Concert Review: The Radio Dept, Dec. 5, Scala

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London – On principle, I am generally not  a fan of encores.  They long ago stopped being a genuine surprise and/or expression of a band’s desire to keep playing and have since become more or less a cliche.  The band goes through the charade of pretending to leave the stage and the audience pretty much always expects it to happen.  This is why I’m secretly a little happy whenever a band doesn’t play an encore.  Still, sometimes circumstances can occur that make an encore seem like a genuinely special moment.  Such a moment occurred during Radio Dept‘s Sunday night set at Scala.  As the band left the stage, the crowd began to clap and stomp and cheer and do all the things that audiences do to bring a band back onstage.  But after a little while, the club piped in the prerecorded music that sends out a particular message: there will be no encore.  Yet on this night, people did not just resign themselves to this fact and instead kept on clapping.  And much to my surprise (and the band’s as well) they came back onstage and then proceeded to … well, to do nothing for a little bit.  “Sorry, we don’t usually do encores.”  they said as they figured out what to do.  Problems with the drum machine combined with the fact that they really hadn’t planned on coming out again led to some scrambling around but eventually they worked out a drum-free rendition of “1995” that had much of the audience clapping along and left us all satisfied (except for the guy outside afterwards who was overheard to say he expected more of them.  Relax, guy.  It was a good show).

The encore was the perfect ending to an equally impressive set of songs from their latest, Clinging To A Scheme, along with several older numbers … but not “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done.”  In response to a shouted request for “Damage,” singer Johan Duncanson replied, “Sorry, we haven’t rehearsed that one,” before adding, “This one is almost as old.” They then launched into “Bus,” also off their debut album,  Lesser Matters. Perhaps this was intended as some sort of consolation prize.

Overall, it was a good show.  The band’s dreamy, shoegazey brand of indie pop came across quite well live.  The songs tend to blend together but in a good wall of noise sort of way, achieving a mesmerising quality.  Duncanson’s voice shone through pretty strongly and the whole band seemed like pretty laid back but solid performers, not saying too much in terms of stage banter.  Radio Dept. seemed happy to play before the fairly packed audience and were obviously somewhat surprised at the crowd calling for the aforementioned encore.  “On a Sunday night too!”  said Duncanson as they returned to the stage.  I will admit that I was not overly familiar with Radio Dept’s stuff before this show, but they impressed me and they definitely restored my faith in the concept of the encore.  They earned that encore.

Radio Dept. – Heaven’s On Fire by AnnaVictrola

Concert Review: Stornoway, El Mocambo, November 30

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – British folk music is starting to take over. With the surging popularity of acts like Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons, its only fitting we see more and more bands from this genre. Enter Stornaway, a four piece folk act from england with an occasional strings and horn section. They were in town on Thursday to promote their new album Beachcomber’s Windowsill, which featured the hit single Zorbing.

The set started off with a violin solo by violinist Rahul Satija. The rest of the band took the stage shortly. The 4 piece band featured Brian Briggs on vocals, Rob Steadman on Drums and Jon Ouin and Oli Steadman on various instruments. The latter two’s usage of synths, banjos and various string instruments had me actually doubting my labeling of them as a folk band as they showed a lot more depth and layered with their sounds. Still, the band played a solid set of cleverly written songs that made you feel like you were in a tavern, in some village on a rolling hill somewhere in Britain. The English dominate crowd seemed to appreciate all the references to the old country. The band seemed genuinely pleased to be playing to such a large crowd after having played Columbus the previous night.

What really set the show apart was the encore. With the crowd already in the palm of his hands following the 1-2 set ending punch featuring the previously mentioned Zorbing , lead singer Brian Briggs took the stage for the encore and asked the crowd if he could play unplugged. Bringing back the string section, Stornoway played an incredible version of The End of the Movie. The unplugged guitars coupled with a string secton made the song sound absolutely incredible. It was so good that the couple standing beside us finally shut up and stopped talking during the song. An equally strong acappella version of We Are the Battery Human capped off what turned out to be a spectacular show.

Stornoway – The End Of The Movie by ballongino

Concert Review: Leif Vollebekk, Wilderness of Manitoba, November 25th, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Although I am more of a brit rock / electro pop listening kind of guy, I generally believe that everytypes of music has it’s place and time. It turned out that last Thursdays triple bill of Olenka, Leif Vollebekk and the Wilderness of Manitoba was the perfect place and time for me. You see, I had arrived at the Horseshoe on the heels of a hard fought ball hockey game, one where I got so pissed at one of our own players for his lack of defensive intensity that I yelled at him on one particular play loud enough for the entire gym to hear, and made some of my teammates cringe. It was a bit harsh, but I don’t care much for half hearted efforts on the court. I needed to simmer down. It was just a ball hockey game in a recreational league. What I needed, was a night of smooth, relaxing, homely folkish songs, and that’s what I got on Thursday.

Arriving later then I expected, I missed Olenka & The Autumn Lovers set, which started at 9pm sharp. From what I heard, it was pretty good. Shortly after 10 pm, Leif Vollebekk entered the stage with a drummer and a bassist, something that apparently is not typical for him. Leif had a very laid back demeanor and frequently made funny anecdotes with the crowd. It was very homely.

His music reminded me of Bob Dylan mixed with some Ryan Adams. Basically, it was a bunch of storyish lyrics layered over some calming acoustic guitar work. I wonder if I got the Dylan comparison because he did a Dylan cover. I’m not sure. Maybe I just ripped off what Frank wrote. I’m not sure about that either. It was pleasant. I think harmonica’s have a way of calming people down, makes you think of those times back in the day when things were simpler, and you were some beggar in the midwest, just trying to find a living, hopping on trains with other similarly unfortunate souls and as you past the time, you whip out the harmonica and bust out some songs about struggling. That’s what I visualize when I heard these tunes. Just the good ole days. Maybe in my previous lifetime I was one of these people in the wild wild west. Maybe I’ve been playing too much Red Dead Redemption. I don’t know.

The Wilderness of Manitoba were the headliners on this triple bill. It was a landmark moment for me. This was the fifth time I’ve seen the band, making them the band I’ve seen the most. Up until last Thursday, I had seen the following bands four times:

The Antlers
Belle & Sebastian
British Sea Power
Franz Ferdinand
Matt & Kim
The Rapture

Yet somehow the Wilderness of Manitoba managed to surpass them all in just a year! How did this happen? I don’t even have an album of theirs. They aren’t even British. It goes to show, if you work as hard as they do, and play in the city as many times as they have, inevitably, you will have seem them live a few times. I last saw the Wilderness of Manitoba at Summerworks. Re-reading that article, I just realized I used the same material from the last article as I did in the previous paragraph. Sigh. I’m a recycler of my own words.

Even with my fading memory, I am happy to announce that the band seemed to have taken another step forward in their showmanship. I’m not sure how much they utilized their drummer in the past, but this time around, he was quite a large part of their show, providing a nice oomph to their otherwise soft folk music. It appealed to the side of me that like music to move a quicker pace, something that a folk act occasionally misses. It was a nice little bit of enhanced energy that added to their show, which once again featured exceptional harmonies. My only complaint was that I didn’t quite hearthe bowl that one of the dudes used, making it seemed kind of gimmicky (especially if you haven’t seen them before) and also Melissa’s vocals seemed to have been drowned out by the louder then usual instruments.

All in all, it was a lovely evening filled with friendly vibes and peaceful, calming music.

The Wilderness of Manitoba – Bluebirds (Live at Yale St July 14 2010) by PirateClub

Concert Review: Tame Impala, Nov 24, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by sarahw in Concerts, Reviews | 3 Comments

Tame Impala

For those of you who follow my posts closely (I know that’s about 95% of this blog’s readers) you may have noticed my inclination to the slightly overzealous and enthusiastic.  The lowest score I’ve ever given a band on here is 3/5.

Enter bitter, disappointed Sarah.

Back Story – June, 2010

I liked Tame Impala before everyone else. Just kidding.  A friend’s Facebook wall post introduced me to this Australian psychedelic rock band.  Their debut album Innerspeaker quickly became one of my favourites of the summer.  These Pitchfork darlings have a unique rhythmic, psychedelic sound that channels 60’s rock bands like The Doors and The Kinks.

Fast Forward to November 24, 2010

I arrived at the Horseshoe cold and sober, but excited to find that this show was completely sold out.  Nice work boys!

They kicked the night off with It’s Not Meant to be.  Not the best opening I thought, but hey, maybe they just need to get into their groove.  From there things kind of spiraled into a psychedelic, reverb-laden, distorted mess.  Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW this is part of their style and it sounds ace on the album.  However this style did not translate well into a live show.  For clarity’s sake I will now compose a list of all the things I did not enjoy about the show.

  1. It was next to impossible to hear the vocals over the instrumentals
  2. The vocals I could hear were terrible, in fact I think all the effects actually mask the lead-singer’s sub-par voice
  3. There was way too much feedback
  4. At some points the vocals and instrumentals were not in sync
  5. The band had zero stage presence
  6. There was no encore (probably for the best)

In their defense, I don’t think that the Horseshoe was the best venue for this type of band.  Something larger with superior sound capabilities would have been better suited for this show, like Mod Club or Phoenix for instance.

Further to their defense, I saw a lot of people rocking out during the show and read some decent reviews from other Toronto bloggers.  One blogger even had the audacity to compare the lead singer to John Lennon, what the fuck is that about?

Lastly, I will still recommend the album, it’s excellent.  I especially enjoy the tracks Solitude is Bliss and I Don’t Really mind.  However, save your cash, save your ears, save your time because Tame Impala are extremely tame and underwhelming live.