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]

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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.

SXSW Review: Barsuk/Merge Showcase [The Parish, March 22, 2009]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Everything, South By Southwest | 2 Comments

Toronto – Now that I am back, I can take the time to recount the last night of SXSW. Twas a night after 3 gigantic beef ribs measuring 1 ft each, mash potatoes, beans, corn, 2 cups of coffee and too much sugar. After standing in the line up for 30 minute I was surprised that I could not only get into the Parish, but inch slowly towards the front, and by the end of Lou Barlow’s last song I was touching the stage. What luck. Well, it turns out there were drama waiting for me. Oh and yes there are verb tense mistakes below… just a disclaimer.


Say Hi

Say Hi to your mom from Seattle, established in 2002, decided at some point that they did not just want to greet your mother, but Say Hi (to whatever you see fit). Apparently they have a very urgent fan base. Just at this one show there were 2 very vocal fan-girls professing their loves, squishing me and 5 other people out of our spots in the process. One of them literally materialized in front of me the way you’d expect to see Batman if you’ve stolen candy in Gotham City. And when I dodged around, she shadowed as if she had eyes on her scapula. Creepy. Representing Canada, I couldn’t bring myself to squeeze through, but thankfully southern hospitality came to the rescue and another girl sacrificed her spot up front for me. Very Cool. After listening to more than Northwestern Girls, I decided that I am happy were I was. There is nothing wrong with synthesizers – but  it almost makes sure one band cannot be distinguished from another. Maybe I just don’t think their music is much inspired but that would just be little old me. By this time the Parish is beginning to fill up.

The Rosebuds, The Parish, SXSW, March 22, 2009

One of their most played songs says: get up, get out. Right. I wish I could push through the North Carolina crowd that by this time had gathered behind me – not massive, but very passionate. The Raleigh, NC couple had to borrow a drummer and bass for their cause – really wasn’t that hard at Southby, I guess. The huge bearded bass was very fitting, I thought. And it helps that they have brought their own local fans – the crowd reaction was very positive from the get go. I forgot what song they started with, but they played quite a few good tunes: Leaves do fall, Boxcar, Hold hands and fight, Shake our tree (during which we were asked to sing-along ‘WOAH NO!’). Being the acoustic snob, I liked some of their unaccompanied guitar versions on the 2007 EP better; you really get to heard how clean their vocal can be. But they sounded very good live as well, after all their sound is not about earthquake tremors. It’s folksy guitar and lyrics concerning relationships which almost without fail has leaves, birds, or trees in them. After gracefully finishing the set, they high-5 the fans, or was that before? Oh who cares… I liked it.

Ra Ra Riot, The Parish, SXSW, March 22, 2009
Ra ra riot

The Parish was packed by this time. Ra Ra Riot from Syracuse, NY were indeed a riot to watch live. Just the sheer number of instruments – bass, guitar, drums, vocal, violin, and cello all swinging and swaying on the stage – it’s so expansive I almost couldn’t fit everyone into a single shot (guess I should think of Arcade Fire who has 8… or I could have backed off into the crowd, but I wasn’t about to lose the spot). Instead of a strong theme or melody, to me their songs are like unending streams, crest after crest waves of ballerinas coming down the aisle to stare you down. It’s not harsh or unpleasant, but you just don’t know when to mark a stop or end. Especially when Rebecca’s violin and Alexandra’s cello just keep flowing and flowing… actually without the lead vocal Wesley’s pauses to speak to the crowd, I would probably have treated the entire gig as one gigantic good song. Except Suspended in Gaffa (wtf is that anyways?), that’s got some beats that differs from the rest. The vocals were not as clear as I had hoped to be, but then again I was right next to the speakers as always. But I still enjoyed songs like Dying is fine, Oh La, and of course Can you tell, most of which I think were from their latest album The Rhumb Line. Good job to the guys from Barsuk/Merge records. Very nice line up and smooth to the finish, it was definitely a good note on which to end SXSW.