Concerts

SXSW Preview: The Dears

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

Toronto – Between Paul Giamatti blessing the city at the Golden Globes, Karkwa winning the Polaris and little known local band Arcade Fire (who?) winning the record of the year at the Grammies, you can say that the city of Montreal has had a pretty good recent run. FINALLY, they are getting some international attention for what I can only assume is a pretty decent arts and music scene. Of course, anyone who knows anything about Canadian music will have known that this has been the case for a long time. One of my first introductions to Montreal bands was The Dears, a band I first saw all the way back in March of 2003, right about the time No Cities Left was released. I didn’t know anything about the band at the time, as I was still deeply entrenched in the “only will listen to UK stuff” phase, but my friend Nick was able to drag me out to this affair on the promise of a few free beers. They played in front of maybe 30 people at the Power Planet, a small bar in the heart of the University of Alberta campus. I was impressed by the aura of drama surrounding their sound, as well as Murray Lightburn’s ability to just belt it. I picked up that album after the show and was impressed at their orchestral dark take on lovey pop music. It was almost like a UK band. Anyone listening to Canadian music at the time was probably in love with the single Lost in the Plot.

Since that time, the band has changed dramatically. With a revolving door of musicians, the bands encountered some difficult album releases. 2011 marks the release of the fifth album band the band, an album titled Degeneration Street. The album marks the return of members of Patrick Krief, Rob Benvie and Roberto Arquila, three members who had left prior to the release of Missiles. Given Murray Lightburns’ well known volatile personality, I very much imagined the scene where Murray brings his pals back in for this album to be like this:

Murray would then turn around, see Patrick, Rob and Roberto there and exclaim “You guys are here! you guys are here!” followed by the three saying “We were always here, Murray. We’ll always be here”. A group hug would happen before they retire to Murray’s loft and spend the afternoon listening to Morrissey albums.

Degeneration Street is the band’s fifth album. Upon initial listening – it’s good. It eschews the weaker elements of the Dears (lack of focus, indulgence) and focuses on the best elements of The Dears – grandiose dramatic pop powered by Murray Lightburn’s soulful voice, which somehow treads the thin line between desperation and hope. The album sounds tighter and richer then all previous efforts. My friend Dwayne has been quite insistent that this album will be The Dears comeback album, and after an initial listen, I would have to agree. Mired in difficulties with previous releases, Degeneration Street appears to be a large step forward for this band.

Of course, you can decide for yourself check out The Dears in person at SXSW, where the band will be playing various shows, including the Dangerbird showcase on March 18th.

For those of you in Toronto, the Dears will be involved in some sort of chat tonight with music journalist Jon Dekel at the Drake. Facebook event here

They also made a homemade video for their song Omega Dog, it’s posted on this site called “you” tube. Check it out here

Here are some tour dates, I guess

March 4th Sugar Victoria, BC
March 5th The Venue Vancouver, BC
March 7th Crocodile Café Seattle, WA
March 9th Slim’s San Francisco, CA
March 10th The Troubadour Los Angeles, CA
March 17th SXSW Austin, TX
March 18th Dangerbird Records Showcase Austin, TX
March 19th SXSW Austin, TX
March 20th SXSW Austin, TX

Oh yeah, hate to whore it out like this, but feel free to vote for us as your favorite Canadian music based blog for CBC Radio 3’s Searchlight poll here.

Concert Review: Lee Konitz with The Brian Dickinson Trio, Feb 11, Glenn Gould Studio

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – I’m generally not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but this year, inspired after reading Alex Ross’ Listen to This, I decided that I would take it upon myself to expand my musical horizons somewhat, digging a bit deeper into genres such as classical and jazz.  So when the opportunity arose to check out Lee Konitz in a concert presented by The Jazz Performance and Education Centre (JPEC), I gladly took it.  Konitz is a jazz legend.  He’s been playing since the ’40s and has collaborated with many of the greats of the genre, most famously on Miles Davis’ Birth Of The Cool

Konitz was backed up on this occasion by the talented Brian Dickinson Trio.  the interplay between the musicians was pretty impressive.  Drummer Barry Romberg was especially entertaining to watch, but each player had their moments.  In fact, on the second song, Konitz left the stage and the trio did a number on their own. 

Konitz is an interesting performer to watch.  Casually dressed and wearing sunglasses, he didn’t say too much, but addressed the crowd on a few occasions.  He told stories about his songs, such as “Thingin,” a tune based on “All The things You Are,” which he described as “thievery in good spirit.”  “I put a little melody on top of it.  I didn’t tell Jerome Kern I was going to do that.”  He further demonstrated his sense of humour by referring to the trio as “my colleagues … they know their names,” before holding his hand up to his mouth as if to let the audience in on the secret that he forgot their names.  If he did in fact forget their names, that’s probably forgivable, as they did form a bond as performers that night, improvising through various numbers.  Konitz even included the audience in on the act, inviting everyone to sing a note along with the band during one number.  I guess everyone at the Glenn Gould Studio that night can now add their names to the long list of Lee Konitz’s collaborators.

Concert Review: Maceo Parker, Feb. 10, Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 2 Comments

Toronto – Early on in his set, Maceo Parker took it upon himself to set the record straight for the audience: “We do not play jazz … don’t get me wrong, I love jazz – it’s good for when you’re reading a book or washing your car.”  He then went on to play a pretty spot-on approximation of the sort of music they do not play before launching into another lengthy funk number with his band.  In an interview with The National Post, Maceo referred to his show as “2% jazz, 98% funky stuff.”  The distinction is important, I suppose, although  both forms of music celebrate virtuosity and are heavy on soloing, and Maceo Parker has been known to perform at jazz festivals, so there is also some common ground.

Speaking of virtuosity and soloing, Parker and his band played quite a long set, giving them roughly two and a half hours to show off their chops.  Pretty much every member of the band had their moments in the spotlight .  One of the highlights was a guitar solo that (to my ears, at least) bore some similarity to the theme from “Knight Rider.”   Also impressive was the drummer, Maceo’s nephew and son of his brother (and fellow James Brown alumnus) Melvin.  Maceo’s son is in the band too, contributing backing vocals (sample vocal line: “Funkety funk” – seriously, they actually sang that) and some lead vocal turns.  He was pretty good, but I’ve gotta say, he looked a little schlubby in comparison to the rest of the band.  Dude, everyone else is wearing suits – if you’re not gonna tuck your shirt in, at least wear a jacket or a vest. 

Seeing any performer of a certain age who does not come out of the rock band tradition, you realize what it is to see a real old school performer and entertainer.  Maceo Parker has been performing for over 40 years, and he probably learned a lot from his years touring with James Brown.  When not playing or singing, he did a bit of dancing around onstage and at one point ventured into the crowd and even sat down in an empty seat while still playing.  He also busted out a couple bars of “O Canada” on the flute to play up to the crowd.  His interactions with the audience were probably rehearsed schtick, lines that he’s used at show after show, and he did go on a bit too long in telling the audience over and over again, “We. Love. You,” but while it could get a bit corny, it’s a welcome change from seeing some band of 20something hipsters trying to act cool onstage.  I’ll take Maceo over Nathan Williams any day. 

CMW/SXSW Preview: Alcoholic Faith Mission

Posted on by Ricky in Canadian Music Week, South By Southwest | 1 Comment

Toronto – Between the Raveonettes, Efterklang and Alphabeat, once could argue that Danish indie pop music is on a definite rise. You can add Alcoholic Faith Mission to that list. A quintet (why is there six in their press picture?! whose the extra mystery person?) met in Brooklyn and formed their mission statement in that fabled borough. Despite being from the land of Danes and.. Danish, the group now resides in Brooklyn and probably record their music in some cool loft in a restored factory. The band has had several releases already, but it was with their most recent release Let This Be The Last Night We Care that caught the eyes of the most important people on Earth – music critics. When your mustache has caught the attention of Esquire, you have clearly done something right.

What about their music, you say? Well let me point out that their EP cover for their latest release, Running With Insanity

Looks a lot like Caribou‘s Swim

What does this say about the music? nothing. However, if you go deeper, you can say that great minds think a like and Caribou’s album was awesome and so by nature, due to the great minds theorem, the Alcoholic Faith Mission EP will be great as well. That might be thought of as lazy/creative journalism, so instead, I’ll say that from what I’ve heard of their material, Alcoholic Faith Mission is full of toe tapping, upbeat and warm music that is great for spring time listening. The winter is soon to be over, the sun is on the horizon and listening to the title track of this EP, it’s hard to think otherwise.

Alcoholic Faith Mission is playing BOTH CMW and SXSW, which is awesome, since I just wrote a preview article for two events for the price of one. Yay me.

CMW: Rancho Relaxo, March 9, MIDNIGHT
CMW: Dakota Tavern, Friday March 11, MIDNIGHT
SXSW: Probably everywhere

Alcoholic Faith Mission – Running With Insanity by Paper Garden Records