CMW Review: Fat White Family, May 8, The Horseshoe

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“You have no idea how much we suffer,” said Fat White Family guitarist Saul Adamczewski as they took to the stage. “Every day is the same.”

Whether he was expressing his ennui and existential angst brought on by the rigours of touring, or just referring to their issues with the sound at the venue (According to Adamczewski, they need a lot of reverb to cover up how “shit” they are), it was an amusing way in which to introduce themselves. And with introductions out of the way, the Fat Whites got right down to business, delivering a drunken, shambolic yet engaging show to a packed Horseshoe Tavern. Singer Lias Saoudi prowled about the stage like a man possessed – he definitely adheres to the “I am a golden god” school of rock performance techniques.

In terms of energy and attitude, Fat White Family definitely delivered. It wasn’t exactly the most polished performance, but that hardly matters – close enough for rock n’ roll and all that.

CMW Review: Gold Lake, FRANKIE, May 7

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During Gold Lake’s set at The Drake Underground, singer Lua Rios mentioned how happy they were to be in Toronto, even going so far as to refer to it as “our favourite city.” While most bands are probably buttering up whatever city they’re playing in when they say something like that, apparently these guys mean it. Inspired by a trip here for NXNE with a previous band, Rios and guitarist Carlos Del Amo decided to make the move to North America, relocating from their native Madrid to Brooklyn. Because Brooklyn is apparently just like Toronto? Who knows.

Rios’ soulful and spacey vocals were the focal point of their sound, floating atop the band’s lush, pretty pop. In reading a few other reviews of the band’s sound, I’ve come across the word “shimmering” as a descriptor and it seems fitting. The band has even made note of this, referencing it on their Bandcamp page: “Gold Lake shimmer, or so they say….”

From shimmering, we move to twinkling, namely the self-described “twinkle rock” of Vancouver based band FRANKIE. Though I’m not entirely sure what twinkle rock entails exactly, I suppose there is a certain twinkling, sparkling, perhaps even shimmering element to the band’s sound. With lots of instrument switching and three singers displaying strong harmonies throughout, they played an enjoyable set at The Paddock to a fairly full house. And while the term twinkle rock may suggest a certain lightness, there was also a bit of heft to their sound as well as a slightly dark undercurrent at times, both lyrically and sonically.

CMW Review: Ben Lee, May 7, The Great Hall

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Ben Lee had some exciting news to share with us at his show at The Great Hall … about a show he played the night before. “Last night I played a gig in the Qantas lounge at LAX. It was a high point – I finally became the guy at the airport bar.” OK, not necessarily the most exciting news, but he seemed pretty stoked about it. And while that might seem an odd thing to get excited about, especially for a seasoned performer like Lee, it illustrates one thing about him – Ben Lee is a totally positive, upbeat guy. Hell, he can even make death seem kind of positive.

Lee mentioned how a couple of years back he was somewhat obsessed with death and even volunteered as a “death midwife.” This led, in turn, to what he referred to as his young daughter’s first existential crisis. All of this was the inspiration for a new song he played, “Everybody Dies,” which he described as a children’s song. And it was, in fact, an upbeat, kind of positive, matter of fact look at death. He followed that up with another new one, “Happiness,” which actually sounded way more like a kid’s song than the previous one. But that’s OK.

At one point, Lee opened it up to requests. A few people shouted out some song titles, among them “Cigarettes Will Kill You.” “Is it not a bit boring without the piano part?” asked Lee before convincing the audience to help him by singing said piano part. He ended his set off with two of his best known songs, “Catch My Disease” and “We’re All In This Together.” He initiated another singalong on the latter song, asking the crowd, “Are you guys ready to get corny?” Yes, Ben, it seems like people are ready and willing to get a little corny with you.

CMW Review: Swervedriver, SIANspheric, Little You Little Me, May 6, Horseshoe Tavern

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An open letter to the guy trying to start a moshpit during Swervedriver’s set:

Look, I get it. You probably haven’t been to a show in awhile. Maybe you drove in from the ‘burbs and you and your bros are totally stoked for this show – you don’t get out to shows much anymore, but you still like to get drunk on the weekends and stuff and dude, it’s Swervedriver. I get it. But you’ve got to feel out the kind of crowd you’re in, because from where I stood, no one was having any of that, especially when your buddy tried to crowdsurf and failed. Take the hint.

Anyways, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let’s talk about the show. Starting things off was Saint John, NB based band Little You Little Me, who, while they may have stood out from the other bands on the bill by being a bit younger, definitely seemed to mesh in terms of sound, with a lot of ’90s influences being heard in their music. There was a strong East Coast ’90s influence to be heard, with hints of Eric’s Trip, Hardship Post and Thrush Hermit coming through.

Up next was SIANspheric. There was definitely a solid contingent of fans looking forward to seeing the Hamilton psych/shoegaze crew do their thing again and singer/guitarist Sean Ramsay seemed to take some comfort in this fact. After hearing a few “whoos,” he encouraged the crowd to continue, asking if he could get a few more “Give’rs.” It was an impressive set, full of lots of ambient passages and effects pedal-fueled sonics.

During their set, Ramsay gave a shout out to Little You Little Me as well as the headliners. “And you know who’s coming on next … those guys.” Those guys, of course, are Swervedriver. Though they reunited a few years back, they’ve only now gotten around to recording a new album and the songs from that album, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, managed to fit in seamlessly with the older tracks to make for an ultimately satisfying show. The highlight for me was their performance of “Rave Down” and a lyric from that song could serve as a decent summation of the show: “Like the sharp hard hit of a car crash in a dream.”

Works for me.