Song Of The Day: Punch Brothers – Church Street Blues

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Earlier this year Punch Brothers released Hell on Church Street, their track by track re-imagining of iconic bluegrass guitarist Tony Rice’s 1983 album Church Street Blues. The album serves as a fitting tribute to the late Rice, whose pioneering style and willingness to incorporate influences from other genres into bluegrass has clearly been a great influence on Punch Brothers.

Check out the video for Punch Brothers’ “Church Street Blues” below.

Concert Review: Lucius, Celisse, May 18, Opera House

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Lucius (67)

In April, Lucius released their first album in over four years – Second Nature – and this month, they made their way to the stage at The Opera House to show us just how fun it could be when you see it performed live! The duo, who have perfected the arts of musical and stylistic synchronization, along with the other members of the six piece, synth-heavy band had only played two shows in Canada over the past six years, so the fans in attendance had been eagerly awaiting this one.

Kicking things off with the title track from their new album, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe – who in the past have joked about dressing like twins – arrived wearing matching black feather and sequin outfits that would have made Stevie Nicks proud. Laessig and Wolfe didn’t just pair their outfits and vocals together perfectly on their unique double microphone though; they also played drums, keyboard and keytars at various points throughout the show too, in constant unison with one another.

Prior to playing “Dusty Trails” – the only single from their sophomore album Good Grief to be played that evening, Wolfe spoke to the crowd about how the past couple of years of the pandemic had recontextualized some of their songs. When they wrote the song originally, it was about how being on the road had made going home at the end of the tour feel good, but distinctly different than before their careers really took off – and that came with its challenges. But now, with two years and several lockdowns in the rear-view mirror, the song is more of an inverse of that and feels like it’s about not being home anymore and getting used to being back on the road – though she assured the audience, there were more positives to this scenario than the original one.

Past the midway point of the performance, they paused for a minute to call out their opener Celisse – who had been a perfect lead-in for the energy of Lucius – to join them for “Dance Around It” off the new album. Earlier in the night Celisse had made some new fans in the audience with some awesome old-school guitar riffing and songs like “Help Me’“where she was playing both guitar and drums simultaneously. Lucius also called a couple of fans up on stage – fans who had clearly got the memo that sequins were appropriate attire for a Lucius show. As the song started, Celisse stood between the two lead singers and the three of them got everyone, especially the guests on stage, dancing to the poppy indie-disco jam.

When they re-emerged towards the end of the night to start their encore, the pair had done a complete wardrobe change into something that was somehow even more Stevie Nicks-like than their original outfits and sat on the step on the stage to sing “Two of Us on the Run,”  arguably their biggest single from their first album and careers. It was a nice moment of connection and there were points in the stripped down version of the song when the audience was able to sing along with them to further that connection. They rounded out an awesome encore with “Turn It Around” and a cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” which was perfectly suited to the style, aesthetic and vibe of the band, who have certainly embraced a bit of a spacey-disco sound with their new work. With their new album clearly being a bit of a departure from their older works, I’m certainly interested to see where they go in the coming years!
- Kyle Cadogan

Concert Review: Charlotte Cardin, May 13, Elgin Theatre

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Charlotte Cardin (41)

Charlotte Cardin had a busy week in Toronto recently; two days before she performed at the Junos and walked away with four of their awards, she played two nights in front of sold out crowds at the Elgin & Winter Garden Theatre Centre. Cardin had last played here back in September 2019 at The Opera House, so to see thousands of fans pack the much larger theatre was a testament to how far she has come in these past few years.

Over the course of the show, Charlotte and her two bandmates would play the entirety of her new album Phoenix with the occasional older essential tracks strewn throughout the setlist. She spoke to the audience early on about how meaningful it was to be able to be touring the album finally – over a year after its release – and how happy she was that we could all hear it live. She said these songs were important to her and to feel the love from everyone as she performed in front of a live audience was something that she had truly been missing.

We got to see several different sides of Cardin throughout the show: rocking out with a guitar through songs like “Daddy,” dancing behind the keys while playing “Main Girl,” or just singing and vibing to the sounds of her drummer and bassist through the cover of Daniel Belanger’s “Fous N’importe Où.” Before she played “Sun Goes Down (Buddy)” a little more than halfway through the performance, the other band members left the stage and she sat on a stool front and center with her acoustic guitar in hand and told us about how it was a song she wrote for a friend in their time of need. Eyes staring off in the distance as she played the heartfelt melody, you could see from the look on her face that she had clearly poured a lot into the song.

When she played “Meaningless” towards the end of the night – the song which she would later go on to win best single of the year for – the back stage lighting, which had been so many different darker hued colours over the course of the night, turned shades of red, orange & yellow, with what looked like a rising sun in the middle of it. Bathed in that light, Charlotte belted out the hit single while the entire audience danced along. It was only fitting to have such strong colours associated with the song, because with an album name like Phoenix, it was a great visual connection to the idea of a majestic bird rising from the ashes.

For an artist who started playing venues like The Great Hall to now playing the Elgin and at the Junos, it will be fun to see where she goes from here in the coming years. As for those awards, Cardin took home Junos for Album of the Year, Pop Album of the Year and Artist of the Year – an impressive feat!
- Kyle Cadogan

Concert Review: Gang Of Youths, May 6, Danforth Music Hall

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Gang of Youths (35)

Gang of Youths brought their engaging, energetic and joy-inducing show in support of their third full length album, Angel in Realtime, to the Danforth Music Hall’s stage.

The six piece Australian band – playing in Canada for the first time in four years – kicked things off with “The Angel of 8th Ave” as frontman and songwriter David Le’aupeue frenetically danced around the stage; smiling, singing and interacting with the audience and the other members of the band.

For an album rooted in heavier matter – David discovering and exploring his fathers full heritage following his passing – the energy of the show was nothing but positive vibes. Over half of the setlist featured songs from the new album, including a beautiful 7 minute version of “Brothers” which found David playing solo on the keyboard with a single stage light shining down on him. Save for a few moments of fans screaming their support, the audience quietly listened as he gave a powerful performance singing about his father who pretended to be only half Samoan to provide his kids a better life. At the end of the first verse, the line goes “our father’s love was unmistakable and he gave us everything he had, and I guess that meant pretending he was half white, to give his kids a better chance.” Ironically, the choice to do so led to David now working to claim his own indigenous identity, with a more full understanding of his heritage.

Gang of Youths (89)

Gang of Youths also made sure to play some of the older hits fans had been dying to hear again live, like “Heart is a Muscle” early on and “Let Me Down Easy” which David stated was about “dancing, drinking and being good to one another.” The crowd was clearly loving the performance – but there was an amazing moment late in the set when David made his way off the stage and walked through the audience before being crowd surfed back to the stage. This was one of those concert moments that can be so impactful for fans and has been missing these past few years with social distancing bringing more caution to live shows; so on a night when the lead was singing about being good to one another, it was meaningful to see him in amongst the people he was telling to do so.

As the band wrapped up their last song before eventually coming back out for an incredibly punchy, dancy pair of encore songs, the fans asked for them to keep playing not by chanting for an encore, but by going back to singing the ‘doot doots’ of “Let Me Down Easy”, sticking with it for a couple minutes until the band re-emerged. For a group that traveled halfway around the world to be here, Toronto made sure to show them how happy we all were that they had made the trip and we will be eagerly awaiting their return!
- Kyle Cadogan