Hot Docs Preview – Tiger Next Door [2009,Camilla Calamandrei]

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Toronto – There’s an epidemic in the US, and no it is not the Swine Flu (yet). Experts claim that there are more captive Tigers in the US then there are in the wild. Most of them are housed in shoddy conditions by breeders and despite the love that their owners have for them, many people have a different opinion. The documentary Tiger Next Door explores this issue, focusing on a particular individual named Dennis Hill, a self proclaimed tiger lover who houses 24 Tigers as well as cougars, black bears and lions on his acreage. The documentary explores why people like Dennis would house so many wild animals on their land as well as what the general reaction is of the people around him. Would you want to live beside someone who houses upwards of 50 man eating beasts in their backyard? Probably not.

The documentary is a fascinating one. You can see why an animal lover like Dennis would want to keep animals beasts captive (he loves them, there is no doubt), but at the same time, it’s incredibly frustrating to see such magnificent animals housed in small cages. A good documentary addresses the issues from all angles, and Camilla Calamandrei does that rather well, interviewing law enforcement agencies, nature types, other breeders and also friends and family of the breeders. The lead character Dennis also has an interesting back story that I will let you discover (no, it was not as an extra for zz top). All in all, a good documentary on a topic that not many people are aware of. Next time you drive by a road side zoo, you might think twice before going.

Hot Docs Link

10:00 pm Fri, May 8 – Royal Cinema
1:30 pm Sun, May 10 – Bloor Cinema

Concert Review: Bat For Lashes, Mod Club, April 25

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Bat For Lashes, April 25, Mod Club

Toronto – Saturday night’s Bat For Lashes show at the Mod Club was in one word – awesome. I would hate to be the person who forgot that this was an early gig, stroll in around 9:30 and saw that the show was already on encore. If you are that person, you should post it on fml or something because it is that bad. Natasha Khan can really sing. There are some bands you go to see and you are like ‘wow this girl has a nice voice’ but rarely do you go to a show and you are like ‘holy crap this girl can sing’. I always thought she had a nice voice but to see it in person as she belts out tunes is different. Even Gary, who didn’t think much of Bat For Lashes before going to the show was impressed and mentioned she was ‘better then Feist’. If Earth was ever enslaved by an ancient, but deadly alien race and that our sole chance of survival depended on some one to sing to please the alien ant queen overlord, I would think that she was a good option.

I guess some information about the show would be nice. Since the Mod Club caters to ginos and 905ers on the weekends, the concert was an early one. We were there at 7 to watch Lewis and Clarke (which Gary will review). I don’t remember the last time I was at a show at 7. Maybe when I was a kid and I went to see Raffi or something. But I never saw Raffi. Anyways, Bat for Lashes went on around 8:30. The stage was adorned with Jesus figures, angels, dim lights and images of animals ..or as I like to call it – what you can get for 10$ at a 1970s garage sale from some really religious souther family who hunts on occasion. It did give the stage a more intimate maybe slightly spiritualish kind of feeling I guess.

Starting with the song ‘Glass’, Bat For Lashes played a 70 minute set that consisted of material from both albums, but primarily focusing on Two Suns. We even got a Pixie-esque two versions of Daniel – an early stripped down acoustic sounding version, as well as the set ending normal version. This was the first show of the North American leg of their tour and Natasha seemed genuinely happy to be there. Her banter in between songs mostly consisted of thanking the fans, giving a shout out to family who was in attendance and telling jokes that the crowd forgot to laugh at, prompting a nice self deprecating moment (“aww, nobody laughed at my joke”). One of the things I noticed at the concert was how much different the two primary hits of Bat For Lashes were from the rest of the music. Both ‘Whats a Girl to Do’ and ‘Daniel’ are up tempo, almost dancey electroish numbers while a majority of the songs are slower paced with more focus on the vocals. Both work well because of the strength of Natasha Khans voice. It is ultimately Bat For Lashes #1 weapon, although the rest of the band was quite fantastic as well. I had no idea Charlotte Hatherly (of Ash) was in the band. That was a pretty pleasant surprise. The girl from New Young Pony Club was the girl behind the drums, providing a tribalish beats to a lot of the songs. Some guy named Ben was the multi instrumentalist. The band used a lot of different instruments, I have no idea what half of them were. Natasha herself primarily switched between singing/dancing and keyboard duties, donning the guitar for one or two numbers.

All in all, a great way to start off the night for all who attended. I highly recommend checking out the show if they are in your area.

Concert Review: Flight of the Conchords, April 22, Massey Hall

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Toronto – First off, lets list the songs that I enjoyed that weren’t played:

Inner City Pressure
Hiphopoptamus vs Rhymenocerious
Think about it
Business Time
Leggy Blonde (although Murray/Rhys Darby wasn’t there..that’s expected)

Now that those are out of the way, how was the actual show? It was pretty good. I guess a little background would help – unless you lived in a cave (Afghanistan), or Northern Alberta or something, you will know that Flight of the Conchords is pretty much the most popular comedy show on HBO. It’s a comedy/music show following the trial and tribulations of two New Zealanders named Jemaine and Bret as they try to make it big as a folk based duo in NYC. Music is peppered through out each episode, with most musical numbers mimicking a certain genre of music including Pet Shop Boys:

french chamber pop:

and many others. Nevertheless, the show found a strong following and well, the Flight of the Conchords decided to tour and sold out two shows at Massey Hall in about five minutes. I was lucky enough to get tickets – not as lucky as my coworker, who was sitting fourth row, but still, lucky.

The show started on time! By the time we entered at 8:15, we was shocked to find that Eugene Mirman was already into his opener set AND the place was packed. That dude was funny. At around 8:40, Mirman thanked the crowd and IMMEDIATELY introduced the Conchords. Who woulda thought? I had guesstimated that they would go on at around 9:30. I guess Massey Hall has strict curfew policies so it is only natural that they came on early, but 8:40 – that must be a record time for a band to go on.

The “band” consisted of Bret and Jermaine, as expected and they opened up with “Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor”. Thru out the rest of the 1:40 set, the band interchange between witty barbs and songs. Musically, they primarily relied on guitars, with the occasional synth and minor drums. Some dude named Nigel came out and was a multi instrumentalist while they primarily relied on prerecorded samples for some of the more complicated songs. The music they played primarily consisted on season 2 material, which was probably a great disappointment to many. I for one, think that the season 1 music was better then season 2, but that might be just my opinion. They did play “Foux Du Fafa”, “Mutha Uckas”, “The Most Beautiful Girl”, “Bowie” and “IF You’re Into It” among others from the first season. Some of the songs they played weren’t off either season and although they were funny, left the crowd wondering.

I had a good time at the show, Bret and Jermaine were hilarious and interacted with the crowd throughout the set. Even letting someone know that they knew he was taping them and suggested that they shut off the red light on their camcorder. Another good moment was when they stopped the show so that an audience member in the front row could take a bathroom break. All in all, it was an enjoyable night of entertainment, was it worth the 63$? Well I guess that depends on how big a fan you are.

My Bloody Valentine, Austin Music Hall, 4.21.09

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AUSTIN, TX – More so than most, My Bloody Valentine is able to draw a crowd on a shared sonic memory, that touchless tremolo riffing, coming from Creation, spawning fewer imitators than fever-dreams. While bands have dipped in the trembling wash so carefully assembled nearly two decades ago by Kevin Shields, it is his band’s last full-length that remains the standard for sonic sweetness, burning at the edges.

One Texas torchbearer for the MBV aesthetic (call them bootgaze!) was the erstwhile Lift to Experience; lead singer Josh T. Pearson was the initial opening act. Accompanied by Experience drummer Andy Young and The Paper Chase’s Bobby Weaver on bass, Pearson is still working out his salvation. Pearson debuted a handful of psalmic laments, filled with the angels, raptures and temptations that populated Lift to Experience’s terrifying album The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads. Pearson copped to being a bit rusty onstage; I’m uncertain if more practice will fill out his monochromatic sound. Where Lift to Experience once howled guitars into Leslie cabinets, last night Pearson was content to alternate riffs with strummed filigrees. Where he once would have sang – or at least sighed – he now mewls (and sometimes sobs). Weaver provided mostly percussive accompaniment. No matter.  Pearson has earned more than enough goodwill to overcome an uneven set. At one point, a lone stagelight flickered on the bearded, lean singer, turning him into a sepia hologram. Here’s hoping he stays flesh for a while longer.

Adding to the trend of “acts that were once influenced by My Bloody Valentine, but I’ll be damned if I can hear it now,” the second opener was Kurt Heasley, the rock of Lilys. “It’s Fatboard Confessional!” someone shouted, which was beyond unfair, but clearly, the crowd was not on Heasley’s side. Alone with a 12-string and a wicked sense of place, the clean-cut Heasley walked out a set of sunshine pop with the inside-out structural sense of the biggest paisley acts. His collar was drawn several inches behind his neck, awaiting a hook that never came. If the audience had its way… In any event, he clearly relished being the gatekeeper, tossing off tributes to “indigenous Austin” and baiting the crowd with reference to the “delicious, exquisite bubblegrunge” of the headliners. He liked the word “bubblegrunge” so much, he said it again. We kept talking.

Finally, My Bloody Valentine. All indications pointed to the O’Ciosoig/Googe/Butcher/Shields lineup, uniformly clothed in black – a slightly glammier Crass, if you will. From the commencement of “I Only Said,” the plan was evident: reproduce the recordings, but at 12X magnitude. The earworms and hooklines were largely sampled; use of drum machines was fairly limited (Loveless was built around pre-recorded samples of Colm’s). As MBV’s sound became more and more Shield’s vision, the recordings ceased to have Butcher and Googe’s input, so it was quite a thrill to see them play a part in the re-establishment. Googe and O’Ciosoig were in fierce concert all night, with Googe practically strumming her bass to maintain a presence in the trebly din. Feedback cropped up throughout, but never for long, and never louder than Shields’ and Butcher’s endless soothe and decay.
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