NXNE Concert Review: Ruby Coast, Jason Collett, Horseshoe Tavern, June 20

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Ruby Coast

Toronto – Last Saturday CBC Radio 3 hosted a night of music at the Horseshoe Tavern. The night began with performances by Woodpigeon and DD/MM/YYYY. The third band of the night was Ruby Coast, hailing from Aurora, Ontario. The band formed in 2006 and are coming off their EP Projectable Collections, produced by Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club.

This was an energetic young band that played straight up Canadian-brand Indie Rock. I would say that their set was good. There was nothing extra-special or standout, but it was an enjoyable set. Ruby Coast is a relatively young band, and I look forward to what they will be cooking up as they progress as musicians and as a band.

Jason Collett

The next show was the big crowd-draw of the night for the Horseshoe. I feel sorry for the band that had to follow Toronto-based Jason Collett (it was Hot Panda), because the place pretty much emptied when his set finished. This was some great Indie-folk at its best. Jason Collett, of Broken Social Scene fame, has pared down his sound and written a slew of simple straight-up foot-tapping rock tunes. His sound is a great mix of folk and rock, all with a down-to-earth country vibe that keeps chugging along at a reassuring pace.

[On latest album] It’s not like we really stripped things down, it’s just that we never gussied them up. – Jason Collett

This was a great rock show. I like the simple approach that Jason brings to his solo project. As much as he loves to be part of that Broken Social Scene wall of sound, he intentionally decided with this latest project he wasn’t going to embellish things with strings and horns. As Jason describes his latest album Here’s To Being Here, “There’s not a lot of trickery to it. It’s not like we really stripped things down, it’s just that we never gussied them up.”

Couldn’t have described it better myself. Stand up rock show.

NXNE Concert Review: Spiral Beach, Whippersnapper Gallery, June 19th

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Spiral Beach

Toronto – Last Friday night found us at the Whippersnapper Gallery in the heart of Little Italy. It hadn’t occured to me that Taste of Little Italy was happening during NXNE, so College street was extra-packed. Opening the night at the Whippersnapper was Spiral Beach, a Toronto-based foursome that plays a collection of rock-pop songs.

The best part of this show was the enthusiasm that this young band brought to the table. They really enjoyed themselves up there and really got into it, and that energy was felt by the audience. They played loud and they played proud. Their brand of pop-rock does harken back to the B-52’s.

Their rock does have a gritty weirdness to it; the NXNE write-up defines their songs as “oddball pop songs” and I would agree. I saw elements of this that worked both for and against the band at different times in the set. Sometimes the long introspective weird avant-guarde shouted lyrics were really, uh, avant-guarde. On the other hand, there were a few moments where they transitioned very artfully between parts of the song where you don’t dance very hard to the part of the song where you dance very hard. That was done very well and got people dancing very hard.

Concert Review: Patrick Watson, May 2, Trinity St. Paul’s United Church

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The opener played tunes on what looked like a big wooden Gameboy. The lighting cast huge, eerie shadows on the wall behind the band, shadows broken only by the lights strung on three dead-looking potted trees. The first song featured a hand-cranked wind machine and a wailing lament in his trademark dreamy high voice. He played what looked like a raggedy miniature piano for one song that he admitted the band fished out of the garbage. He topped it off by walking into the crowd with a strange speaker contraption strapped to his back made of megaphones. And it all took place in a church.

Yes, it’s just another day in the world of Patrick Watson. We’re all just lucky he gives us a glimpse of that world every now and then.

Watson’s press bio calls him a “musical mad scientist,” as apt a description as there is of what he does. On stage last Saturday he looked the part as he scurried about the stage from the front stage microphone to his piano to the wind machine and everywhere else, his mad musical creations whirling about the shadowy church. You’d almost expect him to shout “IT’S ALIVE” to the crowd, if he weren’t so busy singing. With his very talented bandmates Mishka Stein, Simon Angell and Robbie Kuster aiding in the creation, Watson put on a stunning show of songs from his terrific new album Wooden Arms.

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Concert Review: The Thermals, May 3, Horseshoe Tavern

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God, I love The Thermals. What’s more, I love their Twitter feed. Twitter gives following a band on tour a whole new meaning, and The Thermals’ feed is one of the most entertaining around. Who can forget the epic tweet “But really this is the NOGL tour 09. NO ONE GETS LAID“? Or the early morning hours of May 1, when they tweeted a legendary 79 times between 1:22 and 3:53 AM?

Their tweet above is correct: the so-called “Legendary” Horseshoe Tavern is not the most glamourous of venues. On the other hand, The Thermals are not the most glamourous of bands. And that’s ok. Despite the heat that had frontman Hutch Harris sweating through his shirt, the Thermals pretty much killed it with an hour of their energetic indie rock goodness.

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