SXSW Review: Gym Class Heroes, The Phoenix, March 12

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest | 1 Comment

Austin – Unexpectedly, my first concert of South By Southwest came on the first night I was there…for SXSW Interactive. For those of you who have never been to South By Southwest Interactive, here’s a quick rundown – There are panels that run from 9:30 to 5:00 pm, but most people go from 11:00 to 3:00, where most of the meaty panels take place At 3:00, open bar starts. By open bar, I mean, once it hits 3:00 in the afternoon, depending on which parties you go to (all sponsored by companies like Google, Microsoft, Mashable, Can I has Cheezburger, etc) you can pretty much drink and eat for free the rest of the night. It just happens that one of the parties I went to was a Ustream party hosted by Pete Wentz and it featured a band called Gym Class Heroes.

I’ll be honest and admit I had absolutely no clue who Gym Class Heroes is. I had a sneaking suspicion that they were some emo band since the night was hosted by Pete Wentz (who is about 4 feet tall and wears sunglasses in a dark room). Not wanting to go in blind, I asked facebook people who they were, and replies were:

V: Bad emo/”punk” band. like fall out boy.
P: Actually, they’re even worse than that … it’s like fall out boy with rappin

You would think this would help, but i’ve never heard Fall Out Boy either. So I was expecting some sort of shitty emo rap band. All instincts told me to leave, but hey, this is South By Southwest. If there was ever a time to be open minded about music, now would be it. Also, there was a lot of free alcohol. So I stayed.

The overall show was kinda meh. I mean, I didn’t love it and I didn’t get offended. It wasn’t super good but also wasn’t super crappy. If anything, they played a lot more chilled set then I had imagined, given I had heard they were of the emo-rap variety. The chilled out rock-rap set they played could almost be on VH1, and maybe some older people will listen to it and then hear the rap and think they have some edge to it or something. The lead singer was pretty energetic and worked hard to get the crowd going, doing a lot of call and responses. I guess its not hard to get a crowd going when it’s an open bar party and people have been drinking for 8 hours already. At one point, he got everyone to stick their hands in the air and then turned it into a middle finger, in an act of defiance or something. I wonder if he knew that most people attending this party were white collar workers all working for giant corporations that sent them to a conference to have fun on their dime. Can’t really hate the establishment when you think about it. Points for effort though.

All in all, it was okay, nothing good, nothing bad. I guess that’s what passes for #4 on Billboard these days.

Oh yah, the picture is of Jamie Lynn Sigler/Meadow Soprano who was also at the party. Had a really hard time resisting asking her where turtle was.

The Great Toronto Umbrella Massacre of 2010

Posted on by Mark in Everything | 6 Comments

Toronto – It is with a heavy heart that I must report a tragedy that has plagued the streets of our fair city. More umbrella’s have perished this past weekend in Toronto than ever in recorded history. I left my apartment last Saturday morning and something just didn’t feel right in the air. I saw a mass of black cloth and plastic in the distance. A shiver ran up and then down and then back up my spine. Is that what I think it is? No, surely not. I cautiously approached the disheveled form. The 14-year old inside of me gave the poor thing a kick. Yep, it was an umbrella, and it was a fresh kill.

I kept walking through the city, and couldn’t help but find more carnage. Carnage everywhere. Oh the humanity! Some poor souls had their plastic wiring bent and broken; others had metal frames completely blown to bits. Others were covered in crumbs of baguette and drops of red wine. They were the parapluie, the elusive and slightly snobby cousins of the common umbrella. But the grim reaper does not discriminate. I could feel the bile rising in my throat. Steady, old soldier, steady. There were huge umbrellas with broken spines. Even baby umbrellas. What kind of monster would do this to a baby umbrella in such cold blood plastic? It was a massacre of  unprecedented proportions.

I’d like to take a moment of silence for all the umbrellas we lost in the streets this weekend.

I have an ominous feeling that we’re merely in the eye of the storm here.

CMW Review: Jeff Martin, Mar 13, Mod Club

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | 3 Comments

Toronto – Former Tea Party front man Jeff Martin played the Mod Club last Saturday. It was an exciting set of music both new and old that had me cursing the super quick 30 minute sets at the Mod Club that night. It’s not entirely fair that I’m writing this review because I was such a huge Tea Party fan as a teenager. I’ve long since internalized their first two albums Splendor Solis, and The Edges of Twilight.

I was skeptical as to what exactly to expect from Jeff after so many years. Thankfully he still plays to his strengths: eastern-influenced rock played with open-tunings that resonate with a gutsy metallic heft. I can’t believe I just used the term “gutsy metallic heft”; I’m such a douchebag. Anyway, he opened with The Bazaar, and kept the crowd happy by later playing the crowd favourite Sister Awake. He also kept things fresh by playing some of his newer non-Tea Party material that fit well within the set.

He peppered Tea Party lyrics into his other songs as if he spontaneously felt like it.

What I forgot about Jeff Martin is how consummate a musician he his. He can seriously play the guitar, and he can seriously sing. I don’t know how much of his set was rehearsed, but it certainly felt like an off-the-cuff set from a musician extremely comfortable in his own skin. He peppered Tea Party lyrics into his other songs as if he spontaneously felt like it.

His last song was a particularly impressive blues number that borrowed lyrics from old blues greats. As exotic as his tastes are, Jeff reminded us that he’s still got roots in the blues and can fuse that with his other influences into a style all his own. Although we may tend to typecast him in a particular era and style; he’s definitely his own musician and worth approaching on his own merits.

CMW highlight.

CMW Review: Joel Plaskett, Mar 13, Mod Club

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Ah Joel Plaskett. We here at the Panic Manual have a soft spot in our heart for Mr. Plaskett. So far we’ve covered three of his live shows (here, here, and here). I suppose that makes this number four. He played last Saturday night at the Mod Club, accompanied by fellow singer/songwriter Peter Elkas. It was rainy, it was windy, and yet still people lined up for the opportunity to hear just a tiny abbreviated set of Joel’s music. Now that’s dedication.

“Is there a reason you loves this town?” – crowd member
“There are many reasons I love this town. Damn.” – Joel Plaskett

What else can I say about this genuine east coast rocker? I suppose what’s just as impressive as Joel’s guitar and vocal skills is what he does to a crowd. His mix of talent, humble east-coast upbringing and down-to-earth attitude makes him an endearing personality and a crowd favourite. There’s just something about him that prods us fast-paced downtown urbanites to smile and let our shields down; for a second we resolve to be more civil to our fellow strangers in this wild concrete rat race. Granted, it’s a passing resolution at best. But thankfully Joel comes to town frequently enough to keep prodding us in the right direction.

Joel won the Indie music award for best solo artist of the year later that night at the Royal York hotel. It’s a well deserved award for standup Canadian artist.