CMW Mega Preview Part I: A Band For Every Letter of the Alphabet

Posted on by Paul in Canadian Music Week | Leave a comment


Canadian Music Week will soon be upon us once again, taking over various venues across our fair city from May 2 – 8. And because I don’t have any better ideas and it seemed to work well enough for us last year, we have decided to once again preview CMW by picking one band for every letter of the alphabet and explaining why you should spend your precious time checking them out next week … or just saying random shit about them. Here we go!

Acid Dad
He’s cool, he’s groovy, he’s tripping balls – he’s Acid Dad! OK, not really, but Acid Dad are a psych punk band from New York, which actually sounds a whole lot better than watching somebody’s Dad on acid.

No, not Scott. Rather it’s Chris Baio, taking a break from Vampire Weekend to bring us some ’80s-inspired synthpop sounds. He may also possibly be dressed somewhat like a waiter – only time will tell.

Collective Soul
C’mon and shine!

Dorian Gray
Part of the fun of fests like CMW is checking out random international bands who’ve travelled a fair distance to play some shows and Italy’s Dorian Gray, who’ve been going since 1989 and have a mildly psychedelic, mellow sound, definitely fits that bill.

Any band that defines their sound as “noise dance” is a must-see in my books. Lend these eyeballs your ears.

Fat White Family
Noisy, shambolic, and quite often in various states of undress, the Fat Whites are rock and roll at it’s best. Or worst, I haven’t quite decided yet. Either way, they’re definitely a band worth seeing during CMW.

Grown Up Avenger Stuff
Did they get their name from a piece of Robert Downey Jr. dialogue from one of those Marvel movies? I don’t know, and I’m too lazy to look it up right now, so let’s just assume that’s the case.

Holy Holy
Famed producer Tony Visconti and drummer Woody Woodmansey are known for their collaborations with the late David Bowie and they bring their tribute to the Thin White Duke back to Toronto for a Sunday night show at The Phoenix.

If Birds Could Fly
I may go see this Appalachian duo just because their name reminds me of this moment from WKRP:

JEFF The Brotherhood
This Nashville brother duo brings the seriously scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll jams. They rock. Do it up.

According to their bio, members of this Swedish five piece used to be in a progressive metal band, though they seem to lean more towards a spacious piano-based sound and list Radiohead, Sigur Ros and Mew as influences.

Lemon Cash
Based on their press photo, I assume that this Ottawa indie/pop/rock band are given to hanging out in taverns across our nation’s capital waiting patiently for someone to take their drink orders. They’re willing to wait for a few more minutes, but really, they could just take their business elsewhere, so hurry up already. They’ve got other things they could be doing, you know …

That’s enough alphabetizing of bands for now. Part 2 is on it’s way soon. Stay tuned.

Concert Review: Father John Misty, April 20, Massey Hall

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Father John Misty brings us closer to God at Massey Hall

By Rob Duffy
Father John Misty

Is Father John Misty trolling us?

Four years after emerging clad in his LA-bound lowlife alter-ego, former folkie Josh Tillman continues to explore the solipsistic paradox of looking for love in a world addled with prescription drugs and subprime mortgages. Though his heartfelt hooks, cynical lyrics, and deeply ironic dance moves may not add up on the surface, the free-wheeling live show Tillman brought to Massey Hall last night demonstrates that the cult of personality curated by this purported hippie-poet-clergyman shows no signs of slowing down. Sure, we’re left to ponder the extent to which Tillman may have turned his whole career into a rock star-sized inside joke, but along the way, it’s impossible not to enjoy the ride.

All the fans who somehow emerged tickets in hand following another Massey Hall website queue disaster (or scored a pair when the venue randomly made a few dozen available the day before the show) were treated to one of the indie-rock events of the season, with Tillman leading a workmanlike backing band through the balance of his two critically acclaimed records as Father John. And, of course, engaging in a wide variety of antics: lovingly stroking the head of the security guard minding the front row, pretending to steal the cell phone of the fan who motioned for a selfie, and adorning himself with the flower crown of a woman who looked like she’d gotten lost on the way to Coachella. Tillman also gave his knees a genuine work-out, crashing dramatically to the floor at the crescendo of nearly every song. His on-stage posing and preening may come off as artificial, but that’s okay, since it’s also genuinely hilarious.

Though his stage banter was decidedly toned down from the nihilistic ranting that we’ve gotten used to, Tillman more than made up for it with his best material, a deeply cerebral mix of faux-earnestness and mock-despair (“Chateau Lobby #3” vs. “Bored in the USA”). In creating Father John Misty, Tillman has conjured a character who’s as comfortable musing about the staggering amount of oil it takes to produce a record (“Now I’m Learning to Love the War”) as he is running into the crowd for a cathartic dance party during his singular up-tempo electro jam (“True Affection”).

So is Father John Misty executing a perfect post-modern pantomime, or is he nothing but a sad-sack strummer with some heavy thoughts? His encore cover of Nine Inch Nails’ shock-rock classic “Closer,” while a curiously perfect fit, offers some hope of an answer. At first blush, the song boldly expresses just about everything Father John attempts to subvert with his apathetic ballads, and adds yet another dense layer to Father John Misty’s ongoing vat of cultural criticism. It’s a complex casserole he’ll no doubt have added to when we see him next on album number three.

Concert Review: Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, April 14, Lincoln Hall

Posted on by Celeste in Concerts | Leave a comment


Thursday evening at Lincoln Hall was fueled by the “combined power of bummer jams.”

Phoebe Bridgers of Los Angeles and Julien Baker of Nashville apparently met at an emo night in some undetermined town years ago and the two hit it off (I know emo night is probably a night composed of emo bands but I’d like to think that it also involves painting each others’ finger nails black and giving everyone swooping bang haircuts). Bridgers, who took to the stage first, described the singer-songwriters’ meeting, prompted by the shirt she was wearing which she purchased at emo night that had “write or die” embroidered on it.

Bridgers started things off with her melancholy tracks, backed by her guitar and a sometimes harmonizing drummer. The connection to Baker is obvious – Bridgers’ music is as unabashedly raw and personal as Bakers’ own tracks. She worked with Ryan Adam’s on the Pax-Am label to release Killer, an emotionally haunting work that played well in Lincoln Hall’s intimate atmosphere. She ended her set with an Elliott Smith cover.

Baker was up next, bringing her own set of melancholia. Working through “Everybody Does,” “Blacktop,” and others off her 2015 debut, she joked with the audience, “Okay thanks for sitting through that with me guys. The feel good ones are up next. That’s a joke. There are no feel good ones.” She pulled Bridgers up for another quick Smith cover, at which point everyone in Lincoln Hall just dissolved into a gooey mess of sadness. Quite a clean up job for the venue. She wrapped up the night with a quick encore and then sent the audience sobbing off into the night.

Concert Review: Chairlift, April 5, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment


Near the beginning of Chairlift’s set, Caroline Polachek commented on how it had been awhile since the band had been to Toronto. It’s a thing that bands often say, but it’s also true – to the best of my recollection, the band was last in town in July of 2013 playing a show at Harbourfront. They seemed in a bit of a transitional phase then – it was after the touring cycle for their sophomore album Something and they seemed to be experimenting with some different sounds and textures. Really though, the band has always been about switching up their sound a bit from album to album, so when their latest album Moth took a more overtly “pop” approach, it wasn’t all that much of a surprise. It’s also a great album, so I was looking forward to hearing the songs live. Chairlift didn’t disappoint.

While Polachek announced to the crowd that the show would mostly feature new stuff, they did also play all of the big singles off of Something, as well as “Bruises,” their breakthrough single off of their debut album Does You Inspire You, though frankly, I could take or leave that song. The band sounded great, and the saxophone was a welcome addition, with a few of the older songs taking on a slightly different arrangement.

I do have one bone to pick with the band though, and that was that they started their set a good 45 minutes after opener Starchild and the New Romantic ended his set. That delay in their start time is likely the reason why I saw a few people leave roughly halfway into the band’s set (and probably not coincidentally, after they’d played most of the old stuff). Sure, maybe they realized they left the stove on at home, or they had to get up early for a serious medical procedure, but more likely they were looking to catch the last GO train home and didn’t mind missing out on “Ch-Ching” – their loss, I suppose. Though it really wasn’t that long, that 45 minute break was a tiny bit longer than I’d care to wait between sets, especially when the band already had all of their gear set up before Starchild even took to the stage. Did they decide to go out for sushi or something in between? We may never know.