SXSW Review: Mister Heavenly, March 15, Bat Bar

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything, South By Southwest | 1 Comment

Austin – Mister Heavenly is an indie rock supergroup of sorts spearheaded by Nick Thorburn of Islands and featuring Man Man’s Honus Honus and Modest Mouse’s Joe Plummer.  But I’d imagine if one were to do an informal poll of the crowd, the findings would be that the majority of people in attendance were there not because of a fondness for those bands, but for one sole reason: they wanted to see a celebrity play in a band.  Yes, Mister Heavenly also features Michael Cera aka George Michael Bluth, aka that guy from Superbad, aka Scott Pilgrim.  And much like Scott Pilgrim, Cera plays bass in this group. 

The curiosity factor was very high, with one girl outside wondering if Cera would even be playing with them tonight and another guy musing on whether all of their lyrics would come in the form of awkwardly phrased sentences.  I spoke with two guys who had seen them play earlier that afternoon (I think at The IFC House?) who told me after the first song that they sucked, adding, “all their songs sound like this.”  I wondered why they would come see them again if they already knew they sucked, but kept my wouth shut on that matter as I wanted to watch a band, not get into a debate. 

So, did they suck?  No, but it wasn’t quite what I expected either.  In interviews before the band had even really recorded anything, Thorburn described the project as “doom wop,” and not having heard anything from them, I was expecting 1950s style harmonies over slow, droning, doomy riffs.  I was expecting Cera to be laying down some thick bass sludge Geezer Butler style.  This was not the reality.  I could certainly hear the ’50s influence in a lot of the melodies, but not quite the doom part.  Still, it was pretty decent stuff and I look forward to hearing the new album when it comes out.

CMW Review: The Zoobombs, Mar 12, Comfort Zone

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – As some of you may know, fellow Panic Manualer Paul is our resident expert in all things metal and hard rock. Paul has been making an effort of late to broaden his musical horizons by covering jazz and funk shows. I commend him on his efforts. He has risen to the challenge and to this I say “a funkety funk.”

As the Panic Manual’s resident jazz writer, I’ve been tasked by Paul with the following challenge: “review me some hard punk rock music at Canadian Music Week.” To this I respond, “I am up to your challenge Paul!. I also have diverse and broad musical taste! I fear not this punk rock you speak of!” So marks my first hard rock experience since seeing Sum 41 play Ottawa Bluesfest  7 years ago. That experience has amply prepared me for more of the very same type of legitimate hard rock music.

Fast forward to late Saturday evening where I was dragged chose to go to the Comfort Zone to check out Japanese punk rockers the Zoobombs. Sporting a knit tie and a vest, I could tell immediately that I would fit right in. You see, my nefarious plans involved going to the Comfort Zone all along. I knew that this was the sort of all-black-clothes or hoodie wearing crowd that would look down on a silk tie. That’s why I chose a knit tie. I blended in like a mofo. Mark 1. Punk Music 0.

The Zoobombs are an energetic bunch of Japanese punk rockers. My earplugs were turned up to maximum warp and I could still feel the music shake me and my trusty Nikon. After snapping a few shots, I realized that the music was so loud that it was shaking my index finger at just the right tempo to simulate the “quickshot” feature of much more expensive cameras. Take that loud music. Mark 2. Punk Music 0.

It was at this point that I starting to feel like the music was trying to shake my precious brain goo out of its enclosure. A modest retreat was in order. At first Paul was wondering why I was standing behind instead of beside him. Also, I was actually hunching and cowering more than standing. It was at this point that Paul realized that I was expertly wielding him as a sound shield. There was a tremendous amount of sound energy assaulting ears that are more qualified for Chopin than Megadeath. Admittedly, that’s worth two points. Mark 2. Punk Music 2.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated the energy the Zoobombs had to offer. For me it was just like trying to eat an entire watermelon while on E.

Too intense for my blood. Let’s call it a tie.

CMW Review: These Electric Lives, Piper Davis, Mar 12, El Mocambo

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – In my books, it’s not truly a music festival in Toronto until I’ve been to either the Horseshoe or the El Mocambo. The only exception to this rule is the Toronto Jazz Festival. In which case it’s not truly a jazz festival until I’ve been inside that tent with the chandeliers at Nathan Phillips Square, or the Rex. With this in mind, I figured that the El Mo was a good place to start Saturday evening.

The first band on my agenda was These Electric Lives, a Toronto-based band that plays rock, alternative rock, and a brand new form of music I’m calling “indie rock”. The Lives are fronted by singer Chris Martin from Coldplay. At the very least he could have easily been Chris’ brother, or maybe his younger cousin. Their first tune was head-boppariffic, as I caught myself bopping my head almost immediately.

The best part for me was the contrast between the polished Coldplay-esque stage presence of the singer against the rough and tumble drummer. He reminded me of Animal from the Muppets. He looked rough around the edges and he played like he was rough around the edges. It was great. Just check out the lower left corner of the picture above to see what I mean. Although the band got off to a strong start, I felt the wind leave their sails pretty quickly. There was good indie rock moments in there. I just wish the momentum of the first song would have propelled them to an Animal-like craze similar to the Muppet Show theme song.

Next up was Vancouver-based Piper Davis. I don’t really know what to say about this band. The CMW site says “her songs represent a mixed bag of musical genres”. And how. Piper Davis herself danced in angular movements to what I’m told are “micro-sampled beats”. I can only guess that these are tiny beats that are kind of jarring and pierce your ears. I ran into fellow Panic Manualer Brian at the show. Thankfully for him, I had me an extra pair of earplugs.

“Thank you very much for these [earplugs]” – Panic Manualer Brian

Drink sales rose sharply during this set as people moved steadily away from the music and stumbly towards copious amounts of alcohol. Music is such an interesting thing; there’s an indescribable quality to so much of it. Take something and tweak it here and there and you get an amazing live show, or maybe a train wreck. I think there’s a lot to say about a musician’s stage presence, whether they’re truly into it, and the feedback between the artist and the crowd. Unfortunately this particular show seemed to lack all of that.

CMW Review: J Mascis, Kurt Vile, James Vincent McMorrow, March 11, The Great Hall

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

Toronto – “It’s a rare honour to be playing with the two gentlemen I’m on on before,” said opener James Vincent McMorrow of his cohorts on the bill.  “I don’t know if they know who I am … I don’t care.”  The Irish singer was clearly pretty stoked to be there, although he didn’t exactly show it in his body language, standing mostly pretty still during his set other than an occasional buckling of his knees in time to the music.  He had a high soulful voice that complimented his sparse, folky songs.  His voice was a bit reminiscent of Patrick Watson and maybe Jeff Buckley or Peter Silberman of The Antlers. 

I had seen Kurt Vile once before when he opened for Fucked Up on a pretty eclectic bill.  Vile referred to that show onstage, recounting the still-classic “Your mom” retort that he gave to a heckler that night.  Vile is an impressive player, but gives off such a vibe of being a pretty chilled out guy when performing.  At times it seemed like he was almost amused at the concept of performing altogether.  He ended his set with what I seem to recall him introducing as “a new song.”  As he started into it, I thought, “Wow you can really hear a Springsteen influence on this … it sounds a lot like Downbound Train.”  Of course within seconds I realized that it was actually that very same Springsteen song.  Whoops.

If Vile’s a laid back performer, he’s positively animated next to J Mascis.  However, Mascis’ laconic stage presence did not mean that he did not hold the audience’s rapt attention.  Large portions of the crowd listened intently to every note.  And Mascis played his fair share of notes.  Despite playing solo with an acoustic guitar while seated, he was still rocking pretty hard.  “I got a lot of songs, man …” he mused at one point and he played a lot of songs including several from his new album Several Shades of Why, an Edie Brickell cover (apparently Murph used to play that in the van a lot during the early Dinosaur Jr. days) and of course, “Little Fury Things.”   He was also joined by Vile and BSS’s Kevin Drew for harmonies on “Not Enough,” which I suppose makes them The Pips to Mascis’ Gladys Knight … but without the matching suits or synchronized dance moves, of course.