Posts Tagged ‘Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears’

Friday, June 12th, 2009

Awkward Kisser

Telekinesis, An Horse and Oh No Forest Fires at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangSo if an artist has already proven themselves to be gifted at both writing a song and recording it, as was the case with Michael Lerner of Telekinesis, is it really fair to expect them to be superb live performers as well? Especially if you take into account the fact that the album – Telekinesis! – was essentially a solo project and the band assembled after the fact? I say not really. Obviously a scintillating stage show would be welcome, but I went into Wednesday night’s show at the Horseshoe with modest expectations.

And anyways, any cravings I had for manic rock shenanigans were well satiated by local openers Oh No Forest Fires. I’ve tried in the past to accurately describe the quartet and their sound, but think they themselves did so more succinctly by namechecking The Dismemberment Plan in their NXNE one-line RIYL. This isn’t to say they sound like the the dear, departed DP, but they are similar in the way they meld virtuosity with anarchy and make it power-pop sweet without compromising their weirdness quotient. Their compact warm-up set drew heavily from their 2008 debut The War On Geometry and featured lots of sweaty flailing and great tunes. Long set or short, these guys always give a tremendous effort and don’t disappoint.

Aussies An Horse I’d seen during CMW and the duo were certainly making the most of their work visas, this being their third show in Toronto in the past three months. The hard work appeared to have been paying off, however, as a pretty good-sized crowd had gathered by the time they took the stage and kicked off a set that was far superior to their CMW one if for no other reason than singer/guitarist Kate Cooper was able to perform without fear of being electrocuted by poorly grounded equipment. You’d be amazed how much mortal fear can disrupt a performer’s vibe. She was also sporting a new guitar, a very fetching racing-striped orange Fender Mustang with a P90 in the bridge which significantly beefed up their sound – it may seem a minor thing, but when you’re working with as few ingredients as An Horse are, every bit counts. Unchanged were the quality of the tunes from their debut Rearrange Beds – taut, anxious and melodic, and worthy of the attention the audience was giving them.

Most drummers with songwriting ambitions will do anything to get out from behind the kit and play frontman. Not Michael Lerner. A one-man show through the writing and recording of his debut album, when he put together his touring band he opted to take the role of drummer for himself. Now I know as well as anyone that finding a good drummer is probably the hardest part of assembling a band, but watching them set up the stage with the drum kit right up front, I had to wonder if this was going to be a good idea. And watching Lerner drop his sticks at least twice during the first song while not singing directly into the mic, it really appeared as though it wasn’t but within a couple of tunes, he’d settled in some and was mostly keeping it together. There were still more gaffes than you’d have gotten with a dedicated drummer and I think he gave up on singing the second verse of “Tokyo” entirely, but by and large acceptable. On the unqualified positive side, the songs really came kicked in a live setting, benefiting from some of the ragged energy the quartet imbued them with. They weren’t the most charismatic bunch but were exceedingly friendly and looked to be having a great time, cracking jokes and poking fun at one another. With an album barely a half hour in length, it wasn’t surprising their set was short, padded out with a sprightly Kinks cover, and while I don’t know if they left anyone wanting more, no one was left wanting either. Hopefully next time around they’ll have polished up just a bit more – maybe Lerner will have a better grip on those sticks – and maybe have some more tunes in their bag.

I Heart The Music has an interview with Oh No Forest Fires, whose next gig is this Thursday evening at the Drake Underground as part of I Heart Music’s NxNE showcase. Love Shack, Baby talks to An Horse.

Photos: Telekinesis, An Horse, Oh No Forest Fires @ The Horseshoe – June 10, 2009
MP3: Telekinesis – “Coast Of Carolina”
MP3: Telekinesis – “I Saw Lightning”
MP3: An Horse – “Postcards”
MP3: An Horse – “Camp Out”
MP3: Oh No Forest Fires – “It’s Not Fun And Games Until Someone Loses An Eye”
Video: Telekinesis – “Tokyo”
Video: Telekinesis – “Awkward Kisser”
Video: An Horse – “Camp Out”
MySpace: An Horse

eye, Metro and The Age interview Phoenix, who have managed to sell out Monday night’s performance at the Phoenix. This is going to be good.

Pink Mountaintops mainman Stephen McBean talks to eye – they’re in town on Sunday, June 14, for an in-store at Sonic Boom at 3PM and a proper show at the Horseshoe that evening.

Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears are sticking around in town for a bit after opening up for New York Dolls at Lee’s Palace on June 30, and will play an in-store at Criminal Records on July 1 at 3PM.

Video: Black Joe Lewis & The Honey Bears – “Sugarfoot”

Los Angeles’ Airborne Toxic Event have a date at the Phoenix on October 19.

MP3: The Airborne Toxic Event – “Sometime Around Midnight”
MP3: The Airborne Toxic Event – “Wishing Well”

Black Book welcomes The Kills to their offices for some arts and crafts fun.

NME reveals that Richard Hawley’s new album is complete – Truelove’s Gutter will be out on September 21 and yes, the title is another Sheffield reference. As if you had to ask.

Out interviews Bat For Lashes’ Natasha Khan. There’s also a new remix of “Daniel” by Tara Busch up for grabs in exchange for your deets.

Cornershop Studios talks to Andy Williams of Doves, who have themselves a new video.

Video: Doves – “Winter Hill”

Under The Radar has confirmed that the Jim James/M Ward/Conor Oberst-powered supergroup The Monsters Of Folk have gone from a strictly touring concern to a studio one, and will release their debut album on September 22.

NPR has an interview and session with Jason Lytle, who will be opening up for Neko Case at Massey Hall on July 14.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Let Me Have This

NYC Popfest with The Radio Dept, Pants Yell!, The Secret History, Eux Autres and Computer Perfection at the Bell House in Brooklyn

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangI’ve been to a LOT of shows in the past decade or so, and as such my list of bands whom I’m still waiting to see live is pretty short by this point – and last week, it got one big name shorter when I got to see reclusive Swedes The Radio Dept not once but twice in New York thanks to their headliner status at NYC Popfest. The venue for the big show was the Bell House in Brooklyn, a good-sized venue with a vibey bar/lounge up front and a nicely-laid out if horribly-lit live music room in back. Though The Radio Dept remain very much a cult band, the show was well sold out – probably with no shortage of fans like myself willing to make a pilgrimage to catch one of their rare live performances. And do some shopping. Hey, any excuse to plan a trip to New York City.

In addition to The Radio Dept was a lineup of four other bands who, like those who played the previous night were all unknown to me but who hopefully would make more of an impression. Leadoff hitters Computer Perfection, a five-piece outfit hailing from the Detroit suburb of Ferndale, were a promising start, blending sunny indiepop staples (jangly guitars, he-she harmonies) with more electronic elements and some unconventional song structures. They had a lot of ideas going on and mostly got them to work – they’re coming to Toronto for NxNE with a show at Holy Joe’s on Friday, June 19.

California’s Eux Autres traded in some of the preceding act’s sophistication for a more direct and classic tact, relying on great tunes, melodies and a lot of energy to make their point. The trio, led by brother and sister Heather and Nicholas Larimer delivered the right balance of sweet pop and punchy rock to impress – thumbs up.

The Secret History, from New York, took things big again, with a seven-piece band including two female singers and an impressive lineage. Lead singer Lisa Ronson is the daughter of former Bowie guitarist Mick Ronson and many members, including chief songwriter Michael Grace Jr, used to be in cult pop heroes My Favourite. Stylistically, they were rooted in big, lush retro-pop but willing to turn up and rock out – no twee merchants here. Versatile and tight, their set was upbeat and enjoyable and their sound decidedly different from what I’d been subsisting on most of the weekend to that point. Good stuff.

Pants Yell! had made the drive down from Boston and brought with them some of that city’s unmistakable college rock vibe. Relative to the other bands on the bill, they were more taut and jaggy, though still highly melody-friendly and not out of place as something called Popfest. To close out their set, they brought out Suburban Kids With Biblical Names, with whom they would be playing some shows, to sing a couple songs with them. By this point I was starting to fade and was conserving my energy for the final act, so I can’t really tell you more than that.

Now even though I was anxious enough to see The Radio Dept live to make a road trip out of it, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I expected them to put on a great show. After all, this was an outfit that was famously reclusive, played out very infrequently and whose records were very much studio creations (even if the studio in question sounded like a bedroom) – not really a recipe for an epic live show. But regardless, an opportunity to see they who’d created music so dear to me was not to be passed up and so I went.

The Friday night show at Don Hill’s was advertised as a “warm-up show” but it was hardly a dry run. Their eight-song set ran over half an hour – a full showcase at some festivals – and even though they had no drummer, no bassist and played over a significant amount of pre-recorded backing tracks – usually things that’d put me right off – they still grabbed the heartstrings. It’s the songs. It didn’t matter how they did it, but they came off with all the beautiful melancholy the records carried without sounding like a karaoke act. Favouring the cleaner sonic aesthetic of their more recent works, both Martin Carlberg and Johan Duncanson reproduced their surprisingly intricate guitar parts flawlessly, Carlberg’s vocals were resonant with yearning and resignation and the feeling of being wrapped in a fuzzy blanket of sound very much in effect. True, their onstage charisma was nearly non-existent – they seemed awkward and uncertain how to respond to the enthusiasm of the audience – but even that fit perfectly with their persona.

And that again was much the case at the Bell House show, and though they didn’t necessarily sound better or seem more assured onstage – they may actually have seemed less, with much conferring between songs about what they were playing even though a set list had been drafted. But despite all that, this show felt grander and more momentous – even though the occasion of finally seeing them live had been taken care of the night before, this still felt like the show that I had come to see.

The set was longer, though at maybe 50 minutes still much shorter than most everyone in attendance would have liked, and both Lesser Matters and Pet Grief were well represented, as well as some EP and b-side tracks and a few new tunes which should appear on Clinging To A Scheme if/when it’s finally released – when asked when to expect it, Carlberg guessed, “August? September?” (their new EP David is confirmed for a June 24 release).

As far as musical pilgrimages go, this one was decidedly on the understated side but it – and the just getting away from home if just for a few days – was just what I needed. It’s been intimated that upon the record’s release, there’ll be more touring on this side of the Atlantic. I’m not holding my breath on that but do hope there’s truth to it. A Radio Dept show will always be a good excuse for a trip.

Photos: The Radio Dept, Pants Yell!, The Secret History, Eux Autres, Computer Perfection @ The Bell House – May 16, 2009
MP3: The Radio Dept – “Freddie and the Trojan Horse”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “The Worst Taste in Music”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “A Window”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “Pulling Our Weight”
MP3: The Radio Dept – “Why Won’t You Talk About It?”
MP3: Pants Yell! – “Kids Are The Same”
MP3: Pants Yell! – “Your Feelings Don’t Show”
MP3: Pants Yell! – “My Boyfriend Writes Plays”
MP3: Pants Yell! – “Onward Sailboat”
MP3: Pants Yell! – “The Not Society Life”
MP3: Eux Autres – “When I’m Up”
MP3: Eux Autres – “Ecoutez Bien”
MP3: Computer Perfection – “Able Archer”
MP3: Computer Perfection – “The Fool Is Hurt”
MP3: Computer Perfection – “How I Won The War”
MP3: Computer Perfection – “Sweetie Pie”
Video: The Radio Dept. – “The Worst Taste In Music”
Video: The Radio Dept. – “Where Damage Isn’t Already Done”
Video: The Radio Dept. – “Pulling Our Weight”
Video: Eux Autres – “Anne Boleyn”
MySpace: The Radio Dept.
MySpace: Pants Yell!
MySpace: Eux Autres
MySpace: Computer Perfection

Apparently someone thought that revealing the NxNE schedule via Twitter would be a good idea. That person was wrong. In addition to the Thursday showcases announced yesterday, it seems that No Age’s showcase will be happening on Friday, June 19, at Lee’s Palace.

MP3: No Age – “Eraser”

Dirty Projectors will be supporting TV On The Radio at the Sound Academy on June 2 but for those who can’t or won’t go to that show, take heart – they will return for their own show at Lee’s Palace on June 24. Their new album Bitte Orca is out June 9.

MP3: Dirty Projectors – “Rise Above”

Punk legends The New York Dolls will be at Lee’s Palace on June 30, tickets $29.50, Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears support. The Doll’s new album Cause I Sez So is out now.

Steve Earle will bring Townes to Massey Hall on July 11. Earle talks to NPR about the new record.

MP3: Steve Earle – “To Live Is To Fly”

Norway’s Casiokids have a date at the El Mocambo on August 5.

Video: Casiokids – “Fot I Hose”

As promised, Glasvegas are returning to North America this Fall… but it’s as support for Kings Of Leon. Dates have been announed for September 17 at Scotiabank Plaza in Ottawa, September 19 at Copp’s Coliseum in Hamilton and September 20 at the John Labbat Centre in London. Obviously there’s a conspicuous open date and no Toronto gig – Kings Of Leon were here last month, can they swing another arena show so soon while playing these other nearby markets? And if not, will Glasvegas be doing their own show to satisfy those who didn’t make it into their Mod Club gig in April? I don’t know but I suspect yes.

Also back again following their sold out club gig in MarchWhite Lies, this time for a show at the Phoenix on September 26.

MP3: White Lies – “Death”