Friday, June 15, 2012
Dearly Beloved – 8:00PM @ Mod Club
Die Mannequin – 9:00PM @ Mod Club
Oh No, Theodore! – 8:00PM @ The Painted Lady
While I was disappointed that Writers’ Strike were no longer playing, I decided to still start my night at The Painted Lady for Fredericton band, Oh No, Theodore! This quite possibly ended up being the best decision I made all festival.
With a violin and a cello, this six-piece collective filled the cramped stage right up and then soon filled the entire venue with their classical-folk-orchestral sound. With a violin and cello, there is something so effortlessly elegant and refined about a string section in a band and it never fails at making me swoon. Their songs are rooted in really well written lyrics about fears, loss, death, broken relationships and fucking things up – yet you would have no idea with such rousing and joyful melodies – think of fellow East Coasters Hey Rosetta! And they just looked so darn happy to be up on that stage – their energy was contagious.
Some highlights of their set included: heavy, strings-driven “Theodore the Monster,” title track “We’re All Underachieving,” and single “You Can Do Better Than Me.” For their first time playing Toronto, they had the venue quite packed for their early set – likely in part thanks to the large number of ex-New Brunkswickians (is that a word?) that came out to support. Heading home to record their next album, I’m told they’ll be back this way in the Fall. Yes please, Theodore!
Cousin – 9:00PM @ El Mocambo (main floor) (Young Lions Music Club)
From Niagara Falls, the boys of Cousin skipped out on watching tightrope walking history being made to bring their slacker rock à la Pavement to the Young Lions Music Club showcase.
They started their set with the horn section out for “Kamin” and appropriately sent out “Young Liars” to Young Lions in thanks for everything they’ve done for the band in the past few months. Other highlights included “Jawbreakah” and their cover of The Constantines “Young Offenders.” Any band that can do a Cons song justice is alright in my books. While their set wasn’t flawless, the true rockers that they are, the band didn’t let the little things get them frustrated. Waiting on a capo, they rejigged their setlist on the fly; when Guilio Rocco’s guitar string broke – no big deal; and when his guitar strap fell off, he played right through it, just opting to play his guitar behind his head. Pretty resourceful maneuver there.
Somehow ending up with three capos on stage towards the end of their set, new life seemed to be breathed into the band as they hammered out “Breather” and ended with “8-Bit.” While the lyrics on this one read “just let me get to the good bit,” with a set by Cousin, there is only good bits. These young guys are primed to start carving out a piece of the Canadian musical landscape that is all their own.
Paradise Animals – 10:00PM @ El Mocambo (main floor) (Young Lions Music Club)
Local synth dream-pop group Paradise Animals were up next at the Young Lions Music Club showcase. The band was originally the brainchild of Mark Andrade (vocals, synth, guitar), and is comprised of Gary Pereira (bass, saxophone, vocals), Kerri Silva (guitar, vocals), and making her debut, Morgan Doctor on drums. A big fan of their self-titled EP released in February, I was looking forward to finally seeing what they were all about live.
With an extensive synth/keys set-up, the band delved right into a set that was lush and densely layered yet with light-as-air instrumentals, before shifting in ambience completely in the very next song to something much harder hitting. The focus however remained solidly on expertly delivered from all members of the band. The highlight of their set for me was “Utility.” The depth of Andrade’s baritone vocals on this one is extremely reminiscent of The National’s Matt Berninger, just backed by a heavy electronic sound. In other words, epically gorgeous.
If you haven’t yet, you can still grab their cover of “Wolf Among Wolves” by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy off their Bandcamp. The band is also currently in the studio recording the follow-up to their self-titled EP, which is due out in the Fall.
The Strumbellas – 11:00PM @ The Rivoli (Taylor Klein Oballa LLP)
After the El Mocambo, I then headed down to The Rivoli to catch Toronto’s own The Strumbellas. From the foot stomps to the hand claps and gang vocals, there is an unparalleled raucous energy to their performance, such that this six-piece local alt-country group are quickly becoming one of my favourite live acts. Tonight, the ruckus began the second the band walked on stage. Or I should stay, when lead vocalist Simon Ward walked on stage donning nothing but a long dress shirt. No pants. Not that this restricted his jumping and dancing around the stage. Did I mention there were large slits up the sides of said shirt? And that he was commando? Yep.
Their set was all sorts of singalong awesomeness that had the packed crowd getting in on as much of the action as the delighted band members themselves on tracks such as “Lakes” and “I Just Had a Baby.” In addition to this, “Sailors Blues” had Ward set up a contest between boys and girls as to who could sing their designated part the loudest (I think the girls won?) A bit of a hoedown also erupted, with Ward stepping down off the stage and into the crowd. Despite the collective yearning for The Strumbellas’ set to last all night, it wrapped up with the singalong jam “The Sheriff” and finally with as many people from the audience as the stage could possibly hold joining the band for “Pistol.” It was pretty amazing.
A really cool idea that they started on this tour, the band passed out a disposable camera for people in the crowd to snap photos throughout their set. If you missed out, you can check out the resulting pictures on Facebook. Despite my best efforts, I may have inadvertently ended up in one.
Danielle Duval – 12:00AM @ The Rivoli (Taylor Klein Oballa LLP)
Montreal-born Danielle Duval (vocals, guitar, keys) took the stage with her band at midnight. A slight female, she possesses a much bigger voice than her tiny stature would have you at first expect. I was won over right from the start of first song “Ambulance,” when it became obvious that this girl can rock. It was also a pleasant surprise to find familiar face Morgan Waters (Sweet Thing) on bass as part of her backing band.
Standout tracks such as “Imposter” and “Sundowner” represent a step back in time to the simple yet great era of 70’s folk-inspired rock. And while album duet partner Jason Collett sadly did not join her on stage for “Sundowner,” the upbeat track still brought a smile to my face. Seasoned multi-instrumentalist Duval joined Simeon P. Abbott on keys for one song, bringing the piano count up to two. She also invited a cellist and violinist up on stage for the band’s last song “The Wild.” I won’t reiterate how much I love strings, but just say that it was quite the lovely end to her set. Completely adorable in addition to being a talented musician, Duval thanked “Mr and Mrs Rivoli” for having her out.
Future History – 1:00AM @ Cameron House
I walked into the Cameron House to find five tattooed guys up on stage. So imagine my ecstatic delight when rather than noise rock, the boys of Future History started playing some of the most exquisitely layered, euphonic rock that I’ve heard before. They do still have a heavier sound, but it is still melodic; at times gut-wrenching, yet also danceable.
Their set showcased many of the tracks off their recently released concept album Loss:/self, including “Good Little Robot” and “Ornamental State,” which was said to be about being a zombie. Thirty-five people were apparently in the studio to record this album and while it was obviously impossible to truly recreate that large of a sound on this tiny stage, their songs felt like a sonic embrace, nestling their way first into my head and then into my heart. The stand-out track for me was “Surrounded by Faces.” While it’s not really at all similar to it, this song reminded me a lot of “All These Colours” by Cai.ro (one of my favourite by them). Both these songs have a soaring “big feel” that just sweeps me off my feet (Is it a coincidence that Dante Berardi Jr. of Cai.ro also happens to be the lead guitarist for Future History?).
I happily picked up one of the free cd’s they were giving out and have been listening to it a lot since. It feels like with each listen, I’m still picking up and gaining further appreciation for all the instrumental intricacies as well as the heaviness of the lyrics. Future History is definitely a band I want to see again the next chance I get. You can listen to Loss:/self on their Bandcamp.
As my attempt to then go see City of Glass afterwards was thwarted by the Painted Lady being at capacity, rather than trying to get into one of the other venues in the neighbourhood, I lamely headed home early (by Friday night of NXNE standards) to rest up for the rest of the weekend still to come. | CD