Preview: Hillside Music Festival 2009

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Hillside | 4 Comments


With thanks to Trina and Wade

This weekend, July 24 through 26, is the 2009 edition of the Hillside Music Festival, taking place at Guelph Lake Island. Tickets are very nearly sold out, with only Friday night tix still available. Hillside boasts an impressive lineup of mostly Canadian music acts, alongside a spoken word stage and a lengthy workshop schedule.

If you’re not going, Panic Manual has you covered, as Hillside was nice enough to give us a couple of media passes. I’ll have some writing and reviews from Guelph all three days, and I might even provide some Twitter updates from the grounds if anyone’s interested (I’m @brianjpike).

And if you are going, no, I’m not camping, and no, you can’t crash in my hotel room.

You may have  looked at the three-day schedule or the list of performers and thought “I sure wish somebody could give me some ideas about who to see. I don’t know who a few/some/many/any of these bands are.” I was once like you. Then I consulted with my partner and lovely companion Trina, who’ll be joining me at the Festival, emailed our resident indie Canadian music expert Wade, and listened to many samples from MySpace and CBC Radio 3. As a result, we have some “official” Panic Manual recommendations for all three days of Hillside. We also have a playlist on Radio 3’s website where you can hear all our recommendations, in chronological order of when they’re playing too (nice work, Trina), which you can find by going to and do a User Playlist search for “PanicAtHillside”, or just use this handy dandy permalink straight to the playlist.

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Concert Review: Library Voices, July 21st, Horseshoe

Posted on by Wade in Concerts, Everything | 4 Comments

(Toronto) Watching nine people try to perform while crammed onto the tiny stage at the Horseshoe is always entertaining. That’s what happened tonight as Regina Saskatchewan’s’ finest, Library Voices came into town. Tuesday night is Nu Music night down at the Horseshoe and it is always free. If you keep your eye on the listings you can catch some worthwhile bands on the cheap.

Library Voices have a whole grab bag of instruments and sounds to draw from. What else would you expect when there are nine of them? Some strong vocals, a saxophone, some groovy loops and handclaps. The energy of the entire band was pretty high right from the start of the show with the bass player and his tight, tight, tight jeans bouncing around the stage and on top of the drummer. Similar to Los Campesinos!, they have a couple of solid dancy diddys, which nobody danced to on this night, but I suspect that the next time around there will be grooving going on.

It wasn’t until the second to last song that one of the girls stepped up and took the lead on some vocals, which got me thinking, where was she for all the previous songs. My only recommendation; more girl vocals. She sounded great and cranked it up a notch. (Sorry, I don’t know which female member I am talking about here)

On a related note the Gladstone Public Library (Gladstone/Bloor) has its grand re-opening this week. The building has been being restored since 1983 and is finally opening on Thursday. If you do go, you will have to be sure to use your library voices though. Knowledge is free.

Library Voices are at Hillside this weekend and back at the Horseshoe next Tuesday again. Get out and dance.

July 22 – Hamilton, On – @ The Casbah
July 23 – Windsor, On – @ Blind Dog
July 24 – Peterborough, On – @ Montreal House w/ The Burning Hell
July 25 – Guelph, On – Hillside Festival
July 26 – Guelph, On – Hillside Festival
July 28 – Toronto, On – @ Horseshoe Tavern

Concert Review: The Darcys, July 16, Sneaky Dee’s

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | 6 Comments

First of all, I gotta come clean.

1. I did not know who the Darcys were
2. I did not know who the Balconies were
3. I did not know who the Black Hat Brigade were
4. I spent most of the concert talking to the Balconies at their merch table and the gaggle of ladies sitting beside us
5. I was a last minute fill-in for Gary
6. Ricky and I drank a whole lotta beer and left early to eat the most efficiently delivered (and delicious) shawarma, putting another stymie in my vows to shed the excess weight

In otherwords, this is going to be a crummy review that will not do the bands the justice they deserve. But to be fair, there were two openers–the first openers were the Balconies and they were playing when we got there around 10:30. They are a 3-piece set out of Ottawa with an interesting sort of relationship triangle going on. The two vocalists are brother and sister; the drummer and the female vocalist are a couple. They hail from Ottawa and are all transferring to the University of Toronto soon to pursue their classical guitar studies. They have been described as alternative-rocky-eclectic-high-energy stuff. From what I remember this sounds fairly accurate.

Seeing as I took notes on my hand and they are pretty much 80% washed off now, I had to piece together smudged chicken scratch + pry into the memory banks to remember Black Hat Brigade were on next. I missed most of their set because we were sitting near the back trying to get invited to this girl’s cottage in the Kawarthas. So I apologise, Black Hat Brigade. I have subsequently listened to the tunes on their MySpace page and Zombie City Shake has its catchy moments.

Finally, the Darcys hit the stage — I think around midnight or so. Ricky described them as “Canadian Rock” (although they are self-described as Indie / Rock / Shoegaze) and from what we could tell, they have managed to attract quite the young following. In fact I would go so far as to say we were possibly the oldest people there, which spiraled me into a bit of a depression. But let’s get back to that shoegaze thing…is this the most misunderstood category of music or what? You may accuse me of narrow scope here. You may be right. It just seems to me that everyone and their brother is being lumped into “shoegaze” regardless of the fact that their guitars aren’t particularly ambient and the band has terrific showmanship. I guess the Nu Gaze term hasn’t caught on yet. Anyway…yeah. The part of the set we caught was good, but again this review is pretty pathetic, so what do I know? I like their Strange Fits tune but wouldn’t be able to tell you if they played it last night. I think they did…

After that we had delicious shawarma at Ali Babas that was rocketed over to us in under 2 minutes. Whatever was in that sauce made me inhale the thing in under 2 minutes. I’m sure Ricky can elaborate as to what fixins were on there.

TO Jazz Review: Waleed Kush & The African Jazz Ensemble, July 4, Trane Studio

Posted on by Brian in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival | 1 Comment


Toronto – I really need to start bringing a notebook or something to shows I’m reviewing (I should get a better camera too, the photo above was the only one even close to usable and it’s not especially good, but I digress). I say that because I really liked Waleed Kush and the African Jazz Ensemble, but other than Kush, seen above playing the marimba, percussionist Derek Thorne, seen far right, and violinist Laurence Stevenson, who’s off-camera in this shot, I don’t remember and can’t find the names online of more than half the players in Kush’s ensemble: the saxaphonist, drummer, keyboardist, and bassist on songs when Kush was playing marimba.

This is a shame because, along with Kush and Thorne, the star of this show was the guy on saxaphone and clarinet, and I’d like to give him his due regard, but I don’t remember his name. I overheard him saying to someone at the bar he plays sax at Ryerson, but that’s all I know.

It’s interesting to see an ensemble group after spending the week seeing so many jazz quartets who’ve been together for a long time and read each other effortlessly. Here, it was very obvious just who the band leader was. Not only was Kush giving orders, telling guys when to jump in and even giving them a rhythm or melody to play, he looked to have a real mentor/student relationship with the younger guys on stage. It’s fascinating to watch, even if sometimes an ensemble doesn’t have quite as tight a sound as a veteran quartet, with this one no exception.

In addition to leading the band, Kush tends to draw the eye with his energetic playing. A multi-instrumentalist who can, according to his MySpace page, play a ridiculously long list of instruments, Kush limited himself this night merely to vocals, bass guitar, flute, marimba and hand drums. Kush moved to Toronto from Sudan in the early 90’s, and his African roots are very evident in his playing, singing and songwriting. His saxaphonist, whatever his name is, is definitely a talent, even if he could use a bit of seasoning and experience. Thorne’s hands were a blur during a couple of extended bongo/conga solos. Stevenson and the unnamed keyboardist, drummer, and second bassist were all good players, even if they didn’t shine quite as brightly as Kush, Thorne or the saxaphonist. All in all, a solid set, great music for a soundtrack if you’re, say, riding a caravan to Marrakesh or something, but thoroughly enjoyable in other situations as well. Unfortunately, my companion and I had to leave a bit early in order to make an appearance at “Panic at the Boat 2: Electric Boogaloo”, or whatever it was called, but at least we stayed long enough to see Kush play his marimba, which was a great deal of fun; Kush would beat out tunes with his mallets as he practically danced up and down the length of the instrument.

Kush is a Toronto local, so keep an eye out for his shows around town if you’re looking for a fun night of upbeat African-tinged tunes.

Also, this was the first time I’d ever been to Trane Studio, and it’s a great venue, just a little ways up Bathurst from Bloor. We didn’t partake in the food, but it looked good, and the room has a terrific sound and the staff were really nice; the jazz fest was nice enough to call ahead and put me on the guest list, and the Trane Studio people put me up front real close to the stage at the makeshift “media table.” They’ve got shows almost every night this month too. Next time I’ll try the food.