me. With extremely catchy melodies, this poppy indie rock band out of Indonesia really charmed me.

Ricky: The Chairs! Really good and unexpected, this Taiwanese band’s retro lounge pop really captured it for me. Great production and good tunes. I’ve been listening to them ever since their showcase.

Gary: Production value mattered a lot more this year and I did not see too many sets, so it’s not really a fair fight … but TEKE::TEKE was very fun.

Favourite Moment?

Gary: Watching a fictional Ninjababy melt away.

Paul: Norway takes the prize for most impressive showcase that really made the most of the format. This wasn’t just a performance video – it was a full on film.

Ricky: When I realized that my TV had the app and I didn’t have to cast my browser to the TV.

Biggest Disappointment?

Gary: Not being in Austin. For once I miss sore shoulders and tired feet.

Ricky: Black Country, New Road sounds like an over ambitious school project. There is something there, but playing one song for their set was a bit disappointing.

Paul: I didn’t even realize this until after the fact, but in retrospect, it was a bit of a disappointment how small the Canadian contingent was at this year’s festival compared to past years. Did the bulk of the Canadian music industry just decide it wasn’t worth the effort if they can’t head down to Austin and gorge themselves on tacos? If that’s the case, I guess I can’t totally blame them.

It’s weird to complain about this since we here at the Panic Manual have an unofficial rule (which we almost always break) of not going out of our way to see too many Canuck acts that we can usually see easily enough back home, but it was still a little disappointing. Of the ones that did show up though, the aforementioned TEKE::TEKE and No Joy both put on enjoyable shows.

SXSW was definitely a bit different this year. So, what did you think ?

Paul: As I watched the various showcases and talks throughout the week, I was reminded of the old ad campaign – “Is it live or is it Memorex?” SXSW Online definitely veered more towards the side of Memorex. While there was still a lot to like about the festival in online form, there was something lost in the way of spontaneity and obviously, not actually being in Austin takes away a bit from the whole experience. On the other hand, it was still great to discover new music and I somehow felt more free to just check out random things I might not have had I been there in person. And I did appreciate the fact that I can now revisit most of the music showcases and panels and check out stuff I didn’t see first time around – I always leave SXSW with at least a couple of acts I missed out on seeing. Still, let’s hope we can get back there next year. And have some breakfast tacos.

Gary: If remote SXSW is to persist in some form, the distribution model has to change – and not just from the organizers but from myself as attendee as well. Absent physicality also means other distractions that seriously impeded my participation in and enjoyment of showcases. I might consider taking time off next time, even IF it is still virtual. I most sincerely hope not.

Ricky: I miss SXSW terribly. SXSW Online was still good for discovering new bands, but I miss everything about it so much.

SXSW Film Review: Oxy Kingpins (Brendan FitzGerald)

Posted on by Gary in Movies, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

The-Oxy-Kingpins
Why were cameras allowed in a Nevada court where logistic companies were fighting a losing battle in their war to shield the American public from their corporate agenda during the opioid crisis of the 2000s? I don’t know; probably the same reason why drug dealers allowed the camera to capture their stories on the same subject as well.

More than half a million Americans have already succumbed to the opioid epidemic – and that’s just from the opioid itself. In a country made numb and inert by racial inequity, gun violence, and wealth disparity, this is what touched the nerves of many groups of powerful lawyers. Oxy Kingpins is a film that presents the ongoing saga of trying to right this particular wrong through the legal avenue in just one state.

There have been quite a few documentaries on this topic. Frontline’s Chasing Heroin was an early eye-opener, for example. In comparison, Kingpins, while highly polished, does not strike at your sense of disbelief by revealing much privileged information. The stories, the emotions, even the legal actions seemed an inevitable rehash with a foregone conclusion at this point in time. No matter the outcome of these trials, executives at the logistics and pharmacy companies have already walked away scot-free. What will you do about it – make a documentary? While the filmmakers shared in such anguished sentiments, there was not a clear message when the credits rolled. Perhaps that was intentional. The crispness of this production about tragic addictions and destitution does seem to stylistically mirror the attitude of the film’s namesake: suave, oleaginous, somehow unhealthily and eternally evasive.

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