horseshoe tavern

Concert review: Maps and Atlases [Horseshoe Tavern, August 7, 2010]

Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Everything, Reviews | Leave a comment

Maps and atlases, SXSW, March 17

Toronto – “In the sweltering heat 17C heat of Austin TX this March, covered Maps and Atlases, we have. But math rock they make, we did not know.”

Alright. Yoda.

Although I know little about music, math is something that I am inclined to check out. So I went to see them again, with the expressed goal of discovering if there are equations behind their music. That’s when I felt that there’s a little green midget behind the stage fiddling with the cables, making great music that theoretically flows as well as the septic tanks at Ashbridge’s Bay. Believe it or not, I ran their songs through a Matlab program and found that cumulative autocorrelation of their songs isn’t much more interesting than other bands… but then again I’m no expert in math and don’t know if that’s even a measure for anything. So I don’t know about an equation – but there is definitely a madness to their methods.

We walked into the Horseshoe Tavern around 12am, about 10 minutes after the quartet started to play. I have heard several that they played this night, for example, Carrying the wet wood, Pigeon, and Banished be Cavalier before. Eventually I was able to correlate this set almost entirely back to their new album – Perch Patchwork, which just came out a month ago. I might mention that this is their debut full album. I guess on the strength of EPs alone they have built quite a following. Of the 100+ people there, many were fist-pumping to the tunes and on-beat. At first I ran into the same wall that I did at SxSW – I was analyzing it too much, and couldn’t bring myself to enjoy the music. It took me about 5 minutes to settle down and start to really enjoy the twists and turns. I feel that their songs are sequences of musical non-sequiturs. Beats of the singing change mid-bar, melodies turn into slides. The title song Perch Patchwork is a good example. I still couldn’t sing along on the basis of the melody. The first time I heard it, my brain went ballistic and thought that it’s dissonant. But the music grows on you. I have not updated the good vibes when listening to them – a good thing. When I put the new album on shuffle for the first time, I couldn’t even catch the transition between songs. It’s either that smooth, or they have just successfully brainwash me for those musical transitions to sound normal. The Charm might be the most normal song they have on this album – the incessant marching drum forces a large contrast with the lament, giving the feeling of no return. Solid Ground is quite pedestrian – but look over it because it sounds like Magnolia’s soundtrack and nothing can be wrong with that movie. Dave Davidson’s voice is slightly thin and agile enough for what the scores demand. The bass and guitar don’t work the audience overly hard. To add to that, the band is very gentlemanly and genial, without the stereotypical hipster attitude. Mathematical precision, I presume. I think the Canadian crowd really appreciated that fact. After about 45 min of play and 3 more encore songs, Maps and Atlases took their bow.

You can find one of their more “famous” numbers here free: Pigeon has a memorable guitar hook. Was, is a cool instrumental piece. I liked Living decorations and Perch Patchwork. So I guess this is also a solid YES to their new album. Math (or little-green-man) on!

Maps & Atlases – Living Decorations by FatCat Records

Concert Review: Titus Andronicus, July 14, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | 2 Comments

Toronto – You know, Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles is a pretty funny guy at times.  Early in their set, an audience member shouted out, “I love your beard!”  Stickles’ reply: “Thanks.  this next song is about what’s going on behind that beard.  All will be revealed.”  He’s an interesting character, the sort who’ll ask an audience if their needs are being met tonight or announce guitarist/violinist Amy Klein’s recent purchase of some guitar pedals (and then go on to explain what pedals are for “any laymen in the crowd”)  He’s a pretty engaging frontman. 

Based on previous reviews of their shows as well as comments Stickles made about “respecting personal space” and how they had to adjust their setlists for the last couple shows (but not for us), it seems that a Titus Andronicus crowd can get a tad rowdy.  This crowd was pretty into it, and a bit rowdy, but not too much so … although i swear I saw a beer bottle go flying into the crowd during their set.  And there were multiple occurences of crowd surfing, which is something I just don’t see enough of these days.  So, OK, maybe it was a pretty rowdy crowd.  But mostly in a nice way.

The audience was enjoying  themselves, and the band certainly appeared to be having just as much fun onstage.  They had a raw, ramshackle sort of vibe, while at the same time demonstrating that they’re all great musicians.  This was especially evident during the third last song, “Titus Andronicus Forever,” which saw each and every member of the band, plus members of openers Hallelujah The Hills,  taking a solo.  Hallelujah The Hills, by the way, also put on a really good show. 

For those who haven’t heard them (and really, why haven’t you?), I would probably describe Titus Andronicus as sounding like The Replacements meets Against Me! meets Conor Oberst (with of course, a whole whack of other influences thrown in there too).  They play the kind of meat and potatoes rock that’s practiced by a number of bands these days, including fellow New Jersey-ites (New Jersians?) The Gaslight Anthem ,who were also playing a show in town that night.  Stickles thanked us for picking them as our Jersey-rock choice for the night and dedicated a song to those who had a hard time deciding.  When a few people booed The Gaslight Anthem, Stickles jokingly said, “OK, this is dedicated to nobody then.” 

Full of mostly upbeat choruses and shouted gang vocals, the dedicated fans in attendance couldn’t help but sing along, as people belted out “You will always be a loser!” along with Stickles during “No Future Part Three.” (Casual fans, however, might have felt the show was a bit too long, but hey, these guys have several songs that run over eight minutes, so you should have known what you were getting into.)  Also ripe for singalong material was the band’s cover of Weezer’s “The Sweater Song,” which saw them inviting former guitarist and current Toronto resident Liam Betson to join them onstage.   They closed off with the epic “The Battle Of Hampton Roads”  from their Civil War referencing album The Monitor.  Axl Rose once sang, “I don’t need your civil war.”  But Axl Rose sucks now, so who cares what Axl thinks?  Go listen to Titus Andronicus instead. 

Concert Review: The Wedding Present, Girl In A Coma, April 14, The Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | 4 Comments

The Wedding Present

Toronto – I was feeling pretty tired this night, so it was perhaps appropriate that Girl In A Coma was playing since I felt semi-comatose.  Based on their name and the video that Ricky previously posted, I was expecting something laid back and acoustic based.  I was definitely wrong.  They had more of a punkish sound that at times had a bit of a 90s vibe.  Even their footwear was a bit 90s.  I noticed Doc Martins and canvas sneakers on stage.  Why was I looking at their feet?  I’m not sure …

Instrumentally, they were pretty tight.  Then singer Nina Diaz started singing.  “Well, that’s a bit different,” I thought.  She has a powerful wailing dramatic kind of voice that reminded me of … someone, not sure who.  Maybe Joan Jett or even a little bit of PJ Harvey.  The Joan Jett comparison is probably pretty valid since they are actually signed to Joan Jett’s record label.  Each line she sang was punctuated by her overemotive facial expressions, which actually worked quite well.  They had a lot of stage presence and were very talented musicians, although the most memorable song they played was a cover of the Velvet Underground’s “Femme Fatale,” which I suppose bodes well for their new covers album, Adventures In Coverland. 

I will admit that before this show, all I knew about The Wedding Present was that they were a British band who had been around for awhile and were highly regarded by some.  The band took to the stage to a rapturous response from a crowd of diehard fans.  “You’re a noisy lot, aren’t you?  Blimey!” said frontman David Gedge.  Yes, he actually said “blimey.”  More than once.  This proves that he is indeed a Very British Man.  The band was pretty intense and totally impressed me (as I said, I really didn’t know much about them before this).  Starting off with a few new songs (which Gedge prefaced by saying “you’ll probably love them in 3 years”), they then launched into a song by song recreation of their 1989 album, Bizarro.  As I said, the crowd absolutely loved it.  Speaking of the crowd, I believe this show had the highest concentration of madly dancing, old-ish bald dudes I have ever seen in one place as well as some guy who chose to remove his shirt and wave it around.  I think shirtless guy may have been affiliated with the guys who brought a blow up doll with them for whatever reason.  Said doll was later tossed into the crowd like a beach ball or something.  I’m guessing these guys don’t go out to that many shows anymore and wanted to make this one a really special one or something.  Regardless of that, it was a pretty good show. 

Concert Review: The Thermals, May 3, Horseshoe Tavern

Posted on by Brian in Concerts | Leave a comment


God, I love The Thermals. What’s more, I love their Twitter feed. Twitter gives following a band on tour a whole new meaning, and The Thermals’ feed is one of the most entertaining around. Who can forget the epic tweet “But really this is the NOGL tour 09. NO ONE GETS LAID“? Or the early morning hours of May 1, when they tweeted a legendary 79 times between 1:22 and 3:53 AM?

Their tweet above is correct: the so-called “Legendary” Horseshoe Tavern is not the most glamourous of venues. On the other hand, The Thermals are not the most glamourous of bands. And that’s ok. Despite the heat that had frontman Hutch Harris sweating through his shirt, the Thermals pretty much killed it with an hour of their energetic indie rock goodness.

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