the national

NXNE Review: The National, Ostrich Tuning, The Death Set, June 14

Posted on by Brent in North By Northeast | Leave a comment

Ostrich Tuning

Friday night started off with a trip to Yonge-Dundas Square to check out The National. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I knew a freebie at a large public square in the middle of downtown on a beautiful Friday night would bring out loads of fans but unless you showed up early there was no possible way of seeing the stage. They sounded really good though. Sigh.

Following a quick jaunt across Queen and stops at the Horseshoe to check out Still Corners and then up and across Dundas to May to see Tokyo’s Round Face and finally ending up at my primary destination which was the basement of Creatures Creating to catch Ostrich Tuning.

I had first heard about them the previous night when I was told by a friend that I “had to see this band playing up the street” because “they were the best musicians in the city” and that they were “better than Godspeed You! Black Emperor.” Some of this was confirmed by a random stranger beside us who agreed. He may have been planted. Regardless, I wasn’t going to not go. It was at a neat little second floor art space of a house in Kensington called The White House. I got there while three-piece  Rituals were pounding out distortion to a packed little room while images from a projector were displayed on a side wall. As I waited in anticipation for Ostrich Tuning to set up, those that were in charge began to quickly scramble: hiding the cash box, getting rid of their beer sign, etc. The cops showed up (apparently about a noise complaint and/or open cans outside) but even though the show would go on, time was ticking and I needed to make it to The Silver Dollar for Mikal Cronin in 15 minutes. It wasn’t until Friday night that I would be able to experience their show.

Creatures Creating is a neat little art collective space on Dundas. They had a comedy show happening on the mainfloor with bands playing in the basement. Ostrich Tuning are different and unconventional because they tune all of their guitar strings to the same pitch. For example, all strings would be tuned to ‘D’ which makes it an entirely new instrument that one would have to re-learn chords and chord progressions. You’d probably never know it unless you were watching their fingers though which makes them such talented musicians. The few songs that I heard were five to six minutes full of drone and psychedelic effects. According to their website they’ve customized their instruments and pedals. They were well received and based on the praise given to them the night before I’ll be checking them out next time they play.

The Death Set

Following a quick stop at Wrongbar to see Bear Mountain and BLK BOX where Gold & Youth played the sweatiest show of the night, I made it to the Shop @ Parts and Labour at 2am for one of NXNE’s “secret shows”. Not so secret considering @urbanoutfitters was letting everyone know who was playing two hours in advance. The Death Set are from Australia but transplanted in Brooklyn and were the headliners. I’d read a review and seen a couple videos of their live shows and knew them to be aggressive and interactive. The audience and band pretty much became one as they played at our level. At one point lead singer and guitarist Johnny Siera entangled his microphone cable in a willing lady’s shirt in front of him, later having trouble getting it out at the end of the song. On purpose? Hmm. They bounced around like Mexican Jumping Beans and the crowd followed suit. It was one of the more unique shows of the festival as I’d never seen a punk band play samples of Jackson 5 and old hip hop between their songs. Confusing, yet unique. Head scratchingly unique.

Best of 2011: Ricky’s Favorite Concert Moments in Awards Format (pt 2/2)

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Year End Reviews | Leave a comment

Everyone likes awards right? Especially when they are random and whimsical..right? Here’s the rest of my favorite concert moments. Since it’s my blog, I’m just going to call these awards The Panickys. I would call it the Rickys, but that oozes of ego boasting.

2011 Panicky for Concert Where I Saw the Most Friends

Sloan, December, 2011 – The Great Hall
Before I joined this cultish indie blogger group I am now apart of, I rarely knew anyone at concerts. Since that fateful day, I seem to run into at least a few people at shows. While I’ve seen a lot of friends at a lot of shows, the Sloan show was by far, the one I went to with the most amount of people I knew there. I didn’t talk to most of the people I knew there, because I had a good spot. It helps that the show was phenomenal, and a nice cap off to a phenomenal concert year.

Sloan – Everything You’ve Done Wrong (live 2011-12-21) by panicmanual

2011 Panicky for Concert with the best backdrop/environment

The National, Llevant Stage, Primavera Sound, June, 2011
Brooding band, sun setting, beautiful weather and the Mediterranean Sea at my back. Even Matt Berninger mentioned how amazing it was for The National to play a set at that particular time at that particular place. Pure magic. Second best sunset show I’ve seen (after Coachella 2004, where Belle and Sebastian played a sunset show).

2011 Panicky for Concert where I formally gave up on a band

Interpol, Llevant Stage, Primavera Sound, June ,2011
I used to love Interpol, their brooding, atmospheric debut was one of the better records from the past decade. Sadly, the band has failed to consistently improve/expand on their sound and seeing the band go through the motions and play their inferior new tracks was a tough pill to swallow. Maybe Carlos D left at the right time, but I’m pretty sure that the sixth time I saw these guys was my last, until of course, the Interpol reunion in 2019.

2011 Panicky for Best Unexpectedly Great Concert

Erasure, Sound Academy, September 2011
The 80s synth-pop band put on one of the best shows I saw in Toronto this year, delivering a hits filled set at their show in September. The track selection for this set was perfect, building momentum slowly and then exploding in an outburst of color, melody and hook filled choruses, instantly transforming yours truly into a big time Erasure fan.

2011 Panicky for Best Unexpectedly Great Local Concert

Allie Hughes, NXNE, Wrongbar, June, 2011
Given the amount of large shows I go to, it’s probably not fair to group them with the smaller, more intimate local shows. So Allie Hughes gets the Panicky for the local version of best unexpectedly great show. Catching her on a whim at NXNE, I wasn’t expecting too much but came away awfully impressed by Allie’s theatre meets indie music mashup. Fun, original and filled with good music. A definite highlight of NXNE.

NOT THE STARS by AllieHughes

2011 Panicky for Best 1 Song Show

The Walkmen, Primavera Sound, June 2011
I only caught the tail end of the Walkmen (who Allison confuses with the Watchman, 9 times out of 10) set at Primavera Sound, but they sang the only song I would ever want to hear – The Rat. Seriously, listen to it. It’s one of the best tracks from the past decade and should have launched the band into the stratosphere. It didn’t, but that doesn’t make it a great moment to hear that song live.

2011 Panicky for Best Show I Do Not Remember

Yeasayer, Microsoft Party, Austin, March 2011
As chronicled in my article here, the PM crew indulged a bit too much at the free booze fest and as a result, I missed/forgot what happened at the Yeasayer show. Still, this was better than my performance at the Woodhands show in 2010. I didn’t have to review the Yeasayer show, I kinda had to review the Woodhands show and instead ended up making references to Fast and Furious in the article.

2011 Panicky for Show with the Highest Dancing Crowd/Collapsed Floor Potential

Sheezer, Sneaky Dees, NXNE, June, 2011
While they didn’t dress up as Spice Girls aka their Halloween show, Sheezer’s Sneaky Dees show was the perfect storm of great music, amazing crowd and really small space. The crowd was more than amped to see the Weezer cover band at 2 am at the height of NXNE and the result was a venue long mosh pit which was literally floor shaking. Great show.

Sheezer – Only in Dreams (Live) by Pop Montreal

2011 Panicky for Best Concert

Pulp, San Miguel Stage, Primavera Sound, June 2011
Was there any doubt? Favorite Concert Ever.

Primavera Sound Review: The National, Belle & Sebastian

Posted on by Ricky in Primavera | 1 Comment

Barcelona – Day two of Primavera Sound was obviously dedicated to Pulp but it also featured a host of other amazing bands on the bill including perennial festival headliners The National and another personal favorite in Belle and Sebastian.

Arriving shortly after 8:30 pm, I was able to make it to the Pitchfork stage in time to hear current sensation James Blake get drowned out in noise by M Ward, of all people. I wasn’t sure how his quiet as heck electronic soul music would work in an outdoor atmosphere and just as I suspected, it did not fare well. Those outside the fifty foot range of the completely packed stage got to hear both M ward and James Blake at once, much to the chagrin of most JB fans, I’m sure. Quickly realizing this mashup was going to be a disturbance, I left to join the mass migration of music fans to go see the National.

Walking towards the Llevant stage, it became apparent that almost everyone at the festival was going to see the Cincinnati, Ohio band. By the time the band took the stage shortly after nine, the field was at near capacity. Noting how pretty setting was, the group played 90 minutes of solid National music. While the tracks sounded amazing, it was tough to get into The National’s brooding brand of personal rock. We’re in Spain! At a festival! By the sea! Against a sunset! Why so serious? But despite my personal feelings, the band played a solid set of tracks new and old, highlighted by an appearance by the one and only Sufjan Stevens for the songs Afraid of Everyone and Terrible Love. “He walks among mortals” exclaims Matt as Sufjan walked off stage. I left the National before the last track to beat the crowd and grab a spot for the next act – Belle and Sebastian

It was shortly after 10:30 when Belle and Sebastian took the San Miguel stage. Starting off softly with the track I Didn’t See it Coming it took awhile for the band to find it’s groove with the crowd. As Frank noted, the band might of had some sound issues that made them seem quieter than they really were. However once the band started incorporating old time classics like Le Pastie de la Bourgeoisie, the crowd started dancing and the show went uphill from there. Having seen them about five times now, I’m noticing that Belle and Sebastian, like many others veteran bands, now have a few tricks up their sleeves including having a girl applying makeup to Stuart Murdoch during the track Lord Anthony and inviting dancers on stage for what is arguably their most popular song, The Boy With The Arab Strap. Its amazing to see how far Belle and Sebastian have come as a live band, originally adversed to touring, the band now has become a polished machine capable of playing large festival crowds armed only with twee-ish tracks. Stuart Murdoch has become an accomplished and confident front man who knows exactly when he has the crowd. Highlights for me included Judy and The Dream of Horses , The Stars of Track and Field and Legal Man. The band also did their part hyping up the next band as Steve broke out the chorus of Common People during —–. The set closed with Sleep The Clock Around as expected and seeing how it is my favorite Belle and Sebastian song, it felt quite appropriate.

Pulp was up next, read the review here. Battles was pretty good from what I remembered. Day 2 at Primavera Sound had an amazing set of bands and resulted in the most amazing concert nights of my life.

Primavera Sound Review: Pulp, May 27th, San Miguel Stage

Posted on by Ricky in Primavera | 3 Comments

Barcelona – Where to even begin? This journey to see one of my favorite bands started on November 8th, 2010 when Pulp announced they were reforming to play a few select shows starting with Primavera Sound. A few frantic emails and a quick check on Expedia later, I had booked my trip to Barcelona to see them. Then there was the long six month wait which really wasn’t that long since I went to London to see my other favorite band – Suede as well as SXSW, which I consider to be the greatest music journey a music fan can make. But there I was on May 27th, listening to the National singing their baritone hearts out to pretty much everyone in Barcelona and I just kept on staring at my Iphone thinking “is it time yet?”

The anticipation for the Pulp reunion show was high throughout the festival, only elevated by the fact that Jarvis Cocker himself had taken the time to check out the festival, walking around from stage to stage just like any other common person, eliciting gasps everywhere “JAAAAAA VIS! COCK KA” the Spaniards would say as he casually strolled by. By the time Belle and Sebastian took the stage, it was pretty clear the countdown had started for everyone. How clear, you ask? Halfway through the track Legal Man, Steve from Belle and Sebastian broke into the chorus of Common People and Stuart Murdoch asked the crowd “Are you excited about who is on next? I sure am”

So there we were, at 1:45 am. Me and many diehards had just waited at the stage after Belle and Sebastian played their last song at 12:15 am. That’s an hour and a half wait. I could have gone and seen Explosions in the Sky, but just like many others, the thought of losing my close to the stage spot was unbearable so I waited it out amongst the others. People were here from all over the world. There were Brazillians there, Japanese, various European types and an army of English people. Didn’t they have a billion festivals on England to go to, I asked. Their reply was that Primavera was the best one, which warmed my heart.

At 1:45 am, the green lasers that had been hyping us up with phrases like “are you ready?” and “can you believe this is happening?” finally projected the words “Lets do this” ( or something similar ). The stage went dark and the words PULP was then spelled out on the lights in a dramatic fashion. The opening notes of Do you remember the first time was played and it was utterly one of the best moments ever. The lights slowly lit the stage to reveal Jarvis Cocker standing on two platforms looking larger than life behind a mesh curtain. He sang the opening verse before the curtain was lifted and the lights became blinding for the track’s inevitable sing-a-long explosion of a chorus. To say the energy level was high would be one of the greatest understatements of all time, it was insane. People were singing along, jumping as high as they possibly could, some people didn’t even know how to react. I was about 15-20 feet from the stage and it was just nuts. I had to take my earplugs off just so they would not accidentally get rammed into my head by the crowd. It might have been a different experience from someone who was standing a mile away, but they weren’t really here for the band anyway. This video does a pretty good job summing up the introduction:

Thus began our ninety minute of audio and visual bliss. Playing a set primarily from the two Britpop albums – His N Hers and Different Class, Pulp sounded as tight as ever and seemed well determine to re-establish themselves as one of the greatest bands from the Britpop generation. The wine sipping, glasses wearing Jarvis seemed as game as ever, still slim as a twig, still dancing only the way Jarvis can and still inspiring the crowd with carefully chosen words between sets. I’m just going to go through some of my personal highlights from the show

“Would you like to dance with me?” Jarvis asked, before the Gloria-riff of Disco 2000 sent the crowd into a dancing frenzy. There’s something to be said about singing along to one of your favorite songs of all time and being joined in by oh, twenty thousand people. One of my life goals was realized at this moment.

The green laser light show that was all too fitting for the rave inspired track Sorted For E’s and Wizz. While the rave/Madchester culture of the late 80s early 90s seemed soooooooo long ago, much of the song still resonates today and it felt very appropriate when the lyrics “is this the way the future’s meant to feel? or is this 20,000 people standing in a field?” were spoken by the man himself.

FEELINGCALLEDLOVE was a hundred thousand times better live than on album, while the track just seemed like a stopgap point on Different Class (sandwiched between Common People and Disco 2000), the quiet/slow to loud/fast tempo change of this song sounded tremendously epic live.

Hearing the entire crowd sing out the entire lyrics for the track This is Hardcore was something else.

COMMON PEOPLE.
What can you say about experiencing Common People live? In a week where protesters in Barcelona were hospitalized at the hands of the police, the stage was set for the track Common People to once again, rise above the festival. Dedicating the track to those said protesters, Common People was just an eight minute block of music that will be forever frozen in my mind as the top eight minutes of live concert music that I will ever encounter. The jubilation in the crowd was mind blowing and it was one of those moments where you will always remember what it felt like. The crowd sang and dance along to the entire track. Common People is a song about us and for us. It’s a track that speaks to your heart and makes you look at strangers around you as friends and compatriots rather then someone you should step on to elevate your own career and status. This is why the song has a place in everyone’s heart and it’s why the people lose their minds for it. An amazing experience that will never be replicated, even if I saw Pulp again.

In conclusion, for me, it was a show for the ages. To have waited sixteen years to see one of your favorite bands and then having that band exceed all expectations is rare feat. The band was tight, the set list was great, Jarvis was an amazing front man and to experience the show among thousands of die hards completely made the experience unforgettable. Best show I’ve ever seen.

Do You Remember the First Time?
Pink Glove
Pencil Skirt
Something Changed
Disco 2000
Babies
Sorted For E’s & Wizz
F.E.E.L.I.N.G.C.A.L.L.E.D.L.O.V.E
I Spy
Underwear
This Is Hardcore
Sunrise
Bar Italia
Common People

Encore:
Razzmatazz

What’s next? I don’t even know.