Concert Review: The Antlers, April 8, Opera House

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment


It’s very hard for me to believe that Hospice, The Antlers epically sad third record, is celebrating its ten year anniversary this year. It only seems like a few years ago when the trio hit the music scene with this album, yet here I was on a damp Monday night revisiting this seminal album from the Brooklyn trio. Time flies/I’m getting old.

Perhaps I’m not the only one getting old – The Antlers, perhaps realizing that their crowd were probably not 20 something indie kids anymore, opted for the super rare seated configuration at the Opera House, giving all of us with sore lower backs a reprieve from having to stand.

More likely, the reason behind the seated venue was due to the nature of the show itself. For the ten year anniversary of Hospice, The Antlers were actually playing a stripped down version of the album. Rather than plying us with a wall of sound and reverb as one would have expected, the trio sat down at the start of the show and played Hospice end to end with just a few instruments.

It was great. With the minimalist approach, the songs relied mostly on the few chords that each song has and Peter Silbermann’s voice. It’s been awhile since I revisited this album but what really caught me this time was how much the Antlers can do with just a few chords. It’s amazing how much a few well played notes can create the mood that the band was going for. This was also a fuckin’ sad album.

Ultimately, the Antlers X-factor is Pete Silberman’s voice. The man’s ability to transition from lows to highs is at the core of the Antlers’ songs and that voice has held up well in the past decade.

For me, my favorite moments were “Sylvia”, “Bear” and “Two”. “Two” is still a devastating song a decade later and not having heard it in a while, I especially respected the amazing word play that goes with that song.

A wonderful night, all in all.

Concert Review: Pixies, Weezer, April 7, Rogers Arena

Posted on by Martin Alldred in Concerts | Leave a comment

Pixies Pic 2

Warning: Weezer fans may be offended by some of the following content.

Before we begin I need to ask a very important question. When will people learn that Pixies don’t support, they headline? On their first ever tour to the UK, they were supporting Throwing Muses. Every night the British audience went crazy for Pixies and were fairly lukewarm towards Throwing Muses. The promoter promptly switched the bill and Pixies headlined the rest of the tour. On their last tour before splitting, Pixies supported U2, an experience so unpleasant that many argue it helped cause the breakup of the band. After they reformed, 11 years later, they played the Old Trafford Cricket Ground in Manchester, supporting Stereophonics. Half the crowd rightly left at the end of the Pixies set, at the ridiculousness of the billing.

When Pixies perform, they don’t talk much, they just belt out song after song after song. There was no banter with the crowd tonight, no fancy set, video projection or any of that jazz, just four people playing short intense Pixies classics – close to two dozen in total. When you have one of the best back catalogues in the music business, this is what the audience want. Hearing Black Francis singing “Ed Is Dead” and stating “You Are The Son of A Mother Fucker” never fails to make me smile, even though Come On Pilgrim was released almost 32 years ago. They played many of the favourites, including “Here Comes Your Man”, “Wave of Mutilation”, “Planet of Sound”, “Vamos” and “Where is my Mind”. Surprisingly for an arena gig, they played a few new songs and didn’t play “Monkey Gone to Heaven” or “Debaser”. “Gigantic” had been dropped from the set list, for obvious reasons, after Kim Deal left the band, but for this tour it was kind of inevitable that it would come back. “Gigantic” was their closing number, Paz did a fantastic job on vocals and the band left the stage, still one of the coolest bands around in their own uncool way.

After Pixies exited, next up were Weezer. Don’t get me wrong, Weezer are very good. Yeah sure, “Buddy Holly” has dated a bit, but “Undone – The Sweater Song”, “Beverly Hills”, “My Name Is Jonas”, “Hashpipe” and the finale track, “Say It Ain’t So”, still sound great. They played all the old hits and they came on to a fun retro Happy Days intro – nobody does charismatic geek quite as well as Rivers Cuomo. Releasing six eponymous albums is quite probably a first, and undoubtedly a great touch. Weezer were good, and the crowd enjoyed themselves, myself included, but it was weird seeing them come on after Pixies, rather than before. It probably wasn’t their fault the promoter got the billing the wrong way round. It’s not the first time someone has made that mistake, and sadly, it most likely won’t be the last.

Footnote: Of course, there have been other examples of true greats performing on the bill before less deserving headliners, we just have to go back to Glastonbury 2005 for the most severe case. After New Order left the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury a little after 10pm, I assumed the the night was done. When Coldplay came on to headline at 10:50pm, I looked on in horror at the realization that the world was one very messed up place.

Concert Review: Alice Phoebe Lou, March 28, The Garrison

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me over the years. Every year, in advance of the Panic Manual team’s annual trek to Austin for SXSW, I scour the local concert listings for the names of acts who’ll be coming through Toronto before playing the Texas festival, hoping to either check them off my list before SXSW has even begun, thus freeing up space to see another of the hundreds of acts playing there during the week, or to make a note to catch them again if they really impress.

German singer Alice Phoebe Lou was initially one of those acts I’d hoped to see beforehand, but due to some unforeseen visa-related issues with her tour, the first couple of dates got shunted to the end of the tour instead, making her Toronto date the first show I’d see this year after the craziness that is SXSW. Probably for the best, as outside of the hustle and bustle, her music had more of a chance to shine through. Well, Maybe “shine” is the wrong word to use for a show at The Garrison though, where everything is perpetually bathed in that low, purplish light.

Lou mentioned how glad they were to finally be playing Toronto after the delay for what was now to be the final show of her band’s current North American tour, following that comment up with a Timber Timbre cover, thus cementing her Toronto cred.

She also played a handful of songs without the band, including one song introduced by Lou as being “about pictures of people’s dicks being sent to people who don’t want to see them” that ended up being one of the most memorable of the entire evening. She followed that up with a song performed on the piano and introduced thusly: “I’m going to play a song on the piano. I don’t do so very often so it might be a little fucked up but it’ll be fine.”

Lou has a funny and very personable manner on stage with a voice that’s simultaneously ethereal yet powerful. I’m sure that no one in attendance (including Lou and her bandmates) would have minded if the show had gone on much longer than it did, but Lou had other plans, informing the crowd that she and her band had to cut out of there quickly after the show to catch a midnight flight (adding that she was glad they didn’t book with Wow Air).

The highlight of her set for me was her performance of “Skin Crawl,” a song about the patriarchy and toxic masculinity which she introduced as being about “not being a dick” and which covered many of the same themes as the earlier ‘dick pic’ song. It also featured a nice moment where Lou and her band played a musical interlude while she spoke over it, explaining that it would give everyone a chance to use their “witchy energy”.

“But in a good way,” she added.

Good witchy energy – I can’t really think of a better way to describe the mood of this show.

SXSW 2019 Recap: Bests, Worsts, Etc.

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

The Comet is Coming

This was our 11th year at SXSW. It definitely seemed smaller than previous years, but that could also be because it didn’t coincide with Spring Break. Neverless, it was still fun and for me, it was a pleasure to see the rise of Asian bands to the forefront. Anyways, let’s do a recap.

Best Act

Gary:The Comet Is Coming. No question. Saw them at St. David’s first and then again outside of Latitude 30. Different feeling of euphoria each time. Also, Yola. I think I was on the verge of tearing up at one point – but can’t remember which song.

1. Otoboke Beaver. As I already wrote, they left an impression on me that i’ll remember for a while.
2. Chai
3. The Comet is Coming

Derek: Chai/The Beths/The Comet Is Coming

Paul: The Beths were my most anticipated act going in to SXSW and were easily one of the best acts I saw all week. I already loved their 2018 album Future Me Hates Me, but seeing those songs performed live sealed the deal. I saw them live three times during SXSW (twice on the same day) and probably would have been OK with seeing them play even more shows if I could have. Tracks like “Future Me Hates Me” and “You Wouldn’t Like Me” are feel good jams about feeling bad.

Worst/Most Disappointing Act

Ricky: Nothing really, since most of the bands I saw were new. I was disappointed Graham Coxon didn’t sing “Coffee and TV”, but that’s a minor complaint.

Gary: Everyone was pulling their weight this year and I honestly didn’t have a bad set, not even at the Australian who stripped down to his boxers … Maybe Big Phony. Because he would be disappointed if I wasn’t disappointed when he was trying to be disappointing. Films … now that’s a completely different story.

Paul: The great thing about SXSW is that if you don’t like something, you can just move on, so if you’re lucky you can avoid any major disappointments. That said, Italian shoegazers Be Forest didn’t do too much for me, but that’s probably more on me for being too sleepy and it being too late at night for their moody shoegaze sound to really hit home for me. The album still sounds good though.

Most Pleasant Surprise

Ricky: All the Asian rock bands kicking ass. Go Asia

Derek: Wyclef Jean’s performance at Parish

Paul: CHAI was amazing! Such a fun show. Also, seeing local Austin collective World Music Unleashed was a memorable experience. Five musicians coming together on tabla, sitar, violin, clarinet, and a standard rock drum kit to create a unique noise. Plus I found this mysterious message on a napkin at the bar at Russian House during their show:
(According to Gary, it translates to something like, “people who don’t drink = fucking losers” … I guess they’ve got a bit of a point.)

Gary: Small Glories. Reminds me how wholesome Saturday mornings used to be when Vinyl Cafe would beam through just as I was bleary-eyed. Good thing my Alberta roots are still there to resonate with them. But I had also to restrain myself from answering that I am from Edmonton.

Favourite Moment

Derek: Seeing Chai.

Paul: Seeing Mike D and Ad-Rock of The Beastie Boys give a talk that was basically just an hour of them being hilarious was great. And on a personal note, singing karaoke at the Japan party was pretty rad.

Gary: When the vag-cannon was ready to fire. It’s really difficult to translate how hilarious this really was, so the alternative would be when The Nude Party sang “Chevrolet Van” and it was so stupefyingly good that I thought it must have been a cover…

Ricky: I really enjoyed this track by the Comet is Coming

Also, going to Uchi and Franklin for the first time ever was quite great. Hopefully not the last time

What Was Different or Notable About SXSW This Year?

Ricky: SXSW felt sparse and tiny this year. I wonder if that’s just because it wasn’t during Spring Break. The bands definitely felt even smaller than last year, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s just different.

Derek: Noticeably smaller crowds, less access at Cedar St. Courtyard. :)

Gary: Austin was … lighter this year, on the psyche. Perhaps it was the chilly weather, or the thinner crowd, or perhaps a combination of the shows I decided to visit. It has not left the mark like last year. Coincidentally, it’s the first year in over a decade where I don’t have new tracks added to my phone from SXSW.

Paul: We’ve asked ourselves this question a few times in recent years and there’s been a general feeling that SXSW has been scaling down. It’s been noticeably smaller over the past few years, but this year was the first year that it felt smaller in a weird way. Not a bad way, necessarily, but like Ricky said, just … different. By the end of the week though, a quick walk along Dirty Sixth showed that in a lot of ways, things hadn’t changed too much.

Here is a playlist of bands we saw!