NXNE Night 1: Ages & Stages, Cold Warps, The Belle Game & More

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ages & Stages: The Story of The Meligrove Band – 4:30PM @ National Film Board

It’s no secret that I’ve been looking forward to seeing Ages & Stages: The Story of The Meligrove Band since I first saw the trailer. With The Meligrove Band being a great local band that could’ve made it big when they signed to V2 Records before the label folded, it’s both heartbreaking and fascinating how their 15 years together has evolved.

With director Brendan McCarney (Last Frame Pictures) filming most of the footage himself, the interviews that make up this documentary are absolutely hilarious, with Darcy Rego’s often over-the-top sense of humour taking centre stage. Viewers are treated to many hilarious stories, but more importantly, the interviews illustrate that The Meligrove Band is truly loved by many in the industry.

The documentary shows a band that has struggled, often dealt signs that perhaps they should quit. However, the documentary also shows a band that has persevered and continues to make music. During the Q&A, it was clear that there was little decided in terms of how the band and director may release this film, but McCarney does say the film will be shown at some other festivals. We recommend you all see it and hope it gains more and more traction. | CL

Gavin Slate – 8:00PM @ The Cameron House (Audio Blood’s Go Folk Yourself)

Toronto’s Gavin Slate started off his early set with “Stranger in the Dark,” a song for which he had recently release a video. Although he did sing the rest of the songs from his Life as a Salesman EP, including the title track as his set closer, Slate treated the crowd to new songs, some of which he penned in Nashville with other great songwriters. The set was simple, accompanied simply by backup vocals and violin, which was fitting to start off this folk-oriented showcase.

Slate’s warm personality is undeniable and he spoke to the crowd quite a bit during his set. While it was awkward how many women had to walk through the backroom of The Cameron House to get to the woman’s washroom, Slate made jokes out of it and emphasized his love of the quirks in the venue. | CL

NXNE: Gavin Slate @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12 NXNE: Gavin Slate @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12 NXNE: Gavin Slate @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12 NXNE: Gavin Slate @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12 NXNE: Gavin Slate @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12

JF Robitaille – 8:00PM @ The Cameron House (Audio Blood’s Go Folk Yourself)

JF Robitaille’s style of folk is quite poetic and almost conversational at times, which is appropriate considering how much banter there was between songs. Robitaille, who hails from Montreal, treated the audience to a brand new song. While it hasn’t quite been perfected live yet, something Robitaille admits, he was thrilled to showcase new material after releasing Calendar last year.

The second half of the set was much stronger, as Robitaille claimed he couldn’t really hear himself during the first bit of the set. He insisted he wasn’t blaming the sound tech and instead joked about keyboard and keyboardist for “playing too loud” and having a “huge ego.” Some highlights of the set include “Modern Love Song Pt. 1” and “The City Trembles.”

Interestingly enough, Robitaille revealed that his sister may have been in labour that very night. If Robitaille is indeed an uncle now, we’d like to offer our congratulations! | CL

NXNE: JF Robitaille @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12 NXNE: JF Robitaille @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12 NXNE: JF Robitaille @ The Cameron House, 13-06-12

Hill & The Sky Heroes – 8:00PM @ El Mocambo (main floor)

Toronto band Hill & The Sky Heroes had the opening slot of Wednesday night, so it was understandable that the El Mocambo was more than a little sparse when the sextet first graced the stage, though the crowd continued to grow as their set progressed.

Killer front-woman Hill Kourkoutis was flanked by The Sky Heroes: hard-rocker Donna Grantis (guitar) and soul woman Saidah Baba Talibah (keys, vocals) at the front of the stage, with the boys Mike Olsen (keys), Lucas Silveira (bass) and Roger Travassos (drums) bringing up the rear. Self-proclaiming their style as “alien surf rock,” there was also a little bit of dancey-soul thrown in to the mix, especially the few times that Talibah let it belt.

Having just released their record 11:11 the day before, Kourkoutis made a lot of effort to connect with the audience, bantering away and inviting them to come up closer. While many of their songs, such as “In Retrospect (You Were the Asshole),” edged into the “wailing angry girl rock” genre, there were some, such as stand-out track with the lyrics “I can’t seem to love you the way I want to” that showed some real depth and emotion. In addition to their cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You,” the obvious highlight was the full-band kazoo solo that closed out their set. It was a pretty entertaining way to kick off a great night – and week – of music. | CD

Enjoy Your Pumas – 9:00PM @ El Mocambo (upstairs)

I caught Enjoy Your Pumas‘ acoustic at last year’s Live in Bellwoods and knew I had to see this Winnipeg, Manitoba band plugged in this year. Backed by Josh Benoit (guitar), Marc Gomez (bass) and Luke Janzen (drums), vocalist Rosie Blais is the star of the show (although the boys do a good job of keeping pace with her). With Karen O-like vocals and mesmerizing eyes that pierced the crowd as she danced to the pulsing beat of her band, she dazzled the audience.

Very enthused to be playing in Toronto, their infectious and pulsating dance-pop set included single “Walk It Off” and even a song in French. While few people likely could understand the words she was singing, it didn’t really matter, her vocals were so captivating and dance moves even more over the top that she easily held our collective attention.

They finished their set with the unreleased track “Swayze,” which is – you guessed correctly – an ode to the late Dirty Dancer himself, and one that will have you shaking it on the dance floor, no question. Blais opted to come down and dance this one in the midst of her new infatuated fans. This girl is a true starlet, built on pure talent and the self-confidence to completely own the stage. And she is just going to get better and better the more shows they play; I can’t wait to see them again. Until then, check out their dark and spacey video for “Walk It Off.” | CD

Animal Talk – 10:00PM @ The Painted Lady

I unexpectedly caught up with Catherine on Spadina (okay, I almost ran past her) and we decided to head to the Painted Lady together to check out Animal Talk from Boston, MA. The four-piece manage to infuse some solid electro-dance into their high energy rock sound, a combination that had the uncomfortably narrow venue hopping from their very first song.

Their set showcased the majority of the songs off their self-titled EP, including highlight “Can’t Dance With It,” as well as a cover of Phil Collins’ “Easy Lover” that fit their smooth musical styling perfectly. They followed it up with their last song, which had “old-school summer jam” written all over it.

A relatively new band, Animal Talk has quickly made their mark in Boston since forming last year. Looking to expand their reach, the band’s set earned them at least a couple of new fans in Toronto. You can preview their EP over on their Soundcloud to get you ready to dance the night away the next time they are in town. | CD

NXNE: Animal Talk @ The Painted Lady, 13-06-12 NXNE: Animal Talk @ The Painted Lady, 13-06-12 NXNE: Animal Talk @ The Painted Lady, 13-06-12 NXNE: Animal Talk @ The Painted Lady, 13-06-12 NXNE: Animal Talk @ The Painted Lady, 13-06-12

Cold Warps – 11:00PM @ The Shop @ Parts & Labour (Just Shows)

We then trekked out down Queen St W to Parts & Labour for Halifax/Ottawa band Cold Warps. Walking down the stairs was like entering another world. It was everything a dingy basement punk show should be: dark, loud, and complete mayhem. While it was my first time seeing the band, the majority of the crowd were obviously avid fans: going completely nuts for them, grabbing onto the low ceiling and storming the stage directly into singer Paul Hammond’s face. He didn’t seem to mind though as he repaid the favour by spending half the set off stage in the sweaty thick of them all.

While drummer Lance Purcell forgot to write out the setlist (apparently his one and only task, besides using all of the drink tickets), they played a rousing set, including songs off their new 7-inch “Slimer.” The band marries summer-powerpop with garage-punk to create an immensely entertaining live show – as long as you are at a comfortable distance from the moshpit to avoid being soaked in the beer that got poured over everyone up front. Similar in vibe to, they reminded me of a jacked-up version of local garage-pop band Elk.

While it was a show that I would typically not fit in at, what I found the best about Cold Warps is that while they have punk elements to them, they’re not angry, or particularly screamy. There’s a lightness to their songs, and the crowd is just so into it that it’s impossible not to be as well. | CD

NXNE: Cold Warps @ Parts & Labour, 13-06-12 NXNE: Cold Warps @ Parts & Labour, 13-06-12 NXNE: Cold Warps @ Parts & Labour, 13-06-12 NXNE: Cold Warps @ Parts & Labour, 13-06-12

The Belle Game – 12:00AM @ The Gladstone (Green Couch / Ion)

Wednesday night at the Gladstone featured all of the West Coast bands that travelled to NXNE by Via Rail for Tracks on Tracks. Having been at the welcome party hosted by Toronto Music Industry Association the night before, I knew I had to make an appearance for at least part of this showcase, so that’s where I headed next. I was pretty excited to finally have the opportunity to see The Belle Game, a band I’d been desperately trying to catch for the past year.

A synthy orchestral pop six-piece collective, they play really pretty melodies that are cranked up a few notches for their live performance. Showcasing both older and new material, the band even managed to sneak Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” into their set and make it sound like it belonged in their repertoire. They had the packed venue in rapture – when they weren’t dancing along of course. When lead vocalist Andrea Lo thanked Green Couch and Tracks on Tracks for the “trip of a lifetime” the cheers that erupted from the crowd were evidence that they were just as glad to have The Belle Game in Toronto as the band was to be there.

While their last song, “Sleep To Grow” possesses more of a rich lullaby-esque feel to it on their EP, on stage it was nothing less than an exuberant party. It really captured the overall atmosphere and dynamic of the showcase and made me wish I’d been able to spend more of the night there. Not to mention, there was a photobooth set up and CBC Radio 3’s Grant Lawrence was hosting the night wearing full rail conductor gear – so much fun!

I’d originally planned to stay for the next band, Topless Gay Love Tekno Party (because with a name like that, I was definitely curious), but I decided to call it an early night. I hear it was quite the glitter-fest however and will be sure to be there the next time! | CD

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Categories: Live Music, NXNE 2012


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