Concert Review: The Wilderness, Modern Superstitions, January 20, Lee’s Palace

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Toronto – Based on Sarah’s review of their show this past November, I was curious to see what local band The Wilderness were all about.  In fact, I had seen them once before, but committed minor concert douchebaggery by not totally paying attention to them.  Based on the number of people who came out to see them at Lee’s Palace on this night, it seems that The Wilderness is gaining a bit of a following.  I’m sure that a sizeable part of their appeal is based not just on their songs (which did indeed get much of the crowd dancing a bit) but on the fact that they put some effort into making their show a bit of a spectacle.  By the second song, singer Lee Piazza tossed a bag of balloons into the audience to be distributed.  Not quite realizing what he was doing, I initially thought, “What the hell?  Did he just give that guy a bag of chips?”  But no, they were in fact balloons, and the crowd took their cue, blowing them up and tossing them around, making the show somewhat akin to a low rent version of a Flaming Lips show. 

 In addition to the balloons, I later noticed Piazza occasionally shaking something over those standing in front of the stage.  Again, my poor addled brain got confused and assumed he was either using some sort of percussion instrument or performing a strange shamanic ritual on those people.  Well, he may in fact have been performing some sort of ritual, but upon reading about their previous shows afterwards, I realized he was sprinkling glitter all over the audience.  The sparkles and the balloons did seem a bit gimmicky, but they were effective gimmicks.  Who doesn’t like balloons?

As far as the music went, they had some interesting stuff going on sonically.  They’ve been said to have a post-punk sound and that is accurate, but I did find Piazza’s vocals to be a bit much at times.  On one song, his voice was veering into Rammstein territory and I’m not sure that’s what he was going for.  Still, there’s no denying he has a powerful voice, and I did like the way he used it rhythmically in some songs as if it were just another instrument in the band.

Also on the bill were Modern Superstitions.  Much like The Wilderness, I had also seen them perform once before, over a year ago at The Horseshoe as openers for The Reigning Sound.  Since that show, the band has obviously logged in many hours onstage, including opening slots for The Hold Steady and Mudhoney and a short tour of Ontario with Sloan, and it shows.    They offered up an impressive set of garage-ish rock highlighted by Nyssa Rosaleen’s strong vocals.   

Concert Review: Hooray For Earth, The Concretes, Jan 17, Horseshoe Tavern

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Toronto – It took something old and something new to drag me out of non concert going routine I had settled into for most of 2011. The something old was The Concretes, a Swedish pop act that I first saw almost seven years ago. The something new was New York’s Hooray For Earth, a band who has only released one EP to date, last years excellent Momo.

The last time the Concretes were in town, they drew a reasonable but relatively small crowd, and this time was no different. The Horseshoe was barely filled when I arrived at 9:30. Whether it affected Hooray For Earths performance, I don’t know but I gather it’s a bit of a disappointment to have to lug your crap all across the border and play to 30 people. Either way, the four piece band soldiered on and played a solid set. I thought some of the sound was a bit muffled and the band had already mentioned that they had to borrow a snare drum so I guess there were some issues. The live performance wasn’t as crisp or clean as the album and the bands low key vibe could give off the perception they were just going through the motions. Maybe that’s their personality, I don’t know. The band can definitely write some great tunes (ie Surrounded By Your Friends, Comfortable/Comparable) and even with the sound issues, you can tell their talent will eventually take them places.

Hooray for Earth – Surrounded By Your Friends (Twin Shadow Remix) by SUPMAG

The Concretes played a much different set then I had expected. With a new lead singer (former drummer Lisa Milberg), the band seemed to have taken a disco dancey vibe and it was evident right off the bat with one the singles off the new album WYWH. Wearing what I assumed was a rain jacket complimented by bangs that would make Sandra Bullock envious, Lisa Milberg asked the crowd to move forward, creating a more intimate affair and attempted to start a mini dance floor, which ultimately failed due to it being a Monday night and well, the songs weren’t really played at a frenetic pace or anything. The new tracks continued to be played throughout the set and it became evident that this rendition of the Concretes would be very different then the previous one. A few covers and older material were peppered throughout the hour long set and despite not really knowing much new material, I came away impressed with the bands ability to craft catchy tracks.

The Concretes – Good Evening by Playground Music

Concert Review: Jayhawks, January 18, Phoenix Concert Theatre

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | 2 Comments

Paul, 2011

The Jayhawks are one of those bands that I started paying attention to too late. By the time I had started to notice, it was already 2003 (where Gary Louris had released their last real album, Rainy Day Music) and the Americana movement of the early and mid-90’s had already seemingly passed by. It’s too bad, because this was probably my favorite sub-genre of alternative music (certainly country), spinning off into other great, though less country-sounding stuff like Grant Lee Buffalo (whatever happened to them!?).

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that I was a little bit lost at the show last night, which featured their original mid-90’s lineup with Mark Olson (one of the original co-founders with Gary Louris, who left the band to be with his then-wife Victoria Williams while she struggled with MS). I recognized a few of the big songs from Tomorrow the Green Grass like Blue, but generally found that I was listening fresh–and liked what I heard. It was really their ability to harmonize golden simplicity and gruff complexity that stuck me. Acts of today should take note: harmony can make the difference between lifeless and alive.

As Toronto was the first date in what is being dubbed as their “Reunion Tour,”I can understand why so many folks showed up last night (to the extent that Olson was likening our collective odor to skunk B.O.) to see these two play together again. Although I felt the original catalogue of alt-country-rocking that a lot of their fans came out to see felt a little like they were going through the motions…I reiterate that I think we should encourage artists that reunite and actually create new material to play this new material instead of juke-boxing every perceived hit. Like Sherry Bobbins says, “I’m not a bloody jukebox!” There is always a new and better energy with the new (with the exception of a B-side they played that will be on their upcoming release, which I only remember as being described by Olson as a “dark place”) that didn’t play over as well. But again, I note that it was Louris’s voice and the harmonization with Olson’s that really made me pay attention…songs like I’d Run Away, Two Hearts, and the highlight of the show for me–Bad Time.

These guys are definitely a classic example of an act that, as good as they are in the studio, are about a million times better live…helped in large part by the fact that Louris’s 24K voice would make anyone melt into a puddle. Louris’s current protege, Canadian Kristen Jones joined them on keyboards and back-up vocals and I’m sure had a hand in kicking things off in Toronto. I implore Gary to stay so that I might marry his voice.

Someone please post the setlist.

02 Tried And True Love by METRO Magazine

Concert Review: The Vaccines, Horseshoe Tavern, January 18

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Toronto – Clocking in at a rough 25 minutes, London’s The Vaccines played a short but blistering set of nostalgic Ramones meets wall of sound style rock tracks that mostly justified all the hype that surrounded the four piece band. Front man Justin Young often plays the guitar with a pseudo psychotic look that gazes past all the crowd into a space thats only reserve for young rock stars. I am sure once he gets a little more shows under his belt that the show will become more manic, more memorable and more visceral, something I think the band is going for. Watching this band, I was reminded of The Subways and the Pigeon Detectives, previously hyped retro styled rock bands from the UK with a penchant for sub 2 minute songs. The styles between the three bands are different though, but the buzz around them seemed the same.

All in all it was a good show for those who have learned that NME hands out “best band ____” declarations like free candy and was just there for a good rock show. Those who were expecting a life changing moment might have left disappointed, but they’ll just purchase the next issue of the magazine and forget about the band anyway.

Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) by The Vaccines