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.

The Staves at Lee’s Palace; Thursday June 9, 2016

I’ve been slacking a bit with the event reviews. Yesterday I caught about thirty blissful minutes with the Staves. The Staves’ core members are sisters Emily, Jessica and Camilla Staveley-Taylor. They’re now permanent fixtures in Bon Iver’s band and can often be found touring with him, but last night, just days after playing the gorgeous Sydney Opera House in Australia, they found themselves in one of Toronto’s best dive venues.

I was amazed to find just how late they took the stage. I’ve been spoiled with so many early shows as of late. My advanced age is showing. They played well passed eleven, too late for my sleepy eyes.

The Staves are as charming as they are gorgeous. They interjected sweet thank yous and high compliments to their Toronto crowd. They seemed truly happy and grateful for the sold out venue.

I walked in part way through the tune “In the Long Run,” which they followed up with “Mexico.” I was surprised to hear how well they carried out cresendos. The addition of a drummer, who they introduced as Dave and jokingly called him “Dave Stave.”

If you’ve never heard the Staves, I recommend watching the video below and just try to not fall in love with them:

Concert Review: Jason Collett at the Mod Club; Wednesday March 9, 2016

I had the strange realization that I watched Jason Collett play exactly a decade ago when I was eighteen (and underage) at the Mod Club. My move was to never buy advanced tickets, but to rely on door tickets and a little bit of hope that someone thought it was my picture on my ID.

I had a sweet exchange with the guy I bought my ticket off of. We agreed that listening to Jason Collett makes someone cool and that Jason Collett has sure held up well with time. The record store guy said that it was because of his “responsible” choices as a musician. Must be responsible being a Dad of a large, mature brood of kids (no longer kids and maybe not that large).

Along with his age, Collett’s live show has changed quite a bit. He has the same fellas (Zeus and Bahamas) playing with him that he did a decade before, as well as session artist, Christine Bougie. Trusting his band more, he leaves the music to the band and focuses on his sweet dance moves. His lanky figure matches his hip-heavy, arm swinging dancing that traversed most of the stage.

Hometown heartthrob Afie Jurvanen (Bahamas) came out for a few songs and for the third modestly hung back and played the tambourine. It felt more like a family gathering than it did a paid concert. Collett’s always been good at setting a comfy mood at gigs.

In sixteen years, Collett’s released eight full-length albums. He played selections from most of the albums including some oldies like – “Blue Sky,” a solo sung “Hangover Days,” “Fire” and the set’s opener “I’ll Bring the Sun.”

He played a honky-tonk-style version of “My Daddy was a Rock ‘n Roller,” which he tacked together with another song – a very Zeus move.

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Concert Review: Beach House at the Danforth Music Hall; Sunday March 6, 2016

I went out of my way to trade for these damn Sunday tickets. I had to sell my Stub Hub’d Saturday tickets and bought someone else’s Sunday tickets. Madness, but I made it.

These shows were crazy sold out ages in advance. The Danforth Music Hall has a capacity of 1,500 people. In 2008, I saw them play to a crowd one-third of the size at the El Mocambo and paid just eight bucks to hear them. That was almost eight years ago to the month, I was a wee peanut – just twenty years old. As the chumps we are, we watched them play eight years later with one thousand more people.

Beach House is Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. Their band additionally includes a bassist and a drummer. Their sound is lush and sleepy with Legrand’s husky vocals and Scally’s guitar noodles. Beach House has carved their own unique sound – organ heavy with gorgeous guitar parts. I fell hard for 2010’s Teen Dream, particularly the album’s second track, “Silver Soul.” I was into it so early that YouTube videos hadn’t even really populated on the album. I watched this video over and over soaking it every sound that left Scally’s guitar from the first second of the video.

Legrand took a few minutes to give the audience an etiquette lesson, referring to it as her old lady rant. She told the audience that out of respect to their fellow concert-goers and the artist, one shouldn’t have their cameras on for more than a minute. Similarly, She & Him share this same attitude towards cameras and concert going.

Considering the band released two albums in 2015, they played a good balance of songs old and new. I was thrilled to hear “Silver Soul,” “Walk in the Park” and “Gila,” but slightly heartbroken in the absence of “Used to Be,” “Zebra” and “Master of None.” To YouTube, I guess!

 

Concert Review: Ty Segall with CFM at the Danforth Music Hall; Friday March 4, 2016

After writing ten or eleven posts gushing excitement for seeing Ty Segall live, I left the gig feeling embarrassed and disappointed. From the first few songs to the very last song, Toronto people, mostly boys, crawled to the front of the lightly supervised pit and crawled on stage. Most took pool-like belly flops into the crowd, but overstayed their welcome by lingering too long or harassing band members. At one point, Ty Segall said “I don’t like that guy.”

Someone pointed out to me that Ty Segall’s music and performance is very unhinged, so the crowd naturally mimics his attitude. I think my hopes were so high for this gig that it surprisingly wasn’t the band that brought me down (they were flawless), it was the crummy audience.

Something that’s always astounded me is looking around the room of a sold out concert, in your home town, to see that you know no one in the room. It’s a weird feeling, but it’s nice. I used to keep music a secret from my friends. If I liked an artist a lot I wouldn’t share it. I’d keep it deep inside of me, my little secret. Going to a show and having this anonymity is a similar feeling… Except I was trapped in my worst nightmare that consisted of shirtless bros with their Calvin Klein boxers showing.

Segall’s recent release Emotional Mugger is album that I enjoy live more than recorded. Watching a live band comprised of crazy talented musicians is such a marvel and is the reason I started this series in anticipation of this gig. Most of the band came out in weird outfits – Kyle Thomas (aka King Tuff) and Cory Hanson (Wand) were both wearing neon orange. Hanson wore bright orange clown-like lipstick and Thomas was in a bright orange jail-like one-piece. My favourite, Mikal Cronin, just had dress shoes and nice pants on. I dig the average guy.

Segall spent a good chunk of the gig wearing his creepy baby mask. It was no surprise to me, but I could tell people were put off. He’s weird.

The set was comprised of more upbeat Ty Segall songs to keep up with the new album.

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Concert Review: Sandro Perri at Burdock

It’s been five years since I saw Sandro Perri live. He was pushing his new album, Impossible Spaces, and had cool openers, Bry Webb and Ryan Driver. Apparently, opening act LUKA had roped Perri out to play the gig.

I was surprised to see the classy outfit Perri brought together. I don’t remember seeing him with a trumpet/flute accompaniment. Toronto musician, Ryan Driver played the flute with some of the worst wind instrument posture. As a former flute player, I was always told to keep a balanced stance that allows air to flow freely through your body. Driver’s legs were crossed, back hunched and head forward with a duck-like pull. I’ll admit Driver still sounded good.

Perri’s trumpet player, Nicole Rampersaud, made trumpet sounds I didn’t even know were possible. They weirdly blended and stuck out perfectly.

The set was short. He managed to play a few of my favourite tunes – Tiny Mirrors’ strongest tune “Double Suicide” was played second in the set. Perri told the crowd after playing the song that he tried to write a song about suicide. His drummer chimed in to say a young child told him that you can’t force a suicide – the audience awkwardly chuckled.

I was super excited to hear Impossible Spaces‘ nine-minute bleeding tune “Wolfman,” which has always had a certain likeness to Neil Young’s “Walk On.” The set followed up with a closing cover of John Martyn’s “Couldn’t Love You More.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard him tackle this cover, but it sure was lovely.

Concert Review: Hamilton Leithauser & Paul Maroon with Aron D’Alesio at the Dakota Tavern

This was an early show on a work night. I wish all shows finished at 9pm.

The last two times I’ve seen the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser it’s been on January 20, in Toronto and at a very small, sold out venue. The Dakota doesn’t really get too many of my favourite high profile acts. Perhaps in thinning out his sound from the old outfit, Leithauser doesn’t have the draw he may have with the band.

I’ve always dug Leithauser’s crooner-like vocals. Playing in such a small, intimate outfit his vocals become even more important to the sound. It’s amazing that his loud, not-always-pretty wails work with the slow, story-based tunes.

Leithauser announced to the crowd that he and Walkmen guitarist and current tourmate, Paul Maroon, had just released an album. He said he brought some, but sold out at the band’s last gig. Tease.

As a duo, Leithauser told more stories this time. He played a sweet tune inspired by his encounter at his friend’s father at his friend’s wedding. He confessed to the packed house that neither his friend nor her father know it’s about them.

The Hamilton-based opening act Aron D’Alesio won my heart over. In my senior years, I’ve become a lazier and lazier music lover. I take fewer risks and tend to skip out on opening acts. D’Alesio seems to be a shy fella. He hopped onto the stage alone and banged out a handful of songs along with full-band recordings. It felt like a karaoke bout. His sound has been inspired by things from the past, namely sixties girl groups and surf rock. D’Aleslio spends his spare time in group outfit, Young Rival, who seem to be doing some extensive touring for the remainder of the month.

After hunting down D’Alesio’s identity, it hit me that a friend had recommended his music to me. She described him as sounded like the Walkmen. I had a little chuckle with her when I told her he opened up for members of the Walkmen.

2015 Concerts

Upon finding out the Walkmen disbanded, a friend consoled me by saying that they’ll probably make solo stuff that sounds exactly like the band. He was right, Hamilton Leithauser’s tunes sound a lot like his old outfit.  I watched them play the Drake Hotel in late January. I’m in awe the boys are back in Toronto on the very same day 365 days later at the Dakota. I’m not sure how they nailed that venue, but it’s going to be perfection.

Mid-February was cold as heck, but I managed to make it out to see Toronto writer Sheila Heti’s play All Our Happy Days Are Stupid. It was happy, weird and confusing – I would expect no less than an emotional roller coaster from Heti.

Tobias Jesso Jr played a sold out show at the Drake Hotel. I heard whispers about Jesso early on in the new year and felt immediate interested him. Funny enough, beyond the album’s Adele-endorsed banger “How Could You, Babe?,” I wasn’t really in love with his music. I’m growing to like the fella more and more each day. His show was modest and sweet. He confessed the sneakers he wore were a half size to small for his 6’7 build and that the company gave them to him for free. He said he was too shy to ask for a new pair, but hoped someone would Tweet about his shoes so they’d know.

Hayden played an amazing diner series to promote his new album and I took photos for the National Post’s concert coverage. I caught his Aunties and Uncles set, where I jammed tight into the small breakfast spot and took as many photos as my index finger and camera would allow. Hayden performed generously, taking requests on request forms from each album.

In the last days of April, I went to a sold out Patrick Watson show at the Drake Hotel. The band was showcasing their gorgeous album, Love Songs for Robots. I was unhappily crammed in the back of the venue with the other media folks, who surprisingly always only pay half attention to gigs. Watson and company hopped off stage mid-set and played on top of the bar at the back of the venue, directly in front of me. They even ordered a number of shots and gave them out to the crowd. I believe they played the tune “Adventures In Your Backyard,” along with a few other unplugged songs. I was mesmerized.

In May I caught Tennis at the Mod Club. They played many non-surfy tunes from their excellent album, Ritual in Repeat. It was around this time that I fell majorly hard for the song “Bad Girls,” which of course they played. At the end of the month I saw Patrick Watson, Jenn Grant, Choir! Choir! Choir!, Joel Plaskett, Bahamas and Coeur de Pirate at CBC Music Festival. I was most excited to hear Patrick Watson’s gorgeous album live (after listening to it endlessly). The fella I went with didn’t wear enough clothing for late March, so we left part way through Watson’s set, which was as good as the Drake gig one month prior.

I only caught one day of Arts and Crafts’ Field Trip. I managed to see My Morning Jacket (finally!!) and Father John Misty. I wish I caught a few more acts – Rhye, Lee Fields, Temples and Alabama Shakes – a really endless supply of awesome artists.

In late June I caught Judy Blume at the Toronto Reference Library. She talked about love, literature and life. She’s an astounding, radiant woman that I admire so much.

A few days after Blume, I saw my Norwegian crush, Sondre Lerche play the converted shoe box, Adelaide Hall. Much to my chagrin he played alone. In introducing “Just Like Lazenby” and “Tragic Mirror” he said that he likes to write songs about middle-aged men. Sondre, despite having a ten year plus career to date, is just in his early thirties.

In mid-July I drove off to Detroit, Eau Claire, Milwaukee and Chicago to attend Eaux Claires music festival, my big festival of 2015. The festival had heavy hitters – Spoon, Bon Iver, the National, Poliça, Charles Bradley, Tallest Man on Earth and Sufjan Stevens. In addition to smaller acts that I’ve now grown to love – Phox, Sylvan Esso and No BS! Brass Band. On the first night of the festival, while camping, we got hit by a tornado. Three girlfriends and I huddled in our SUV and prayed for survival. Each one of us called our loved ones in fear we’d get carried away.

On August 10, as a part of Panamania, I caught Explosions in the Sky play Nathan Phillips Square. These fellas modestly introduced themselves by saying they were from a town south of Toronto. Every hair on my arm stuck up to the sweet swells and build ups. Very excited to hear most of  The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.

Visited Denver, Colorado before our dollar plummeted to catch Riot Fest. Their line up had many of our acts, but a few more awesome pulls for me to visit. I caught Alkaline Trio, Thrice, The Joy Formidable, Desaparecidos, Beach Slang, Explosions in the Sky and Nada Surf. I managed to nab a media pass, which allowed me to take photos and catch the first few songs of the set up close. One of my favourite moments of the year was catching “Artist in the Ambulance” less than three feet away from the band. My ears were pounding from the band’s noise, but it was worth it.

I caught Mikal Cronin play Adelaide Hall, his first Toronto show in over two years! Cronin was pushing his terrific album MCIII. Cronin is easily one of my favourite artists of the last five years. It was about time I saw the guy play.

On the last few days of TIFF, I wiggled my way out to catch acts from the Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF). I watched Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Wilco, Neko Case, Cake, Lord Huron and Hop Along. Due to work I only caught the second day of the festival.

The Constantines played a two or three-night residency at Lee’s Palace. The gig was filled with boys in plaid shirts. I’m constantly in awe by how dedicated and passionate Constantines fans are. They own their crowd.

My lovely friend and country superstar, Whitney Rose, played a show at the Horseshoe Tavern in promotion of her new album Heartbreaker of the Year. The album has become one of my go-to plays at the bar I work at. She’s since been signed to Six Shooter Records. Big news for the most deserving person.

In mid-October a friend bought me tickets to see on of his favourite acts, John Grant. I hadn’t heard much about Grant, but my friend was a huge fan of the guy. I was surprised by his poppy sound and his massive gay following. Grant has HIV and is living above and beyond its limitations.

Toronto-based sultry popstars RALPH played Taste of Iceland, a little festival that blends Icelandic outfits with Toronto acts. RALPH played the earliest set, but were easily the best I saw that night.

In late November I hung out with Matt Berninger for the second time this year. I stupidly drank a bit too much and got to the gig after the venue had filled up. His alter-outfit to the National is a poppy act called EL VY (pronounced like the plural of Elvis). Beyond shitty-ass sight lines, I managed to boogie to their cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ “Drive Me Crazy.”

A few days after I caught one of my favourite acts of the year, Beach Slang. The band’s bassist commented that one of his heroes was Kevin Drew, not knowing that Brendan Canning was in the audience. Canning yelled out something sassy in returned and I was rolling on the floor laughing. I was delighted to hear the band play numerous Replacements covers. This was my first visit to the Dance Cave as a concert venue. I look forward to more gigs in this space.

I caught Zeus at Lee’s Palace with openers TUNS (featuring Chris Murphy of Sloan). The gig was one of those gigs that makes you feel especially proud to be from Toronto.

In early December I was crowdsurfed over for the first time in about a decade. Some lame dude at the Get Up Kids gig decided to float over a bunch of now old-aged fans. The surfer made his way to the front and eventually hopped on stage trying to take a selfie with front person Matt Pryor as he was playing (!!!) Matt jokingly kicked him in the butt, gesturing him to move his rear off the stage. The surfer then jumped on myself and the girls behind me. I managed to move, but the poor chicks behind me got the worst of it. I was sad to not hear any selections from Guilt Show. Rob Pop also wasn’t there. Bassists were extracted from other bands (the dude who plays bass for Saves the Day and the front person from Into It. Over It.).

I finally bought tickets to the Jason Collett Basement Revue, but found myself too tired to attend. I ended up selling my tickets and hanging out at the bar as the bands did soundcheck. Knowing people in high places allows you to do such things. I managed to catch a mini set from each act playing, no FOMO here.

 

 

Concert Review: Riot Fest Denver, Colorado; Friday August 29-Sunday August 31, 2015

Canada is just a bit larger than the USA and is comprised of ten provinces and three territories. If we’re very lucky touring bands and festivals visit three or four of these major cities. Living in Toronto means that all bands that are touring North America will make a stop here. Famous live albums and films have been recorded here (see examples one, two and three). While we aren’t as lucky as our American neighbours to have so many concert options, we have it pretty good.

With this dink as the Mayor of Toronto from 2010-2014, we surprisingly saw some changes to the Toronto music scene in the duration of his reign. It first became apparent in 2012, with the birth of three new festivals – Toronto-born efforts Field Trip and Toronto Urban Roots Festival, as well as Riot Fest. The subsequent years led to repeat visits of these new festivals, whispers of Chicago’s Lollapalooza new music-focused positions created with the City of Toronto and one embarrassing SXSW visit by our former idiot Mayor. Our new Mayor, John Tory, seemed pretty surprised by the importance of the Austin music scene.

Music, culture and healthy communities is not a new thing (see Richard Florida for more on this), but what is new is we’re starting to see some sort of musical shift in Toronto. I credit this to a lively music scene, the few surviving concert venues and its status as the fourth largest city in North America.

Riot Fest is one of many festivals scheduled for early-September, one of the busiest times of year, with Just for Laughs comedy festival, Toronto Urban Roots Festival and The Toronto International Film Festival. Despite the fierce competition for festival-goers, Riot Fest has done alright. It expanded from a one-day festival in 2012 to a two-day festival in 2013. It downgraded locations from the downtown haunts of Fort York to the North York airfield, Downsview Park. I had high hopes last year in anticipation of carnival offerings with the larger festival grounds space, but I was welcomed to maximum carnival eats, but no carnival. Perhaps the carnies are exhausted from their two-week-long bender Canadian National Exhibition (CNE), occurring around Riot Fest time in Toronto.

I took to Denver, Colorado last weekend to get a feel for how Riot Fest works in the US. I was greeted to dust, heat and a sea of tattoos. The venue lived up to the festival’s “rodeo” handle situated on a property used for the world’s largest stock show held every January, showcasing 15,000 animals and a rodeo. Spaced appropriately so no two acts were playing too close to each other at the same time, something that Toronto’s venue gives no leeway to.

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To this blogger’s eyes and ears, Riot Fest Denver has a stronger line up with more indie acts, such as the Pixies, Modest Mouse, Nada Surf and the Get Up Kids. Toronto’s line up has the genre-diverse line up Denver has, but will draw fewer indie rock lovers. Riot Fest Toronto’s line up last year included Death Cab for Cutie, the National, The Flaming Lips and the New Pornographers, acts that would draw a significantly different crowd than the likes of this year’s roster.

Festival sets are challenging, as demonstrated by post-rock veterans, Explosions in the Sky. The band filed on stage as Alabama hip-hop artist, Yelawolf, was finishing up his set. Explosions guitarist Munaf Rayani used the lone mic on stage to remark that this is going to be a short set, so they have to make the most of it here. The band opened up with The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place album opener “First Breath After a Coma.” Mid-way through the song, Rayani’s amp gave, which put some roadies to good use in making a quick swap. Rayani was able to rejoin in the last minute of the song.

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Seeing Explosions in the Sky is an experience for the ears, but I look forward to the opportunity of watching how the music is made. With just three guitars, a bass guitar and drums, the band is able to swell and swallow sound on a dime. The band did their best given the circumstances. Major praise for plugging through the seven-minute set closer “Postcard from 1952,” which was poisoned by a two or three long toots from a moving train less than one hundred feet away from the band.

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I caught a delightful mid-day set from Welsh act The Joy Formidable. It was a throwback to 2011, as they’ve slipped off my radar since. It was great to hear they’re still fun and energetic. Leader of the pack Ritzy Bryan was the cutest gal at the festival in a conservative mod-style, mini-dress with black leggings. Bryan dropped about half a dozen curse words in cutely complaining about having to restart a song because of her bassist.

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Festival wildcard players, Nada Surf, played a mid-day set that would have put even the greatest Nada Surf fan to sleep. The night prior, I stumbled upon this article that was apparently written about Nada Surf frontman Matthew Caws, which was all I could think about in watching the band play. The band introduced Doug Gillard as a new addition to the band, formerly of Guided by Voices.

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I was excited to hear Thrice live, a band I don’t think I’d pay to see now, but would be delighted to hear at a festival. Twelve years ago, you could find me wearing big headphones hanging on to every word of the album The Artist in the Ambulance. I had slowly made my way to the stage to find that their second song in their set was the title track from that very album. I dashed into the VIP camera section to snap photos, but mostly hang on to every word that left singer/guitarist Dustin Kensrue’s mouth. I was excited to find that most of the audience crushed to the front of the barriers hung on to every word too, allowing Kensrue to take advantage of full audience participation. The band was selling a shirt at the merch table that read: “Play Deadbolt,” which I found ironic as it was the sloppiest song performed in the band’s hour-long set.

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Seeing Conor Oberst his old rock outfit Desaparecidos in great form made me respect the guy musically even more. Conor’s scrappy, spit-filled vocals fit perfectly with the band’s sound. This set has seasoned me to dive right into their new album and a few festival shows in Toronto later this month.

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Philadelphia’s Beach Slang were my takeaway band from this festival. Upon taking the stage, singer/guitarist James Alex expressed his surprise by the hundred-person crowd at his feet. The band’s poppy-grunge sound and rough vocals are a bit reminiscent of the Replacements. Their fuck-all attitude also reflects Paul Westerberg and company, Alex declared to the crowd that this would be the most unprofessional set of the entire festival. Much the opposite, I was impressed by the band’s solid sound and performance.

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Tobias Jesso Jr. at the Drake; Sunday March 22, 2015

I first learned about Tobias Jesso Jr. after putting together this post in anticipation for twenty fifteen. I found the poster both dated and super charming, which led me to further pursue my interests in the guy. I had a feeling he’d be a big deal, but I’m still on the fence as to whether I like his music or not. Simple piano and straight forward vocals.

Jesso’s best weapon is his charm. He’s modest, sincere and new to the music industry. He entered the stage with a gracious smile on his face and said “I’m only going to play the hits, but I have none. Just silence.” He said he had to credit his manager for the joke, the sweet guy couldn’t even take that for himself.

His debut album Goon doesn’t have too many stand out tracks on it. Jesso Jr. got a serious push from mega stars Adele and Taylor Swift. It was his tune “How Could You Babe” that won both myself and Adele over. To my surprise he didn’t end with it, but ended with the song “Hollywood” – where he sings about how he’s going to get “fried” and killed by by the industry. Hopefully this is not so because Jesso has a very sweet mug and a young, hopefully energy you don’t see from musicians that have been around the block a few times.

This picture was snapped by the National Post. The best photograph I’ve seen captured of Jesso, whatta hunk!