Monday, July 26, 2010

Logs & Tongues

What a weekend of music. After catching Wide Mouth Mason at the Harbourfront, Saturday was supposed to be filled with pre-production for The Noble Rogues next album. Due to some technical difficulties, we just ended up drinking and playing a lot of poker instead. However, we did make good use of our night.

Ever since NXNE, we'd been itching to see The Speaking Tongues live again, and, in the past, the Horseshoe hasn't done me wrong.  The boys hit the stage at 11pm and started to tear it up as they know so well how to do.  Throw in a bit of the 'ol harmonica, some spicy guitar, and those gruff, in your face vocals, and you've got yourself a gig that I could get a little cozy with.  The only negative which I have to point out is that a lot of the intimacy was lost from their last gig.  I think this was primarily because the 'shoe is so much larger than Hideout, and just a trickier room to get comfortable in as a band.

It got me to thinking; maybe the shoe isn't such a great a venue.  A lot of bands who I normally love live, have been swallowed up by the size, coldness and usually uninvolved crowds present.  I think to pull off the shoe well... and I mean damned well, you just have to be so bloody sure of yourself that nothing will give you even a moments pause to hesitate and think twice.
 Enter Mr. Bob Log the third.  Now I've seen a few one man bands before, and I'll openly say, they've all stunk up the joint.  As I pointed out in a previous post, the issue with a one band band is that if you are having an off night, you have no one to fall back on.  The solution?  Be awesome 100% of the time.  This seems to work for Mr. Log.

Now, I suppose it helps if you're wearing a rocket ship helmet with a microphone shaped like a phone receiver attached to it while you grind around stage in your 1 piece velvet jumper.  I'm sorry, if that sentance alone doesn't make your realize the level of awesome we're dealing with here, then you're reading the wrong blog.  Known for crowd surfing in an inflatable dingy, playing a song called 'Shit on My Leg' while having two women sit on either of his knees (he uses both legs to operate a kick drum pedal and a high hat pedal) and constantly pleading with the audience for more 'liquid applause', Bob Log is the definition of the word showmanship.  Active for almost 20 years, Log currently hits over 150 shows a year while touring in more than 30 countries.  I'd say more... but seriously.... just watch the damned videos.

-Why do you say this life just isn't fair?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Open Wide

Last night officially made my top 5 live performances of all time. I'd been waiting to see Wide Mouth Mason play live for around 15 years, and as a friend pointed out, they're an obvious influence on my style.  They played a free show at the Harbourfront center and while the crowd didn't go insane (it's hard with those stupid benches) my jaw was firmly rooted on the concrete surface below for an hour and a half.  What I expected was to hear a live rendition of some of the songs which defined my youth.... but I got so much more.

This set did two fantastic things; first it broke the barrier of my 5 best concerts of all time and second (which may have caused the first) it easily took the spot as the most tight live set I've ever seen.  These guys have been doing it for 17 years, and there may be something to be said for that whole 'practice' thing.  I knew Shaun Verreault was a monster on the guitar when I heard him play with Jordan Cook in Guitarmageddon.  What blew my mind was the ease with which we switched back and forth between so many different styles; rock, blues, jazz, peel-paint-off-the-walls (that's a new style).
I lie a little when I say that 'these guys have been doing doing it for 17 years' as they did have a new member last night.  Bassist Earl Pereira has chosen to part ways with the band, however, filling in for him was yet another of my idols; Mr. Gordie Johnson.  I knew Grady had worked with the trio before (on their third album, Stew) and I knew they had toured together before... but I never could have anticipated the joyful union I saw before me.  While Johnson is another God of the six-string, he seemed just as comfortable working his way around the bass.  He and Verreault had fantastic chemistry together and Johnson was able to fill Pereira's shoes with ease.

Somewhere in all of this, drummer Safwan Javed was of course keeping this trio tighter than a dill pickle jar, but who really cares about drummers, right? :-p

They worked through 90 minutes of material, blending old with new, WWM with Big Sugar with Kenny Wayne Sheppard with blues classics.  I found myself shaking my head in awe the entire time and was completely lost in the music.  According to my roommates, there was a girl who was hitting on me between songs, but I was barely giving her the time of day since I was so enthralled by the tunes.  Yet the moment which blew my mind the most was to hear that Mason was heading back into the studio soon, and Gordie wasn't just a pretty face on stage; he'd be joining them.

Yes... that was the sound of my brain going *pop*.

-Call your name, but you're never there

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hail Cobra!

I'm still catching up on fantastic music from the insanity that was NXNE.  Possibly the most unique show I saw was Hollerado playing on the rooftop of someone's downtown apartment, with nachos being passed around and off-license Steamwhistle flowing like water on a ridiculously hot day.  I got a ridiculous sunburn, and also got passed a free CD by Aaron from the band Sandman Viper Command.

I knew nothing about this band heading into this concert but was pleasantly surprised by their fantastic, tight, high energy live set.  When I managed a bit of time alone with their CD, the pleasantries continued.  A quartet of friends from Burlington, SVP is willing, and more than happy to have some fun with their music, and aim to spread that fun to everyone around them.  Thoughtful, witty lyrics, catchy guitar riffs and head bopping drums hold these fantastically written songs together.  At first glance, it may be easy to dismiss this band as another pop-driven indie band trying to capitalize on the latest trend, but if one gives a close listen, you can hear the depth, quality and labour put into each of these complex, but still fun, songs.

-Give to me the burdens you bear.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Don't go breakin my heart

I love it when stars of old learn to shine bright once again.  There's something uplifting about knowing that even years past your prime, you've still got it.  I was sitting around having a pint with Willsy before band practice on Sunday and over the radio, I heard a song which was unmistakably Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, but that sounded very different from anything I'd heard from them before.  Thanks to the glories of modern technology (I love you, Shazam) I quickly learned that this was in fact new material, and Mr. Petty, was back.

After 8 years without a studio album, you can imagine my surprise to hear different, new material.  And while still with a very familiar feel, different it was.  There was more edge, more soul, more grind than I'd been used to from this troupe.  It almost felt as though Petty had hit his 'fuck it' stage of life, and the boys were writing music entirely for themselves, and not for anyone else.  Inadvertently, they've done a good job of writing for me.

Mojo was released in June and the Heartbreakers are currently on tour in support of the album.  Even though they're all knockin on the door of Rolling Stones kinda age... just like the stones... the boys seem to still know what they're doing.

-Where's that smile that you usually wear?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

100% - The Slew Live

I remember being elated when I first heard about Kid Koala's new project titled The Slew. The concept was brilliant; take a couple of turntable geniuses fueled by a love of classic rock and soul and match them up with one of the tightest, loudest rhythm sections on the planet. I liked this idea so much, I even gave it an award.

Yet I still recall thinking, the very first time I listened to The Slew's debut release, 100%, 'this isn't as awesome as I want it to be in my head.'  Something was lacking, and I long speculated that something to be the live atmosphere.  The project was conceived to be a live show, and as I learned tonight, that is the way it is to be experienced.  Combining Koala's shy, awkward charm, with the blissful rock presence of former Wolfmother rhythm keepers Chris & Myles and the crafty cuts of Dynomite D, this match made in the strangest corners of life somehow comes together to form one of the most energetic, unique and exciting live experiences I've ever witnessed.

The addition of bass & drums gives the sound an organic feel which removes much of the predictability of so much electronic music and the four, after touring twice together, have learned how to play off each other so well.  A genius, albeit gimmicky highlight of the night was the joint bass-crossfader solo performed by Ross and Koala.  Still, this set reached much beyond the realm of gimmicks and will stay with me as one of the coolest things I've seen done on stage in a long time.

-PS: If you're in the city Saturday night, swing by Rancho Relaxo to help us tear the venue a new asshole

Monday, July 5, 2010

Itching sensation in your brain

I've been getting lazy on this whole updating business.  It's not that I have nothing to talk about, in fact quite the opposite; I've been listening to too much music to write about it.  Still, I'm slowly working my way back into the groove of class, rock, chasing my roommates around the house with dart guns and lurking in the back alleys of the evening.  It's been good times... you should swing by and say 'hi' now and then.

You might even find me listening to Trigger Effect.  I got lucky around 3 years ago and happened to catch these guys open for Bionic in a triple-release-party-of-ensuing-madness put on by Signed by Force records in Montreal.  Trying to describe this hurricane on stage is doomed for inevitable failure, but imagine throwing 6 of those fighting fish together into a blender full of acid, and then throwing the blender into a bag of rabid cats who shit blenders.  I've been to 2 of TE's gigs and in that short relationship have had the following happen:

-Licked by the lead singer
-Used as a stepping stone by the bassist to get to the bar
-Spit on by numerous audience and band members
-Punched in the head... possibly by myself
-Strangled with a patch cord... not sure what the other end was attached to
-Hugged a 1000w PA system with no ear plugs

After touring the shit out of Europe, and even picking up some new languages for their 2nd full length release Versitis Maximus, Trigger Effect returned to Canada to play NXNE, among other shows.  It was there that, after listening to recorded material from their first album Dare to Ride the Heliocraft, I remembered what the real power of this band was; live, in your face insanity.

-Scratch my soul to match the scars on my back