Concert Review: Reptar, September 13, Schubas

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1x1.trans Concert Review: Reptar, September 13, Schubas

Reptar is a silly, silly band.

They’re named after a cartoon dinosaur from the Rugrats. The background to their homepage is a ’90s style PC desktop. Their lead singer looks like he’s channeling Billy Madison when he sings. Their saxophonist sports a purple tie dyed shirt proclaiming “Pennsylvania”, their trumpet player’s rocking a straw fedora and their most normal band member, the keyboardist, has shoulder length locks and a sweet ‘stache.

And yet, almost despite themselves, Reptar is a surprisingly together band. They’re fronted by a saxophone and a trumpet. You don’t mess with brass and woodwinds unless you have some serious talent under your belt – and they do. You might find yourself literally laughing out loud at the band when you see them live, but at the same time you’ll be shaking your head, amazed at how tight their performance is and how good they sound – even if they look like a hot mess onstage.

The openers for the night, White Gold, gave a little ode to Reptar that consisted of endearments such as “Reptar … we conquered calculus together.” “Reptar … we punched our way to freedom on our TI-83s lying on your parents’ basement floor.” “Reptar … you made it through middle school one foot at a time in your glitter shoes.” It seemed entirely appropriate for the band – in my mind, Reptar is the class clown who you find out years later found his niche making ice cube trays in the shape of flip phones and made millions.

White Gold deserves a paragraph of their own – led by a tatted frontwoman who ended every song with “siiiiiiiiiiiick” this band is a local Chicago outfit (I really want to write institution here – but since they’ve only been around since 2013 I’ll hold off a couple of years) and They tout themselves as ‘NOISY DANCE FUN POP’, and that’s exactly what they are. At one point, the keyboardist and the drummer hopped offstage to start a dance party in the crowd/give hugs, and the group ended their set with a birthday dance for their drummer to “I love you always forever”.

Reptar had a pretty solid ending as well – the only complaint I’ve ever heard about Schubas is that the tiny venue makes concert endings really awkward. In order to get on or off the stage, the band has to walk through the crowd, so at the end of the show, they either have to walk through the crowd, then walk back for their encore, or they have to huddle in amongst the crowd, wait an appropriate amount of time, and then get back onstage – long story short it’s just a mess. Reptar decided to forego both those options, and for their encore instead just walked into the crowd, and literally played themselves onto the ground. By the end of the concert the entire band was flat out on the floor, wailing on their instruments. (Can’t you just see it, fifteen years from now, their kids going, “Dad! Dad get up off the floor it’s so dirty! This is so embarrassing!!!) For the moment though, their fans are loving every second of it.

Concert Review: Stiff Little Fingers, September 14, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

1x1.trans Concert Review: Stiff Little Fingers, September 14, Lees Palace

A funny thing happened at Sunday night’s Stiff Little Fingers show that kind of took me by surprise – a couple songs in to their set a small mosh pit broke out. I know how absurb that sounds – it’s a punk show so why wouldn’t there be moshing? But as I surveyed the crowd beforehand, I noticed many more instances of grey hair and male pattern baldness than I did mohawks, so I figured this was an old man punk rock show and nothing too crazy would come to pass. It was a Sunday night after all. Yet as it turns out, the Belfast punks still have the ability to work a crowd into a frenzy, proving themselves to be still vital after all these years.

While their set was full of classics from the heyday of their career, Stiff Little Fingers are not content to simply coast on their past success. The band was touring behind their most recent record, the crowdfunded No Going Back. As singer Jake Burns announced, the album had entered the charts, something the band hadn’t accomplished since 1982. And while Burns quipped that “it went straight out again,” he was surprised to find that it had made it to #1 on the rock charts in the UK. This is something another well known Irish band might want to take note of since Stiff Little Fingers were able to accomplish that feat without forcing themselves uninvited onto everyone’s iTunes. It’s well deserved too, as the new album is quite good – far better than we tend to expect from bands who have been around for 37 years. That said, they did only play 3 songs off of it since they’ve got a few others that people might want to hear too. They’re very considerate like that.

Of the new songs, the standout was “My Dark Places,” introduced by Burns as being a song about depression.  He took an opportunity at that point to take a shot at KISS bassist Gene Simmons’ recent controversial comments on the subject, adding, “Don’t listen to Gene Simmons. He’s a dickhead.”  Other highlights included their cover of The Specials’ “Doesn’t Make It Alright”( which Burns admitted they “stole” from The Specials, going so far as to try and release their version first) and “Silver Lining,” a song about trickle down economics, which Burns explained didn’t work because “all it meant was those who were already rich pissed on our heads.”  Of course they ended their set off with some stone cold classics, “Suspect Device” and “Alternative Ulster” and everybody went home happy.

Concert Review: Sun Kil Moon, September 12, Opera House

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1x1.trans Concert Review: Sun Kil Moon, September 12, Opera House

“All you fucking hillbillies shut the fuck up.”

With those words, Sun Kil Moon‘s Mark Kozelek gained a bit of internet notoriety last week after going off on a chatty, inattentive crowd at Raleigh’s Hopscotch Festival before he had even played a note. More recently he took some shots at The War On Drugs at this past weekend’s Ottawa Folk Festival as they seemingly offended him with their “beer commercial lead guitar shit.” It seems he’s on a bit of a roll these days.

Kozelek’s on record as being a big fan of boxing, so in a way it comes as no surprise that when he’s pissed off he’ll come out swinging, much like Mike Tyson did in that recent interview with CP24 that also made the rounds last week. While not as vicious as Iron Mike can be, Kozelek’s been known to go on the offensive with audiences fairly regularly, so it wasn’t really news, but I guess the hillbilly thing made for a good quote so people ran with it.

I’d heard many tales of curmudgeonly Kozelek lashing out at audiences for their misdeeds, but in my only prior experience seeing him live, I caught him in generally good spirits. On this evening in Toronto, he was also in a good mood and faced an audience that was most definitely on his side, perhaps even a little too much. As Kozelek and his bandmates (which included Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley) took to the stage, the closest thing they got to a heckle was someone shouting out, “No hillbillies here!” The good mood continued throughout the night with Kozelek thanking us for being a good audience, telling us how much he loves Canada, giving shout outs to maple syrup and “hot Asian girls,” and reminiscing about the first time he came to Toronto at age 18.

Playing with a full band may have also had something to do with Kozelek’s good spirits. Much of the set was dominated by songs from the latest Sun Kil Moon album, Benji, and they benefited from the fleshed out arrangements (“This two drummer stuff is giving me a boner,” noted Kozelek at one point). For a few songs Kozelek even stood up, put down his guitar,  and fronted the band, giving it a bizarro pop crooner sort of vibe. He joked that he was standing up so that he could stay awake (“This music makes me sleepy.”) though maybe there’s a bit of truth to that as I will admit that towards the end of the show I was feeling like I could have used a nap earlier in the day. Maybe that’s just me though.

Concert Review: The Gaslight Anthem, September 10, 9:30 Club

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1x1.trans Concert Review: The Gaslight Anthem, September 10, 9:30 Club

There are many things I love in life, all of which are exponentially better when combined in any way. Last night, three of those things came together: polished acts, great venues, and punctuality.

What happened last night? The Gaslight Anthem played at the 9:30 Club at 9:30. While I think a lot of us have a special place in our hearts for the small, ‘niche’ indie pop bands that float around the major US cities playing gigs to devoted, but small crowds, there is something to be said for the bands that have hit the sweet spot: years of practice, a significant following, and a stage presence perfected by experience. Still small enough to play in great venues like the 9:30 Club instead of impersonal stadiums, but big enough to sell the heck out of them.

The band’s charisma was apparent in the 9:30 Club long before they took the stage. The older, diverse crowd was obviously pumped and super friendly, many sporting Gaslight Anthem tees, many already practicing the lyrics to their favorite tunes. (Side note: kudos to the 9:30 Club which never fails to impress with their friendly staff and great technical expertise. Special shout-out to the 7-foot-plus bouncer wearing a T-shirt that read “Big Meanie” on it. Appropriate attire for the win.)

As 9:30 drew near, the venue filled with anticipatory applause that amounted to more clapping than some bands ever receive over the course of a show. As the group members took the stage, the Club exploded with excitement, and the band seamlessly launched into their first track with eye-dazzling light arrangements to accompany and enhance their music. The group launched into a variety of old and new songs, endearing themselves even more to the crowd with their unabashed confession that playing new material makes them nervous.

“What if you don’t like it?” they asked (in a paraphrased way). “It’s like that dream where you show up to school on the first day without pants, but instead, you’re playing a song no one likes. It’s the worst.” Obviously they blew it out of the water, playing hits that ranged from their new single, “Stay Vicious,” to their 2012 hit “45″ to their 2008 track “Queen of Lower Chelsea.”

Another note, which I think again speaks to the band’s polish, is the strength of lead singer Brian Fallon’s voice. While some bands are noteworthy for the consistency of their vocals (think Foster the People with that same, high-nasaly sound or fun. with their assertive-statement-singing), Fallon really blows crowds away with the depth, variety, and force of his voice. The man swings from heart-breaking crooning to angst-ridden yelling without missing a beat, and his voice always stays in a range that is pleasant to hear. It’s super impressive in the band’s recordings, but even more so live. As my concert companion so aptly put it: he’s a bit like today’s version of Rod Stewart of the 1980s.

All in all, such a great show. Definitely talent worth seeing live.