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: Tamara Lindeman, The Weather Station and ‘Strangers’

I do a lot of data entry at my day job. It gives me the opportunity to listen to an infinite supply of podcasts. I found Strangers a little while back and I’ve been hooked for the last few weeks. The most recent episode is from Tamara Lindeman, who has a Toronto-based music outfit, The Weather Station. She credits her musical career to the fella she loved and lost. You can listen to her beautiful story here.

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Strangers feels like a good Sarah Polley film.

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:

Sights & Sounds: “Bitter Beauty” by Jason Collett x Sawdust City Bitter Beauty IIPA

I’m hot off of my beer trip/marathon to Burlington, Vermont and I am delighted to see my “hometown” favourite has created a new hoppy beer. Looking at the prospects of this beer, I can only think of the amazing tune “Bitter Beauty” by Jason Collett, which is now fourteen years old. I repeat, FOURTEEN YEARS OLD. Two version of the tune below. The slow and soulful version is off of his B-Sides album, Pony Tricks and the more upbeat version is off of Motor Motel Songs:

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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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