Concert Review: Of Monsters And Men, September 11, Budweiser Stage

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Though I will admit I haven’t yet spent much time with Of Monsters And Men‘s latest album Fever Dream, I do find that the newer stuff doesn’t grab me the way that their debut My Head Is An Animal did – it doesn’t quite have the same warm, folksy vibes as that album. On the other hand, the newer material is not without its own charms and is probably better suited to the larger venues they’re playing these days anyways. And if you’re looking for grabbers, set opener “Alligator” does have a certain immediacy to it.

It’s hard to believe it’s been eight years since the band released their debut album but a quick glance at the calendar confirms that it absolutely has been that long. In the intervening years, they’ve released two more albums and have also moved up in the world, going from playing their very first Toronto show at the El Mocambo all the way to headlining the Budweiser Stage all these years later. Admittedly, this did come as a bit of a surprise to me. I guess the moral of the story here is that unless it’s a mega huge popstar or some legacy act that’s been around for decades, I don’t have the best sense of exactly how popular things are with the masses. So be it.

Even so, Of Monsters And Men put on a rousing performance full of crowd favourites like “Little Talks” and “King And Lionheart” alongside a healthy serving of the newer material and a few off of sophomore album Beneath The Skin and proved that they’re more than capable of holding their own in the big rooms.

Song Of The Day: Esther Rose – Only Loving You

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Photo by Rush Jagoe

New Orleans-by-way-of-Detroit singer-songwriter Esther Rose’s sophomore album You Made It This Far, released late last month on Father/Daughter Records, is an impressive collection of classic sounding folk/country tunes.

From the plaintive tone of opening track “Always Changing” to the bouncy “Handyman” to wistful closer “Don’t Blame It On The Moon“, it’s a solid album throughout, with “Only Loving You” standing out as one of the highlights. The video for “Only Loving You” was filmed at New Orleans’ St. Roch Tavern, which offers up pinball, karaoke, and a $15 dollar haircut + beer combo. Seems like a pretty happening spot.

Esther Rose plays The Horseshoe Tavern on September 17 and 18 opening for Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets. Haircut not included.

MattyFest Review: Jennifer Castle, Young Guv, METZ, Danny Brown, Standing On The Corner, Descendents, Wu Tang Clan, September 7, Echo Beach

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Going back to the days of hardcore shows in the basement of his old restaurant Parts & Labour, chef Matty Matheson has always tried to combine his passions for both food and music. While both the restaurant and its basement concert venue have since closed, Matheson has continued to combine the two and taken things to the next level with the first edition of Mattyfest, a day long outdoor festival that continues on the tradition of birthday parties/shows that Matheson has thrown for himself in the past. And for the first edition of Mattyfest at Echo Beach, Matheson attracted an impressive lineup of talent both local and international alongside some of the best restaurants in town for a festival that was as much about the food as it was the music.

After taking in a bit of Luna Li and a bit of Ruby Waters, the first set that I was able to devote my full attention to (after devoting my attention to a Matty’s Pattys burger) was Jennifer Castle’s mid-afternoon set on the mainstage. While a set of folk/country/rock tunes about death may not exactly scream party time, Castle and her excellent band The Angels of Death ran through a set of songs from the album of the same name that definitely got the afternoon off to a good start. From there I made my way over to the smaller Matty Stage to check out Young Guv. The band, led by Fucked Up guitarist Ben Cook, ran through a energetic set that gave me some definite ’90s flashbacks and made for one of the highlights of the whole day. Cook took the opportunity a couple of times during the set to give a shout out to his mom, who was attending one of his gigs for the first time. I guess you don’t have the opportunity to play too many mom-friendly shows when you’ve spent most of your career playing in hardcore bands.

After some typically energetic sets on the mainstage from local noise rockers METZ and Detroit rapper Danny Brown (who noted that he couldn’t jump around too much during his set because there was “too much good food here” – he wasn’t wrong), I took in one of the more unique sets of the entire festival, a performance from New York’s Standing On The Corner, who offered up plenty of jazzy, experimental sounds that made for a rather compelling sonic journey throughout.

While the day’s lineup was full of great performances, the biggest draws for many were of course the final two acts of the night – Descendents and Wu Tang Clan.

For their headining set, Wu Tang Clan took the time to show Toronto some love, giving shout outs to the championship Raptors team as well as Bianca Andreescu (who I believe was referred to as “that tennis chick who won today”) and also taking a minute to plug Raekwon’s new store that just opened up in Toronto. While it’s never a given that the whole crew will show up for a Wu Tang show, we were in fact treated to the full Wu Tang Clan experience on this evening with all of the members in attendance – they even had the son of the late ODB filling in for his father and absolutely doing him justice. Wu Tang definitely did, as the song says, “Bring Da Ruckus”, running through hit after hit over the course of the evening, even including some snippets of hits from the Beatles and Nirvana because why the hell not?

During their set shortly before Wu Tang closed things out, Descendents rather appropriately dedicated the songs “Wienerschnitzel” and “I Like Food” to Matheson and really, there could be no better anthem for the entire festival that the latter, with its refrain of “I Like food/Food tastes good” summing up the theme of the day quite nicely.

Song Of The Day: Vivian Girls – Something To Do

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I can’t really say that any band getting back together surprises me at all anymore, but I will admit that Vivian Girls putting out something new kind of snuck up on me. Between Cassie Ramone’s solo career and Katy Goodman’s work as La Sera over the last few years, I wasn’t necessarily expecting them to reunite for a new album, but it’s certainly a welcome surprise.

The band’s upcoming fourth record, Memory, is due to be released September 20th on Polyvinyl Records. Check out the video for first single “Something To Do” below: