Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

Driving Headlong Towards The Biggest Fight Of His Life

While this year’s edition of the Over The Top Fest, kicking off tonight with shows around the city, isn’t likely to be as dramatic or – let’s face it – as all out awesome as the best Sylvester Stallone truck-driving, arm-wrestling flick of the 80s, it will still probably be pretty good.

While in past years, there were at least one or two shows featuring familiar and favoured bands, this year’s lineup didn’t have any “must-sees” for me. Which actually made picking shows harder, since arguments could be made for hitting up any number of shows scheduled against one another. It’s almost like… an ARM WRESTLE. However, this is where the sheer eclecticism of the acts playing over the next four days and nights comes in handy – I’ll surely be seeing stuff that’s new and foreign to me and my tastes, and while it’s improbable that I’ll like it all, it’ll definitely be interesting. Like arm wrestling.

But I think I’ve made my choices and expect the weekend to shake out as follows: start things off tonight with the vibraphone ecstasy of The Hylozoists, Athens, GA psych-poppers Casper & The Cookies and the retro girl-groupness of Grand Rapids’ The Icicles at the Tranzac. Tomorrow it’s back to the Tranzac for Casiotone For The Painfully Alone’s one-man synthery, Vague Angels (fronted by Chris Leo, brother of Ted) and Nick Krgovich of Vancouver’s P:ano. Then the weekend’s made for matinees with manic synth-pop duo Matt & Kim, twee-er than twee Page France, Philadelphia Television-samplers Yah Mos Def and locals The Fancy Claps and The Weathermaking Challenge at, get ready for it, The Tranzac. And Sunday, finally, is another matinee at Sneaky Dee’s (not the Tranzac!) featuring Phil Elverum’s Mt Eerie, Montreal singer-songwriter Darling Arms and Pilotram, who might play songs with such compelling titles as “Drone In D” and “Drone In E”.

Naturally, I reserve the right to change my mind at the drop of a hat or sleep in and miss an act or two. And there are other bands playing that I’m curious to see – Meligrove Band (who I’ve seen before but are always fun), Japanther, Peter & The Wolf – but one I’m not interested in seeing is de facto festival headliner Daniel Johnston. I respect the man’s songwriting (though I rather prefer them when someone’s covering them) but I saw him open for Yo La Tengo a few years ago and… well, he’s an interesting performer. I’ll certainly give him that much. But that show’s sold out anyways, so it’s a moot point.

Naturally the local media is happily covering the launch of the festival – eye chats up The Phonemes, looks at the Daniel Johnston doc playing as part of the film component and generally previews the fest (there’s also a handy-dandy cut-out guide in the print version of the paper), NOW and The Toronto Star talk to festival founder Eric Warner as well as Daniel Johnston while Chart interviews featured acts The Hylozoists and Japanther.

And for the first year, Over The Top expands its format to include film, theatre and dance components. While hitting the matinees on the weekend does allow me to catch, say, one of the performances of Giant Killer Shark: The Musical (which Chart reports on), it’s far more likely I’ll be geeking out at, say, Spider-Man 3. But for those who prefer their cinema little more rock’n’roll, check out FilmCAN – they’re selling films online including the legendary Bruce McDonald Rock’N’Road trilogy of Roadkill, Highway 61 and Hard Core Logo as well as some of the short films from New Pornographer Blaine Thurier, though they’re not pornography. I think. Also note that the McDonald films are all playing at the Royal tonight, back to back to back, with introductions from McDonald. More info at Stille Post.

And while I’m rounding up reasons to go outside this weekend, note that Friday Saturday is Free Comic Book Day – while most funny book shops around the city will be taking part in the event to some degree, your best bet will certainly be The Beguiling in Mirvish Village, who in addition to giving out free books, will have loads of local comic creators on-hand to sign stuff and just otherwise geek out (there’s that phrase again). And also note that in conjunction with the happenings, Scott McCloud, author of the excellent Understanding Comics and the decidedly less excellent Reinventing Comics will be in town Sunday evening for a lecture at the OISE Theatre at Bloor and St George station. Ticket info on the Beguiling’s website.

And to backtrack a bit to Spider-Man 3, PopMatters has a bluffers guide to all the principals in the new film while looking ahead to NEXT Summer’s comic book blockbuster, Entertainment Weekly has the first look at the final Iron Man armour… and it looks awesome. Even moreso knowing that it’s not Tom Cruise inside it. Via Newsarama.

Looking ahead to next month’s big Toronto music festival, NxNE has released the first official list of bands playing around town the weekend of June 7, 8 and 9. And in keeping with traditions laid out by big brother fest SxSW, the list is nigh unreadable. But a quick scan reveals some interesting names and a distinct international flavour to the lineup – just to name a few, we’ve got pop maven Jason Falkner, DC Leafblower faves Middle Distance Runner, North Carolinans Schooner (who I saw and enjoyed at Pop Montreal last year), Los Angeles’ Sea Wolf (who I saw and enjoyed at SxSW in March), ex-Swervedriver Adam Franklin and, rather out of left field, 90s Irish rockers Therapy?, whose song “Nowhere” I’ve had in my head since I saw their name. More names will probably be added when at a press conference thing next Tuesday evening.

Ooookay, what else we got? Under Byen return to Toronto for the third time in nine months for a show at Lee’s Palace on July 12. You’d think Denmark was right next door or something.

Said The Gramophone interviewed Okkervil River’s Will Sheff for The Believer. Things learned? Don’t mess with Sheff or he’ll knife you.

Uptown talks to Weakerthans guitarist Stephen Carroll about their new album, tentatively titled Reunion Tour and due out in October.

By : Frank Yang at 8:44 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Scott Arnold says:

    Free Comic Book Day is Saturday not Friday… just FYI.

  2. Frank says:

    I knew that. I did.

  3. Fratster says:

    That interview with Okkervil River is outstanding.

  4. Scott says:

    Hey just on the NxNE festival, I noticed Junior Boys and Born Ruffians we not on there. But, if you go to the Born Ruffians web site (…) it had them playing at the Mod Club on the Friday

    Just thought I’d draw that to your attention

  5. Frank says:

    yeah, there’s a number of acts that I know to be performing that aren’t on the list – that whole Friday night @ Mod lineup, Buffalo Tom, Dinosaur Jr, etc. I suspect they’re keeping some of the lineup under wraps so that at the press conference, they’re not just announcing the stuff everyone knows. I expect it’ll be more comprehensive by next week.

  6. Jack says:

    That poster is a painful, yet hilarious, reminder of how bad the 80’s sucked. Especially after Reagan got re-elected, and every movie had Schwarzeneggar or Stallone, or Chuck Norris punching people with the fist beneath his beard. Good job, Frank!

  7. boogerstonec says:

    gotta drop a heavy recomendation for The Phonemes show (with Bob Wiseman and Jason T)… criminally underattended in Montreal and Ottawa (where I saw them) but well worth early start.. composed and arranged but oh so deliciously simple and sweet at the same time.

  8. steeve says:

    In case you haven’t caught wind – huge festival happening in Ottawa this summer, and it’s not Bluesfest.


  9. Mike says:

    Hey, when the heck are they gonna announce more bands for Virgin Fest? It seemed like last year, they had almost the entire linup announced by now, and it was amazing (compared to this year). Maybe if they announced more bands for this year’s, I’d be more interested in making the decision on whether to buy a ticket or not.

  10. Frank says:

    actually re: V Fest, they’re WAY ahead of last year in terms of announcements – the existance of the festival and headliners wasn’t officially announced until June 30 of last year, and the bills were slowly filled out as it got closer. But yeah, I’d like it very much if another batch of bands was announced sooner than later.

  11. Scott says:

    After the INTENSE screw ups of last year’s V-Fest, even the bands I WANT to see there can’t lure me in (cutting the Lips, the main reason I went, after 25 minutes was UNACCEPTABLE)… I think the only thing that could make me change my mind is if they convinced the JAMC to play (since they seem to only be doing festivals I can’t make it to [smirk])…