Concert Review: Kathryn Joseph, The Twilight Sad, May 16, Velvet Underground

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A few songs into her set opening for fellow Scots The Twilight Sad on Thursday night, Kathryn Joseph introduced her next song as “another creepy song about being obsessively in love.” It was a funny comment and also an assessment of her work that is not entirely inaccurate – creepy, obsessive love songs do seem to be a recurring motif in her work.

Yes, much of Joseph’s music could conceivably be described as “creepy” – in fact Joseph herself referred to the songs as creepy more than once, even starting her set off by announcing that she would be more creepy than usual tonight (she also later helpfully pointed out which song had the most “fucks” it in – that would be “We Have Been Loved By Our Mothers” in case you’re keeping score).

Joseph’s latest album From When I Wake The Want Is is certainly a bit of a dark album, written, as it was, in the wake of some heartbreak and relationship problems, but it’s also a strong collection of sombre sounding yet beautifully mesmerizing songs that come across even better in a live setting.

Seeing the songs performed live, it’s very hard not to be drawn in by Joseph’s haunting, almost otherworldly voice and the sparse yet intense solo piano arrangements. It seems I wasn’t alone in feeling this way as much of the crowd near the stage were watching and listening intently during her set and I noticed a few people grabbing her albums from the merch table afterwards.

She ended off her set by thanking the audience, noting that both The Twilight Sad and their fans are the best and how lucky she is to get to see them live each night. She’s not wrong on that count – The Twilight Sad are a great live band.

Touring behind their recently released fifth full length It Won/t Be Like This All the Time, The Twilight Sad put on a typically intense performance following Joseph’s opening set – an impressive enough feat considering there was a distinct possibility that this show might not have happened. “Feels good,” Said vocalist James Graham a few songs in. “I wasn’t sure this was gonna happen but this is working.” The ‘this’ in question was of course, Graham’s voice, with the band having cancelled their previous gig due to vocal problems. But it seems that he’d gotten past any issues as it all sounded quite good on our end.

The band played nearly all of the new album throughout the course of the evening, peppering in a few choice selections from the rest of their discography including standouts “Cold Days From the Birdhouse” and “There’s A Girl In The Corner.” They also paid tribute to the late Scott Hutchison with their cover of Frightened Rabbit’s “Keep Yourself Warm” which has become a staple of the band’s set on this recent tour and which had more than a few singing along.

They closed the set off with “And She Would Darken The Memory” off of Fourteen Autumns And Fifteen Winters and James closed things off (or got things started?) by having his first drink in a couple of days – after dealing with illness, cancelled shows, and an extended stop at the Canadian border earlier that day, I’d imagine it was well earned and well deserved.

CMW Review: The Dandy Warhols, May 9, Danforth Music Hall

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Midway through The Dandy Warhols‘ set at The Danforth Music Hall as part of Canadian Music Week, the band, and singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor in particular, faced a bit of criticism in the form of a heckle when some random fan shouted out, “Make your vocals higher!”

No, he didn’t mean that he wanted Taylor-Taylor to sound more like Geddy Lee, though that would have undoubtedly been very amusing. Rather, he felt that the vocals needed to be higher up in the mix. Apparently it wasn’t the first time the band had faced such a critique.

“Every single night – ‘turn your vocals up!’ … nope.” replied Taylor-Taylor. His feeling was that it was the heckler and not the band who needed to change things up, suggesting that the fan should “smoke more pot” and¬†change his mood to suit the music rather than the band changing anything to suit him. That’s fair enough – for much of their set the Dandys were all about setting a certain mood through their music, which would certainly qualify as stoner friendly as the band put out a psychedelic vibe that was kind of heavy yet also kind of mellow. And despite the fact that the band taking the stage about twenty minutes past their announced set time got me in a less than gracious mood from the outset, that mood quickly changed once the band got things going.

Though the Dandy Warhols just released their tenth studio album Why You So Crazy earlier this year, their current tour is being billed as a 25th anniversary tour and accordingly, the band played selections from the new album as well as songs from throughout their career. Highlights included “We Used To be Friends”, “Get Off”, “Godless” and of course the big crowd singalong during “Bohemian Like You.” “Highlife,” one of the tunes off the new album also stood out as keyboardist Zia McCabe took the lead on the krautrock meets country number.

And while it’s kind of weird to consider that the Dandy Warhols have been going for 25 years now, it’s still not as weird as the fact that Hanson has somehow been a band for even longer than that, and they’re all still only in their mid to late 30s. Just something to think about.

Anyways, here’s the video for “Forever”:

CMW Review: The Lemonheads, Tommy Stinson, The Restless Age, May 8, Lee’s Palace

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While the idea of going out on the first couple of nights of CMW seemed a bit daunting to me, by Wednesday night, I was drawn out of my music fest hibernation to check out a couple of acts whose legacies stretch back to the 1980s – Tommy Stinson and The Lemonheads.

Taking the stage before Stinson and The Lemonheads were openers The Restless Age, a younger act than the others on the bill, but one whose sound hearkens back to an even earlier time with their piano-based pop bringing to mind the smooth sounds of ’70s singer-songwriters. That influence was made explicit by the end of their set when they closed things off with a James Taylor cover. With each member of the band taking the lead during their set and the three of them displaying some solid harmonies throughout, the band put on an impressive set.

Next up was Tommy Stinson, performing solo and acoustic throughout much of his set (he switched to electric for the last couple of tunes). Stinson was in a chatty mood, joking with the crowd (“Everyone pull out your iPhones. Here’s tonight’s tourist attraction”) and offering up a few good natured yet somewhat curmudgeonly complaints about his guitar stand and his new eyeglasses. Noting that he doesn’t do this kind of solo gig too often, Stinson promised that he was going to bust out some deep cuts for the occasion, and referred back to those new glasses again when explaining why he wasn’t working with a setlist – too hard to read and so, he was winging it. “So if you have any requests,” Stinson added, “Keep ‘em to yourself.”

Finally came the main event for the evening as Evan Dando and the current iteration of The Lemonheads took to the stage to play a set full of songs from throughout their career including classics such as “It’s A Shame About Ray”, “It’s About Time”, “The Outdoor Type” and “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You.” Touring behind their latest Varshons 2, the band also performed several of the songs off of that collection of covers, including versions of Yo La Tengo’s “Can’t Forget” and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ “Straight To You,” the latter of which stood out as one of the highlights of the night.

The band closed out their set with another cover, their version of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum” from 1990’s Favourite Spanish Dishes EP, thus ending things off on a high note.

Concert Review: Hatchie, April 20, Longboat Hall

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Photo credit: Frank Yang

We here at the Panic Manual first caught Australian dream pop artist Hatchie a little over a year ago at SXSW and were impressed with her sound and her live show – clearly she seemed primed for greater success. So it’s a bit surprising that she’s taken things a bit slow, with her full length debut Keepsake only just coming out later this year (June 21) on Double Double Whammy Records. Still, while it’s been a bit of a long wait, her fine EP Sugar & Spice has surely tided fans over in the meantime, and in the buildup to the new album’s release, she’s currently on a tour with Girlpool that came through Longboat Hall on Saturday night.

During her roughly 30 minute set, Hatchie (aka Harriette Pillbeam) kept things short but sweet, running through a set packed full of beautiful, shimmering numbers like “Try” and “Sure” off the EP as well as a few off of the upcoming full length like “Without A Blush.” Since the last time Hatchie ventured around these parts, the live band has been scaled back to a three piece, but the band sounded great and doesn’t seem to have lost any of the fullness in their sound. I also have to give props to the drummer in particular for having a set of chimes as part of his kit – outside of new age music and a few prog rock bands, you don’t really see enough chimes these days.

Hatchie put on a solid show that left the crowd wanting more. Here’s hoping she’ll be back soon enough for a full headlining set once Keepsake is released.