>Camera Obscura at the Phoenix; Thursday November 26, 2009

>Camera Obscura released one of my favourite albums this year. My Maudlin Career is easily the prettiest, polished pop album of the year – and they’ve been touring the shit out of it. Already this year Camera Obscura has been to Toronto twice! I had the pleasure of seeing them at the Lee’s Palace earlier this year with my very best friend.

I really liked them this time. I felt like I knew what I was expecting, the songs I really wanted to hear, lack of stage presence. I wasn’t let down this time by any means. Lead singer Tracy Anne Campbell didn’t move around like I expected before. I really loved their song choice this gig – playing everything I wanted to hear! With the exception of their Christmas song “Blizzard”. It’s actually a late ’60s cover of a Jim Reeves tune. I don’t know it very well, but I don’t think the last song they played was it. I really like it though. I think I have to make a Christmas compilation with it on it.

The majority of their set was drawn from the latest album. They did however take the time to play “Tears for Affairs”, “Hey Lloyd, I’m Ready to be Heartbroken” which a response to this song – “Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?” by Lloyd Cole. My newest favourite tune – “Let’s Get Out of this Country”– A song I feel I can really relate to at this point in my life!

They even played one or two tunes from their oldest album titled Biggest Blues Hi-Fi. Tracey Anne followed it up saying that she’s not even sure if they are available on CD anymore! They are however, very ready for download.

I was really happy they played “The Sweetest Thing” at this show. I was shocked they didn’t play it last time! The biggest surprise for me was their three song encore, starting with “Let’s Get Out of this Country” and followed by “Forests and Sands”. Tracy Anne said just before they began that they have to play this song because they mention our city. I was extremely happy.

I was also happy I stayed because after the last tune they played they did their bit with the flourish of music at the end. They sit on a note together each person in the band swelling on it and then they move around. It was really nice because it really sounds beautiful amongst the mess of different instruments. They played it last time as well and it was even more glorious.

The thing that gets me about Camera Obscura. I can never understand what they are saying in their songs. It’s not ebcause of their accent, but how Tracy Anne sings! Especially live it’s ridiculously difficult to hear her. I like her voice, I think it comes off well live and recorded but it’s just terribly hard to understand her.

And I’m confident in saying that I am over their stage pressence issue. It’s simply their style to kick it back a bit and not perform with great enthusiasm, wiht the exception of the percussionist/trumpet player.

The lead guitarist is amazing. I think the band’s songs wouldn’t sound half as good as they do without him.


>Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros at the El Mocambo; Tuesday November 24, 2009

>Edward Sharpe is actually – Alex Ebert. The Magnetic Zeros are a group of ten or fifteen people backing he and the ultra lovely Jade Castrinos up.

I’m really sick of their references to the days of flower power and hippies. I don’t think that they personify the carefree lifestyles that the terms push, but instead they host an alternate outlook on music. I didn’t live through the sixties so I guess I’m not in my place to say, but I’m going to make bold here and assume that it wasn’t exactly like this. Edward Sharpe and gang make ridiculously fun music. Their tunes are loaded with energy but at times dull and a little too slow. The format of those slow and eased out songs have Ebert singing vocals, they fortunately are saved by the solid band that accompanies.

It’s pretty amazing that this L.A. band could sell out the El Mocambo for two nights. I had just found out about the show and it had already sold out. I have to say it was their tune “Home” that sucked me in to it all. The song is carefree and effortless, exactly like the band shows in the live gig. Ebert came out dressed in a beige linen, shirt and pant combo – like something light from India. He eventually stripped down to a tank top by the second song. There weren’t as many people as I though there would be – only about eight or nine. Apparently, the other girl in the band was off for some reason – they mentioned they missed her on tour.

Ebert was easily the star of the show, but the crowd loved Jade more than anyone. The pixie haircut girl was charming – it was almost as if each song they played was completely new to her. My large YouTube searches on this band revealed that they’ve been playing the tune “Home” for three years now! Remarkable! Jade had a radiant smile the entire show – all the girls around me were commenting just how cute she was. It got ten times cuter when Jade and Alex shared the microphone for the tune “Home”. They took turns holding it and sang into it together.

The only other band I think that fosters this sort of energy is a band called Dark Meat. I saw them at the Drake ages ago with a dear friend. They sort of had that anything goes mentality that stews the creativity in a live concert setting. It’s sort of exciting because anything did go – by the end of the gig I was crouching on the ground – for their one-song encore they played an acoustic tune from the ground.

I’m not sure if this band will get repeat listens in future, but they have a lot of energy. This is the type of show that I would love to see with a group of friends. It felt kind of weird when they were playing “Home” and I turned around and saw a couple hundred other people bobbing and swaying to the very song that energised me instantly upon first listen. I’m sure it did the same to them too. It’s a strange thought to share musical tastes with people – and even weirder to watch it in the same room and never talk to those individuals – ever.

I wonder if they can replicate it without duplicating too much.

The openers called “Fools Gold” were awful. I felt like I was on a tropical vacation.


>Brand New at the Kool Haus; Sunday November 22, 2009

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I have few expectations at a concert but I always find it socially different when I go to a show that I feel like I don’t really belong at. Most of these being the bands that I liked six or seven years ago and still time and time again I find myself going to see them live.

Upon waiting for Brand New to come on at around 10:00pm, there was a couple that was begging to be looked at. I couldn’t resist. It was a guy and girl, the girl was a petit asian wearing a tiny shirt. The guy was dressed in baggy clothes and skater shoes. They were in their early twenties. They were both carrying drinks but the guy had a blue lollipop. I turned away for a few seconds and looked back to the girl with the blue lollipop in her mouth posing for photos in the crowd. It was kind of weird, the guy must’ve taken like four photos and each one was the same but the girls mouth was tilted a little differently or the stick of the lollipop hanging out of her mouth was angled a different way. Seconds later the guy had the lollipop back in his mouth and then proceeded to dip it into the girls beer. He asked her if her drink was blue.

I wish I could write a story as well as David Sedaris. Regardless, of my writing style I think this stretches to show the broad array of people in the crowd. I realised today that the first time I saw Brand New was almost six years ago. Building on that their album Deja Entendu was released nearly seven years ago. So back in 2004 when I saw Brand New for the first time, I was in the tenth grade. It’s sort of funny to see sixteen year olds at this show and all I can think is that was me.

That 2004 gig was my favourite concert for a very long time. If anyone asks me, to this day even, what my favourite concert i’ve ever saw was, I would probably bring up that Brand New show because at the time it was the best thing ever.

I’ve probably seen them three or four times since and they just don’t have that affect on me anymore. Given, they are amazing sound wise, but they just don’t do the same thing for me. I think it has a ton to do with the catalogue they pull from. Back in 2004 they were pushing a fresh batch of songs they released in 2003. That CD was my world at that time. I remember reading the lyrics in my bed, while listening to the CD on my discman. That CD still makes me remember why I like music.

Last time I saw them, I remember thinking how divided their show was. They played a block of new tunes and a block of old ones too – no mixing. This made for a very boring concert. This time ’round they made things a little more exciting. They opened with a newer track from one of their last two albums – just instrumental.

This show is definitely going to push me to like their newer stuff a bit. I really loved the song “Limousine”. This by no means blew me away recorded, only because I hadn’t listened to the album properly and the tune probably lost me in the slow intro. Half way through the song picks up as a whole band arrangement. The lyrics: “Well I love you so much, but do me a favor baby, don’t reply.’cause I can dish it out, but I can’t take it.” Aside from the guy shouting the lyrics at the top of his lungs next to me – this song came off terrific live.

I had these moments where I would hear a newer tune and I’d remind myself that this was the band that put out one of my favourite records. Looking at the lyrics now to the song “Limousine” I realise how remarkable this band still is. The link I provided is incredible, Jesse Lacey describes how he came to write the tune. Here is the acoustic version of the tune.

My favourite bit was when they busted out their older songs. They played five older tunes – “I Believe You But My Tommy Gun Don’t”, “Sic Transit Gloria (Glory Fades)”, “Mixtape”, “Jude Law and the Semester Abroad” and “Seventy Times 7”. I remember the feeling after each song of having no expectations as to which song would be played althoug I secretly hoped for older material. After hearing “Jude Law”, I thought to myself that the only way this show could get any more perfect was if they played “Seventy Times 7”. I had no idea it was coming because the last time they joked about playing it, introducing it but instead launched into an extended ten minute version of “Welcome to Bangkok”. All songs were done extremely well. It was however, far too intense when they played the two tunes from Deja as the crowd took to it like a children’s sing along, I could barely hear the band through the first lines of “I Believe You”. The band also blazes through the Deja tunes, I feel like they’ve played them so many times they mean little to them.

I didn’t think they’d play anything else older, so I kept edging my way out when it neared midnight. I left a bit early, but by the time I got my bike they were playing their last tune – “Play Crack the Sky”. I had to listen to it because I sort of hated myself for leaving but I was getting bored of listening to tunes I didn’t know! I think it was worth it for the last few lyrics of the tune –

“This story’s old but it goes on and on until we disappear, Calm me and let me taste the salt you breathed while you were underneath, I am the one who haunts your dreams of mountains sunk below the sea, I spoke the words but never gave a thought to what they all could mean, I know that this is what you want, a funeral keeps both of us apart. You know that you are not alone, I need you like water in my lungs.”

They always like playing that song. They did it last time too I’m sure.

This band is amazing. They have a fantastic energy that shows in their music. Their sound is big and their show is flawless. Lacey’s voice is perfection even through all it’s roughness. Screaming or singing he sports it well.

I think if I were to see this band play their two older albums in their entirity it would be up their for best concert. So maybe I wasn’t off when I saw them the first go.

>Butthole Surfers on Gordon Lightfoot

>This Butthole Surfers cover of the Gordon Lightfoot tune “The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald” is gold. It’s apparently so rare, the band’s drummer King Koffee only recalls playing it once.

It sounds completely different from the original, stretching it into something else. It however maintains the same main line that keeps the original’s sound to some extent. Lightfoot’s music is not really known for it’s music aspect. Emphasis is normally placed on Lightfoot’s well written lyrics. The Butthole Surfers really played on a different angle for this particular song.

>Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall; Saturday November 21, 2009

>Gordon Lightfoot at Massey Hall; Saturday November 21, 2009

Gordon Lightfoot is from Orillia, Ontario. He however is a legend across the globe. My first taste of Lightfoot was from the movie 54 with Ryan Phillipe. The tune “If You Could Read My Mind” was featured and covered by the laughable supergroup called Stars of 54. Ironically, none of them were actually in the movie. So to see Lightfoot it almost felt nostalgic – as it did for my dad as well but for very different reasons.

It’s really funny to hear Lightfoot’s version of “If You Could Read My Mind” because it sounds exactly like the dance version – obviously without the added pep. Lightfoot has this funny way of delivering his words when he sings. He comes off very fragmented, like a hiccup. Only on the last few lines of this song did his voice sound clear. He felt youthful and revitalised, I heard my mom sigh after he finished the tune. I felt as though my assumption was assured.

I stumbled upon this which is a MuchMusic video live of the Stars of 54. If you listen to the first thirty seconds the VJ announces the tune as “If I Could Read Your Mind”… Way to fuck up a Canadian gem tune MM.

He played for two hours with a fifteen minute intermission. His band was full, with two guitars, bass, keys and drums. I felt the keyboard gave him a cheesy eighties synth sound. It was kind of off that his band was so full but his sound was so vacant. His recorded stuff is delicate and light – very ’60s folk. His live gig reflected that sound. My ears weren’t ringing as they were two weeks before for Monsters of Folk. I could hear each instrument perfectly. He didn’t even amp his twelve-stringed guitar, he simply had a mic up close to it.

I don’t know his catalogue too well, but he played a couple of tunes off of his 1998 album ‘A Painter Passing Through’. I really liked his live version of “Ringneck Loon” where he called upon people at the beginning to make a loon sound. No one reciprocated, until the very end when somebody let out a beautiful loon call. I have no idea how to do it but it felt familiar, something i’ve heard before. He instructed the looners to make the sound during the quiet parts.

Lightfoot is 71. He apparently was in a coma for six weeks in 2002. It’s remarkable he is able to standup in front of a huge crowd, four nights in a row for two hours at a time. His voice is quiet, and i heard the people behind me say they wish the mic was a bit closer to him. It didn’t bother me as I was so close, but I felt that the hand clapping crowd were haulted because they couldn’t hear him sing while they clapped. Probably a good thing.

He didn’t play “Steel Rail Blues” which I thought was a big one for him… My Dad said of the four or five times he’d seen Lightfoot he has never heard that tune.

It’s funny to see how folk music has really evolved in the last fifty years. It’s a sound that has for the most part stayed the same, keeping its bare parts of a guitar, voice and minimal instrumentation. Rocky Votolato, Fionn Regan and Joe Pug would make Ligahtfoot proud.

I truly felt Canadian at this show. Lightfoot at the beginning of his set recognised a dear friend of his, who he described as his canoe partner. He then went on to say this person is John Turner, former Prime Minister of Canada. Turner, at a ripe 80 romed around the aisles with his lady. A truly patriotic show.

I feel as though Lightfoot is more known for his song writing than his songs himself. Here’s a list of tunes that i’ve come up with that Lightfoot penned but other people made famous:

“Early Morning Rain” covered by Bob Dylan
“Early Morning Rain” covered by Paul Weller (of the Jam)
“For Loving Me” covered by Johnny Cash
“I’m Not Saying” covered by Nico
“The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald” covered by the Butthole Surfers

>Girls at the El Mocambo; Tuesday November 10, 2009

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Girls at the El Mocambo; Tuesday November 10, 2009

Girls are a Pitchfork prodigy. I think that is why everyone latched on to them so quickly. “Lust For Life” is easily their catchiest tune with the words – “I wish I had a boyfriend, I wish I had a man in my life…”. They sort of bear this seventies rough-pop sound. I love how simple they are.

I can feel their inspiration drawing from Elvis Costello, The Beach Boys and punk bands… Chirstopher Owens’ vocals are distinct. He however sounds exactly like the album live.

I overheard a guy behind me say – “I think this band, if they keep play, have a lot of potential. They’ll play somewhere bigger soon.” I feel like Pitchfork has bred people to think this of this band. Regardless – It seems like they’ll probably evolve to a bigger venue in future, like Lee’s or the Horseshoe… And all of those people that saw them at the El Mocambo will say: “I saw them at the El Mocambo last year!” Like the Fleet Foxes gig…

I really like Girls – they’re less produced than bands like them on a bigger scale. They have the energy that rock music is so often missing.

They’re not quite shoegaze, but they’re poppy.

>Dan Auerbach at the Phoenix; Saturday November 7, 2009

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Dan Auerbach at the Phoenix; Saturday November 7, 2009

This was a great show. Dan Auerbach has a powerhouse voice that is like no one other’s voice. I know very little about playing guitar from my little dabbles in playing but this show made me think who a good guitar player was. It made me think of it in a different way than I would with different people. For instance, the one person who I thought was the best guitar player earlier this week didn’t even cross my mind. That person is M. Ward.

Auerbach is different that M. Ward, big time. I think what made me completely separate the two artists is their music styles. Auerbach has an intense voice that shocks, where as M. Ward has a fuzzy glow when he performs.

All I could think about this entire show is how as the Black Keys it’s just him and the drummer. Minimal but it comes off sounded full and together. Ironically, his solo act has a five piece band to follow. He calls them ‘the Fast Five’. They sounded terrific. I kept thinking about how good the guitarist must be if Auerbach is using him. So that makes for two guitars, two drums, a bass and a keyboardist. One of Auerbach’s drummers is named Patrick Hallahan of My Morning Jacket. The second My Morning Jacket person this week i’ve seen live!

Auerbach did not play any Black Keys material. The audience didn’t seem to mind. He opened with the beautiful tune, “Trouble Weighs a Ton” he played it alone with the help of his guitarist. The second tune he played was “I Want Some More” and the only way I remembered this was because it matches the sequence of the album. They went on to play the entire album, i’m not sure if they played “When I Left The Room” or “Street Walkin'”. I don’t really remember those songs.

My big problem wiht the Black Keys/Dan Auerbach is a lot of their material comes off sounded the same. Big guitar riffs and strong Auerbach vocals. I think that’s why songs like “Real Desire” (an Auerbach tune) come off sounding so impressive! I noticed as soon as I walked in they had Christmas lights strung across half the venue. It looked terrific. Seems like their travelling with them. During the song “Real Desire” at around the bridge, they lit up. They lit up to the point that the entire audience could be seen by the stage. I have seen nothing like it for such an extended period of time. It was truly remarkable. I took a picture, but it looked really lousy. The lights trickled in and out of the show from them. It made a really great song even more perfect.

The thing that divides Auerbach from the Black Keys is his ability to do the quiet songs. The softest song off of Attack and Release is easily “Things Ain’t Like They Use To Be”. Auerbach has three or four slower songs on his debut, some as soft to sound like a lullaby or a country tune.

Doors were at 5:30pm so I stumbled by at 7:15pm to find that the second opener Justin Townes Earl was finishing his last song. I missed Jessica Lea Mayfield. I’m pretty ticked at myself! I however saw Jessica earlier this year, January. I’m sure she’ll be back. Justin Townes Earl was really good, he looked like Elvis Costello and sounded like a newer, less polished Buddy Holly. He made it clear to everyone at the end of his set where he’s from, very American – he’s from Tennessee.

The venue was pretty packed. People seemed into it. Auerbach is definately a performer, a good one at that.