Concert Review: Toad the Wet Sprocket and Counting Crows, Wolf Trap, July 5

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1x1.trans Concert Review: Toad the Wet Sprocket and Counting Crows, Wolf Trap, July 5

So, it was America’s birthday recently (Love you Murrica!) and there were all kinds of celebrations going on. Fireworks? Check. Dance parties? Check. American flag muscle tees? Check check check. While America gets better with every year, there are some times in the past that stand out as epic.

The times of the American Revolution, the roaring 20′s, Civil Rights… and snap bracelets. Yes, the early 90s. A time when cut-off jorts, turtlenecks, and crystal tattos were worn proudly and without irony. A time of big hair, bigger attitude, and great music. The soundtrack to this epic time was dominated by two great names who my sister (Celeste, another prestigious Panic Manual correspondent) and I were lucky enough to see on a beautiful summer day in the lovely Wolf Trap Park: Toad the Wet Sprocket and Counting Crows.

The experience was absolutely delightful for many reasons (not least of all because, for once, I was not the oldest person in the venue). Toad the Wet Sprocket was the first reason – the group obviously had many hard core and loyal fans in the audience who gave the band HUGE love for classics such as All I Want and Walk on the Ocean. The band’s latest work also got a ton of applause. Fun fact: Toad the Wet Sprocket funded its latest album, New Constellation, on Kickstarter. The band hoped to raise $50K in two months. Fans contributed that amount in two hours. NBD.

After Toad the Wet Sprocket got the older, super sated (Wolf Trap allows any manner of food and drink to be brought in and people were snacking like champs) crowd primed, Counting Crows took the stage. They gave the crowd everything we wanted: old tunes, no political banter, and a great encore. To be fair, it’s pretty easy to please a super homogeneous, older crowd on a beautiful summer day – but still, Adam Duritz and his crew hit the mark. Even without Mr. Jones in the set, the band gave the fans tons of favorites, including Holiday in Spain, Rain King, and several new tunes from their album Somewhere Under Wonderland.

If a return to the 1990s means more of the likes of these bands, I’m all for it. If 8 and 10 year old Celeste and I used to rock the turtleneck-and-saddle-pants look back in 1995, I’m sure we can do it today too.

Concert Review: Bad Bad Not Good, July 3rd, Adelaide Hall

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1x1.trans Concert Review: Bad Bad Not Good, July 3rd, Adelaide Hall

Usually on Thursdays, I don’t really go to shows. This is because I play Ultimate Frisbee on Thursdays, so timing doesn’t really work out. Luckily, my game started at 7:00 pm and since it’s an 80 minute game, I actually had time to go home, change, get my shit together and haul ass to Adelaide Hall for some Red Bull/Arts & Crafts cross promotion show that featured local band Bad Bad Not Good.

Despite the fact that Bad Bad Not Good have been around for a few years in the Toronto scene, I had not seen them live until this March. I just happened to be in Austin at that time and I caught them play a free show from my VIP perch at the Filter SXSW party. What a pleasant surprise they were! I’m usually quite inebriated in Austin so I wasn’t quite sure if they were actually good or just a figment of my imagination. Since the show was cheap due to being subsidized by the same company who made that guy jump out of a plane in space, I decided to pay three dollars and see if the band was actually good (or if they were bad bad not good…..muhahahahhahahaha)

It turns out they were totally rad. Adelaide Hall is this really weird multi level venue where the people on the balcony can just gaze down to the lower level to watch the musicians perform much like how plantation owners would probably look down into a pit to watch mandingo fights centuries earlier. Either way, the crowd on hand seemed rather stoked to see Bad Bad Not Good. If I had to put a defining characteristic about the crowd, I would say they are mostly “younger then me”. Despite the night being branded “Red Bull Select” I don’t think they were handing out free Red Bulls. Beers were a rather pricey 8 dollars but I managed to convinced myself that I should have two of them. This is what alcoholism does to you, my dear reader(s).

It was just after 11 when the trio took the stage. I cannot state this enough. BBNG were awesome. I think they are like a Canadian Massive Attack, only if Massive Attack liked jazz, snorted cocaine (instead of doing weed) and also, didn’t have all that political junk or vocals to their music. So basically, not like Massive Attack. Maybe an Ontario DJ Shadow. The drummer, Alexander Sowinski is absolutely amazing. His drumming is so skilled and fast I wonder if he would have better off being a master pickpocket instead (given the state of the music industry, that may have been a more financially sound career). Whatever. His drumming propels the band and delivers a dose of energy to the crowd that you would not have expected.

The craziness started happening during the song “Can’t Leave the Night”. It’s a song that starts off like the theme music to Unsolved Mysteries but then twists and turns into an epic jazz meets hip hop meets Calvin Harris if he wasn’t using a synthesizer/mailing it in vibe. It’s a great track and people started god damn moshing to it. MOSHING! to Jazzy stuff! At first, I was just like “white kids” but seriously, BBNG’s just brings this energy to their live show that can never be captured on album.

The moshing sustained throughout the entire set and led me to think about all the reasons why people mosh. Do all these kids have so much pent up aggression that they enjoy pushing and being pushed in a tight confined heated space? Why would they want that? Either way, BBNG seem to inspire this type of behaviour in the kids. Their music, with the pulsating drums and well timed highs and lows was a great vehicle for people to let off some steam and maybe since it has jazz associations to it, they can let off some steam and still feel classy at the same time. It’s like all those murder scenes in movies that are soundtracked by classical music. Violent, yet acceptable. I dunno. There even was this short lil asian dude beside us and he got so jacked up he even decided to go downstairs and stage dive! A lil Asian dude! wtf! What about his wallet? That’s what I would think. He inspires me to do greater things and ponder my own life decisions.

Seeing how it was a homecoming show of sorts, the band brought out members of River Tiber who played the horns on some of BBNG’s tracks, adding an extra emotional depth that made everyone question their own existence or something. It was a nice touch. Honestly, Bad Bad Not Good are a phenomenal live act that is completely unique. They are worth checking out any day of the week.

Turf (ish) Concert Review: Lucius, July 4th, Horseshoe Tavern

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1x1.trans Turf (ish) Concert Review: Lucius, July 4th, Horseshoe Tavern

The first time I saw Lucius, they were playing a breakfast in the middle of SXSW at the W Hotel. It was like 9 am in the morning and frankly, everyone was there for the free breakfast tacos. Amongst the glory that is eggs, bacon, chorizo and salsa, we saw this band that was all dressed up in uniforms. It was cute, their harmonies sounded good to a hung-over Ricky and I admired their perseverance and dedication to playing a god damn breakast show.

The time since that morning has been great for the band. Not only did they release a fantastic debut album, but lead vocalist Jessica Wolfe and Holly Laessig were also featured on San Fermin’s indie hit track Sonsick. Playing a TURF after party show at the Horseshoe, I was eager to see how the band was in a non breakfast scenario.

Even though it was their second show of the day (they had an early gig at the TURF festival), Lucius’s show was great. Playing material off their debut album, the group’s live set totally blew the recorded material out of the water. Performed live, the harmonies and vocals by Wolfe and Laessig sounded fantastic. The two singers just scream talent and can go from singing country-like songs to r&b style tunes in a matter of minutes. The band loves percussion and at any given point, there were at least one or two members of the group banging on something, whether it be drums, snares or cowbells. Those two elements gave the show a surging pulse and when you blend that with hook filled choruses that is sprinkled throughout their music, the outcome is an outrageously pleasurable experience.

It should be noted that the band tried ambitiously to sing without microphones for the last part of their set. It was a valiant attempt, but the chatty crowd really diminished the experience. (They also tried this at the breakfast). Still it was an ambitious attempt by the group, and given all the different genres of music their record touched, ambition is not something Lucius is unfamiliar with. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Concert Review: The Antlers, Mod Club, June 27

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1x1.trans Concert Review: The Antlers, Mod Club, June 27

In the past half decade, the Antlers have carved a nice little space for themselves in the indie rock world. From the emotionally devastating album Hospice to the horn enthused chilled tones of recently released album Familiars, the group has rewarded those who are patient enough to listen through their intricate and methodically built up arrangements with some truly unique music.

New album in hand, the trio (plus an additional musician) took their live show to a sold out Mod Club on Friday night. Consisting of mostly material from their latest album Familiars, the Antler’s set on Friday introduced us to the dream like rock nature of their new record. As with all Antlers songs, all the new material were laid out in slow, ever building arrangements. If theres ever a band that really goes by their own pace, it’s The Antlers. The new material, which lacks the emotional weight of their previous albums, still sounded good, and the inclusion of the trumpet to their music added a new wrinkle to their previous sound and is a good indication that the group is exploring new sounds with each album. Always a good sign.

As always, the crowd (myself included) was just a little more excited for the back catalog portion of the concert and the opening notes of the track Sylvia was met with particular delight. Pete Silbermann has one of the best voices in indie rock today, and it is amazing to see how he can switch from sounding like an angel to a man who sounds like he is at his most desperate in a matter of moments. Something about the Antler tracks just resonates with people that most other bands cannot achieve. I don’t know how to explain it. If you can describe the Antlers music, you can say they are a band that plays their tracks with no wasted notes. The way that the band plays their songs make it seem every chord, drum beat, word and note seems all part of a carefully constructed madness. A truly excellent live performance, even if they didn’t play Two.