Concert Review: The Dinosaur Bones [Horseshoe Tavern]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts | 1 Comment


Toronto – I think most people had given up hope about clear skies this season. It’s been snowing every other night for weeks. The discussion is no longer about the weather – it’s about what we are doing despite it. About time, I need positive thinking. We walked in to the later half of The Paint Movement’s set. It was a mix of easy-listening jazz and normal 3 piece rock, and a bongo drum, whose business there was not entirely clear other than he is a good friend who jams. I could seriously NOT hear the bongo. But the melodies are very light on the ears, and so it was very pleasant.

Me, Ricky and Pierre were really taken by surprise when we heard Black Hat Brigade, though. I liked their winding tunes, which was mainly from the synthesizer. It could get over-the-top on some stretch, and jarring some other, but overall I have not heard it used this well for some time. For some reason, I had this misconception that they were from Scotland and not Brampton, ON. Probably had something to do with the synth making a squeal similar to a bagpipe during a song that had the beats to a march (I think that was Swords). They did not play long though – running out of materials from their EP (5 songs for $5) might be the cause. After which we nodded amongst one another, content with ourselves that it was pretty decent music.

As it was getting late but towards the title show, at this point the floor is quite full. It was dark but I never failed to notice that I have a sign on my face and it read: Here is an invisible door through which you must pass to reach the concert! I was leaning on the post (since Horseshoe isn’t huge), yet everyone kept walking by me and I constantly have to give way. The Junction sounded like the product of Matt Costa joining the Beatle’s. A little too happy after the last band – there’s nothing particularly wrong about that, it’s just that I was feeling my age a little and I never got into their songs. One of the guys from Dinosaur Bones came on-stage to steal the show. That’s when I said to myself… it’s been a bit of a long day and your ears need rest. So regrettably none of us stayed for the title show. To be fair, I am easy to guilt-trip, and I listened to them afterwards.  To my surprise I hear a bit of jazz in the way some of the singing is carried… that or I am on a loose-tempo deafness and shouldn’t review concerts anymore. :)

So verdict: Paint Mvmt – not enough to judge. Black Hat Brigade – good but not long enough. Junction – nice, but was not my cup of tea at the time. Dinosaur Bones – require further listening but some advice: may not want to put the show at the very last of 4…

Concert Review: Nada Surf, Dec. 5 2008, 9:30 Club DC

Posted on by Tom in Concerts, Everything | 3 Comments

Washington DC – Hello, this is the first posting by me, Tom, the Panic Manual’s new correspondent located in Washington DC. My roots are Canadian, but my studies have taken me into a foreign and strange land…albeit a land filled with good music and good places to listen to music.  I am going to start this post with a brief review about the Washington DC music scene, as well as the 9:30 Club as a venue.

Now, Washington DC has a quite diverse and varied musical past. Starting with the US Marine Band in the 1800’s, music in DC has progressed quite a bit, including being home to reknowned artists as diverse as Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly with His Song“), to the Thievery Corporation, to rock icons such as Dave Grohl.  There are also numerous famous venues in Washington DC that have hosted momentous shows, as well as helping artists ply their trade.  The most famous of these locations is the 9:30 Club (or Nightclub 9:30).  This club hosted the first American show for The Police, as well as a performance by the Beastie Boys after a 5-year hiatus.  Over the years, the 9:30 Club has developed into one of the best venues in the area, winning Pollstar’s “Nightclub of the Year” Award 4 times.  In my opinion, this venue is by far the best in DC, featuring great acoustics, an intimate setting, accessible bars, good sight-lines from many locations, and a great location in the city.

The concert featured two opening bands: The Jealous Girlfriends and Delta Spirit.  As is the custom in most areas, my friends and I skipped the first opener (The Jealous Girlfriends).  From the accounts of people that I talked to at the show, these guys actually put on a decent performance.  A little bit more research uncovered a song called “Organs on the Kitchen Floor“, which I apparently like a fair bit.  The other songs that I briefly checked out had a New Pornographers-esque quality to them.  They also had a song featured on the Grey’s Anatomy Volume 3 soundtrack, which is excellent publicity for a band.  I think I will need to listen to a few more songs from this band.

We arrived in time for the last 2/3s of Delta Spirit‘s set.  This band is from San Diego, CA and have been described as a “hybrid of rock and northern soul”.  Immediately, this band impressed me by their high energy and use of non-traditional instruments (the song “Trashcan” actually features the use of a garbage can lid, to great effect).  The lead singer’s (Matt Vasquez) voice struck me as being similar to Brandon Flowers, although Delta Spirit’s music was much more upbeat and energetic than The Killers.  Unfortunately, the sound engineers were not on their game, and the lead singer’s voice and lyrics were drowned out by the instruments during most songs.  Nevertheless, I did enjoy what I heard, and would suggest checking this band out.  The song “People C’mon” particularly stuck out to me.

Prior to attending this concert, I was only familiar with Nada Surf’s third album “Let Go”.  This album actually impressed me a lot, and I quite enjoyed it.  “Let Go” had mostly a laid back quality to it, where you could actively enjoy the music or just have it playing in the background.  However, this band was mainly known in the 90’s for their song “Popular” (an odd video to be sure), which I had never heard at the time, and which wasn’t played at the show.

Nada Surf’s set-list comprised songs mainly from their last three albums “Lucky”, “The Weigh is a Gift” and “Let Go”, and lasted for just under 2 hours….and they rocked out for all of it.  Their sound was very crisp, with the balance between the vocals and instruments ideal.  However, although I enjoyed the concert, the overall sound was very generic.  If you went into the concert not knowing the band at all, I think you would kind of shrug your shoulders, and say “well, that was alright, but nothing special”…a sentiment offered by my friend Barry.  Consequently, the show was unlikely to have won over many new fans.   The extreme example was brought forth by my friend’s roommate, who actually left the concert early.   Nevertheless, I think that if you were a fan beforehand, the band did not disappoint.  Highlights of the show include the playing of “Blizzard of ’77” (my favourite Nada Surf song) as the first song of the encore.  Also, in a show of force seldom seen anymore, members of The Jealous Girlfriends and Delta Spirit joined Nada Surf on stage and rocked out for a while during one of the last songs, as a celebration of the end of the tour…a refreshing reminder that music is often about making connections and having fun.

Overall, a very solid, enjoyable show.  The only drawback is that people with no knowledge of the band would not have been as engaged as I was.  For that reason, this concert gets a rating of:


Concert Review: Rural Alberta Advantage [Feat. guest Rudely Interrupted, Sneaky-D’s]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – T’was first sentence I said before this concert began: “Last year this time I was listening to Steward McLean’s stories, watching snow flakes sway and swirl against moon- and sodium-lamp light with a cup of joe…”. In polar opposite to that warm and fuzzy picture, the weather yesterday was as despicable as my mood. Toronto‘s infamous fog-rain set in so my umbrella was useless, slushies on the ground threatened my feet hygiene, dwindling numbers of pedestrians on Bathurst reminded me that people are heading to the holidays and I’m here sulking. And I have had too much beans to eat – this was how I started the concert.

I have to say that the show overcame my huge activation energy and wasn’t half as drab as I felt. Rudely Interrupted opened for Rural Alberta Advantage who ushered in Still Life Still who I did not stay for since it ran past bedtime. Firstly, a bit of history on Rudely Interrupted: they are an Aussie band formed in 2006 and, brokered by the UN, have since toured the world. They are composed of members with disabilities: blindness, autism, and mental disabilities. None of which is as debilitating as having no love for music, and these guys are shining examples. Although the choice of bass and melodies are a bit repetitive, once you see past the novelty factor that people will obviously slap on (labeling which btw would have received head-slaps from everyone in that audience), they were actually very entertaining. I can’t remember the last time I heard about pimples in a song, and I can’t help but smile every time the keyboard waves his arm in the air trying to work the crowd. A solid introduction to the night.

And from down-under, we were taken out West. Rural Alberta Advantage is a 3 person outfit (Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole, and Nils Edenloff) from Toronto (named after shared memories of their growing up in Alberta). I had only heard of them by reputation. Having listened to them live, I think I’ll be adding a few numbers to my ipod. My god they were efficient – that was either a complement or they couldn’t wait to be done (which I doubt). There was little or no pause, no moping around to display some pretentious style. Even during tuning in between, the drums and keyboard would make sure the crowd’s primed for the next. That was definitely a plus. At one point, as I looked around, I felt that I was probably the oldest person there… they do sound a bit teen-pop and head-bangy, but the independent vibe is still pervasive and that kept me glued to the floor. The vocal was crisp but not as twisty as on MySpace, and the percussion never overpowering – they get huge marks here because I hate it when I need to analyze the convolution of my heart beat with the bass to get the gist of a song. That’s not a song – it would be called a resonant cardiac massage. The beats were provided interchangeably by the drums (Nils?) and the percussion (Amy) – who was I to object if the band’s having as much fun as the crowd? The best moment was when their swan song Purple City came on. As I listened to words like “purple lights in northern sky”, nostalgia hit and I was awestruck at what I might be missing back home (in reality, probably not much more than the grand opening of a new strip mall the size of Halifax at the thickness of a pie with gangs fighting for the control of said pie). Accordingly, in my homesickness, I went home and skipped the last band…

Right. To summarize: Sneaky-D’s mexicano? Good. Songs and gaffs from unexpected sources? Good. Rural Alberta Advantage? Who are you calling a half-province? 4/5. (Check out the gallery for more pics.)

$4 Haircut on YouTube

Posted on by Wade in Everything, Hot Docs, Movies | 2 Comments

For those of you who missed the world premier of my documentary this past April at Hot Docs, you can check out $4 HAIRCUT below. I finally got around to posting it. Be sure to watch it past the credits too. Enjoy. $4 Haircut also fulfills my mandatory Asian content quota here at the Panic Manual for the month of December.