Toronto – A few songs in to Wooden Shjips set at The Horseshoe, I remarked to a friend that it was the best thing I’ve seen since Hawkwind. Now obviously I’ve seen tons of great bands since, many just as good or perhaps even better, but nothing that had quite the same feel as when I caught the space rock masters in France last June. My friend was equally impressed, albeit less versed in Hawkwind, but my opinion was validated by some random guy outside who made the same comparison. They share a simlar vibe – spacey, droney, psych heavy tunes full of buzzy riffs that often moved into a driving krautrock-esque groove.
While a lot of bands of a heavy, psychey ilk can be, well, a bit dull live, that was definitely not the case with Wooden Shjips. Sure, they don’t actually do a lot – there was little stage banter and they weren’t exactly jumping around onstage, but that’s fine because the tunes speak for themselves. And if the songs all have a similar feel, so what? Bands like AC/DC, Motorhead, and The Ramones made entire careers out of sounding like themselves.
Openers Birds Of Avalon did have more variety in their sound. Musically, they straddled a lot of lines – there were hints of garage, psych, power pop, ’90s grunge, and at least one riff that wouldn’t be that out of place in a Scorpions song. It was kind of all over the place, but certainly held a lot of promise. They played a decent set that did make an impression on me, although they didn’t really impress me on the same level as Wooden Shjips. That said, I’d probably see them again and I will most certainly be checking out Wooden Shjips again if given the chance.
Toronto – The Sea And Cake are the sort of band that attracts a certain kind of fan. They put on the kind of show where a decent percentage of those in the audience are watching with intent admiration as they play. And with good reason – these guys can certainly play. The Chicago post-rockers have been at it since 1994 plying their brand of slightly jazzy, somewhat mellow tunes. Not that it was all that mellow. I wouldn’t exactly describe any of their songs as rockers, but there was a certain amount of aggressiveness in some of the tunes, especially in the propulsive basslines and John McEntire’s solid drumming. Guitarist Archer Prewitt was especially impressive to watch as he would rock back and forth and do a few kicks now and then while playing, all while dressed in a manner befitting a History professor or something. For that matter, all of the band members looked a bit like they could be on staff at a University with the possible exception of bassist Eric Claridge, who bore a slight resemblance to Waylon Jennings.
Overall, the band played a great set, with the songs from their latest, The Moonlight Butterfly, fitting in seamlessly with their older tracks. In fact, one of my personal highlights of the night came from that album – “Inn Keeping”. Another highlight for me was hearing singer/guitarist Sam Prekop refer to the crowd collectively as “man,” as in “Thanks, man.” At least I’m pretty sure that’s what I heard.
Openers Brokeback also played a great set. The band, led by Doug McCombs of Tortoise and Eleventh Dream Day fame, offered up a set of slow burning instrumentals that brought to mind Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack at times and showcased McCombs’ impressive guitar skills. It appears they haven’t put out anything new since 2003’s Looks At The Bird, but here’s hoping they’ve got something else in the works, or at least some plans to play live again every now and then.
Washington DC – So many unexpected occurrences at the Active Child/M83 show on October 28 at the Black Cat. Of all the concert venues in DC, I feel as though I know Black Cat the best, but this show threw me for a loop. In the first place, it was my first concert flying solo. In the second place, the audience was super male-heavy. I don’t know if it was just the weekend for bromances or if the two artists appeal to guys, but either way, coming from a city where women usually dominate the scene, I was a little taken aback (but not complaining!).
Actually, one of the many men in the audience ended up making me a new friend when his conspicuously greasy curls forced a long-time fan of Active Child to ask to share my floor space because ‘that guy’s hair is soooo gross and it keeps touching me.’ I spoke to
the girl for a while and she proved a wealth of knowledge about the opener. She told me the group is heavily inspired by the lead singer’s (Pat Grossi) days as a choir boy – which helped explain why the set crew was setting up harps as well as other, more standard instruments, such as keyboards and drums. Her enthusiasm got me totally pumped to hear Grossi’s classically trained voice, which sounded good in recording but promised to be even better live.
Unfortunately, after that pleasant first encounter, we were faced with a second unexpected incident: technical trouble. Although Active Child was supposed to take the stage at 6:30 (for the early 6:00 show), they didn’t start playing until closer to 7:00. I’ve never seen the Black Cat crew have trouble setting the stage, so I’m not sure where things went wrong, but the keyboardist could not get his sound right. The set-up ended taking so long that Active Child only got four or five songs out before they had to leave to make sure M83 got on-stage in time to keep the late show on track.
I wish the band had been able to rebound from the incident better. They sounded amazing and Grossi’s voice is seriously hauntingly beautiful. The sound of the band is great too. Sadly, it didn’t seem as though the group members really recovered from their delayed start, and they almost seemed to be scowling at the audience the whole time. I’d love to see them again when things are going more smoothly. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed their tracks, especially Way Too Fast and Playing House.
M83 took the stage around 7:20 and just rocked it. Their lights were awesome and they kept the banter to a minimum, instead focusing on pumping out song after song. Perhaps not surprisingly, Midnight City really got the crowd going, as did We Own the Sky. I was surprised by how young the group members looked – to me, their sound comes off as really mature – the product of experienced music-makers. Very impressive.
Between the two bands, they managed to sell out Black Cat for both early and late shows – so I can’t imagine anything but great things from both acts in the future. I’d highly recommend seeing both if you have the chance!
Duran Duran‘s Wedding Album was the first cd I ever bought. I was absolutely in love with the songs Ordinary World and Come Undone at the time and decided to bite the 12 dollar bullet and bought the cd with my allowance when my parents got cd player. I still love those two tracks today so when I was offered a chance to see the legendary English band live on Thursday, I jumped at the chance. It was also my first show ever at the ACC
Duran Duran took the stage at 8:30 (respecting the advanced age of the crowd) and delivered a very solid two hour set that followed the retro band template to a tee. In case you were wondering what that was:
a) Start out with a bang
b) deliver your new material in the beginning, sprinkling a few hits in there to keep fan interest level afloat
c) deliver a hit heavy set to close off the second half of the set
Aside from Girls on Film, the band delivered all the hits you expected – Rio, Hungry like the Wolf, Planet Earth and of course the two songs that delivered me to Duran Duran in the first place.
Here are some highlights of the show:
It was Simon Le Bons 54th birthday and for a man of such advanced age, the dude looks good and can move rather well, although his high kick is now a mid kick and the whole running from the back and bursting onto the stage move looks a little more tender now.
Nice nostalgic touch by Duran Duran before the start of their new single, encouraging all the fans in the crowd to call their radio stations to play it. When was the last time something like that happen? 1993? Side story: When I was 8, I fell in love with the Beach Boys song Kokomo, had my mom call in to request the song, then she recorded it when they played it. So I blame her for all my mp3 pirating habits of the early internet age.
New track The Man Who Stole A Leopard, with it’s weird news clip ending, was an utterly confusing mess
In what started off as a heart felt introduction to the track Ordinary World, Simon Le Bon explained how he wrote the song when a good friend of his passed away and there was all kinds of chaos going around the world right now. He then tells the crowd how lucky we are to live where we live when there was so much suffering in actual quote: “countries like Africa”. Probably just a word mistake (he probably meant continent) but still I was laughing so hard it almost derailed my enjoyment of one of my favorite Duran Duran songs. Luckily, Simon Le Bon and crew just slayed that song – the vocals sounded great, the guitar was top notch and it was probably the best song of the entire set.
Anyone downplaying Duran Duran’s importance in the 80s only needs to attend a show of theirs to realize that the band is responsible for two of the most iconic images from that time. The first is obviously the music video for Hungry Like The Wolf and the other, which caught me surprise was this:
A simple flash of this image on the screen and everyone knew what the next (and set closing) song was. I’m not even that familliar with Duran Duran’s eighty music and I knew what that image was. Both songs brought people to their feet and inspired as much uncoordinated awkward dancing as you would expect.
Big up points to the man beside me who brought both his kids to the show, tried to get them to enjoy the band, trying to play the cool dad, giving up as soon as the biggest hits barrage hit and dancing/sinking in all his glory while his teenage daughter sinks further and further into her chair.
All in all an entirely pleasant time and another band I can check off my list.
Before The Rain
A View To A Kill
All You Need Is Now
Blame The Machines
Safe (In the Heat of the Moment)
The Man Who Stole A Leopard
Is There Something I Should Know?
Leave A Light On
Hungry Like The Wolf
(Reach Up For The) Sunrise