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

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.

SXSW Review: Datarock [Cedar Street Courtyard, Filter Culture Collide party, March 19, 2011]

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

Datarock, SXSW 2011, March 19, 2011 73.jpg

Baltimore – Here is a recepe I learned at SXSW this year:

Several Talking Heads
4 red tracksuits
4 Norwegians
1 bowl of electro-pop
200+ SXSW goers

Cube the Talking Heads and marinate in electro-pop. Mix in the Norwegians wrapped in individual tracksuits, sprinkle the SXSW goers, and bake under warm March sun for 45 minutes until well done. Voila. You have made a Filter Culture Collide party with Datarock.

I am usually not enticed by electro-pop/punk, even on the best of days. But the way a Datarock song is assembled makes it easy to like. Simple bass lines, scarce use of guitar for highlights or hooks, everything strung together loosely by weird lyrics set to a melody that ought to be played on a synth. The Talking Heads resemblance is plain from miles away. They have a song called True Stories that is full of Talking Heads song titles (not to mention its theme is basically an offshoot of Psycho Killer). Alos, why else would you shout out Fa-Fa-Fa? The interesting thing is that the formula actually works. They were one of the first acts for Filter’s party that afternoon, and it showed. Although it was far from empty, Cedar Street Courtyard was not as we saw it in yester-years during White Lies or Temper Trap. This time, I had the option of moving from the balcony to the stage without catching snake eyes from 50 people. Datarock opened energetically by stomping down the staircase. Initially I was skeptical. The vocal Fredrik Saroea fist-pumped like a cheerleader, Thomas Larssen on bass had a ridiculously wide stance that made 2/3 pi looks acute, saxophone Kjetil Møster was jumping behind the vocal like a boxer, and Adrian Meehan looked every part the timid vampire under that hoodie, picking at drums away from the sun.

I am glad that first impressions are often wrong. After my initial assessment,  Datarock opened with the Pretender (I believe). Over the next 45-50 minutes they would go through their albums, including Computer camp love, California, Catcher in the Rye (there may be a Bon Jovi tune here), and DANCE. For each song, Saroea would smartly (or smugly, depending on your vantage) introduce the audience to a background. California, for example, was supposed to be a play. Not that anyone cared whether Datarock makes the Writers’ guild, but compare this to the often muffled: “Mmmmmm… thank you. This next song is called X”. I would much rather have such stage act enliven the performance than not, especially because Datarock is built on such idiosyncrasies. The audience, too, gradually warmed up to their presence. I started the concert on the balcony beside two gentlemen who were scoffing. By the time everyone else in the courtyard was fist-pumping to Fa-Fa-Fa, they told me about their plans to high-five the band after. Let’s be clear, though: this was NOT a Matt and Kim style free-love-for-all. Perhaps the music was off-kilter. Everyone was just on the cusp. If Matt (or Kim) was to jump topless into the crowd at their concert, there would be a supernova on the spot. Møster did so, and was greeted by a parting audience like Moses with Red Sea. I think he was a little baffled. But honestly, it was 3PM. I would need much more alcohol before I stick my hand out to support a sweaty 200 lb Norwegian. Late in the show, Meehan also abandoned the drums so he could jump onto the speaker stack to sing. As I said, they were very energetic, but I can’t figure out why the crowd wasn’t as receptive as with other comparable concerts.

Datarock, SXSW 2011, March 19, 2011 75.jpg

Overall, Datarock was very enjoyable to watch and listen, and not just because of showmanship. I would hazard to guess that the formula worked because of the European influence… house music and continental suave. Or perhaps that’s just my head talking. 0.5 star bonus!

SXSW Reviews: Colin Stetson; Caitlin Rose, Amy LaVere [Parish; Swan Dive, March 18, 2011]

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

Baltimore – Why do I lump reviews together? Well, it’s certainly not due to a lack of thoughts on each topic/section. Heck, if you let me, I could probably ramble on and relate chocolate chip cookies directly to a contrabass saxophone. Somehow. Just like why I decided to write about all 3 in one review – because they relate together for me.


I had never heard of Colin Stetson and Amy LaVere before the concerts. But I have heard of NPR (in fact I am probably a rabid NPR fanboy by now, waiting for the zombie signal over FM radio). Seeing NPR’s day party on the SXSW calendar was equivalent to hearing the call to arms if I was a Spartan. Just as I was pulled toward the Parish on this cloudy day, so too, were 70 others, forming a snaking line outside of the Parish. You know you are in a NPR line if 1) people are gambling, with real money, 2) everyone looks like Josh (Anger), 3) it seems that no one cares about the prospect of actually getting into the show. The last note could have something to do with the advertisement for swags-bags. But it was the most lazy line that I have ever been in – if we were nitrogen and the NPR line was a vacuum, we would be sucked in at no particular order, with no particular grudge. Contrast this to the Friendly Fires line later in the night, where one person tricked all of the wristband holders (yes… me included) into joining the general line on the other side… Laid back.


Colin Stetson, I learned, is more often associated with other acts than his solo efforts. 2-3 minutes into Colin’s set (a short one that you can watch in its entirety from NPR), one name ran across my mind – Xavier Rudd. In Stetson’s hands, the bass/contrabass sax sounds oddly like a didgeridoo. Apparently, both artists use circular breathing (see wiki). While Rudd has several didges at his disposal, Stetson had one saxophone. Due to a complete lack of musical talents I will refrain from commenting on techniques, suffice it to say that it’s not only impressive, but also hauntingly beautiful to listen. Be patient, though. His music takes a little time to develop, and has a lo-fi tinge. Because of the breathing technique, though, this tends to involve a revolving set of notes that escalates, which sound similar to Philip Glass on the closing parts of Koyaanisqatsi. You know… where the cars keep going ’round, faster and faster, like the notes. The people of NPR might be, but this music is definitely not laid back.


Last year I went to see Audra Mae on the strength of one song (and it was totally justified). And not just any song – a depressing ballade about a girl in the deep south committing suicide. This year Caitlin Rose played the role of that songstress who draws me in with one horribly depressing song. When she introduced it, a man standing in front of me asked: “What? A song about someone who was pushed into a wall?” “No,”, I said, “WELL”. That is more like it – no one gets hurt being pushed into a wall! Folk music is apparently full of the dark sides of life, because if all we ever pondered is high-minded ideas such as “are we human or are we dancer”, then no one will be left doing the dancing and the “human’in”.

And human her performance was. Perhaps less calculated like many at SXSW but very genuine. I have never been to Swan Dive before. When I arrived there was a guy trying to weasel his way in. Meanwhile, I had missed 1-2 songs. Inside, Swan Dive contrasted orange, incandescent chandeliers with a blue-hue floor lighting. Combined together on the bare white walls, it became a very intimate yet somewhat desolate setting. Perfect, I guess, for singing about pushing people into wells. A piano less and two best-friends more than on the new album, Own Side Now, Caitlin certainly displayed a great range both in volume and scale. Some of the numbers feel more country than folk, but to be honest I would never know (nor care). I do wish that the subject of her songs would change a little. I like the Sinful Wishing Well (alluded to before), Own Side, and the last song (didn’t catch the name), a sing-along. The man (above) suggested that I stay for Amy LaVere.


I did stay. But not for the entire set (had to run to another show to line up). I did hear Washing Machine – which totally confused me… here were two instrumentalists on stage, one bass, one violin, and I heard guitar rift coming from the birthday boy (60 yrs old?) above everything else. Amy also repeatedly toasted the audience, which I thought was a little weird. Maybe a few more would give me a better grounding in her music. So I won’t be rude and give PMs this round.

That was a impromptu break for the finish. Like Colin Stetson’s saxophone.

Colin Stetson: (only because I regret that it was so short!)

Caitlin Rose: