CMW Review: Slow, The Dirty Nil, May 9, The Phoenix

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


Midway through their set at The Phoenix as part of Canadian Music Week, Slow singer Tom Anselmi introduced their song “Have Not Been The Same” as “a classic from the annals of Canadian rock history.” The statement was meant to be somewhat self deprecating but was also kind of true – “Have Not Been The Same” is definitely a cult classic among Canadian rock fans of a certain age, a groundbreaking and influential enough tune to make it the namesake of Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985-1995, a book which detailed the development of the Canadian alternative rock scene of the 1980s and 1990s, thus cementing their place in CanRock history.

On the other hand, Slow, while beloved by fans, never reached the same level of fame and notoriety of some of the other bands featured in that book, which might account for the sparse turnout at The Phoenix on Wednesday night. Though the band may never have reached a certain level of fame, they certainly helped to pave the way for later bands such as openers Single Mothers and The Dirty Nil. Sadly, many of the fans who showed up for those bands weren’t really all that interested in seeing a bunch of old timers, making it seem almost like two different shows in the same venue on the same night. A few of the youngsters stuck around, but there were definitely no moshpits happening for the headliners.

While they may have overshot a little on the size of the venue, Slow still put on a fun show and Anselmi’s still a great, engaging, energetic frontman. Perhaps because they’ve been away for so long, the band played like a band maybe half their age, still displaying some of the attitude that inspired their infamous Expo ’86 performance. And though they didn’t quite get the same type of youthfully exuberant fan response as The Dirty Nil did for their set, Slow still put on a show that absolutely satisfied the dedicated fans who stuck around.

Concert Review: Jukebox the Ghost, The Greeting Committee, May 10, House Of Blues

Posted on by halley in Concerts | Leave a comment

Jukebox the Ghost, March 15 2018

How many BFFLs did you make in high school and college? So many, right? You went through everything together: fake IDs (full disclosure: I was too much of a nerd to ever have one of these but I hear they’re great), sports games, theater, spring breaks, exams, summer jobs, travel abroad, crazy parties… you name it they were there for you. You swore to keep in touch after graduation… that may or may not have worked out but you still (probably mostly) think of them fondly. Well, what if that natural separation after school had never happened? What if, instead, you not only remained in touch but discovered unbelievable musical talent among each other? Then you would be lucky enough to be part of either The Greeting Committee or Jukebox the Ghost, both of whom played at Chicago’s House of Blues and rocked the socks off the venue.

The Greeting Committee took the stage around 8:45, the lead singer eliciting aggressive praise from the audience for her killer red romper. The group looked super young and hip in general, only a few years removed from their Kansas City days in Blue Valley High School. The band gained visibility a few years ago while still in school, releasing their first EP, It’s Not All That Bad to instant acclaim. The beauty of this young, talented crew is that they embrace everything they are expected to – their sound is bright, young, a bit angsty, and captures the feelings/thoughts/emotions we all do when we’re trying to get into “adulting.” Listening to this band online, I really liked their acoustic-heavy approach to their songs. I think a lot of young bands rely on really shocking or witty lyrics or a really unique voice to make way in the music world, but this group stood out to me for their beautiful chords and harmonies. They didn’t disappoint in person – both their instrumental pieces and their vocals and lyrics killed. Addie Sartino, their lead vocalist, has a beautifully throaty voice that I’m sure will only deepen and mature as she grows in her role – this young woman has big days ahead of her (she was also super cute at the show – thanking her Greek grandmother – Yaya – several times for being in the audience).

After a great set, these high school friends ceded the stage to their older counterparts, the college-bonded Jukebox the Ghost (JTG). Time for another moment of full disclosure: I HEART JTG. My sister and I have traveled to see them, we’ve racked up at least a dozen shows between the two of us, and we just melt every time they come out with a new single. Their newest album, Off to the Races, is only the latest in their line of instant hits. The trio KILLS IT with their piano-pop sound and oh-so-true-lyrics. “Everybody’s Lonely” is probably their best known new single and it beautifully describes the “super-connected-yet-isolated” social scene of today’s iPhone generation. JTG’s true talent, in my mind, is their ability to synthesize upbeat sound with dark realities and their set this night did that beautifully. The band went through old favorites and new tunes for a loving audience that sang along with every word. While the show itself was, of course, awesome, the highlight of my night was actually running into Ben, the lead singer, on the sidewalk a few hours before the show. Cute, kind, and totally humble, he wowed me with his total calm and happiness at meeting a random fan. Love these guys – whether on stage or on the sidewalk. They’re champs at being on the road and will, most likely, soon be in a city near you. Don’t miss the chance to see them.

Concert Review: The Breeders, May 6, The Phoenix

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment


’90s nostaglia proved to be a powerful draw on Sunday night, bringing out a fairly large crowd for The Breeders’ show at The Phoenix in support of their latest, All Nerve.

Of course the evening wasn’t all about looking to the past. While openers Melkbelly acted as a good link between the past and present as a new band whose sound certainly seems indebted in some ways to the ’90s alt rock sound of the headliners, The Breeders themselves played a decent amount of tracks from the new album that sounded great and were generally well received by the crowd.

Overall, The Breeders put on an entertaining show, running the gamut from early classics like “Divine Hammer” and “Cannonball” to newer numbers “Wait In The Car” and “MetaGoth” (the latter featuring Josephine Wiggs on lead vocal) to covers of The Beatles (“Happiness Is A Warm Gun”) and even a tune from that other band that Kim Deal used to play in (The Pixies’ “Gigantic”).

While many in the crowd were plenty hyped up for the band – several of them bopped along as the band played and there were certainly a few whoops to be heard – the band had a bit of trouble keeping the momentum going at times, with a couple of moments between songs when Kim Deal had to take some time to deal with technical difficulties. The band handled it well though, demonstrating a good sense of humour about everything, such as when Kelly Deal leaned in to the mic to offer up some commentary on her sister’s sound issues.

“Someone’s annoyed. Let’s watch,” she joked as Kim worked on the issue, sounding as if she were the narrator in some sort of rock n’ roll based nature documentary. To be honest, that’s a show I would absolutely watch. Can someone fund this idea and get it into production ASAP? Thanks in advance.

Hot Docs Review: Pick of the Litter [Don Hardy Jr., Dana Nachman, 2018]

Posted on by Gary in Hot Docs | Leave a comment

Pick of the Litter

Put down your smartphone, and spend an hour outdoors. You’ll likely start to notice how modern Homo sapiens are increasingly useless without a plethora of gadgetry to keep track of the minutiae of daily life. What happens if those gadgets now have minds of their own? Do you keep running try-outs until you find the match-made-in-heaven? Will yours be called “Jarvis” like millions other?

Of course I may be talking about artificial intelligence … but not just yet. Man’s best friend is our most ancient, living breathing smart gadget. Pick of the Litter follows 5 puppies born in the same litter as they move up through our world, blissfully unaware of their destiny as faithful companions lounging on a sofa all day, working dogs in many other duties, or guide dogs. The non-profit organization Guide Dogs for the Blind breeds, selects and ultimately pairs vision-impaired folks with trained dogs to give them some semblance of normality and mobility. Keeping themselves and their handlers alive being of the utmost importance, guide dogs need to display a certain aptitude, and hence genetic disposition, proper upbringing, and focused training are all necessary components that must be put together properly.

This is a straightforward and delightful documentary. The dogs are the stars here, of course. Details of their training are bizarre yet irresistible. For example, running a sedan directly into the trainer/dog at crosswalks would not have been my idea of experiential exposure – but that is exactly the type of behind the scenes info one wants. And of course, watching the dogs grow and their personalities blossom is immensely interesting. Those faces the dogs make as they (pretend to) ignore cookies placed in front of their snout are quite hilarious to witness. Having never had any pets, however, I don’t think I can fully understand how volunteers could be excited about the prospect of raising/socializing a puppy to train-able age, only to cut loose months later. It sounds more than anything like a recipe for heartbreak. It is also baffling to see that, like parents of pre-med students, some volunteers even attach a level of pride and self-worth to whether the puppy they helped raise becomes guide dog. Puerile egotism aside, Pick of the Litter is an easy film to recommend to kids of all ages – and all for a noble cause.

Fri, May 4, 1:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, May 6, 3:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1