Concert Review: Japanese Breakfast, July 18, The Phoenix

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At several points throughout their Wednesday night show at The Phoenix, Japanese Breakfast‘s Michelle Zauner repeatedly stressed how much the band enjoys playing in Toronto and clearly, Toronto loves Japanese Breakfast too, as evidenced by the enthusiastic, sold out crowd.

Japanese Breakfast definitely fed off the energy of the crowd (“You make it very easy to have fun at our job.”) and played an engaging set full of tracks from 2016’s Psychopomp and last year’s Soft Sounds From Another Planet. I was also pleased to see that the band has kept their cover of The Cranberries “Dreams” in their repertoire as well.

“Holy shit, this is a lot bigger than the Silver Dollar.” said Zauner, adding that they do remember their residency there very fondly. I remember it fondly too, having attended two out of the three nights the band played there during CMW 2017(and subsequently seeing them about two weeks later opening for Slowdive at the Danforth) and while I definitely preferred the shows in the smaller venue, there’s something very satisfying about seeing a band graduate to playing bigger venues to larger and increasingly more appreciative crowds. Hell, this crowd was so into it, they even cheered enthusiastically for a reference to Scholastic book fairs that Zauner made onstage, which is maybe one of the weirdest reasons to cheer I’ve ever seen at a show. That’s a good audience. And one of which Japanese Breakfast is entirely deserving.

Concert Review: Armored Saint, July 17, Mod Club

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“Toronto! It only took us 18 years to come back. What was that? It was a blip.”

These were Armored Saint vocalist John Bush’s opening words to the crowd on Tuesday night and though he apologized for the lengthy delay between visits, he offered up no real explanation other than that they were “dumb” for doing so. But hey, the crowd of diehard fans didn’t seem to mind one bit – I guess all that stuff about absence making the heart grow fonder is true. And I’d imagine the fact that the L.A. based metal band would be playing their 1991 album Symbol Of Salvation in its entirety probably played a part in the fans’ excitement too.

Yes, Armored Saint has joined the ever growing list of acts doing shows/tours dedicated to one particular album (I think that list pretty much includes any and every band nowadays) and after an opening trio of tunes that are not on that album (“March Of The Saint”, “Long Before I Die” and “Chemical Euphoria”) they launched into Symbol Of Salvation. Starting things off with opening track “Reign Of Fire,” they ran through the whole album in order before ending things off with a few more classic tracks. Technically no encore though – after 18 years away, they decided not to waste our time by walking off the stage, opting instead to just keep playing. Such thoughtful chaps.

At one point during their set, Bush mentioned that he recognized a few familiar faces in the crowd, including one fan who had apparently followed the band on tour for a few dates, starting in New York, then moving on to Boston and Montreal before coming back home to see the band in Toronto. That seemed perhaps a bit excessive considering that the band’s setlists for each of those shows were practically identical – no Grateful Dead style jams to be found – but it just goes to show the lengths that some will go to to see their favourite bands live. And I’m sure that fan did not walk away disappointed from any of those shows.

Formed back in 1982, Armored Saint are a 36 year old band touring behind a 27 year old album, but while it’s a bit of a nostalgia trip, they certainly did not show their age at all (other than a bit of hair loss). They put on a solid show over the course of roughly an hour and 45 minutes – the band was tight and Bush’s gruff, full-throated vocals sounded great. Here’s hoping they keep that promise to not wait 18 years until the next Toronto show.

Concert Review: Faust, July 15, Jam Factory

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Photo by C.L

A unique venue and a suffocating heat wave set the stage nicely for Krautrock legends faUSt. Known for their experimental, avant-garde style of music, faUSt has always been about unsettling the spaces that they were in and frankly, when you have to watch a show in 35 degree heat in a packed room, you feel quite unsettled.

Often known for unique instruments, the trio, led by Jean-Herve Peron, didn’t quite bring the pinball machines or chainsaws that had garnered some fame in previous shows but still managed to bang on the occasional metallic things that surrounded the makeshift stage. Musically diverse, the band’s sound took many twists and turns, ranging from percussive heavy industrial sounding noise to surprisingly groovy guitar tracks that had people tapping their feet.

From the ever changing landscape of their sounds to the visual aesthetics (including a local artist who was just knitting on stage) to the fierce nature of Jean-Herve Peron himself (at one point, he said to a person who was talking a lot, “It’s not your show, it’s MY SHOW”), faUSt put on a show that appealed to many senses. I was not at all familiar with the band, but when I go to see a new act, all I want to experience is something that I haven’t experienced before. Safe to say, faUSt filled that quota pretty easily.

Song Of The Day: Sarah Shook & The Disarmers – New Ways to Fail

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Photo by John Gessner

With its chorus of “I need this shit like I need another hole in my head,” Sarah Shook and the Disarmers’ “New Ways To Fail,” the new single off of their sophomore album Years (released earlier this year on Bloodshot Records), has the potential to become a bit of an anthem.

And not only is the song a perfect example of Shook’s catchy as hell songwriting, but the video may also have the potential to catalyze an as yet unexplored crossover between country music and skateboarding. Check it out: