horseshoe tavern

Concert Review: Brother, May 3, The Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – Brother have recently been touted by the British music press as one of the “next big thing” buzz bands.  They first caught my attention back in December on a trip to London when I picked up a copy of NME and read a feature on them.  The band gave a pretty good interview, bringing up the ghost of Oasis (while taking care to stress that they don’t sound like Oasis), slagging off fellow Brit buzz bands of the moment The Vaccines and Mona, and offering up ridiculous, cocky quotes like “we self-elected ourselves to be the future.”  Being slaves to the whims of the British music press, Team Panic Manual was out in full force for the Slough band’s Canadian debut at The Horseshoe.

Given the Oasis comparisons and the braggadocio on display in the aforementioned interview, these guys seemed a lot nicer than I expected them to be.  I imagined four cocky Liam Gallagher clones, all wearing sunglasses on stage.  What we saw instead was four lads (plus a keyboard player and a backup singer) having fun onstage and rocking out.  There was a bit of swagger on display in comments like, “Come on, Toronto, you’re supposed to be going crazy.  This is Brother!” and “This is the part where you show us you like us and clap along.”  However, these comments were probably a bit tongue in cheek, not obnoxious at all, and kind of endearing.  Also effective – people did clap along for a bit. 

Basically, these guys play some solid, decent, guitar based Britpop/rock.  They’ve got a few catchy tunes (the highlight being “Darling Buds Of May”), some good stage banter and kept things moving along at a good pace.  Also, as Ricky pointed out, their set was twice as long as fellow buzz band The Vaccines’ similar Horseshoe showcase a few months back.  It was probably equally as effective though.  I’m not so sure about the effectiveness of singer Lee Newell’s choice of a tie-died t-shirt though.  I kept waiting for them to bust out a Grateful Dead cover. 

So will these guys turn out to be the future of music that they’ve elected themselves to be or just flashes in the pan?  More likely the latter, but in the meantime, they put on a pretty good show and they’re riding a wave of popularity and hype.  Might as well enjoy the ride.

Darling Buds of May (Single) by vivaBROTHER

Concert Review: Julie Doiron, Feb. 3, The Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – I estimate that over the years, and including her appearances with Eric’s Trip and as part of Gord Downie’s band, I have probably seen Julie Doiron upwards of ten times.  And every time, it’s a different experience and she’s usually playing with different musicians (or on her own).  On this occasion, she was backed up by Wil Kidman of Constantines and Woolly Leaves fame on guitar and drums. 

It was a pretty loose, unstructured set (The only time I’ve seen her more loose and unstructured was when Patrick Watson made her make up a song on the spot during a workshop at The Hillside Festival a couple years ago) that basically consisted of her and Kidman making up the set as they went along.  This made for moments like Doiron forgetting which song she was going to play or changing her mind about songs quickly.  They also included several cover songs in the set – the Everley Bros./Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris/Nazareth tune “Love Hurts,” Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere” (which featured Julie on the drums), and Merle Haggard’s “Reasons To Quit,” about which Julie went on at great lengths.

And Julie does like to go on.  Her set ended up being an hour and a half long.  Julie herself worried that it was going on too long, as she worked to figure out a mini setlist for the last few songs of the night (Was it three songs left or four … maybe five?), trying to fit in both songs she wanted to play and songs requested by the audience which she thought would be good ones.  And frankly, it was maybe a bit too long, yet it never felt like she overstayed her welcome.  Of course, the length of the set was not just due to the number of songs played, but to Julie’s between song chats with the audience.  These included musings about nakedness, the dangers of rental cars without snow tires, and whether the lake in Bath is in fact Lake Ontario, as well as a story or two about her kids.  It seems she’s not quite the same person she was when she wrote “Talking’s not so easy/I wish i had more to say.”

Concert Review: Tame Impala, Nov 24, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by sarahw in Concerts, Reviews | 4 Comments

Tame Impala

For those of you who follow my posts closely (I know that’s about 95% of this blog’s readers) you may have noticed my inclination to the slightly overzealous and enthusiastic.  The lowest score I’ve ever given a band on here is 3/5.

Enter bitter, disappointed Sarah.

Back Story – June, 2010

I liked Tame Impala before everyone else. Just kidding.  A friend’s Facebook wall post introduced me to this Australian psychedelic rock band.  Their debut album Innerspeaker quickly became one of my favourites of the summer.  These Pitchfork darlings have a unique rhythmic, psychedelic sound that channels 60’s rock bands like The Doors and The Kinks.

Fast Forward to November 24, 2010

I arrived at the Horseshoe cold and sober, but excited to find that this show was completely sold out.  Nice work boys!

They kicked the night off with It’s Not Meant to be.  Not the best opening I thought, but hey, maybe they just need to get into their groove.  From there things kind of spiraled into a psychedelic, reverb-laden, distorted mess.  Don’t get me wrong, I KNOW this is part of their style and it sounds ace on the album.  However this style did not translate well into a live show.  For clarity’s sake I will now compose a list of all the things I did not enjoy about the show.

  1. It was next to impossible to hear the vocals over the instrumentals
  2. The vocals I could hear were terrible, in fact I think all the effects actually mask the lead-singer’s sub-par voice
  3. There was way too much feedback
  4. At some points the vocals and instrumentals were not in sync
  5. The band had zero stage presence
  6. There was no encore (probably for the best)

In their defense, I don’t think that the Horseshoe was the best venue for this type of band.  Something larger with superior sound capabilities would have been better suited for this show, like Mod Club or Phoenix for instance.

Further to their defense, I saw a lot of people rocking out during the show and read some decent reviews from other Toronto bloggers.  One blogger even had the audacity to compare the lead singer to John Lennon, what the fuck is that about?

Lastly, I will still recommend the album, it’s excellent.  I especially enjoy the tracks Solitude is Bliss and I Don’t Really mind.  However, save your cash, save your ears, save your time because Tame Impala are extremely tame and underwhelming live.

Concert Review: The Wilderness, Nov 20, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by sarahw in Concerts, Music, Reviews | 3 Comments

The Wilderness

Toronto – Google “The Wilderness” and all kinds of things pop up: a Wikipedia entry about the Civil War, conservation editorials, a Wilderness Summit video by David Suzuki, and the list goes on. Dig further into those results and you’ll  stumble upon an experimental rock group from Toronto.

Saturday was a big night for the Wilderness, playing at the Horseshoe Tavern and releasing their new album .272.  To be honest, before the show I’d only really heard their latest single, Realpolitik, which I liked instantly.

The Wilderness did not disappoint, one bit. They had quite an entertaining set: stage adorned with an over sized dream-catcher, audience armed with balloons, lead singer, Lee pouring glitter all over the front row keeners, interpretive dancers and surprise duets.  I’m sure as a band it’s annoying to be categorized and compared to predecessors, but I’m going to go ahead and do it.  I hear a mix of Editors, Joy Division and !!!.  Lee’s distinct Ian Curtis-esque voice meshes well with the band’s rock/electronic sound (think a cooler, deeper more experimental and talented version of The Killers).

The Wilderness had no problem getting the crowd to dance.  With help from the 4 interpretive dancers on stage, the crowd had whipped themselves into a frenzy by about the second song and with Lee’s help stayed that way until the end!

There is something to be said about a charismatic band front-man.  Lee has nailed the art of crowd participation, from peppering the audience with sparkles throughout the show to encouraging fans onto the stage for the encore, he is able to connect with a packed room which is no easy feat.

The Wilderness have an original sound, can engage a crowd like the pros and have managed to produce a tight album.  I can honestly say this was one of the most entertaining and passionate shows I’ve been to in a while and predict that this Toronto band won’t stay unsigned for long.

Check out the video I took of the encore: