CMW Review: The Dandy Warhols, May 9, Danforth Music Hall

Posted on by Paul in Canadian Music Week | Leave a comment


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Midway through The Dandy Warhols‘ set at The Danforth Music Hall as part of Canadian Music Week, the band, and singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor in particular, faced a bit of criticism in the form of a heckle when some random fan shouted out, “Make your vocals higher!”

No, he didn’t mean that he wanted Taylor-Taylor to sound more like Geddy Lee, though that would have undoubtedly been very amusing. Rather, he felt that the vocals needed to be higher up in the mix. Apparently it wasn’t the first time the band had faced such a critique.

“Every single night – ‘turn your vocals up!’ … nope.” replied Taylor-Taylor. His feeling was that it was the heckler and not the band who needed to change things up, suggesting that the fan should “smoke more pot” and change his mood to suit the music rather than the band changing anything to suit him. That’s fair enough – for much of their set the Dandys were all about setting a certain mood through their music, which would certainly qualify as stoner friendly as the band put out a psychedelic vibe that was kind of heavy yet also kind of mellow. And despite the fact that the band taking the stage about twenty minutes past their announced set time got me in a less than gracious mood from the outset, that mood quickly changed once the band got things going.

Though the Dandy Warhols just released their tenth studio album Why You So Crazy earlier this year, their current tour is being billed as a 25th anniversary tour and accordingly, the band played selections from the new album as well as songs from throughout their career. Highlights included “We Used To be Friends”, “Get Off”, “Godless” and of course the big crowd singalong during “Bohemian Like You.” “Highlife,” one of the tunes off the new album also stood out as keyboardist Zia McCabe took the lead on the krautrock meets country number.

And while it’s kind of weird to consider that the Dandy Warhols have been going for 25 years now, it’s still not as weird as the fact that Hanson has somehow been a band for even longer than that, and they’re all still only in their mid to late 30s. Just something to think about.

Anyways, here’s the video for “Forever”:

CMW Review: The Lemonheads, Tommy Stinson, The Restless Age, May 8, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Paul in Canadian Music Week | Leave a comment

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While the idea of going out on the first couple of nights of CMW seemed a bit daunting to me, by Wednesday night, I was drawn out of my music fest hibernation to check out a couple of acts whose legacies stretch back to the 1980s – Tommy Stinson and The Lemonheads.

Taking the stage before Stinson and The Lemonheads were openers The Restless Age, a younger act than the others on the bill, but one whose sound hearkens back to an even earlier time with their piano-based pop bringing to mind the smooth sounds of ’70s singer-songwriters. That influence was made explicit by the end of their set when they closed things off with a James Taylor cover. With each member of the band taking the lead during their set and the three of them displaying some solid harmonies throughout, the band put on an impressive set.

Next up was Tommy Stinson, performing solo and acoustic throughout much of his set (he switched to electric for the last couple of tunes). Stinson was in a chatty mood, joking with the crowd (“Everyone pull out your iPhones. Here’s tonight’s tourist attraction”) and offering up a few good natured yet somewhat curmudgeonly complaints about his guitar stand and his new eyeglasses. Noting that he doesn’t do this kind of solo gig too often, Stinson promised that he was going to bust out some deep cuts for the occasion, and referred back to those new glasses again when explaining why he wasn’t working with a setlist – too hard to read and so, he was winging it. “So if you have any requests,” Stinson added, “Keep ‘em to yourself.”

Finally came the main event for the evening as Evan Dando and the current iteration of The Lemonheads took to the stage to play a set full of songs from throughout their career including classics such as “It’s A Shame About Ray”, “It’s About Time”, “The Outdoor Type” and “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You.” Touring behind their latest Varshons 2, the band also performed several of the songs off of that collection of covers, including versions of Yo La Tengo’s “Can’t Forget” and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ “Straight To You,” the latter of which stood out as one of the highlights of the night.

The band closed out their set with another cover, their version of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum” from 1990’s Favourite Spanish Dishes EP, thus ending things off on a high note.

Hot Docs Review: American Factory (Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert, 2019)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | Leave a comment


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A failing automobile factory is on the verge of going under, only to be saved by an Asian investor, after which culture clashes, of course, ensue. If this sounds like the plot of the 1987 Ron Howard directed film Gung Ho, you’re not wrong, but it’s also the story of American Factory. Except in this case, there’s no plucky, wisecracking lead character played by Michael Keaton coming in to ultimately save the day. No, real life is more complicated than that.

American Factory tells the story of a Dayton, Ohio based GM plant that is converted into a factory for Chinese owned company Fuyao Glass, thus saving many jobs. Of course the story doesn’t end there. Aside from the obvious cultural clashes, the real issues begin once it becomes clear that the differences run a little deeper, with problems specifically arising once the workers decide that they need to unionize, something to which management is completely opposed.

Featuring in depth, honest interviews with those from both sides of this conflict, the film presents a fascinating look at the issue. A clash between labour and management is not a new story by any means, but as told by directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert in American Factory, it’s a very compelling one.

Screenings:
Sat, May 4, 6:00 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Sun, May 5, 4:15 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 1

Hot Docs Preview: Gaza (Garry Keane, Andrew McConnell, 2018)

Posted on by Paul in Hot Docs | Leave a comment


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Gaza has long been the site of much conflict and unrest, but while it’s one thing to see reports in the news of what’s happening there, it’s hard for many to imagine what it would be like to actually live through it all. In Gaza, directors Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell focus on the people of Gaza and their daily lives from their own perspectives.

While the film certainly doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of daily life in Gaza, it’s not the sole focus either. That reality is unavoidable and always hanging like a spectre over everything, but the directors choose instead to focus for much of the film on the lives of its various residents, ranging from young children to aspiring musicians to a taxi driver and many more. Despite the hardships they may face, the vast majority of those profiled in the film try to focus on the positive aspects of their lives rather than dwell on the negative.

Though the filmmakers don’t really spend much time on the political aspects of life in Gaza, that likely wasn’t one of their main goals while making the film anyways. Rather, the focus on the human element shows us a unique look at a side of life in the region that is not often seen.

Screenings:
Tue, Apr 30, 6:00 PM @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Wed, May 1, 3:45 PM @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Fri, May 3, 3:45 PM @ Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema