Concert Review: Sunparlour Players, Pop Montreal, Oct 4, Cagibi

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Pop Montreal | 6 Comments

Montreal – If you had listened to our podcast, you would know that both Wade and Brian had suggested I go see a Toronto based band called the “Sunparlour Players” in Pop Montreal. This was before they called me a whiner. Bitches. Seeing how I hold their Canadian-Indie music opinions in high regard, I decided to risk it all and take my friends to see this band for their Pop Montreal showcase on Saturday. So you had two people from Toronto, visiting Montreal, taking two other people, who are from Toronto but moved to Toronto this year, to a show in Montreal,featuring a band from Toronto.
The show was a at a placed called Cagibi‘s, located in a neighborhood known as “The Plateau” or maybe “Le Plateau”.

I think it’s the hipster area of Montreal. Let me tell you, Cagibi’s is a fantastic place. I was expected a dark and dingy bar similar to the Horseshoe, but you know what Cagibi is? It’s like this hipster coffee shop/bar that features old school furniture that seem to not care whether they are in proper shape or not, board games that had probably been there for a decade and creaky wooden floor. My best comparison to this place would be the restaurant Aunties and Uncles, if it was a lot bigger, and served beer.

I only had one real complaint about the place. The thing about hipster joints is that the workers there are totally indifferent to things such as serving customers with any sort of efficiency. They walk around in their laid back ways, casually make the espressos or lattes or mixed drink that someone ordered, make inside jokes with other coworkers who are there, talk to their friends who are at some table, then finish the customer order. For a person who is used to efficiency, such laissez-faire attitude to service just bugs the beejesus out of me. Took us a good ten-fifteen minutes in line to get our booze. Ian and I both agreed that If we were the owner, we’d fire everyone in that store.

The Sunparlour Players have quite an interesting setup, there are three members, two of them have snare drums and are multi instrumentalist. I can’t say for the third guy because my view was obstructed. What is their type of music? I would say, good ole Canadian-esque rock and roll along the lines of mellowed out Joel Plaskett. The lead singer delivered his lines with great intensity, and switched from guitar to drum to banjo thru out the set. The other dude was even crazier, going from guitar(or bass) to accordion to drums, sometimes all over the course of one song. Words cannot do justice to their music instrument playing styles. They are like a swiss army knife of music.

The songs were all pretty strong lyric based tunes, I remember some tune that was about barley and thinking “damn, that’s Canadiana”. I then started thinking about Saskatchewan. Maybe Brian will leave a comment with more info on the band.

I really enjoyed the show despite the fact that I did not know any of the bands material beforehand and also, despite the fact that the venue was overcrowded to the point where I was thinking it was a fire hazard (i had already plotted my route to the nearest door, and who I would have to push/run over to get there). It was definitely an intimate affair, and the band’s music style definitely catered to this type of show.

Concert Review: Random Recipe, Pop Montreal, Oct 4, Quai Des Brumes

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Pop Montreal | Leave a comment

Montreal – After the greatness that was the Darren Hayman show, we were all a bit dazed. What to do now? The original plan was to watch Ten Kens, but a quick google map check indicated that the walk was a little longer then expected. There was a quick decision to be made, the last train was around 1:30, it was 1:00. So either get to the subway station and go home, or rock it and pay the regrettedly high taxi fee. Well, when on vacation (or when it’s saturday night), you really have no other choice but to rock it.

A little background first: Earlier in the night, at the Sun Parlour Players show, Mark had chatted up a bunch of hipster girls who were probably just over the legal drinking age. After some quick introductions in which one of the girls nonchalantly said “I love art”**, they let us know that they were going to see The Magic at a bar just off Mont-Royal around midnight. Seeing how we had no plans, it was decided that it would be a good idea to check out this show (which they had declared would be “totally awesome”)/see if run into the hipsters again (maybe the girl can make other general declarations, like “I love literature” or something). Unfortuntely, the show was at capacity and despite the flashing of the Pop Montreal media pass card, we were not allowed in.

At this point, it was around 1:30 and the options for music was declining by the minute. Luckily for us, there was a bar next door called “Quai Des Brumes“. Having no other options, we went in and was surprised to find a band setting up. The band turned out to be a montreal hip hop/acapella outfit named “Random Recipe” , which was very fitting since the fact that the Panic Manual squad was seeing them was pretty random. The band included one drummer, one bassist, one guitarist and one vocalist.

What immediately drew our attention to Random Recipe was the beat boxing. Yessir, beatboxing. One of the two female leads in the band started beatboxing, while the other girl played classical guitar and sang a high voice somewhat reminiscent of one Kate Bush. Maybe it was the fact that I was many Quebec beers into the night, but it sounded quite awesome. Most of the set involved the girl on the classical guitar singing in a pixieish way and the other girl beatboxing and then rapping in English and French. It was quite a different scene, and something that felt very Montreal (cos it was in French AND English). At this time I also realized that Montreal bars are opened til three and that there was a really nice three legged dog running around the bar. Good times.

I rather enjoyed the Random Recipe set, despite the fact that most of their songs follow the same formula, it was definitely very different from what I had listened to at a live show before. I also enjoyed the poutine with smoked meat I had after the show. I did not enjoy the the 25 dollar cab ride after though.

** “I Love Art” should be made into a t-shirt or something, we have never seen anyone bring that to a conversation before.

Concert Review: Darren Hayman, Pop Montreal, Oct 4, Le Gymnase

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Pop Montreal | 5 Comments

Montreal – When I realized Darren Hayman was playing as a part of the Pop Montreal music festival, my excitement for this festival went up five fold. I have been a Hefner fan for quite some time. The thought of hearing Hefner tunes live had never occurred to me before since the band had broken up, but the thought of Darren Hayman singing some of his classic songs had me more giddy then a fat man at an all you can eat buffet. For those not in the know, Darren Hayman is an indie singer songwriter known for his awfully honest songs about love and heartache. His former band Hefner had a small but strong following and he had not been in Canada for 8 years (according to a fan).

The show took place at a place known as Le Gymnase. Le Gymnase was an average venue, the show was on the third floor, whereas the second floor of the club was a dance club that was playing Blur’s “Girls and Boys” when I walked by. The setup on the third floor was pretty odd. Think long narrow rectangle, with the stage in the middle. The setup forced the musicians to face the bar when singing, leaving about a twenty five foot space for people to gather, if they wanted to face the singer. I guess there really wasn’t any other place to set it up. My main complaint about the choice of venue was that the second floor club’s bass was a little too strong and distracting during some of the quiet acoustic songs.

Armed with a guitar, Darren Hayman strolled onto the stage a bit after midnight, said hello to everyone, encouraged people to stand up near the stage and started off his set. There was about 50 people there initially and clearly all these people were Hefner fans. Song #2 was the favorite “Hymn For The Alcohol” off the Fidelity Wars. Now if you have listened to any Hefner song, you will know that this man is all about the lyrics – which means…sing a long! Darren Hayman/Hefner sing-a-longs are quite different from James, whereas the latter’s sing a long would be something like “Oh sit down
Sit down next to me” and mostly happy sing-a-longs, this guys sing a longs would be something along the lines of :

Start me on the whiskey I know whiskey is his drink.
You never drank it with me but now you drink it with him,
I’m not good enough for whiskey, not good enough for you.

Haha, not the most happy sing a longs, I guess. For the last chorus of “Hymn For the Alcohol”. Hayman walked with his guitar off the stage, and into the small crowd, letting the crowd finish the tune. Awesome. A couple other songs followed (“Out of My League”, “I Stole A Bride” , “Dont Go”). Then something quite wicked happened.

The opener for the set at Le Gymnase was New Brunswick singer Jane Ehrhardt. After one particular song, Erhardt and her bandmates joined Hayman on stage. Darren proceeds to introduce them and said that they had met just five days ago (after Jane Ehrhardt’s bassist Sam contacted him) and had worked on some tunes. Darren said “We’ve only met each other a few days ago, and heres what we came up with”. Because Hefner released about 200 songs in the time they were together, I wasn’t sure whether the new song was a Hefner tune or not. Anyways, it sounded great. After a song I didn’t recognize, he launched songs like “Greedy Ugly People”, “China Crisis”, “Half a Life” and “Love Will Destroy Us In The End” (maybe? I lost track). The fact that Jane Ehrhardt joined him on stage was just great, as it gave the songs a much fuller sound and allowed Hayman to sing some of his more popular songs that featured a female voice. The great thing was that the band just seemed really, really into it.

Darren and the band continued to sing some favorites much to the crowd’s delight. The crowd had swelled now to what was probably 100 people and I am pretty sure everyone who was there was glad they came. The encore consisted of Darren coming back on stage and asked people “Okay, so what are some songs that you want to hear?”. A two song encore of “Fat Kelly’s Teeth” and “Hymn for the Postal Service” occurred. The audience begged for more songs to be played, but the singer responded with a very classic “Always leave them wanting more” line.

Darren Hayman is one of the most honest and personable performers I have ever seen, even telling an audience member who had just requested a song something along the lines of “I struggle with the middle a, so don’t expect too much from this song”. He also started introduced another song with “When you are in Austria, and you are a mid to late thirties indie singer in decline …”. I guess the honest personality fits the music and you knew that there was no BS in anything he said. He also joked about having only “rudimentary knowledge” of his guitar and told people off to the side of the stage to move to the middle because all musicians know that the song sucks over there. After the show he hung around to chat with the people and seemed like a pretty genuine guy.

All in all, this was an awesome show. The small crowd, the intimate venue, the surprise addition of Jane Ehrhardt and her band and the fact that Darren Hayman hasn’t played in Canada in seven years all resulted in a special night, and a special show for all those who made it.


* I lost track of what songs were played. Alcohol does that.

Thanks to Darren Hayman, here is the set list

Hotter than Mojave
Hymn for the Alcohol
Nothing You Can Do About It
Don’t Go
The Greedy Ugly People

(with band)

Out Of My League
The Crocodile
China Crisis
Caravan Song
Weight Of The Stars
Half a Life

(solo encore)

I Stole a Bride
Hymn for the Postal Service

Concert Review: Brazilian Girls, Oct 4, Diesel Playhouse, Toronto

Posted on by Brian in Concerts | 1 Comment

Brazilian Girls

Brazilian Girls seem to be a hard act to really get a handle on.

The eclectic quartet have a seemingly very simple formula: drums, keys, bass, a sultry female vocalist and a reputation for enthusiastic live shows featuring a lot of audience participation. Complicating things slightly are lyrics in no less than five different languages,a departed bassist (founding member Jesse Murphy is reportedly “on hiatus,” so they’re breaking in a new guy), and a whirlwind touring and recording schedule that seems to put them in every major festival lineup and has seen the band release three albums in four years.

As if that weren’t enough, complicating things further on this night is the fact that the venue, Diesel Playhouse, is, well, a playhouse, with little room for moving to the band’s more danceable tracks; that after a solid self-titled debut that was roundly acclaimed as one of the best albums of 2005, the band’s last two efforts, 2006’s Talk to La Bomb and the recently released New York City, are more than a bit scattered (though NYC is an improvement); and that singer Sabina Sciubba is about five months pregnant.

I’d never seen Brazilian Girls before, but based on their reputation for wild, fantastical live shows and being a fan (mostly) of their albums, my expectations were high. And man, was I ever disappointed.

The whole show just seemed off. Even the opening DJ, whose statement “I’ve never performed in front of this many people sitting and staring at me” essentially summed up my thoughts on having a dance DJ perform in such a static environment with next to no space for dancing, and that’s all I’m going to say about his set, seemed to sense it.

Opening with “L’interprete,” the slowest track off the new album, and “Jique,” the opener off Talk to La Bomb, Brazilian Girls just never seemed to bring the kind of energy I’d expected. Nominally an album release party for NYC, out of the seven or so tracks the band played from that release only “Berlin,” “St. Petersburg,” and “Good Time” were really notable. As the best track off the new album, a poppy, fun tune with a chorus (“We just want to have a good time, tonight/we just want to have a good time all the time”) ripe for an audience sing-along, “Good Time” was surprisingly lifeless, thought not nearly as lifeless as the band’s rendition of the similarly fun “Don’t Stop” from their first album, which was almost unrecognizable compared to the recorded version. The rest of the set was inexplicably devoted mostly to tracks from Talk to La Bomb, which, as an album, sometimes sounds like a hastily written, poorly thought out mistake. The band mostly ignored their debut, save for a decent version of “Cornerstore,” and “Pussy,” the last song of the night and a crowd-pleaser, with it’s chorus of “pussy, pussy, pussy, marijuana,” which many members of the crowd’s front row sang as Sciubba shared her microphone.

As much fun as Sciubba was as she moved about the small stage trying to whip the crowd of several hundred seated fans into a frenzy, the rest of the band was completely stationary and looked kind of uninterested in the whole ordeal. It seems a bit unfair to ask a woman who’s five months pregnant to create all the on stage energy, and Sciubba, in a skintight beige bodysuit covered by what looked like a living room curtain that drew a lot of attention to her pregnant belly, could only do so much. At their best, Sciubba and Brazilian Girls’ recorded sound is fun, sexy, upbeat and introspective, the vocals alternately sultry and playfully teasing. Unfortunately, for any number of possible reasons, like the venue, the setlist, Sciubba’s physical limitations (really, given the pregnancy, it’s amazing she can stand for as long as she did), none of that came through on this night.