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Concert Review: Allah-Las, Tashaki Miyaki, November 27, Horseshoe Tavern

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If you’re into 60’s-style garage-psych rock, then I have a band for you: LA’s Allah-Las. But, chances are, you may have already heard of them. If the sold-out jam-packed Horseshoe Tavern was any indicator on Thursday night, then Allah-Las are definitely a known band.

Rolling through the bulk of songs from their self-titled debut and this year’s Worship the Sun, the band impressed with fantastic live versions faithful to their studio-recorded counterparts. The jangly guitar tone was impeccable and vocal harmonies were spot-on. Most of the highlights (for me) of the set list came from their debut: “Busman’s Holiday,” “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind),” “Vis-à-Vis” and “Sandy.”

In a two-song encore, the set ended with the very danceable and 60’s-inspired “Every Girl,” the best track from Worship the Sun.

Though I rarely review (or even arrive in time to see!) support bands, I must make mention of Tashaki Miyaki, the LA trio that played before Allah-Las’ headlining set. Perfectly complementary to their tourmates, Tashaki Miyaki also sound like they take inspiration from the 60’s and garage rock. The one big difference (and an important one!) is that the vocalist sounds eerily like Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. In a nutshell, this is how I’m describing Tashaki Miyaki: like a baby Hope Sandoval formed a lo-fi girl band version of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Basically? My dream band. I hadn’t heard of Tashaki MIyaki before this, but I was so properly impressed by their set that I made mental note to check them out after the show. Now I can’t stop listening to them. (Also, they’re not Japanese, so don’t even let their band name throw you off.) Moral of the story? Sometimes it’s a good idea to arrive early to see an opening band.

Concert Review: Slow Club, September 24, Horseshoe Tavern

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slow club

Remember when Slow Club was a twee band? When the Sheffield, UK duo made their 2009 debut with Yeah So, I could not get enough of their precocious and adorable boy-girl harmonies. Their music was like a junior Belle and Sebastian mixed in with the reckless abandon of the White Stripes.

Fast-forward five years later, with two more album under their belts, Slow Club are a much more sophisticated and slicker band, especially with their latest, retro/R&B-tinged release, Complete Surrender. Rebecca Taylor and Charles Watson are still Slow Club but they’re older, more polished. Though they’re still charming (the British accents ensure that, really), Slow Club are definitely twee no longer.

The Horseshoe was an appropriate upgrade (size-wise) from their 2012 Rivoli show to promote their second album, Paradise. Rebecca joked several times that she couldn’t believe anybody even showed up to see them play. She confessed she’d been in a bad mood prior to coming onstage but seeing the audience made her feel much happier.

Both Taylor and Watson are strong singers and talented musicians, switching instruments (guitar, keyboards, drums) throughout their set. The band was rounded out with a bassist and drummer (who switched to guitar when Taylor played drums). Taylor and Watson’s voices complement one another’s when singing together (“Tears of Joy,” “Two Cousins”) but on their own, each is fantastic in their own right. Taylor demonstrated her powerful voice in the very 60’s Motown-esque “Suffering You, Suffering Me” and emotive quietness in “Not Mine to Love” and “Dependable People And Things That I’m Sure Of.” Watson took the lead on “Paraguay And Panama” and “Wanderer Wandering.”

The only tune they played from their debut album was “Our Most Brilliant Friends,” which produced the loudest audience singalong.

After a three-song encore, Rebecca hopped off the stage into the audience, with Charles trailing behind her with his acoustic guitar. The crowd parted for the duo to walk through and gathered around as Charles quietly began to strum his guitar. With awestruck fans smiling and surrounding them, Slow Club played “Hackney Marsh.” It reminded me of the first time I saw them play a small, intimate show at the Dakota (in 2009, their first time in Toronto). Though I may never love any of their albums more than Yeah So, it’s always thrilling to witness a band’s musical evolution.

Song of the Day: The Shilohs “Student of Nature”

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The Shilohs come from dewey-eyed Vancouver and are ready to shake things up in the patio capital. They share the stage with the Fresh and Onlys this Friday, July 18th at the sordid Horseshoe Tavern.

All the music on the band’s 2014 eponymous release shelters hardened summer love. It’s even more true of the lead-off single “Student of Nature.” These guys know how to inject sunshine into guitar lines. The production is reminiscent of TREX — we’re talking handclaps and stirring coo’s of backing vocal here folks. The single highlights the laidback tempos and easygoing vocal delivery of the album as a whole, but shows how those two elements can be adopted in a compelling sing-along single.

For the Smith Westerns and Tennis fans out there. Put your groove boots on and come down to the ‘Shoe tomorrow night!

Concert Review: Nicole Atkins, February 18, Horseshoe Tavern

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Nicole Atkins

First things first about New Jersey native, Nicole Atkins – she may often be labeled as simply a singer/songwriter, but she’s much more than the typical prototype of this description. She is a goddamn performer. Hearing her powerful voice alone ought to be enough to convince anyone of her scope of talent.

On a Tuesday night at the Horseshoe, Atkins and her four-piece backing band rocked through a setlist that mostly touted songs from her latest record, Slow Phaser. The album showcases a funkier, 70’s-influenced sound than her previous two full-lengths – a sound that translates wonderfully well in a live setting. I would go out on a limb and say that the live versions are far superior than that of their studio counterparts. The first thing I noticed about the new songs performed live? They have some seriously danceable basslines. And who doesn’t love a good bassline?

The band opened with “Vultures,” a darker, broody tune from Atkins’ second album, Mondo Amore. Afterwards, it was time to dance, or at least some heavy toe-tapping from the lesser inclined. New songs “Who Killed the Moonlight,” “Cool People” (“dedicated to you guys!”) and “Girl, You Look Amazing” at least got Atkins herself dancing around the stage, looking like she was having great time, all the while knocking it out the park with her killer vocals.

In addition to her voice and funky dancing, Atkins also had an adorably sassy demeanor, which made her stage banter feel comfortable and natural. She invited anyone who liked vodka and sodas to come drink with her later (a fan presented her one right before performing “Sin Song”). Later, she graciously thanked the audience for coming out to the show, despite the “shitty weather.” “Three albums, three winters,” she lamented with a laugh, that they were calling this one the “Snow Phaser” tour. “One day I’ll make an album in the summer for my own sake. For your sake too. For all our sakes!”

Instead of leaving the stage and returning to do an encore, Atkins proposed they just stay after “It’s Only Chemistry” and do one extra song. The crowd cheered in agreement, and so the band launched into a rousing version of “The Tower,” from Mondo Amore. Still, afterwards, as they were leaving the stage, a guy in the audience yelled, “Encore!” Atkins laughed and said, “Dude, we just did it!” as she left the stage with her vodka and soda.