CMW Review: Martha Wainwright, March 22, El Mocambo

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | Leave a comment

The last time I saw Martha Wainwright, I missed half her set due to an unfortunate venue timing mixup. That wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last time that I’m late for a show. It was, however, the most memorable. The remainder was so captivating that it remains on my shortlist of top Toronto Jazz Festival shows. I was not going to miss the start of her CMW appearance.

Martha Wainwright controls her voice the way rocket surgeons control their finely tuned rockets.

Fortunately, I was able to get to the El mo in plenty of time to set up camp. She strode on stage in a bejewelled jacket as if just dismounting from her trusty Harley, then launched into an intimate set of solo acoustic guitar. Her voice is so signature that it really stands in a category all its own. She can serenade like a bird, evoke the singsong qualities of an innocent child, or growl like a rocker. Martha Wainwright controls her voice the way rocket surgeons control their finely tuned rockets.

This was a decidedly different Martha from the one I saw at the jazz fest. That Martha was a demure jazz vixen backed by double bass and warm guitar singing songs from the late great Edith Piaf. That Martha paired nicely with a glass of merlot. This Martha was as ready for a rock show as she was the camp fire. This Martha worked best with some beer. That she can so easily move from chill to elegant and back again underlines her versatility as an artist.

Martha Wainwright has no upcoming shows, though I would consider flying somewhere to see her again.

CMW Review: Sidney York, The Bright Light Social Hour, March 22, Supermarket

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | 1 Comment

You know what’s great about CMW’s website? Live streaming clickable tunes that give you a taste of the band’s repertoire. Dear CMW: please do more of this. It’s awesome. I relied on these clickable little gems last Thursday night to craft one amazing night of live music. After awaking from a power nap at 9:05 pm (!), I was clicking on random things by 9:34, and out the door to see Sidney York at the Supermarket by 9:45. If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes you just don’t know what you want until you click on it.

Sidney York is a tri-city Vancouver/Calgary/Toronto-based collaboration between three band geeks that made good. Like the band geeks from my High School, they play instruments like the oboe, the French horn, and the bassoon. Unlike the band geeks from my High School, they’re ‘effing femme fatale rockers now! Band nerds unite!

The trio crafts super fun indie pop music by pairing their woodwinds, keys, and brass with a backing rock band. That made for a textured sound artfully complemented by lead-singer Brandi Sidoryk’s powerful operatic pipes. My only regret was that in my rush to leave the venue to see Martha Wainwright, I missed my opportunity to tell them how much fun they were, and also to ask whether they would marry me.

The Bright Light Social Hour is an Austin-based southern man’s band coming off a successful SXSW. When I saw this big-haired, big-bearded and big-moustachioed band setup, I had a feeling I was in for some big old-fashioned rock. I was not disappointed. The BLSH rock hard and they rock well. It’s always an amazing thing to see a bunch of musicians play with intensity and grit. It’s even better when that intensity is being guided and focused by sheer talent and hair.

This modern day Lynyrd Skynyrd fuses elements of funk, blues and soul into something that is still unapologetically rock and roll. What more can I say? This was the sleeper hit of my CMW. Go see these guys.

The Bright Light Social Hour is playing shows throughout eastern Ontario over the next few weeks before returning to the U.S. Check them out at Ottawa’s Zaphod Beeblebrox on March 31.

CMW Review: Joseph Arthur, Jordan Cook, The Pack AD, March 22, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Canadian Music Week | 2 Comments

Joseph Arthur is a talented singer-songwriter with a fairly dedicated fanbase, yet he stood out like a sore thumb on this bill.  With the possible exception of Brett Caswell and the Marquee Rose, who went on right before Arthur, he really had nothing in common with the rest of the acts on the bill.  Case in point: this evening’s headliners were Hamilton hard rockers Monster Truck.  A fine band certainly, but I imagine there’s not a great deal of crossover between their fans. (in fact, I could be one of the few … didn’t stick around for Monster Truck though)  Joseph Arthur played a good set, but I felt like his Lou Reed-isms were sort of lost on much of the audience who was not really there to see him and so generally just talked at the back of the bar, drowning him out somewhat.  I’m not sure who put him on this bill, but it didn’t quite work somehow.  Maybe someplace like the Dakota would be a better fit.

Following Arthur was Saskatoon’s Jordan Cook, who, I’m sad to say, sort of had me hating live music for a minute there.  He and his band plowed through some rather generic blues rock (or is it “blooz rawk?”) that did not sit well with me at all.  Not that Cook and his band aren’t talented or anything, it’s just that it’s hard to make this kind of thing sound all that good.  There’s a fine line between The Black Keys and Blueshammer, and these guys are on the wrong side of that line.  During their set, a friend asked, “Are they from Nickelback country?”  More or less.  In fact, I imagine I’d find a Nickelback set infinitely more entertaining than these guys.  Still, they played a Fleetwood Mac cover so I can’t hate on them too much, and some people up front seemed to be enjoying it.  Not my cup of tea though

Following Cook’s unremarkable blues rock, the blues rock of The Pack AD sounded absolutely stellar by comparison.  They avoided the overly cliched stylings of Cook and band and added a bit of a punk edge.  Despite an energetic set, they still left something to be desired, largely in the form of stage banter.  It needs a bit more work, ladies.  Just sayin’.

SXSW: The Recap – Bests, Worsts, Etc.

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

Of Monsters And Men

SXSW has come and gone. Once again, we have survived. The Panic Manual crew even did a road trip through New Orleans to Memphis after the fact to prove it. Nevertheless, it’ll be another twelve months til we hit up Austin again and so for now, we can only relive these memories.

In this engaging round-table discussion, we discussed some of our favorite things about SXSW.

Favorite SXSW Moment?

Paul: There were a few … Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire spraying the crowd with water bottles throught the entire set, while also asking the crowd at one point whether they “like vagina” (apparently they do), the sound guy at the Roky Erickson Ice Cream Social asking over the PA if there was some way to turn off the band next door (who were kind of terrible), and of course, the unique dance moves of Chairlift‘s Caroline Polachek.

Editors note: Paul will be attending Chairlift at the Horseshoe on Wednesday to witness more dancing.

Gary: When 300 ppl sang to Ben Howard‘s Old Pine in St. David’s and it reverberates like a freaking gospel church choir. Or maybe it didn’t reverb. It doesn’t matter – that’s bliss for all in attendance if I ever saw one.

Ricky: Favorite moment was probably when Jesus and Mary Chain took the stage at the Belmont and did not suck live, because I waited five hours to see them and it would have been awful to have them sound like 2012 Happy Mondays or something.

Derek: Sharing a stage with Built to Spill.

Favorite Non Lionel Ritchie Act of SXSW

Derek: Of Monsters And Men were as amazing as I had hoped they would be.

Paul: Chelsea Wolfe put out one of my favourite albums of last year. Despite a few minor sound issues, she and her band did not disappoint live. Honourable mention to Crooked Fingers, Sauti Sol, Thee Oh Sees, and the mighty Peelander-Z.

Ricky: J&MC aside, The Heavy was spectacular live. Honorable mentions goes to Escort, Clock Opera and Howler.

Gary: Dry the River and Of Monsters and Men fought to a draw. The former for a clean performance and great tracks, and the latter for the mini-tsunami of energy as well as sun-tan lotion that they brought from across the oceans.

Most Disappointing Act

Gary: 1) Lost Lander. The performance was NOT the disappointment, but the sonic differences between the awesome demo Cold Feet and their main thrust of the set at Swan Dive was a big put-off for me. 2) The most half-hearted performance would be Willy Mason and his lethargic zombie band. They practically asked to be hated.

Ricky: Ramesh and Oh See Thees. Ramesh I wanted to see, but his soundcheck was so late that I was forced to leave before he even took the stage. Ironically, I went to see the Oh See Thees, who conveniently forgot they were playing at that time. Of the bands that did play, I wasn’t overly impressed with Blouse, a hyped band that was either too tired for their Saturday night showcase or just don’t have any stage presence.

Paul: Waiting way too long for Nachtmystium to set up their many instruments, then getting bored and bailing before they played their Thursday afternoon set at Elysium. Probably not their fault, but I’m a little disappointed I didn’t get to check out some black metal at SXSW. I’m also slightly disappointed with myself for eating Taco Bell in Austin while surrounded by much better tacos. But still, it was free!

Derek: Disappointed that we couldn’t see Ramesh perform due to problems with the venue/equipment.

Breakout Acts

Derek: Ed Sheeran was a real surprise. I expected a skinny, folksky ginger – instead we were treated to wicked freestyling and beat boxing.

Paul: Of Monsters And Men

Gary: Ed Sheeran. Blew our knickers off with a riotous hip-hop gig – let’s hope his new found form is what the American consumers need.

Ricky: Of Monsters and Men is a popular pick, but I’ll go on a limb and say Howler are primed for big things.

Another year, another great festival. See you next year.