Concert Review: El Perro Del Mar, Feb. 21, 2010, The Mod Club

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Toronto – With two Swedish bands playing, it was Nordic night at The Mod Club.  In fact, taking into account the documentary on Norwegian black metal that I saw on Saturday, this was a whole Nordic themed weekend for me … but I digress.  I will add though that El Perro Del Mar and Taken By Trees seem much nicer than Count Grischnach and are highly unlikely to burn down any churches.

When I arrived at the club, Taken By Trees were already more than halfway through their set, which was a bit disappointing as they sounded really good, a bit reminiscent of bands like Belle and Sebastien or Camera Obscura, but with maybe a bit more of an exotic vibe.  They incorporated some bongos into their sound at times and the keyboard player had a nice trippy flute type sound he used from time to time, giving me the impression of the aforementioned bands jamming with Rick Wakeman or Kitaro.  Awesome.  The trippiness was further enhanced by the video screens showing nature images in a loop – things like flowers, raccoons, and what I think was people riding horses through the water.  One of their last few songs was introduced as “a rare song … a b-side” and it ended up being the best of the bunch in my opinion, having a bit of a twangy vibe.

After a break, El Perro del Mar took the stage and I was surprised to find that singer Sarah Assbring was backed up by the same band that made up Taken by Trees (minus the keyboard guy).  This is a good thing as they were a pretty solid band.  The rhythm section was especially impressive, with the drummer hitting harder than I had expected and the bass was loud as hell, maybe a bit too loud at times, at least from where I was standing for the first few songs.  Still, the bassist laid down some solid grooves, even sounding a bit dubby at times.

Sarah Assbring has a powerful voice and put it to good use this night.  While singing, she alternated between playing an acoustic guitar and doing a sort of swaying dance that reminded me of something you might see from an 80s pop group like Bananarama or Boy George (I know he’s not a “group” but you get what I’m saying and besides I’m not sure if the other members of Culture Club did much dancing)  or maybe a scene from some long lost John Hughes movie set in Sweden.  The songs ranged from slightly uptempo tunes to some more downbeat yet lush sounding ballads like “It Is Something (To Have Wept).”  She also engaged the crowd with some awkward but endearing attempts at stage banter that didn’t always elicit much response.  That could have something to do with the fact that it was a Sunday, something she herself mentioned on stage. 

“I know it’s a Sunday, but we’re going to try and get a groove going.” she said.  They did.

Concert Review: Dance Yourself To Death, SHEEZER, Gentleman Reg [Feb 17, Drake Underground]

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Toronto – This was the third of four Wednesday night performances by Gentleman Reg at the Drake in February. Opening up the night was Dance Yourself To Death. My theory about the word ‘dance’ is that if you use it as a song title or in your bands name, then your music needs to make me want to dance. The same theory applies to the words ‘clap’, ‘shake’, and ‘party’ as in Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!, The Cajun Dance Party, Harlem Shakes and You Say Party! We Say Die! All of these bands make me want to clap, shake, party and dance.

Anyway, I really liked Dance Yourself To Death, and yes, people did dance. They reminded me of Heart and Pat Benatar. As a band, they were really, really tight. For a band that I hadn’t heard of before, I really enjoyed their set. It looks like their rehearsal time has paid off since they are opening up for Sia in April at the Phoenix.

Next up, Sheezer. Yeah. Sheezer is an all girl Weezer cover band from Toronto. The band consists of Laura Barrett (Hidden Cameras & Herself), Dana Snell (The Bicycles), Magali Meagher (The Phonomes), Alysha Haugen and Robin Hatch. This was their second show ever.

Weezer songs tug at my heart and each one comes with a memory. I have an emotional connection with Weezer because they remind me of my younger, care free, jobless days when I had nothing better to do than sleep in until noon and make my 2:30 class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I was emotionally ready for this show and the girls certainly satisfied.

Alysha Haugen on lead guitar was amazing. Watching her rip it up kept my attention for most of the show. Her slacker guitar stance really sold it too, as if to say to the crowd “Yah, I’ll play this for a while, now I’m gonna do some of this, now I’ll take a break, now some of this”.

The highlight for me had to be El Scorcho, not because it is my favourite Weezer song, but because Magail Meagher took over lead vocal duties. Magail is cool. I like her style. Of all the girls on stage, it was obvious that she was having the most fun and this totally sold the song, along with her entire performance.

It was clear to me that Sheezer still needs to work on some of their songs. Laura admitted that they were still in the process of learning the Weezer repertoire when somebody shouted out “In The Garage” and Laura responded with “Yah, I’d like to hear that too”. There was a lot of looking around on stage. Everybody was checking in to see what everybody else was playing. It was fine because the crowd could see and feel that they were kind of winging it, but as audience members, we were right there with them.

We didn’t stay for Gentleman Reg, but he is back next Wedbesday at the Drake with Evening Hymns opening up.

My girlfriend bought me a pin and all the way home we told each other that our names were Jonas.

Concert Review: The Editors, February 16, The Phoenix

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The Editors, Phoenix, Toronto, ON

Toronto – As you might have known from my previous post, I was at the Antlers/Editors show on Tuesday. This post is about the main event of the night, England’s The Editors, who are in town to promote their latest and drastically different sounding third album – In This Light and on This Evening. It appears some of the older fans of the more guitar driven music are having an allergic reaction to the newer more synthy sounds of the third album, despite it’s equally bleak outlook on everything. So it was definitely an interesting mix of people at the Phoenix on Tuesday.

Coming to the stage around 10:40, the band instantly let the crowd know that this night was definitely going to be a night of new and old material with an opening trio of In This Light and On This Evening, Lights and An End Has a Start. The rest of the night would feature most of the songs from the third album (mild response) interspersed with songs from the first two albums (great response).

As a live act, the Editors are quite engaging, almost completely due to lead singer Tom Smith’s theatrics. There are bands where the singers sing their songs nicely, there are bands where singers look disinterested, then there are bands where the singers sing their songs as if every word they have written are the most most important piece of literature since Shakespeare. The Editors are in the latter group. Tom Smith is quite the showman – between switching seamlessly from piano to guitar to synth, the man does everything in his power possible – poses, hand guesturing, kneeling, looking directly at the crowd – to let you know that his songs are important. Hard not to semi admire a man whose that committed to his craft. As Chromewaves noted, this show wouldn’t of been nearly as good if it wasn’t for Tom Smith’s presence/showmanship.

Overall, the new material was pretty solid live, not sounding too different then that on the album, however, I would have to say that the Editors insistence on pretty much playing the entire album might have dragged the concert into ‘too long’ territory. The classic Editors songs like Munich, Lights and Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors were great and an instant hit with the people were happy. I am sure Papillon will elicit the same response in time.

*Approximate Set List
In This Light And On This Evening
An End Has A Start
You Don’t Know Love
The Boxer
The Big Exit
Eat Raw Meat = Blood Drool
The Racing Rats
Escape The Nest
Like Treasure
Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors
Bricks And Mortar

Walk The Fleet Road
Fingers In The Factories

Concert Review: The Antlers, February 16, Phoenix

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The Antlers, Phoenix, Toronto, ON

Toronto – I have a bad habit of skipping opening bands. I just absolutely hate waiting in between sets. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. Mainly, when a band I really like play as the openers. Tuesday night was just a night, when Brooklyn’s The Antlers opened up for The Editors. This was what I believe The Antler’s third time in Toronto in the past year, having opened up for Frightened Rabbit last July and having their own show in September. As you can see, Panic Manual was there for both of them, and we’ll be there for them when they open up for the National in May. I guess we are fans of this band, or we like depressing music. Maybe it’s a combination of both. Maybe I just like bands named after animal parts. another.

Having been on various best of lists on both the interweb and real life publications, the crowd for the Antlers had definitely grown significantly since their last visit. The trio took the stage shortly after nine. The Phoenix was already 2/3 full. The drummer was set up in the middle and the larger stage seemed to work a lot better for them. Much to my chagrin, the Antlers only played five songs during their set, but man, they killed it. All the songs, from opening tune Kettering to the closer Wake prove that simply, the Antlers are starting to master the whole ‘semi distorted’ quiet buildup loud payoff indie rock sound.

“Two” was anthemic, started off slowly drenched in organs (generated by synth of course) and then transforming into an almost dancey rocker number. It was definitely different then the more subdued album version, but this version sounded quite organic and you had a bunch of fans trying their best to sing along to the song, despite the slightly different pacing of the vocals and the fact that it’s has extremely personal and dark lyrics. I love this song, and from the sound of the crowd, so did a lot of people. You kind of get a chuckle when some people at the concert are singing along to lyrics like

Daddy was an asshole, he fucked you up
Built the gears in your head, now he greases them up
And no one paid attention when you just stopped eating
“Eighty-seven pounds!” and this all bears repeating

Peter Silbermann’s vocals are quite a treat and even if sometimes the volume a bit lower, it’s hard not to come away with his impressive talents. This is man who has endured some hardships. I hope that they play their own show sometime soon so I can take them in it’s entirety. I guess they are playing SXSW. They recently premiered their song Bear on Pitchfork, the same song that silenced a chatty Phoenix crowd:

All in all, they were stunning and you can not ask for more from an opener.