opera house

Concert Review: Trombone Shorty, Nov 17, Opera House

Posted on by Mark in Concerts, Toronto Jazz Festival | Leave a comment

Last Thursday Trombone Shorty played the Opera House as part of Toronto’s Nujazz Festival with support from the Toronto Jazz festival. Growing up in New Orleans’ treme neighbourhood, Troy Andrews a.k.a. Trombone Shorty has taken his jazz roots and fused them with funk and soul to create something that’s, well, pretty badass.

It was like watching Kanye play if Kanye knew how to play the trombone.

Having recently started watching HBO’s Treme, I’ve only just come to learn about this vibrant part of New Orleans culture. The show is a fascinating look into a post-Katrina New Orleans and Trombone Shorty himself even appears in few episodes. It’s clear that music is deeply ingrained into the fabric of New Orleans, and it’s just as deeply ingrained in her musicians.

It’s hard to describe how effective this fusion of jazz, soul and funk really is. There’s no mistaking the fact that band was tight. However it was woven even tighter with Troy’s intense trombone and trumpet playing. The man knows how to play. He knows he can dig in with the best and that gives him some serious bravado. It was like watching Kanye play if Kanye knew how to play the trombone. By the second tune the audience was hooked. Although I probably could have done without some of the vocal tunes, the sheer intensity of the instrumentals made this show kick ass.


Trombone Shorty ~ Backatown by verveforecast

Concert Review: Craft Spells, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, August 2, Opera House

Posted on by Allison in Concerts | Leave a comment

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If there’s one thing you can say about New York’s Pains of Being Pure at Heart, it’s that they certainly know how to choose an opening act. When we first met them in April 2009, I was dazzled by their openers Zaza (drummer Kurt Feldman was still pulling double duty for both bands at this point). Two years later, POBPAH have steadily and predictably climbed the Toronto live venue hierarchy:

Freshman: Lee’s Palace
Sophomore: Horseshoe Tavern
Junior: Opera House, Mod Club, or Phoenix
Senior: Massey Hall, at which point you are probably not considered an “indie” band anymore unless you’re an opener

In the midst of the touring, POBPAH have remained affable and keen to stay in scope with their March release Belong–something of a semi-departure from their self-titled debut. A sound that our friend at IKVDK refers to as the de facto “Smashing Pumpkins” factor (it’s certainly noisier, graduating from tinges of the Ramones to tinges of…dare I say it…skate rock). I”m not sure I agree with that, but admit that Belong didn’t capture me for nearly as long as their first release did.

That said, I think Belong plays better as a live album because it’s seemingly less-dependent on saccharine vocals and pulls from frontman Kip Berman’s development as a guitarist. Out of all of the band members, I’d say he’s blossomed the most as a performer in spite of sometimes inconsistent vocals. Bassist Alex Naidus often reminded me of the twitchy Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory and Peggy Wang’s wavering voice seemed too quiet at times. However…and this is a big however, they are still only a couple of years old and at least have the good sense to initiate some audience banter, having mastered the art of settling a room with charm and graciousness.

As for Seattle-based Craft Spells, I missed about half of their short 7-song set, but am sure just about everyone can concede that these kids are something special. First of all, they look like they’re still in high school. Second of all, from what I heard of Idle Labor (one of Josh’s favorite releases of the year with an album cover strangely reminiscent of New Order’s Power, Corruption, and Lies), what they were showcasing has what I call the “sparkle sheen nostalgia” quality to it. It’s the kind of release that wraps you in sickly-sweet memories from the 1980’s–probably the most comfort anyone can feel outside a womb for most people in my age group–there’s dimension there that feels familiar while discouraging comparison if that makes any sense. It doesn’t hurt that Justin Vallestero’s voice is reliant on scrapes and bumps rather than prone to them. These guys are kind of like a rich man’s Mary Onettes‘ with depth and breadth, and I suggest checking them out. It’s likely they’ll be eclipsing as headliners soon. I guess I’m becoming as fickle as those teenagers I bash after all.

Concert Review: Deerhunter, October 19, Opera House

Posted on by Allison in Concerts, Everything, Music | 4 Comments

There are a few bands in this world that can do no wrong in my eyes. One of them is Atlanta’s Deerhunter, being headed by the most prolific songwriting duo since, well, maybe ever (Burt Bacharach and Hal David?). What I like about the Bradford Cox / Lockett Pundt songwriting partnership is that they let each other exist, nurture each other’s independence, and support the band’s collaborative creative growth. Most of all, they don’t appear to take themselves too seriously at all, the key to anyone’s affability.

Let me just start off by saying that even though I have been looking forward to this concert since the end of August, I had once again overbooked commitments and had to rush back from a week in Ottawa, cabbing it to the Opera House with all of my bags in vain hope of catching the band’s entire set (I would’ve liked to have seen Real Estate and especially Kentuckians Casino Versus Japan, but it just wasn’t in the cards). I have to give props to my gracious cab driver at this point, who floored it all the way down Queen to get me there in ample time. I had a duffel bag and backpack with me, and after enduring searches more thorough than anything I ever get flagged down for at Pearson International Airport, checking both bags looking like a traveling transient, and grabbing a beer, I still had about five minutes to spare before grabbing a prime spot on the floor for the sold out show. Again, happy to see them selling out larger venues now as a headliner even if it must’ve been a slowburn.

Ladies and gentlemen, I think I have finally mastered the art of perfect show timing. It seems that if you bank for a 20 minute block inbetween openers, and after the door time, maybe a 30 minute block before the headliner, you should be golden. Of course you can always skip all of this guesstimation by simply calling the venue ahead of the time, but I had forgotten my cell phone at home. The universe was either self-aligning itself to absorb my lack of foresight or it was just plain dumb luck. Either way, I guess my determination paid off.

When the band took stage, it occurred to me how shocking it is to see Mr. Cox live and in person if you have never seen anyone with Marfan’s Syndrome before. It’s a natural reaction to seeing anyone that thin/gangly and a guy in the group standing beside me had remarked “He looks like a scarecrow.” True enough. Good thing it doesn’t matter what he looks like, since it’s always been about the music. The band’s wide appeal should be obvious to anyone taking a cross-section of the crowd from last night as well as folks looking for extra tickets outside. BROAD age range, dress, look, and feel, all enjoying consistently excellent music.

As for the music itself, I’m going to do a play-by-play recap of the setlist from last night:

  1. Desire Lines (Halcyon Digest) – I was hoping they’d open with this one based on other setlists I’d seen from previous dates on this tour. It’s the best thing off Halcyon Digest, and that instrumental jam that starts at the 3 minute mark was one of the highlights of the show for me. That guitar line is, for lack of a better word, “sick”. Everything about the long ending and its progression is a reminder of how good this band is at build-up execution. Not too much in the way of variation from studio performance, but again I go back to hearing the long ending live. Even though the acoustics at the Opera House were kind of shitty that night (at least close to the stage), it still sounded amazing.
  2. Hazel Street (Cryptograms) – Glad they are still incorporating this one into all of their setlists. Pleasant surprise for me. Has always been one of my favorites off one of their best albums (though it is becoming more and more difficult for me to rank them in order). Again, no ambient reorchestration going on at this point, but these shorter, punchier numbers were needed to balance out the long, drawn-out noisy reworkings.
  3. Don’t Cry (Halcyon Digest) – One of the best off the new album and got a bit of a vocal makeover as many of the more duwoppy numbers did. Although my short-term memory is fading, I think it sounded more energetic than what we heard in the studio, if nothing else.
  4. Revival (Halcyon Digest) – As many other fans have remarked, I wish this song was thrice the length that it is. It is the best Cox penned song off Halcyon Digest and you never want it to end. The same goes for their performance of it.
  5. Never Stops (Microcastle) – Another upbeat number to keep the flow going. Not as good as I remember from their October show at Lee’s in 2008, but this is a different tour and a different year.
  6. Little Kids (Microcastle) – Part of me wishes they had done a variation on this by performing the demo version (my favorite of all of their demo versions, and may have softened the crunchiness we heard in the venue). No matter though, this one was a crowd favorite that actually got heads bopping.
  7. Memory Boy (Halcyon Digest) – This one got a slight vocal makeover; couldn’t hear if there were any back-up vocals coming through but this is a pretty prominent feature of the song that kind of got lost.
  8. Rainwater Cassette Exchange (Rainwater Cassette Exchange EP) – By far, the highlight of the show for me, and one of the reasons you go to see bands like Deerhunter live. WOW. The 80’s patina gave this song a complete makeover that pretty much blew my head off to smithereens. Completely unexpected, and an awesome gift.
  9. Fountain Stairs (Halcyon Digest) – Unexpected crowd fave–another Pundt song that has hopefully cemented him as one half of the songwriting duo.
  10. Nothing Ever Happened (Microcastle) – Probably the highlight of the evening for the rest of the crowd, and indeed it brought the house down. Bradford really got into the distorted guitar jamming at this point and just when you thought it might never end, it did…and you wish it hadn’t.
  11. Helicopter (Halcyon Digest) – I heard someone complaining outside that this was an “Atlas Sound song, not a Deerhunter one.” While I could see his point, I think this was also one of the best performances of the evening due to the extended remix treatment it received.
  12. He Would Have Laughed (Halcyon Digest) – The last song in the main setlist, and I can understand why they would’ve chosen it to end things off on. The extensive layers and ambient noisiness = license to experiment, and the last third of the song where it morphs into a ballad gave them a nice clean ending to walk off to.

ENCORE

  1. Cover Me (Slowly) (Microcastle)
  2. Agoraphobia (Microcastle) – Two of the best songs off Microcastle that again served as a nice break back to shorter pop songs, although all of the encore songs were along those same lines.
  3. Spring Hall Convert (Cryptograms) – Bradford dedicated this song to the Opera House and I thought it would bring the house down. Probably their best song period, and just damn fine rock ‘n roll music.
  4. Wash Off (Fluorescent Grey EP) – Kind of surprised they chose this one to end off on once and for all. It’s a fast, punchy song, but I was sort of really hoping for something mindbogglingly majestic, like Calvary Scars II/Aux. Out.

Some general notes about the show. Bradford did a better job than most connecting to a local audience by describing his day in the Annex shopping at Honest Ed’s, Sonic Boom, and eating at Pizza Pizza (I am guessing they either know someone from Toronto or loved exploring the area all of the times they have played at Lee’s Palace). While people loudly applauded the first two stops, he noted far less for Pizza Pizza, which he told us we should be proud of. It’s good, cheap pizza, and better than Domino’s. Thank you Mr. Cox. As a loyal Pizza Pizza customer I feel completely validated and think the Bloor/Bathurst shop should have a signed black and white glossy with your endorsement.

He also shone the spotlight on Pundt a couple of times, but he seemed quite a bit more wallflowerish. It must be tough not to make Cox look gregarious onstage, but I can appreciate that bantering with the audience just isn’t really his thing. Cox jokingly referred to Pundt as George Harrison, Joshua Fauver as Paul McCartney, and Moses Archuleta as Ringo Starr; instructing them to “stop gossiping!” They just looked like they were having a good time for the most part, and in a sudden fit of rock ‘n roll impulse, Bradford slapped down the microphone stand. His stagehand jumped right back up to reset it.

While the acoustics up front left that familiar ultra-crunchy nails-on-chalkboardish sound sometimes, it was still a great show that I’ll remember.

If anyone has reviews of Real Estate or Casino Versus Japan, post ‘em here.

Deerhunter – Fluorescent Grey by defacto

Concert Review: Midlake, Rogue Wave, September 24, The Opera House

Posted on by Paul in Concerts, Everything | 2 Comments

Toronto – In our preview of this show, I mentioned my hopes that Midlake would have a flute onstage.  As the photo above indicates, they not only utilized the flute on several songs, but even featured two flautists on occasion.  Thus I was satisfied with the show.  What can I say, I’m a fan of flutes.  Jethro Tull totally rules by the way.

Midlake have been compared to Grandaddy in the past and while there are some similarities, they have certainly developed their own sound.  If anything, I’d say they sound like Grandaddy would if Jason Lytle was way more into British folk rock acts like Fairport Convention and Pentangle than he was into ELO.  Musically, their set consisted mostly of gentle, mid tempo folk rock, but each song had a sort of propulsiveness to it that seemed to demand the audiences attention.  And there were a couple of searing guitar solo freakouts thrown in for good measure too.   All of the members are ridiculously talented musicians and they seem like pretty likeable guys onstage.  Humble too – in response to loud cheering from the crowd, guitarist Eric Pulido responded, “You’re being far too kind to us.”

Speaking of crowd response, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the overexuberant Midlake superfan who anyone near the stage couldn’t help but notice.  Standing right up front and getting really stoked from the getgo, this excitable fellow got on my nerves during the first song of the set, “Winter Dies,” when he shouted “MIDLAKE!!!!”  at the top of his lungs.  Dude, calm down, you are not at a monster truck rally or a Pantera concert.  I was worried that he might detract from my enjoyment of the show, but as the set went on, he settled into an acceptable level of enthusiasm. 

With their solid musicianship and great songs, Midlake put on a solid set, the highlights being  “Roscoe.” “Head Home,” and “Acts of Man.”  As they finished, I was left wondering why they were the openers and not the headliners.  Apparently a lot of other people agreed with me as the crowd thinned out a bit before Rogue Wave’s headlining slot.  This is unfortunate for Rogue Wave as they did put on a pretty good, high energy show (at least for the part of their set that I stayed for.  Yes, I too left early).  They played a set of happy sounding, bouncy, power poppish tunes that I couldn’t really fault.  Technically, they’re good at what they do and I did enjoy the pink skull design and lights that covered their amps and gear, but something about them left me kind of underwhelmed.