Monday, February 25th, 2008

Little Jabs

Photo by Frank Yang

Ah, musical comfort food. There’s really something to be said for hitting a show where you know the bands and you know what to expect and that’s what they deliver. For example, Saturday night’s CBC Radio3-sponsored to-do at the Horseshoe featuring Charlottetown’s Two Hours Traffic, on tour across Canada, and locals The Wooden Sky and My Shaky Jane. All of whom I’d seen in the past six months or so and who offer their own distinct but easily digestible varieties of the pop song.

My Shaky Jane serve theirs up with more than a little rock. I caught them in December opening up for The Lowest Of The Low’s final show and while I was impressed by their energy and showmanship, it was the headliners who obviously occupied all my attention that night. This time they were coming off a cross-country tour and were little more subdued but also extremely tight and gave it their all in delivering songs akin to ’60s British invasion pop dressed up in the decadence of ’70s classic rock.

By contrast, The Wooden Sky had a rougher set and not just from their more country-hewn songcraft. Their show at Tiger Bar in November showed me how good they could be but this night they just seemed out of sorts. Their set started a bit late and while their slow burn approach with a nice shift from My Shaky Jane’s all-out approach, they didn’t quite manage to get out of second gear though they did try – “North Dakota” sounded great. But full points for finishing on a high note with a solid cover of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “American Girl” (there’s not nearly enough Tom Petty covers out there) though I have to make a half point deduction for not trying to tackle the outro solo. Come on.

Two Hours Traffic seem to have come a long way since I caught them at this same venue in July, and not just in terms of the odometer in their van. For starters, they packed the place this time and perhaps more tellingly, the first few rows of fans were made up of enthusiastic young girls. I can imagine the band looking out on the audience and thinking, “yes, this is why we started a band”. And what’s not to like? The PEI foursome are just a shave and a quick haircut from a cover shoot for Non-Threatening Boys magazine and they write some of the most perfect, sing-along pop songs you’ll ever hear. And while they hadn’t picked up any wacky Monkees-like stage antics – though the Magnetic Fields cover was most unexpected – there was definitely more energy and engagement than last time. But I suppose there wasn’t much need for the band to be dancing up there because the fans down front were definitely picking up the slack.

Like a big serving of musical Shepherd’s pie.

Photos: Two Hours Traffic, The Wooden Sky, My Shaky Jane @ The Horseshoe – February 23, 2008
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Backseat Sweetheart” (live at the Horseshoe – June 9, 2007, via CBCR3)
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Better Safe Than Sorry” (live at the Horseshoe – June 9, 2007, via CBCR3)
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Heat Seeker” (live at the Horseshoe – June 9, 2007, via CBCR3)
MP3: Two Hours Traffic – “Stuck For The Summer”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “North Dakota”
MP3: The Wooden Sky – “The Wooden Sky”
MP3: My Shaky Jane – “The Books That She Carries”
MP3: My Shaky Jane – “Dark And Bright”
MP3: My Shaky Jane – “Youth”
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Nighthawks”
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Stuck For The Summer”
Video: Two Hours Traffic – “Jezebel”
Video: The Wooden Sky – “When Lost At Sea”
Stream: Two Hours Traffic / Little Jabs
MySpace: Two Hours Traffic
MySpace: The Wooden Sky
MySpace: My Shaky Jane

So Much Silence has the audio from a session The National recently recorded for WBAA. They’re apparently playing SxSW (my money’s on Saturday night at Stubb’s) and are in Toronto on June 8 at the Molson Amphitheatre opening for R.E.M..

The Hold Steady are so enthused about finishing up the recording of their fourth album, possibly titled Stay Positive, that they had to call up Pitchfork and tell them all about it.

The New York Daily News and News & Observer talk to Tift Merritt about her new album Another Country, out tomorrow. She’s at the El Mocambo on April 1.

The Times contemplates the UK music press’ habit of alternately loving and despising artists over the course of their career using the Manic Street Preachers (currently loved) as a case study.

By : Frank Yang at 8:04 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Justin says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for talking about Two Hours Traffic lately. I picked up Little Jabs and it’s great.

  2. Matthew says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t mention the hack job done by the sound guy during the Wooden Sky set. I agree that it wasn’t their best performance but at least part of the blame should be laid on the awful sound. He wouldn’t accept their input list because "he doesn’t give a shit about the second band". When you’re trying to play and you get thick reverb and constant feedback, it doesn’t make your job easy.