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.

CMW Review: Alcoholic Faith Mission, Digits, Madrid; March 12, El Mocambo

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

Toronto – In a stunning example of Allison’s proposed motto, “woefully unprepared amateurs,” for our CMW coverage, not only did I go see a band that Paul had seen and reviewed just two nights earlier, but Mark and I unwittingly ended up at the same venue, then hung out and watched four bands together during the 2 + 2 Management Showcase at El Mocambo on Saturday night. Widespread coverage!

Anyway, since Mark is going to take on These Electric Lives and the train wreck that was Piper Davis’s set, here are reviews of three of the five bands I saw Saturday night.

There was some buzz for Danish band Alcoholic Faith Mission going into CMW (which is to say, I saw them mentioned in the only CMW preview I read aside from ours, which was in Metro), and after seeing them play, I would have to say they deserved it. They have kind of an E Street Band meets Stars meets the New Pornographers thing going on. Lead singer and guitarist Thorben Jensen has a Springsteen-like voice and they feature a brass instrument quite prominently, though it’s a trombone rather than a saxaphone; he shares vocals on a lot of tunes with Kristine Permild, and the interplay between male/female leads and melodramatic feeling of a lot of their tunes is reminiscent of Stars; and the power and tightness the band has with six people on stage, often with five of them singing at once, reminds me of the New Pornographers. A very strong set. You can also catch them at SXSW, if you’re lucky enough to be there.

This was a tough act for Digits to follow and…well, it’s probably fair to wonder if there might’ve been a better choice to fill that slot. I mean, it is possible for me to get into an act where there’s only one musician on stage with a drum machine, repeater and keyboards, but if he’s on after a terrific high energy set from a six-piece band, he’s going to have to be great. And Digits, aka Torontonian Alt Altman, wasn’t great. Without trying to sound too much like a crotchety old man, the volume of his set was just too loud, losing a lot of the intricacies that may or may not have been present. As it was, the beats weren’t especially compelling, and Altman’s voice and lyrics didn’t sound like anything special.

Madrid topped off my night. One of the few bands I knew I liked on the CMW schedule, my expectations for their set were high. Madrid didn’t meet them. Madrid’s new album Original Message has been seven years in the making. The opening track, “Out to Sea,” has been an amazing teaser of a tune that’s been kicking around for years, featuring in remixes by artists like Ulrich Schnauss and promising a shoegaze-sort of sound for this album. This would be a departure from the IDM of their first album, Warm Waters, an album well-liked by many electronica fans, myself included. But after seeing them play CMW, I can’t help but wonder if their new material just isn’t that strong. Instead of a set of dreamy beats and sounds with the occasional Adam Perry lyric thrown in for good measure, their set was a lot closer to a straightforward indie rock setup, though on the quiet side and very navel-gazing, without a lot of the complexity and lush sounds of Warm Waters that drew favourable comparisons to Boards of Canada. The problem with the new stuff in a live setting is that Perry’s voice isn’t really strong enough to hold interest for an entire set, and band co-founder Duncan Christie and their drummer (who’s name I didn’t catch) aren’t interesting enough most of the time to pick up some of the slack. Madrid weren’t bad, mind you. They were just good when I was expecting great. And they didn’t even play “Out to Sea.”

Alcoholic Faith Mission: