Posts Tagged ‘Bird & The Bee’

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Straight Up The Dial

Wavelength turns 11, throws a party

Photo via MyspaceMyspace Toronto’s venerable Wavelength might have closed out their weekly showcase series last year in favour of intermittent events throughout the year, but they’ve not given up their tradition of throwing a killer birthday party or five. As they’ve done in years past, Wavelength Eleven (or event #515 if you’re keeping track) will commandeer venues around this city from February 16 through 20 and fill them with many of the finest acts the city and outlying regions have to offer, spanning all styles and genres, frequently on the same bill.

I missed last year’s festivities but hit up one of the 9th anniversary shows in 2009 and it’s interesting to see that one of the undercard acts at that show – Hooded Fang – has already graduated to headline status. This they’ve done on the strength of their debut Album, released last October to considerable praise. And indeed, it’s an impressive first effort that reflects the remarkable rate at which they’ve improved as a band since first making noise in late ’08/early ’09 – I saw them three times over the course of 2009 and each time, most flaws I’d have pointed out for the time before had been sorted without diminishing the amount of fun they were clearly having on stage. Album‘s orchestrally-inclined power pop still tends a bit more to the precious/twee side of things than I’d like and can feel a bit samey over the course of its dozen songs, but the degree of songwriting, musicianship and genuine joy it captures is undeniable. As was clear in each of those live reviews from 2009, big things seem an inevitability for this crew.

Hooded Fang will be closing out the Saturday night of Wavelength Eleven at The Great Hall. The rest of the week’s events look like this – tickets for the Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows are $11 while Wednesday and Sunday are PWYC. There is also a $33 all-access passes available. Check in at Wavelength for descriptions of each act. has an interview with Hooded Fang.

Wednesday, February 16 @ Teranga – Anagram, Bruised Knees, The Guest Bedroom, The Jim Storie Juniors
Thursday, February 17 @ The Music Gallery – Kite Hill, Eiyn Sof, Gordon Grdina’s East Van Strings, Not The Wind, Not The Flag
Friday, February 18 @ The Steam Whistle Roundhouse – Woodhands, Minotaurs, Pat Jordache, Romo Roto, Doldrums
Saturday, February 19 @ The Great Hall – Hooded Fang, Maylee Todd, Little Girls, Eric Chenaux Electric Trio, Grimes
Sunday, February 20 @ The Garrison – Lullabye Arkestra, Neon Windbreaker, Simply Saucer, Ghostlight

MP3: Hooded Fang – “Laughing”
MP3: Hooded Fang – “Mutant Beart”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dissembler”
MP3: Eric Chenaux – “Warm Charleston”
MP3: Little Girls – “Growing”
MP3: Lullabye Arkestra – “We Fuck The Night”

In other just-announced live music happenings – guitar goddess Marnie Stern and prog-rockers Tera Melos will be at Wrongbar on March 8 as part of an extensive North American tour.

MP3: Marnie Stern – “For Ash”
MP3: Tera Melos – “Frozen Zoo”

We’re still some ways out from having a Canadian Musicfest schedule to pore over, but you’d be just silly to not keep staying at the Opera House all night – that’s the Billions showcase – circled on your calendar. The lineup will read like Land Of Talk, Hollerado, Cadence Weapon, Isis (ex. Thunderheist) and Little Scream, so while club-hopping is part of the CMF experience, there’s something to be said for staying put all night.

MP3: Land Of Talk – “Quarry Hymns”
MP3: Hollerado – “Americanarama”
MP3: Cadence Weapon – “Real Estate”

And I’m very excited that Sharon Van Etten, after many visits in a support capacity, will be playing her first headlining show here at the Drake on April 12 with Little Scream supporting – there’s a recording of her show at the Bowery in New York City last week up at NYC Taper. You may recall that her epic was one of my favourite albums of 2010, and she’s already started work on the follow-up with Aaron Dessner of The National.

MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”

The New Zealand Herald talks to The National’s Matt Berninger about their breakout year of 2010.

There’s a new video from Retribution Gospel Choir’s album 2.

Video: Retribution Gospel Choir – “Your Bird”

The Skinny talks to Iron & Wine’s Sam Beam about his new record Kiss Each Other Clean, due out January 25.

Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance discuss their visual artistic pursuits with Design Sponge.

Inara George of The Bird & The Bee chats with Spinner.

Pitchfork has a feature interview with Dan Bejar of Destroyer. His sax-y new album Kaputt arrives January 25 and he plays Lee’s Palace on March 31.

The Line Of Best Fit and NOW talk to Jonas Bonnetta of Evening Hymns about their new, nude video for “Dead Deer” from Spirit Guides. The band are currently out in the wilds of Ontario somewhere recording their next album, already dubbed Spectral Dusk – the proceedings are being documented on their Tumblr.

Video: Evening Hymns – “Dead Deer”

Diamond Rings’ John O’Regan discusses the therapeutic aspects of music with Spinner. He’s at the Sound Academy January 26 opening up for Robyn.

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Eastbound & Found

Bloggers congregate in Austin, throw a party

Photo via Araba FilmsAraba FilmsIf there’s one thing Austin, Texas needs during Spring Break, it’s some live music. Particularly in the form of a day party. The past few years I’ve been very lucky to have been able to help put on some fantastic parties with some of my favourite blogger buds. And while the Hot Freaks marque has been put to bed for the time being, I’m very happy to be able to announce that You Ain’t No Picasso, My Old Kentucky Blog, Ultra 8201, Yours Truly and, uh, yours truly, will be presenting Eastbound & Found, a one-day, two-stage to-do that will be held on Thursday, March 18 at 1001 East 6th St – a location that’s a parking lot for 51 weeks of the year but on this occasion will be an epicenter of awesome.

What I like most about these blogger-assembled shows is how random the final results end up being. Without teaming up with a specific label, PR company or booking agency and just pursuing acts based on little more than a “what we like” mandate, we get shows that can veer from the sunny indie-pop of Freelance Whales to the insane guitar heroics of Austin’s own Ume, from the electro-glam of Diamond Rings (Toronto represent!) to giddy Anglo-folk duo Slow Club, right through to our headliner – GZA of the motherflipping Wu-Tang Clan. Eclectic? Yeah, a little.

This party is free and all-ages, though you do have to RSVP – information on that at the Sweet Leaf blog. Many many thanks go out to our sponsors Sweet Leaf Tea, Ziegenbock, Dos Lunas Tequila, Knuckle Rumbler and Car Toys for helping make this happen. And despite what the attached image from Jim Jarmusch’s Coffee & Cigarettes might imply, Bill Murray will NOT be making an appearance at the show. Unless he wants to. If any of you know Bill Murray, do let him know he’s invited?

The (almost) full lineup and set times are as follows:

Stage one:
12:15PM Ragen Fykes
1:10PM Freelance Whales
2:05PM Ume
3:00PM Warpaint
3:55PM The Morning Benders
4:50PM Here We Go Magic
5:45PM Maluca
7:00PM GZA

Stage two:
12:30PM Burnt Ones
1:25PM Diamond Rings
2:20PM Kid Sister
3:15PM Slow Club
4:10PM Danielson
5:05PM Delorean
6:00PM White Denim

MP3: Danielson – “Animal In Every Corner”
MP3: Diamond Rings – “All Yr Songs”
MP3: Freelance Whales – “Generator 2nd Floor”
MP3: The Morning Benders – “Promises”
MP3: Slow Club – “It Doesn’t Have To Be Beautiful”
MP3: Ume – “The Conductor”
MP3: Warpaint – “Elephants”
Video: GZA – “Liquid Swords”
Video: Here We Go Magic – “Fangela”
Video: Kid Sister – “Right Hand Hi”

And some concert news for Toronto folk NOT heading down to Texas next week – not content with playing two nights at The Horseshoe, The Black Lips have added a third local appearance during their visit. They’ll be doing an in-store at Sonic Boom on March 28 at 4PM; admission free with a canned good.

MP3: Black Lips – “Short Fuse”

Jakob Dylan has put together a new band to help perform his new solo record Women & Country, out April 10. They’re called Three Legs and you might know them better as a couple of women in country – Neko Case and Kelly Hogan. That got your attention, eh? Jacob Dylan & Three Legs will be at the Phoenix on April 25.

She & Him – yes, Zooey and Matt – will be hitting the road in support of Volume Two and are going to be at The Phoenix in Toronto on June 9. Tickets are $26.50, the album is out March 23 and the new video is just about the most adorable thing ever.

Video: She & Him – “In The Sun”

Stars have announced they will release their fifth studio album The Five Ghosts on June 22 – details at Chart.

Spinner talks to Metric in advance of their appearance at SxSW where they’ll be opening up for Muse at Stubb’s on the Friday night.

Broken Social Scene also talk to Spinner; they’re doing a couple of shows at SxSW and of course have that Toronto Islands show on June 19. Their new album Forgiveness Rock Record is out May 4.

Continuing on with the Spinner-SxSW interviews (there’s lots of them) – they chat with Venice Is Sinking, whose new album Sand & Lines will be out June 15.

Kunstlicher, The Georgia Straight, The Huffington Post and Spinner have interviews with Midlake. They’re at the Mod Club on May 25.

Spinner talks to The Uglysuit. They’re playing Lee’s Palace at 2AM on Friday night as part of Canadian Musicfest and their MySpace implies they’re making the most of their visit to Toronto with a bunch of other unofficial performances.

Spinner asks some pretty banal questions of Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea.

NPR has a World Cafe session with Holly Miranda.

Filter takes all of the fun out of The Bird & The Bee’s internet scavenger hunt for streams of their new Hall & Oates tribute album Guiltless Pleasures Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John Oates , out March 23.

Spinner and NME have collected a number of tributes from musicians for the fallen Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. And a couple of worthy reads and listens from the Boston area – Buffalo Tom frontman Bill Janovitz has an essay and Sparklehorse cover at his blog Part-Time Man Of Rock while Bradley’s Almanac is sharing some thoughts and a recording of Sparklehorse’s last show in Boston from 2007.

MP3: Bill Janovitz – “Gold Day”

Friday, January 29th, 2010


Woodhands at The Smiling Buddha in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSomething of a cold snap hit Toronto yesterday, so I was fortunate to have an invite to what was promised to be a hot and sweaty dance party at the Smiling Buddha bar, soundtracked by Woodhands showcasing their just-released second album Remorsecapade. Granted, it’d have probably been just as warm if I’d just stayed home, but experience has taught me that the odds of dance parties breaking out in my living room tend to be close to nil.

I think there’s a temptation to not take Woodhands entirely seriously – I mean, the image of Dan Werb shrieking himself hoarse whilst rocking out with a keytar will tend to elicit double-takes. But perhaps the visuals are meant to disarm, because you dismiss Woodhands at your peril – the energy and intensity of their aural experience is deadly serious… or at least as serious as synth-rock that intends to grab you by the lapels and scream, “ARE YOU HAVING A GOOD TIME?” in your face can be. It was something I experienced first in September when the duo were a last-minute addition to Toronto stop of the ill-fated Perez Hilton tour, but this setting was much better suited for them as far as atmosphere went.

With drummer Paul Banwatt behind his kit and Werb manning a massive bank of synths and mixers to go with his keytar, Woodhands takes up almost as much room on stage as a conventional rock band and were about as loud. Their set drew from both their debut Heart Attack and the new record, with this being the first time some of the new material had been translated live. Any hiccups were lost on the packed bar, though, whom I think were attempting to dance though it was hard to tell past the wall of photographers up front – myself included – trying in vain to shoot in the near-darkness of the room. There was definitely swaying and bobbing, at least, and a Rockwell nod from Banwatt. The high point of the set came at the finale when guest vocalist Maylee Todd joined them to reprise her vocals on “Dissembler” and “Dancer”, easily my favourite cuts off of Remorsecode and Heart Attack, respectively. Werb and Banwatt are great on their own but the addition of the female element really puts them over the top.

Evil Monito talks to Dan Werb about their past touring experiences. Their future touring experiences will include a free show at MTV Canada on February 2 (hit them up for tickets) and a cross-Canada tour that includes a March 11 show at the Opera House opening up for k-os.

Photos: Woodhands @ The Smiling Buddha – January 28, 2010
MP3: Woodhands – “Pockets”
MP3: Woodhands – “Dancer”
MP3: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
Video: Woodhands – “CP24”
Video: Woodhands – “I Wasn’t Made For Fighting”
MySpace: Woodhands

The Vancouver Sun, The Calgary Herald and The Georgia Straight talk to Joel Plaskett. In addition to those Thrush Hermit reunion shows at Lee’s on March 26 and 27, it appears Plaskett is making a Canadian Musicfest appearance at the Mod Club on March 13 as part of the Sirius Songwriter’s Cafe, so think acoustic-y and talk-y. And Jeff Martin from the Tea Party is there too, so ask your self how much you like Joel Plaskett.

And speaking of Canadian Musicfest, the list of confirmed performers has gotten bigger, more hyperlinked (that’s right, I said “hyperlink”. In 2010. Deal with it) and a very preliminary schedule is up.

Pitchfork solicits a list of his current favourite things from Owen Pallett. He plays the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on April 8.

Spinner has premiered the new video from Zeus’ full-length debut Say Us, due out February 23. They’re playing Lee’s Palace on March 10.

Video: Zeus – “Marching Through Your Head”

Daytrotter has posted up a downloadable session with The Dears.

RCRDLBL is giving away an acoustic Metric track.

A few more-specific-than-previously-known-but-still-vague album release dates… look for a new record from Land Of Talk this Spring, the next effort from The Acorn come May, which is approximately when Born Ruffians’ Say It should be out. The Acorn are at Lee’s Palace on March 12 and Born Ruffians at The Phoenix on March 14.

BBC6, The List and The Times talk to White Rabbits.

Ear Farm has a short interview with Sharon Van Etten, in town twice in the next while – opening up for Great Lake Swimmers at Trinity-St. Paul’s on February 6 and then at the Horseshoe on April 5 with Megafaun.

The Bird & The Bee have announced they’ll release the self-explanatory Guiltless Pleasures Volume 1: A Tribute To Daryl Hall And John Oates on March 23, which I personally find quite exciting because having grown up in the ’80s I have a distinctly unironic appreciation for the works of Hall & Oates, and having seen The Bird & The Bee do “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” at SxSW last year, I know they’ll do a fantastic job with them. Yep.

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

SxSW 2009 A/V – The Bird & The Bee

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe Bird & The Bee
Los Angeles, California, USA

Retro-futuristic lounge-pop duo have just released their sophomore effort Ray Guns Are Not Just The Future
Show review

Photos: The Bird & The Bee @ Karma Lounge – March 20, 2009
Video: The Bird & The Bee – “Love Letter To Japan”
Video: The Bird & The Bee – “Polite Dance Song”
Video: The Bird & The Bee – “Again & Again”
Video: The Bird & The Bee – “La La La”
MySpace: The Bird & The Bee

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

SxSW 2009 Night Three

The Bird & The Bee, Fanfarlo, Wheat and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangConsidering that Friday afternoon was arguably one of the best blocks of music experiences I’ve ever had at SxSW, it figured that the karma pendulum would have to swing the other way sooner or later. As it happened, it was sooner.

The official portion of the day started downstairs at Waves, a narrow little venue on 6th, where Shad was kicking things off. You can insert my standard “not really a hip-hop guy” disclaimer here, but I really grew to like his The Old Prince Still Lives At Home during Polaris season last year, and though I’d caught bits of his live show, had never seen him do a proper set. Guess I can check that off my list. Backed by a live rhythm section and DJ, Shad was a complete entertainer, his raps flowing into his banter and back while evidencing loads of charisma and good humour.

It was then up to the Central Presbyterian Church for Fanfarlo, which was the perfect setting for their ornate, orchestral folk-rock. Frontman Simon Balthazar, natty in a bow tie, looked like a nebbish music teacher leading his charges in exercises in musical splendor, in this case their really excellent new album Reservoir. I commented on the Arcade Fire reference points when previewing this show but the comparisons go far beyond just sonic and stylistic similarities. Fanfarlo also manage to create the same sense of excitement and wide-eyed wonder that I got on early listenings of Funeral. Very highly recommended.

So it sounds like things were going pretty well, right? What on earth was I complaining about? Well, the next stop on the sched was Maggie Mae’s Rooftop, and one thing I’d forgotten when planning things out was how much I absolutely hated Maggie Mae’s rooftop. If you’ve never been, the “venue” is a not-that-wide balcony around the perimeter of the venue with little in the way of actual sightlines, a low, poorly-lit stage and the washrooms just off to the side so that people needing to expel their beer have to fight their way through the crowd and walk beside the band to get to the restrooms. So lame. And of course it’s always packed, even for acts you’d think were a bit niche – like British bluegrass revivalists Mumford & Sons. They were pretty terrific last year in support of Laura Marling (who was standing behind be trying to videotape the proceedings) and when they finally got their sound issues sorted, they were pretty terrific again. With four-part harmonies and superb musicianship to go along with emotionally resonant songs that really do seem to bring new life to the genre. Great performance, shame about the venue.

And yet I didn’t leave, for Wheat were set for the downstairs – a much less heinous locale than the upstairs, to be fair – at 11. In the half-decade since I saw them last, they’d essentially split, re-formed, lost a member, and generally gone through more existential shit than any band should ever have to – and yet, here they were, back again and with a new album ready for June release. Their persistence alone was reason to cheer, but the jury is still out on the new material. That the band – now with Brendan Harney on keys and vocals and with a new member behind the kit while Scott Levesque handles guitar, lead vocals and epically awkward stage banter – was having a great time being back was unquestionable, but their aesthetic has gotten so art-pop eclectic that it’s difficult to get a handle on. I mean, a dance song? Really? Maybe I’m just too emotionally invested in their old stuff, which they thankfully included enough of in the set. But I will still give the new record a proper chance when it arrives.

By rights, The Bird & The Bee’s midnight show at Karma Lounge should have been a disaster, if not cancelled outright. For starters, the band on before them – some awful dirge-country outfit – was running a half hour late (worst words in the English language – “we have three more songs”). The venue was packed, sweaty and generally horrid (two banks of green LED lights ensured the absolute least flattering light for the performers possible). And when the Bird & The Bee finally got to set up, they were incapable of getting Greg Kurstin’s keyboards working through the monitors. I was tired, drinks had been spilled on and around me and with things looking bleak – the SxSW volunteer and stage manager almost got in a fight – I was ready to cut bait and sleep.

But patience was rewarded as the band improvised with their equipment and not only salvaged the evening but made it a triumph. With their matching primary colour plastic dresses and synchronized dance moves, to say nothing of some wonderful songs, Inara George and her band literally managed to turn my frown upside-down. The set was shortened a bit due to the delays but they were still able to fit in the essentials – “My Love”, “Fucking Boyfriend” and “Love Letter To Japan” – as well as a couple of delicious covers, Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” and The Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love”. Swoon. Too short and I want/need them to tour up to Toronto ASAP. Do it.

So perhaps my lead-in to this post was a bit dramatic. It was hardly a bad night, not even close, though there were moments. I think the weariness of the week is starting to really hit me. But got to pull up the ol’ bootstraps… last day! Woo!