NXNE Review: Lindy, June 16, Bread & Circus

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, North By Northeast | 1 Comment

Toronto – I have to admit, my Thursday evening NXNE gameplan was cobbled together about 5 minutes after I woke from a nap. I read the bio’s for the bands playing on that evening, listened to what music snippets I could, and drew up an itinerary. When I’m in a state like that, I naturally lean towards either Mozart piano concertos, or chill singer songwriter fare. This is why it’s no huge surprise that one of the bands I chose was a chill singer songwriter Lindy at the Bread & Circus.

Over the years, I’ve increasingly become a fan of Bread & Circus for both CMW and NXNE shows. It’s a great spot to catch live music in an intimate venue. They have classy tables and candles in the back, and the staff is friendly. Lindy played a set of acoustic songs, with an occasional harmonica thrown in for good measure. It was well-constructed music, and exactly what my post-nap self had sought out after sweet blissful sleep. There was some intricate finger-picking work and solid vocals. Many in the crowd were familiar with this Toronto-based musician’s work and were shouting out requests. It was a chill and tidy set of music.

Beautifully Undone by LINDY

NXNE Review: Inlet Sound, June 16, The Detour

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Toronto – My Thursday night at NXNE started at the Detour with Toronto/Hamilton-based Inlet Sound. Despite my many visits to Kensington market, this was my very first time at this tightly packed club. It was a cool little spot; a great place to see a band in an intimate setting. The first thing I noticed was that I was surrounded mostly by young things; many of them seemed to have  just barely crested the 20 year mark. The crowd was so young that a young woman behind me exclaimed, “I feel so old here!”, after which her friend intervened “and she’s only 26!”. Needless to say, this crowd made me feel pretty old.

“I feel really old here!” – 26-year old concert goer

There was something about the music snippet on the NXNE website that had really attracted me to this band. Their studio sounds evoked happy feelings. They had a good variety of instrumentation, including mandolins and violins, and presented a catchy east-coast vibe. I was surprised to find out that the architects of this sound were bare-footed baby-faced young’uns. They played a set of catchy music and have a promising sound. A few more years on the road will definitely help these guys cross the studio/live show divide.

Lost Boys by Inlet Sound

Concert Review: Foster the People, June 18, Mod Club Theatre

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L.A.’s  Foster the People should probably document its incredible timeline for anyone hoping to capitalize on Hype Machine. It seems like only a few short months ago, their breakout single Pumped Up Kicks was making the rounds. I’d be willing to bet that whoever scouted and signed them to Sony Music is rolling in accolades right now. It’s not often that a band enters a major label as indie to enjoy immediate major chart success.

Seeing as the band’s debut Torches has barely been officially out for a month now, Saturday night’s concert at the Mod Club was pretty impressive. They played their first Toronto show at Lee’s Palace in early April only to graduate a mere two and a half months later to the next level. It usually takes bands several tour legs to take that step, so even in today’s breakneck pace of internet-fueled mania, this is very fast progress.

I wonder if openers Gardens & Villa are taking notes.

Unfortunately for them, I find it doubtful that they’ll be skyrocketed to anything other than funemployment in terms of their musical careers. Granted, I only observed around three songs, but throughout them I was whisked to the mall kiosk that features Central Americans in ponchos playing unfortunate new-age flute music. I suppose everyone else was too busy attending Taste of Little Italy or playing NXNE to book anyone more appropriate.

The good news is that Foster the People are charismatic live, and that the album plays better in front of an audience than it does in the studio. That is, with the exception of Pumped Up Kicks (falling rather flat no matter how many bubbles were dropped from the ceiling), which they wisely chose not to close with. There are several enthusiastic drummers who like to perform standing up/slightly hunched over, which only serves to add perceived showmanship. Lead singer Mark Foster is also surprisingly dynamic, which you would not necessarily expect from a former jingle composer.

While the set was quite short, I’m not sure what else we should come to expect from an outfit that has around 10-12 officially released songs. And besides, the frat people needed somewhere to dance in bubbles on a Saturday night.

This is their setlist from the Ohio date last week, which I can only suppose was pretty much what we got on Saturday:

Miss You
Call It What You Want
Life On The Nickel
I Would Do Anything For You
Broken Jaw
Pumped Up Kicks
Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
Helena Beat

Helena Beat by Foster The People

NXNE Review: Jess Hill, June 15, Painted Lady

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, North By Northeast | 1 Comment

Toronto – Ahhh NXNE, my favourite Toronto festival for pure random music discovery. Like CMW, it’s one of those festivals that I enjoy planning my itinerary on the fly. I love to choose a venue or an act to focus my night on, and then largely cast myself to the wind and see where I end up. This year found me at the Painted Lady for opening night.

I arrived for Vancouver-based Jess Hill, a singer-songwriter with a country & blues feel. Her set started with some laid-back tunes. While enjoyable, from the back of the room, her voice sounded muted, maybe even a little mousey. I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. I can only surmise that like a church pipe organ, Jess’ voice just needed some warm up time before she could let loose.

“[talking about a song she wrote for her dad] … My dad complains about two things: that I don’t play this song enough, and that I talk too much” – Jess Hill

About twenty minutes into the set, it became very clear to me that this young lady had an impressive set of pipes. She could growl like June Carter (of Johnny Cash fame), and I mean that in the best possible way. Her stage banter was cute, if a little rambling, but she also displayed some tongue-in-cheek self-awareness. It was friendly, fun, and great way to open the festival.