Sunday, July 25th, 2004

See Emily Play

This should have been great. An acoustic show featuring two of the brighter talents to come out of the local scene in recent years – Emily Haines of Metric and Amy Millan of Stars – should have been something special. Something you’d be able to say down the line that you’d been one of the lucky few in attendance. Instead…

First up was Amy Millan, who has been writing and performing as a solo artist outside Stars for some time now. While she didn’t offer any information about her solo record that was supposedly supposed to come out sometime this year, she did perform a few numbers on acoustic guitar along a theme of “love and loss”, as she put it throughout her set. The material was by turns folksy and country-ish, pleasant enough but not overly remarkable. Amy’s voice is like comfort food, though, so when her 40 minutes or so were up, I wasn’t incredibly stoked but still in a good mood and looking forward to the headliner. And I’m still eagerly anticipating Honey From The Tombs, whenever it comes out.

I should have known something was up when a fellow started handing out programs for the show entitled, “Emily Haines Plays The Piano Alone” and the song listing featured a grand total of two songs from Old World Underground out of 13, and the “available for funerals” note on the front turned out to be more promise than joke. Emily came onstage wearing a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers (a big change from her usual Metric pseudo-military miniskirt ensemble), blindfolded and stumbling around, relying on the audience to give her directions to the piano. Why? I have no idea, but she made it without much incident and without a word, began playing a new song. It was slow, sparse and dirge-like. She finished, everyone applauded, she started the next song. It was slow, sparse and dirge-like. She finished, everyone applauded, she started the next song. It was slow, sparse and– do I need to continue? The entire set was slow, sparse and dirge-like.

I don’t think I’d have minded as much if she’d taken the time to explain to the audience that she was going to be doing something different that night, that this was new material that was going to be on the next record or given any sort of context to the show, but instead she plugged through nearly three-quarters of the set before even acknowledging the audience and was seated such that her back was facing half the room and the piano blocked the view for a good portion of the other half. The whole thing came off as incredibly arrogant and off-putting – Haines would do well to realize she’s not nearly a big enough star to take her audience for granted like that. Maybe it’s a good thing she had her back to the audience, so she couldn’t see the number of people walking out mid-show… and it wasn’t just because it was suffocatingly hot in the club. I guess I’ve just used a lot of words to say one simple thing – big disappointment.

No pics besides the one of Emily stumbling for the piano – just some shots of Amy too dark to salvage and a couple pictures of Emily’s back while she plays. Not worth posting. The lighting at the ElMo is really pretty awful and the bizarre seating setup (a few rows of chairs up front, some tables in the middle and sides and everyone else standing in-between everything) made for awful sightlines. And really, there was nothing to see.

Graig has a completely opposite take on the show from me, however.

Moving on.

Jim Guthrie will also be playing that free show at Harbourfront Centre on August 27 along with Broken Social Scene.

The Sadies will celebrate the release of their latest album Favourite Colours on August 24 with two shows at the Horseshoe, September 17 and 18.

The Fiery Furnaces show in September has been pared down from a plural to a singular, the 12th of September, and will be at the Mod Club, not the Drake. Hey, don’t blame me, blame their booking company’s website. White Magic support. I listened to a little of Blueberry Boat at Soundscapes the other day (listening station!) and was more intrigued than I was by the random mp3s I had. I won’t be at that show, however, as that’s the same night as the Old 97s show at Lee’s, and I ain’t missing that one.

Six By Seven’s new album has a new title, :04, and a release date – September 13. I am not holding my breath for a North American release… hello!

The Belfast Telegraph talks to Tanya Donelly about motherhood and new album Whiskey Tango Ghosts, out Tuesday.

Watched David Fincher’s Panic Room yesterday. It was suspenseful, stylish and had a wickedly nasty performance from Dwight Yoakam, but the ending was really abrupt and unsatisfying. Oh well, it was neat technically-speaking, at least.

The official title of the new Star Wars film is Star Wars: Revenge Of The Sith, and not Star Wars: Sucks Even Harder Than The Last One as expected. The George Lucas – always keeps us guessing.

“It’s got gryphons and sphinxes and books and librarians and a most unreliable juggler.” Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean discussed their new film Mirrormask at the San Diego Comic Con.

np – Doug Martsch / Now You Know

By : Frank Yang at 10:44 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Jenn says:

    Ha! I totally agree with you! I had to defend my distaste for the show last night (something not easily done with the amout of gin I consumed). Though I didn’t get a very good look at the programs, They seemed very "look at me, i am being vulnerable". I got the impression that Haines really believes her own hype. Okay, her playing was gorgeous and the lyrics were great. Lots of things to like about the music, but I she really put me off and I felt like the who thing was really cold.

    I did enjoy Amy Millan though. Her voice is just incredible. There could have been some variety in the set, but it was good overall.

  2. graig says:

    I can see your point of view completely, not knowing what to expect and in the end getting something so wildly different can be a hard thing to resolve.

    I too was initially bored by the lack of engagement Haines walked on stage with (blindfolded then sitting with her back to everyone… very telling), the first three or four songs didn’t really capture me as my feet were hurting and, yes, it was mind-numbingly hot.

    But once I started actually listening to the songs, and the sounds, watching the plungers on the open face of her upright piano… I saw what she was going for: slow, sparse and dirge-like.

    I ignored the heat and my feet and fell into it, and once I did it was wonderful.

    My thought at the end was this is something she’s working on to be a much larger thing. This is the ground level of something really special. I kept picturing a Punch and Judy (puppet) show going on beside her, the puppets enacting visuals to the music.

    Maybe I liked it so much for what happened in my head rather than what actually happened *shrug*

  3. Frank says:

    Seems like the audience was split pretty evenly down the middle between love/hate.

    I’m surprised I responded the show the way I did – usually I’m firmly in the camp of "let the artist do what they want". I don’t shout out requests for ‘hits’ or whatever. I think I was just unable to offer the amount of concentration or attention necessary to appreciate whatever she was doing. Whose fault is that? Mine, hers, the ElMo’s. Whatever. Glad someone got more out of the experience than I did.

  4. Frank says:

    And a final word on the show – after discussing the show with some folks who did enjoy it, I’ve re-thought my initial distate for the experience. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to Andy, who runs the Metric fanclub on

    "While the fact that I left the show very dissatisfied hasn’t changed, I’m not putting the blame squarely on Emily’s performance. I maintain that I’d have liked to have known what I was getting into before the show, and I bet some in attendance might not have gone if they’d known it wasn’t going to be an MTV Unplugged sort of show. And maybe if those uninterested folks hadn’t gone, it would have improved the show for everyone else (there were some very vocal grumblers).

    Don’t get me wrong – I like slow, quiet music, but it demands a certain environment to be properly appreciated. The ElMo was not that environment. The setup of the club and the oppressive heat made it nearly impossible for me to concentrate on the music, and yeah – what Emily was playing at pretty much demanded your undivided attention. They had seats and tables set up in the middle of the club so those of us standing, which was most of us, were forced to the perimeter of the room where the sightlines were bad and the sound didn’t necessarily travel far enough.

    Anyway, I sort of wish I had gone in with a different frame of mind and that I could have appreciated the show, but that wasn’t how it shook out."

  5. Garfield says:

    why are you crying about it, what did you expect her to do, dance around and play an acoustic guitar? Their meaning Metric’s music is very dance oriented and based on the keyboards and the electric guitars. But acoustically one shouldn’t even think that they are going to get the same show they’d get if the entire band was there. I mean come on it even says solo, meaning she wanted to do her own songs, I’m thinking if she wanted to go out and play more Metric songs she would have taken the entire band with her on tour. But she didn’t she went solo and chose to play only a few songs from the cd. I’d just feel happy that you got to see her solo, i wish I could have. So stop your bitching..

  6. Frank says:

    sniff. My first ‘letter to the editor’ attacking me for expressing an opinion they disagree with. Today, I feel like a media outlet. Thanks, Garfield!