Friendly Fires / White Lies – March 31, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – So I forgot Ricky bought tickets for this awhile back. Not only did I forget but as per usual I failed to do any research about either band prior to the concert. I have never knowingly heard of Friendly Fires or White Lies but this proved to be one of the better shows so far this year (OK so I’m only comparing them to the tepid Lykke Li show back in February but I don’t get out much).

Friendly Fires took me by surprise because I didn’t know this was a double-bill. I was so taken by them and their bearded drummer that I sort of stopped paying attention to White Lies halfway through their set and hit their merch table right after…If there’s one thing concert-goers should have gotten from their set it’s that these guys are not just another funky dancey-influenced Brit band.

There are a few things the Friendly Fires set made apparent…1) Electronic music has its place with “real” instruments, 2) These guys know how to progressively layer their music, 3) Beards are hot. I can’t stress how well they pulled off the layering element — you can hear conga-ish drums in there, guitars, the most soulful British white guy voice since Rick Astley or OK maybe Jamiroquai, squidgy bits of electro samples, and all of your other standard good pop band sounds.

Let’s take for example In the Hospital. How can you not want to shake your ass to this even if you have creaky hips that might snap at a given moment? I should know, I dance like an out-of-rhythm, out-of-touch white nerd yet I could not help progressing the toe tapping to awkwardly flailing limbs. Lovesick was again an ass-shaking performance and the most impressive showcase of the lead singer’s voice. I bet you don’t believe me when I tell you he’s the next incarnate of the classic Michael Jackson voice but I swear it is TRUE. Ricky’s right about the good showmanship and by good showmanship I mean they had a pulse and got me to start clapping my salami saddle bag arms – I don’t clap for no one but could not help it during Strobe which sounded a lot flatter on the studio recording that I just listened to.

I too loved Paris for its progression. At the beginning it sounds like your standard electro-sampled deal but then you hit the sweet song g-spot in the chorus. When the vocalist hits those castrato type octaves your ear cilia hairs start making out in celebration. It happens during White Diamonds too, albeit briefly during the orgiastic “kiss slow” bit.

I really hope these guys don’t get labelled as the “Wii Fit” band because of On Board because even though that was the only song I knew walking in cold, it paled in comparison to the rest of what we heard from their set.

Oh yeah, there was some crowd-walking and speaker climbing too, which is always exciting.

I don’t have too much to say about White Lies. The lead signer was under the weather, they came on in matching short-sleeved black collar shirts and had a lot of Chameleon-circa-Strange Times-like moments.

One last general thing I’d like to point out is the reflection a concert’s crowd has on the quality of music. This show attracted a diverse (read: weird) cross-section of attendees. We were standing behind a 50-something year old dad, his friend and his 20-something year old daughter but there were people who looked like us too, only hipper. Mediocrity attracts sameness, superiority attracts weirdos gathering in one room. Can you judge the quality of music performance based on the diversity of the crowd they attract? I say hells yes, and not just because they let us in too.

Concert Review: White Lies, Friendly Fires, March 31, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts | 4 Comments

Toronto – Why is it so cold here? It is April and it is still cold outside. Two weeks ago, I was in shorts and flip flops, getting some rays and watching outdoor shows. Bah. I also have a cough and cold. I thought it was a flu, but Brian said that’s not possible, since I’ve been eating like Octo Mom since I got sick. I don’t really want to bitch anymore, or this post risks becoming a Livejournal post. I am just trying to give you insight as to the state I was in as I went to the Friendly Fires / White Lies double bill at Lees Palace on a cold and windy Tuesday night.

I saw White Lies at SXSW and was thoroughly impressed with them. Enough so that I would venture out from my sickness to go see them. Hopefully I didn’t infect everyone at Lees with this cold/cough hybrid. Actually, I don’t really care. I will get to this band later since I like to write my reviews in chronological order. I am square like that.

Friendly Fires was the first part of the double bill. They are an English dance rock band that has had moderately success the past year. They released a self titled album last year and had several hits off the album, including ‘Jump in the Pool’, ‘On Board’ and ‘Paris’. By hits, I mean, I like those tunes a lot and just assume that they were good singles. ‘Paris’ in particular, was a song I especially liked. However, the version I really enjoyed was the Twelves remix of it with Au Revoir Simone assuming vocal duties. Whatever, it’s pretty much the same song. According to Allison, the song ‘On Board’ is in the Wii Fit Commercial, so it was no surprise when we arrived at Lees Palace, the venue was already packed.

I can only assume they played ‘Jump in the Pool’ early on because we probably arrived one or two songs late. Either way, the band played to a lukewarm reception in the beginning, with lead singer Ed MacFarlane urging the crowd to move and ‘not be a London crowd’. I’m sure the smug Brit lads in the crowd appreciated the hometown reference. Playing songs off their self titled LP, Friendly Fires slowly, but surely generated interest in the crowd, reaching fever pitch with the songs On Board and Paris, which got the crowd clapping and moving. Also, Allison started doing so many ‘woooos’ that the guy beside her had to move spots. Classic. The lead singer, who I can assume is Ed MacFarlane, did everything in his power to get the crowd going, dancing, jumping, dancing some more and even climbing on speakers. It was definitely good showmanship. The music itself was quite stellar, despite sometimes relying on dj equipment,the beat was definitely driven by one, and sometimes two drummers. The album definitely translated well to a live environment. Overall, the show was good, and it says something about the band when they can turn a frigid Toronto crowd from swaying and folded arms to moving and clapping.

White Lies came onto the set about 25 minutes after Friendly Fires finished. The band did their best to foster Interpol comparisons by arrival to the sold out show all decked out in uniform black. When I saw them in SXSW, I think they wore white. I guess wearing black in Texas heat is a bad idea. I think they played the same set they did at Austin, which is not all that big a surprise since they only have an album out. I believe the first song was “Fairwell to the Fairground”. Right away I thought something sounded different then the SXSW show – the voice was a bit off. Later on in the set, we would discover that lead singer Harry McVeigh was harboring a sore throat. As a result, hitting some notes was difficult, particular during a song like ‘Unfinished Business’. Either way, the band marched on and played their blend of joy division-interpol-editors inspired music. I really enjoyed the album, so this was a good show to me. It was interesting to compare the constantly moving/dancing antics of Friendly Fire with the stoic approach of White Lies. I guess when you have the dark nature of the White Lies songs, there really isn’t much dancing. Either way, both bands put forth a good show and because of their efficient nature, I was home by midnight. Bonus points there.

SXSW Review: Razorlight [Cedar courtyard, March 20 2009]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Everything, South By Southwest | Leave a comment

Razorlight, SXSW, Cedar Courtyard, March 20

Toronto – Discovering a band isn’t very hard for me to do – I’m horrible at remembering band names, I don’t know that many bands to start with, and even worse I’m vicious at rejecting things that doesn’t produce good vibrations within 10 seconds of incus hitting malleus. For some reason Razorlight kept my attention despite the fact that we were really waiting for White Lies during the afternoon (if you recall this was also the same party where LOTP happily played one song too many and had their brawl with Cedar courtyard security, see below).

What began as a casual head-bobbing turned into seriously listening and by the end of the set, I didn’t care that I was made fun of for liking their sound. Razorlight started in 2002. Either the fans or their marketing contributed to the wiki, because it’s actually quite sizable given their indie status (it’s longer than that of White Lies, for example…) Listening to most of their songs across albums after the set, I’m convinced that they actually sound more American than their British/Swedish composition. Songs like Golden Touch, America, and Vice are all very typical. But it does switch and produce some funny associations… In the City actually sounds more like a Sheryl Crow song when it begins; and at some point during To the sea I’m reminded of Sister Act… weird. There is something to be enjoyed if you have never heard them prior. Although the lead vocal’s slightly off tune style cannot be said to be impassive, it translates just that much better in real life performance. Happily sandwiched between the brawl and the main gig, they played a mix of new and old. Apart from the ones I’ve mentioned already, Wire to wire, Hostage of love, and North London Trash from their new album were there, too. Like I mentioned, sound was not only true to recording but actually better, and good showmanship in general. With that, I’m now happy to have some solid rock in the ipod aside from the sugar-high songs that I normally have.

SXSW Review: Late of the Pier, March 20, Cedar Courtyard

Posted on by Ricky in Everything, South By Southwest | 3 Comments

Late of the Pier, SXSW, Cedar Courtyard, March 20

Austin – One week ago today, I was in Austin, amongst my musical compadres, in nice 27 degree weather and watching show after show whilst eating good BBQ meat. Today, I am in almost sub zero temperatures at my desk job reminiscing about the time that was. Yay. The last SXSW review I am writing is about the Late of the Pier show(s). Late of the Pier is a spacey sounding electro rock band from England. I can’t even find the proper terms to describe the music, they have duel synths, appreciate beats but also like pop music at the same time. It’s something else.

The first show we saw them was at the Levi’s/Fader Fort. Let me say something about Levi’s/Fader Fort – it’s too far. They had some fantastic acts (including Kanye, Graham Coxon, Handsome Furst) but seriously, you have to go under the interstate into some ghetto industrial part of town to get there. That is too far in the Texas heat and too time consuming. The Late of the Pier set started off promising, but ultimately equipment problems got the best of them, despite Sam Eastgate’s promise that “we are going to go fix everything”, the set seemed to have been cut short. So we left, and being too tired to walk, took a pedicab:

SXSW Pedicab

Despite having a short set with technical problems, we were impressed enough to catch their set at Filter’s UK party the following day at the Cedar Street Courtyard. Filter decided on that day they wanted to squeeze in an extra band, and so everyone’s start times were pushed back. When Late of the Pier went on, it was about 45 minutes later than they were supposed to and with Razorlight and White Lies still coming up, you knew that there was a good chance that they would get cut short again.

About the show itself, LOTP came out to a decent crowd. I am not sure a lot of people knew who they were, and I am not sure that the newspapers marketed them properly, comparing them to MGMT for some reason. They played songs from their debut album, including Space & The Woods and The Bears are Coming. It was a pretty solid set, the dueling synths were nice. The music is definitely louder and messier in a live setting then on the album and with increase focus on guitar work, the songs definitely come off as less electronic and more rock. The band didn’t really engage with the audience much, rather letting their music do the talking. I guess with time that will change.

The real fun began when the promoter of the party decided that LOTP only had one song left and told the sound guy that. It was looking like LOTP was getting cut short again, so they played what was perceived to be their last song (I forgot what) then at the end of that extended song, they announce ‘Now, this is our last tune’. The promoter on the steps threw a fit fitting for a queen and during the song, ordered a security guard to get the sound guy to turn the sound off, and when the sound guy refused, he ordered the security guy to bring the sound guy over, which prompted either the stage hand or manager of the band to interfere, which resulted in that guy getting dragged up the stairs which resulted in Sam Eastgate going nuts and next thing you know, its all out war. However, cooler heads prevailed and LOTP and the sound guy finished their set to a rapturous ovation. Pictures of the fracas is here.

All in all, a fairly memorable show. Even if the events at the end overshadowed the music that the band put out.