lee’s palace

Concert Review: Junip, November 5, Lee’s Palace

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

Toronto – I will readily admit that I knew very little about Junip before going to this show, but I do like Jose Gonzalez.  His solo stuff has a nice, almost hypnotic vibe to it, so I was interested in seeing what he would do as part of a full band.  And after seeing and being totally charmed by Sharon Van Etten’s  opening set, I was in the right mood to hear what they had to offer.

Of course, any talk about Junip kind of refers to it as Gonzalez branching out and starting a new band, when in fact, the band actually existed before his solo career (and apparently met through going to hardcore shows in Gothenburg) so really this is kind of a return to his roots.  Tom Petty did a similar sort of thing with his recent Mudcrutch project, so maybe this is becoming a trend.

So how did they sound?  Well, pretty much like Jose Gonzalez with a full band.  They had a similar sort of hypnotic vibe, but a bit spacier maybe courtesy of Tobias Winterkorn’s synthesizer work.  There was a definite 70s influence on their sound, and the persistent drumming added a touch of Can-style krautrock.  And they had conga drums too!  Everybody loves congas.  Or were they bongos?  Maybe both.  Either way, there was lots of percussion involved.  And if that wasn’t enough, they threw in a really solid cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” near the end of their encore … although I have to wonder, does it really even count as an encore if you’re only gone from the stage for like 20 seconds?  Why not just stay onstage and forego the pretense, guys?   

Setlist: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/junip/2010/lees-palace-toronto-on-canada-53d567c9.html

Junip – Rope and Summit by sanfordco

Concert review: Neon Indian w/ Class Actress [Lee’s Palace, October 12, 2010]

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

Toronto – Disclaimer: I am going to quote the chat between me and Ricky just prior to this show. The purpose of this is to make fun of ourselves… and highlight the trend of band names these days:

me: You told me to see Active Child… so which is it?
Ricky: oh, haha its Child Actress.
me: This is semi-hilarious, if not for the fact that i just wrote the freaking wrong preview…
Ricky: Its like watchmen/walkmen… my mistake.
me: Man I was excited too… I want to see Active Child live.
Ricky: Well time to check out Class Actress.
me: CHILD ACTRESS; OK i give you 3 options
a. active child;   b. child actress;   c. class actress… which IS it?
Ricky: Hahaha; its Class Actress; S**t! Is there even a Child Actress band?
me: No. I just did a search… but that would have been freaking funny.

This is the time when you realize that calling the band Veckatimest, Horchata, or some other portmanteau word might not be such a bad idea. I don’t suppose that randomizing the English alphabets and coming up with something barely pronounceable will become a trend in the near future and I don’t promote it. It’s just an observation: with the number of bands out there today, using common words and ideas will lead someone (yes mostly us clueless media types) to blunders one of these days.

Prefuse 73 was also supposed to play this night. But apparently the Canadian immigration officers gave them some insurmountable problems (I am fighting so very hard against the word “refuse”). So the crowd was made to wait until 10:05pm for a show with doors at 8:30pm. Luckily for all, Class Actress and Neon Indian were let go. Perhaps because of the delay, Lee’s camera/flash rules seemed to have been relaxed. There were flash tests going on behind me like fireflies on a summer night. Toronto’s music-lovers displayed their timid side again – even while they were annoying everyone with flashes, there was still a huge void where the mosh pit should have been. Class Actress must have been a little disappointed, having pulled through the customs earlier. The music is a little like Feist’s, but replace the backdrop with a synthesizer. I think they only played one song on guitar and the rest on synth. Elizabeth Harper’s voice is true to the recordings, but the nature of the melody always made her sound melancholy. They managed to play most of their good tunes on myspace like Careful What You Say and Broken Adolescent Heart. Being the long-awaited opener, they were effective – Harper didn’t talk to the audience. But then again she didn’t need to – there were legions of bald men snapping pictures with flash…

Class Actress:

Class Actress – Someone Real by bean0 goxxxpeel

I’ve mentioned before how it’s weird that I have managed to dodge all of the Neon Indian shows at SXSW. I finally saw why they are popular – because by this time there WAS a mosh pit. Not only is Neon Indian the up-beat version of Grizzly Bear, they seem to collect similar polygonal album covers, and enjoy swapping personnel and tunes. I know they both have some Brooklyn connections, but case in point – Neon Indian has at least two remixes of Cheerleader – both of which I liked better than the original. While Grizzly Bear is strung together by well-paced but lonesome bass and piano notes, Neon Indian is made of a single vocal and double synthesizers. It ensures that the latter always has a sense of urgency attached. They often introduced their songs with a ear-drum popping discord buzz, and polished with Alan Palomo’s singing. The synthesizer beats has to be the main draw, though. Deadbeat Summer and Terminally Chill, for instance, has some very catchy opening sequences (sure it repeats, but it’s good regardless). I always felt like I’m listening to a fast-tracked version of electronic music – you don’t have to wait 80 bars for the new development to come through. That condensed satisfaction is the best part. They also played Local Joke and the title track Psychic Chasms – both of which had very grainy vocals, but did not sound as expansive this night at Lee’s. But I doubt that most people noticed as they were shaped into a flowing TO pulp by Neon Indian. Overall, aside from the border-crossing issues, both Class Actress and Neon Indian put on very solid performances.

Neon Indian:

Deadbeat Summer by Neon Indian

Concert Review: Buke and Gass, Efterklang, Sept. 8, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | 2 Comments

Toronto – I have long been interested in musicians who also invent their own instruments or repurpose previously existing ones.  People like Bob Moog, Leon Theremin (who invented what I feel is the coolest instrument ever), whoever invented the Electric Jug made famous by the 13th Floor Elevators, or even Les Paul, without whom we’d have to stand really close to the stage and listen carefully in order to hear an unamplified guitar.  So it was with some interest and curiosity that I went out to check out Buke and Gass.  Buke and Gass is Arone Dyer and Aron Sanchez, two Brooklyn based musicians who have indeed created their own instruments, the eponymous buke (modified baritone uke) and gass (guitar + bass).  In the spirit of Frankenstein’s monster or maybe Robocop, they have fused together various parts in order to make something even mightier … and somewhat stranger.  Of course, I mean strange in the best way possible.  I like strange.

Speaking of Robocop, as I watched them play, I began to imagine that Buke and Gass’s unique sound was the result of a Robocop style scenario where Sleater Kinney and Fugazi were reassembled along with some instruments and told to approximate a folk band or something.  Of course, they don’t quite sound like those bands but they bring them to mind with intricate playing, angular rhythms, and Dyer’s powerful voice.  And the folk thing just comes to mind because they play sitting down and they have a uke.  They really don’t sound all that folky.

In terms of stage presence, they were quite enjoyable.  Dyer did most of the talking, with Sanchez content to mostly just play.  She had a quirky, friendly demeanor, chatting with the audience a bit and even asking, “Who’s got a joke?” when Sanchez broke a string.  One audience member actually came forward, yet she hesitated to actually tell her joke, merely stating at first that she went to Humber for their comedy course.  She told a cheesy joke about a talking sausage, and was then deemed “sausage girl” by Dyer.  After playing a couple more songs following that brief interlude, they left the stage while also leaving a good impression on most everyone in attendance.

Even though Buke and Gass made a good deal of beautiful noise during their set, Efterklang’s lush sound made the openers seem almost subdued in comparison. (almost…)   They had the perfect blend of electronics and organic sounds that meshed beautifully and gave the band members a chance to play various instruments throughout the set. ( Not every band can have a drummer take a break mid song to do a trumpet solo)  Singer Casper Clausen even used a wooden ledge next to the stage (which I was standing right next to) as a percussion instrument, which brought to mind Arcade Fire’s penchant for using various onstage items (and people)  percussively.  Speaking of Arcade Fire, I heard hints of their sound in Efterklang’s songs, as well as The Notwist, Can, Sigur Ros, ’70s era Genesis, and a bunch of other stuff.  All of these sounds mix together into a sort of stew that makes for a fairly powerful and enthralling set. 

“Efterklang” is apparently the Danish word for “remembrance” or “reverberation.”  Both of those  words seem fairly appropriate.  As I said many of their songs seemed somewhat reminiscent of various other bands – a remembrance of sorts.  As for the reverberation … well, they had a whole lot going on sonically.  This was certainly a memorable show. 

Concert review: Fanfarlo with Robert Francis and Lawrence Arabia, April 2 2010, Lee’s Palace

Posted on by Gary in Concerts, Everything | 1 Comment

Toronto – I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve probably seen Fanfarlo once too many in the past five weeks (twice at Galaxy room, once outside of Hilton hotel in Austin, one other time that I don’t recall where, and now at Lee’s). I can’t help it. What I also can’t help, is noticing how much of an on-stage ego Robert Francis had. He can shout and Junebug is an OK song, I’ll admit to that. But I’ll skip the details and just say that even though the set was not terrible (other than uninspired love songs), his re-enacting a rock-star dream made the show a complete hoot. From having a bouquet of flowers around his mic, to sitting at the front of the stage pining, to fully head-bang through chorus, his persona was as inconsistent as it was annoying superficial. As Mitch Hedberg told us: man, you need to, like, just be yourself. So. Thumbs down.

Robert Francis:

I did listen to Lawrence Arabia, just before going to the show. I was half expecting turban’ed men. But the New Zealanders looked more like Bishop Allen than Beatles – which is what they sounded like on myspace. They had a very energetic show, a frontman with a slightly British/dry humor. (“We’re glad to be in Canada… and there’s really nothing else to say about that.”) Their songs were also hilarious to decipher. One said: “they love each other, they hate each other, they’re afraid of each other, because they want to screw each other.” I was chuckling aloud when I heard that – it’s as if Flight of the Concorde was playing. They sounded much more like a regular rock band live than on the recordings, with equal portion of catchy harmony and drifting ambiance. But there’s also a sheepboy country song mixed in for good balance. Good tunes: Apple Pie Bed, the Undesirables, Final Friend.

Lawrence Arabia:

Below the wiggling spotlights at Lee’s Palace, this was the usual suspect setlist for Fanfarlo: Drowning men, Pilot, Finish line, Harold, Swedish nostalgia song with vocal chirp, Walls are coming down, another song that’s not on album but I’ve heard at SXSW (with the lights from down on the stage that I thought it was Ghost), Fire escape, a new minor tune song, Comets, Luna, encore with a song for “Record store day” (with Timbre Timber type bird chirp, it’s like Fanfarlo covering Headlights), and finishing with Ghosts. For fun and perhaps for nuts like me, they threw in quite a few alterations: xylophone highlights were occasionally different, speed/beat of the songs would change for different effects, vocal and drum beat were used as connecting devices. I really wish more bands do this instead of record-sync’ing. Compare to Galaxy room in Austin, however, the vocal wasn’t as crisp. And for one reason or another, the crowd was not as rabidly responsive as those in SXSW. I guess shouldn’t be expecting a complete remix of, say, Ghosts, half way through the song. They remain probably the most idiosyncratically (read: worst) dressed band ever. But they have also put on some of the most fluid shows I’ve seen.