Concerts

Concert Review: Tough Age, Jock Tears, October 7, Dupe Shop

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

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Toronto-via-Vancouver trio Tough Age spent the Thanksgiving weekend celebrating their latest record Shame with a pair of album release shows. Following the vinyl (and I guess CD?) release show on Friday night, the band played a special cassette release show the following afternoon at Dupe Shop, appropriately enough the very spot where the tapes were made.

Also on the bill was Vancouver’s Jock Tears, featuring Lauren Smith, formerly of Tough Age, on bass. The band put on an impressive set of fun, high energy punk tunes. Singer Lauren Ray’s t-shirt read “If you don’t like my attitude don’t talk to me,” though I have to say that I can’t imagine anybody not liking her attitude – the energy she exuded on stage was pretty infectious. Ray made the most of the space, busting out some almost cheerleader-esque dance moves and somersaulting across the floor a couple of times. She seemed to be constantly on the move, even when she decided to sit down on the floor during one number.

Near the end of Jock Tears’ set, drummer Dustin Bromley thanked Dupe Shop not only for hosting them but for making them some fresh new tapes just in time for the show. Tough Age singer/guitarist Jarrett Samson also gave a shout out to their host for manufacturing their cassettes along with a story of the long, strange trip those cassettes went on – manufactured in Toronto, shipped out to Vancouver, then shipped back to Toronto after a flight over to Vancouver on Jarrett’s part. He joked about it being like the ’80s kids movie Tommy Tricker and The Stamp Traveller, which got me wondering whether I could find a cassette of that film’s soundtrack in the stacks at Dupe Shop. I didn’t notice it in there, but I did spot some choice selections, including a NoMeansNo tape and a bunch of old Rounder Records bluegrass compilations.

One entertaining aspect of a mid-afternoon show held in a storefront window on a warm, sunny day was seeing the different reactions of all the folks walking by outside. The absolute highlight though was the dude in a Cheers t shirt who, while walking by with some freshly purchased beer and a couple of subs, was drawn off the street and into the store as if the band’s punky, Riverdale-approved indie pop sounds were the call of the sirens, summoning him to enter the store and hold off on lunch for awhile.

“Come in and rock out,” these hypothetical sirens seemed to be saying. “It matters not if the sub sauce might soak into the bread, thus making it soggy and not quite as appetizing. The sounds of Tough Age will satisfy any hunger you may have.” They are wise, these sirens. They know what’s up.

Concert Review: Wild Cub, September 29, DC9

Posted on by Celeste in Concerts | Leave a comment

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Photo Credit: Allister Ann

Keegan DeWitt, lead singer of Nashville-based Wild Cub, is a story teller in the two best genres: high-energy indie rock and self-deprecating stories.

“This is becoming story hour with Wild Cub,” DeWitt said to the audience about halfway through the set before launching into another story. “So I try really hard not to lose my voice on tour, but a couple of days ago we were out doing karaoke after a set, and I lost my voice singing ‘Your Body is a Wonderland’ by John Mayer.” “Worth it!” yelled an enthusiastic crowd member in the back as DeWitt started crooning, “My body is a wonderland”, and then correcting himself. “No wait, it’s ‘your body is a wonderland’ not ‘my body is a wonderland,’ That would probably be a little weird if you started singing it about yourself.” His bassist then chimed in, “Or you could always sing my favorite version which is ‘John Biden is a Wonderland.’”

Love.

The group’s 2014 album Youth and 2017 album Closer are both studies in everything great about indie rock – a mixture of catchy riffs, introspective vocals, bouncing beats, and on the track “Somewhere,” irresistibly intoxicating horns (I dare you not to give a little shoulder shimmy on that track. Dare. You.). Live, the band sweats energy, literally jumping around the stage as they have mini-jams with each other during instrumental moments. And if you’re really lucky, or you’re 6’8’’, you’ll get a glimpse of the seated drummer who appears to be having the time of his life in the back. Working their way through “Magic”, “Somewhere”, “I Fall Over”, “Speak”, and of course “Thunder Clatter”, the group whipped the crowd into a dancing frenzy. Not capturing their hearts, because clearly they had accomplished that years ago, but reminding everyone why they loved the band so much in the first place.

Concert Review: Ben Ottewell, September 24, Drake Hotel

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

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During his time in Gomez, Ben Ottewell has always stood out among the three singers in the band. Even when he wasn’t taking the lead, his distinctive voice with its gravelly tone added much to their sound and was often used almost tactically, deployed during a chorus or at the moment when it would have the greatest effect in a song. It’s hardly surprising then that out of all his bandmates, he’d be the one to branch out into a solo career.

With three solo albums under his belt, including his latest,  A Man Apart, Ottewell took to the stage at the Drake Underground on Sunday night and played a set made up of numbers from those albums alongside a healthy serving of Gomez songs. While new songs like “Watcher” and the title track from the new album were well received, the biggest crowd response definitely came for Gomez songs such as “Bring It On,” “Free To Run,” “Rhythm And Blues Alibi,” and especially set closer “Tijuana Lady.”

A friend at the show on Sunday described Ottewell’s voice as a whispered scream. It’s true, he’s got that raspy voice and he can absolutely belt it out when he needs to, but at the same time it’s also a very delicate, soft voice in many ways. That softer side becomes even more apparent when it’s just the man and his guitar alone on stage.

Concert Review: GoGo Penguin, September 23, Lincoln Hall

Posted on by halley in Concerts | Leave a comment

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Preface: The first three paragraphs of this review are self-centered narrative. To read the rave review of GoGo Penguin, please feel free to skip to the 4th paragraph.

Embarrassing fact: I haven’t been to a show in 9 months. 9 months! I could have had a baby! I could have traveled around the world! I could have fled the USA to escape our new political regime (but Ricky wouldn’t agree to marry me so I couldn’t. Thanks for nothing Ricky.) Did I? No. Nothing as exciting as any of that. My explanation (not an excuse by any means) is simply the boring details of every day life mingled with a move from the 202 to the 312 (i.e. DC to Chicago).

So I’ve been in Chicago – nervously wondering how to “redebut” myself to the concert scene – meanwhile not making any significant progress or ticket purchases (indecision for the fail!). Then, Friday, the answer came from above. And by “above” I mean from my 6’2″ concert buddy who moved to Chicago from DC several years ago and has kindly taken me under his wing since my move. His simple text: I know a great band, GoGo Penguin, is coming through Lincoln Hall Saturday. Want to join?

I must admit I didn’t say yes right away – I was nervous! What if I hated it? I went through all the things in my mind that I didn’t love about concerts: late set times, overly chatty bands, crappy venues, bad track selection – the list went on and on. But… what the heck? After a few minutes of nervous snacking (I’ve fallen into a bad Frito habit since moving to Chicago) I texted: Yes. Send. Done. Best decision ever.

GoGo Penguin was phenomenal. The timely and scruffy-but-well-groomed trio hailing from the UK took the stage right around 10 PM after their delightful opener (Mattson 2) finished a lovely set. Double bassist Nick Blacka played a perfect MC role – graciously thanking the appreciative Chicago crowd for hosting the trio’s first visit to the Windy City and introducing drummer Rob Turner and pianist Chris Illingworth. They diplomatically fielded Manchester versus Real Madrid taunts and entertained the audience’s banter just long enough to be polite before always returning the focus to the prize of the night: the music. GoGo Penguin delivers an amazing mix of traditional jazz with acoustic flare. The balance between the three instruments is always impeccable, keeping the listener on his or her toes just enough while also providing a relaxing, almost hypnotic beat. I honestly don’t know how these three jive so well – you’d think it would take endless hours of precise practice – but the feeling of improvisation and unique composition is palpable in each piece. I loved it. Everyone loved it. It’s hard to pick a favorite track – the band’s newest album Man Made Objects is a masterpiece and their other albums are equally as fantastic. If I were to recommend one or two tracks for the new listener, it would be “Protest” or “All Res” – but I’d urge you to explore the band’s library and definitely catch a show.

No excuses.

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