Concert Review: Foxes in Fiction, August 12, Tiger Bar

Posted on by Allison in Albums, Concerts, Everything, Music, Reviews | 14 Comments

I have a very soft place in my enlarged heart for start-up musicians (and I suppose at some point, everyone is a start-up). Call me the equivalent of a patron-of-the-arts Flo Nightingale — there is something I can’t quite resist about people fiddling around in their parents’ houses, eventually graduating to blogosphere public release, and a gig at a dive bar. They might be the next big thing, and they might not. Life is full of randomness, and the thing I like about these music makin’ kids is that such successes or failures seem irrelevant, because either way there is some force within them that is compelling them towards creative expression. There’s a purity in that goal that I find refreshing because it is the very definition of artistic innocence.

Foxes in Fiction‘s Warren Hildebrand fits this bill to a tee, so it should come as no surprise that I was willing to slug it out on a late Thursday night. I wanted to see what this kid was all about, seeing as he’s garnered some attention from Pitchfork (an accomplishment that the relentless show promoter would not let go, but hey, he bought me a beer, so maybe I should let go of the fact that he sounded like he was promoting a liquidation sale in Brampton), and seems to be an all-round nice kid.

I have to admit though, I very much lamented the space that he had to play in. I don’t know if any of you have had the pleasure of going to Tiger Bar (whose name seems counterproductive, seeing as the upstairs part has a bar as well, though at least the bartender here actually responds to you when you call–more than I can say for the dickwad upstairs), but it evokes the feeling of standing in someone’s dodgy basement. Plastic lawn chairs are scattered everywhere, there is garden latticework stapled to the ceiling, and a smell that competes with the Boat’s overwhelming mustiness. On top of that, there is the serious design flaw of having the bar’s supply room smack dab in the centre of the stage, a feature that poor Warren had to compete with throughout his set.

As for the set itself, it started off pretty rockily. Warren is a one-man show, and I sincerely hope he reconsiders this set-up as he progresses, because as our friends from Zaza have commented, requiring one person to play a bajillion different band instruments eventually becomes akin to, “dancing around like a clown onstage”. The first song in his set started off with an oddly long sample that I think was supposed to sound like the beach, but maybe it was wind blowing (there were a couple of instances in which his sample was offbeat his actual guitar playing). Either way, I wasn’t sure what I had committed myself to despite liking the three songs I had skimmed beforehand. But soon after he started in on his guitar, I quickly realized that we had a homegrown next generation Bradford Cox (Deerhunter, Atlas Sound) on our hands.

You would think that I of all people would be receptive to any musician overly derivative of Coxy, and I am. It’s just that so many of the songs I had heard played on the du-woppy flavor of songs like Walkabout (Atlas Sound’s collaboration with Panda Bear), I was left wondering if the kid had any individual musical range whatsoever.  He proved me wrong with his last couple of songs, though. One called Rainfall particularly stood out, which he awkwardly dedicated to his friend Ryan. His entire family was in attendance as well, and boy were they ever conspicuous. His mother, grandmother, and siblings attended with a carafe of red wine they were all sharing. Warren even dedicated a song to his “Nana”, and I can’t lie. That warmed the cockles of my heart (the support he enjoyed from his family almost made up for the fact that the band that went on before him were obnoxiously talking throughout his entire set).

I generally give a thumbs-up to the music. You can listen for yourself by downloading the album for free here, but as the Pitchfork review brings across, this is basically more or less an extension of Atlas Sound’s Logos. In terms of the actual stage presence / connection with the audience, I felt the kid was shortchanged. There were only about 15 people in the audience, many of whom I’m certain were personal friends, acquaintances, or blood relatives. In spite of his incredibly stilted awkwardness, he did make some attempts to reach out and touch something only to be met with a fistful of air.

All I can say to young Warren is that I see a lot of potential here. Keep your nose clean, keep making music you love, practice in public, stay humble, and give everyone reason to believe in what you’re doing beyond riding the Pitchfork wave. I want to see another B. Cox, not another Nathan Williams (Wavves).

Summerworks Interview: Keith Barker [Homegrown]

Posted on by Wade in Everything, Summerworks | 1 Comment

Keith Barker from the Summerworks play Homegrown

A lot has been said already about the Summerwokrs show Homegrown. Good, bad, the Prime Minister. It is all out there. No matter what you think of the show, it has certainly raised some quesions about the arts, funding, terrorism and the media.

Keith Barker is a Toronto actor who plays the roll of Greg, the boyfriend, in Homegrown. I wondered what it was like to be an actor involved with a play that has gotten so much political attention. I sat down to ask Keith to talk about his involvement, as an actor, in Homegrown.

How did the opportunity to be cast in Homegrown come about for you?
I was contacted by Bea Pizano the director of the piece. We knew each other through Native Earth Performing Arts where I was the Artistic Associate for two years. She had seen me in The Making of St. Jerome by Marie Beath Badian at the Next Stage Festival in January and contacted me regarding a piece she was mounting at the Summerworks Festival.

How much did you know about the Toronto 18 story prior to accepting your role in Homegrown. How has your perception changed of the entire news story?
Only what i had heard on the television and read in the papers, which was very little due to the publication ban. I had seen the video of men loading a truck and a swat team storming in, but that was about it.

The fact that Catherine Frid (writer) is a lawyer has been very valuable to this process. She has been able to explain the legal details of the case in a way that makes them understandable. The Terrorism Act is something I knew little about before my involvement in HOMEGROWN and it is a very scary piece of legislation with very broad powers given to police and the government. I was reminded of the way the G20 was handled in Toronto and how if the people are scared enough there is a lot of room for the police, the government and the media to take advantage. I think HOMEGROWN is an important piece because it begins a conversation that few in Canada are having and it is unfortunate that the media coverage has chosen to take the direction it has and for the most part not engaged the public and taken the opportunity to grow the conversation.

What are some possible consequences for you, as a professional working actor, after being involved in such a controversial production? Benefits too?
I am not really sure at this point. I have had really positive feedback and support from my fellow artists and from family and friends. While everyone may not agree on the politics of the trial or the accused we are having positive debate and dialogue about something that is current and affects all of us.

As for my future as a professional actor it is difficult to think that this would be harmful in anyway but then again I didn’t think the Prime Minister of Canada, would make a statement denouncing the play, I didn’t think the Sun newspaper would put a cast member on the front cover with the words ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ printed underneath it or that this would be the beginning of a debate on funding for the arts and censorship. We need to be talking about these issues, absolutely, but i think an informed conversation is better than making assumptions.

Why did you ultimately decide to take part in Homegrown?
To be honest, I was nervous. I had friends who made very legitimate arguments about turning this piece down. I had a long conversation with my mom & my partner about it. As soon as I admitted to myself that the content made me uncomfortable I knew I had to do it.

What has been the hardest part about doing this play? Usually I ignore reviews, but it has been difficult not to read the articles and news reports that keep showing up in the headlines. Especially since it’s been so inflammatory. I found it most troubling that public officials and the media were making statements and writing stories even before they had read or seen the play.

You can catch Homegrown today, August 13th at 5:30 or Saturday, August 14th at10:30PM at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace.

Classic Album Review: Roxy Music – Roxy Music [1972, Island]

Posted on by Allison in Albums, Classic Albums, Everything, Music, Reviews | 2 Comments

It saddens me that most people my age will only strongly identify Roxy Music‘s “wuss rock” period towards the end of their run with Avalon, due almost entirely to the excellent scoring Sofia Coppola accomplished with Lost in Translation. Listen…it’s not that songs like “More Than This” are bad; in fact, More Than This is gorgeously cynical (read: the words of a disappointed romantic, where idealism wants to co-exist with an uncompromising reality) showcase of Bryan Ferry’s songwriting skills. It’s just that there is no comparison to Roxy Music 1972. Their debut album takes you to the outermost limits of the spacey universe and back again, a journey that is often achieved within the frame work of ONE song, all captured within the single spun thread of the album narrative. This is what modern experimental music wishes it could be. This is what “indie” music was before it knew it existed. This is where you can use words like “eclectic” and “avant-garde” without sounding like a pretentious dickhead.

One of its greatest triumphs is that it has one of the best Side Ones known to man, and a Side Two that takes you into the depths of alien tumbleweed country, where people (and extraterrestrials) are probably doing lots of drugs. Though I don’t believe the band needed to resort to massive acid dropping to record this masterpiece, it can sometimes feel that way because it’s so otherworldly.

Virtually every song is actually four to five songs in one, making this recording feel like the definition of an epic adventure, borrowing from numerous genres ironically without seeming like it’s trying to pull off hipster schtick. This is Roxy fuckin’ Music after all, whose 1972 line-up is probably the only one in the world that could possibly make oboes sound this cool. In fact, this incarnation of the Roxy Music line-up is the very definition of a tongue-in-cheek dream team. See below for brilliant rock ‘n roll recipe:

1. Bryan Ferry – vocals, piano, Hohner Pianet, Mellotron
2. Brian Eno – VCS3 synthesizer, tape effects, back-up (a kindred spirit, in that we both fail to see the appeal of sports and the desire for musical reunions)
3. Andy Mackay – oboe, saxophone, back-up
4. Phil Manzanera – guitar
5. Graham Simpson – bass
6. Paul Thompson – drums

Is this a modest recording in any sense of the word? Hell no, and why would you want it to be? Roxy Music has a Godzilla-sized ten showy songs strung together and woven into an anti-lo-fi  masterpiece. I guess if you’ve got the plumage, you might as well flaunt it.

Now let’s get into the meat:

Re-Make / Re-Model – Some kind of spastic saxophone-infused frenzy that I could imagine being played in that Star Wars bar (nerds, help out with the name) at any time of day or night. One of the best features of this song is the multitude of solos interspersed with short barely pauses, gradually droning out to a faded end that takes over a minute to fizzle out. In reflecting upon the drum bit at the end, I think Paul Thompson may have doubled as Animal from the Muppet Show.

Ladytron – The beginning of this tune brings us some of the finest oboe music known to man with a creepy lulling effect and a jaunty little middle. Ferry’s voice sounds increasingly like a bleating goat here, and nothing could be more perfect. Those crashing bits meshed with the weird space echoing effect makes you long for about seven minutes more of it.

If There Is Something – In spite of my intense dislike of equine, I would choose this song if I ever had to make an entrance riding on one. There seem to be at least three distinct parts to it: the first is a happy go-lucky western-ish romp through the countryside, the second is a darker bit on the trail, the third is prolonged oboe sadness, the fourth is a vocal masterpiece in which Ferry makes us feel like we’re sitting in his gospel.

Virginia Plain – I remember first hearing this in high school alongside Brian Eno’s Burning Airlines Bring You So Much More, resulting in my listening to little else throughout Grade 11. The artists of today only wish they could write a song ending as appropriately punchy as this. Virginia Plain has all the virile energy of a bajillion tiger penises, and then some. Chumps drink Red Bull to harness the energy to stay awake. I listen to Virginia Plain.

2HB – Here’s lookin’ at you kid. Not my favorite track off the album, but you can’t win ‘em all. It starts to get awesome around the 2:30 mark with the subtle keyboard playing a more prominent role than the sax.

The Bob (Medley) – One of the trippiest things ever recorded with a purely rock the fuck out tearing through starting at the 0:50 mark, and the best example of distinct songs working within the same narrative / framework. Around 1:35 your mind gaskets start being blown to bits again by weird unidentifiable sounds that somehow don’t seem the least bit arty for the sake of being arty. 3:05 brings us to 70’s-infused LSD-ville, dipping again into the somber, lifting up again to the rock out. A fine masterpiece of a song.

Chance Meeting – Kind of a sad swansong, but also one of the flatter songs on the album.

Would You Believe? – At first you think this is going to be a bit of a sleepy number, but then you hit 1:12 and it turns into an electric take on Chubby Checker’s “The Twist”, eventually cooling down into a tambourine-happy fade out.

Sea Breezes – Every time I hear this one it absolutely slays me. I could lie in the middle of the floor listening to this on extended repeat. If I were overdosing on something in the 70’s, I’d want to listen to this as I was being taken to the hospital…but wait, 3:35 rolls around and the intrepid change in tune indicates that I’m clawing my way back to a respectful member of society again. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this is the power of different sweeping cadences.

Bitters End – Du-wop-ish, very Twin Peaks, very Platters, very good.

Fucking very, very good.

Summerworks: Diamond Rings, PS I Love You, August 11, Upper Ossington Theatre

Posted on by Ricky in Summerworks | 3 Comments

Toronto – A very good Wednesday night at Summerworks was spoiled when we walked to the House of Poutini after the show and realized it was closed. Having played a soccer game, going home, eating a quick and small portion of black bean salad and then going to the show, I didn’t have the chance for a proper dinner. The show was great and I wanted to cap it off with poutine. They were CLOSED. Amazing. I wasn’t aware it was Wednesday. Worse of all, I dragged fellow bloggers Jen Polk and Joe from Mechanical Forest Sound along with me on my quest to fill my stomach with potatoes, cheese curds and gravy. Now they were there standing with me, dejected, empty handed and probably hungry. I felt that perhaps this was my White Castle moment, only I wasn’t high. I wasn’t even drunk, despite sneaking in a small little bottle of cognac into the theatre.

The Diamond Rings set at Summerworks Festival ended with a new song for an encore, called Leftovers. With PS I Love You on stage with him, this song definitely had a strong almost new wave meets grunge rock vibe to it, and it was good. Each line of the song was punctuated by a WOOOOOAH that might have sounded contrived if it didn’t sound so good. I’ve concluded that John O’Regan can write a perfect pop hook in his sleep.

One of the beautiful things about local shows is that you know if their friends are in town or something, they’ll show up for the set and there will be some kind of collaboration. This was such the case for the last two songs of the Diamond Rings set, when PS I Love You was invited back up on stage to do the two biggest hits of each act – Facelove and All Yr Songs. Both songs sounded awesome and I marveled at how good the rock version of All Yr Songs sounds live. That song is probably the perfect pop song, the hook on it is amazing. You get the feeling if someone like Rihanna got a hold of it, it would become the biggest song of the summer. The drummer and guitar added a nice rock feel to it that I enjoy. PS I Love You’s Paul Saulnier is quite a talented guitarist and I enjoyed the nice guitar solo he added to that song. Luckily for us, Joe from Mechanical Forest Sounds recorded it so you too, can enjoy it.

Having seen Diamond Rings a few times, I was quite please to hear some tunes I had never heard before. All of it was good. I like how he occasionally incorporates 90s style mid song raps into his songs. I think that was influenced by New Kids on the Block, where during the middle of a pop song, Donnie Wahlberg would deliver a rap out of nowhere. The more I listen to Diamond Rings, the more I realize it’s a great homage to 90s style pop music, mixed in with the electronic DIY influences of the 2000s. It’s a great blend of nostalgia and freshness. Naturally, the singles Show Me Your Stuff and Wait and See got the best responses from the audience, which was, for once, a nice balance of girls and boys. Did I mention I love summers?

When Diamond Rings took the stage wearing some sort of makeup with a 1992 Blue Jays shirt, I was once again reminded of how much stage presence the dude has. It’s quite hard to be up there on stage all by yourself but John O’Regan pulls it off quite naturally and his appearance instantly commands your attention. The crowd, which was half sitting and half standing during the PS I Love You set, instantly crowded up a little closer when he took the stage.

I was so glad that the intermission between acts wasn’t as long as the intermission for the Hidden Cameras show on Friday. That intermission was so long, I could have went home, marinated some ribs, put it in the fridge for awhile, pulled it out, go to hardware store and buy a smoker, hike into the forest and cut down some hickory or mesquite wood, go home, set up the smoker, cook the ribs and then ate it. This intermission was nice and brief.

Openers PS I Love You impressed me with their set. As you may recall, I wasn’t overly impressed with their set at NXNE. I think that was partially because of who came before them (Japandroids) and the time of the night (1 am). This time around, I got a nice dose of 90s era grunge rock. I didn’t hear the track Facelove, but I guess that was a surprise for later. For a band with just one guitarist and one drummer, they made quite a racket and their songs while immersed in a dense guitar sound did have elements of pop to it, with Paul Saulnier showing us his different vocal ranges with some of his screams and yells.

In case you didn’t know, PS I Love You and Diamond Rings are two acts that are quickly rising through the music scene. Diamond Rings has been a Pitchfork endorsed youtube sensation with his videos All Yr Songs, Wait and See and Show Me Your Stuff and PS I Love You released a critically acclaimed single/EP last year as well. Both acts were playing at the Upper Ossington Theatre as a part of the Summerworks Festival.

I went into the Ossington Theatre on Wednesday expecting a good show and it was delivered as promised.

I re-watched the movie Memento earlier this week. It was good.

Diamond Rings feat PS I Love You – All Yr Songs (live 2010-08-11) by panicmanual