SXSW

Concert Review: Animals As Leaders, December 7, The Phoenix

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | Leave a comment

Toronto – Animals As Leaders are one of those bands whose name I had seen, but I had never really paid them any mind.  That changed this past March when I happened to randomly stumble upon a show by bandleader Tosin Abasi’s other band T.R.A.M. at SXSW.  They played an intriguing mix of metal and jazz fusion that even featured a flute on one tune.  I enjoyed their set, but didn’t write about it at the time, mostly because I wasn’t really sure what to make of it.  After that show, I was curious to see what Abasi’s main band was all about.  And they were also pretty impressive – Abasi can shred, that’s for sure.   

Bands on the heavier end of the spectrum generally tend to inspire two kinds of fans – those that go totally crazy with the moshing, stagediving, and other such behaviour and those who stand there with their arms folded watching the band intently and perhaps noding approvingly.  With Abasi’s virtuosity and status as something of a guitar hero (sample t-shirt at the merch table: a Shepard Fairey-esque pic of Abasi with the caption “Tobama”), I’d expected more of the latter, but was surprised to see that this crowd was the former, and very much so.  There was lots of cheering, moshing, stagediving, and even impromptu bursts of handclapping.  The band seemed pretty surprised at this too.  Totally stoked, but surprised.  I get the feeling they don’t always see crowds quite that enthusiastic and they were totally digging it.  Keep in mind the fact that these guys were one of the opening acts on the bill too.  You don’t generally see that level of energy for the openers.  As the band ended their set, the drummer sprung up from behind his kit and launched himself into the crowd.  When the crowd actually inspires the band to crowdsurf, you know it’s a good show.

Song of the Day/SXSW Reminiscing: The Head and the Heart – When I Fall Asleep

Posted on by Ricky in Song of the Day | 1 Comment

One of the shows I regret missing this year was Seattle folk pop act The Head and the Heart at the Microsoft Party at SXSW Interactive last year. Now as you know, SXSW Interactive is a four or five day festival where a lot of internet professionals go to mingle, add each other on twitter (and subsequently, forget about them) and drink their face off. Large companies such as Google, Microsoft and Adobe often throw parties to show off how much money they have/make people like their brand. So at the Microsoft Party, the company hired The Head and the Heart, Yeasayer and some other band to play their party at the GORGEOUS Moody Theatre.

Now these parties typically have open bars, so as me and Derek made our way to the W hotel for the party, we were expecting some sort of alcoholic intake. What we did not expect, was that the there was another party, thrown by some other company on the terrace of the W hotel. Confusingly walking into that one (that’s the easiest way to crash parties). We were shocked to discover the high quality free alcohol they were serving – pricey cognacs and Johnny Walker Blacks. What what!

Among a sea of free Lonestars, Dos Equis and Captain Morgan Rums, finding a party with free quality liquor at SXSW is like hitting the jackpot. Rising to the opportunity, I pretended to be friends with the people at the front of the line to get the drinks quickly. There was some frowns from the people behind me, but then I told them I had 20,000 followers on Twitter and I would @ them, and all was peaceful once again.

As you would expect, we over indulged on cognac/whiskey, and by the time the Head and the Heart came on, the Panic Manual crew was a mess. Derek somehow made it back to the hotel at some point, I made it through both the Head and the Heart and Yeasayer but don’t remember any of it and apparently walked home with a poster.

While it seemed amusing at the time, I regretted being in such poor state when this band came on. All you have to do is listen to this song to figure out why:s full of delightful strings, pianos and colorful arrangements, the track’s gentle tones and toe tapping rhythm is pleasant to the ear and the heart. It’s a shame I missed it all. Next time, I won’t.

The song is off the band’s recently released Itune sessions CD. It features a bunch of cool songs. Check it out here

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:

Warrant
Miss You
Houdini
Waste
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

Song Of The Day: ARMS – Heat And Hot Water

Posted on by Paul in Song of the Day | Leave a comment

Toronto – ARMS were one of a few bands that I first came across at SXSW and they definitely made a good first impression with their catchy indie rock. Yet for whatever reason, we never did write about them at the time. It’s time to rectify that now. 

The Brooklyn based band is fronted by former Harlem Shakes guitarist Todd Goldstein and they have a new album, entitled Summer Skills, due out sometime in May.  In the meantime, check out this track from their self-titled EP.