Thursday, October 5, 2017

Together Pangea at Hard Luck Bar

Together Pangea

      Yesterday, I spent the day painting walls and tearing old hardwood floor out a farmhouse in the countryside north of Toronto. It was a humid afternoon, unseasonably warm for October and I blasted Together Pangea's latest album Bulls and Roosters to pass the time. After a quick autumn hike and a drum lesson, I headed into the city to catch them at Hard Luck, along with tourmates Daddy Issues out of Nashville. A last-minute cancellation meant that Tall Juan wouldn't be appearing at the Toronto show, but he was replaced by local garage rockers Vypers and Goodbye Honolulu, a fitting substitute for the vibe of the show. I missed their set last night, but I've seen Goodbye Honolulu a few times before and it's always a great time.
      Daddy Issues went on just after I arrived at the venue and they absolutely killed it! Self-described as a grunge pop, alien punk band, they played songs about heartbreak and dating people in bands. They are signed to Nashville indie label Infinity Cat, which features releases from bands like Guerilla Toss, Colleen Green and White Reaper. Their latest album Deep Dream is definitely worth a listen!
      Together Pangea played a great set, as well, full of energy with lots of dancing, head-banging and arm-swinging from the crowd up front. It wasn't quite a mosh pit, but almost. The band played a mix of songs from their four LPs including garage rock crowd pleasers like 'Money On It' and 'Better Find Out' from their latest release. I'd seen them once before at Lee's Palace when they were on tour with The Growlers and the Burger Records Caravan of Stars in 2013. Their latest album Bulls and Roosters is out now on Harvest Records . Check it out here and if you're in the midwest or on the Pacific coast, you can still catch them on the tail end of their North American tour before they head off to Europe.

Sept. 14 - San Diego, CA @ Irenic
Sept. 15 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey
Sept. 16 - Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse
Sept. 17 - Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel
Sept. 19 - Austin, TX @ Stubbs Jr.
Sept. 20 - Dallas, TX @ Three Links
Sept. 21 - Houston, TX @ White Oak
Sept. 22 - New Orleans, LA @ Poor Boy Bar
Sept. 23 - Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn
Sept. 24 - Orlando, FL @ The Social
Sept. 26 - Nashville, TN @ The End
Sept. 27 - Carrboro NC @ Cats Cradle
Sept. 28 - Baltimore, MD @ Metro
Sept. 29 - Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage Lounge
Sept. 30 - Brooklyn, NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Oct. 01 - Boston, MA @ Sonia TICKETS
Oct. 03 - Montreal, QCOct. 05 - Cleveland, OH @ Mahall’s 
Oct. 06 - Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge 
Oct. 07 - Madison, WI @ Frequency 
Oct. 08 - Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St Entry 
Oct. 10 - St. Louis, MO @ The Firebird 
Oct. 11 - Ames, IA @ Maintenance Shop 
Oct. 12 - Omaha, NE @ Slowdown 
Oct. 13 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge 
Oct. 14 - Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court 
Oct. 16 - Seattle, WA @ Vera Project 
Oct. 17 - Vancouver, BC @ Biltmore Cabaret 
Oct. 18 - Portland, OR @ Analog Theater 
Oct. 20 - Sacramento, CA @ Harlow’s 
Oct. 21 - San Francisco, CA @ The Chapel 
Oct. 22 - Santa Cruz, CA @ Atrium 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Dent May at The Horseshoe Tavern

Luna Li
Last night, I ended my Labour Day weekend at the Horseshoe Tavern to see Dent May on his current North American tour. Toronto band Galkin started the night early with some psychedelic stoner rock and local fave Luna Li warmed up the crowd with her dreamy garage rock. It was a perfect intro before Dent May transported the crowd from a rainy night in Toronto back into summer with his breezy, upbeat SoCal synth-pop. Starting out the set with tracks from his latest release Across The Multiverse (Carpark Records), Dent May worked the crowd into a frenzy on the dance floor, with arms flailing and fans yelling and singing along to his songs both new and old. About midway through the set, he started playing a few of his older tunes "for all the Dent May-niacs in the crowd", pausing only to give us a taste of his signature sense of humour. Everyone was cheering for one more song before he even left the stage and the band just picked up their instruments again and launched into the classic, "Meet Me in the Garden", off of his classic debut album, The Good Feeling Music of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele.

Dent May

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Monday, August 7, 2017

Stranded Fest 2017 at Lee's Palace

This past Saturday in Toronto, Lee's Palace hosted the 2nd annual Stranded Fest. Much like the legendary Death to T.O. held at Lee's every year at Halloween, the show featured local acts playing tribute sets to some of their favourite bands. Billed as "a night for a city left behind by big festivals", the event got its start when both Riot Fest and Vans Warped Tour abandoned Toronto. Folks who showed up early enough were treated to free pizza from Panago and bands warmed up the stage with tributes to The Story So Far, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys and Simple Plan. Headlining the event were local punk rockers Pkew Pkew Pkew covering the Clash and Good Kid playing as The Strokes. Pop punk fans in the crowd were maybe even more excited to hear Good Kid play their latest release 'Witches', dancing and screaming along with the chorus. In true festival fashion, there was even a giant beach ball bouncing around the mosh pit. With the Dance Cave still going strong upstairs, Romancer closed out the night with a set covering Jimmy Eat World. Who needs festivals anyway?

Good Kid as The Strokes

Full list of bands that performed:

Minority 905 as SIMPLE PLAN
The Implications as ARCTIC MONKEYS
Glass Cactus as THE STORY SO FAR
cleopatrick as THE BLACK KEYS

I checked out this show with Jukely. Find out more info about the concert subscription service here. Sign up and get $10 off your first month with this link!

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Ultimate Painting at the Velvet Underground

Ultimate Painting, July 23, 2017, Velvet Underground.

For the last two months, I've been trying out Jukely's concert subscription service in Toronto. If you haven't heard, it's essentially the Netflix of live music, allowing users to go to an unlimited number of select shows in 16 cities around North America, including Toronto, for just $25/month. There are a few limitations, but you can check out the full details over at their FAQ page. I've been having a lot of fun and saving lots of money since I would have bought tickets anyway for at least half of the shows I've seen. It's also allowed me to check out other bands and discover new live music without breaking the bank. It's also a good thing for Toronto's looming venue crisis, as beloved spaces continue to shutter their doors, Jukely encourages people to get out and enjoy live music more frequently. If you love going to shows as much as I do, definitely try out their service. You can get $10 off your first month by signing up here.

Last night, I saw Ultimate Painting at the Velvet Underground. The band features Jack Cooper and James Hoare (formerly of Mazes and Veronica Falls, respectively) and they brought their flowery, neo-psychedelia all the way from London, UK. Drawing comparisons to bands like Real Estate, the Velvet Underground and even the Grateful Dead, Ultimate Painting's mellow, airy melodies filled the room and conjured images of sunny meadows and beaches. They played a number of songs from their second album Green Lanes (2015) and their most recent release Dusk (2016), including "Break the Chain", "I've Got the (Sanctioned Blues)" and "Song for Brian Jones". The band came right out and said they were feeling a little disheartened, and the thinly populated venue (even for a Sunday night) probably didn't help, but they played a great set nonetheless and showed their appreciation for the audience many times. "We've been here before and we'll be here again," Cooper spoke into the microphone before closing out the set with a long, noisy psychedelic jam. I caught their set a few years ago at The Silver Dollar and I'll definitely be going for round three the next time they're in town. They have a few more shows in North America before heading back to the UK. Tour dates are listed below.

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

Soul Asylum At The Danforth Music Hall

The Band: Dave Pirner (vocals, guitar), Ryan Smith (guitar), Winston Roye (bass) and Michael Bland (drums)

Soul Asylum
Soul Asylum at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. Photos by Danielle Burton.
       Soul Asylum are back on the road this summer after an extensive cross-country tour supporting their latest release Change of Fortune in 2016. Their Canadian dates have been few and far between over the past decade, but we were lucky enough to catch them on Tuesday night at the Danforth Music Hall for an energetic live show that spanned their 35-year career. Cracker opened the show and got the crowd warmed up with their alt-Americana and crowd-pleasers like “Low” and “Get Off This”. I heard a few people mention they had come specifically for Cracker, so they’ve got quite a substantial fanbase in their own right. Soul Asylum started off with three of their biggest hits, “Somebody to Shove”, “Black Gold” and “Runaway Train”, getting them out of the way early to move on to their more recent material. The focus was on the music as the band played in front of only a black curtains and four stack amplifiers, running back and forth the stage, jumping and head-banging into a frenzy. Lead singer and guitarist Dave Pirner broke up the set with a few jokes and like so many American bands I’ve seen this year in Canada, he made sure to show us where he stands on the current political climate, shouting “Glad you don’t live in Trump town” before breaking into “Doomsday”. Soul Asylum made a name for themselves thanks to their raucous live shows in the early days and they still put on a great performance. Dave tells me it’s probably his favourite part of the job and it definitely shows on the stage.
       If you need a refresher, Soul Asylum were a huge part of the alternative rock scene in the 90s with their classic albums Grave Dancers Union (1992), Let Your Dim Light Shine (1995), and Candy From A Stranger (1998). Before that, they were a successful indie band on Twin/Tone Records out of their hometown of Minneapolis (the label is now defunct but you can still contact them on their website to order custom-made CDs of out-of-print releases). If you’re wondering what it was like to be in an indie band in the 1980s, Dave Pirner describes the early days as “many, many nights of living like animals, sleeping in parking lots and on people’s couches, but with a really cool network of other indie bands that you’d run into travelling around America." Sounds a lot like being in an indie band today, except their network included fellow Minneapolis alt-rockers Husker Dü and The Replacements, who were all creating a new aggressive and obnoxious sound that would pre-date the grunge scene in Seattle. Soul Asylum had a practice space above the Twin/Tone office and Husker Dü was right next door. They were on tour opening for The Replacements when they first signed to the label. They would play at a venue called Goofy’s with a strip club on the second floor and some nights the entire audience was made up of members of other bands in the local scene. As it turns out, Minneapolis is very much a punk rock city and Dave recalls that “we slowly found that every town had a little percolating punk rock scene” before grunge exploded in the Pacific Northwest. I wonder out loud why Seattle became the epicentre and Dave muses “maybe it’s the weather.” 
       Soul Asylum earned a loyal fanbase and were signed to a major label just as the grunge scene started to take off. They reached platinum-level with Grave Dancers Union in 1992, which will see its 25th anniversary this October. They plan to re-release the album along with live recordings and bonus outtakes to celebrate this milestone. Never a band to lean on their 90s nostalgia, Soul Asylum is still working on new material, which Dave says is almost through the writing process. We’re looking forward to seeing a new album sometime in the future, but in the meantime, pick up Change of Fortune to hold you over and catch them at one of their upcoming shows this month.

Dave’s Music To Check Out: Bruise Violet (Minneapolis punk rock), Dessa (Minneapolis hip-hop), TV On The Radio, Sufjan Stevens

Tour Dates:
July 14 in Marietta, OH at People's Bank Theatre 
July 15 in Pickerington, OH at Picktown Palooza 
July 18 in Toronto, ON at Danforth Music Hall 
July 19 in Albany, NY at Empire Plaza 
July 20 in Westbury, NY at The Space 
July 21 in Peekskill, NY at Paramount Hudson Valley 
July 23 in Englewood,NJ at Bergen Performing Arts Center
July 24 in Brigantine, NJ at Laguna Bar and Grill 
July 26 in Port Chester, NY at Capitol Theater 

Friday, November 11, 2016

Ghost @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre

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       Ghost is a 6-piece heavy metal band formed in Sweden in 2008. Their 2010 debut album Opus Eponymous was widely praised and since then, the band has swiftly gained popularity throughout Europe and North America. Their most recent albums, Infestissumam (2013) and Meliora (2015) reached number one in Sweden and 'Cirice', the lead single off Meliora, earned them an award for Best Metal Performance at this year's Grammys. Earlier this fall, they released a 5-song EP Popestar, meant to serve as an extension to Meliora. The EP features mostly covers of bands including Echo and the Bunnymen and Eurythmics, along with one original, the lead single 'Square Hammer'. They are currently finishing up the North American leg of the Popestar Tour, before heading back to Europe where they will begin recording a new album early next year. We were lucky enough to catch their sold out show in Toronto this week at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

       The show started at around 8pm with opening act Marissa Nadler. The gothic folk musician from Boston has joined Ghost on tour since October. While she has a very different style from the headliner, her performance complemented it nicely. Accompanied by another guitarist, Marissa stood in the center of the dimly lit stage, surrounded by smoke and delivered her quiet, ethereal songs with only an electric guitar and her hauntingly beautiful voice. The music was closer to dream pop than hard rock or heavy metal, but she showed off her talent for finger-picking and played searing guitar solos with a tone reminiscent of Slash's Les Paul. About half of the audience were still hanging out in the bar and lobby during her performance, which is unfortunate because she played a great set that included stripped-down, dreamy covers of metal pioneers Black Sabbath and Danzig.
       After a brief intermission, the theater started to fill up with a sea of black band t-shirts and leather jackets. Diehard fans wore skull face paint to emulate their hero, lead singer Papa Emeritus III, and one even had the full papal miter and robe. The anticipation was building and the atmosphere felt more like a grandiose cathedral as the sounds of Allegri's 'Miserere Mei, Deus' and Jocelyn Pook's 'Masked Ball' poured over the loudspeaker. Screams of ecstasy rang out and metal horns shot into the air as the lights went down, signaling that the ritual was about to begin. Everyone jumped to their feet as the Nameless Ghouls appeared, all dressed in matching black suits emblazoned with the elemental symbols they are known by and silver horned masks. Papa was in full costume and kicked off the theatrical performance with 'Square Hammer' and the epic headbanger 'From the Pinnacle to the Pit'. 
      The whole room was in the palm of his hand as he incited cheers and screams with just a motion of his fingers. Striding back and forth the stage, making wide, sweeping hand gestures, Papa is a showman of the first degree and kept the audience engaged like a preacher at a tent revival show. After a few songs, he introduced two nuns, the night's "sisters of sin" and condemned them to the pits and aisles to interact with the crowd. He left the stage briefly for a quick costume change and returned wearing a more casual gothic-style tuxedo. The show continued on as the band played songs spanning their three albums and there wasn't a dull moment in the entire set. Unlike most metal shows, there were no hair windmills, screams or headbanging; the Ghouls wandered around the stage, occasionally stepping up onto the monitors and making their soaring guitar licks look effortless. They are all excellent musicians and a very tight band and Dave Grohl is even rumoured to have dressed up and secretly drummed with them. Papa took a few breaks between songs to make stage banter and made a point of expressing his distaste for the results of the American Election the night before. 
     They finished the set with the song 'Ritual' from their debut album and the Ghouls stood out front of the stage taking a bow like actors in a play. An audience member handed Papa Emeritus a bouquet of roses and before he even made it off the stage the crowd was chanting for one more song. He took a sip of water and said "You think we are done? You think we would leave you with a shit ending like that?" The band doesn't take themselves too seriously. He then launched into a sermon about the wonders of the female orgasm, comparing the show to a long night of love-making and had a heart to heart with a fan in the front row who was having their "first time". The Ghouls returned for the encore, the inn-chocked 'Monstrous Clock' off their second album, which they always use to finish the show. The crowd were certainly leaving satisfied that night. Their North American tour ends in Brooklyn tomorrow night, but if you get the chance to see them in the future, definitely take it! Even if you aren't a metal fan, their music is pretty accessible and light for the genre, maybe even closer to hard rock in the vein of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. Either way, the theatrical aspect of the performance and energy of the crowd alone is enough to make it worthwhile.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Grouplove @ The Danforth Music Hall

The Band: Hannah Hooper (vocals, keyboards), Christian Zucconi (vocals, guitar), Sean Gadd (bass), Andrew Wessen (guitar, vocals), and Ryan Rabin (drums)


       California indie-rock band Grouplove are touring in support of their latest album 'Big Mess', released on September 9th on Canvasback/Atlantic. MUNA and Dilly Dally have been joining them on the North American leg of the tour, which has been regularly selling out for good reason. On Sunday, October 30th, they made a stop in Toronto to perform at the Danforth Music Hall.
       Toronto alt-rockers Dilly Dally kicked off the night just before 8:00pm and the room was packed early for the hometown band. Playing mostly songs from their debut album 'Sore', which was released last year to critical acclaim on the aptly-named Buzz Records. I've seen the band a few times before and they always put on a great show. Closing the set with their two singles 'The Touch' and 'Desire', their heavy, 90's throwback vibe was a great complement to the punkier side of Grouplove.
       Next up were fellow Los Angeles pop-rockers MUNA, who released their debut 'The Loudspeaker EP' on RCA Records this past May. The 5-piece warmed up the room with a high energy set of danceable synthpop jams that couldn't help but get the crowd moving. Every member of the band was even dancing wildly on stage throughout the whole performance. Things got a bit emotional near the end when they announced it would be their final show with their bass player and then played some new songs before giving up the stage to Grouplove. 
       With about a half hour break between sets, the crowd was ready to see the headliner. The band appeared one by one on the dimly lit stage and got things rolling with the song 'I'm With You' off their second album 'Spreading Rumours'. It was a great choice to open with since it starts out slow but picks up speed about midsong. They continued with some tracks from their latest album 'Big Mess' peppered with early classics like 'Itchin' on a Photograph' and 'Tongue Tied'. These sent the audience into a mad frenzy. The band had a lot of energy, with lead vocalists Hannah and Christian dancing and bouncing around the stage constantly. During the third song, Christian walked out to the edge of the stage and let himself fall backwards into the crowd for a brief stage dive before being abruptly rescued by security. Later on, Hannah ventured a little further to sing half of a song from the middle of the audience floor. The band seemed to be having a great time and they made a point of noting how excited they were to be back and playing their "biggest show ever in Toronto."
       The light show and backdrop were amazing, with multiple variations ranging from big flashing strobe lights to just a few beaded strings of lights hanging over the backdrop. The audience were engaged at every moment and vigorously waving their hands in perfect unison during their biggest hits. The band played a fantastic cover of the Beastie Boys' 'Sabotage'  before finishing the set with their latest single 'Welcome To Your Life'. They walked offstage, but not a single audience member turned to leave, as ethereal ambient music droned on beneath the crowd's chanting "GROUP! LOVE! GROUP! LOVE!" Finally, Christian returned alone and sat centre stage with his acoustic guitar and began a solo rendition of 'Enlighten Me'. The band joined him to finish the song and played two of their biggest singles 'Ways To Go' and 'Colours' for a satisfying three-song encore. Overall, it was a great show and Grouplove are definitely worth checking out the next time they pass through Toronto. 

'Big Mess' is out now on Canvasback/Atlantic Records. 

Check out our previous profile of Grouplove here.