Concert Review: Gravity Wave, Steam Whistle Unsigned, May 30th

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Gravity Wave

(Toronto) For those who don’t know, every few months the Steam Whistle Brewery hosts a concert series called Unsigned, where, you guessed it, bands who are not signed entertain the Pilsner happy beer crowds that gather. Although the location of the show (The Steam Whistle Brewery, right beside the CN Tower and SkyDome) is a bit out of my typical Annex walking show radius, I decided to make the hike downtown to check it out. A couple of things I learned about this Unsigned series:

1. It is only $5, and that one payment at the door goes to charity, gets you a drink ticket and if you are fast enough, a free slice of pizza. Plus, additional drinks are only $4. Those are east coast booze prices.

2. The charity is the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation(AHCF). This foundation helps artists who have been injured and who might not be covered by OHIP. Since most artists are self employed, they don’t have health plans. For example if you make your money as a dancer and some jack ass runs into the back of your foot with their cart at Loblaws and injures you so that you can’t dance, the AHCF will help you out. By dancer, I don’t mean stripper, but I suppose even they could get help from the AHCF.

First up on the bill was Hexes & Ohs from Montreal. A pretty impressive looping, drum playing, girl bass busting two piece outfit from Montreal. They cranked out Whadaya Know?, which I was really looking forward to. I was familiar with this track since it has gotten some recent CBC3 airplay over the past couple of years. It rocked and left me with warm fuzzies. The rest of their set was tight with Edmund switching between instruments and Heidi sticking with the solid bass lines.

Next up was Bocce. I missed most of them. I was busy getting beer and more ice.

Headlining the show was Gravity Wave (The). I first heard of Gravity Wave about a year ago when he played at Sneaky Dee’s. A friend of a friend had told me that Gravity Wave (Ken Farrell) teaches little kids how to play hockey and that he makes music with his Nintendo. Cool. Ken started his set off this night with an interactive video rap-off which didn’t really hit with the crowd. It required people to shut the fuck up and actually pay attention for more than 5 seconds. Which they didn’t.

The Gravity Wave stage show and sound has definitely changed over the last year. The most obvious difference would be that Mr. Wave has added a full band to back him. Even a trombone. This has given him a bigger sound. Although bigger, I feel like the subtleties of his sort of electronic music were lost in the shuffle. Songs like Princess where you are waiting for the Jump, Fireball sequence lost their catchy, cutesy, admiration. Even Footprints seemed to blend into the other songs, where on his Maytr’s Brrigade CD (available for download on his site) is a stand out track. Ken has a great unique voice and a stand out rock star confidence about him when he performs, rubber boots and all.

The night was caped off by a couple of Steam Whistle yahoos who introduced the bands and hosted the evening. At one point I think they threw T-Shirts into the crowd as if it was the seventh inning stretch at a J’s game. Whatever. Still a good night and worth the trip downtown.

Concert Review: Mike Murley, May 24, The Rex

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Toronto – Ah The Rex. For jazz lovers, the Rex is a Toronto institution. It’s a great place to soak up some live jazz in a casual atmosphere. I highly recommend it as the first destination for would-be jazz aficionados. The laid-back ambiance will make you feel comfortable chatting with friends over drinks, or just sitting back and listening to the music.

But the times, they are a changing. With a huge new office building glowering down on it, I wonder if The Rex is a remnant from an earlier age? An age when the Rex was just one of many vibrant jazz clubs in downtown Toronto. Fortunately for us, the Rex remains a guardian of live music in the city. It’s time to take a moment to remember the great jazz clubs that have left us in recent memory.

The first casualty was the Top O’ The Senator. Conveniently located on top of the Senator restaurant on Victoria; this sleek little club was the place to check out top jazz artists from Toronto, New York, and beyond. The long narrow room provided an intimate setting that was just, well, cool. Especially when the 1st setters would leave and the vultures would descend upon the remaining tables in front of the band. Top O’ the Senator closed down a few years ago and I still lament the loss.

The second casualty was the Montreal Bistro on Sherbourne. The Montreal Bistro first opened in the 80’s and the coolest thing about it was that they hadn’t changed a thing. The cutlery, the plates, the coffee cups, the bar, the tables, everything was authentically vintage. The last time I was there, I was happily sipping on my coffee from those old coffee cups you find in the basement kitchen of churches. Anyway, I thought to myself, “This place hasn’t changed a bit, and it never will!” Sadly, the Bistro closed its doors not two weeks later.

Anyway, the good news is the Rex is very much alive and kicking and it’s still a great place to check out live music. Mike Murley is a Juno award-winning sax player and he got together with his old quintet to rock it old-school. The good news about jazz shows is that there are at least two sets. A lot of people leave after the first set. This confuses me, because the 2nd (and 3rd) set is always better. The musicians have loosened up and are ready to dig in, and there’s nothing quite like it.

Anyway, this was a great show with his old Quintet. Just solid straight-up jazz best served with a glass of white wine, or a dry martini. It’s too bad that Murley wasn’t playing with his protégé, Tara Davidson. Because seeing both of them play together at the Rex is a treat that can best be had whenever they both play at the Rex together.

4 out of 5 Saxomophones

Concert Review: The Cure, May 26, GM Place

Posted on by Vik in Concerts, Everything | 4 Comments

the cure live in vancouver

Vancouver, A warm spring night, not ideal conditions for Goth’s children to creep out of the shadows in order to attend the return of The Cure after a 10 year, 7 month delay. This was my first time seeing The Cure and not being an uber fan I had mixed feelings as to how it would be. Based what what I read and was told, The Cure performs epic set in excess of 3 hours with multiple encores, but people I know who have seem them live would always say the show was ‘Amazing’. I pressed on though, The Cure is just one of those bands I had to see, more so because they’ve been such a huge influence on many of my favorite bands.

We arrived at GM place early to pick up my tickets at the will call window. Staying true to my lazy nature, I waited until the last minute to pick up the tickets even though I purchased them 1 year ago. We decided to skip the opening band 65 days of static as they seem a bit too industrial for our taste. Arrived back at GM place at 8:30 only having to wait 10 minutes for the lads to make their appearance – quite surprising seeing as I’m usually terrible predicting the start times of bands. After a rousing reception from the crowd as if they were collectively thinking ‘Took you long enough!’ personifying it in the form of applause. They kicked of the set with a 5 song intro with – Falling Down, Fascination Street, The Walk, Love Song, and Sleep When I’m Dead. They sounded good, but personally I felt the show kicked off as soon we heard the haunting thump and twinkle of “Picture of You”. This made more than half the crowd to jump to their feet, couple that with swaying and clapping, it made the atmosphere absolutely eclectic. The set continued on with a mix of some new tracks and a few old. I didn’t recognize most of them (but you might, here’s the setlist). I was just enjoying the great atmosphere and it seemed like Smith and Co. were as well:

Simon Gallop on bass keeled over this guitar in the classic shoegaze pose (my cohort Ryan mentioned he looked exactly like the bass player in Guitar Hero). Porl Thomson on lead guitar was dressed up in what looked like a vinyl jumpsuit with glittery red platform boots. Jason Cooper was pounding perfect beats that many in the crowd were air drumming along to. Robert sounded fantastic, seemingly enjoying himself by hopping, shimmying and swaying around the entire stage.

The set hit it’s climax three quarters of the way through when Smith and crew pulled out – Friday I’m In Love, Inbetween Days, and Just Like Heaven with no breaks in between, needless to say we ate it up, licked our lips and rubbed our tummies. They capped off their first set at around 10:30 after playing at least 20 songs. Staying true to form they came back on stage after very little coaxing from the crowd. I unfortunately only stayed for the first encore which included – Love Cats, Let’s Go To Bed and Close To Me. After a little research I found out the last 2 encores included – Boys Don’t Cry, Jumping Someone Else’s Train, 10:15 Saturday Night and Killing An Arab.

To sum the entire Cure experience, it only takes one word: ‘Amazing’.


Thanks John


Clip of ‘Pictures Of You” taken at the ACC in Toronto

Concert Review: British Sea Power, May 16, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

Toronto – If you have read the Panic Manual at all in recent months, you will know that I am a massive fan of British Sea Power’s new album “Do You Like Rock Music?”. So it was no surprise that I was anxiously awaiting the band’s show at Lee’s Palace on Friday night. I had missed the bands prior outing here at the Berkeley Church as part of the Beautiful Noise tapings. Damn you Tokyo!

The show at Lee’s Palace was actually a double bill, with the Rosebuds opening for BSP. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to attend the Rosebud’s showing although a friend of mine said it was ‘good’. That is no surprise. I arrived just as they were finish setting up the stage – the typical BSP stage, that is – foliage and all. There was definitely more greenery here then last time. The show was sold out, which goes to show the enthusiasm of people towards the new album.

At around midnight, the chimes of “All in It” signaled the start of the show. Kay Von then came out and introduced the band. He did this last time too, I believe. I am actually not sure which came first, the intro or the song ‘all in it’. Alcohol – bad effects on memory at times. It doesn’t really matter since that tune was just a recording/intro song. Once the band took on stage, they started to rip into “Atom”, off their most recent album. The normal four piece band was also joined by a lady on the violin and did little talking through out the eighty minute set.

The set consisted of songs mainly from DYLRM and some songs from “The Decline of..” (“Carrion”,”Remember Me”,”Fear of Drowning”, “Blackout”). The sophomore album – “Open Season” got mostly ignored, except for “Oh Larsen B”. I believe. Having seen them tour for each of the three albums, I found that the band seemed extremely polished now. The sound was crisp, the vocals were clear and breathy and unlike the past two shows, there was little shenanigans this time around – maybe because Eamon left for Brakes, or maybe because the band has now matured to the point where they can rely on the strength of the music to carry the show and not having marching drummers run thru the crowd or nearly getting decapitated by a ceiling fan when hoisting the guitar player on your shoulders to play a solo. I am not sure.

Overall, I enjoyed the show quite a bit – DYLRM translates nicely in concert and the older material is still strong. I was kind of disappointed they didn’t play “Apologies to Insect Life” or “Please Stand Up”, but I’m pretty sure I’ll be there the next time they visit, so it is not a big deal.