Hillside 2010: Friday/Saturday Recap

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Everything, Hillside | 1 Comment

1x1.trans Hillside 2010: Friday/Saturday Recap

As we get ready for the final day of Hillside 2010, here are some of the highlights of the festival so far, aside from the spectacular sunset on Friday night pictured above:

- On Friday night, my favourite set was from self-styled “acid folk” band Lee Harvey Osmond. Despite having looked them up online a month ago, by the time the festival rolled around I’d completely forgotten that this was Tom Wilson’s new band. Lee Harvey Osmond even played a rendition of Wilson’s old band’s big radio hit, the Junkhouse tune “Shine,” which brought me right back to high school. Wilson is also t had fellow Blackie and the Rodeo Kings member Stephen Fearing sit in on this set. The result was an energetic and loud set that will have me looking studiously for Lee Harvey Osmond’s name on concert listings from now on.

- Speaking of Stephen Fearing, his solo set on Saturday was one of the best I saw on that day. Comparatively quiet and contemplative, Fearing played alone with his guitar, accompanied on a few songs by Irish singer-songwriter Andy White. Fearing played tracks from his new best of album called The Man Who Married Music, including the title track, and was low-key and charming throughout. He strongly hinted that he’ll be sitting in on White’s set today, so we’ll likely check that out.

- Getting back to Friday, aside from Lee Harvey Osmond’s set I wandered the grounds quite a bit, hearing little bits of most of the performer’s sets until I left to drive back to Toronto a little after 9. Laura Marling impressed me a little; my intial impression was that she was something of a poor man’s Beth Orton, but her voice is distinctive enough and she’s a good songwriter. The Warped 45s were ok, and I really dug a couple of the Hidden Cameras tunes.

- And yes, I did arrive early enough to see Beardyman, who instantly became the best beatboxer I’ve ever seen live. However, once the novelty of “wow, he’s making all this music with just his own voice and a sampler” wears off, well, it turns into nondescript Eurobeat dance music pretty quickly. It’s fun to see for a little while, but I can’t imagine sitting through a whole set from this guy.

- Other than Fearing, some of my other Saturday highlights were My Son the Hurricane, Michou and Grand Analog. My Son the Hurricane sounds like what you’d get if Dancehall Free For All were the backing band for Rage Against the Machine’s Zach de la Rocha, if de la Rocha were from Guelph. I think that’s kind of the idea. Lots of horns, lots of volume, and lots of fun. I was making Twitter jokes about the age of Michou’s band members, but they put together a solid set that was thoroughly enjoyable. And Grand Analog turned out to be a great ending to the night after I found both Los Lobos and Japandroids’ sets a bit lacking. Fronted by MC Odario Williams, Grand Analog had the whole Lake Stage tent moving to their brash hip hop.

- Meanwhile, Trina particularly enjoyed The Acorn and The Good Lovelies, sets I saw little or none of, and Basia Bulat. The Acorn had a few technical difficulties but recovered well, and like many bands they loudly proclaimed their love for and longtime patronage of the Hillside Festival. The Good Lovelies told some entertaining stories, both in song and through their between-song anecdotes, singing pretty harmonies and telling stories like playing with Fred Penner at another festival. Basia overcame a brief rain delay to really put on a beautiful, if slightly rushed, set. Her voice and charm quickly had the crowd swooning.

We’re minutes away from heading out for Hillside’s Sunday lineup, and hoping that the rain holds off today. Friday and Saturday were good, but Sunday should be even better.

Preview: Hillside Music Festival 2010

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Everything, Hillside | 2 Comments

1x1.trans Preview: Hillside Music Festival 2010

Guelph – The 2010 Hillside Festival is upon us, and just like last year, the Panic Manual will be there all weekend long taking photos, drinking inexpensive beer, and eating reasonably priced food. We’ll also be tweeting from the grounds again this year, and who knows, we might even find the time for a review or three.

Once again, I only know a handful of bands heading into the festival, but on the eve of my second Hillside, this is rapidly becoming one of my favourite events of the year. Certainly it might be the best run festival I’ve been to, and I wasn’t kidding about the reasonably priced food and beer (Sausage Brothers are back as a vendor this year! Yay!). It’s the kind of festival where people take workshops on things like drum circles, hula hooping, and “pleasure skills,” all the dishes are hand washed by volunteers, and if it rains everyone walks in the mud in bare feet. That’s a festival vibe you won’t see at too many other places.

As far as the music goes, if you’re like me there’s a couple of bands in this lineup you like, there’s a few more who have names you recognize that you might like to check out for the first time, and the rest is just guesswork. Unlike last year, when I wrote this preview, I didn’t consult Wade on who to see and only got a couple of recommendations from Trina, my partner-in-coverage again this year. But if you’re among the lucky people who’ll be attending Hillside this year (by last count, weekend and Saturday passes were sold out, but Friday night and Sunday passes are still available), you may have come here looking for some ideas about who to see, and I’d hate to disappoint. So after the jump are my suggestions for who to go see at Hillside. Call them marginally-educated guesses.

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Concert Review: Au Revoir Simone, Alexa Wilding, July 15, Great Hall

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 2 Comments

1x1.trans Concert Review: Au Revoir Simone, Alexa Wilding, July 15, Great Hall

Toronto – After Wednesday’s night Titus Andronicus man-fest, I was quite ready for something different. That something different came in the form of Au Revoir Simone and Alexa Wilding, both part of a triple bill at the Great Hall on Thursday night. We arrived just before the second act – Alexa Wilding came on. Alexa Wilding is a folk singer songwriter from New York who just recently released a self titled EP. Armed with only an acoustic guitar, she casually took the stage with a pretty smile and instantly encouraged the crowd to move in a little closer.

One of the things I notice right away was her comfort level and confidence on stage – it must be tough to perform solo in front of a sparse crowd (especially a chatty Queen west crowd), but Alexa didn’t let that stop her one bit. Alexa’s voice filled the room with each of her tracks, mostly about characters in New York or missing New York. She even mentioned that she was from New York a few times, but took the time out to stress that Canada is like America but better. It might have been a ploy to get support from the crowd, but crowds are easy and it definitely worked. She has the cute girl on stage thing down – charming banter and frequently thanking the crowd for coming out. Halfway through the half hour set, she switched to keyboards for a few tracks, as depicted by my photo below:

1x1.trans Concert Review: Au Revoir Simone, Alexa Wilding, July 15, Great Hall

She would then take back the acoustic guitar for the final tracks before leaving to a pretty good response. Alexa has a sweet voice that sometimes reminds me of those late night infomercials where there’s some girl trying to entice you to call some 900 number for “good times”. Either way, with her voice and strumming skills, I am interested to see where her talents take her. I can totally see a song like Black Diamond Day on some CW teen drama show during montage where the characters are in a time of sadness or reflection.

Alexa Wilding – Black Diamond Day by Myles Crawley

After a short break, Au Revoir Simone took the stage. By now the crowd had somewhat filled up and was maybe half full, although they did not open up the second floor seating area. This led to a conversation with Wade about whether Au Revoir Simone was just a band that’s popular on the internet and not popular in real life, much like how in Halo 3, I can hit someone in mid air with a sniper rifle, but probably can’t do that in real life. We didn’t really come to any sort of conclusion though.

Armed with a cymbal, a tambourine, a couple egg shakers, a drum machine and a whole lot of synthesizers, the three ladies from Brooklyn proceeded to take us through their dream pop landscape, where the land is littered with three way harmonics, low key drum beats, random percussions and many layers of synthy keyboard work. I am not that good with song titles but I would likely conclude they played most of the tracks off their 2009 record Still Night, Still Light including Take Me As I Am, All or Nothing and Anywhere You Looked. As they plowed through their set list, I was surprised at how many of their songs I recognized. I must have listened to the album more then I realized, always a pleasant surprise. Those who aren’t familiar with their material might get a case of the sameys, as a lot of their tracks off that album follow a very distinct Au Revoir Simone Template – beats, harmonics and synth. Actually at one point, Annie Hart started singing a song following the initial drum beat, but she sang the wrong song, and then just mused “They all have very similar drum beats!”. It was funny, but upon reflection, might be a sign that perhaps the band should look at the sounds they are producing and try to do something a bit different for the next record.

I enjoyed the record and I enjoyed the show, it was a low key affair and the band seemed to have a good time as usual and that happiness always permeates into the crowd. A charming rendition of Don Henley’s Boys of Summer ended off the set. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t end up doing their cover of Friendly Fire‘s Paris live though, especially since the remixers who did that version (Aeroplane) was playing just down the street.

If Wednesdays night Titus Andronicus concert was a journey through the working class swamps of New Jersey, filled with broken beer bottles, sweaty men and a dose of reality, then Thursdays night Au revoir Simone and Alexa Wilding show could be classified as the exact opposite. A dreamy midsummer walk through a secretive luscious green park hidden somwhere in Brooklyn where cute girls in retro summer dresses frolick about with out a care in the world.

1x1.trans Concert Review: Au Revoir Simone, Alexa Wilding, July 15, Great Hall

Au Revoir Simone – Another Likely Story (Aeroplane remix) by Deepdim

Concert Review: Titus Andronicus, July 14, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | 2 Comments

1x1.trans Concert Review: Titus Andronicus, July 14, Horseshoe Tavern

Toronto – You know, Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles is a pretty funny guy at times.  Early in their set, an audience member shouted out, “I love your beard!”  Stickles’ reply: “Thanks.  this next song is about what’s going on behind that beard.  All will be revealed.”  He’s an interesting character, the sort who’ll ask an audience if their needs are being met tonight or announce guitarist/violinist Amy Klein’s recent purchase of some guitar pedals (and then go on to explain what pedals are for “any laymen in the crowd”)  He’s a pretty engaging frontman. 

Based on previous reviews of their shows as well as comments Stickles made about “respecting personal space” and how they had to adjust their setlists for the last couple shows (but not for us), it seems that a Titus Andronicus crowd can get a tad rowdy.  This crowd was pretty into it, and a bit rowdy, but not too much so … although i swear I saw a beer bottle go flying into the crowd during their set.  And there were multiple occurences of crowd surfing, which is something I just don’t see enough of these days.  So, OK, maybe it was a pretty rowdy crowd.  But mostly in a nice way.

The audience was enjoying  themselves, and the band certainly appeared to be having just as much fun onstage.  They had a raw, ramshackle sort of vibe, while at the same time demonstrating that they’re all great musicians.  This was especially evident during the third last song, “Titus Andronicus Forever,” which saw each and every member of the band, plus members of openers Hallelujah The Hills,  taking a solo.  Hallelujah The Hills, by the way, also put on a really good show. 

For those who haven’t heard them (and really, why haven’t you?), I would probably describe Titus Andronicus as sounding like The Replacements meets Against Me! meets Conor Oberst (with of course, a whole whack of other influences thrown in there too).  They play the kind of meat and potatoes rock that’s practiced by a number of bands these days, including fellow New Jersey-ites (New Jersians?) The Gaslight Anthem ,who were also playing a show in town that night.  Stickles thanked us for picking them as our Jersey-rock choice for the night and dedicated a song to those who had a hard time deciding.  When a few people booed The Gaslight Anthem, Stickles jokingly said, “OK, this is dedicated to nobody then.” 

Full of mostly upbeat choruses and shouted gang vocals, the dedicated fans in attendance couldn’t help but sing along, as people belted out “You will always be a loser!” along with Stickles during “No Future Part Three.” (Casual fans, however, might have felt the show was a bit too long, but hey, these guys have several songs that run over eight minutes, so you should have known what you were getting into.)  Also ripe for singalong material was the band’s cover of Weezer’s “The Sweater Song,” which saw them inviting former guitarist and current Toronto resident Liam Betson to join them onstage.   They closed off with the epic “The Battle Of Hampton Roads”  from their Civil War referencing album The Monitor.  Axl Rose once sang, “I don’t need your civil war.”  But Axl Rose sucks now, so who cares what Axl thinks?  Go listen to Titus Andronicus instead. 

1x1.trans Concert Review: Titus Andronicus, July 14, Horseshoe Tavern