TO Jazz Preview: Tips, Tricks, and Tomfoolery

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Everything, Toronto Jazz Festival | 7 Comments

Toronto – The Toronto Jazz Festival starts this Friday with musicians all over the city getting ready to serenade our world leaders. Like so many Toronto festivals, it can be overwhelming to try and decide what shows too see. Thankfully, we’ve compiled this handy dandy guide to help you navigate through all the music that will be playing from June 25 through July 4.

1 – There Be Riches Off The Beaten Path

There are some amazing acts that will be appearing on the main stage at Nathan Phillips Square. While this is a good go to option when it comes to choosing a show, there are definitely many benefits to be had for those willing to wander from the road well-traveled. Great musicians will be playing at all sorts of fun venues. In addition to better sound and a more intimate experience, it will also be cheaper than those main stage acts. Consider:

  • Martha Wainwright (June 25, The Great Hall)
  • Lady Son (June 26, Lula Lounge)
  • Esthero (June 27, Lee’s Palace)
  • Grace Kelly (June 29, Trane Studio)

2 – Find The Free

With most of the tickets for the headliners in the $30-40 price range, going all out at the jazz fest can be an expensive proposition. It’s comforting to know that there are free shows all over the city. Pretty much everything at the main stage that happens before 8 pm is free admission. Furthermore, the main stage at Nathan Phillips Square is basically an open air tent, and there are plastic chairs just on the other side of the tent in the Peace Garden.  Wink wink. Here are some worthwhile free shows:

  • Brandi Disterheft (June 26, Jazz FM Broadcast Centre)
  • Jaffa Road (June 27, Mainstage) – NXNE Review
  • Lost Fingers, Chaka Khan, Macy Gray (July 3, Yonge & Dundas)

3 – The Grandmasters Can Turn It On Like A Switch

With so many great musicians playing at the festival, it can be difficult to choose which shows to attend. Thankfully you’ve already taken some of my penny saving advice to heart and have some leftover funds to splurge on the musical equivalent of fine cognac. The people at the top of their game in the jazz world have a mastery of music that can be turned on like a switch. They’re Jedi masters that communicate with each other and with you using only the force.

  • Herbie Hancock (Jun 26, Mainstage)
  • Stanley Clarke featuring Hiromi (June 28, Mainstage)
  • Dave Brubeck (June 29, Koerner Hall)
  • Keith Jarrett (June 30, Four Seasons)

4 – Jazz Fuses With Everything

At the heart of it, jazz is an improvisational music. Under the right hands it can fuse with pretty much anything. For hip-hop with jazz elements, you can see Andy Milne & Dapp Theory, or the Roots. For soul and African influences, there is Angelique Kidjo. For some soul and funk, check out Mavis Staples or Maceo Parker. There’s amazing music for all stripes, so get out there and soak it in!

  • The Roots (June 29, Mainstage)
  • Angelique Kidjo (July 1, Mainstage)
  • Andy Milne & Dapp Theory (July 3, Trane Studio)

NXNE Review: Young Galaxy and The Besnard Lakes [June 17, 2010, Mod Club]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Everything, North By Northeast, Reviews | 2 Comments

Young Galaxy, NXNE, June 17, 2010, Mod Club

Toronto – Ricky had previously covered the Young Galaxy. Indeed, they sound totally UK and that’s totally OK when they’re from Quebec. When I heard Long live the fallen world I thought Ladyhawke had worked her magic and implanted one of her cat souls. Or maybe they ate a Cranberry that floated across the Atlantic (alright I’ll stop the stupid puns). Unfortunately I had arrived late for the show, and heard only 3-4 songs. One thing I did noticed was that they were very pensive in between, and engaged the crowd intelligently from the periphery. I recall something along the line of “this four word band name conjures up the imagery of X”. The singing was purposeful, not that I was comparing to myspace from the few that I heard, but it flowed well. I will definitely listen to the new album. And they made some great shots during the livelier numbers. There was one shot where it really looked like a galaxy up there.

Besnard Lakes, NXNE, June 17, 2010, Mod Club

The more I look at that picture above the more it looks like a crusader clash; and that’s probably not a bad imagery to have when listening. The word “Nickelback” somehow always floats behind in that cesspool of my mind when Besnard Lakes is mentioned, like some unwanted 1980s relic tv-show. It’s demeaning to even make that connection, but the word association survives the concert. Maybe my brain works on a broken syllabic rhythm. There were more things out of expectations for me. Neither the guitarist Jace Lasek nor his wife, bass/vocal Olga Goreas, looked their voice. That surprise is actually very welcome – Lasek had an even-tempered voice that always hits the notes he writes for, and Goreas fluently shaped her voice to the songs. And I was happy that the concert was never overly rock-n-roll in attitude. I may be wrong, but I don’t recall a really nutty number that the pair rocked out and acknowledged each other endlessly on stage (maybe in the middle of one song… And you lied to me?) Rather, Besnard Lakes methodically worked through their emotional but restrained songs, breaking with ease in-between to check on the audience and time. I think that was actually a very smart move – too often you’re stuck in a string of doleful twists and walk out of the concert feeling like you need to spend another $40/hr to see a psychiatrist. There was a 30 seconds discussion on how the audience would not want them to play too long (for fear that Goreas will come out wearing something funnier than those glowing ACDC horns?) Plus I don’t believe they are overly melancholy. Like most stories, they usually have an uplifting ending. Mod club, at this point, was gradually filling up with people… and smoke. The fog machines were put to good use this night, and together with the resplendent lighting, successfully set the melodramatic atmosphere required to enjoy this music. Sitting down at the tables in Mod Club WHILE taking pictures was a luxury I often do not get to enjoy. I would see them again – they are going to European tour in August – so that might be awhile. Check them out CBC radio3 – Disaster, Albatross, and Devastation are several good ones that they played at this concert.

NXNE Review: Jaffa Road, Kobo Town, June 17, Bread & Circus

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, North By Northeast | 2 Comments

Toronto – Now in its 16th year, it’s clear that NXNE has become an increasingly important landmark on the musical calendar. Just trying to decide what shows to go to on any given night is a daunting task. This year it was important for me to make sure that I not only checked out bands I had never heard before, but preferably at venues I had never seen before. As great as the old stomping grounds are, it’s nice to check out what the other Toronto spots have to offer.

This made it a natural fit for me to check out a bit of the world music line-up at Bread & Circus. As someone who regularly frequents Kensington Market, I’m sadly unfamiliar with many of their night spots. The Bread & Circus is the kind of cozy place that immediately resonates with me. There’s a small but well put together bar in the front, and at the back there is a separate room with a stage. The seating at the back allows people to get their dance-in-the-chair groove on, and there’s enough standing room in front of the stage for others to get their dance-in-their-shoes groove on.

Jaffa Road is world music that fuses poetry in Hebrew, Spanish, and English. They’re sound is an eclectic one that draws upon Indian, Arabic, and Jewish themes. The band has been garnering a lot of attention lately with the release of their debut album Sunplace receiving a Juno nomination for world music album of the year. It certainly felt like lead singer Aviva Chernick was letting her hair down after these recent successes and just enjoying playing a low-key community venue. As eclectic as their musical influences are, it all just seemed to work. The blend of instruments like the stringed Middle-Eastern Ud combined with some Indian-inspired flute made for a fun and exploratory set of music.

Jaffa Road will be playing a free concert at Nathan Phillips Square at 5 pm on Sunday June 27 as part of the Toronto Jazz Festival.

The next band was Kobo Town, fronted by Trinidadian-Canadian Drew Gonsalves. This band draws its influences from traditional calypso, roots reggae, and dub poetry. As a Canadian with Trini roots myself, it was absolutely essential that I check this show out. I love calypso music, and am still figuring out how exactly I’m going to get plugged into the West Indian community in Toronto. Checking out this show seemed like a pretty good start.

The music that Kobo Town creates is both fun and dance-friendly. It’s got the syncopated beats of Caribbean music, combined with some tasteful brass that warms up the sound. The lead singer is an easily likeable musician with a good sense of ukulele rhythm. After dancing for the entire set, the crowd was more than a little disappointed with the strict 40 minute time limit imposed by these types of showcases. Like the rest of the crowd, I was hoping for some more of this Island music. I look forward to seeing Kobo Town play a proper set where they can stretch their legs.

Concert Review: Broken Social Scene, June 19, The Island

Posted on by sarahw in Concerts, Everything | 15 Comments

Toronto – Broken Social Scene was the best concert I have ever attended. The End.

Just kidding! But seriously, Broken Social Scene (BSS) is one of those bands that you just NEED to see live. I love all their albums, but they do not do BSS any justice.

I made my way to the island early to try and avoid the crazy ferry lines that a sold out island concert would cause and arrived as Beach House went on.


First let me bitch about a few things, the beer garden logistics were horrendous. We had to line up to get into either one of the two beer gardens. Then line-up to buy a maximum of four beer tickets and proceeded to line up again to buy a maximum of two beers with the tickets. We stood in line for an hour (whole Beach House set) to get freaking tickets. After this madness we were forced to stay in the beer garden and drink all 4 beers because leaving meant having to rinse and repeat this entire rigmarole.

They should have sold beer tickets at the entrance to the beer garden and lineups inside should only have been to get the beer. I could have avoided this by not drinking, but seriously, an island concert in 40-degree weather with no beer? It tasted so good when it hit my lips…

The Main Event

Okay back to BSS. Seeing as how Broken Social Scene has about 100 members, concert-goers outside of Toronto rarely have the opportunity to enjoy the band in full force. Luckily, most members live in Toronto or were in town for the MMVA’s (I think?). They opened with World Sick, the single off their Forgiveness Rock Record album. From there it got better and better and better. At the forth song, Kevin Drew brought Feist on stage (YES, Leslie Feist) and they sung 7/4 Shoreline. Amazing. About halfway through, Kevin brought Emily Haines on stage (YES, Emily Haines of Metric) to sing Sentimental X’s. Other notables that joined in were James Shaw (Metric) and Sebastian Grainger (Death From Above 1979). They sang most songs off their new album and threw in classics like Stars and Sons, Fire Eyed Boy, Cause = Time, Almost Crimes and Lover’s Spit.

At any given time during the show there were at least 10 band members on stage (I counted at each song, seriously) including two drummers and about 5 guitarists as the backbone. They changed it up for each song, bringing on special guests, including a violinist, having a backup brass ensemble, and a flute at some points. Kevin Drew apologized at many times during the show because “everything kept breaking” but I couldn’t tell (this is not because I was drunk, it’s because I don’t know any better and I was just so happy to see them live).


The best part of this show, apart from THE WHOLE THING, was definitely seeing Feist and Emily Haines sing their parts. I felt all proud to be Canadian at this point and was thinking about how great our current music scene is, there are so many excellent and influential bands hailing from Canada and we have some amazing festivals and concerts that expose them to the masses.

For the finale (Ibi Dreams of Pavement was actually the finale, but I don’t like that song so we’ll ignore it) they played Meet me in the Basement, an EPIC tune and my favorite off their new album. BSS is truly an instrumental band, and the guitar riffs in this song are probably going to go down in musical history books! I don’t want to be too cliché but they killed it with this song. They sound like a tightly woven modern rock orchestra and while I still love the song, it’ll never be the same unless I hear it live.

Broken Social Scene – World Sick by AlwaysHustle