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.

TO Jazz Review: Branford Marsalis, Nathan Phillips, July 3

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

Branford Marsalis

Toronto – The main tent at Nathan Phillips square was sold out last Friday night for one of the most anticipated shows of the Toronto jazz festival. Dave Holland opened (coverage here), followed by the Branford Marsalis Quartet who stole the festival on every conceivable metric. This band has the chops; and they have the rythm. But if there’s one word that comes to mind when trying to describe what they can do so effortlessly in a live setting, it’s musicality.

Branford Marsalis is the eldest of 6 sons of jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis. Three of his siblings are accomplished musicians in their own right: Wynton (trumpet) , Delfeayo (trombone) and Jason (drums), making  this one musical family. From 1992-1995, Branford was the leader of The Tonight Show house band. Although commercially successful, Branford felt the need to explore his own music and stepped out of the limelight. This search for musical truth led him to form his own label, Marsalis Music, which gave him and the artists he nurtures the freedom  to pursue their craft without the restrictions imposed by mainstream record labels.

Filling in the huge shoes left by [Jeff “Tain” Watts] was sprightly teenaged Justin Faulkner … It took only the opening song for the crowd to be convinced: the kid is alllriiiiiight.

The Branford Marsalis Quartet has been playing together for almost 10 years now, with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and until very recently, the drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts.  The recent departure of Watts has left the jazz community disconcerted. Jeff is an inspired drummer and has helped pioneer the driving rock beats in modern jazz that was mentioned in a previous article.  Jeff has left the band on amicable terms in order to pursue his own projects.

Filling in the huge shoes left by Watts is sprightly teenaged Justin Faulkner. This surprising lineup change has had more than a few jazz fanatics skittish. However, it took only the opening song for the crowd to be convinced: the kid is alllriiiiiight. The band played a fantastic and engaging set of jazz that simply had to be heard to be believed. It ranged from seat-of-your pants blistering solos to simmering, then suspense-building ballads that were frankly cathartic.

It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what makes Marsalis’ live act so engaging. Branford has put together a band of supremely talented musicians; but many jazz bands have that. The members of the band are all on the same wavelength and demonstrate a near-psychic ability to read each others mind; but many jazz bands have that. Theirs is  an undefinable sense of musicality and in-control spontaneity that shines brightest in a live setting. I can’t think of a better example of jazz that so deftly skirts the boundaries between what is familar and what is exploratory with more  intelligence, humanity, and passion.

Ours is a world of hip little three minute ditties and of internet technologies that favour mass-appeal over musical-appeal. It’s refreshing when musicians resist the temptations to compromise for the spotlight in the pursuit of something more genuine.

If there’s one thing about this show that prevents me from giving it a full 5 star rating, it’s the venue and the crowd. Although Nathan Phillips Square is an adequate venue for loud and lively bands, it is too brute a force for the quiet and introspective stuff. This was especially evident during Eric Revis’ bass solo, where you could hear the cash registers dutifully printing receipts as people bought their wine, and the very noticeable opening of beer cans, splsshhh, splsssshhh. The crowd chatter had me wishing for a more intimate or secluded venue.

As Blues Traveler frontman John Popper once said, “this MTV is not for free”. Ours is a world of hip little three minute ditties, of demographically-driven recording & production, and of internet technologies that favour mass-appeal over musical-appeal. It’s refreshing and inspiring when musicians resist the temptations to compromise for the spotlight in the pursuit of something more genuine.