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.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Upcoming Shows - October 25 - 30

It's a great week to see some live music in Toronto. Here are some of the shows we're excited about!

Wednesday, October 26

Hinds (w/ Cold Fronts and Goodbye Honolulu)
Adelaide Hall
Doors: 8 PM
Tickets: $18.50

Garage rock from Madrid.

The Horseshoe Tavern
Doors: 8:30 PM
Tickets: $15.50

Mellow folk rock with a psychedelic twist.

Thursday. October 27

Buzz Records Presents...
The Garrison
Doors: 9 PM
Tickets: $10

Local punk, dance, electro-pop presented by Toronto record label Buzz Records.

The Dakota Tavern
Doors: 8 PM

Local country/folk.

Friday, October 28

La Sera w/ Springtime Carnivore and Stefanie McCaroll (from Brave Shores)
The Silver Dollar Room
Doors: 9 PM
Tickets: $12.50

Dream pop, noise pop from California.

Lee's Palace/Dance Cave
Doors: 8 PM
Tickets: $25

Get spooky with local bands and musicians as they perform live tribute sets from artists including Prince, David Bowie, Nirvana, The Smiths, The Velvet Underground, and more. Don't forget your costume!

Massey Hall
Doors: 7 PM
Tickets: $49.50 - $56.00
All Ages

The Drake Hotel
Doors: 7:30 PM
Tickets: $13.50

Dreamy rock/pop.

Kero Kero Bonito  w/ Youngblood and Planet Pop
The Velvet Underground
Doors: 9 PM
Tickets: $13.50

Electronic pop with influences from dancehall and J-pop.

Adelaide Hall
Doors: 7 PM
Tickets: $15.50

Low-fi indie rock/anti-folk from New York inspired by Frank O'Hara and K Records.

Saturday, October 29

The Baby G
Doors: 9 PM
Tickets: $10

Experimental future folk.

The Danforth Music Hall
Doors: 7 PM
Tickets: $29.50
All Ages

Alternative indie rock meets Americana from Toronto.

Sunday, October 30

The Danforth Music Hall
Doors: 7 PM
Tickets: $30.50 - $36.00
All Ages

Indie rock/pop.

LANY w/ Transviolet
The Mod Club
Doors: 7 PM
Tickets: $18.50 - $23 (SOLD OUT)
All Ages

Upbeat dream pop from LA.

All tickets also available at Rotate This and Soundscapes.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Foxygen Post Teaser Video

It's been a while since we've heard anything from Foxygen. The California band surprised everyone when they announced that last year's tour supporting '...And Star Power' would be a "farewell tour." There had long been gossip about some tension between core band members Jonathan Rado and Sam France, and with Rado and drummer Shaun Fleming (Diane Coffee) each working on their own solo projects, it seemed like the breakup was really happening. They've been pretty quiet since then, releasing just one chaotic single '24-Hour Lover Man' in the spring of 2015. Earlier today, they posted a teaser video on Twitter, which features new music and Sam France walking down a street and into a venue. There's not a lot to go on just yet, but maybe we can expect a new album or even a tour sometime in the future. The band will play at Desert Daze in Joshua Tree this weekend (October 16th). There were no Canadian dates on their farewell tour but hopefully we can see them back in Toronto someday. Until then, you can check out the video below.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Stream: Springtime Carnivore's 'Midnight Room'

Springtime Carnivore’s sophomore album Midnight Room is coming out this Friday (Oct. 7) on Autumn Tone Records. The first single ‘Face in the Moon’ was released earlier this summer and the title track dropped just a few weeks ago. The album has the same exuberant pop style of their eponymous debut, but the songs delve a little further into dream-pop this time around. It makes sense since most of Midnight Room was written in the fuzzy stages between sleep and waking, often in the middle of the night. According to a press release, Morgan began working on songs for the album after a shattering break-up and a “jagged sleep schedule." She often felt like she was “space cadeting through the weird space between sleeping and dreaming and waking and reality”. The dreamier vibe on Midnight Room could also have something to do with bringing on producer Chris Coady, who worked with dream-pop darlings Beach House on their last four albums. This one is definitely worth a listen and you can stream it right now or preorder the album from their website.

       Morgan also recently collaborated with La Sera’s Katy Goodman on an album of punk covers called Take It, It’s Yours. If you missed it, the album came out on August 26th and they take on classics from The Replacements, Bad Brains and Blondie. My personal favourite is an amazing cover of The Stooges ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ which they have turned into a haunting and beautiful pop song. Springtime Carnivore are currently on tour with La Sera and will hit Toronto later this month for a show at The Silver Dollar Room on October 28th. I caught them during their first ever Toronto show in March of 2015 when they opened for The Dodos at the Horseshoe Tavern. Check out a video of Morgan performing a solo number during the set below. Tickets are available at Rotate This, Soundscapes and Ticketfly. You do not want to miss this one!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Growlers @ The Opera House

The Band: Brooks Nielsen (Vocals), Matt Taylor (Lead Guitar), Kyle Straka (Keyboards/Guitar), Anthony Braun Perry (Bass)

The Growlers
Photos by Danielle Burton
       Friday night walking along Queen Street East, I heard the familiar surf-reggae twang of The Growlers 'Going Gets Tough' wafting out of a crowded bar and onto the sidewalk. I made the journey over the Don Valley to catch the band's only Canadian date this tour at The Opera House. Approaching the venue, I noticed a long line of fans snaking around the corner of the building and down a side street, disappearing behind The Growlers' gargantuan tour bus. The band has come a long way since I first saw them almost exactly three years ago at a Burger Records showcase at Lee's Palace in October 2013. Back then, the band was touring in a caravan of underground rock with fellow SoCal cohorts Gap DreamCosmonauts and Together Pangea. Toronto's own Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs even opened the show. Now their cult following has grown enough to sell out a venue twice the size with just them on the bill.
       Their fifth studio album City Club is due out this Friday, September 30th on Cult Records, produced by none other than Julian Casablancas. The band's sound has always been hard to pin down, often cited as a unique blend somewhere between country, surf, pop, punk, psych, etc. The title track 'City Club', which premiered on Casablancas' monthly radio show Culture Void on Sirius XMU, seems to move away from their signature 'beach goth' surf vibe and expands on the disco element they experimented with on 'Chinese Fountain'. Casablancas' influence is clear on this song and as the first few chords ring out followed by distorted vocals, the song could easily fit in with one of The Strokes' later albums or even Casablancas' solo album. I'm excited to hear what they've done with the rest of City Club.

       Friday night's show was a typical Growlers party, with everyone excited, engaged and dancing all night long. The lack of an opening act made no difference since the crowd was already so excited for The Growlers they would cheer at the glimpse of any guitar tech or security guard that graced the stage even for a second. When the band finally appeared in matching white embroidered western suits, the room exploded. The floor was so tightly packed it was impossible not to move with the rhythm of the people. Sometimes it was even hard to hear Brooks Nielsen's vocals over the crowd singing and shouting along with every word. It was just a non-stop ball of energy and excitement from start to finish. From the balcony, the pit looked like a mess of bobbing heads and arms flung to the sky in ecstasy. 
       By mid-show, the sea of fans became the perfect ground for crowd surfing, with at least two or three people up at a time and Brooks offering encouragement between songs. The security guard drew the line at stage diving, but as he escorted people off stage to the right, more would jump up to playfully taunt him before falling back into the crowd. It was by far one of the most fun shows I've been to in a while. No opening act also meant we got more time with The Growlers and the band played for almost two full hours. The band finished their set with one of their earlier songs, 'Someday', but there was no way that crowd was letting them go just yet. The band came back for a three-song encore, with Brooks informing the crowd "You guys were chanting for one more song. Well, there's a couple more for ya!". My night ended just as it began, with The Growlers playing 'Going Gets Tough' and before I knew it, I was back on Queen Street East.
        I try to see The Growlers every time they come to town and if you haven't yet, you should definitely check them out next time they're around. Tour dates and tickets for this fall can be found here, including their annual Beach Goth festival in California, which has one of the coolest and most original lineups of any festival out there. And don't forget to pick up City Club this Friday at your friendly neighbourhood record store!

Article and photos by Danielle Burton.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The 2016 Hilton Concert Series: Tegan and Sara

            In 2015, Hilton partnered with Live Nation to bring their Hilton hHonors loyalty club members unforgettable, once-in-a-lifetime experiences. The 2016 Hilton Concert Series kicked off in February and the fourth event, an exclusive concert with Canadian indie-pop duo Tegan and Sara, was held at Hilton Toronto on Saturday night. Hilton HHonors members and guests were treated to the full VIP experience from the moment they arrived. After confirming their name on the guest list, guests were handed wristbands and laminates as they descended an escalator into the club-like atmosphere of the private cocktail reception. The room was buzzing as people enjoyed complimentary food and drinks, a red carpet photo op, and music by a live DJ. However, it quickly cleared out when opening act Jr. Jr. took the stage shortly after 8 pm.
The stage was set up in one of the adjacent conference rooms, which had been converted into an intimate concert venue for the evening. There were even two large screens on either side of the stage broadcasting the performance, although there wasn't a bad view from anywhere in the room. However, the sound left a lot to be desired. As I entered the room from the back, multi-instrumentalist and singer Joshua Epsteins vocals were all but drowned out by the heavy lows of the bass and kick drum. The crowd of fans that stood between myself and the speakers, may have also been a factor, because the sound seemed to improve as I made my way closer to the stage.

Photo by: Danielle Burton
            Jr. Jr. (FKA Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.) is a band from Detroit, Michigan, formed in 2009 by Joshua Epstein and Daniel Zott. Their set consisted of mostly mellow indie-pop with a few upbeat tunes that kept the crowd interested and was a great complement to the headliner, Tegan and Sara. They played for about an hour and occasionally took breaks to talk and engage the crowd, trying hard to build up the excitement and maybe get a little more dancing going on. The audiences hearts were won when Joshua lamented that they rarely get a chance to play in Canada and declared Toronto a more sophisticated New York except maybe cleaner. The highlights came near the end of their set, as they did a lovely cover of the Beach Boys God Only Knows and closed with their most popular single Gone a summery pop song with a catchy beat and a whistling hook that was released last July. During their second-last song, Daniel jumped into the crowd making one final attempt to pump up the audience for Tegan and Sara. During the intermission, I spotted him in the main hall taking photos with fans, which solidified the feeling of being at an exclusive VIP event.

Photo by: Danielle Burton
Photo by: Danielle Burton
            Tegan and Sara took the stage just after 9:30 pm and were met with screams and applause from the room full of excited fans. They opened with Boyfriend, the lead single from their latest album Love You To Death released on June 3, 2016 on Neil Youngs label Vapor. This was met with even more screams and applause and immediately followed by a throwback all the way to 2004, as the duo played Walking With A Ghost. This was a personal highlight for me, as it was the song which introduced me to Tegan and Sara when it was covered by The White Stripes and released on their EP of the same name. They continued with a variety of songs spanning their eight studio albums and twenty year long career, stopping in between to talk to the crowd, joke and tell stories. They really seemed to enjoy engaging with their fans and the audience was loving every minute of it, especially since the setting was so intimate. At one point, Tegan was handed a cell phone from someone in the crowd and had a brief conversation with whoever was on the other end, finally telling them Alright, listen, were at a concert so Im gonna have to let you go. This led to a great touring story from Sara, who was quiet during most of the show, about the not-so-nice surprise of getting an outrageous cell phone bill. She even threw in a few jokes and dedicated the next song to her old Motorola Razr, which was pretty funny to anyone old enough to remember the cutting-edge technology of the early millennium.

Photo by: Danielle Burton
            Towards the end of the set, Tegan introduced the backing band, which consisted of Gabrial McNair on keyboards and Brendan Buckley on drums. They sounded great and the two will be joining them for their 2016 world tour in support of Love You To Death. Tegan and Sara, although both play guitar and keyboards, were simply standing front and center with two microphones and lots of room for dancing. To the crowds delight, they played the classic Back In Your Head, which the people standing around me were already chanting for. They closed the night with the hit single Closer, from their last album Heartthrob. There was no encore, but guests were treated to one last surprise as they were handed a free poster for the event before exiting the hotel into a warm, summery Saturday night in Toronto.

Tegan and Sara will be back in Toronto on October 28 at Massey Hall. There are still a few tickets available at

For more information on the 2016 Hilton Concert Series, check out

Article by Danielle Burton, Louder Than That's newest blogger