Posts Tagged ‘High Dials’

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Sleep Patterns

Canadian Musicfest 2011 suggestions that I won’t be taking

Photo By Samantha CardowSamantha CardowWith festivals come hard choices, and for this year’s edition of Canadian Musicfest, getting underway with a handful of events tonight and in earnest as of tomorrow, I am choosing to eschew the club-hopping-ness that typically comes with these sorts of fest and largely plant myself in one place for each evening. Hard choice or lazy choice? A little of both.

But just because I am staying put doesn’t mean that I recommend others do the same. So by way of festival preview, here’s a list of stuff that I almost certainly won’t be going to but that you should, or at least should investigate. As for what I am going to be seeing over the next few nights, well you can wait for the post-mortem for that.

Wednesday, March 9
Snowblink @ The Painted Lady, 10PM – their release party for the beauteous album Long Live this past weekend apparently a carnivalesque success, the Toronto duo have announced their festival showcase. If you missed the Music Gallery show, as I did, you should make this one, as I will not.
MP3: Snowblink – “The Tired Bees”

Alcoholic Faith Mission @ Rancho Relaxo, 12AM – acoustically-inclined pop-rock comprised of Danes who met in Brooklyn will be all over Toronto this week, following this show with a midnight engagement at The Dakota Tavern on Friday night and an 8PM opening slot at The El Mocambo on Saturday night.
MP3: Alcoholic Faith Mission – “Running With Insanity”

Thursday, March 10
Modern Superstitions @ The Horseshoe, 8:30PM – this local quartet delivers scrappy garage rock with a healthy dose of hooks, attitude and not a little sex appeal. Only an EP to their name right now but more and better will come.
MP3: Modern Superstitions – “Visions Of You”

Molly Rankin @ The Horseshoe, 9:20PM – caught a bit of this Nova Scotia native – yes, of those Rankins – during a BBQ at NXNE last year, and her rootsy power-pop made an impression, even over the sound of me eating a tasty burger. She has members of Two Hours Traffic in her band, presumably voluntarily.
MP3: Molly Rankin – “Bombshell”

Heartbeat Hotel @ The Silver Dollar, 10PM – rising locals continue to refine their heady brew of psychedelic pop, and hopefully their live show will be as good as their recorded works – maybe it’ll happen this evening!
MP3: Heartbeat Hotel – “Fins Of A Shark”

Memoryhouse @ The Great Hall, 10:45PM – hey, didja hear? The local dreampop duo has signed to Sub Pop. Not that you need the validation of some big American indie label to know that these guys are great and worth seeing. No, you’re smarter than that.
MP3: Memoryhouse – “Lately (Deuxieme)”

The High Dials @ Hard Luck, 11PM – this venue is pretty new but I’m reasonably certain it’s not a drug front for the mob. The High Dials, on the other hand, have been around for ages and I am certain they’re still putting out some of the sharpest power-pop around.
MP3: The High Dials – “Chinese Boxes”

The Darcys @ The Silver Dollar, 11PM – long one of the city’s most bursting-with-potential as well as sort-of snakebit bands, their new – and first? – second album is done and should finally deliver on their immense promise. Appreciate their ubiquitousness on local stages while you can.
MP3: The Darcys – “The House Built Around Your Voice”

Halves @ The Hideout, 12AM – these Dublliners were playing at Whelan’s Pub in Dublin the very same night I was there in 2008. I didn’t go upstairs to see them, drank a Guinness instead. TRUE STORY. They cultivate a gorgeous, post-rock with vocals vibe reminiscent of Early Day Miners and are also playing Friday at The Comfort Zone at 8PM.
Video: Halves – “Medals”

Austra @ Wrongbar, 1AM – the artist formerly known as Private Life formerly known as Stelmanis formerly known as Katie Stelmanis has finally settled on an identity and a sound – dark electro-pop – and is reaping the benefits and buzz from it. Her debut Feel It Break is out in May.
MP3: Austra – “The Beat & The Pulse”

The Butterfly Explosion @ The Hideout, 2AM – the Irish shoegazers have visited before and broken up and reformed in the interim, and have now drawn an unenviable insomniac/unemployed time slot. If you’re still out and about at that hour and looking for something to see, they won’t disappoint.
MP3: The Butterfly Explosion – “Sophia”

Friday, March 11
Rebekah Higgs @ Supermarket, 9PM – Haligonian songwriter constantly trying to reconcile her folkish roots and electronic inclinations with tuneful results. Her Little Voice EP offers a taste of the new full-length coming soon.
MP3: Rebekah Higgs – “Asleep All Winter”

Aidan Knight @ The Rivoli, 10PM – BC singer-songwriter whose debut album Versicolour is an understated gem, and whose live show is charmingly goofy. Also playing a day show out Trinity-Bellwoods way at 4:40PM on Saturday.
MP3: Aidan Knight – “Friendly Fires”

The Jezabels @ Lee’s Palace, 10PM – Australian rock act here all the way from Australia. Dark, dramatic, crunchy and Australian. Did I mention they’re Australian?
MP3: The Jezabels – “Mace Spray”

Monogrenade @ The El Mocambo, 10:30PM – we all took French in grade school and high school, so language shouldn’t be a barrier to appreciating these rangy Montrealers, who’ve got the acoustic/orchestral smoulder thing down pat. Yeah, that’s a thing.
Video: Monogrenade – “Ce Soir”

Imaginary Cities @ The Garrison, 11:30PM – if an act as legendary as Pixies saw fit to invite these Winnapeggers along for their North American tour and see/hear them every night, then surely they’re worth an hour of your time? They’re also playing on Thursday night at Lee’s Palace at 10:30PM.
MP3: Imaginary Cities – “Hummingbird”

Bombay Bicycle Club @ Lee’s Palace, 12AM – every year it seems there’s a token buzzy Brit band who makes a festival appearance – this year it’s Bombay Bicycle Club. But if you’re of the Anglophile persuasion, you’ve probably already decided to be at this show.
Video: Bombay Bicycle Club – “Evening/Morning”

The Meligrove Band @ Sneaky Dee’s 1AM – local power-pop veterans will be showcasing songs from their latest album Shimmering Lights; always a spirited and rollicking good time.
MP3: The Meligrove Band – “Halflight”

Saturday, March 12
The Balconies @ Lee’s Palace, 10PM – local faves have been holed away writing album number two all Winter – surely there’ll be some new songs in the set? And no you don’t have to stay for Electric Six.
MP3: The Balconies – “300 Pages”

Neon Windbreaker @ The Silver Dollar, 11PM – at first they weren’t a real band, then not a serious band, and now they’re a band with a work ethic that shames career bands that’s playing all over the place both here and at SxSW with a penchant for covering ’90s Canadian alt-rock standards. So you may as well.
MP3: Neon Windbreaker – “Furniture”

Nadia von Hahn @ The Library Bar 11:30PM – smooth and sassy retro-pop from the west coast with loungey and doo-wop accents. Also doing a Daytime Living Room session for The Toronto Institute For The Enjoyment Of Music out Trinity-Bellwoods way at 2PM that afternoon.
Video: Nadia von Hahn – “This Holy Night”

Writers’ Strike @ Rancho Relaxo, 12AM – scrappy and kinda snotty pop-punk from Halifax, not really offering anything new but doing what they do well and with vigor.
MP3: Writers’ Strike – “Bad Time”

The White Wires @ Wrongbar, 2AM – highly regarded new purveyors of old-school garage rock from Ottawa, they may well be worth dealing with Parkdale at 2AM on a Saturday night to see. Seriously.
MP3: White Wires – “Be True To Your School (Until You Get Kicked Out)”

Did you notice the fest is really front-loaded this year? Yeah, me too.

Of course, besides the showcases there’s plenty else going on that doesn’t necessarily require a badge or wristband or even a cover charge – Dorkshelf has rounded some of them up. There’s the three-day in-store mini-fest happening at Sonic Boom, which will feature sets from the likes of The Balconies, The Most Serene Republic, Bombay Bicycle Club, J Mascis, James Vincent McMorrow and Karkwa, among many many others – the full list and schedule is up at the Sonic Boom website.

Criminal Records will also be hosting an in-store with a west coast flavour on Friday night at 7PM, featuring Aidan Knight – complimented above – and We Are The City.

MP3: We Are The City – “Happy New Year”

There’s also a full list of performers and times for the Living Room Sessions noted a couple times above – all performances are free and all-ages.

Memoryhouse discusses their background and aesthetics with Spinner.

The Toronto Star talks to The Darcys about their near-death and rebirth.

Spinner talks to The Wilderness Of Manitoba, who are opening up Thursday night’s bill at Lee’s Palace as well as playing a Living Room Session at 5:20 on Saturday.

She Does The City asks random questions of Young Galaxy’s Stephen Ramsay. They’re the headliner on the Thursday night Lee’s Palace bill, going on at 11:30PM.

Citeeze talks to Laurel Sprengelmeyer, aka Little Scream, whose debut album The Golden Record has been released on iTunes as of this week, well ahead of the physical edition’s April 12 street date. A new MP3 from said record is also available to download. She is opening things up at The Opera House on Thursday night at 8:30, and note that she will no longer be supporting Sharon Van Etten at The Drake on April 12.

MP3: Little Scream – “Cannons”

The National Post chats with Karkwa, who are at Wrongbar on Friday night with a set time of 10PM.

J Mascis’ new solo record Several Shades Of Why, which you can expect to hear when he headlines The Great Hall on Friday night, is streaming over at Spin ahead of its March 15 release.

Stream: J Mascis / Several Shades Of Why

The Globe & Mail previews Canadian Music Week by chatting with Jenn Grant, Imaginary Cities and Hollerado.

Chad VanGaalen’s next record Diaper Island will be out May 17; details at Chart.

Mumford & Sons might be getting the headlines for their railroad tour through the southwest this Spring, but a similar excursion – though presumably by good old Via Rail rather than some retro-fied locomotive – is happening across Canada and is bringing Mark Hamilton of Woodpigeon, Magali Meagher of The Phonemes and Jon Janes of The Mountains & The Trees to 16 station stops from coast to coast. The Toronto date is April 21 at The Tranzac.

MP3: Woodpigeon – “Empty-Hall Sing-Along”
MP3: The Mountains & The Trees – “More & More & More”

And if this hasn’t been quite enough Canadian music to get you through the day/week/month, head over to The Line Of Best Fit for another Oh! Canada mix to download.

Whew. Effin’ festivals.

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

SxSW 2009 A/V – The High Dials

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe High Dials
Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Veteran retro-psych rockers who’ve released four albums, the last of which was 2008’s Moon Country
Show review

Photos: The High Dials @ Rusty Spurs – March 21, 2009
MP3: The High Dials – “Killer Of Dragons”
MP3: The High Dials – “The Holy Ground”
MP3: The High Dials – “Our Time Is Coming Soon”
MP3: The High Dials – “Strandhill Sands”
MP3: The High Dials – “Fields Of Glass”
MP3: The High Dials – “Desiderata”
Video: The High Dials – “Fields In Glass”
Video: The High Dials – “My Heart Is Black”
Video: The High Dials – “The Holy Ground”
MySpace: The High Dials

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

SxSW 2009 Night Four

Echo & The Bunnymen, Theoretical Girl, Wintersleep and more at SxSW

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe last night of SxSW began not on 6th St, where it normally does, but down at the Auditorium Shores amphitheatre where the festival puts on large-scale free shows for the locals by way of thanks for putting up with the massive influx of visitors each year. Some friends wanted to unwind down there, away from the chaos of downtown, to the narcoleptic tones of Beach House. The last time I’d seen them they were lulling a dozen or so people to sleep beside a roaring fire in the front room of the Tranzac, so to see them on a massive stage in front of thousands in broad daylight was different, to say the least. But their sleepy spell was the same, just exponentially louder, so it was nice to just kick back with a beer and unwind for a bit.

But just a bit. Within an hour, I was in a cab back downtown, trying to meet up with a university friend with whom I’d been playing text-tag with for a couple days. We arranged to meet up at Brush Square Park, where as luck would have it Little Boots was getting ready to play a label party. I had hoped that this set might provide an opportunity for better photos than the Emo’s Annex show a couple nights back, but this time instead of red floodlights there were simply no lights. Terrific. Show-wise, notes from Thursday night’s to-do still apply – I watched the first bit of her set then went off to commiserate.

Heading into the heart of the bedlam that was 6th St, I wound my way to the British Music Embassy at Latitude 30 for a set by Theoretical Girl. Fronted by Amy Eleanor Turnnidge – the namesake of the band – and backed by players dubbed The Equations, they delivered archly charming and clever pop with a distinctly retro-mod vibe. The material all displayed a consistent level of goodness but not much really stood out as a single that would sweep the nation (whichever nation). That said, there’s enough appeal that I wouldn’t be surprised if sometime in the near future, if her hooks become as sharp as her wit, success for the Theoretical Girl could became a reality.

At this point, plan “see Echo & The Bunnymen in small club” went into effect. The gist of the plan, essentially, was to show up at Rusty Spurs a couple hours early and just wait it out until their scheduled midnight set. The fact that there wasn’t an awful lot of interest going on elsewhere on Saturday night made it an easier decision to make. As chance would have it, the two lead-in acts weren’t entirely unfamiliar, both hailing from Canada. The first, Halifax’s Wintersleep, were largely unknown to me though I was aware they were one of the more successful new acts on the Can-rock scene of the last few years. Cursory listens hadn’t impressed, but seeing them live was, if not a revelation, a definite eye-opener. Their grand, atmospheric rock was much nimbler than I’d expected and they displayed a significant amount of on-stage presence and charisma. I understand why they’re of the stature they are back home, and from the enthusiasm of the crowd – presuming they’re not all Canuck ex-pats – their appeal seems to be translating abroad as well.

It was about now that the post-Hot Freaks adrenaline wore off and the weight of the week hit me like two tonnes of bricks. I actually almost spontaneously fell down during Wintersleep’s set, so that’s my excuse for not having a whole lot to say about the set from Montreal’s High Dials. What I found most surprising about their show was that the band still existed – I hadn’t seen or heard them in some six years, though to be fair, I wasn’t really paying attention. But here they were, still turning out high-energy but not especially distinctive mod-inflected guitar rock. And seeing as how the show was running some 30 minutes late, I just wanted them to be gone and the Bunnymen to arrive.

And 30 minutes behind turned into more than 45 before the Liverpool legends finally appeared. Now the whole “big band/little club” thing can be taken two ways – as an opportunity for superstars to re-connect on an intimate level with their fans, or as the manifestation of the proverbial, “see you on the way down”. This Echo & The Bunnymen show fell somewhere in-between. Having already played some three or four shows during the festival, there wasn’t quite the sense of occasion around this last gig – especially not with PJ Harvey wowing them at Stubb’s down the street – but the room, which by my estimation held around 400 tops, was still packed with fans from the surprisingly young to the unsurprisingly old.

Though a natural conclusion to make given the recent surge in ’80s/’90s-vintage reunions, it’s unfair to Echo & The Bunnymen in with those. Although down to only half the original membership, they got back together over a decade ago and continue to produce decent new works, if not nearly as seminal as their older material. And it’s almost unfortunate that they’re still a creatively active band, because that’s not what those in attendance wanted to hear. They wanted to hear the classics, dammit.

And not at all grudgingly, the band complied, kicking off with “Lips Like Sugar” and delivering pretty much a greatest hits set. Of the only two remaining original members, guitar god Will Sergeant looked decidedly his age but singer Ian McCulloch, improbably decked out in a woolen pea coat despite the sweltering heat, was almost eerily ageless. McCulloch was surprisingly gracious, given his irascibile reputation, going so far as to crack some jokes and even a smile or two over the course of the night, though his temper did flare up at a couple points in the evening. Vocally, he was also in pretty good form – any time you thought that his voice might be showing its age, he’d find another gear and belt out the most crucial part of the song the way it was meant to be. Similarly, Sergeant was inspiring on guitar, as much for reminding you of all the brilliant parts he’d written over the years as for what he was actually playing.

But somehow it didn’t feel like they were big stars playing a special, tiny show. For the greatness of their repertoire, their charisma didn’t feel stadium-sized and set to blow the club to pieces, but simply club-sized. Whatever presence McCulloch once had that allowed him to perform without moving but still mesmerizing isn’t really there anymore – see Liam Gallagher for an example of that talent in action. That, however, didn’t keep me from enjoying the show any less, though. I was perfectly happy to take them for what they were and enjoy hearing the likes of “Bring On The Dancing Horses”, “Back Of Love” and – most crucially – “The Killing Moon” live. A completely satisfactory way to close out SxSW 2009 as far as I was concerned.

And, save for another, oh, 40 or so of those little A/V posts – bear with me, please – that’s it for South-by coverage for this year. Final tallies were 46 performances by 44 different acts, 20GB of photos and one kick-ass time. I suspect there’s an inversely proportional relation between my perception of the quality of the festival’s lineup and how good a time I have. A couple months ago, I called the assembled talent “weaksauce” – meant partly in jest and only relative to the acts that I’d hoped would be in attendance – but I still nearly killed myself running around downtown Austin trying to catch all the bands I wanted to see and the last thing I needed was more choices to agonize over. And so to all bands and friends new and old who made the trip one of the best weeks I’ve had in recent memory, I thank you and will see y’all next year.