lee’s palace

Concert Review: Foster the People, June 18, Mod Club Theatre

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | Leave a comment

L.A.’s  Foster the People should probably document its incredible timeline for anyone hoping to capitalize on Hype Machine. It seems like only a few short months ago, their breakout single Pumped Up Kicks was making the rounds. I’d be willing to bet that whoever scouted and signed them to Sony Music is rolling in accolades right now. It’s not often that a band enters a major label as indie to enjoy immediate major chart success.

Seeing as the band’s debut Torches has barely been officially out for a month now, Saturday night’s concert at the Mod Club was pretty impressive. They played their first Toronto show at Lee’s Palace in early April only to graduate a mere two and a half months later to the next level. It usually takes bands several tour legs to take that step, so even in today’s breakneck pace of internet-fueled mania, this is very fast progress.

I wonder if openers Gardens & Villa are taking notes.

Unfortunately for them, I find it doubtful that they’ll be skyrocketed to anything other than funemployment in terms of their musical careers. Granted, I only observed around three songs, but throughout them I was whisked to the mall kiosk that features Central Americans in ponchos playing unfortunate new-age flute music. I suppose everyone else was too busy attending Taste of Little Italy or playing NXNE to book anyone more appropriate.

The good news is that Foster the People are charismatic live, and that the album plays better in front of an audience than it does in the studio. That is, with the exception of Pumped Up Kicks (falling rather flat no matter how many bubbles were dropped from the ceiling), which they wisely chose not to close with. There are several enthusiastic drummers who like to perform standing up/slightly hunched over, which only serves to add perceived showmanship. Lead singer Mark Foster is also surprisingly dynamic, which you would not necessarily expect from a former jingle composer.

While the set was quite short, I’m not sure what else we should come to expect from an outfit that has around 10-12 officially released songs. And besides, the frat people needed somewhere to dance in bubbles on a Saturday night.

This is their setlist from the Ohio date last week, which I can only suppose was pretty much what we got on Saturday:

Miss You
Call It What You Want
Life On The Nickel
I Would Do Anything For You
Broken Jaw
Pumped Up Kicks
Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)
Helena Beat

Helena Beat by Foster The People

Concert Review: Sebadoh, April 6th, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything | 1 Comment

Photo courtesy of Daniel Vella

If the concert patterns of the past couple of years has taught us anything, it’s that everything old is new again. Last night was no exception, with Sebadoh’s Lou Barlow, Jason Loewenstein, and Eric Gaffney’s replacement Bob D’Amico playing my 90’s wet dream sets of Harmacy and Bakesale.

Hearkening back to our tendency to focus on food consumed prior to or following a show, we happened to go to Guu Izakaya‘s new location at Bathurst and Bloor before the concert. The business model of this fine dining establishment is simple: encourage your customers to gorge themselves on as much seafood slathered in butter, cream, and melted cheese as humanly possible.

Melted cheese, cream, and mushroom stuffed oyster

I suppose it goes without saying then, that after polishing off about a half dozen cardiac-arrest-laden dishes and a giant draft mug of Sapporo beer, our serotonin levels were skyrocketing. Did this have beneficial skew for my perspective about the show? Probably, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was a killer show either way.

First, let me say that you can always tell when a seasoned musician who has devoted half their life to their craft is simply much better at working a crowd. Is it any wonder that I am still in love with men like Lou Barlow and Jason Loewenstein? They’ve aged well. They’re gracious without seeming smarmy or insincere. They’re human. They’re real. They’re not afraid to laugh at themselves. They appear to love Canada. They can charm the pants off any-damn-one.

That said, the caliber of the music floated a helluva lot of the set–the impromptu song we got about “trying to bring the word washroom to the United States of America” and every other memorable moment was just the cherry on top. They started off with Harmacy’s On Fire and Ocean, going into Bakesale’s Dreams (one of my favorites of the performance). Musically, it doesn’t feel like these guys have skipped a beat. While loud as hell, there was an energy and variation in the set that I can only describe as really good.

One of the odder moments was when a female friend of the band joined Barlow onstage to perform (what I think was) Skull (sorry my memory is fading a bit). When the Loewenstein-penned songs came up, we noted that the setlist probably could’ve factored in his poor vocal chords. It’s probably not the best idea to have four scream-singing tunes in a row for the sake of preservation (S. Soup was particularly hard on the pipes I think), which by the way, has not seemed to be an issue for Mr. Lowenstein in any other respect. Has this guy been sleeping in peat moss, because he doesn’t look like he’s aged one day since 1994.

Dispersed throughout all this, we were treated to Lou-God-Barlow’s observations about Toronto, the new release of Skype, and how he prefers the word washroom to the word bathroom for accuracy’s sake. For those of you blissfully unaware, the Skype’s latest version now informs you when someone on your list “came online”. Par exemple, “Jason came online”, which is also illustrated by a wet “splash” audio effect. Tee hee hee.

Other standout moments:

Lou’s smooth as silk voice stepping up to the plate after the vocals were cranked up a bit
Nothing Like You
Too Pure
Give Up
Magnet’s Coil
Together or Alone
Explanation of the “fake encore” rouse and short wait time for this

All in all, a beautiful evening with some beautiful people.

Concert Review: The Besnard Lakes, January 29, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

Toronto – First things first, let’s talk about clothing.  I suspected it before but I am now absolutely sure that Besnard Lakessinger/guitarist Jace Lasek only wears the same two or three black cowboy shirts over and over again.  Or he has a closet full of nearly identical shirts.  Who knows.  Oh, and while we’re on the subject of clothing, bassist Olga Goreas was dressed kind of like Wednesday Adams onstage.  And occasionally sunglasses for some reason (or perhaps as a nod to openers Suuns, she wore suunglasses).  The look kind of works for her I guess.

And now a few words on Suuns, who put on a pretty interesting show.  They were weird, experimental, noisy, dancey (oh, the bass!) and definitely pretty good.  They incorporate a wide variety of influences into their sound, and it mostly blends together pretty seamlessly.  There were a couple moments where the stylistic changes in tone and tempo from song to song were not quite as smooth, but they certainly held my attention.  I’d be interested in seeing them again.

As the Besnard Lakes took to the stage, an excerpt from (I believe) an old Carl Sagan speech played, becoming increasingly distorted as the last few words played in a loop.  It set the right mood, bringing to mind all things cosmic and spacey.  And The Besnard Lakes can get pretty spacey when they want to.  Pretty loud too.  Above all the volume, Lasek and Gorea’s vocals shone through.  One of the highlights of their set was “Disaster.”  As Lasek launched into his falsetto vocals, I overheard two separate people behind me saying, “I love this song.”  His performance was all the more impressive when he later revealed that he was actually quite sick during the show.  It wasn’t too noticeable as he seemed to be in pretty good spirits all night, although once he mentioned it, I did start to notice it a bit.  During a pause in one of their last songs,he seemed to lose his place for a second.  Then he did it again.  A few megafans up front loudly helped him to count it in.  It’s good to know that people have your back sometimes.

The Besnard Lakes – Disaster by TheAgencyGroup

Concert Review: The Wilderness, Modern Superstitions, January 20, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | Leave a comment

Toronto – Based on Sarah’s review of their show this past November, I was curious to see what local band The Wilderness were all about.  In fact, I had seen them once before, but committed minor concert douchebaggery by not totally paying attention to them.  Based on the number of people who came out to see them at Lee’s Palace on this night, it seems that The Wilderness is gaining a bit of a following.  I’m sure that a sizeable part of their appeal is based not just on their songs (which did indeed get much of the crowd dancing a bit) but on the fact that they put some effort into making their show a bit of a spectacle.  By the second song, singer Lee Piazza tossed a bag of balloons into the audience to be distributed.  Not quite realizing what he was doing, I initially thought, “What the hell?  Did he just give that guy a bag of chips?”  But no, they were in fact balloons, and the crowd took their cue, blowing them up and tossing them around, making the show somewhat akin to a low rent version of a Flaming Lips show. 

 In addition to the balloons, I later noticed Piazza occasionally shaking something over those standing in front of the stage.  Again, my poor addled brain got confused and assumed he was either using some sort of percussion instrument or performing a strange shamanic ritual on those people.  Well, he may in fact have been performing some sort of ritual, but upon reading about their previous shows afterwards, I realized he was sprinkling glitter all over the audience.  The sparkles and the balloons did seem a bit gimmicky, but they were effective gimmicks.  Who doesn’t like balloons?

As far as the music went, they had some interesting stuff going on sonically.  They’ve been said to have a post-punk sound and that is accurate, but I did find Piazza’s vocals to be a bit much at times.  On one song, his voice was veering into Rammstein territory and I’m not sure that’s what he was going for.  Still, there’s no denying he has a powerful voice, and I did like the way he used it rhythmically in some songs as if it were just another instrument in the band.

Also on the bill were Modern Superstitions.  Much like The Wilderness, I had also seen them perform once before, over a year ago at The Horseshoe as openers for The Reigning Sound.  Since that show, the band has obviously logged in many hours onstage, including opening slots for The Hold Steady and Mudhoney and a short tour of Ontario with Sloan, and it shows.    They offered up an impressive set of garage-ish rock highlighted by Nyssa Rosaleen’s strong vocals.