Cabin 5 is kind of a weird venue. Cool, but weird. Before I get into my review of Ewert and the Two Dragons, I feel I need to say a few words about this place and the circumstances surrounding my arrival. First off, I hadn’t even planned on attending this show. My original plan was to head over to the Opera House to catch some early evening metal, but to my surprise, the “Metal Alliance” show was no longer accepting wristbands. So after an entirely unnecessary sidetrip to The Opera House, it was back on the streetcar and onto my backup plan – Estonian indie/folk rock guys Ewert And The Two Dragons. All things considered, I’m pretty sure things worked out for the better in this case.
So on to the venue itself. I had never heard of Cabin 5 and didn’t quite know what it was all about other than the address. As it turns out, the entrance was through an alleyway with a lone doorman the only indicator that this was the right place. As I entered, I thought it looked a little dodgy and was kind of wondering if I was in the right place at all. However, after a brief walk up the stairs, I entered the venue to find a pretty cool little place, done up all folksy like … well, like a cabin, I guess. A pretty good venue in which to catch some folk rock. Apparently, a few others agreed with me, and it became evident that many of them were not there for CMW at all. It appears that a large number of people of Estonian descent were in attendance, which makes sense I suppose. These guys are probably a much bigger deal in their homeland and so when in town, it’s only natural that they’d attract an Estonian following.
As for their show, they had good stage presence and the music sounded pretty good. It was some nice, piano based folk rock with lots of Crowded House-esque harmonies and a good, driving beat throughout. I noted similarities to a variety of other acts, everything from Travis to Royal Wood to Herman Dune with lots of traditional sounding folk melodies. Overall, a good night out and a nice surprise.
BADBADNOTGOOD was featured on the cover of last Thursday’s NOW. The timing simply couldn’t have been better, since they were playing the Wrongbar the very next day. The band consists of drummer Alex Sowinski, bassist Chester Hansen, and keyboardist Matt Tavares. They met at Humber’s jazz program and have managed to fuse elements of jazz, hip hop, youthful bravado, and web 2.0 net savvy to create some kind of tidal wave phenomenon. It was a crazy and adrenaline pumped set as they celebrated both the Now cover, and getting booked for Coachella.
After seeing their fresh faces, it would be easy to discount BBNG as newbies. That is, until you hear them play. They are tight and skilled the way jazz musicians are, but they’ve managed to combine that with restless energy and the confidence to dash musical boundaries. Why can’t a band who has figured out how to tie the jazz of yesterday with the hip hop and rock of today put on a show that involves moshing? No reason, because that’s exactly what they are doing.
There’s a popular conception that modern jazz has become ossified. It’s easy to get that idea if you listen to standard adult contemporary jazz stations that cater to an older generation that grew up on Miles Davis. If that’s your starting point, then it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking BBNG are a different breed entirely. If you dig a little deeper though, you realize that mirroring the times, exploring new vistas, and pushing boundaries is exactly what jazz was about. In that respect, BBNG is simply part of the latest wave of artists to pick up the torch. They’ve been able to do it in a way that resonates with a new generation. That’s a good thing for jazz, and a good thing for new music.
BADBADNOTGOOD’s next album, BBNG2 is set to release April 3rd.
The last time I saw Martha Wainwright, I missed half her set due to an unfortunate venue timing mixup. That wasn’t the first, and it won’t be the last time that I’m late for a show. It was, however, the most memorable. The remainder was so captivating that it remains on my shortlist of top Toronto Jazz Festival shows. I was not going to miss the start of her CMW appearance.
Martha Wainwright controls her voice the way rocket surgeons control their finely tuned rockets.
Fortunately, I was able to get to the El mo in plenty of time to set up camp. She strode on stage in a bejewelled jacket as if just dismounting from her trusty Harley, then launched into an intimate set of solo acoustic guitar. Her voice is so signature that it really stands in a category all its own. She can serenade like a bird, evoke the singsong qualities of an innocent child, or growl like a rocker. Martha Wainwright controls her voice the way rocket surgeons control their finely tuned rockets.
This was a decidedly different Martha from the one I saw at the jazz fest. That Martha was a demure jazz vixen backed by double bass and warm guitar singing songs from the late great Edith Piaf. That Martha paired nicely with a glass of merlot. This Martha was as ready for a rock show as she was the camp fire. This Martha worked best with some beer. That she can so easily move from chill to elegant and back again underlines her versatility as an artist.
Martha Wainwright has no upcoming shows, though I would consider flying somewhere to see her again.
You know what’s great about CMW’s website? Live streaming clickable tunes that give you a taste of the band’s repertoire. Dear CMW: please do more of this. It’s awesome. I relied on these clickable little gems last Thursday night to craft one amazing night of live music. After awaking from a power nap at 9:05 pm (!), I was clicking on random things by 9:34, and out the door to see Sidney York at the Supermarket by 9:45. If the internet has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes you just don’t know what you want until you click on it.
Sidney York is a tri-city Vancouver/Calgary/Toronto-based collaboration between three band geeks that made good. Like the band geeks from my High School, they play instruments like the oboe, the French horn, and the bassoon. Unlike the band geeks from my High School, they’re ‘effing femme fatale rockers now! Band nerds unite!
The trio crafts super fun indie pop music by pairing their woodwinds, keys, and brass with a backing rock band. That made for a textured sound artfully complemented by lead-singer Brandi Sidoryk’s powerful operatic pipes. My only regret was that in my rush to leave the venue to see Martha Wainwright, I missed my opportunity to tell them how much fun they were, and also to ask whether they would marry me.
The Bright Light Social Hour is an Austin-based southern man’s band coming off a successful SXSW. When I saw this big-haired, big-bearded and big-moustachioed band setup, I had a feeling I was in for some big old-fashioned rock. I was not disappointed. The BLSH rock hard and they rock well. It’s always an amazing thing to see a bunch of musicians play with intensity and grit. It’s even better when that intensity is being guided and focused by sheer talent and hair.
This modern day Lynyrd Skynyrd fuses elements of funk, blues and soul into something that is still unapologetically rock and roll. What more can I say? This was the sleeper hit of my CMW. Go see these guys.
The Bright Light Social Hour is playing shows throughout eastern Ontario over the next few weeks before returning to the U.S. Check them out at Ottawa’s Zaphod Beeblebrox on March 31.