el mocambo

A CMW Review: Parlovr, March 23, El Mocambo

Posted on by jessica in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | 1 Comment

On Friday night, I somehow continued my trend of seeing bands from Montreal with hair I could say a lot about by going to see Parlovr. I had seen this trio three years ago at North by Northeast and missed every festival appearance of theirs since, so it was time to see them again. After the chaos that was the outside of the El Mocambo (dear security guard: don’t separate the lines into two and then if someone asks you which line is which, do not respond with “I don’t know”), I finally got in for their midnight set. Their set-up was just like it was in 2009 (but their hair had been somewhat altered) with big makeshift green and red arrow lights draped around their equipment, adding a little bit of extra ambiance to the weird room that is the upstairs of the El Mo.

“Hell, Heaven” is a perfect opener for their set. It led the crowd right into Louis Jackson’s and Alex Cooper’s bitterly angelic oohs and angsty guitar pushes. They moved right into “Where is the Sun” which is also off the “Hell/Heaven/Big/Love” EP. Parlovr took a couple stops in between songs throughout their set to tell jokes (“did you have some of that barbecue sauce downstairs? That’s all me”) and stories (one about a Quebec prime minister at a Rolling Stones show downstairs many moons ago, and if that had taken place now, Stephen Harper would be beating up bands and banging Adele; they didn’t get much of a response when they said “we need more Quebec prime ministers”). Their mischievous charm is endearing, and adds to the character that is the band.

Their set was an introduction to some material off their much anticipated upcoming album Kool Soul, which is due May 15, but nobody could shake the excitement as soon as they decided to finish their set with the catchy, squirrely anthem “Pen to the Paper” off their first album. Parlovr was everything I’d hoped them to be since I was hooked three years ago. Their vibes, charm and yes, their hair, are all things to take notice of. Hopefully this band will come back soon for a proper non-festival show to celebrate the new album.

Concert Review: Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers, Acid Mothers Temple, April 8, El Mocambo

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

Toronto – Shilpa Ray And Her Happy Hookers is admittedly a great band name.  It’s a name I had seen around for a bit, especially in Austin during SXSW, where Ray and her bandmates were playing several showcases, as is the standard there.  Having missed them in Austin, I was curious to see what they were all about and seeing as how they were opening for noise/psychedelia masters Acid Mothers Temple, I figured this was my chance.

There were a few things that were notable about Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers.  Firstly, Ray plays the harmonium, an unusual instrument for a rock band.  Secondly, when she sings, Ray seems to be able to open her mouth up really wide and out of that mouth comes an impressive blues/punk wail.  Thirdly, her guitarist wears track pants on stage.  And finally, her drummer is a total drum monster.  John Adamski had a pretty hard hitting style that in many ways reminded me of Levon Helm, but like Levon if he listened to lots of hardcore bands or something.  He even kind of looked like Helm.  His drumming totally drove the band’s performance.

Ray played harmonium on most of the songs and it adds a unique flavour, especially on songs like “Venus Shaver” and “Erotolepsy.”  Ray’s use of the instrument isn’t just a gimmick used to separate themselves from the pack, but an act of necessity.  Growing up, her father banned her from learning any Western instruments and so harmonium it was.  And that harmonium sounded pretty good, as did the rest of the four-piece band.  They were most effective on the more uptempo numbers, when they were given a chance to really let go. 

Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers – “Erotolepsy” by terrorbird


Speaking of letting go, Acid Mothers Temple really “let go” when they play live in the sense that you never really know where their set is going to go on any given night.  There’s a lot of room for improvisation in their songs and sonically, it ran the gamut from near a capella moments to heavy, trippy riffing to trippy, ambient noodling.  I’m not really sure how much of it was improvised and how much is specifically designed to sound that way and following a preordained pattern, but I do know that it was quite often “trippy.”  I’m gonna take a wild guess and say that a whole lot of it is improvised.  One glance at their merch table revealed a ridiculous amount of CDs (they were sold out of vinyl), the sheer volume of which not only brought many a fan to dumbfounded indecision (might as well pick one at random) but also suggests that these guys record pretty much every musical idea that pops into their heads.  They were something to see live – a bunch of older, long haired Japanese dudes jamming out.  Truthfully, not all of it was all that interesting all the time.  During the more ambient passages, I tended to lose focus, and it was far less song-based than the opening act.  But by and large, it was engaging, and the idea of sonic exploration that they represent is a pretty appealing one in general.  In that sense, Acid Mother Temple are kind of like a bag of Bits and Bites – you never know what you’re gonna get. 

CMW Review: These Electric Lives, Piper Davis, Mar 12, El Mocambo

Posted on by Mark in Canadian Music Week, Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – In my books, it’s not truly a music festival in Toronto until I’ve been to either the Horseshoe or the El Mocambo. The only exception to this rule is the Toronto Jazz Festival. In which case it’s not truly a jazz festival until I’ve been inside that tent with the chandeliers at Nathan Phillips Square, or the Rex. With this in mind, I figured that the El Mo was a good place to start Saturday evening.

The first band on my agenda was These Electric Lives, a Toronto-based band that plays rock, alternative rock, and a brand new form of music I’m calling “indie rock”. The Lives are fronted by singer Chris Martin from Coldplay. At the very least he could have easily been Chris’ brother, or maybe his younger cousin. Their first tune was head-boppariffic, as I caught myself bopping my head almost immediately.

The best part for me was the contrast between the polished Coldplay-esque stage presence of the singer against the rough and tumble drummer. He reminded me of Animal from the Muppets. He looked rough around the edges and he played like he was rough around the edges. It was great. Just check out the lower left corner of the picture above to see what I mean. Although the band got off to a strong start, I felt the wind leave their sails pretty quickly. There was good indie rock moments in there. I just wish the momentum of the first song would have propelled them to an Animal-like craze similar to the Muppet Show theme song.

Next up was Vancouver-based Piper Davis. I don’t really know what to say about this band. The CMW site says “her songs represent a mixed bag of musical genres”. And how. Piper Davis herself danced in angular movements to what I’m told are “micro-sampled beats”. I can only guess that these are tiny beats that are kind of jarring and pierce your ears. I ran into fellow Panic Manualer Brian at the show. Thankfully for him, I had me an extra pair of earplugs.

“Thank you very much for these [earplugs]” – Panic Manualer Brian

Drink sales rose sharply during this set as people moved steadily away from the music and stumbly towards copious amounts of alcohol. Music is such an interesting thing; there’s an indescribable quality to so much of it. Take something and tweak it here and there and you get an amazing live show, or maybe a train wreck. I think there’s a lot to say about a musician’s stage presence, whether they’re truly into it, and the feedback between the artist and the crowd. Unfortunately this particular show seemed to lack all of that.

Concert Review: Fool’s Gold, July 21, El Mocambo

Posted on by Paul in Everything, Reviews | Leave a comment

Toronto – Fool’s gold is another term for the mineral pyrite, so named for it’s superficial resemblance to actual gold.  Fool’s Gold is also the name of a Los Angeles based band influenced by African music and Western pop.  Being a band that is heavily influenced by African rhythms and melodies, the Vampire Weekend comparisons are inevitable, so let’s just get the obligatory Vampire Weekend reference out of the way right now.  Truth be told, Fool’s Gold seem more strongly influenced by the music of Africa and have incorporated it much more into their sound than Vampire Weekend ever has.  With driving basslines, heavy percussion, and copious use of saxophone, the six members definitely got a good groove going.  Oh, and to throw another cultural influence into the mix, most of the songs were sung in Hebrew too.

We’ve mentioned in the past how bands can use ploys such as playing acoustically or at the front of the stage to draw the audience in closer.  Fool’s Gold did utilize the front of the stage trick later in the show (and eventually came right off the stage) , but early on in their set, singer Luke Top used another technique, which he referred to as “Jewish guilt.”  Simply put, he just asked the crowd nicely if they could please come closer since they “we didn’t come all the way from LA not to see your faces.”  And it worked like a charm.  I think this was a crowd that wanted to be charmed a bit anyways.  And to dance.  And really, it’s the kind of music that’s hard not to dance to. (Note: I did not dance .. but I was tapping my foot a bit) 

I imagine Fool’s Gold would go over quite well in a festival setting – those sunny guitar melodies would probably go over even better with actual sunshine in the mix.  In addition to being well suited for a festival, I also found myself thinking they would make a great wedding band.  That’s not a slight at all.  I was at an Ethiopian wedding last summer that had a live band at the reception.  It made for a great dance party … although somehow I don’t think these guys want to end up on the wedding circuit.  Still, by the end of their set, they had a large chunk of the crowd dancing and chanting along.  That’s better than a pan full of pyrite.