Posts Tagged ‘Modest Mouse’

Monday, July 19th, 2010

Pitchfork 2010 Day 1

Robyn, Broken Social Scene, Liars and more at Pitchfork Music Festival 2010

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangThe Pitchfork Music Festival occupies an interesting niche in the festival landscape. It’s too small to fairly compare with the national destination-type events, even though people such as myself do travel from afar to attend, but too high-profile to be considered properly boutique. The lineup is generally solid from top to bottom, but in a mid-level club sense. Almost all of the acts, at least for the 2010 edition, are touring relentlessly and aren’t hard to catch at some point in most urban centres, and for many this is probably their first experience with a festival setting and such large stages and audiences.

So despite the fact that I had already seen or could see in the coming weeks/months many of the acts on the bill, I decided to attend this year because a) plans to hit last year’s fest were scuppered by real life, b) I skipped out on the Toronto edition of the Pavement reunion tour in favour of Iggy & The Stooges at NxNE and c) the total dearth of outdoor festivals in Toronto this year meant that to get my heat stroke in the photo pit action on, I’d have to leave town. Also, I hadn’t been to Chicago in years.

Pitchfork Fridays past tended to feature a single evening feature event like a “Don’t Look Back” full album performance, but this year they opted for a half-day of regular programming and squeezing in a couple more headliners. I arrived at Union Park, just a little outside of The Loop, just in time to hear Sharon Van Etten kick the day and the festival off on the main stage, dubbed Aluminum, previewing songs from her forthcoming album Epic. The bright – nay, blazing – afternoon sun wasn’t the most natural setting for her dark and vulnerable songs, but it’s remarkable that even massively amplified in the outdoors, her gorgeous voice was able to sound so intimate. She may not have had the same name recognition as some of the others in the lineup but hopefully for the festival early birds, she’ll have been a welcome discovery.

Photos: Sharon Van Etten @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Love More”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “I Couldn’t Save You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MP3: Sharon Van Etten – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Sharon Van Etten – “For You”
MySpace: Sharon Van Etten

The two main stages at Pitchfork were set up in close proximity and at 90 degrees to one another, and Friday’s staggered set times made it easy to dash from one to the other – or just turn your butt, for the seated – and catch the next act. Inaugurating the Connector stage was The Tallest Man On Earth, and though also performing solo he clearly didn’t suffer from any lack of audience familiarity – folks were stoked for Kristian Matsson and his set didn’t disappoint them. The charisma on display the one time I’d seen him at an in-store scaled quite well to the bigger venue and as he lurched and lunged around the stage whilst showcasing the upbeat folk from The Wild Hunt, the crowd collectively swooned. Though that may have also been from the heat. The Tallest Man On Earth plays Lee’s Palace on September 24.

Photos: The Tallest Man On Earth @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “King Of Spain”
MP3: The Tallest Man On Earth – “Burden Of Tomorrow”

Liars and I had never been properly introduced, with the one time I tried giving them a listen apparently coming when they were at their most abrasive and I quickly moved on with my life. This first encounter started out rockily, with my camera seemingly self-destructing as soon as the band took the stage. It turned out that my camera grip was actually overheating just from the ambient temperature and was shorting everything out, so once removed and with things working again, the panic began to abate I was able to turn my attention back to the Brooklynites. I didn’t know any material and they were hardly what you’d call an immediately accessible pop, but their first dose of proper rock energy for the day and festival was welcome. Frontman Angus Andrew was a compelling frontman and stage presence, aggressively prowling around the stage during songs and cracking off-colour jokes between, including an invitation to use the water station in his pants. Entertaining, but the lack of familiarity kept me from getting too engaged. Liars play Lee’s Palace on September 29.

Photos: Liars @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Liars – “Scissor”
MP3: Liars – “Plaster Casts Of Everything”
MP3: Liars – “Loose Nuts On The Veladrome”
Video: Liars – “Scissors””
Video: Liars – “The Overachievers”
Video: Liars – “Houseclouds”
Video: Liars – “Plaster Casts Of Everything”
Video: Liars – “The Other Side Of Mt. Heart Attack”
MySpace: Liars

The aforementioned lack of familiarity didn’t affect enjoyment of Swedish dance-pop diva Robyn’s set because, well, it was Swedish dance-pop and that stuff is made to cross all lines, borders and bring world peace. Big hooks were the order of the day as she, backed by two drummers and two keyboardists all clad in white, got the Pitchfork crowd – pretty sizeable by point in the day – dancing at best, bobbing up and down at worst. I’d never quite understood the massive acclaim that Robyn got, I mean I thought her stuff was perfectly enjoyable but not commensurate with the level of hosannas laid at her feet. On stage, however, she did a great job of earning the hype, dancing, strutting and posing like a pro and just working the crowd perfectly; good times abounded. Someone is due for some reevaluation by me. That someone being Robyn. In case that wasn’t clear. She plays the Molson Amphitheatre on July 30.

Photos: Robyn @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
Video: Robyn – “Dancing On My Own”
Video: Robyn – “Dream On”
Video: Robyn – “Konichiwa Bitches”
Video: Robyn – “Handle Me”
Video: Robyn – “Do You Know (What It Takes)”
Video: Robyn – “My Only Reason”
Video: Robyn – “With Every Heartbeat”

Oh Broken Social Scene. I’ve covered my own history with the band, but that in-store appearance aside it had still been almost four years since I’d seen a proper Broken show. And while that full-lineup throwdown was as good a last show as you could imagine, I was interested to see how they sounded with their slimmed-down lineup and fully awake. The deliberately lean aesthetic carried over to their live show, which despite supplementing the now core seven members with Forgiveness Rock Record producer John McEntire as second drummer and some locally-recruited string and brass players, sounded much less grandiose than the old days where they’d trot out six or seven guitarists all doing god knows what simultaneously. Their new approach was certainly more focused, but I can’t say I didn’t miss some of the old grandiosity, some of which – okay, a lot of which – was captured in their finale of “Meet Me In The Basement”, which sounded fantastic and proved that even when you think you’re done with them, Broken Social Scene are still capable of stop and marvel. NPR has a World Cafe session with the band and Asia One an interview.

Photos: Broken Social Scene @ Connector Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “World Sick”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Fire Eye’d Boy”
MP3: Broken Social Scene – “Hotel”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Meet Me In The Basement”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “7/4 (Shoreline)”
Video: Broken Social Scene -“Fire Eye’d Boy”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Ibi Dreams Of Pavement (A Better Day)”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Her Disappearing Scene”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Major Label Debut”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Cause = Time”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Almost Crimes”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Anthems For A Seventeen Year-Old Girl”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “Lover’s Spit”
Video: Broken Social Scene – “I’m Still Your Fag”
MySpace: Broken Social Scene

My interest in seeing Modest Mouse was pretty close to nil, but considering they were the headliners, I figured I should at least sample their set and get some pics. As it turned out, the process for rotating photographers in and out of the pit didn’t have the kinks worked out and as a result, I got to shoot maybe a minute of one song before getting the boot. I wasn’t especially disappointed and seeing as how nothing they were playing was either familiar or especially interesting, I took it as a sign to call it a night and go get some dinner.

Photos: Modest Mouse @ Aluminum Stage – July 16, 2010
MP3: Modest Mouse – “Worms Vs. Birds”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Dashboard”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Float On”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Ocean Breathes Salty”
Video: Modest Mouse – “The Whale Song”
Video: Modest Mouse – “King Rat”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Satellite Skin”
Video: Modest Mouse – “Missed The Boat”
MySpace: Modest Mouse

Monday, July 6th, 2009

Shine A Light

Constantines and Chad Van Gaalen at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangFor the last few years, Harbourfront Centre has been the go-to spot for Canada Day celebrations in Toronto. Each year, they put on a free show on the lake with some of the top domestic acts of the moment, but on a year-to-year basis they’ve also been doing a pretty great job of representing all the facets of what we’d call Canadian indie rock. Back in 2007 (I missed the 2006 show featuring The Dears), they showcased the more avant garde end of the spectrum with Final Fantasy and Do Make Say Think, and last year put the spotlight on the female and folky with Martha Wainwright and Basia Bulat. For 2009, they traded the estrogen for some testosterone, bringing in hometown heroes Constantines and Calgary’s Chad Van Gaalen.

Van Gaalen I’ve honestly done my best to get into his records in the past – after all, with the sheer amount of love he gets from all quarters, he must have something going for him – but have never really managed to do it. There’s just something about his particular DIY sonic aesthetic that doesn’t do it for me. And so it’s ironic that I’d find someone who’s generally regarded as a home studio auteur to be so much more enjoyable in a live setting. He started the evening in interesting form, first coming out with a broom and sweeping the stage clean, then saluting the national anthem by way of dropping his pants, and then finally making funny but probably family-inappropriate gestures with his finger and his fly. Yeah. Musically, he led his band through selections from all three of his albums and damn if they don’t just sound much fuller and more realized than they do in their studio incarnations? Maybe it’s the extra oomph of the live rhythm section (helped by the fact that I had planted my ass right in front of the PA bass bin) or the fact that his voice sounds less reedy and the guitars fatter, but it was just so much more satisfying an experience and allowed me to see and hear the artist that others do – I just prefer his more direct and less idiosyncratic side. Odds are I won’t care so much for his next studio record but if he puts out a live album, I may pay more attention.

Constantines, on the other hand, I’m fully guilty of not having paid enough attention to since day one. That was resolved somewhat last year, when I got my first Cons record in Kensington Heights and saw them live twice – the first time at a super-intimate club show and the second at the somewhat less-intimate but still awe-inspiring V Fest. Both shows, though quite different, certainly confirmed their long-standing reputation as an incredible and intense live act. I expected nothing less from them this time out.

My education hasn’t reached too far into their back catalog, however, so aside from the Kensington material their set was only familiar from past live experiences and so rather than comment on what was played, I’ll focus on how it was played – in a word, exceptionally. The Cons have been at it a long time and as such, are about as tight a rock machine as you’ll find anywhere. Their songs are lean, but not thin – within each hard-charging piece are myriad little songwriting and arrangement details that give their sound extra complexity. But really, live, what you’ll hear – or more correctly FEEL – is the swirl of the guitar and keyboard riffs, the unrelenting thump of the rhythm section and most importantly Bry Webb’s big, raw rasp, occasionally augmented by guest Jennifer Castle’s gentler backing vocals. It’s just rock, yeah, but it’s rock done right.

And while they started things out dressed up for the occasion – Webb’s white suit over tropical shirt ensemble was particularly inspired – the intensity of the performance and sweat generated quickly got them looking less natty and, consequently, more appropriate. Clean and proper just doesn’t suit them. And the greatness of their show was pretty much encapsulated by a moment in “Shine A Light”, towards the end of their set, where one by one the Cons pointed out across Lake Ontario and the audience clued in and turned around, just in time to see fireworks going off. A magical moment. If you’re looking for ambassadors for Canadian rock or, as it turns out, a soundtrack to Canada Day, you can’t do much better than Constantines.

Photos: Constantines, Chad Van Gaalen @ Harbourfront Centre – July 1, 2009
MP3: Constantines – “Hard Feelings”
MP3: Constantines – “Nighttime Anytime It’s Alright”
MP3: Constantines – “On To You”
MP3: Constantines – “Love In Fear”
MP3: Constantines – “Soon Enough”
MP3: Constantines – “Arizona”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Willow Tree”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “City Of Electric Light”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Graveyard”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Somewhere I Know There’s Nothing”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Flower Gardens”
MP3: Chad Van Gaalen – “Echo Train”
Video: Constantines – “Credit River”
Video: Constantines – “Our Age”
Video: Constantines – “Hard Feelings”
Video: Constantines – “Working Full-Time”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Flower Gardens”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Clinically Dead”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Red Hot Drops”
Video: Chad Van Gaalen – “Molten Light”
MySpace: Constantines
MySpace: Chad Van Gaalen

Summerworks has released the lineup to the music component of their annual theatre/performing arts festival, and with acts like Miracle Fortress, Think About Life, The D’Urbervilles and Forest City Lovers amongst the artists performing, you really should plan on spending much of the week from August 6 to the 15th at The Theatre Centre at The Great Hall. interviews Matt Cully and Vue talks to Neil Haverty, both of Bruce Peninsula, who are embarking on a western Canadian tour this week.

Arts & Crafts has released some official information on the next Hidden Cameras record – Origin:Orphan will be released on September 22 and they’re offering a free download of “Walk On” in exchange for your email.

Emily Haines of Metric tells The National Post about some of her favourite things about Toronto in the Summertime. Curiously, navigating piles of uncollected garbage on the city streets because of the city worker strike does not make the cut.

MBV Music has the second installment in the Reverie Sound Revue blog tour – a bit later than expected, but maybe they got held up at the border or something. This video is a stripped-down studio rendering of “Off Rooftops” from their just-released self-titled debut.

The results of those TARA Secret Sessions which have been taking place at The Audio Recording Academy – perhaps you’ve seen the ads somewhere online – are being made available online to download and enjoy, including some by Oh No Forest Fires and Great Bloomers. The sessions continue through the month of July and admission to all is free. Oh No Forest Fires have blogged a bit about their session. – née AOL Music Canada – has posted the first of a multi-part feature on the history, present and future of independent music in Canada, featuring conversations with journalist types and members of Sloan and The Stills.

Congratulations go out to Eric’s Trip and Rheostatics, the inaugural inductees to the Zunior Canadian Independent Music Hall of Fame, whose aim is to select and salute two trailblazing Canadian independent artists each year and for which I was honoured to be a juror for the 2009 edition.

If you missed or enjoyed Amazing Baby opening up for Phoenix last month, you will be pleased to know they have their own show scheduled for August 4 at the Drake Underground in support of their new album Rewild – tickets $13.

MP3: Amazing Baby – “Bayonets”

Modest Mouse have added as second Toronto date to their Summer tour – they’ll be at the Sound Academy on August 22 in addition to the 21. Tickets $30.

The Cave Singers and Lightning Dust have a date at the Horseshoe on September 14, tickets $12. Both have new albums coming soon – the former with Welcome Joy, out August 18, and the latter with Infinite Light, out August 4.

MP3: The Cave Singers – “Beach House”
MP3: Lightning Dust – “I Knew”
MP3: Lightning Dust – “Never Seen”

The Hold Steady are also rolling into town a little earlier than planned – there’s a second Lee’s Palace show set for September 26 to go with the September 27 one, so if you’d rather rock yourself into oblivion on a Saturday night, you’re all set. Tickets $21.50.

Icelandic electro-dream-poppers (is that still an accurate, if broad description?) Mum return with a new album due out on August 24 entitled Sing Along To Songs You Don’t Know and will follow that up with a Fall North American tour that includes an October 27 date at The Phoenix in Toronto, tickets $20.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

Phoenix and Amazing Baby at the Phoenix in Toronto

Photo By Frank YangFrank YangYou might think the novelty of seeing Phoenix (the band) at the Phoenix (the venue) might have worn off during the two months between the announcement and the actual show on Monday, but it really didn’t. But besides that, the prospect of seeing the French band perform their superb new album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix live was plenty of reason to be excited, and I wasn’t alone in that sentiment – the show was completely sold out.

Their tourmates for this jaunt were Amazing Baby, hailing from the slightly less glamorous locale of Brooklyn. Though the band had played our Hot Freaks showcase at SxSW back in March, I missed them on account of being terrorized by Peelander-Z – I had given their new album Rewild, out next week, a few spins so they weren’t a complete unknown. The album is a melting pot of rock styles, most prominently glam in the ’70s sense of the word, but in live presentation the band’s aesthetic was more garage/80s rock-correct than anything else – lots of hair whipping and even some two-handed guitar tapping. You don’t see that every day. Their set barely clocked in at 25 minutes and didn’t make as much of an impression as their album was beginning to – I’ll spend more time with that before firming up any opinions.

I required no such critical faculties for Phoenix – just set endorphin receptors to 10, wait for them to kick off with “Lisztomania” and let go. If you’ve only heard their studio albums, or even just their latest as I’ve already said I have, you might think that their pristine production and absurdly precise musicianship is a studio creation. Live, however, they expand from a four-piece to six and are every bit as tight and even more dynamic. The massive pop hooks were recreated impeccably but the also demonstrated their ability to get far heavier and funkier than their recorded works had ever implied. It’s easy to think of Phoenix as a breezy pop band but they can get down and dirty – yet remain sonically immaculate – when they choose to.

Watching the band run through a set naturally heavy on Wolfgang but still drawing from their other three albums, you couldn’t help but be impressed with how hard they worked to make it sound so effortless. Singer Thomas Mars frequently looked winded and got progressively sweatier after each song, unsurprising considering how much physicality he put into his performance, roaming around the stage, climbing monitors and generally working the crowd like a pro. It was thus understandable that during the instrumental interlude of “Love Like A Sunset”, he simply lay down on the stage, back against a floor monitor, to recover for a few minutes. And the breather did him well as the band managed to take a show that had run pretty much full-tilt from the word go and take it to another level for the end, whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

All through the night Mars and his bandmates had a sort of incredulous look on their faces, perhaps not quite believing the breadth and intensity of the audience’s enthusiasm. After all, Phoenix were supposed to be one of those bands that no one could understand why they didn’t break out big – they weren’t actually supposed to break out big. But for this night, at least, they were greeted like conquering heroes and no one wanted it to end. So with the final number of the encore, the irresistible “1901”, the band thought they were finished – instruments were unstrapped and amplifiers turned off – but guitarist Laurent Brancowitz kept playing the staccato riff, unwilling to admit it was over – and quickly instruments and amps went back on and they played the outro again, Mars taking the opportunity to leap into the audience and commune properly with their fans. After that euphoric finish, it was finally over and one of the better albums of the year so far had begot one of the best shows of the year so far.

The AV Club has an interview with Phoenix’s Thomas Mars and The Boston Herald with Laurent Brancowitz, while Daytrotter recently posted a session with Amazing Baby recorded back at SxSW.

Photos: Phoenix, Amazing Baby @ The Phoenix – June 15, 2009
MP3: Amazing Baby – “Bayonets”
Video: Phoenix – “1901”
Video: Phoenix – “1901” (acoustic)
Video: Phoenix – “Lisztomania”
Video: Phoenix – “Consolation Prize”
Video: Phoenix – “If I Ever Feel Better”
Video: Phoenix – “Long Distance Call”
Video: Phoenix – “Twenty-One One Zero”
Video: Phoenix – “Run Run Run”
Video: Amazing Baby – “Headdress”
MySpace: Phoenix
MySpace: Amazing Baby

Austin instrumentalists The Octopus Project are at Lee’s Palace on July 28, tickets $8.50.

MP3: The Octopus Project – “I Saw The Bright Shinies”
MP3: The Octopus Project – “Music Is Happiness”

Cursive have a date at The Horseshoe on August 1 in support of their latest album, the horribly-titled Mama, I’m Swollen. Tickets for that one are $15.50.

MP3: Cursive – “From The Hips”
MP3: Cursive – “Mama, I’m Swollen”

Apparently a new 7″ is all the excuse that Modest Mouse need to hit the road. They’ll release a new single on June 23 – Spinner is streaming the a-side right now – and traverse North America in August. The Toronto date is August 21 at the Sound Academy and tickets are $30.

Loney Dear, who had to cancel their May Toronto date on account of a busted-up van, will make that up on October 13 with a show at the Horseshoe – and as a bonus, they’re bringing Asobi Seksu along with them. Actually, Asobi might headline – they’re a much larger draw hereabouts. Full tour dates at Pitchfork.

MP3: Loney Dear – “Airport Surroundings”
MP3: Asobi Seksu – “Familiar Light”

The Fiery Furnaces have a new album in the can called I’m Going Away and will release it on July 1.

MP3: The Fiery Furnaces – “The End Is Near”

Black Book and The Aquarian profile School Of Seven Bells.

Interview interviews TV On The Radio.

Muzzle Of Bees asks five questions of Handsome Furs.

MP3: Handsome Furs – “Radio Kaliningrad”