NXNE Concert Review: Ruby Coast, Jason Collett, Horseshoe Tavern, June 20

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, North By Northeast | Leave a comment

Ruby Coast

Toronto – Last Saturday CBC Radio 3 hosted a night of music at the Horseshoe Tavern. The night began with performances by Woodpigeon and DD/MM/YYYY. The third band of the night was Ruby Coast, hailing from Aurora, Ontario. The band formed in 2006 and are coming off their EP Projectable Collections, produced by Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club.

This was an energetic young band that played straight up Canadian-brand Indie Rock. I would say that their set was good. There was nothing extra-special or standout, but it was an enjoyable set. Ruby Coast is a relatively young band, and I look forward to what they will be cooking up as they progress as musicians and as a band.

Jason Collett

The next show was the big crowd-draw of the night for the Horseshoe. I feel sorry for the band that had to follow Toronto-based Jason Collett (it was Hot Panda), because the place pretty much emptied when his set finished. This was some great Indie-folk at its best. Jason Collett, of Broken Social Scene fame, has pared down his sound and written a slew of simple straight-up foot-tapping rock tunes. His sound is a great mix of folk and rock, all with a down-to-earth country vibe that keeps chugging along at a reassuring pace.

[On latest album] It’s not like we really stripped things down, it’s just that we never gussied them up. – Jason Collett

This was a great rock show. I like the simple approach that Jason brings to his solo project. As much as he loves to be part of that Broken Social Scene wall of sound, he intentionally decided with this latest project he wasn’t going to embellish things with strings and horns. As Jason describes his latest album Here’s To Being Here, “There’s not a lot of trickery to it. It’s not like we really stripped things down, it’s just that we never gussied them up.”

Couldn’t have described it better myself. Stand up rock show.

NXNE Concert Review: Woodpigeon, DD/MM/YYYY, Horseshoe Tavern, June 20

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Everything, North By Northeast | 7 Comments

Wood Pigeon

Toronto – It’s easy to cover shows that fall to one extreme or the other on the enjoyment spectrum. Great shows and terrible shows are both easy to write home about. It’s the middling shows where you really need to distill what it is you’d like to convey. I spent last Saturday night checking out bands at the Horseshoe sponsored by CBC Radio 3. Fortunately for me, the following two write-ups will be dead easy.

After a few days of listening to energetic music and brash young rock, it was an absolute treat to sit back and soak in a more relaxed fare.

The first show of the night was Calgary-based Woodpigeon and this write-up is easy in the best sense of the term. This band plays a laid back indie-folk that evokes in me the same kind of feelings as the Great Lake Swimmers. After a few days of listening to energetic music and brash young rock, it was an absolute treat to sit back and soak in a more relaxed fare. The musicians weren’t competing for your attention, but rather trying to complement each other. Fancy that! Hats off to the two female vocalists. Their harmonies were subtle, but tasteful and appreciated. This show was a breath of fresh for me, and was an understated highlight of my NXNE.

[Last song of the set] This is a song about drowning. Thanks for coming out. – Woodpigeon

At the end of the show, a CBC Radio 3 representative presented Woodpigeon with the new Canadian artist award. It’s great to see this band getting some recognition for their laid back folksy vibes.


Listening to [Woodpigeon was like being near a calm babbling brook in the middle of the forest.] Having that followed up by DD/MM/YYYY was like 5 drunk fratboys finding your little slice of heaven and puking in it, then on you.

The following show is just as easy to write about, but for very different reasons.  DD/MM/YYYY (pronounced “day month year”) is a Toronto-based band that has been described as “A mess of spastic, specially challenged art rock with jagged, diamondback guitars”. Listening to opening band Woodpigeon was like sipping freshly made iced tea by a calm little babbling brook in the middle of the forest. Having that followed up by DD/MM/YYYY was like 5 drunk fratboys finding your little slice of heaven and puking in it, then on you.

Ouch. I don’t feel a thread of guilt for trashing this band. I’ve never seen a more negative bunch of “musicians” who had so little qualms about criticizing potential fans. Half-way through the set the singer, in the broken jargon of well read young 20-year old punk anarchist said something like, “We read in the paper, the newspaper, the paper thingies about someone saying that we were getting tired of touring. F*ck you, whoever said that, we’re not tired. We’re f*cking troupers”.

Now, I don’t work for a band, or a record label, but I’m pretty sure I know a few things about the music industry.  Number 1: alienating potential fans by throwing negativity at them isn’t going to get you very far. You could see from the very start of the set that any good vibes leftover by Woodpigeon were thoroughly trummelled by DD/MM/YYYY. Number 2: whoever said “this band has been touring non-stop and is tired” was trying to be nice. It’s industry speak for “this band sucks, but we are going to give them a graceful out by offering excuses.”  If you decide to spit on the outheld hand, then that’s not our problem.

The polite Canadian-style applause at the end of every song was entirely too generous for this band. I haven’t even described their music yet: it was unmusical. I would characterize it as loud, jarring (in an imaginative way) and jarring.

(Yes, this is 0/5)

NXNE Concert Review: Coeur de Pirate [Dakota Tavern, June 19, 2009]

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

Coeur de Pirate(Béatrice Martin) was good. Jian Ghomeshi told all of Canada on his show that morning that they should head down to the Dakota Tavern to check her out. And they did. Jian showed up too. Funny how my friends were stuck in line, but once the show started, Jian Ghomeshi magically appeared in the crowd.

Coeur de Pirate is 19, covered in tattoos and from Montréal. Her coolness factor was pretty high before she even sang a note. This being her first time in Toronto, she didn’t seem nervous at all. Her music went from slow and somber to jazzy and bouncy. She talked to the crowed during her set and came of as really genuine. She did a cover of that “I kissed a girl and I liked it” song. If I had heard the original I might have appreciated her version a little bit better, but it was still good.

Now lets talk about some photography etiquette at shows.

Like I mentioned, the added spotlight of being on Q that morning put some added cameras in the audience for Béatrices’ performance. Here are some documentation strategies and etiquette that I observed during the show:

Good Photo Etiquette #1
- Frank from Chromewaves scored a sweet photo spot at the front of the stage but spent the entire set crouched down taking pictures so as not to block those behind him. Some other guy did the same thing.

Good Photo Etiquette #2 - Gary, our photographer, stood front row for the first song, then let two girls stand in front of him once it was over. Gary eventually ended up standing on a chair at the back/side to snap his pics.

Good Photo Etiquette #3 – The AUX.tv crew were there and they filmed their material crouched down in the front and left after the second song.

Lets talk about some bad etiquette:

Bad Etiquette #1 – There was this guy taking pictures throughout the entire Coure de Pirat set wearing a backpack and who had his camera on a unipod, moving around the stage at the Dakota like he owned the place. Stage left, stage right, up the middle. At one point about seven songs into her set he forced his way up to the side of the stage where I was standing and asked the girl standing in front of me if she would move so that he could take a picture. Hesitantly the girl agreed and stepped aside as he moved into her prime spot for about the duration of a song to take pictures. I wish he would have asked me for my spot as he would have gotten a response something like…

Dude, we are seven songs into her set. If you haven’t taken a decent photo yet, you need to reconsider your career/hobby choice. Bug off.

Also, taking pictures with your cell phone at a show isn’t necessarily bad etiquette, but you do look like an idiot while you do it, so don’t.

NXNE Concert review: Zeus, Timber Timbre, and Still Life Still [The Courthouse, June 18, 2009]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts, North By Northeast | 1 Comment

Toronto – Let’s just say I doubt any city other than Austin TX has the stamina to run 5 days of 12 hr music festival packed with people from all walks of life who collectively have probably walked all of Earth. But Toronto is doing a fine job trying. The nice thing about going to NxNE is that shows start later at 8pm – per our bilingual tradition no self-respecting Canadian in his/her own turf would get going before tea and dinner/wine time. This gave me a chance to be selective and then head down – kudos to the organizers. After sampling myspace I decided for the Courthouse.

Still Life Still, The Courthouse, NxNE 2009

The Courthouse is a bit of a oddity for music – it’s actually a dance club with 25′ ceiling and a gargantuan chandelier. Purple lighting and the spacious-ness gives you the illusion of exclusivity – which of course defeats the entire purpose of a concert… if you want that you’d go to jail – which then bags the question why the Don Jail is being turned into an office and not a night club, but I digress. It does make a spectacular photo. True of all shows at NxNE that I saw, there weren’t much technical issues, and the bands started on-time. Hometown band Zeus came out with “how does it feel”, and brought the crowd into the right mood. And with very good solid command of presentation I might add – it feels like they are a more mature band than that betrayed by their band-age: if myspace wasn’t lying they formed in 2007/08. They are fairly crisp and flighty in sound, but I would say their songs are a tad hard to track down. It might have something to do with the fact that all of the band member except the drums take over vocal at some point. It would seem that each cover their respective song. Numbers like “Marching Through Your Head” was pretty expressive through the vocal and I almost wish they stuck with that road. But who am I to dictate?

Zeus, The Courthouse, NxNE 2009

Timber Timbre started with 2 min of bird chirps. It was a fitting backdrop to the lumberjack green that him and the saxophone had in common. It slowly morphed into the opener “There is a cure”. It’s hard to describe this guy. If you imagine listening to a tape recording of someone singing blues at 1/5 normal speed in the loo of their cottage… When I went on to Dakota Tavern a day later, I did find someone at the show who said they found him pretentious. I don’t quite think that’s true. I do agree that his songs flow from one to the next without much changes when it’s live – not always in a good way since the audience weren’t mesmerized but could distinctively feel the need to switch. I do like the tunes though – there’s a definite 1999 Moby feel to it. I would like to hear a bit more from him… and would also appreciate it if he looks up a bit more often or finds a club that doesn’t give him a huge face shadow – it was a mess to try to capture his expressions with everyone trying to irradiate him.

timber timbre, The Courthouse, NxNE 2009

And this is when the decision got tough – I had a 8am meeting the next morning but the Stills were coming. In the end I watched East York’s Still Life Still for a bit and went to the back for a wrap-up picture. They had lots of energy, and the drummer was making faces left and right making good photo-ops – but unfortunately I had ran out of juice – must be the age.  It was actually a very good start night to the festival. I did attend all but Sunday, but I’ll leave the other days for the others and have the rest on pictures. Wade will bring you to Dakota Tavern, and Mark will trash someone at the Horseshoe. Stay tuned.

Still Life Still, The Courthouse, NxNE 2009

Final verdict:
Timber Timbre
Still Life Still