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

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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

Should I Stay or Should I go: Coachella Edition

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Music | 1 Comment

The Coachella lineup was released Tuesday night, and as you would expect, the knee jerk reactions from hardcore music fans (including myself) ranged from “OMG I have to go!”* to “what a lineup!”* to “I would DIE if I can’t make it!”* Given the usual rush of emotions that comes when a music festival lineup is announced, I’ve decided to write a little article about whether or not you should go to Coachella. For the record, Panic Manual members have been to Coachella in 2004, 2006 and 2010.

Let’s start with the obvious – Can You Afford Coachella?

Let’s say you have 3 other friends interested in going. You are on the East coast in a major city with an international airport, then here are some costs. I am assuming you are going to take Thursday off, and Monday off. Here are some rough estimates:

YYZ – LAX: 400$ if you book early
Car Rental: 30$ a person if you are over 25, and someone has a credit card with collision insurance
Gas: 20$ a person
Accomodation: 125$ a person for four nights stay at a reasonable hotel
Coachella ticket: 280$ (absurd)
Food, Merch, Drinks: 150$ (assuming you don’t go nuts)

This ranges out to about $1000 a person for a five day trip. Not insane prices, but definitely will make you want to assess your plans. Some people might suggest you go camping. I don’t know about you, I don’t really want to camp in a desert. Maybe I’m old, but the weather at Palm Springs varies wildly (as would any place in a desert climate) from day to night. The other thing you have to realize is that music festivals are draining exercises, and the last thing you want to do after a night of music festival going is to wander into your campground, finding your tent, realizing your sleeping bag is in a weird angle and then having to fend off any potential drunk/high neighbors. If you are going to Coachella or anywhere far, might as well drop a few more dimes and get yourself a cozy hotel room with a hot tub, so you can get fully recharge for the next days adventure.

Still, music festivals are a great adventure, and as someone who does go to these things, it comes down to the music. So here is my general assessment:

Reasons to Go#1: OMG bands

Anytime I assess a music festival lineup, you pretty much have to find a few bands there that are in the “oh my god, this is something I won’t ever be able to see” zone. These are either bands that are reuniting after a long period (not DFA 1979, who broke up not even 3 Harry Potter movies ago) or bands who rarely tour. Looking at the list, these are the only bands that come to mind:

Duran Duran
Suede (reunited in 2010)
Chemical Brothers
Lauryn Hill (released from mental institution)
Big Audio Dynamite (reuniting)
Leftfield (reunited in 2010)
Empire of the Sun (apparently put on mind blowing shows, but excessive drug use means they sometimes schedule two concerts on the same date in different cities)

Now if you are a hardcore fan of any of these bands, then by all means you should go, assuming they also don’t schedule a North America tour at the same time, or recently just flew to England to see them.

Reason to Go #2 – Haven’t seen many of these bands

Sometimes I forget that I go to a ridiculous amount of shows, and so basically, I’ve probably seen a majority of the bands playing at any festival so if you have never seen bands like Interpol, Animal Collective, Mumford & Sons, The National, PJ Harvey before and you want to somehow wrap up all those experiences in one weekend, then by all means, go. However, you must realize that festival time slots means that each act other then the major headliners will only play about 40 minutes. Do you really want your first time seeing the National to be a 45 minute affair? What if it conflicts with another band you want to see? (That will happen). Still it’s a great way to see a lot of your favorite new bands for a reasonable price. I am guessing you will see about 10 bands a day, 30 bands in total if you go there day and night.

Reason to go #3 – Never been to Music Festival

If you haven’t been to a music festival, Coachella is a pretty sweet first time festival, it’s warm, there are a lot of pretty people everywhere, they all speak English, you get to go to LA, you might run into drunk celebrities and it’s also a pretty good lineup.

Reason to Not Go #1 – You live in Toronto or New York

Let’s face it, most of these bands are going to roll through here at one point or another. You have your own music festivals in which all the bands in size 12 point font will play two or more shows and really, you’ve probably seen these bands before. The Arcade Fire played Toronto 3 times last year and aside from the OMG bands, every band on the list will be here at one point or another if they are touring/and are smart. There are better ways to spend $1000

Reason to Not Go #2 – Most bands only play ~30-40 minutes/ Crowds / Overlap

The two massive drawbacks of overpopulated music festivals is that most bands play a short set and also some major act will be stuffed in a tiny tent that will be too crowded and you’ll get pissed that you didn’t see them (ie Beck in 2004). There will also be at least one instance where you wish you could be at two places at once, although none will be as bad as having Lady Gaga play opposite the Strokes at Lollapalooza. Either way, these are probably the major setbacks of any festival, if you are one to get frustrated easily, then music festivals might not be for you at all.

Reason to Not Go #3 – Propensity for Heatstroke

It gets hot in Palm Springs. There are also thousands of thousands of people. This will raise the heat further. If you are the type who can’t handle heat or a crowd, then this is probably not a great festival for you, unless you are only interested in seeing the bands in size 10 font.

Conclusion

Going somewhere is always fun. Coachella is always fun. It also has the benefit of being the first North American festival, keep in mind there’s also Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, Sasquatch, some thing in San Fran and pretty much every major city that happens every summer, so while you are frantically messaging your friends trying to convince yourself you need to be in Indio, remember that there are other options and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t go. Which you should..probably. I don’t know, I’m not your father.

* I just made those up, didn’t bother looking for references, assumed it to be true. Real Journalism, yo.