Friday, November 26, 2010

Recording: Four Corners

Artist: Four Corners*

Song: Ann [Stooges Cover]

Recorded at FOUR CORNERS, Steelworkers Hall, July 23, 2010.

Four Corners - Ann [Stooges Cover]

My notes for this show can be found here.

* This grand finale of the FOUR CORNERS concert features Teenanger, Ancestors, No No Zero and Anagram playing simultaneously.

Recording: Anagram

Artist: Anagram

Song: Leads to Nowhere

Recorded at FOUR CORNERS, Steelworkers Hall, July 23, 2010.

Anagram - Leads to Nowhere

My notes for this show can be found here.

Recording: No No Zero

Artist: No No Zero

Songs: Colossal Penetrations + Eurosleaze

Recorded at FOUR CORNERS, Steelworkers Hall, July 23, 2010.

No No Zero - Colossal Penetrations + Eurosleaze

My notes for this show can be found here.

Recording: Ancestors

Artist: Ancestors

Song: two songs*

Recorded at FOUR CORNERS, Steelworkers Hall, July 23, 2010.

Ancestors - two songs

My notes for this show can be found here.

* Does anyone know the title to these ones? Please leave a comment!


FOUR CORNERS (feat. Anagram / No No Zero / Teenanger / Ancestors)

Steelworkers Hall. Friday, July 23, 2010.

Some ideas make so much sense, you wonder why they haven't already happened. What if instead of four bands playing one full set after another, the bands took turns each playing a song or two. Setup would be an issue — a stage wouldn't work for the turnovers. But what if you had all four bands set up at once in four corners of a room? Aha.

And so it was, down at the temple of labour on Cecil Street. A union hall isn't too different from a legion in its setup — plaques and trophies adorn the walls, giving a sense or organizational regimentation. Just substitute a different set of kitschy-cool photos and posters reflecting past glories and you're most of the way there. Both are places for organizing of different sorts, including the kind of organizing that means you need to have a bar on site. Here, we had a keg being tapped, selling gassy, foamy cheap beer.

This would, in fact, be the money-maker for the night as this was, quite incredibly, a free show. There was also a barbeque in action outside, dispensing hamburgers. A pretty sweet setup, and a nice little space outside to hang out in as the crowd gathered.

As the eleven o'clock starting time rolled around, I roused myself and headed into the multipurpose room set up for the gig. Not a big space, maybe ten yards by fifteen, and lots of gear occupying the fringes. The band setups were as blue-collar as the surroundings, guit/bass/drums all around and no fancy frills.1 There was still a big lineup at the beer station for the slow-pumping keg, so it was a little while longer before bandmembers started filtering in, turning on amps and getting ready to go. If one hadn't figured it out already, it could now be observed that the people putting on guitars and so forth were the same ones who had been doing everything else out front — straight-up DIY and no division from the masses here, as you could buy a drink ticket and get your beer poured by the same guys who'd soon be cranking out the tunes.

By about 11:30 all the bandmembers have filtered into their corners, and the room is feeling pretty full and warming up already from body heat. I grabbed myself a spot more or less in the dead centre of the room, trying to find the sweet spot in a pretty unusual audio setup, PA's set up on all sides. Teenanger, bathed in red light in the room's south-east corner are up first, and the crowd sort of gravitates towards them as vocalist Riley Wild greets them with, "welcome to The Last Waltz!" before the band tore into it. The sound in the room was loud and snarl-y — just right for the music, in other words — though there was some extra feedback shrieks to start with. Playing straight-up garage-y rock'n'roll with scuzzy undertones, Teenanger blasted out a quick pair of songs, and then the lights went down in their corner.

Listen to a Teenanger song from this show here.

Before their last echoing guitar squeal died out, the yellow spotlights in the opposite corner came up and Ancestors flexed their heads playing faster, leaner, hardcore-informed songs. Their two tunes lasted only about three minutes flat, and then the baton was passed to No No Zero in the green corner. Their music had a gothabilly sort of humminahummina swagger, but with a punkrock thrust.2 Shades of The Cramps, or, just perhaps, Deja Voodoo in their vaguely malicious bursts.

Listen to a couple of Ancestors' songs from this set here.

And then, speaking of malicious bursts, Anagram — with whom I was the most familiar of all these bands — doing "Evil" and the crowd-pleasing Cleavers cover "Fish". Though no less roiling than the other bands, Anagram's music was the least inclined to quick blasts of aggression — well-known for settling in on a groove in live performance, they could hold a chord and churn away for a stretch longer than some of the entire songs of the bands around them.

And then back around for the second lap. Teenanger's sound was a bit cleaner this time, the stray feedback howls now tamed. Ancestors sounded angrier, like they were just now getting properly worked up, and No No Zero worked in some more back-and-forth vocals from Sian Llewelyn.

Listen to a couple No No Zero songs from this show here.

Once things were really going, it was about a million degrees in the room — the cement walls were clammy and dripping with precipitation. The floor was slick with spilled beer, sloshed around as the crowd surged from corner to corner. Maybe these bands weren't predisposed to banter anyways, but the format here cut down on that even more. With one band starting up right on the heels of the last one finishing, it cut out that between-song time when the band might chat with the crowd.

There were four cycles through the bands, and like a bottle being passed around, things got more staggery-wayward as things went on. And a helluva lot of songs, even if they were mostly quick. By the time Anagram's last turn trough came around with "What a Mess", I was feeling pretty punchy — and I'd mostly just been holding down my spot in the centre of the room. Some of the people weaving around me were looking downright exhausted.

Listen to an Anagram song from this show here.

And thus the show lurched to the grand finale, with all four corners joining together for a bashed-out rendition of The Stooges' "Ann". The drummers were just out-of-sync enough across the room to lend it a queasy feeling. It was exhaustedly ragged and desperate, which is probably the most befitting way to end. After the noisy crescendo of that, people started staggering out of the room as the DJ started back up, the PA telling us that after laughter comes tears. Outside in the nightcool air, people were sprawling out, collapsing like they'd just finished a 10K run.

Listen to the monumental grand finale here.

It's a brilliant show concept — live without dead time, and all of that — though its sheer unusualness probably added to the excitement of it. I imagine it also took some extra technical work (and extra gear) to pull off four band setups.3 But it worked out pretty well. Kudos to the bands for putting on a show like this for free — it felt less like a regular gig and more like an event to be remembered.

1 There's probably an inneresting investigation to be made by someone cleverer than me into why, in the context of this show, guit/bass/drums are instinctively blue collar while, say, laptops and woodwind sections would be effete and/or elitist.

2 In fact, thrusting would be an apt description for No No Zero's lyrical direction as well, as their album Rough Stuff is thoroughly concerned with all manners of below-the-belt activities.

3 I didn't make a note of who was doing sound at this show, but kudos are deserved there as well — given the unorthodox setup, it was exceptional work.

Recording: The Wilderness of Manitoba

Artist: The Wilderness of Manitoba

Song: Hermit

Recorded at The Horseshoe, November 25, 2010.

The Wilderness of Manitoba - Hermit

My notes for this set can be found here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Recording: Fool's Gold

Artist: Fool's Gold

Song: Surprise Hotel (Part I)

Recorded at El Mocambo, July 21, 2010.

Fool's Gold - Surprise Hotel (Part I)

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: The Tony Castles

Artist: The Tony Castles

Song: Black Girls in Dresses

Recorded at El Mocambo, July 21, 2010.

The Tony Castles - Black Girls in Dresses

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Fool's Gold

Fool's Gold (The Tony Castles / Young Empires)

El Mocambo. Wednesday, July 21, 2010.

Wednesday night at the El Mo. There were metaphorical tumbleweeds drifting across the floor as I stepped in just before showtime. Not much of an audience for Young Empires, a local trio that I had passingly heard some people being excited about. They turned out to not be so much of my thing, playing a hip-hop-ified sort of mersh electro-dance rock. The trio on stage (guit/laptop, keyb/vox, bass) managed to generate a lot of sound and fury in a seven song, half-hour set, but to me the songs all sounded like something you might hear over the end credits of a summer blockbuster. Of course, that probably means there's an audience for this, even if they have some clunky lyrics ("dancing in the dark/ gonna steal your heart") and combine the worst elements of stiff, lifeless laptop-based dance-pop with yelp-y quote-unquote "indie" vocals.

It was stupid hot in the room. Fans were on to move the air, but to minimal effect. In the empty space in front of the stage, three people head up to dance. The singer dumps a bottle of water on his head and splashes them with the remnants. I move back and find a place to sit. By the end, it was one of those situations where I was sitting there, winding myself up over how poorly this was sitting with me, so do read my remarks with that in mind. Even if I wasn't impressed, the band certainly did some win people over.

As Brooklyn's The Tony Castles get set up, I already felt a bit on their side. Kinda scruffy and road-worn, they look markedly less coiffed and calculated than their predecessors.1 As it would turn out, I suppose that could be an apt way to consider their sound: no less generic than Young Empires, probably, but closer to something that I dig, and as such a more enjoyable set. I suppose they also shared the fact that they were a trio who played a not-spare sound, with the guitarist doubling up on keys up front, and some drumpads augmenting the drummer's output. There were also some synthloops in the background of the songs.

Musically, there were some "Brooklyn" signifiers here — spiky guitar, yelpy vocals — and it was all vaguely pleasing but nothing special. I liked it more when they slowed down a bit for the 80's soul-chilled "Black Girls in Dresses", with a more relaxed vocal approach stretching up into falsetto. An interesting song that also sort of lost the plot midway through — but definitely showing potential. It was a fairly quick set, lasting just five songs. This passed the time in a more satisfying manner, but didn't leave a hugely strong impression.

Listen to a track from this set here.

That meant that the job of turning this into a memorable night would be left to headliners Fool's Gold. I was admittedly curious to see who would be the audience for this as the band's music cuts across different genres, which sometimes means that instead of gathering one poly-interested crowd, everyone has equal cause to stay away. For Fool's Gold, their genre-mixing isn't just an amalgam of "indie" and "African" — two broad-unto-meaningless descriptors that each include completely divergent kinds of music — so much as a wholehearted embrace of several different African genres. Which is to say that the indie crowd, to whom they're putatively being aimed at, might not dig them for doing more than grafting a hint of African-ness on top of something they recognize — a move that has had some big-time results lately. And at the same time, the world-music crowd (older, more affluent, oft hung-up on "authenticity") doesn't show up for shows like this.2

Anyways, for whatever reason, this was a pretty thinly-attended show. it's unusual at the El Mo to see seats for the taking along the long north wall in the break before the headiner's set, and once the band started, I counted maybe fifty people or so on hand. This didn't seem to matter much to the band. After a big group hug at the side of the stage, they came on and set the tone right away with leadoff track "Ha Dvash", which came in with an extended instrumental groove before the vocals — mostly in Hebrew — kicked in. That would be the template — long songs that could unfurl at length, each of them as much of a forum for co-founding lead guitarist Lewis Pesacov as for vocalist Top. There's a dozen musicians listed in the credits of their fine self-titled album, but the touring configuration was half that size — still a substantial enough force to tackle the music without sounding stripped down.

"Nadine" did get people standing and moving up to the front to groove along, and things were getting stronger from song to song. "Poseidon", climaxing with some tasty guitar work from Pesacov, had a spark to it that I didn't recall from its album incarnation. And the band was working hard to break through to the crowd that was on hand. Imploring the crowd to come closer, Top said, "we didn't come all this way not to see your faces." And after cajoling some folks to move up to the stage, he congratulated himself, "that's what you call Jewish guilt, ladies and gentlemen!"

The band then rewarded the crowd with "Surprise Hotel", their most immediately appealing song, exchanging the darker Ethio-inspired sounds underpinning some of the previous songs with a brightly skipping soukous rhythm, stretching out for over ten minutes. The extended length was all the more impressive in considering that the second half of the song sped up the tempo to the extent that the song was suddenly zooming by. Quite superb.

After that, it was more and more of a dance party. "Night Dancing" was stripped down to the point where for lots of the song it was just bass and drums and everyone else on percussion. Taking that to its logical conclusion, set-closer "The World is All There Is" ended with the band on the floor, all playing percussion save for the saxophone, the crowd gathered around in a circle for a big singalong, woah-oh's punctuated by shouts of "My friends!"

That would be hard to beat. The band returned for an encore that included a (new?) song that was an upbeat highlife-styled number before going out on the slowed-down Ethopian stomp of "Momentary Shelter".

For what had begun as an exploratory side project, Fool's Gold has taken a life of its own and gotten the band a lot of attention and a chance to tour around the world. Top reported towards the end that once the tour was done the band was going to get ready for their second album, so it looks like the band has some sticking power. Maybe next time around there will be a few more people to see them — this band has the potential to mix together some different crowds in what would be a really impressive way.

The band plays some different styles, so you can check out a couple different ones from this set here and here.

1 And yes, I know this is no less a "look" than the most straight-from-the fashion pages thing. I'm not fooled into thinking that it makes a band look "more real" to be in street clothes — it just falls more in line with my own slouchy stance, I guess.

2 So who were these people that did show up? It wasn't the usual indie crowd, as I didn't see anyone from my mental file of semi-familiar faces. They certainly weren't drawing from the world music crowd either, which is a shame. So who were all these people? Who were all these dudes in white t-shirts? They looked like their usual environment would be a dance club.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Recording: Kurt Vile

Artist: Kurt Vile

Song: Monkey

Recorded at The Great Hall, July 20, 2010.

Kurt Vile - Monkey

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Real Estate

Artist: Real Estate

Songs: Atlantic City + Fake Blues

Recorded at The Great Hall, July 20, 2010.

Real Estate - Atlantic City + Fake Blues

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Castlemusic

Artist: Castlemusic

Song: Powers

Recorded at The Great Hall, July 20, 2010.

Castlemusic - Powers

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Kurt Vile

Kurt Vile (Real Estate / Castlemusic)

The Great Hall. Tuesday, July 20, 2010.

Very rather empty as I make my way up into The Great Hall. I'm guessing that not everyone heading to this show had doubled-checked and found out that there was a third act added to the bill. I only noticed at the last minute myself, but I certainly hustled down when I saw Castlemusic listed to open things up.

A set from Castlemusic has generally meant, in my experience, a solo set from Jennifer Castle. Which is, let there be no doubt, good stuff. But still, I was excited as I came in to see Paul Mortimer setting up on stage. For this set she'd be joined by him as well as David Clarke — the rhythm section for beloved locals $100. But also, notably, Castle's bandmates in the ripping Deloro. Castle's music has always been rooted in the blues, but it usually has a fractured/folky approach to it. That's still here in this configuration, but it's getting kicked in the guts by the same raw, ragged approach witnessed at Deloro's shows.

Castle played the first one solo, then the band joined in behind her, Mortimer on guit and Clarke with a shaker duct-taped to one of his drum sticks, hitting the skins like he was suffering a sadness as he added backing vocals. A lot of the material is stuff that Castle's been playing for awhile now, newer than the material on her 2008 album You Can't Take Anyone, but not released yet.1 There was stuff I've heard her perform solo that had an awesome extra spark with the extra hands behind her2, like "Powers". The lamentful "For My Friends" got a powerful reading as well.

The last one of the set came with squealing feedback throughout from Mortimer, putting the capper on a really different side of Jennifer Castle than I've seen anywhere outside of those Deloro shows. An excellent six song set — I really hope we get to hear more from this trio.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Once again in bridesmaid-not-bride territory, this was the third time in a row hitting the city as an opening act for Real Estate. Though, as with their show with Woods earlier this year, they played what would probably be a full-length set for them regardless. Which works out well for those like myself who were at this show primarily to see the New Jersey-based quartet.

It's also nice to see that although the band has been busy on the road over the past year, there's still a fair amount of new material being worked into their sets, and the band is finding new ways to work with the chiming dual-guitar interplay (more flange than reverb, as I've been fond of saying in the past) between Martin Courtney and Mathew Mondanile.3 The band's appeal is as straightforward as making out in a suburban basement — not that that isn't complicated in its own way. And just like that, Real Estate's straightforward songs are complicated under the surface, something more apparent when they get a chance to be worked out live.

After leading off with "Beach Comber" (the first track on their worthy self-titled debut full-length from last year) they followed with one of the new songs, this one bringing more of an aggressive attack. That quality would be echoed in a quickly urgent version of "Green River" that rushed by in a minute and a half, zipping past in a way that the meandering album version doesn't.

But still, all the elements that made me a big fan of the band were in place here, even though the kickdrum had a bit of a damp rattle to it at first. The band is at their best when they're uncompressed, letting the songs breathe. That worked out well in the large open space of the Great Hall, which can sound a little hollow and echo-y for some kinds of music. Ending with the ace new one "All Out of Tune", I was glad to hear Real Estate again — I don't know if its just a prestige thing, but I'm still waiting for the band to make it back this way as proper headliners.

Listen to a track from this set here.

One of the benefits of the Great Hall is that it can be pleasantly full without feeling too crowded — a little elbow room is a definite plus. The room felt like that as Kurt Vile took the stage, guitars launching in a sludgy wave, grooving along for a couple minutes before Vile's largely unintelligible vocals joined in. To that extent, Dino Jr. came to mind a little off the bat. And, admittedly, I was casting around for points of comparison, as I didn't know too much about the night's headliner. Though his signing to Matador Records had caught my attention, the few songs that I'd heard hadn't done much for me, so I was waiting for the live exposure to really decide how I felt about him.

Singing and playing guitar, his touring band included a second guitarist, drums and harp, of all things. Although it looked cool/unusual on stage, the harp wasn't always that audible — when it wasn't drowned out, it mostly came through as little plinky keyboard-like sounds in the quieter bits. There was a definite stoner-rock vibe going on, as if there was a constant sludgy wah-wah under everything for large swaths of the set.

Three songs in on "Freak Train", the aural layout got shuffled up, which helped cut through the mush a bit. The drummer switched on the drum machine for this one, while Vile's lyrics burst out in a torrent. With the tinny/canned sounding rhythm tracks, it was almost as if he were making an effort to have his stage sound come out something like a semi-cruddy four-track recording.4

Vile didn't always have much to say between songs, sometimes preferring to just tune his guitar, which was held up with a length of cord rather than a strap. He was amusingly goofy in stoner-riffic way, randomly quoting from American Movie at one point. And of the slightly mushy mix early on, he said, "sorry about the vocals — just imagine 'em!". He also dedicated "He's Alright" to Jennifer Castle.

That was one of a series of songs played on acoustic guitar and featured a nice echo-y vibe. The set ended with the extended "Overnight Religion", and Vile's slurred vocalisations and occasional yelps brought to mind nothing more than Biz Markie belting out "Bennie and the Jets". It might have been a slightly short set for the more devoted fans in attendance, even with the slightly noodle-y "Dead Alive" tacked on for an encore.

Overall, the set was... fine, nothing great. It was entertaining in a vaguely-psychedelic slacker/stoner sort of way.5 From my perspective, I'd say this was yet another time that Real Estate outclassed the band they were opening for — when are they gonna get a local headlining show?6

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 I'm guessing that some of this might be on a split 12" vinyl release with Wyrd Visions, coming out soon on Blue Fog.

2 Some of that extra spark might have just been bad wiring, though: Castle saying between songs, "this is a very live microphone — I'm getting all sorts of shocks. I don't mind. I don't mind, necessarily."

3 Bassist Alex Bleeker, who helps carry the sound with un-fussy precision, must have felt lonely on the night, being the only four-stringer amongst the three bands on the bill.

4 This creates an interesting contrast with Real Estate, whose album sounds a bit thin and four-track-y, but are much more hi-fi when playing live.

5 Although there's been a lot of postive press for him, Vile apparently has his detractors. When I was double-checking his wikipedia entry, it lead off with this missive, which I am inclined to think was posted by an impostor: "i steal a whole bunch of crap from other bands, then add my own computer-generated music. im a total fake, and everybody should know". [sic throughout]

6 I missed Real Estate's most recent stop in town, where they were yet again the opening act, this time for Deerhunter at the Opera House. Does it count as a progression to be opening for other people at increasingly large venues?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Recording: Ohbijou

Artist: Ohbijou

Song: Tranzac PSA + Steep

Recorded at the Tranzac, November 20, 2010.

Ohbijou - Tranzac PSA + Steep

Review to followMy notes for this set can now be found here. This show was a special fundraiser to help the Tranzac. There are more to come, so hopefully you can do your bit to save this special space.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Recording: Woodhands

Artist: Woodhands

Song: Can't See Straight/Under Attack

Recorded at Lee's Palace, November 19, 2010.

Woodhands - Can't See Straight/Under Attack

My notes for this set can be found here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Recording: Alex Lukashevsky Trio

Artist: Alex Lukashevsky Trio

Song: Simple-Hearted Thing

Recorded at Toronto Island (Snake Island), July 18, 2010.

Alex Lukashevsky Trio - Simple-Hearted Thing

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Daniel Romano

Artist: Daniel Romano

Song: Lost (For as Long as I Live)

Recorded at Toronto Island (Snake Island), July 18, 2010.

Daniel Romano - Lost (For as Long as I Live)

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: THOMAS

Artist: THOMAS

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Toronto Island (Snake Island), July 18, 2010.

THOMAS - unknown

My notes for this set can be found here.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? Please leave a comment!

Poor Pilgrim Island Show 4: The Legend of Snake Island (Part II)

Poor Pilgrim Island Show 4: The Legend of Snake Island (feat. Tasseomancy, THOMAS, Daniel Romano, Alex Lukashevsky Trio, Drumheller)

Toronto Island. Sunday, July 18, 2010.

Read about the acts from the first part of this day here.

Organizer Matt Cully, keeping one eye on the weather forecast, had been shuffling contingency plans back and forth, worried not only about the possibility of rain, but of keeping things on time so everyone made it home on the last ferry. Although it would have been possible to stay inside at the church following Snowblink's set, it looked like the rain was going to hold off enough to confidently move on to Snake Island. Located between the yacht club and Algonquin Island, I'd never crossed the bridge over to the somewhat-obscure island. One of the less-developed areas, there was only a fairly rough path that led northward, opening up at a beach with a fantastic view across to Toronto's skyline. And by design, as THOMAS began to set up against a bluff of trees, the day's light began to fade. Magic hour.

Geez, context means a lot. Given how lukewarm I was towards Thomas Gill's group the first time I saw them, I was rather surprised by how much I was digging it here. Gill, with his guitar, was standing slightly apart from his band — this time out with sax, two keyb players (one of whom appeared to be playing his instrument through an old radio) and Felicity Williams. Perhaps its the presence of the latter that has done something to win me over, as I'm sort of astounded every time I hear her singing and have come to recognize Williams as a member of that class of enthusiastic collaborators who shows up with a lot of different artists and always makes them sound better.1

Whatever it was, suddenly, the whole thing made a lot of sense. Playing softer-than-soft rock, Gill sang in a breathy voice floating on his gentle guitar lines and the fluffy synth tones — and sitting on the sand as the sun went down, it worked. Already doing material beyond that on his Self Help album, the group played one of the shorter sets of the day, just four songs including a KD Lang cover. But enough to have changed my mind.2

Listen to a track from this set here.

And then, the whole audience basically rotated ninety degrees to look over the water for Tasseomancy. The duo (twin sisters Sari and Romy Lightman) were sitting on a picnic table, a beach fire on the ground in front on them for the crowd to settle in around and a spinning dream machine-like sculpture giving some light. Behind them, there were occasional bulbs of lightning blinking in the far distance of the postcard view of the city visible over their shoulders.

Well-established under their former moniker Ghost Bees, the pair have recast themselves with a name that better expresses the elliptical, mysterious darkness their music explores. And though with that name change has come with a shift toward a more nuanced, layered sound — check out their recent 7" now featured on their myspace — here we just had the stripped-down pair. The surroundings did help to add some textures to their songs, however — during the first song, a plane came in behind to land, its buzzing hum adding a surprisingly-fitting low note that was perfectly timed with a pause in the music. Their hushed songs had an adequately spooky edge for this environment.

As they wound up, Matt Cully passed the hat, asking for some change to give in thanks to St. Andrew-by-the-lake church for their earlier hospitality. It has to be noted that this was the only time, all day long, that the issue of money came up. To restate that: Matt Cully put on this show for no compensation, not even asking anything to cover his expenses3, and ditto for all the artists, who paid out of their own pockets for the ferry and everything to play for free. It's admirable and mindblowing when you think of it.

The next set was billed as a solo spot for Daniel Romano, but it was very much a collaboration with Misha Bower's indispensable backing vocals.4 Romano — of rock unit Attack in Black and folk music triple-threat Daniel, Fred and Julie — had recently released his very fine solo album Working for the Music Man, and the world-weary folk/country vein he has been mining there was front and centre for this set.

With planes still landing in the background, the pair lead off with the hauntingly sad "She Was the World to Me". Although his album was still pretty new, Romano was already playing newer material, including one possibly called "Lost as Long as I Live". If there's a model for what Romano's doing (the mournful tone, the consideration of the wages of sin, the pining for some lost love), it might well be Gram Parsons' "Sin City", which isn't a bad place to start from, influence-wise. Those not enamoured with the country music form might find this a bit too much of a lament-fest, but the darkness did give way to a crack of light, the set closing on a positive note with "Never Grow Cold", a George Jones/Tammy Wynette tribute to persevering love. In formal terms, this might have been the least audacious set of the day; that didn't stop it from being one one the best.

Listen to a track from this set here.

And, interestingly, while the Alex Lukashevsky Trio used the same tools as the previous set (a single guitar, female harmony vocals) they were employed in a strikingly different way. Lukashevsky, an agile guitar player with a singularly-skewed lyrical vision, always brings to his songs the feeling of a worldview slightly torqued out of sync with everything around him — "does anyone have an extra guitar to throw on the fire?" he asked as he looked at the flames in front of him. His accompanists for this set were Daniela Gesundheit and Felicity Williams, both of whom, like Lukashevsky, had performed earlier in the day.

The set was originally planned for Ward's Island Beach, which probably meant that Lukashevsky was planning his set with a south-facing view in mind, but with one trip being cut in the interest of time, he made do with the Snake Island surroundings. Overcoming a few weird bursts of distortion coming from the mic at the start, the focus was mainly on newer songs from this year's Prints of Darkness album. But the stripped-down format gave room for a lot of inventiveness in the vocal arrangements, with the singers standing in for the string sections and other adornments found on the recorded versions. There were some dibby-dibby-doo style vocal harmonies, like an avant-garde Andrews Sisters, but the voices were used more creatively that that, tossing in little bird-calls and other animal noises here and there. Even with Lukashevsky's world-weary lyrics, the songs felt bright and cheerful.

The set closed with the aqua-appropriate "I Smoke by the Ocean" from the Deep Dark United catalogue, the three voices joined by stereophonic seagulls screeching in the background, and then it was time to head out from Snake Island, the rough path now cloaked in inky darkness.

Listen to a track from this set here.

From there, the day's last walk was over to the Ward's Island dock, where Drumheller played while the assembled crowd waited for the last ferry back to the mainland. With rain once again feeling immanent, and flashes of lightning growing closer, the band weren't sure if they should try and cram inside the little gazebo by the bike parking, but in the end just played in front of the gazebo, with a minimal, quick set-up — Nick Fraser had just a snare plus a cymbal sitting on the ground.

Including a couple musicians seen earlier in the day, this illustrious collective5 plays jazz that is both straightforward and undercuttingly deconstructionist. The straight-up elements are undermined, say, by Chenaux's spindly guitar figures but the sound is never too analytical not to swing. And having played together for quite awhile — since 2003, in fact, releasing three albums along the way — these guys knows how to work together and how to serve the compositions. Instead of a standard solo on lead-off "Porch", all the other instruments dropped out as West and Tielli meshed on an interlocking, decelerating dance. Things came together very strongly on "Drip Drop March", and it felt like they could have cooked for awhile.

The band managed three full songs, and was a couple minutes into their final one when the ferry arrived. As it pulled into the dock, the roar of its horn was echoed by a blurt from West's sax and things were quickly wound up as everyone headed over to get on the boat. Still, we got about twenty-five minutes worth of delicious music, ending the day in style. I'd been aware of this show for a couple years, but for one reason or another hadn't followed through. Now I can't wait for next year's edition.

Listen to a track from this set here.

And what a day it was! Looking back, I would have to say this was one of the best shows of the summer. Massive praise is due to Matt Cully for putting this together, as well as all the artists who took part.

1 The material on her myspace, part of her "Al Purdy project" setting that poet's words to music is pretty inviting too. Do check it out.

2 THOMAS has a couple local shows coming up, November 25 (with Donlands and Mortimer and Charlotte Cornfield) at The Garrison and December 9 (with Sunparlour Players) at The Music Gallery.

3 On top of that, Cully also served as soundcrew and roadie all day, humping around the PA system on a cart behind his bike.

4 The busy Bower is also Cully's bandmate in Bruce Peninsula.

5 There's an interesting chart to be made showing who else each of these guys work with, but for now, here's the straight facts:

Brodie West - Sax

Nick Fraser - Drums

Doug Tielli - Trombone

Rob Clutton - Bass

Eric Chenaux - Guitar

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Recording: Not the Wind, Not The Flag

Artist: Not the Wind, Not The Flag

Song: Centre Island Pier Improvisation [excerpt]

Recorded at Toronto Island (Centre Island Pier), July 18, 2010.

Not the Wind, Not The Flag - Centre Island Pier Improvisation [excerpt]

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Eucalyptus

Artist: Eucalyptus

Song: Cookie

Recorded at Toronto Island (Artscape Gibraltar Point), July 18, 2010.

Eucalyptus - Cookie

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Picastro

Artist: Picastro

Song: Split Head

Recorded at Toronto Island (Franklin's Storybook Garden), July 18, 2010.

Picastro - Split Head

My notes for this set can be found here.

Poor Pilgrim Island Show 4: The Legend of Snake Island (Part I)

Poor Pilgrim Island Show 4: The Legend of Snake Island (feat. Picastro, Eucalyptus, Not the Wind Not The Flag, Snowblink)

Various locations, Toronto Island. Sunday, July 18, 2010.

There are few things finer than a summer Sunday afternoon on Toronto Island. With some time on my hands, I headed over early, just to have some time to walk around a bit and to find a tree to sit under and read. Despite rain-threatening skies, it was pretty busy on the ferry over. The big draw was a festival of Indian culture, and there were lots of families heading over for that (and big lines at the tents offering free vegetarian food). I was looking for the slightly smaller crowd, though, which I found as I saw a few people ahead of me trickling into Franklin's Storybook Garden. I counted about forty-ish people on hand as things got underway at the first stop on this year's Poor Pilgrim Island Show, an annual event planned by Matt Cully, who is also known for his work as a member of local folk-shouters Bruce Peninsula.

The bands that Cully has invited out in the past generally come from both the song-singing, usually folk-ish scene as well as more experimental/improv groups, and Picastro, first up today, might be considered to exist right in the grey area between those two camps. Liz Hysen's drowsy, detuned compositions are flexible, like rooms in dreams that can change dimensions from moment to moment. As such, they can take on the shifts in approach brought on by her always-morphing backing band — it's not unusual to see the lineup shift from show to show, although there's a consistent core. Short one member to start ("if you see someone with a cello, wave them over," Cully commented while introducing the band), they played the first song as a trio, Hysen joined by regular drummer Brandon Valdivia and semi-regular (or, perhaps, formerly regular) guitarist Evan Clarke.1

As that ended, Nick Storring came into sight and joined the band on the storybook stage, briefly considering if it would be proper to use Mother Goose as a seat while playing (to which Hysen warned, "you're abusing the Franklin Garden!"). When Storring's cello joined in for "Split Head" it hit the mark perfectly and the rest of the set perfectly settled into that hazy, slightly worried vibe that the band expresses so well.

A couple songs later, after a lovely run through "The Stiff", everyone on stage was looking back and forth to see if they should do one more, but Cully, keeping things on schedule, decided to get things moving to the next stop. Promising some "dance music", he gave directions to the Gibraltar Point centre.

Listen to a track from this set here.

A nice walk over to Artscape Gibraltar Point — known to some local music fans as the home to the ALL CAPS/Wavelength Summer extravaganzas. A pause to nod hello to some local musicians recording next door at the Gas Station studio and then around back and in to the Fireplace Room. There were a few rows of chairs that were quickly filled, with more folks on top of that standing around as Jamie Shannon's puppet show began. An ugly duckling story with a Swamp Thing twist, all narrated by a shark, it was a little goofy but rather fun, and quite well done. Then, for the next musical set, everyone just had to turn their chairs one hundred and eighty degrees for Eucalyptus.

Which is possibly how far off I might have been in guessing what this band might be like. Except for Cully's promise of "dance music", I knew nothing about them, but looking at the players I quickly recognized most of the cast of notable local improvisers.2 It turned out that the band was put togther by saxophonist Brodie West to play (and play around with) calypso music — a genre that generally falls outside of both the boundaries of "cool" music and the sort of stuff that gets a lot of critical respect. But from these experienced hands, this sounded totally fun and vital, making all that moot.

The music sauntered along in a mellow vibe of the gentle calypso-inspired grooves, with a touch of Gilberto/Getz in there, too. West and Nicole Rampersaud's intertwining horns floated on the rhythm section while the whole thing was nudged along by Blake Howard's percussion. The band did five selections, and I'm not sure how many were originals — a couple sounded like they could well have been standards.3 The upshot was a delicious summertime languor, like leaning back and watching clouds — y'know; island music. A completely different sound than anything I was expecting to hear, and in this environment, totally delightful.4

Listen to a track from this set here.

And then it was back along the island's southern shore to the end of the Centre Island Pier, where Not the Wind, Not The Flag were setting up under the tall direction-pointing sign. There was a fine spray of drizzle, the sky looking like it was just on the cusp of raining, but it held off. I've never seen two sets that were alike from Brandon Valdivia and Colin Fisher, who really seem to enjoy fitting their music into whatever environment they're playing in. Here, the grey cloudy sky, impassive water and drifting, squawking seagulls served as the backdrop for a continuous twenty-minute improvisation that shifted as the pair each switched instruments.

The piece started off with a plinky duet of thumb piano (Valdivia) and banjo (Fisher). It took a couple minutes of the two playing off each other to fall into something, but then it began to build up beyond the sum of its parts. Valdivia then shifted to his minimal drumkit and that gave things a bit more structure. There was an interlude with Valdivia on the flute while Fisher set up an ngoni, and once he started playing that, the set hit its most fascinating stretch, with Fisher using some pedals to extend the instrument's sound.

The rain didn't come, the birds kept crying out, and while this was "outside" music, it was the most open set of the day, with plenty of non-concert attendees lingering around to listen in while they were chancing across this. And it all fit together pretty well.

Listen to a track from this set here.

From there, headed over to St. Andrew-by-the-lake, the pretty little church nestled in just behind Centerville. I'd not been in before, but it felt pretty comfortable in the narrow woodsy and stained-glass space. There was seating in the pews for maybe seventy people or so, and as walkers and bikers made their way over, the place filled up pretty well, with a smattering of folks sitting on the floor.

They'd be not too far from Snowblink's extended mini-choir — Isla Craig and Felicity Williams were sitting on the steps of the pulpit as principles Daniela Gesundheit and Dan Goldman perched above them in churchy throne-like chairs. It was just right for their spacious, clean-lined folk songs, and in a space like this, it was befitting that Gesundheit was forgoing her vocal looping effects, instead employing the well-arranged voices on hand.

Further showing their elastic penchant for collaborating, when Thomas Gill stood up between songs to move a view-blocking Bible stand out of the way, he got called up to add his voice as well. "We have lyrics," Gesundheit said, referring to the cheatsheets on hand, and Gill stayed up to add his vocals for a couple songs. The band is known for trying out some interesting covers, and this time around, they essayed Springsteen's "State Trooper". Audacious, perhaps, inasmuch as it might not call to mind The Boss so much as Cowboy Junkies, but worth it for the whoops and hollers at the end.

Although their album Long Live is just now getting a European release (and tour to match) it sounded here like there was some new material front and centre, and all top-notch stuff. Even if all the bodies on hand were making the room rather muggy, it was a delightful combination of venue and performer.

Listen to a track from this set here.

The rest of the day's acts can be found in a separate post here.

1 Clarke hung back a bit on some of the material from Become Secret, the band's latest, and was more heard on older stuff like "Car Sleep". I'm not sure if it was just his unfamiliarity with the newer stuff, but I enjoyed how, between songs, the members identified songs back-and-forth by playing the opening notes to each other, asking, "that one?" as if they'd forgotten the titles, or dared not speak them.

2 On this date, the band included:

Nicole Rampersaud - Trumpet

Brodie West - Alto Saxophone

Alex Lukashevsky - Guitar

Ryan Driver - Piano

Mike Smith - Bass

Nick Fraser - Drums

Blake Howard - Percussion

3 I'm assuming that the set's lead-off "Bossa", which you can hear at West's myspace, is an original.

4 Eucalyptus will be playing at the Holy Oak Café on December 16, 2010, which would be an excellent inoculation against the winter blues.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Recording: The Hold Steady

Artist: The Hold Steady

Song: Rock Problems

Recorded at The Phoenix, July 16, 2010.

The Hold Steady - Rock Problems

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: The Hold Steady

The Hold Steady

The Phoenix. Friday, July 16, 2010.

An unusual sort of gig for me, I guess. The fact that it was the first time going to The Phoenix all year would be a sign that it was a larger-than-usual show. In fact, I wasn't planning on going at all when the show was first announced at the Kool Haus, so maybe it felt like the downsizing to a room that's still pretty big by my standards was meeting me halfway. And I guess I wanted to give the band a bit of a chance to see if the live versions could redeem some songs that came across as kinda dull on this year's Heaven is Whenever, which felt uninspired compared to what they've done in the past. Oh, and my dad, the Texas troubadour, was passing through town and said he'd be willing to go. He's a rock'n'roller and likes to hear about shows I go to and so on, although this night wasn't a great representation of the sort of gig I'm usually at. Anyways, we headed down and met J. for a drink and made our way over to the show.

We got there in time to catch just the end of an opening set by The Whigs. The only impression I really gathered was that they were very loud, otherwise, I reserve any comment. Once the stage was cleared, there was a welcome to the show from a warmly-welcomed Matt Bonner1, who'd put this show together as a benefit for Boys' and Girls' Clubs. There was a rambunctious crowd on hand, and a pretty full house. We hung back by the soundboard instead of getting right up in the thick of things.

Taking the stage and promising a Friday night good time, The Hold Steady kicked into "The Sweet Part of the City", the leadoff to the new one. It's not one of their stronger tunes, but served as a good conceptual starting point, the lyrics ending, "we were bored so we started a band / we'd like to play for you." It's worth noting that no one told frontman Craig Finn that the new material isn't as good as the old stuff, and he was as joyful as ever and fully inhabiting those songs, throwing himself into "Rock Problems", also from the new album, and one of the tunes on it that is wholly successful. But, maybe hedging their bets a little, they didn't do too much new stuff at a burst, throwing a bone to the crowd with the glorious "Constructive Summer" from 2008's Stay Positive.2

Following the departure of keyboard player Franz Nicolay, that part of the band's sound has been de-emphasized somewhat, less there on the new songs, and a bit down in the mix generally. Keybs and extra guit were played by semi-anonymous guys flanking the stage. In a departure from Nicolay's onstage gusto, his replacement played sitting down, not drawing attention to himself.

In between the new material, the band dug into the catalogue for Separation Sunday's "Multitude of Casualties", and made an unexpected reach all the way back to 2004's Almost Killed Me for "Barfruit Blues", which got a more enthusiastic response than stuff like the quieter "Cheyenne Sunrise", which was largely taken by the crowd as a chance to chat. May dad — who I'd forgotten to grab some earplugs for — went to wander a bit to the back of the room.

But I'll say this for the band: they know how to keep a show moving. It was pretty much song after song without respite, with no gaps to tune or other momentum-sappers. There weren't too many reinventions or rearrangements, either. The songs were generally stripped pretty lean — there were more under three minutes than over five. One exception was a lengthy, somewhat wanky middle to "Your Little Hoodrat Friend", a Big Rock gesture that guitarist Tad Kubler trumped by pulling out the double-necked guitar for the closing pair of "Massive Nights" and "A Slight Discomfort". The latter is the last one from the new album, making for a conceptually smart parallel to the start, though underwhelmed by the fact that I'm not particularly crazy about either one.

And then, after nineteen songs, the band returned for three more in the encore, pushing the show past the ninety-minute mark. It all ended with "Slapped Actress", giving a chance for some big-room singalong whoah-oh action, which closed things on a warm note. Overall, it was an okay show — certainly not the most excited I've been to see them. Though that might say as much about my own slowly-morphing tastes — a big room and a big rock sound being less on my agenda these days. But for the Friday night crowd, it seemed just fine, and even my dad nodded his head in approval — rock'n'roll still means well, I guess.

Listen to a song from this set here.

1 A bench player for the Raptors from 2004-2006, Bonner became a crowd favourite for exhibiting a blue-collar work ethic — the sort of decent-but-likable player that always seems to become a folk hero on Toronto's middling professional sports teams. One of the few NBA players that really embraced playing in Canada, Bonner still makes his off-season home in Toronto.

2 When I'd first played this song — written by Finn about the joy and boredom and freedom of growing up in Minneapolis in the '80's — to my dad, he said it sounded exactly like his own teenage years twenty years before that.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Recording: Flowers of Hell

Artist: Flowers of Hell

Song: O [excerpt]

Recorded at St. Stephen-In-The-Fields Church, November 13.

Flowers of Hell - O [excerpt]

Full review to follow My review of this show can now be found here. These were my original quick notes: An excellent night at church with the Optical Sounds crew, a beautiful-sounding gig all around, with phenomenal sound for the dozen-ish FoH orchestra. I'd read some reviews of the new album that weren't fully enthusiastic, positing it as failed post-rock — because, I guess, it dares to do something other than build and build and explode with an orgasmic flourish. There's something else entirely going on here — I asked FoH mainman Greg Jarvis after if he were familiar with In a Silent Way, as there were moments where that came to my mind during the performance. He said no, but he seems to have independently come across a method of composing that manages to be neither ambient nor throughline-driven.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Recording: Titus Andronicus

Artist: Titus Andronicus

Song: The Battle of Hampton Roads (Part I)

Recorded at The Horseshoe, July 14, 2010.

Titus Andronicus - The Battle of Hampton Roads (Part I)

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Hallelujah The Hills

Artist: Hallelujah The Hills

Song: Flight of the Paper Pilots

Recorded at The Horseshoe, July 14, 2010.

Hallelujah The Hills - Flight of the Paper Pilots

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: YellowFever

Artist: YellowFever

Song: Newbie*

Recorded at The Horseshoe, July 14, 2010.

YellowFever - Newbie

My notes for this set can be found here.

* Thanks to a commenter for passing along the title to this one.

Gig: Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus (Hallelujah The Hills / YellowFever)

The Horseshoe. Wednesday, July 14, 2010.

Out on a Wednesday for one of those nights that was more about finding out how I felt about a band, rather than attending out of an existing ardent fanship. I figured that might make me feel out of place on a night when I was expecting to see a devoted crowd. As usual, though, it was quiet when I got there, with those eager-for-the-headliner masses skipping out on the openers.

I was more than willing to check 'em out with an open mind, even if I came in knowing nothing about YellowFever1. The Austin duo played an uncluttered sort of new wave despite busily multitasking — Adam Jones handling keyboard bass while holding down the drums and singer Jennifer Moore playing guit, occasionally employing a glass slide. I was quickly enjoying their minimal vibe — no doubt that this is the sort of nicely unadorned sound I dig. There were a couple slight hints of, say, Young Marble Giants' spare blissful elegance or, to pick a slightly different angle, a sense of a less goth-y Pony Da Look — although you could probably read in a bit of whichever stripped-down, female-fronted, ghostly-keyb band that you prefer.

The songwriting might have been the weakest link but the sound pulled them through nicely. Plus, all ten songs were compactly assembled, meaning even the slightly undercooked ones moved past quickly. An enjoyable discovery. The band are, it would seem, diligent DIY'ers, selling their hand-screened t-shirts at the merch table but were not big talkers on stage. They seemed happy to be visiting Canada, so keep an eye out if they bring their cooler full of vegetables back this way again.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Passed some time between sets with Mike from For the 'Records', and he spoke well of Hallelujah The Hills, having seen them before. It was only after the fact that I realized that I had already seen them as well — at the same show no less, opening for Silver Jews back in '08 — although I had no memory at all of their set. A sign, I guess, that they didn't make much of an impression either good or bad.

leading off with a creaky cello run before the guitars kicked in, the band started off with "A Guide to the World's Most Fantastic Monsters", the leadoff on their most recent album, the charmingly titled Colonial Drones before greeting the crowd: "We're Hallelujah The Hills from Boston, Massachusetts. We're just like you." They indeed had an unaffected air on stage and a lot of different strains in their sound. Suitable for a flexible lineup that did some switching around and included trumpet and cello. It might reveal something about their aesthetic that trumpet player Joseph Marrett is also credited with "hollerin'", but then again, they could also bring off a quieter one (which might be a new song: "Hello my destroyer / can I destroy you?") before shifting yet again to the jauntier "Introductory Saints", which had some flourishes that indicated that this would have been a good band to have opening for Silver Jews.

Elio DeLuca switched between a twelve-string guitar and the less-often seen two string — and it wasn't just an unstrung guitar, it was an old Fender that actually had four of the tuning pegs removed.2 Musically, I guess you could call this a hollowed-out version of indie guitar pop, occasionally filtered through an experimental americana kinda vibe with hints that the band has a premonition about some sort of darkness around the corner — something you might not immediately notice, given how joyful they were on stage. That, combined with a little bit of bombast in their music would point to what they shared with the night's headliners. There's also a shared propensity for expansive song titles, I guess.

It seemed like the band were working some new stuff into their set (I think "Nightingale Lightning" was one) that might be destined for their third album.3 When they stretched out on "Classic Tapes" it was a pretty tasty little groove and won me over some. It would mark this as a likable set, and successful to the extent that after seeing them this time it rubbed off enough on me to be something I'd remember.

Listen to a track from this set here.

In the multitude of bands to explore, I'd more or less let Titus Andronicus slip past me. I'd probably written them off somewhat due to their goofy, Seinfeld-inspired first album title, The Airing of Grievances. But a substantial live rep and a highly-praised follow-up were enough to make me think I give at least a first chance to the New Jersey crew.4 Given the now-packed crowd in place for this, I felt like the last one getting up to speed.

The introduction by lead singer Patrick Stickles certainly made me want to love the band, touching on both the privileges and responsibilities involved for the audience: "We're going to do our damnedest to try and entertain you. I've already spoken to a few of you about the inclusive environment we're trying to foster here tonight, so let's do that. Let's have a blast, let's be responsible and respect everyone's personal space and just have the best night of our lives while we can." Given that I was worried that this might be an aggressive, moshy kind of crowd5, that nailed it just right, and I was feeling a positive mental attitude as the band launched into "A More Perfect Union".

At the outset, the band was playing in their natural five-member configuration, with keyb and violin flanking the stage to add expansiveness. Stickles, more a natural-born yowler than a graceful singer, also did the bulk of the speaking during the pauses between songs, but he wasn't necessarily the focus on stage. And from the outset, it looked like everyone was both working hard and having a good time — especially guitarist/violin player Amy Klein, who had a big grin throughout, like she was having a grand ole time.6

Just as the band sometimes exhibits a goofy self-reflective sense of humour in their song titles (witness "No Future Part Three: Escape From No Future", say) they can also sometimes descend into slightly overdone adolescent signifiers ("your life is over", "you will always be a loser"). But there is something there, especially in the material from this year's The Monitor, which uses the framework of the American Civil War as a metaphor for the battles with inner hurt and rage in day-to-day life.

All this is executed within the confines of raggedy shout-along anthems, most of the songs multi-part mini-epics: a quiet, closed-in introduction bursts into the shouty heart of the song, leading to the clinching repeated chant/shout ("it's still us against them", "the enemy is everywhere", "please don't ever leave") and a big instrumental close. The music is big enough that the band brought on some extra help. After three songs, Elio DeLuca of Hallelujah The Hills joined in on keyboards — the start of a trend that would see the size of the band swell considerably — I counted nine by the point Ryan Walsh came out to sing on "To Old Friends and New". There was definitely a sense of expansiveness to it, though never at the expense of the underlying ragged grandeur.

But was I enjoying myself? By and large, I was finding it fine enough, but I felt more like an appreciative spectator than someone who was being pulled into the whole spirit of the thing. There were certainly some parts that got me — the monumental, sprawling "The Battle Of Hampton Roads" — recasting the battle of the Monitor and Merrimack as the struggle with the ironclad hull of self-hatred — was pretty convincing, even as the multi-part musical coda stretched the song out past a quarter-hour. That was the emotional ne plus ultra of the whole thing, and there was no way to push further in that direction. So the band greeted former guitarist (and now Torontonian) Liam Betson to join them for a big singalong version of Weezer's "Undone". That provided enough of a break for one last dip into The Monitor, the band closing with "Four Score and Seven", making for a ninety-minute set.

A lot of people weren't expecting an encore after that, it seemed. Not even the band, who hadn't been planning on coming back out. Retuning their guitars, they chatted a bit and closed with "Upon Viewing Brueghel's 'Landscape With The Fall Of Icarus'" — a track from that first album that I ignored that demonstrates how one-dimensionally goofy they are not.

Heading out, I didn't have the feelings of a convert, though I enjoyed things well enough. I guess I can appreciate what the way they go about doing things as much the outcome, and definitely appreciated the inclusive social environment.

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 It's "all one big ol' word," their myspace helpfully informs.

2 Shades of Mark Sandman, perhaps? Given the shared geography, it would make me happy somehow to think that there might be some sort of influence coming through here.

3 The band is exploring the kickstarter route for that one, in case you happen to be interested in getting in on the ground floor. If you have some extra cash, or if you just happen to be as mad as hell and unsure what to do about that, you could even go in big and get an "audio commentary for the classic film Network recorded by the band".

4 The Jerseyness (or, as it might be better called, "bossification") of this band is probably a useful sort of triangulation method for situating the band's propensity to go big. At the part of the night when when crowdmembers were calling out various requests, someone shouted "Springsteen!" to which singer Patrick Stickles replied, in a slightly hurt tone, "that's a little on the nose, isn't it?" Meanwhile, on introducing "Fear and Loathing in Mahwah, NJ" Stickles mused on playing town the same night as Gaslight Anthem: "We understand that you have your choice of Jersey-rock activities tonight, and we appreciate that you chose to see us."

5 What kind of crowd was it? Well, after saying the next time they'd be back in Canada they'd be playing Ottawa, some people started jeering in response to that and were soon chanting "Go Leafs Go!" and even managing to get a few shots in at the Devils. So — those guys.

6 Klein also has a pretty cool blog that's worth checking out.