Posts Tagged ‘Ketch Harbour Wolves’

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Canadian Musicfest Day One and Two

6 Day Riot, An Horse and more at Canadian Musicfest

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangYou know what they say about the best laid plans, right? Well I should have known after assembling my complete itinerary for Canadian Musicfest last week (I’ve opted to not be difficult and just accept the new branding), it would get – if not thrown out the window then at least shaken up significantly.

Thursday night started as intended, at the Silver Dollar to see Ketch Harbour Wolves, but I’m sad to report that their live show failed to impress the way their recorded output has. Whereas on tape they manage to channel their dramatic impulses in a way that made for compelling songs, on stage it manifests itself in rather dubious stage moves and general melodramatic hamminess. I’m sorry but there’s no place for dramatic arm motions, air grabs or pointing at the audience. There’s just not. Their actual musical performance was quite good, but I couldn’t get past the presentation.

Photos: Ketch Harbour Wolves @ The Silver Dollar – March 12, 2009
MP3: Ketch Harbour Wolves – “Words”
MP3: Ketch Harbour Wolves – “Leaves”
MySpace: Ketch Harbour Wolves

There was no disappointment, thankfully, for the return to these shores of London’s 6 Day Riot, who did dazzle at NxNE last year. With a new album in the can and set for a June release, the band mixed in a batch of new songs with the familiar. For the unfamiliar, imagine a heady brew of folk and pop made with tom-heavy rhythms, klezmer horn lines and Tamara Schlesinger’s strong and sweet vocals. It was heartening to see that a healthy audience had gathered to see them and though they stayed a typically Torontonian distance back from the stage, they seemed to be won over. And to me, even without the thrill of discovery that came with their show last year, it was still just loveliness.

Photos: 6 Day Riot @ Rancho Relaxo – March 12, 2009
Video: 6 Day Riot – “Go Canada” (live on

It was at this point I was supposed to dash out and hop in a cab to the Gladstone to catch The Week That Was, but the fact that they’d had a 1AM Saturday show added to the sched and I was just feeling lazy kept me at Rancho a bit longer. And it was also an opportunity to see Megan Hamilton & The Volunteer Canola, whom I’d been meaning to see since first catching her open for My Morning Jacket way back in 2005. What can I say, I’m slow about stuff sometimes. And in the interim, her sound has evolved from a plaintive, high lonesome country-folkiness to a more electrified sound that almost borders on bar-rock boogie at points but manages to stay distinctive thanks to Hamilton’s just slightly off-kilter vocals. Her new album See Your Midnight Breath in the Shipyard is out April 7 and has a slew of shows in the city and surrounding regions in the next few months – check out her MySpace for specifics.

Photos: Megan Hamilton & The Volunteer Canola @ Rancho Relaxo – March 12, 2009
MP3: Megan Hamilton – “Cat Tail Legs”
MP3: Megan Hamilton – “Detroit”
MySpace: Megan Hamilton & The Volunteer Canola

And that was it for day one. Anything else that had my interest was simply too out of the way for someone who had to work the next morning so I called it at three and headed home. And that brevity is why I’m also diving right into Friday night with this post. A night which, once again, began at the Silver Dollar.

The draw was Montreal’s Little Scream, whom I saw in January supporting Land Of Talk. And while she still has no internet presence to speak of – Google led me back to my own review – she hasn’t been idle in the intervening months, having traded in her acoustic guitar for an electric. And though she had already been amplifying and distorting the acoustic, the shift to a solidbody instrument did seem to give her a more visceral sonic presence – maybe it was the knowledge that she could beat on it and not worry about damage. And still, I can’t figure out what I find so compelling about this performer – she seems simultaneously distracted and focused, folkish and pure rock. Maybe once she gets some samples online someone can tell me what I’m hearing. Until then, I guess I’ll just keep seeing her live and trying to figure it out for myself.

Photos: Little Scream @ The Silver Dollar – March 13, 2009

From there, it was time for what would be my only foray from the Spadina-College corridor the entire weekend, to see An Horse at the Tranzac. The Australian duo had just appeared on Letterman a few nights earlier and it was tough to say if that had translated into extra interest in their showcase – I think it’s safe to say that the wide-eyed front row, decked out in An Horse t-shirts and clutching items for autographs, had had this date circled on their calendars for a while regardless. Playing songs from their debut Rearrange Beds, getting a North American release tomorrow, the duo were nothing short of impressive. Though their formula is as simple as it gets – guitar and drums and not even any soloing – and executed just as simply with dry, barre chord guitar work and straight-ahead, driving beats. But the songs are terrific – compact and hook-laden, occupying that space at the edge of anxiety yet not becoming angst and delivered in Cooper’s charmingly thick accent, a winning combination. And full props to the pair for not losing momentum when Cooper’s mic attempted to electrocute her early on in the show. An Horse will be back in town April 21 for a show at the Horseshoe with The Appleseed Cast. Attendance recommended.

Photos: An Horse @ The Tranzac – March 13, 2009
MP3: An Horse – “Postcards”
Video: An Horse – “Camp Out” (live on Letterman)
MySpace: An Horse

And here, again, is where I went off-schedule. I had intended to hop on the streetcar back to the Silver Dollar for The Darling DeMaes but Mike from For The Records convinced me to accompany him down the street to Central for French act Angil & Hiddentracks, about whom I knew nothing but hey – isn’t that part of the point of festivals like this? And if nothing else, they take the prize for most confounding act of the festival (from my limited sampling). Their ethos seems to be as willfully eclectic and lyrically absurd as possible, mashing together rock, jazz, classical, hip-hop, whatever, with a distinct Mark E Smith-ish style into something that, if nothing else, was certainly distinct. A few of their songs appealed but unsurprisingly, they were the more conventional compositions and made me suspect I was missing the point.

Photos: Angil & Hiddentracks @ Central – March 13, 2009
MP3: Angil & Hiddentracks – “Trying To Fit”
MP3: Angil & Hiddentracks – “Narrow Minds”
MySpace: Angil & Hiddentracks

At that point, I called it a night. That’s right, two days, six acts. Hardly a marathon, I know. I did better on Saturday by a fair margin, but I’ll get into that tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

The Canadian Music Week That Was And Will Be

A look ahead to Canadian Music Week/Fest

Photo by Ian WestIan WestCanadian Music Week – sorry, Canadian Musicfest, as the showcase component has now been renamed – is a tricky time for me, because as much as I’d like to take in as much of the shows on offer as possible, I need to be mindful of saving energy for the big show – SxSW – the following week. To this end, I tend to be very particular about what I choose to see during CMW/F, avoiding if I can bands I’ve seen or can easily see again. Ironically, this usually means I don’t see all that much Canadian music during Canadian Music Week.

One of the acts definitely circled on the schedule is Sunderland, UK outfit The Week That Was, whose main claim to fame is being the spinoff project from Field Music drummer Peter Brewis. My interest in this band surprises me a bit because though I tried, I was never able to get into Field Music. Their attempts to meld prog rock and folk just sounded too studied and wasn’t able to connect, but after seeing their self-titled debut show up on more than a few 2008 year-end lists, I decided to give the new band a shot and it was a wise choice. The Week That Was sheds those more rustic touches and more fully embrace the rock – the drums are thunderous – without abandoning Field Music’s quirky musical sensibilities. TWTW feels more like a band than a project, so it just figures that this North American jaunt is their swan song, at least for the foreseeable future – the Brewis brothers are getting Field Music out of mothballs. Here’s hoping they bring some of the looseness of The Week That Was back to the mothership.

The Week That Was have two shows in Toronto this week – one at 11PM on Thursday, March 12 at the Gladstone Hotel and another at 6:30PM at the Mod Club opening up for The Ting Tings. The former is part of eye‘s three-night throwdown at the Gladstone and as such, they’ve got an interview with the band. Update: And apparently The Ting Tings have taken offense with the non-reverential tone of Brewis’ interview and have booted The Week That Was off the bill for the Mod Club show. But they will still be kicking it Saturday night, now at the El Mocambo at 1AM.

MP3: The Week That Was – “Scratch The Surface”
MP3: The Week That Was – “Learn To Learn”
Video: The Week That Was – “Scratch The Surface”
Video: The Week That Was – “Learn To Learn”

For the curious, the rest of my CMF schedule looks a little like this:

Ketch Harbour Wolves (Thursday, March 12, 9PM @ The Silver Dollar) – Toronto combo whose debut EP impressed last year and whose follow-up (available for free download on their site) was I Heart Music’s co-album of the year for 2008. That’s no faint praise.

MP3: Ketch Harbour Wolves – “Words”
MP3: Ketch Harbour Wolves – “Leaves”

6 Day Riot (Thursday, March 12, 10PM @ Rancho Relaxo) – The highlight of NxNE 2008, this London outfit is returning to Canada to win over Toronto once again and preview material from their forthcoming second album Have A Plan, targeted for a June release. They’re also playing at 1AM on Saturday, March 14, at Bread & Circus.

The Week That Was (Thursday, March 12, 11PM @ The Gladstone) – see above

Little Scream (Friday, March 13, 8PM @ The Silver Dollar) – One-woman Montreal act who made an impression opening up for Land Of Talk back in January. And still no website of any kind.

An Horse (Friday, March 13, 9PM @ The Tranzac) – Australian guitar-and-drums duo whose debut Rearrange Beds is set for release on March 17. Scrappy and catchy, they could be good. Actually, make that “should”. Hell, I’ll even commit to “will”. The Badger Herald has an interview and Filter has more North American tour dates, they they got a little “!”-happy, only the March 24-27 dates are with Wintersleep. An Horse are also appearing on Letterman the evening of the 11th.

MP3: An Horse – “Postcards”

The Darling DeMaes (Friday, March 13, 10PM @ The Silver Dollar) – Alternately folky and noirish, this Montreal band were initially a random selection so that I didn’t end up going home at 10PM on a Friday evening (not that I would have minded that) but I’m now actually quite interested to see/hear them and find out which side of them shows up. Their EP is up for grabs for free on their website.

MP3: The Darling DeMaes – “With A Magnifying Glass”
MP3: The Darling DeMaes – “A Day In Her Life”

We See Lights (Saturday, March 14, 8PM @ Bread & Circus) – They’re Scottish, and let’s be honest – all things being equal that’s probably enough to get me out to see you. There’s also a lot of them and have that sort of earnest folky cacophonous thing going on. They’re also playing on Thursday night at 9PM at Rancho Relaxo.

MySpace: We See Lights

Sofia Talvik (Saturday, March 14, 9PM @ Bread & Circus) – Swedish artist who recorded a duet with Bernard Butler before he became producer to the stars. Her fourth album Jonestown has its share of standard singer-songwriter fare, but also enough standout material to merit attention.

MP3: Sofia Talvik – “My James Dean”
Video: Sofia Talvik – “It’s Just Love” (with Bernard Butler)

The Morning After Girls (Saturday, March 14, 10PM @ The Tranzac) – Australian drone-rockers who didn’t impress too much with their first record compiling early EPs, but the new stuff from their forthcoming album Alone, due in May, sounds a lot more dynamic and interesting. Grab a download at RCRDLBL.

Video: The Morning After Girls – “Shadows Evolve”

The Assistants (Saturday, March 14, 11PM @ Neutral) – It’s jangly, homegrown power-pop. Can you go wrong? I certainly hope not.

MP3: The Assistants – “Fiction”

Obviously what I plan to see is not all that I endorse. Here’s some randomness with other bands playing the festival and worth your time:

eye talks to Angela Desveaux, who’s playing the Gladstone on Thursday at 10PM.

I Heart Music has uploaded a session from late last year with Jenn Grant. She’s at the Reverb at midnight on Saturday night.

Handsome Furs, who are the reason you won’t get into the Horseshoe anytime past 9PM let alone just before their midnight set Friday evening, have a new video from Face Control, which is out this week. Chart talks to Dan Boeckner about the new record (and again), which is currently streamable.

Video: Handsome Furs – “I’m Confused”
Stream: Handsome Furs / Face Control

Radio Free Canuckistan, Xtra and Chart have interviews with Gentleman Reg, who helps anchor the Thursday night lineup at the Horseshoe with an 11PM set.

The Toronto Star talks to Malajube, closing out the Sirius Satellite Radio showcase at the El Mocambo on Thursday night at midnight.

And while it’s not technically a CMW/F show, it’s certainly in the spirit of and features bands participating in – I speak of a matinee show on the Saturday, March 14 at the Trash Palace (converted theatre near Bathurst and King W) featuring The Rural Alberta Advantage, Dinosaur Bones, Great Bloomers and Peachcake. It’s an all-ages gig, starts at 2, over by 5 and admission is $6. And your fancy-pants CMF wristband won’t count for jack.