horseshoe tavern

Concert Review: Jim Bryson & The Weakerthans, October 19, The Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 2 Comments

Toronto – I’ve noticed people texting at concerts before, but never before have I seen a performer texting onstage.  Well, there’s a first time for everything, and the Jim Bryson show at The Horseshoe was that time.  Granted, this happened while the band was still setting up, but I still found it a bit weird to see guitarist/trumpeter/keyboard player Rusty Matyas texting while his bandmates plugged in their gear. 

That wasn’t even the oddest use of technology I saw onstage – opener Andrew Vincent started off his set by singing along to a prerecorded backing track for his first song, which made for a weird karaoke vibe.  He did this a few times throughout the night, alternating between solo folky stuff on the ukulele and his more beat driven, kinda hip-hoppish karaoke adventures, which made for a somewhat awkward performance.  These songs were not bad per se, but definitely weaker than his more folk-oriented tunes.  He ended out his set with a decent cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds Of Love.”

Jim Bryson seemed pleasantly surprised at the crowd turnout as he took to the stage, remarking, “Thanks beforehand for showing up in case you don’t like the show.”  Bryson was here celebrating the release of his new album, The Falcon Lake Incident, a collaboration with Winnipeg’s The Weakerthans.  Much of the crowd was obviously there because of the presence of The Weakerthans as Bryson’s backing band (and let’s face it, the fact that it was a free show sure didn’t hurt).  Bryson definitely benefited, both in terms of elevating his profile a bit and in terms of acquiring an excellent backing band.  I saw The Weakerthans act as the backing band for Bad Religion’s Greg Graffin on his solo tour a few years ago and drummer Jason Tait has collaborated with  tons of Canadian musicians on various projects so these guys are known for their chops.  Bryson admitted as much a few songs into his set, stating how usually he’d only be on his second song by now, but that these guys were so good he wanted to play as many songs as he could with them.  Perhaps he adopted this “less talk, more rock” (or more folk-rock, anyways) attitude as a roundabout tribute to Weakerthans frontman John K. Samson’s old band Propagandhi.  OK, probably not, but any excuse to link to a Propagandhi song.

When Bryson did finally begin to launch into some storytelling, relating a tale about watching Oprah, a woman in the crowd actually fainted.  I was pretty much standing right next to her when this happened so it was a bit weird.  While this could have stopped the show dead in it’s tracks, luckily she seemed to be OK, and after a brief interlude, the band started up again. 

Speaking of the band, The Weakerthans definitely looked like they were enjoying their collaboration with Bryson.  They haven’t released any new stuff in awhile, so maybe the prospect of playing new songs, plus the addition of Bryson into the mix, has invigorated them.  Samson in particular was obviously relishing the opportunity to just hang back from the frontman position, sing a few harmonies and occasionally play a little tambourine.  When not doing either of those (or playing keyboard, as he did a bit on the last song of the set), he would often take a seat onstage or sip from his drink.  It was obvious to most that this was not a Weakerthans show, but there were a few people who felt the need to shout out request for some of their songs.  Bryson’s response?  “Oh, those songs, you’re gonna have to ask him about that”, to which Samson responded with a dismissive wave of his hand.  After all, it was Bryson’s show.   By the way, request-shouting dude, the name of the song is not “I Hate Winnipeg,” it’s “One Great City.”  Do you really expect a band to play your request when you can’t even get the name right?  Geez …

Concert review: The Watchmen with Birds of Wales [Horseshoe tavern, September 25, 2010]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts | 1 Comment

Toronto – Ever go to a concert and feel like it’s in fact a costume party? This Saturday night certainly seemed like one. The Watchmen obviously have some inner strengths, not least being emotive singing. But unless you have been sleeping for the past decade, both Joey Serlin and Daniel Greaves now sport sleek and edgy bald looks. I counted no less than 20 other guys who share this fashion sense at the Watchmen’s reunion show when I walk in, and more over the length of the night. Granted, it’s not something rare. We’re not talking about a Halloween party where everyone caught the flu at work and decided independently that it would be original to have green snot hanging from their noses collectively. And it is edgy – I wish I have the wherewithal. It’s just hilarious to wonder how many hair-styles the Watchmen inspired. Was it just some freak coincidence, or is it a generational trait that we’re all becoming old men? Maybe I should do the same. Oh, wait, I need a job first…

Birds of Wales was on the stage when I strolled in from the 12C fall evening. It was a nice, calming walk. You might expect BoW’s frontman Morgan Ross to share the same sedated feeling – after all, he and his crew hailed all the way from Queen/Ossington. As soon as I found the left side bar of Horseshoe, I knew this wasn’t going to be the case. Ross’s stage presence can be described as energetic – if that term also applies to beagles on Redbull. He constantly addresses the audience, stopping for 30 sec or more between songs to ask for half-emptied beer bottles, over-head claps, Saturday nights over Monday mornings, and what-not. While his band mates don’t share this expressiveness, they were also very glad to be playing. So the Birds of Wales built up a lot of positivity for this set – they got points in my book for it. I can’t say that their music is my cup of tea… and in no way would I relate them to Coldplay. When played live, it’s even more of a cross between folk/country and pop-rock than on myspace. The lyrics isn’t anything to pour over, either: “24, turning 25. All my friends are getting married, settling down with families. Maybe someday. But not just yet.” But the beats catches easily and it’s quite fun to foot-tap along. The Birds of Wales took their bow after around 40 minutes, and the crowd hunkered down with their beers for what Ross promised them in between every song.

At this juncture, I was standing right in front of the sound system at the right side. The Watchmen came on and opened with what sounded like Incarnate. This is when I realized a deja vu from 10 years ago when I went to Placebo – my ear drums felt literally like they were underwater. Horseshoe is usually conscientious – but I guess the Watchmen deserved their turn to blast out loud. By the 2nd song, I could feel the pressure waves coming in my right temple and shooting out the left, with reflections bouncing in my noodle. I thought of Russell Peters’ “mind-blasting”, and retreated – my lens would have been mis-aligned, too. Beside the soundboard, the concert became manageable again. I could hear Greaves’ howl in Zoom, the softer singing in Brighter Hell. I think they also played Falling. Of course, I also heard everyone sang along during All Uncovered and Any Day Now, which was honestly what I had hoped to hear anyway. Mind you, this is from far back in the house. I was lucky if I caught a glimpse of any one of the them – mostly I just saw the infamous Horseshoe post, or Ken Tizzard’s cowboy hat. Tizzard and Serlin seemed to like to play with their backs toward the crowd – I saw that a couple of times and was quite amused. Overall, though, I couldn’t fight the feeling that I was back in Edmonton. It was a nostalgic night, not always for the best reasons. But good enough for a Saturday.

Birds of Wales:
The Watchmen:

Concert Review: Elephant Stone, Teenage Fanclub, September 23, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Music, Reviews | Leave a comment

Ricky’s iPhone concert photography™. The trademark is for consistent blurriness.

Scotland produces great pop music. It’s a fact. Bands like Teenage Fanclub and Trashcan Sinatras that are still trucking after all these years are living proof that there is a way to age gracefully in rock ‘n roll. It always surprises me when older performers take the stage after a long hiatus to be met with gasps like “SHIT. They got OLD.” Newsflash! We are all always getting old. And yeah, the ravages of time are applicable to people we stop paying attention to. A Catholic Education was released in 1990–20 years ago. 20 years ago!

So, I’m impressed that after 20 years, the band is still releasing good material. I haven’t listened to this year’s Shadows, but if their performance of Sometimes I Don’t Need To Believe In Anything is any indication of what they are still capable of, the caliber is still there. I actually think some of their newer songs played better than some of the classics, maybe because of their freshness.

And a lot of the classics were still there throughout their set, even if the incredibly packed venue (full of very tall people standing around the stage)  felt the need to continually shout out things they wanted to hear. It was great to hear Alcoholiday live, but some of the older tunes played a lot better than others. One thing I was totally impressed by was Gerard Love’s consistency (and I always thought he was the strongest songwriter, penning some of the best pop love songs)–Don’t Look Back was probably the highlight of the show for me with the 3 minute mark jam tearing up the place. The lumping of consecutive slow songs kind of lulled everything down in spots, but there would always be a tail end favorite serving as a wake up call.

The decision to encore with two Howdy! songs in a row was something I wasn’t expecting, but I did think that Near You was one of the best songs of the night. I do think the decision to throw in a slower song off Shadows made people feel that by the time The Concept rolled around, there was a “finally” moment instead of a slow build to a “fuck yeah” moment.

Still, a great show.

P.S. What the hell was up with that guy with the tripod and video camera standing in the back area of the stage?!


Concert Review: Teenage Fanclub, Sept. 22, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | 2 Comments


Toronto – Teenage Fanclub have been around for about 20 years now and they’ve still got it.  The Scottish power poppers are touring behind Shadows, their first album in 5 years.  The new material is good and their harmonies are still solid … although physically, the 20 years are starting to take their toll.  These guys are starting to look a bit like Dads … which I guess they probably are, but that’s neither here nor there.

First a few words on openers Rick Of The Skins.  The late 90s Halifax group has apparently reunited, though this show was the first I had heard about it.  Perhaps they were inspired by the recent reunion of … well, pretty much every band that ever existed, but perhaps more specifically, the Thrush Hermit Reunion (former Thrush Hermit-er Ian McGettigan is also a member of this band).  They seemed to be having a lot of fun up there, switching musical instruments from member to member between every song – seriously, every member played everything!  This loose atmosphere helped to sell the songs, some of which you could tell were written 10 or more years ago   – the tongue-in-cheek rap-rock number they closed out with would have been hard to swallow if not for the fact that it was prefaced by saying, “We must have been 15 when we wrote this song … or it feels like it anyways.”  Also, a note to Ian McGettigan – the rest of the band looked like they at least dressed up a bit for the show, whereas you looked like you just got off the couch.  Still, nice Cheap Trick t-shirt.

Shortly after Rick of The Skins, Teenage Fanclub took to the stage, starting things off with “Start Again” before launching into a few from the new album.  This was the first night of their North American tour (perhaps they’re starting here because Norman Blake now lives in Kitchener, Ontario or maybe just so Blake can introduce “Baby Lee” as “Geddy Lee” becuase he knows a Toronto crowd will get the joke) and being the first night, it would seem that they’re still working out the kinks on their setlist.  While all the songs were great, not all of it worked as a totally cohesive set but again, it’s the first night so there’s plenty of room to rejig things.  The most noticeable sign that they may still be working things out was when the second last song, “Today Never Ends,” was introduced as their last song and then immediately followed it with “Everything Flows.”  Either they realized that the former was the wrong song to go out on or they just decided not to bother leaving the stage and doing a second encore.  Either way, “Everything Flows” was the better choice.   Other highlight of the set were “The Concept,” “Ain’t That Enough,” and one of my favourites, “Your Love Is The Place Where I Come From,” which featured Blake on the Glockenspiel.  They left out a few songs I would have liked to have heard, (“Mellow Doubt,” “Hang On,” and especially “What You Do To Me” come to mind, but odds are they might show up in the second night’s set) but all in all, it was a great show. 

Here’s the setlist for the night: