About for the trees

Waste Management, Music, Film, Theatre, Culture, Heart, Honesty

Spoon at Massey Hall; Tuesday July 25, 2017

It’s been a while, but here is my brief recap:

  • The fancy stage lights weren’t working for the first song. Brit Daniel commented and mid-way through the opening song “Do I Have To Talk You Into It?”. Instantaneously, a sea of cellphone flashlights appeared. On its own and unsolicited – completely annoying, together and requested – fantastic.
  • I’ve always called Brit Daniel effortlessly cool, but this show made me realize how cool they all are.
  • I’m a huge Get Up Kids fan, so seeing bassist Rob Pope (Get Up Kids, Spoon) play in a slightly cooler band like Spoon is a total delight.
  • This Song Exploder session with Spoon drummer, Jim Eno, is worth listening to. He tears apart the sweet tune “Inside Out” 
  • Massey Hall only allowed the first three rows to dash to the front and leave the en. They issued wristbands to all folks with tickets for that section prior to the show’s start. We were in row five. Thanks, Massey!!

Big Thief at the Horseshoe Tavern; Wednesday June 28, 2017

The girl in front of us excitedly typed “@BigTheif…” over a dimly lit Snap Chat video. After an unsuccessfully attempt at finding the band, she erased her spelling error and changed it to the excitedly punctuated “Big Theif!!” I turned to Adam and we shared a chuckle about our Snap Chat concert buddy’s struggle to put I before E except after C. Full disclosure – I always fuck up spelling Big THIEF.

My second time seeing Big Thief and my first time seeing them knowing their material. Last October I took a risk on an empty Friday night to see them open for Frankie Cosmos, two bands I knew nothing about other than the highest regard a la Lucy Dacus. Big Thief’s twenty-five year-old vocalist/guitarist Adrianne Lenker’s taken her projects to Toronto four or five times, playing as Big Thief three times and on her own opening for Here We Go Magic in 2015. I feel the luckiest to have even caught her for half of those gigs.

A part of me hates seeing bands get big. As a teenager I used to hoard music and share it with select people I felt deserved knowing it. Now, I still enjoy music independently, but without the possessive tendencies and I’m amazed to see that a band that I only seem to like is able to sell out the Horseshoe Tavern. Perhaps I’m not socializing enough with Big Thief fans. It’s weird feeling to look around and think your little secret, the record that won’t move at your record store, is able to draw 400 people.

Big Thief played for an hour and a half, now drawing from two albums Lenker told the crowd that it’s so nice to finally be able to share the album with everyone. The newer songs almost sounded better than those played off of Masterpiece. The tunes off Capacity felt more rehearsed and cleaner – perhaps better, less risky arrangements. Capacity is noticeably absent of the grit and edge that songs like “Real Love” and “Masterpiece” have. In the second guitar solo of “Real Love” Adam turned to me and suggested they were offering a sneaky launch into “Shark Smile.” Not quite, while it was the next song, it was the almost painfully long live rendition of a recorded guitar solo.

Adam and I have spent the entire week prior to the gig singing the catchy chorus of “Shark Smile”: “And she said woo, baby, take me. And I said, woo, baby, take me too.” The show did not let us down – a reverse of what you’d expect, guitarist and backup vocalist Buck Meek shadows Lenker’s vocals throughout the verses and allows her to sing independently throughout the chorus.

Lenker isn’t a talker, which is surprising because her vocals are so strong and her singing voice is very deliberate. She throws her voice in a way that is her own and sets Big Thief apart from other folk acts. This was very apparent with Julia Jacklin’s version of “Paul,” which is beautiful, but lacks the perfect pacing that Big Thief gives it. See:

Beyond all this, Big Thief has the best lyrics that are minimal and poetic:

“Paul” – A series of promises that come off effortlessly. There are two songs in Big Thief’s set list where Lenker’s vocals come off as rapping at times (she hits in the gorgeous song “Mary” off of Capacity). I feel like audiences are drawn to this song because it comes off as a big defeat and accomplishment for singing it all the way through in one breath:

I’ll be your morning bright goodnight shadow machine
I’ll be your record player baby if you know what I mean
I’ll be your real tough cookie with the whiskey breath
I’ll be a killer and a thriller and the cause of our death

“Real Love” – the lyrics alone don’t offer much, but listening to Adrianne Lenker belt this nearing the end of the tune makes it for me:

            How much blood is worth the draw?

Happy 2017! pt two

I have to apologize for my absence, I’ve left you, my loyal reader, alone for 149. In this time I saw the following concerts:

  • The Radio Dept with Germans at the Mod Club on March 5
  • Dinosaur Jr at the Danforth Music Hall on March 10
  • Wilco at Massey Hall on March 15
  • The Staves at the Phoenix on March 17
  • Jenn Grant outside of the Great Hall on March 24
  • Kevin Morby and Waxahatchee at Longboat Hall on March 24
  • Peter Silberman at Through Being Cool on March 25
  • M.Ward at the Great Hall on March 25
  • Lambchop at the Great Hall on March 27
  • Lucy Dacus at the Tralf (Niagara Falls, NY) on April 1
  • Allison Crutchfield & the Fizz with Vagabon (who I missed) at the Silver Dollar on April 5
  • The Constantines at Mitchell Hall (Guelph) on April 8
  • Choir! Choir! Choir! do Big Star’s “Thirteen” at the Great Hall on April 17
  • Sondre Lerche at the Garrison on April 20
  • Tim Darcy at Baby G’s on April 20
  • Julia Jacklin at the Rivoli on April 21
  • Dan Romano at Longboat Hall on April 22 (although I sadly and very regretfully only caught one song)
  • Feist at Trinity St Paul Church on April 27
  • Metz with Fake Palms/THE LAST SHOW AT THE SILVER DOLLAR on April 30
  • Guided by Voices at the Magic Stick (Detroit, MI) on May 5
  • Sylvan Esso with Lucy Dacus at the Phoenix on May 22
  • Frightened Rabbit at the Danforth Music Hall on May 29
  • The Avalanches at the Phoenix on June 8
  • Do Make Say Think at the Danforth Music Hall on June 10
  • Workin’ Mom’s Benefit Improv Show at the Garrison on June 16
  • Bry Webb with Bird City at the Pump House (Grimsby, ON) on June 18
  • Thursday with Fucked Up and MeiwthoutYou (did not see) at the Danforth Music Hall on June 24
  • Big Thief with Twain (skipped) at the Horseshoe Tavern on June 28
  • Elvis Costello at the Sony Centre on July 20

 

Happy 2017!

I’ve been absent for a while because I’ve been busy living life and adjusting to life’s beautiful changes.

Here are the shows I’ve been to, but didn’t get a chance to jot down my thoughts on:

  • Braids at the Garrison on Wednesday November 30, 2016
  • Jason Collett’s Basement Revue at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday December 8, 2016
  • Jason Collett’s Basement Revue at the Dakota Tavern on Thursday December 15, 2016
  • Guided by Voices at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, New York on Sunday December 31, 2016
  • A sweet little jam band at Sunny’s in Redhook Brooklyn, New York on January 2
  • Lee Ranaldo and Steve Gunn at the Great Hall on Saturday January 14
  • Jason Collett’s cover band (although I didn’t actually see him play in it) at Handlebar Saturday January 28
  • Cate LeBon and Tim Presley at the Velvet Underground on Thursday February 2
  • Pony and Nicole Dollanganger at the Smiling Buddha on Sunday February 12
  • Hamilton Leithauser and Lucy Dacus at the Opera House on Monday February 13
  • Whitney Rose at the Horseshoe Tavern on Thursday February 16
  • Sean Nicholas Savage at Baby G’s on Thursday February 16 (Baby’s first time at Baby G’s)

I also cancelled my Spotify account. I love Spotify, but my work has a firewall on it. Soooo goodbye, Spotify. Hello Google Music! Much like Facebook’s last minute ploys to keep you as you deactivate your account, Spotify gets you with sweet literal tunes:

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Frankie Cosmos & Big Thief at the Adelaide Hall; Friday October 28, 2016

All my perfect nights happen without expectation. Catching Big Thief was a total surprise, as I only found out they were opening for Frankie Cosmos through a Facebook post I saw around 5:30pm. I immediately scrapped all my existing plans to make this early show work. I lightly checked out Big Thief after learning that my favourite artist of 2016, Lucy Dacus, very fittingly described Masterpiece as her favourite album of the year. Trusting Dacus’ judgment I felt compelled to go to the show.

They took the stage just passed 8pm. I knew to be there early because Toronto arts heroes Collective Concerts publicly posted set times, because of this I felt good investing my time to see the show, rather than guessing set times and the investment of the entire evening. High fives to Craig Laskey and company!

Four-piece Big Thief took the stage, but only Adrianne Lenker played the tune “Lorraine.” They followed it with the tune I found to be the most accessible tune, “Real Love.” Prior to the third song, I overheard the girl behind me whisper disappointedly to her friend that those were the only two songs she knew. I could relate, as I love the anticipation of waiting for a band to play your song and the disappointment of it not being played. Not being too familiar with Big Thief meant that I didn’t arrive to the show with big expectations for certain songs, but taking comfort in knowing it would be a good show. This is rare for me, but I felt compelled to be at this show.

Much like my whispering concertmate, I fell for the first two songs – “Lorraine” was slow and bold, demonstrating Lenker’s talent on the guitar and vocals. “Real Love” is a lively tune that has one of the most compelling driving guitar solos I’ve heard in a while, which they play briefly, launch back into the song and play it again – perfection. Guitarist Buck Meek and Lenker share the responsibilities of a lead guitar player feeding off of each other’s energy and musical cues. Meek, as his surname suggests, is a thin fella with a classy look and energetic stage presence. He’s twists, sways and spazzes more than anyone in the crowd, perhaps inspiring people to move just a bit more than they normally do. Meek played an incredible cover of a song by a band called Twain, comprised of Mat Davidson formerly of the band the Low Anthem. I didn’t grab the song name, but Meek bravely played it with no accompaniment, but with a heavy country drawl that worked real well for him.

My take away from this gig is the tune “Paul.” An emotionally-charged, heartbreaking tune about leaving someone, but includes all the messy bits in between. The song’s unusally structure ends on a second variation of the song’s chorus. I’ve listened to it about 15 times today. And if my word isn’t enough, indie heavyweights Pitchfork put forward glowing words about the song:

“The happier moments described here are understood to be almost hypothetical. Musically, that puts “Paul” in this midtempo middle-ground where the guitars sound incredibly wistful, with brief flashes of smoldering pain and twinkling hope. Maybe she made the right decision, cutting him loose. Maybe she didn’t. But at least we got this beautiful song out of it, about the struggle between the head and the heart.”

Knowing the set times, I ran some errands and grabbed a few drinks at my friend’s bar between sets. I managed to catch Frankie Cosmos last three songs. I took away three thoughts: cute, she looks like my dear friend Rita and if I made music it would probably sound like this. I’d definitely see her again and listen to some of her cute tunes, but she hadn’t left a mark on me the way Big Thief did. Prior to the last song, Frankie Cosmos frontperson, Greta Kline (daughter of actor Kevin Kline), told everyone that this was their last song and they should all go see her favourite band Kero Kero Bonito play the Velvet Underground. They did not play an encore.

Gush: ‘Something to Write Home About’ by The Get Up Kids

Perhaps I’m just reminiscing on the easier times, but the inspiration of today’s music selections has been the nineties and the early oughts. I can’t help but do the simple math to think about how long ago 1997, 1999 and 2002 were. In 1999, I was just eleven and learning about fractions and integers while Matt Pryor of the Get Up Kids were twenty-one and drinking legally for the first time. In 1999 they made one of my favourite albums ever created, Something to Write Home About.

I think the most formative years for my music taste were between 2002-2004. I listened to a whole lot of crap music, but some have stuck with me. Something to Write Home About is still incredible seventeen years later:

Car Seat Headrest with Lucy Dacus at the Mod Club; Monday September 19, 2016

If you know me or my blog at all, you know that I love Lucy Dacus. Seeing Lucy Dacus was something I had been pining for since missing her premier appearance in Toronto earlier this year in March at Burdock. I got into her a day later thanks to this wonderful man.

Dacus went on earlier with a completely new outfit from what I was expecting based on a session she recorded with Audio Tree earlier this year. She entered the stage with a plaid shirt tied around her waist – grunge revival at its best. Her performance was perfect, drawing mostly from her first full-length No Burden, which was just released on Matador one week prior to the gig and on CD for the very first time.

Dacus took the stage at 8:30pm, which was sweetly posted to Collective Concert’s Facebook event page. The lucky ones who made the time to arrive for Dacus’ set for the most part didn’t really know her music. In my survey of my radius, the people around me seemed engaged, but not too familiar. This show certainly served as an introduction to Dacus’ music.

Dacus sweetly confessed to the crowd that she has always felt like she could see herself living in Toronto, along with Philadelphia. I approached her after to show my appreciation and high praise for her playing Toronto, she repeated the same sentiments again.

The only regret I had was that she did not play my favourite tune, “Direct Address,” but strangely played slower tune “Green Eyes, Red Face” and the 9-minute, build-up tune, “Map on a Wall.”

If you haven’t got into Dacus yet, this brainy review of No Burden may be your gateway. Here’s a sweet excerpt from it:

“And like so many pop-music artists we can admire, she has an advantage we don’t. She’s able to make strong music about her weakest moments. She may say in one song here, I’ll play the fool, but more often than not she’s the stubborn master of the bleak scenarios she describes. Dacus is a master of her own destiny who likes to make you think she’s as surprised as anyone else that she could possess such power.”

Prior to Car Seat Headrest’s set, an acquaintance suggested that the male-heavy crowd was comprised of NPR fans that found out about Car Seat Headrest through Bob Boilen or other channels via NPR. With great happiness, I exclaimed that’s exactly how I found out about Lucy Dacus.

Will Toledo, the heart of Car Seat Headrest, took the stage alone to play the tune “Way Down.” He stopped it part-way through after a mistake and called out his band and launched into “Cosmic Hero” – which they tagged on the Velvet Underground tune “Sweet Jane.” Toldeo has some what received a bit of fame from his appreciation of old rock. He famously had to destroy the first pressing of his album released by Matador because of a copyright infringement for the song “Just What I Needed/Not Just What I Needed” – a version of the album I haven’t actually heard, but apparently lifts a guitar line and verse from the original tune.

Toldeo is twenty four, Dacus is twenty one and the show was open to everyone of any age. Rather than shoo old men for liking young people like my acquaintance did, I spent the night in awe of talent, ability and success. Toledo’s demeanour is stiff and rigid. Performing seems to come off easy for him, but socializing with the audience didn’t. His drummer even interjected mid-way through the set to present answers to questions that Toronto fans submitted via social media. Silly questions like how to meet band members to start a band came up or what Will’s real name is were answered by the drummer to varying degrees of seriousness. If you check out Car Seat Headrest’s Tiny Desk session he introduces the pile of pals he brought with him to the session, even though he’s playing alone.

The acquaintance ended up leaving part way to the gig. She apparently wasn’t too into the gig, which was the complete opposite to how I felt the moment she walked out of the gig. Car Seat Headrest make catchy rock tunes that aren’t pretty, but are sophisticated and energetic, disguising Toldeo’s awkward demeanour. The show was tight, nearing perfection.

Whatta blast.

 

Throwback/Gush: All things Jenny Lewis

It has been so long since I’ve visited this spot. I guess I can thank Jenny Lewis for this one, who I get to see this Saturday to celebrate ten years of Rabbit Fur Coat.

I love this performance of “Happy,” where Lewis delivers an uncertain act to a very deliberate performance (just watch her expressions throughout):

Fast forward ten years to about a month ago and soak up this delightful sing-a-long. One of the few I wouldn’t be afraid to belt out in a live show.