As Pere Ubu started their set at Lee’s Palace on Thursday night, frontman David Thomas told the crowd that the band was pretty amped up since this was the first date on their current tour. He went on to explain the difference between “normal person amped up” and Pere Ubu’s version of amped up: “It’s unsustainable – we’re old men. That’s why I’m sitting down. My body may be broken, baby, but my mind is as dangerous as ever!”
Thomas, delightfully weird and cranky curmudgeon that he is, led his bandmates through a set of classics from 1975 to 1982. “Don’t play the loud part!” he shouted at them during one tune, forcing the band to quickly switch things up and play the song a bit differently. He mentioned afterwards that bassist Michele Temple was probably disappointed that she didn’t get the one chance during their show to use her pedal on the aforementioned loud part. “If your bass player ever says they want to buy a pedal, fire them,” he joked.
Of course it’s sometimes hard to tell whether Thomas is always joking or not. On this occasion, he seemed to take some pleasure in berating his bandmates, especially the guitarist, for not playing things quite the way he wanted them. I’m not sure how much of it was serious and how much was an act, but it certainly made for a livelier performance. That’s David Thomas for you – his mind is as dangerous as ever.
This year NXNE is a tiny shell of its former self and despite the lack of shows/bands, many were still pretty pumped to check out TUNS on a hot Toronto night at the packed Garrison. If you didn’t already know, this Canadian Indie “supergroup” is composed of Chris Murphy from Sloan, Mike O’Neill from The Inbreds, and Matt Murphy from The Super Friendz/The Flashing Lights. They popped up out of the blue last fall and created a bit of buzz with their first recorded song “Throw It All Away” and the more recently released “Mind Over Matter.”
As predicted, the trio split vocal duties which included several sung by Chris while hammering away on the drums. Their songs weren’t completely polished and came off almost as DIY punk – this is not meant to be a slight but rather a compliment to their songs, which combined unique offerings from three musical minds.
Between a mix of slower, more melodic songs were a few rockers that brought out Matt Murphy’s patented high kick. Their set lasted about 40 minutes and upon returning to the stage following their initial set, Matt let the energetic crowd know that this was “Our first encore.” They offered up two covers to end the night, The Beatles’ “There’s a Place” and Guided By Voices’ “Game of Pricks.”
Their debut album will be released at the end of August on Royal Mountain Records (Alvvays, Pup, Hollerado).
With all this hoopla around the OJ Simpson documentary, the Kim Kardashian GQ cover and NXNE going around, it only seemed to make sense to write an article in honor of the situation and make our blog seem all up and modern with pop culture. Due to various commmitments, I was unable to go to NXNE Portlands today but here’s my review IF I HAD GONE
Saturday was a wonderful day. Sunny, hot and nary a cloud in site, it was an idealistic day to hit up a music festival. Portlands seem a bit difficult to get to, but good ole NXNE has found a boat shuttle to the venue, and it’s sponsored by..WHAT??? All the parents surrounding me going to this festival are really confused now. They’ll be hungry later.
I just noticed there’s a band called Highs and Dan Mangan is playing at 4:20. How convenient. Saturday was a freaking hot day, and I’m glad I bought my water bottle – wait what? There’s no water stations? It’s 30 degrees outside!
It’s now 4:20 and Dan Mangan has taken the stage wearing a Got Bud shirt looking rather dishevelled. The grounds look empty and the boat shuttle that my friends were on have not arrived as per scheduled. Having released a surprise EP last night called “Unmake”, Mangan pulls off the classic Wilco at Pitchfork 2015 strategy by playing his new EP in it’s entirety before breaking into the hits. The new material is more stripped down and acoustic compared to his previous works, showing a fragility to his brand that was previously lacking, according to his publicist. Personal highlight for me was the new track Forgetery, a track featuring Tegan Quin who sang along side Dan via Snapchat, which was projected onto a big screen.
I spent most of their set exploring the grounds of the Portlands, trying some magnificent micro-brew company called Budweiser, which wasn’t a part of the Got Bud? Sponsorship. My friends called me and said their boat captain is missing and they are currently stuck in the middle of Lake Ontario.
From what I heard, the Zolas sounded pretty good, that might also have just been the radio, because I was at T&T munching on dim sum. I hope this pass allows re-entry.
I felt bad for Mother Mother, the brother-sister band from Vancouver played a fun set of their brand of Canadian indie guitar rock but people were passing out left and right because it was about 35 degrees on the ground and everyone was too cheap to spend 4 dollars on a bottle of water. Some hipster kid tried to drink the water from lake ontario but then he immediately grew a third arm which went rogue and choked himself to death.
The band cut their setlist short, and seemed to be in a rush. I just realized they were playing some music festival called Sound of Music in Burlington later in the evening. Soul Asylum played that festival on Thursday, are you saying we could of had Soul Asylum here at the Portlands today?! Opportunity missed! Also playing that festival: I Mother Earth, Headstones, Sass Jordan and the Killjoys. There’s some nineties joke you can make there.
I was vaguely disappointed by the Born Ruffians set, I was expecting an hour of good ole Born Ruffian tunes such as Hummingbird and Foxes Mate For Life, instead I got an hour of Luke Lalonde trying to sell us on his brewery collaboration with the Muskoka Brewery and how it pairs wonderfully with cornish hen and white asparagus with a dab of honey mustard sauce. The samples were great though, as I was thoroughly sick of Budweiser at this point.
Father John Misty
The headliner for tonight, it was a great chance for me to see him live again for like the seventh time in twelve months. I’m sure he won’t do his whole gospel preaching singer prancing about on stage and teasing the crowd thing again.
I guess I was wrong. Still, the man has stage presence and charisma that just spells out headliner. For more information about his show, read our review here from the April show. The girls in the crowd were swooning, although it seems like half the crowd was desperately trying to call an uber for the inevitable mess that will happen when the thousand or so people at this show all try to leave the Portlands at the same time.
Luckily, I was able to get away, because I wasn’t really there.
A couple of songs into The Joy Formidable’s set at The Mod Club, singer Ritzy Bryan announced that they would be treating the night’s show as their record release party. It confused me a bit, since i was fairly certain that their latest, Hitch, came out a while back, but she went on to announce that it had come out here later, due to some “boring shit” that she wasn’t about to go into and that they would treat this as their record release show because they can. Fair enough. They then promptly went on to play a brand new song that’s not even on that record, also because they can. Hey, why not? Bryan made it clear that the band does whatever they want to do, though mostly what they want to do seems to involve rocking out to their big, shiny, anthemic tunes.
A bit later in their set, Bryan tried to chat up the crowd about the fest. “This is part of a festival, isn’t it? North by North … East?” she asked, and when she went on to ask who else we had coming to town this week … well, there was a bit of silence with only Father John Misty’s name being offered up at first. Awkward. To be fair, there’s probably not a lot of overlap between fans of The Joy Formidable and say, Pere Ubu or Schoolboy Q fans, so it’s not too surprising that no one could think of any other notable names on the spot, but it still served as a reminder that NXNE is not what it used to be. Also, the guy who shouted out Prozzak should have realized that a band from Wales would be very, very unlikely to know of our weird Canadian cartoon band (no offence to Simon and Milo).
Still, regardless of any of that, The Joy Formidable put on an entertaining show. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen them live and they still manage to impress, fully throwing themselves into their performance and playing with a certain aggression and, well, joy.