Artist: Sidi Touré
Song: Taray Kongo*
Recorded at Lula Lounge (Small World Music Festival), September 29, 2011.Sidi Touré - Taray Kongo
Review to follow.
* Thanks to Rishi for passing the title to this one along.
Artist: Sidi Touré
Song: Taray Kongo*
Recorded at Lula Lounge (Small World Music Festival), September 29, 2011.Sidi Touré - Taray Kongo
Review to follow.
* Thanks to Rishi for passing the title to this one along.
Artist: Elliott BROOD
Song: Hold You
Recorded at Sonic Boom Records, September 27, 2011.Elliott BROOD - Hold You
Review to follow. So nice to have Sonic Boom fully back in action! Hopefully this will be the first of many, many in-stores at their new location.
[Caveat: This feels terribly undercooked to me — to be honest, if this isn't about Nevermind, I don't really know what this essay is about yet. But it relates to this specific moment, so it'd just feel stale if it wasn't pinned to the calendar on this date.]
[Addendum: Having thought on it further, maybe it's about this: the younger we are, the more we live in a perpetual now; the older we become, the more we live in a perpetual then. Those few moments where one could be fully subsumed in either of those are possibly the most sublime parts of life — it's being at an indeterminate midpoint that causes anxiety. This still doesn't feel worthy to serve that point, though.]
Nevermind (What Was It Anyway)
Alternate title: It Was Twenty Years Ago Today
Twenty years ago today — September 24, 1991 — Nirvana's Nevermind was released.
This is not really about that album. Although Nevermind would, eventually, go a long way toward changing the kind of music I listened to, when it came out it was nowhere on my radar.
Not because I wasn't paying attention to music. In fact, I was rather consumed by it — just not all this stuff with guys playing guitars. "Rock" music, almost as a whole, was quite foreign to me — distant, uninteresting. Why would anyone pay attention to that stuff when we were living in a Golden Age?
I finished highschool to the sounds of De La Soul is Dead and the Dream Warriors' And Now the Legacy Begins. And to the first Cypress Hill album1 and Ice-T's O.G.2 I started university with "Mama Said Knock You Out" in my walkman. The music was a big part of our lives — I remember how my friend T. deliberately scheduled a lab that first semester so he'd be able to get home in time for Rap City. That was how we rolled.3
September '91 is pretty vivid in my mind given I was starting university — a launching pad in a lot of ways into a bigger world. Looking back, I picture myself as a fresh-faced keener, assiduously going to classes and spending hours in the library4 broken up by bursts of exploring and getting lost in the three-dimensional maze that was the University of Winnipeg.5
Even without the internet, or even much media coverage otherwise, in the culturally-peripheral white hole of Winnipeg we were relatively on top of things. And if there was any album that I was excited for on September 24, 1991, it would quite certainly have been A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory.6 Later that week, a new season of SNL started, which I remember anxiously anticipating because Public Enemy was the musical guest.
It was on SNL that PE first dropped "Can't Truss It", which was a mighty single and left me droolingly eager for the album to come out.7 And when it did, I remember heading over to Musiplexx — the best music store in town at the time — with T. where we each got our copies on cassette, and headed back to the university to unwrap them. And I'd begin the process of obsessively consuming the album and grafting it onto my DNA. Listening to it over and over, yes, but also pouring over the liner notes and teasing out hidden meanings, dispatches from a world that was ours but that we by no means really understood. Absorbing every second of it, on the bus, or in Magicland, or even while in the library to study Latin vocabulary again.
That fall would also have a run of albums that kept me more than busy: Sons of the P by the Digital Underground (itself a gateway into all things Clintonesque, once I did the research to figure of what the "P" was), Ice Cube's Death Certificate, Black Sheep's A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing, Del tha Funkee Homosapien's I Wish My Brother George Was Here, Big Daddy Kane's Prince of Darkness. Only that last one was a bit of a letdown, and there was more, more, more. We were in the middle of a Golden Age.
And yet, quite unexpectedly, there was a whole bunch of other stuff moving into my consciousness. It's probably inevitable — no matter how focused you are, it's rather difficult not to run into other kinds of music, especially when it's carried in on a tsunami.
It would have been around the time that I started university that on a whim, while at a mall bookstore, I bought a copy of the September '91 issue of Spin magazine8 — which I'm sure I'd never previously heard of — because the cover promised an interview with N.W.A. I dunno what else rubbed off on me9, but as a diligent nerd, I read it from cover to cover. And it sparked something, for from that point I'd buy every issue for the next six years or so.
There were further inroads on my consciousness: campus radio station CKUW was then mostly a couple rooms in the basement of Manitoba Hall where a clique of too-cool hipsters hung out. The station "broadcasted" to speakers that were located in the Centennial Hall Buffeteria and the Lockhart Hall Smoketeria10 — and, for some unfathomable reason, to the dank basement space where my locker ended up being. They played the weirdest shit — in that first year, the biggest thing in their rotation seemed to be the U2 EP by Negativland. There was also one deejay who had a vintage interview with John Lydon that he played over and over — in fact, I remember hearing that interview more than any actual music by PiL. At first, this was just some sort of strange assault on my senses, but eventually all of this would impact me deeply.
Given all that, in retrospect it's mildly strange that I didn't encounter Nevermind, which was spending that whole fall rising up from the underground and becoming a phenomenon. You'd think I woulda heard of the album by the time of that December issue of Spin where — now rather infamously — Nevermind was rated behind Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque in their year-end album list.11 But so far as I can recall, the first I heard of it came when I asked my sister what I should get her xmas that year, and she said the album with the naked baby on the cover. And so I dutifully went down to Musiplexx and got that for her.
I know at some point in the next few months I basically ended up stealing the cassette back from her, but in a strong counterpoint to all those razor-sharp memories above I can't really say when. Or even recall precisely the order of event whereby it all became so ubiquitous — that video was suddenly omnipresent, and as if stone tablets with new commandments had dropped from the sky, suddenly there was this whole new pantheon of bands to learn about. Although it seems like a sudden explosion, I suppose it was a fairly-long accretion of information — and, remember, information moved a lot more slowly back then — that probably culminated the following summer with the release of the Singles soundtrack.
And meanwhile, my musical universe would expand outward at an incredible velocity, a whole new world unleashed on me mediated by what were very big, suddenly mainstream albums like Blood Sugar Sex Magik (also, interestingly, released on September 24, 1991 — though it didn't explode so quickly, either) and Ten and Badmotorfinger. But there was a tremendous momentary wobble, and for each band that was tamed by a major-label contract, and each legion of second-rate imitators and one-hit wonders that were pushed on the likes of me, there was also a light shined on amazing bands that I'd have never otherwise heard of. Not only "grunge"12, but an entire new mini-canon that would be brought to the public consciousness. There's no way I could pretend to be cool enough to claim that I had any knowledge of, say, Meat Puppets or Beat Happening or Shonen Knife or The Raincoats before they were given Kurt Cobain's blessing.
And learning of all this stuff pointed backward, to a whole hidden history where the greatest-ever bands weren't the Beatles/Stones and lesser gods of classic rock radio, but a whole other chain that stretched backwards — Patti Smith, The New York Dolls, MC5, The Velvet Underground, each of those creating their own set of expanding concentric rings. And it pointed to the city around me, where suddenly I realized that there were local bands making music on their own terms, and it could be good even if if weren't given the blessing of some far-off magazine or music station. And the same thing coming from all across the country, found in intermittent dispatches from Brave New Waves or Exclaim.
All that would, in some manner, lead me down a wayward path where rock'n'roll has stayed pretty important to me. Though I never would have suspected it in September of 1991, the ripples of Nevermind would ultimately affect me more than the ripples of all the music I loved most dearly at that moment.13
I was thirteen on June 1, 1987 — the twentieth anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. I remember the day well.14 It was a big media event — the "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today" headlines wrote themselves, after all.
And I knew the album well — had known it my entire life. It was one of a pile of platters that as a small child I had mixed freely in along with nursury rhymes and other "children's" albums. It had never seemed particularly out of place amongst those.
Even at thirteen, I had a decent grasp of "the sixties" as a clear cultural category. But at the time of that anniversary, it was unquestioned that that album, and that era were something wholly foreign, discontinuous from my own existence, separated by a massive gap of time and style and technology.
How strange to reflect on that now. It still feels shocking to think that 1967 was only seven years before my birth. Seven years? Seven years is nothing to me these days. That show I went to or that girl I had a crush on seven years ago, it's like something that happened last week.
And these albums that I bought twenty years ago, and music that I discovered (and classes that I went to and essays I wrote and hours I spent cloistered in the library memorizing declensions of Latin words) seem like something not so far from me. The flow of time from 1991 to 2011 is a smooth line, a continuous flow, those days just a vibration away.
It shocks me to think that someone born in 1998 and seeing stories about Nevermind would therefore be in the same situation as I was then. No, "shocks" isn't the right word at all ——— it crushes me inside somehow, makes me feel like a pre-emptive ghost, part of history.
So then what? If there's any comfort to be drawn from all of this looking back, it's not from the warm shelter of nostalgia. Not yet, dammit. Not yet.
Maybe it's the idea that the things that turn out to be important — the things that are going to change us, transform us, give us new skins and new hearts — are, indeed, all around, even if they're not the things one suspects are important.
1 At the blooming of my first era of band t-shirt wearing, I had one that read THE PHUNKY CYPRESS HILL SHIT in block letters on the back. In a particularly tragic episode, someone stole it when it was drying on the laundry line. The older couple who lived next door took pity on me, and kept giving me shirts to make up for it, though none of them had swear words.
2 Plus, I shall not lie, there was also a lot of stuff that would now be considered monumentally uncool, like 3rd Bass' Derelicts of Dialect.
3 If there'd have been any foreshadowing of a sea change that summer, it might've been the Anthrax Attack of the Killer B's comp, which I bought because for several months it was the only way to get my hands on their collaborative remake of Public Enemy's "Bring the Noise". And though it wasn't my usual fare, in a time where I listened to stuff like this it didn't seem like too much of a step. Plus, metal was always something in the cultural background — it wasn't strange, it just wasn't my thing.
Tangentially, this is probably worthy of its own study, but that collaboration would be a launching point on a vector that would extend to the Judgment Night soundtrack a couple years later, precursor to a decade of terrible rap-metal hybrids. Thank goodness that I had enough time to refine my musical palate before that happened — if I were a couple years younger there'd almost certainly be some more — or, I should say, different — regretful stuff in my musical biography.
4 Many of those hours in the library were spent memorizing Latin vocabulary — I had a whimsical (if not mildly eccentric) streak in picking my classes in those days. And sadly, pretty much all my conjugal visits that fall were with Latin verbs.
5 Or, less productively, going to Magicland. Located on Portage Avenue, just a couple blocks west of the university, Magicland was one of our main reasons for heading downtown during high school days. It was, like, the best arcade ever. Not because of the quality of the video games particularly, but because you paid by the hour to play the games, and never had to pump quarters in. Three bucks an hour was a pretty sweet deal, and we took advantage of it a certain amount, by which I mean a lot. An exclusively guy-ish sort of ritual, it was a good reason to skip class in high school, and perhaps more of a dangerous temptation once I was just minutes away from it for most of the day — time spent in Jupiter to get more stupider. For a while, there was some danger that I was going to major in Galaga.
6 This remains a pretty fine album, and should be loudly celebrated on this, the twentieth anniversary of its release. Very much a game-changer in its own way, it still stands up as a helluva good listen.
7 In the pantheon of that year's releases, Apocalypse '91 needs to be acknowledged for its fierce excellentness, the last of a trio of back-to-back-to-back masterpieces. It was also the last flare of undiluted greatness from what was, for a very long time, my favourite band ever, which makes it slightly bittersweet.
9 At the time, the story therein on Fugazi, say, certainly didn't immediately impact me, even if in looking back it feels way more like something out of my world than N.W.A. was.
10 The latter was an informal name, but it serves to reinforce how much some things have changed — when I entered university, there was still a designated, unventilated indoor smoking area. In fact, older students were still grousing at the fact you couldn't smoke in classrooms anymore. And while it's crossing my mind, I'll pause to savour the wonderfully sixties nomenclature of the Centennial Hall Buffeteria — a name now re-branded into history, if my browsing of the university's website is correct. Oh, also — universities have websites now. That was totally not a thing when I was an undergrad.
11 In fact, Nevermind was third on that list, though fewer people seem to recall that REM's Out of Time beat it, too. I suppose fewer people have an axe to grind with REM.
12 Though I certainly took in a whole lotta that — enough that eventually, in more pedantic moments, I could argue things like, "the only real grunge band is TAD".
13 As the amount of attention I paid to "alternative" music blossomed, my ardour for hip-hop slowly waned. It wasn't helped of course, that that Golden Age couldn't sustain itself, and the quality of the music as a whole dropped off. As far as I was concerned back then, after, say, Enter the Wu-Tang the landscape was pretty barren, with materialistic gangsta rap in the ascendant. In retrospect, I have no doubt that I simply missed a lot of stuff because I wasn't playing such close attention — I never picked up Illmatic when it came out, for example. But to this day, I feel a disdain for most contemporary hip-hop music — the most-praised rappers of this age seem tepid and third-rate compared to the stuff I loved. So if you happen to be looking for it, there's one point where my nostalgia has turned to an ossified "back in my day..." sort of grumbling.
14 Specifically, I remember being in the kitchen of my friend C.'s house, sitting at the counter having lunch and watching a story about it on the news. His father — a stern, distant sort of man in my eyes — was there too, and I think that reinforced the distance of twenty years, if it could be a marker of a grown-up's youth. Again, it shocks me how different the past we were there for is from the past that came before us. They should actually have different names.
Artist: The Raincoats
Song: Feminist Song*
Recorded at Wrongbar, September 23, 2011.The Raincoats - Feminist Song
Full review to follow. "When you ask me if I'm a feminist – I say, 'why the hell would I not be?'"
* This was listed as the title in a photo of a setlist I found online, but I don't know if that's a final name or just a placeholder for this new song.
Artist: Prince Enoki's Insect Orchestra feat. Laraaji
Recorded at Lula Lounge, September 22, 2011.Prince Enoki's Insect Orchestra - Impossible
Full review to follow. As if there wasn't already enough star power on stage with this band, they were joined for a couple songs by ambient electro-zither master Laraaji. Yow!
Song: Dissembler [Studio Session]*
Recorded at Wavelength Studio Session #1, The Tranzac, February 19, 2011.Woodhands - Dissembler [Studio Session]
My notes for this session can be found here.
* This is a bit of an amalgamation and condensation of the demonstration that the band made, combining an excerpt from the instrumental piece that was the inspiration for the song with the band's acoustic demonstration of how that became "Dissembler".
ELEVEN! Festival (Wavelength 515 – Studio Session #1) (feat. Not The Wind, Not The Flag / Woodhands)
The Tranzac (Tiki Room). Saturday, February 19, 2011.
An adjunct to the Wavelength Festival's nightly shows, the first Studio Session took musicians and audience alike out of the clubs to sit down and get inside the creative process.1 Taking place in the cozy Tiki Room at The Tranzac, this session (hosted by Wavelength's Ryan McLaren) had a small-ish turnout that actually felt like a boon, lessening the separation with the performers and making the whole thing feel like a really cool time just hanging out with a pair of duos who create rather different kinds of music.
The first half was given over to Brandon Valdivia and Colin Fisher of Not The Wind, Not The Flag, who treated their segment as they do their music — loosely structured and open to improvisation. They started by giving a sort of statement of purpose for the band: inspired by explorers like Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell, playing musics from all parts of the world filtered through their own experiences ("growing up, I played in a hardcore band," Fisher commented) in order to try and find the folk music of the place where they live.
To make things more concrete, they then played a short version of their current mbira-based set, starting with Valdivia on thumb piano and Fisher on drums, spending several minutes playing off each other. In a particularly sweet transition, with Valdivia adding a reverse loop effect on the mbira as he moved over to the drum kit, Fisher took his spot and picked up his guitar, introducing it by using the same reverse pedal before amping up into a guitar and drums duo. They played about thirteen minutes — a sentence instead of a paragraph by their standards, but sufficient for everyone to hold in their heads for reference in the enjoyable question-and-answer session.
In a wonderful flowering of the format's potential dynamic, perhaps the most curious interlocutors were the members of Woodhands. Vocalist/keyboardist Dan Werb, whose music generally works with a "time-signature-centric" 4⁄4 beat, asked about the theoretical underpinnings of "free" percussion — how does it work without a steady beat? Valdivia talked about finding the music's flowing, undulating pulse and rhythms within it, while Fisher compared it to microtonality (the notes that are between the notes in our do-reh- me scale), in that we are "trained" to hear tones in a rigourously-constructed system (whole notes, half-notes, quarters and no on) but there are beats in between.
That led to a discussion on how the band's practice relied on their substantial technical vocabulary — perhaps the crux for any improviser who is aiming for something more than noise. "I don't think what we do is academic," said Fisher, and both talked about playing with feeling without explicitly referencing all the theory underlying it.
There was a lot of other fascinating stuff — Woodhands' Paul Banwatt was curious about what it means to make a "mistake" in NTW's sort of music, where hitting the right note is less of a zero-sum game than in more regimented styles. "In our band, we actually make a lot of mistakes," Dan Werb would later comment later in reaction to this musing; Valdivia and Fisher concurred the biggest "mistake" they can make is not listening and reacting to each other. On the whole, the thoughtful answers came with the same generosity of spirit and positivity that the pair put into their music.
Listen to an extract from the musical portion of the duo's segment here.
After that, while NTW,NTF took their gear down and Paul Banwatt set up his drums, Dan Werb sat at the piano and played to himself as people in the room chatted. Woodhands' segment took the concept in a different direction, leading the audience on a more-structured guided tour through their creative process. They explained that while some of their songs emerge from jamming, quite often the base material comes from Werb's piano playing — taking "ambient, contemplative music" like he'd been warming up with and using that as the basis for something else.
Werb then played a rolling solo piano version of the melodic kernel of "Dissembler", then sped that up, revealing something suddenly recognizable as a Woodhands song. Banwatt talked about his role both as creative foil and in adding his drum parts (here, they developed from his having written a drum machine part for the song first).
They also led the crowd through the evolutionary stages of "Victory Nap", which had received its live debut the night before. Even though it was such a new song, it had changed so much from the original concept that it was a struggle for Werb to go all the way back to the waltz-y 6⁄8 ballad he had started with. Showing a few intermediary changes, they showed how the song had transformed into a four-on-the-floor rocker powered by Banwatt's pounding drums — and ending with a full "unplugged" version of the song. Rather fascinating!
That was followed by a Q & A facilitated by Ryan McLaren, with more commentary on process before talking about the band's origins: Werb playing alone on an MS-10 in Montréal in an effort to create "solo" music not reliant on unpredictable bandmates, and going through some different incarnations before meeting Banwatt after moving to Toronto2 and ending up as a duo.
As the band talked about developing the concept of Woodhands, it was intriguing to reflect on the sheer amount of thinking put into so many of the elements that just look natural on stage — it's a rock'n'roll myth that every gesture and every note comes from some burst of spontaneous creativity, when in fact personas are crafted just like songs are meticulously assembled to give that "in the moment" feeling.
The band also talked changing their approach for an in-the-works EP — "more side to side than up and down," Werb commented on the new stuff, hoping to take advantage of Banwatt's skills to layer more drums on recordings. When the floor was opened for further questions, the band was asked about their relationship to music outside of what they play (Werb, obsessed with lyrics, is totally devoted to Bill Callaghan and Vic Chesnutt), but it was musings on "dance music" that were most interesting. Werb talked about the band's self-imposed technological constraints: looper and drum machine yes, pre-recorded midi no. And when asked about the possibility of going further with the tools of "orthodox" dance music, Werb commented, "I don't know how to do that... I'm on a computer all day anyway, I don't want to go on a computer when we're playing music."
Added Banwatt, "everybody at a live show likes to see things go wrong, and we offer that at every show," bringing around full circle the earlier commentary on mistakes.
Listen to a snippet of the band sketching out a song's development here.
This was an excellent concept, and a superb addition to the festival. Hopefully there will be more like this to come — there's so many musicians that I would love to hear talking about their craft like this, and it's always a treat to have shows that fall outside the narrow parameter of the usual late-night bar gigs.
1 There was also, on the following afternoon, another new presentation with the "Speaker Series", featuring authors Liz Worth and Stuart Berman talking about the history of T.O.'s music scene and their documentation of it. That was the only WL515 activity I couldn't make it out for.
2 The pair actually met at the Henry Faberge & The Adorables CD release show at Palais Royale at the end of summer '06. Banwatt was there as part of a then-unheralded band named Rural Alberta Advantage who were playing near the bottom of the bill. That show also featured sets from Gentleman Reg, Laura Barrett and The Bicycles. Looking back at gigs like that I can see why I came to be interested in documenting the shows I went to — I'd love to have some recordings from that day.
ELEVEN! Festival (Wavelength 515 – night 3) (feat. Doldrums / Romo Roto / Pat Jordache / Minotaurs / Woodhands)
Steam Whistle Brewery. Friday, February 18, 2011.
As with the previous year's festival, what you could loosely call the "dance" night of the Wavelength anniversary was being held in the roomy event space at Steam Whistle Brewery, in the roundhouse at the foot of the CN Tower. It feels a little bit out-of-the-way, but it's a cozy space inside, and pleasing to look at the bricks'n'beams layout.
There was a decent crowd on hand as the night started with the abstract pop stylings of Airick Woodhead's Doldrums project. Rather than a sequential series of discrete songs, his sets unfold more like a hip-hop mixtape, with bits of songs popping up, disappearing and being reprised around sampled dialogue, randomly jacked beats, and chunks of other people's songs. Here, after some of that looped/sampled dialogue, things started with a slower jam, full of whirring, fluttering sounds (most of which were crafted from vocal loops constructed on the fly) that eventually turned into a real-time remix/deconstruction of itself.
Perhaps as a bit of a mischievous tweak at the night's corporate hosts, Woodhead played a sampled/détourned Bud Lite ad. And after another one of his own jams, he threw on a Madonna song, jumped off the stage to run over to the bar for a beer, then jumped back on stage to chop + screw with the the song for a bit before replacing it with a beat of his own, commenting after, "I was just gonna try that one out on you guys. It's called 'Get Into the Groove'. D'you like it?"
Listen to a song from this set here.
After one more song that was mostly composed of a choir of looped backing vocals and a slow beat, Woodhead moved into another segue/deconstruction as Alexandra Mackenzie and Tomas Del Balso — also known as Romo Roto — took the stage to join Woodhead in a smooshy jam, their two sets of drums and vox melding into the Doldrums synthscape. Declaring that "the caterpillar is now the moth!" Woodhead then departed.
From there it was more like Romo Roto's standard stock-in-trade — pummelling dual drum beats ("tribal" with scarequotes being an operative mode here) with back and forth vocals veering between chants and moans. Mayne I was just belatedly catching up to their sensibility, but the pair came off more like a slightly-oddball band than the wholly-oddball art project they'd conveyed earlier on. Special notice should be taken of Mackenzie's increased stage presence — facing the crowd and really delivering her vocals with conviction, there was much more a sense that she was prepared to be the focus of attention. In moments like "Catapillar Massacare" [sic] there was a most pleasing sense that their frantic drumming and catchy singalong sensibilities were jibing nicely.1
Listen to a song from this set here.
Following that was a slightly prolonged changeover for Pat Jordache. In fact, there were signs that this Montréal unit (here making their T.O. debut) were still working out the kinks, with some signs of a new working unit — that slow setup paralleled with some slow transitions between songs as the musicians swapped instruments and got themselves sorted out.
It's also possible that Jordache (the stage name for Patrick Gregoire, formerly of Islands and Sister Suvi2) was fighting off a bug — with a mildly medicated presence, he looked somewhat drawn out and appeared to be fighting a cough, so perhaps his singing voice (somewhere just above the Nick Cave range) might be capable of a more sonorous presence than he brought to this show. And similarly, a four-man backing band (including a small second drumkit) with the players often swapping instruments between songs didn't yet sound like the band was really occupying the arrangements. Jordache had recorded his Future Songs (then forthcoming, now out on Constellation Records) as a solo project, and with the band staying busy on the road (including a couple more recent local stops) they may well have gelled some more.
Leading with "Get It (I Know You're Going To)", most of the setlist would subsequently show up on the album, but the best stuff in the set would be the presumably-newer stuff not found there. I mildly enjoyed the "Matters of the Heart", where Jordache hit a sort of croon-y sweet spot, and there was one (possibly called "Talk to You") that had a nimble, vaguely discofied guitar that animated the song's earnest new wave-y vibe. It received an extended instrumental bridge when a keyboard temporarily went on the fritz, showing the band thinking on their feet.
At first, there was a large open deadzone in front of the stage, but as the band got going Daniel Woodhead (who had also been right up front watching his brother performing in the opening set) started grabbing crowdmembers from the hanging-back zone and tugging them forward to create a dance party. Surprisingly, it took, and the audience seemed to enjoy the set. But, to be honest, I couldn't say it made much of an impact on me.
A more intense brand of grooving after that as the eleven-headed beast that is Minotaurs took the stage, with leader Nathan Lawr surround by a pair of guitarists, vibes, percussion and a four-man horn section (Jay Hay, Jeremy Strachan, Nick Buligan, Steve Ward). With Fela-esque afro-funk rhythms underpinning Lawr's songs, this is a crew that I've liked a lot every time I've seen 'em.
The crowd was at the right density by this point, not uncomfortably packed in but with enough people up close, shuffering and shmiling with the music. Having played these songs together for awhile now, there was a bit more relaxed agitation to the whole thing, as if the band knew the material, and now they could really lean into it. Even Lawr was in action pose, forgoing his keyboard stand and standing up most of the set.
Jumping right into the groovy "Get Down" got the room's attention and held them for the more-simmering "The Thing", title track of the band's album. An extra-fuzzy electric piano sound to start off "Runaway Lane" gave it some pleasing grit. "Caught in the Light" came with an extended intro and even fave "Pink Floyd" felt amped up and stretched out to close out the set.
Lawr is a respectable-enough songwriter, but the best thing here is how the band distracts from his work, embroidering it into something larger. It's a sign of confidence and maturity that Lawr allows the songs to push him from the centre, and with this band it's the source of his greatest success.
Listen to a song from this set here.
Just like last year's Steam Whistle show, the night closed with a band whose appeal reaches well beyond Wavelength regulars into a cadre of devoted fans, although Woodhands do indeed have a history with the series. But now the floor was getting packed in with a different dort of crowd. There was a guy in front of me wearing an embossed baseball hat reading "OH S#?T WOODHANDS", and I saw a woman whose t-shirt simply read "DANCE!".
Promising a whole lot of new material, the set lead off with an instrumental — though it did have some interjections from Keyboardist Werb of the "hunh!" variety. The duo employs Werb's keyboards and the fantastically frenzied drumming of Paul Banwatt (also of The Rural Alberta Advantage, and one of the very best ion the city) — and no samples or backing tracks — to create squirmingly groovy dance music. The vibe was enhanced by the extent to which the pair were having enormous fun on stage all night long:
Banwatt: So, I gotta share some distressing news with you guys. It probably distresses me more than anyone else. We had a laser malfunction. [crowd good-naturedly boos] And our main laser battery is down.
Werb: Toronto — do you forgive Paul Banwatt for fucking up the laser show?
Banwatt: I'll make it up to you...
Werb: [interrupting] Can he make it up to you... in drumming?
And meanwhile, the band frontloaded the goodness, bringing out Maylee Todd for duets old and new with "Dissembler" (from last year's Remorsecapade) and favourite "Dancer" (from debut album Heart Attack). The latter came in an extra-extended version, with Banwatt trying to make up for the laser debacle by bringing out a cowbell — always a crowd-pleasing move — stretching the song out to about nine minutes.
And, as promised, they were also sporting some of their new material, including "Victory Nap" (getting its first public airing) and the song premiered at their previous Lee's Palace show ("gonna march you down the street" is the memorable hook) — that one especially was a showcase for Banwatt's drumming. And there was another guest appearance with Laura Barrett taking the mic for "Sailboats" to close out the main set.
It was a sweaty, bouncy good time, even before the pair returned for "I Wasn't Made For Fighting" and "Be Back Soon". Creating some sort of short-circuit to the brain's groove centres, Woodhands are one of the most talented bands I know at being able to bypass any sort of critical response and just create a fun, in-the-moment vibe.
Listen to a song from this set here.
1 I've heard it said — but I have no official source on this — that these two have moved on from the Romo Roto project. Del Balso can still be seen in DD/MM/YYYY and Mackenzie in Wet Nurse.
2 Recently, the latter was mostly referred to in passing as the pre-solo launching pad for Merrill Garbus, who is now making waves for her work as Tune-Yards. There'll be a reunion of sorts on the September 26 when Jordache opens for Tune-Yards at Lee's Palace.
Artist: Andre Ethier (with special guest Chad Ross)
Song: Pride of Egypt
Recorded at The Horseshoe Tavern, September 16, 2011.Andre Ethier - Pride of Egypt
Full review to follow. A stellar night at the 'Shoe with three bands united by the fact that they've all been hard to find playing recently. What I hear though, is that we can expect to see Andre Ethier playing more around town in the next months, as well as openers Sandro Perri and Deloro. And as a bonus, for this set-closer, Ethier was joined by fellow former Deadly Snake Chad Ross.
Artist: Gordon Grdina's East Van Strings
Song: The Breathing of Statues [conclusion]
Recorded at the Music Gallery (ELEVEN: The Wavelength 11th Anniversary Festival), February 17, 2011.Gordon Grdina's East Van Strings - The Breathing of Statues [conclusion]
My notes for this set can be found here. N.B. This is a notch below my usual recording standard, and doesn't fully do justice to the beauty of the sounds.
ELEVEN! Festival (Wavelength 515 – night 2) (feat. Not The Wind, Not The Flag / Gordon Grdina's East Van Strings / Eiyn Sof / Kite Hill)
The Music Gallery. Wednesday, February 17, 2011.
Feeling a bit like the quiet hangover recovery after the rockin' opening salvo, the second night of Wavelength's Eleventh Anniversary festival shifted to the more relaxed and meditative confines of The Music Gallery. Unlike the previous year's MG show, the sanctuary's pews were left in place — this would be a sit-down show, well-befitting the least rock'n'roll night of the festival. It was also the quietest, both in terms of sonics and the crowd on hand. Perhaps because of the lack of a relatively big-name headliner, there were only a couple dozen folks in the pews as things got going for what would turn out to be one of the best sets of the festival.
It was wonderful to see Not The Wind, Not The Flag, who are playing with such inspired purposefulness right now, in the confines of the Music Gallery. The improvising duo of Colin Fisher and Brandon Valdivia can scale their gear and set to fit in almost any environment, but it was a treat to see them more fully laid out than their "road" configuration, with a whole second set of instruments on hand, consisting of a set of bells, bowls and gongs off to one side of the stage, ready for a two-man gamelan ensemble. The only downside of having the large gong sitting there was the anticipation — I was nearly twitching as the set started, thinking how much I wanted see someone to hit the blasted thing.
NTW's sets aren't so much distinguished by songs — the commonality of each "method" that they employ can be found in the instruments they choose and a set of generative principles that make each performance a unique creation that still belongs to an identifiable genus. So, here the set started with Fisher on drums and Valdivia on mbira, a musical seam that they've been working for a little while now, finding interesting points of textual intersection as each gets further into their exploration of their instrument. Fisher, whose musical repertoire has only more recently included the drums, was doing well but has an occasional propensity to lose a drumstick, making for a different kind of improvisation as he hunted around for his spare — or in this case, covering until someone jumped up from the front row to pick it up for him.
After playing for almost fifteen minutes, the pair transitioned to the gongs, Fisher shaking a string of bells as he moved over to sit on the floor, Valdivia following him to a set of singing bowls. They gradually fell into a slow rhythm, with Valdivia playing a recurring figure on the small gongs and Fisher punctuating it with the low bonnnng of the large one. As the pair slowly built up a rhythmic interplay that kept coming back to that same repeating figure it was very zen and particularly gorgeous.1 General Chaos' lighting was particularly effective here, with big slow-moving blobs of colour on the brick walls behind the altar.
That transitioned into a closing phase, based around Fisher's wordless vocals, at first just backed by jingling bells, building a pleasing spaceout drift vibe with the lighting contributing to a Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite vibe as Fisher built loops of his voice while Valdivia took over the drumkit. The finale, a guitar/drum duo, couldn't match the serene heights of the gong segment, but closed out the journey with an adequate return-to-earth.
Listen to an excerpt from this set here.
The first out-of-town guests in the festival were soon setting up on the floor in front of the stage. Gordon Grdina's East Van Strings brought violin, viola and cello along with Grdina's guitar and oud. His singular status, both in gear and above-the-title billing outlined that was would be a rather unusual string quartet. Grdina has many different projects on the go, including several "jazz" ones (his trio has recently toured with saxophonist with Mats Gustafsson) and, interestingly, sideman duties with singer-songwriter Dan Mangan. But here he was presenting an intriguing sort of chamber music.
"Origin" (from the fine The Breathing of Statues album) contained, after the sweepingly dramatic head, room for improvisation in a quieter vein, pizzicato plunks working off the guitar. Grdina then switched to the oud for the extended "The Breathing of Statues", which gave the music a slightly more exotic cast (I think taqsim is the word I'm looking for here, but I'm verily in danger of getting out of my depth) with a delicious drone-y undercurrent to the oud picking, slowly morphing into a slightly more melodic structure in an expansive soundscape that lasted nearly fifteen minutes. Final selection "Webern" sounded more like the product of a "traditional" string quartet, albeit in a modernist Bartók-like vein.
Though we tend to think of music like this as being imbued with more "formality" than yr typical rock'n'roll, the musicians weren't too fusty about it — I don't think I'd ever heard a string quartet begin with a count in, for example. And it was really beautiful stuff, not to mention a demonstration of the variety within the Wavelength experience. I grabbed myself a copy of The Breathing of Statues right after the set, and I'd have to say this was one of the highlights of the festival for me.
Listen to a selection from this set here.
Heading into the night, I was most anticipating a too-rare appearance by Melissa Boraski, who releases music under the mystically-suggestive bandonym Eiyn Sof. Now based in Brantford, Boraski doesn't make it to town to play as much, but her restless creative spirit is kept busy with her recordings. The full-length Bloodstreams was one of my absolute favourite albums from last year2, creating a realm where rootsy shuffles and twitchy synthscapes effortlessly co-exist. It's a textured album that would take some effort to reproduce live, and indeed with just a duo on stage — Boraski on electric guit, backed by Katie Iarocci — things were stripped back to leave the focus on the well-written songs.
Iarocci's vibes still managed to add a nice touch of atmosphere to "Take By Storm" and "Found Myself Running". Although there were a couple new songs in the mix, most of the set was drawn from Bloodstreams, including a rearrangement of "Young Son", with Iarocci switching over to the sitar-like bulbul taraang. The set went only for a too-brief twenty-five minutes — I would have loved to hear the ethereal "Too Tall", but I'm willing to wait for the next opportunity.
Listen to a song from this set here.
I arguably don't have too much new to say about Kite Hill, who played a similar set to the last couple times I saw 'em. Caught in that moment between having an album's worth of material and being able to overcome the banalities involved in getting that released to the world, Ryan Carley's orch-pop project remains more in a consolidate-the-gains phase than a break-new-ground one. No matter, as the Music Gallery is a perfect environment for their sweeping, pastoral music, not in the least for having a stage where all eight members can stretch out a little. Plus, mainman Carley (also of Ohbijou) had a chance to settle in behind the grand piano, lending an ornate tone to his songs.
Kite Hill's music swells like a stately retelling of a rambling childhood adventure shot through with a sort of retrospective melancholy — there's heightened drama conveyed in the arrangements, but also some loneliness at the centre. And there were lots of little moments to pick up on here: Carley dedicating the resilient "Warm Winter" ("so – you won't give in / you won't give in / despite the way it's been") to host Doc Pickles; the martial drums of "Gathering"; and not-always-played initial salvo "Tom Thumbtack" (from the Friends in Bellwoods II collection).
It looks like there's progress towards the release the band's long-gestating Rest & Run, though now with Ohbijou starting a new album cycle, I'd imagine Kite Hill will have to work around that.3 But here it was a stirring conclusion to the night.
1 At the subsequent studio session, Fisher would describe this with the appropriately ambiguous "Javanese-ish".
3 At least it looks like there's going to be the chance for a the band to piggyback on Ohbijou for some out-of-town live appearances, including an upcoming trip to Halifax's Long Live the Queen Festival.
Sonic Boom Records. Thursday, February 17, 2011.
In-stores can serve as a chance to get a revitalizing quick hit from a beloved band, but they can also serve as an appetizer-sized portion for something where you're unsure about how much you enjoy the taste. Case in point: I've never felt too strongly either way about The Dears from Montréal, so I found myself in Sonic Boom's basement mostly to see how things were sounding on what was being praised in some quarters as a "return to form" album. There was a healthy crowd of people who seemed like much stronger enthusiasts than me — no surprise, as this town's love of anthemic Brit bands extends as well to domestic purveyors of the same vibe. Perhaps one reason for my vague antipathy for the band was that they seemed to pitch themselves as a product ripped from the pages of the NME, with inter-band drama and self-proclaimed grandiosity as important as stadium-sized propulsion.
I'm not sure if it was that rockstarness or just run-of-the-mill technical problems that had the band starting an unimpressive half-hour late, but from the outset singer/guitarist Murray Lightburn comported himself as if he were on stage at Wembley Stadium, greeting the crowd with a vigourous shout of "wake up, Toronto!" With a drum machine failing just before starting the first song, Lightburn was ready to plunge in for better or worse, saying, "this could be a total balls... or it could be fucking amazing."
Celebrating their their new Degeneration Street album, the band started off with "Omega Dog", its opening track — and would, in fact proceed to play the next three songs in album order. Going in cold, "Omega Dog" was sorta what I expected — two-and-a-half minutes of song serving as the setup for four minutes of coda, complete with guitar solos and, y'know, general bigness. The return of Patrick Krief to the fold was one of the new album's selling points, and he took his job as prototypical lead guitarist seriously with full-on guitarface and give'r body language. This went over well with the crowd, including the guy beside me who tossed up the devil horns as Krief soloed.
The overall effect was all right — "Blood" worked for me, "Thrones" a bit less so — which might sound less underwhelming if considered with the notion that this sort of emotively-charged arena-ready rock isn't particularly my thing. Still, there's no doubt that Lightburn takes his job as "frontman" seriously, even when playing keytar. There's a very self-conscious "proper rock band" vibe, which I was amused by in a secondhand sort of way, though I couldn't quite delineate how much they were playing the "role", and how much they just felt like they had the bona fides to strut their stuff. For example, Lightburn (who preceded several songs with a shout from Kardinal Offishall's "The Anthem") was occasionally self-depreciating, but it came off as the effort of someone who had read about self-depreciation but who doesn't quite get it. Still, trying to unwrangle personas and personalities is generally a mug's game — most of the time we're merely going to impute whatever meaning to a gesture that would justify our own predispositions.
After those first first four songs from the new album ("c'mon, you all know it's kick-ass," Lightburn informed the crowd) the band closed with "Hate Then Love" from 2006's Gang of Losers. I was entertained, and it was a solid half-hour that probably felt me feeling more well-disposed toward the band, but not to the extent that I reckon I'd be rushing to see them for a ticketed show.
Listen to a song from this set here.
Okay! Here's a first for this blog. In collaboration with Doc Pickles, I have uploaded the entire Jim Storie Juniors set from the Wavelength ELEVEN! festival to the Live Music Archive. You can stream the whole thing, or download it in the format of your choice, including lossless FLAC files.
Hopefully this will be the first of many full recordings to go up. Thanks to Duncan, whose use of the Internet Archive to distribute his music was the inspiration here.
P.S. Any artists with whom I've shared recordings previously — if this looks like a cool idea to you, please get in touch with me and we can get something of yours up on the Archive!
ELEVEN! Festival (Wavelength 515 – night 1) (feat. The Jim Storie Juniors / The Guest Bedroom / Bruised Knees / Anagram)
The Boat. Wednesday, February 16, 2011.
For anyone that truly loves local music, Wavelength's annual festival has become one of the most exciting events of the year. This year's event (titled ELEVEN!, numbered 515), didn't have the grab-ya cachet of last year's rather excellent Wavelength 500 blowout, which was something of a grand summary of ten years of the series' weekly shows, with plenty of reunions and spectacle. This year's was more of a snapshot of what's going on now — there were some old hands around, but just as many bands making their WL débuts. Less flashy, but a superb overview of some of the best music at hand right now.
And once again, the festival moved through five different venues in five nights, each show featuring a variety of bands but also a well-curated unity. Kicking things off with an excursion to The Boat in Kensington Market1 gave Night 1 a dive-y, frills-free-but-gloriously-ragged vibe, rather well-suited to the bands at hand. Like virtually all Wavelength shows, this featured lighting from General Chaos, multicoloured swirling projections behind the bands that always change to reflect each act's personality. And this festival also introduced the efficient stage-managing of Adham Ghanem — now a Wavelength fixture — who did an excellent job of keeping five busy nights running on schedule.
Another WL fixture wasn't in place as the first band was introduced by Jonny Dovercourt. But that would be because Duncan "Doc Pickles" MacDonell, the series' longstanding MC, was getting ready to perform as the lead vocalist for The Jim Storie Juniors. Anyone that's witnessed MacDonell's unique verbal dexterity — blindfolded tightrope walking over the abyss of randomness and nonlinearity, sometimes pausing to dip a toe into the roiling chaos below — might think they know what to expect from him in his musical pursuits. That turns out to be halfway right — but along with an occasional propensity to sing off the mic and occasional digressions from digressions there's also a reined-in musical craft on display.
Even after having checked out some of his "Audiozines"2, I was still surprised to see MacDonnell — in a strangely nostalgia-inducing Chip + Pepper shirt — actually singing (and not, say, sing-speaking). In fact, he was totally into it, eyes closed, double-fisting the microphone — no surprise given his attitude that everyone should be fully and unironically into whatever it is you're gonna be into. All the times he's ended WL shows telling the audience that now it's their turn to go and start a band weren't just rhetorical flourishes.
A lot of the songs from this set came from recent JSJ album What's It Going To Take To Get This Fight Started?, but it was illuminating to hear them in more fleshed-out rockin' versions, backed by Matt Robinson and Chad Storie (of 122 Greige), along with the titular Jim Storie on drums. There was good stuff like "Don't Take My Shortwave Away" and the sticks-in-your-head "Girl on the Green", and a few subtle political messages ("Who's gonna pay for Afghanistan? Poppies only cover half of the bill," asks "Goods and Services") amongst the narratives of economic disaffection. The setlist didn't touch on any of the album's witty blues deconstructions, but MacDonnell did manage to tie the songs to the larger event by dedicating each song to a different year of Wavelength's run.
Listen to a track from this set here.
Though still a relatively new band making their Wavelength début, this wouldn't be the first brush with the series for some of the Bruised Knees's members. They were hitting the series at the right time, though, with their material still sounding fresh even as they're definitely settling into it on stage. Natalie Logan (vox/keyb/perc) looked more relaxed, interacting with the crowd more than previously, giving the indication that she could become the de facto mediator with the audience. Fellow vocalist/guitarist Chuck Skullz (ex-Creeping Nobodies) looks more focused on the work at hand, like an alchemist in the final stages of some intricate transmutation, creating tasty Sonic Youth-y textures on songs like "Inside Eye".
That contrasted with the pounding rhythms of "F LK T PE", Logan complementing Dennis Amos' drums with her own drumpad work. There are some good hooks here, but rhythmic interplay is the band's strongest calling card, and songs like "Holy See's Horror" are getting more textured with time. There were some bracingly good blasts here, as invigorating as the February winds outside.
Listen to a track from this set here.
The Guest Bedroom were a band I'd been meaning to see again for awhile. In fact, it had been nearly a year-and-a-half since I'd seen the veteran crew, during which time they'd released the full-length A Year’s Supply Of Rabbit's Feet. While I'd previously been only been semi-won over by the band, everything here felt a little more in focus for me, with Rob Castle's keyb work acting as an effective foil to Sandi Falconer's guit and vox, winding their way though tough-but-shifty sounding songs. I was definitely taken with "Ugly Thoughts", which lasted as long as the preceding two songs combined and earned the length. The keyb line was grinding up against Allan Toth's bass while Falconer's guit moved nimbly between them — all while the song geared up to a gallop for the shouted refrain, "this is a warning that you're underperforming / and you should show up a little more prepared / This is a warning that you're underperforming / you're not standing up to our evaluation!"
I appreciate how there's a slightly herky-jerk sensibility to the rhythms that isn't quite given free reign in the face of the band's punk spirit, leaving the whole thing just unsettled enough. The songs from the album were punctuated with a couple new ones, including an agreeable one that might someday end up being called "Sympathetic Magic". As the band closed with "Tough Luck", I felt that the set ended with me liking them more than I did at the start — and now I'm rather more eager to catch 'em again.
Listen to a track from this set here.
Closing out the first night was Anagram, a band with which I'd become quite familiar over the preceding year. The band's usual singleminded thrum was on display right at the outset with "Done Yet" and a fiery "Evil", both from the superb Majewski. Vocalist Matt Mason sings as if he's consistently too-aware that there's a meanness in this world, and the musical attack behind him hits like a fierce blow intent on inculcating that rough lesson.
As sometimes happens when the band plays, for the first couple songs people were just sort of standing around. But the music has a sort of hypnotizing effect on audiences, as if awakening a vague sense of dread that makes people want to escape the room or escape their bodies in some sort of unknowing lowlevel panic. Soon enough, there was a typical Anagram "pit" — not so much people slamming into each other as bumping with a sort of brownian motion, stirred up by something outside their control. This wasn't entirely the usual Anagram crowd, so it was even less aggressive than usual — Doc Pickles would later refer to it, with fond satisfaction, as the "gentlest moshing ever".
"I've Been Wrong Before" found the band getting so wound up that guitarist Willy Mason and bassist Jeff Peers were starting to get a little out of sync, though that mostly just added to the dissociative effect. That raggedyness carried forward into their cover of Leonard Cohen's "The Butcher", which lurched around like an angry, confused junkie searching for redemption. After that, though, the band snapped back into focus, and closed out the set with awesome precision. Toward the end of the set, a couple songs got stretched out as Matt Mason wandered into the crowd. Even with his mic cord being guided behind him, sometimes he simply seemed content to not sing and just let people bounce off him, the resulting lockgroove chugging was highly excellent stuff.
At forty-five minutes, this was the longest set of the night. An excellent start to the festival, even if it meant for a late Wednesday night.
Listen to a track from this set here.
1 Originally scheduled to be held across the street at Terenga, the show had to be relocated with that venue's closing.
Founded as a blog about one curmudgeon's love affair with the em dash, Mechanical Forest Sound has grown to become a community-based archive of local musical culture. Assuming that "independent music" isn't just boys with guitars and "culture" isn't just some sort of pageant, MFS is an investigation of a wide range of artists, reflecting on concerts as shared experiences, acts of citizenship and a chance to get down — fuzzy photographs and clear-sounding original live recordings a specialty.
Current manifestations of this project include Track Could Bend, a monthly concert series featuring "improvised music and weird rock offshoots", presented in a casual environment.
At one point I wrote full-on concert reviews, and for longer I thought I would catch up and write about shows in the past. But these days, because of, y'know, life, do not expect much in the way of full show reviews — but live recordings with blurbs will be posted as quickly after the fact as is feasible.
Check out my original live recordings from many of the gigs discussed here.
You can also check out full sets uploaded to the Live Music Archive. [not currently active]
N.B.: All recordings should be available & playable. If you come across any broken links, invisible or non-functioning players, etc, please leave a comment and I will tend to it ASAP.
ALSO N.B.: I'm perpetually on the lookout for a new place to stash my MP3's online. If you know of any place that allows a couple gigs of stuff to be openly linked to for streaming, drop me a line!
All comments are welcome, or you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All MP3's on this blog are audience recordings shared as a reminder of the excitement of seeing live music. If you are an artist who doesn't want their music shared in this way, please contact me and I shall remove it forthwith.
If you're so inclined, you can also follow me on Twitter: @TowerofBabbling
Crosswires [series relaunch!] (feat. Baa / Good Conduct / Dave from Ghostlight) / The Baby G 2017-03-20 (Monday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Long Winter 5.4 (feat. Deliluh / Leanne Simpson / Protruders / Doom Tickler / Bonnie Trash / Bunny / HEX / Midge / Clamaglamza / Joel Eel / Sistem) / Gladstone Hotel 2017-03-24 (Friday – all ages! PWYC!) [FB event]
Faster Presents: Spring Sounds (feat. Heraclitus Akimbo / Faster / Deenzi) / Gerrard Art Space 2017-03-25 (Saturday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Piano Party #10 (feat. Tom Richards / Laura Barrett / Kat Goldma) / The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-03-29 (Wednesday – early!) [FB event]
Crosswires (feat. Doc Pickles / Abigail Lapell / Chardon-Marie [members of Mean Red Spiders, Neck/Christiana, Soft Copy, Ghostlight]) / The Baby G 2017-04-03 (Monday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Track Could Bend #25: Second Anniversary All-Star Spectacular! [past performers return for improvised "bands from a hat" sets!] (feat. Allison Cameron/Fae Sirois/Benjamin Hackman/Michael Lynn/Aaron Corbett/Neil Wiernik/Justin Haynes/Brian Abbott/Chris Adriaanse/Patrick O'Reilly/Ian McPhedran/Laura Swankey/Jesse Levine/Del Stephen/Mike Smith/someone's memory/Bryan W. Bray/Christine Bougie and more TBA!) / The Steady Café 2017-04-04 (Tuesday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Emergents III (feat. Castle If / Laura Swankey) / The Music Gallery 2017-04-07 (Friday) [FB event]
Colin Fisher/Victor Cirone (ZOË / James Beardmore/Jakob Rehlinger) / Saving Gigi 2017-04-13 (Thursday) [FB event]
The Music Gallery's Departures Series (feat. Peter Evans Ensemble / Sam Weinberg/Chris Welcome/Ben Bennett / Not The Wind, Not The Flag) / Array Space 2017-04-16 (Sunday) [FB event]
Crosswires (feat. Eiyn Sof / Olivia Featherstone / Liz Hysen) / The Baby G 2017-04-17 (Monday – PWYC!) [FB event]
You've Changed Records 8th Anniversary Celebration (feat. Daniel Romano / Partner / Richard Laviolette / Shotgun Jimmie / Misha Bower) / Longboat Hall 2017-04-22 (Saturday) [FB event]
Nailbiter (Cares/New Tendencies/Johan Seaton) / The Steady Café 2017-04-23 (Sunday) [FB event]
These are shows that I can vouch for, but that I probably just won't have time to make it to.
Riverrun / The Emmet Ray 2017-03-20 (Monday) [FB event]
Jab Band [Liam Mitro/Luan Phung/Chris Pruden/Matthew Chalmers/Julian Anderson-Bowes — "March Rexidency"] / The Rex Hotel 2017-03-21 (Tuesday – early set @ 6:30! PWYC!) [FB event]
Billy Moon (Fresh Snow / CO/NTRY / WHOOP-Szo) / The Horseshoe Tavern 2017-03-22 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Bellwether 4 / The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-03-22 (Wednesday)
Ashkenaz Festival, Small World Music & Batuki Music present (feat. AvevA Dese / The Barnes/Woldemichael Ethiojazz Quartet) / Lula Lounge 2017-03-23 (Thursday) [FB event]
Artificial Sounds presents (feat. Schwefelgelb / Kontravoid) / Bambi's 2017-03-23 (Thursday) [FB event]
Paul Linklater and José Contreras / The Cameron House 2017-03-24 (Friday – early set @ 6 p.m.!) [FB event]
The Two Koreas (Not Of) / The Dakota Tavern 2017-03-24 (Friday – early show!) [FB event]
Corrodesion presents: Audio Bleed (feat. Inchoate / Hybrid Frequency / Johan Seaton / Panic Engines) / Belljar Café 2017-03-24 (Friday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Zuze & Iva [folk-jazz ensemble merging Iranian melodies and afrobeat rhythms meets Rankin Inlet throat singer] / Small World Music Centre 2017-03-24 (Friday) [FB event]
Continuum Contemporary Music: PIVOT [new music from emerging composers Rebecca Bruton, Maxime Corbeil-Perron, Juro Kim Feliz, Beavan Flanagan, Evelin Ramon, Bekah Simms, Cindy Chen] / The Music Gallery 2017-03-25 (Saturday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Kristian North Group (Fountain / Man Made Hill / Greydini) / The Baby G 2017-03-25 (Saturday) [FB event]
Fire in Heaven: Label Launch (feat. Jay Holy / BABEL / Bodies That Matter / Man Meets Bear / David Jones / YlangYlang) / Array Space 2017-03-25 (Saturday – PWYC! all ages!) – POSTPONED![FB event]
The Courtneys (Jay Som) / The Garrison 2017-03-26 (Sunday) [FB event]
Toronto Creative Music Lab Fundraiser Launch Party (feat. Patchwork / Stereoscope) / Array Space 2017-03-26 (Sunday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Crosswires (feat. Krosst Out / Melotika / Brock Gel) / The Baby G 2017-03-27 (Monday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Lambchop / The Great Hall 2017-03-27 (Monday) [FB event]
Jab Band [Liam Mitro/Luan Phung/Chris Pruden/Matthew Chalmers/Julian Anderson-Bowes — "March Rexidency"] / The Rex Hotel 2017-03-28 (Tuesday – early set @ 6:30! PWYC!) [FB event]
Array Session #46 (feat. Nidus) / Array Space 2017-03-28 (Tuesday – PWYC!) [more info]
Buzz Records presents (feat. Colleen Green / The Memories / Goodbye Honolulu / Bald Britney) / Smiling Buddha 2017-03-28 (Tuesday – all ages!) [FB event]
The AMBiENT PiNG presents: DRONE:KLUB ["community drone immersion experience"] / Roland Inspiration Centre 2017-03-29 (Wednesday – free! participation encouraged but not required!) [FB event]
Corey Gulkin (Omhouse / Merganzer) / Monarch Tavern 2017-03-30 (Thursday) [FB event]
ΔNZOLΔ / Pursuit Grooves / Josh Grant) / Handlebar 2017-03-30 (Thursday) [FB event]
Sky High (feat. Madawaska Quartet with Rob Macdonald and Sanya Eng) / The Music Gallery 2017-03-31 (Friday) [FB event]
Century Palm (Famines / Sweet Dave & The Shallow Graves / Deathsticks) / Monarch Tavern 2017-03-31 (Friday) [FB event]
Dany Laj and The Looks (Ghosted / New Enchanters) / Bovine Sex Club 2017-03-31 (Friday) [FB event
Rooted presents: Live Recording (feat. Please Plant This Band [Justin Orok/Ben Heard/Keagan Evans Eskritt] / Wire Circus [Patrick O'Reilly/Edwin Sheard/Derek Gray]) / Harbord and Bathurst-ish 2017-03-31 (Friday) [FB event]]
Not Dead Yet presents (feat. Puce Mary / E-Saggila / Brigitte Bardon't / Passion Altar) / Array Space 2017-03-31 (Friday) [FB event]
Kurt Marble [EP release!] (Blonde Elvis / Ducks Unlimited) / Handlebar 2017-04-01 (Saturday) [FB event]
Feast In The East 61 (feat. Myriam Gendron / Sandro Perri / L CON / Merival) / Matt Durant Studio 2017-04-01 (Saturday – all ages!) [FB event]
Wearenotwhoweare (Ghostkeeper / Father Christmas / No Frills) / Monarch Tavern 2017-04-02 (Sunday) [FB event]
Not Dead Yet/Stuck in the City present (feat. Allison Crutchfield & the Fizz / Vagabon) / The Silver Dollar Room 2017-04-05 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Decorum (YI / The Whisper Game) / Smiling Buddha 2017-04-05 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Un Blonde (Thomas / Stefana Fratila) / Monarch Tavern 2017-04-06 (Thursday) [FB event]
You'll Never Get to Heaven (ZONES / SWANES) / The Baby G 2017-04-07 (Friday) [FB event]
Casey Mecija (Char Aragoza) / Drake Underground 2017-04-07 (Friday) [FB event]
Come Back Barbara (Slutcode / Groin Swivel) / Monarch Tavern 2017-04-07 (Friday) [FB event]
Ear Candy: Music in Fifths [Philip Glass' "Music in Fifths" will be performed by an exciting ensemble of musicians taken from Toronto’s pop, jazz, and classical community. It will also be paired with a brand new piece collectively composed by the performers in homage to Glass' music"] (Feat. Soundstreams) / Artscape Sandbox 2017-04-08 (Saturday) [more info]
Owen Pallett / Longboat Hall 2017-04-08 (Saturday) [FB event]
Crossed Wires (Tough Age / Klarka Weinwurm / Protruders) / Monarch Tavern 2017-04-09 (Sunday) [FB event]
Crosswires (feat. Doc Pickles / Communism / Faiyaz and the Wasted Chances) / The Baby G 2017-04-10 (Monday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Invocation presents (feat. ENTRANCE / Man Meets Bear) / Array Space 2017-04-11 (Tuesday) [FB event]
Tinariwen (Dengue Fever) / Massey Hall 2017-04-12 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Tone Deaf Culture Presents: Toronto Noise #6 (feat. Cares / Rampancy / Lumi Krysztal / Aaron Corbet) / The Smiling Buddha (basement) 2017-04-12 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Crash Vegas / Danforth Music Hall 2017-04-13 (Thursday) [FB event]
Fresh Flesh (Girls Rituals / Widdows95 / Valeroo) / The Steady Café 2017-04-13 (Thursday) [FB event]
Ice Cream (Queen of Swords / Michele Nox) / The Baby G 2017-04-14 (Friday) [FB event]
Pick a Piper (Yoo Doo Right / Edna King) / The Baby G 2017-04-15 (Saturday) [FB event]
Jon Mckiel (Cousins) / Monarch Tavern 2017-04-15 (Saturday) [FB event]
Summer Isle Presents: Providence Basement Electroniques (feat. Timeghost / Craow / Death Kneel / E-Saggila / Burglar) / Smiling Buddha (basement) 2017-04-16 (Sunday) [FB event]
Small World Asian Music Series (feat. Upanishads) / Small World Music Centre 2017-04-16 (Sunday) [FB event]
Terry Malts (Business of Dreams / First Base) / The Garrison 2017-04-18 (Tuesday) [FB event]
Zoobombs (Munizo / Knifey) / The Silver Dollar Room 2017-04-18 (Tuesday) [FB event]
The Wedding Present (Colleen Green) / The Horseshoe Tavern 2017-04-19 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Tasseomancy (Yamantaka//Sonic Titan / Han Han) / The Garrison 2017-04-19 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Duchess Says (HOAN) / The Baby G 2017-04-21 (Friday) [FB event]
Invocation presents (feat. Michael Hurley) / The Tranzac (Main Hall) 2017-04-22 (Saturday) [FB event]
Cosmic Soul (feat. SassyBlack / Obuxum / M.I.Blue) / The Music Gallery 2017-04-22 (Saturday) [FB event]
Buzz Records Presents (feat. Weaves / Casper Skulls / Vallens / Twist / PONY) / Lee's Palace 2017-04-22 (Saturday) [FB event]
Beliefs (Weight / TEENANGER / Eyeballs) / The Garrison 2017-04-22 (Saturday) [FB event]
Moon Duo (Jackie Lynn) / The Horseshoe Tavern 2017-04-23 (Sunday) [FB event]
Crosswires (feat. Kelvin Wetherell / Brian Abbott / Catholic Wilt) / The Baby G 2017-04-24 (Monday – PWYC!) [FB event]
Ronley Teper & The Lipliners / The Dakota Tavern 2017-04-27 (Thursday – early!) [FB event]
Suuns (Doomsquad / Peeling) / The Silver Dollar Room 2017-04-27 (Thursday) [FB event]
Dilly Dally (Darlene Shrugg / FRIGS) / The Silver Dollar Room 2017-04-28 (Friday) [FB event]
Wavelength 728 (feat. Del Bel / Saxsyndrum) / The Great Hall (Longboat Hall) 2017-04-29 (Saturday) [FB event]
Silver Dollar farewell series: Last night at The Dollar (feat. METZ / Fake Palms / New Fries) / The Silver Dollar Room 2017-04-30 (Sunday) [FB event]
Laser Background (Norwegian Arms / Champion Ski) / The Baby G 2017-05-03 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Brokeback (Fresh Snow) / The Garrison 2017-05-05 (Friday) [FB event]
The Art of the Piano (feat. Ali Berkok) / Gallery 345 2017-05-11 (Thursday) [FB event]
Invocation Residency Series (feat. Wrekmeister Harmonies) / Array Space 2017-05-12 (Friday) [FB event]
Zoo Owl (Ghost Twin / Plazas / Loji) / Handlebar 2017-05-13 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Colin Stetson / The Great Hall 2017-05-15 (Monday) [FB event]
Boss Hog (catl.) / Lee's Palace 2017-05-19 (Friday) [more info]
Invocation Residency Series (feat. Sir Richard Bishop / Robert Millis / The Glass Orchestra) / Array Space 2017-05-20 (Saturday – all ages!) [FB event]
21C Music Festival (feat. Cecilia String Quartet) / Mazzoleni Concert Hall 2017-05-25 (Thursday) [more info]
21C Music Festival (feat. Angèle Dubeau & La Pietà) / Koerner Hall 2017-05-26 (Friday) [more info]
21C Music Festival (feat. Bang on a Can All-Stars) / Koerner Hall 2017-05-27 (Saturday) [more info]
National Drone Day Evening Drone (feat. dreamSTATE / community drone-improv session by DRONE:KLUB) / Roland Inspiration Centre 2017-05-27 (Saturday) [FB event]
Venetian Snares & Daniel Lanois (Joanne Pollock) / The Great Hall 2017-05-31 (Wednesday) [FB event]
Daughters (Odonis Odonis / Dalek) / Hard Luck Bar 2017-06-01 (Thursday – all ages!) [FB event]
Do Make Say Think / The Danforth Music Hall 2017-06-10 (Friday) [FB event]
Track Could Bend #22 (feat. New Positions / Melk / Clara Engel & Neil Wiernik)
Dundas Video 2017-01-03 (Tuesday)
Long Winter 5.2 (feat. Han Han / Jessica Moss / LA LUNA / The Magic / M.I. Blue / Queen Of Swords / WHIMM)
The Gladstone Hotel 2017-01-06 (Friday)
The Sadies (Punching Nuns)
The Garrison 2017-01-06 (Friday)
Pickles Aid (feat. Laura Barrett / Entire Cities / Young Doctors in Love / More or Les)
Junction City Music Hall 2017-01-12 (Thursday)
My Misshapen Ear
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-01-13 (Friday)
Marker Starling (Bunny)
Burdock Music Hall 2017-01-14 (Saturday) [FB event]
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-01-18 (Wednesday)
The Cosmic Range (Off World)
The Great Hall 2017-01-19 (Thursday)
Tone Deaf Culture Presents: Toronto Noise #4 (feat. Bit Reduction / Bachelard / Goth Girl x Lumi Kryzstal / Ero Guro / Post Natal Drip)
Belljar Café 2017-01-20 (Friday)
The New Flesh (feat. Sherri Hay/Nohista/Jeremy Bailey/Jenn Norton & Steph Yates/Robin Kobrynski/Tasman Richardson/Katie Switzer & Paul Moleiro)
The Music Gallery 2017-01-21 (Saturday)
Piano Party 8 (feat. Randy Gagne / Charlie Murray)
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-01-25 (Wednesday)
Hooded Fang (Anamai / Deliluh)
The Silver Dollar Room 2017-01-27 (Friday)
Abductive Transduction: A Distributed Sound Performance (feat. Nidus)
Ratio 2017-01-28 (Saturday)
Ruins of Utopia (Fog Spirits / Error 144 / Inchoate)
Belljar Café 2017-01-28 (Saturday)
Cosmic Homeostasis II
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-01-29 (Sunday)
Lina Allemano Four (Titanium Riot)
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-01-31 (Tuesday)
Long Winter 5.3 (feat. Ivy Mairi / FIN / Young Clancy / Devon Welsh / Off World / L CON / Germaphobes / Saidah Conrad)
The Theatre Centre 2017-02-04 (Saturday)
Nite Comfort 41 (feat. Tenderness / David Sharpe)
Handlebar 2017-02-05 (Sunday)
Track Could Bend #23 (feat. Joe Byer / Upanishads / organballoon)
Dundas Video 2017-02-07 (Tuesday)
Brodie West/Nick Fraser
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-02-08 (Wednesday)
Music By & For Ken Aldcroft, III (feat. Heraclitus Akimbo / Dave Clark/Josh Cole/Colin Fisher/Jason Kenemy)
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-02-08 (Wednesday)
A Night With Pleasence (feat. Alexander Moskos / ZONES / Doom Tickler)
The Music Gallery 2017-02-11 (Saturday)
SEVENTEEN: Wavelength Music Festival 17 (feat. TOPS / DIANA / Vallens / Chandra)
The Garrison 2017-02-17 (Friday)
SEVENTEEN: Wavelength Music Festival 17 – Exclaim! & Girls Rock Camp Toronto all ages matinee (feat. Peeling / WLMRT / Strands / Denim Roses)
Monarch Tavern 2017-02-18 (Saturday)
SEVENTEEN: Wavelength Music Festival 17 (feat. Julie Doiron & The Wrong Guys / Fake Palms / FET.NAT / WHOOP-Szo / Helena Deland)
The Garrison 2017-02-18 (Saturday)
SEVENTEEN: Wavelength Music Festival 17 – Drone Brunch (feat. North Atlantic Drift / Kat Estacio)
Gladstone Hotel – Melody Bar 2017-02-19 (Sunday)
SEVENTEEN: Wavelength Music Festival 17 (feat. Phèdre / Han Han with HATAW / Emay / Fin / Hush Pup)
The Garrison 2017-02-19 (Sunday)
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival (feat. David Dacks [lecture] / Nick Fraser New Quartet / Craig Dunsmuir & Dun-Dun Band / Body Double)
The Tranzac 2017-02-24 (Friday)
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival (feat. Amelia Ehrhardt / Lîla Ensemble / roundtable on movement & improvised music)
The Tranzac (Main Hall) 2017-02-25 (Saturday)
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival (feat. The Thing Is / Manticore with James Beardmore + Xuan Ye / Future Machines / Prince Nifty)
The Tranzac 2017-02-25 (Saturday)
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival (feat. Rhinoceros Saxophone Quartet)
The Tranzac (Southern Cross Lounge) 2017-02-26 (Sunday)
Somewhere There Creative Music Festival (feat. Heidi Chan/Sarah Peebles / Rob Clutton/Michael Lynn / Diane Roblin/Michael Snow / James Bailey/Allison Cameron / The Mike Smith Company / Bristles Trio)
The Tranzac (Main Hall) 2017-02-26 (Sunday)
Century Palm (Vallens / MOON EYED)
Monarch Tavern 2017-03-02 (Thursday)
Aga Khan Museum 2017-03-04 (Saturday)
Protruders (Eroders / Tranz Defonze)
The Dupe Shop 2017-03-05 (Sunday)
Wavelength 725: Music as Disruption (feat. LAL / panel discussion)
Gladstone Hotel (ballroom) 2017-03-05 (Sunday)
Burn Down The Capital presents (feat. Baby Dee / IC/JC/VC / Transcombobulation)
Burdock Music Hall 2017-03-05 (Sunday)
Track Could Bend #24 (feat. Christine Bougie / Someone's Memory / act tbh)
The Steady Café 2017-03-07 (Tuesday)
Not The Wind Not The Flag with Rob Clutton (Matias Rozenberg / Magali Meagher)
Burdock Music Hall 2017-03-09 (Thursday)
Somewhere There's Second Sunday Series (feat. Adolescence / Russell Matthews/Patrick O'Reilly/Andrew Downing/Harrison Vetro)
Array Space 2017-05-12 (Sunday) [FB event]
Burn Down The Capital presents (feat. Retired / Processor / Cutout Lover/ Luge)
The Baby G 2017-03-15 (Wednesday)
Composer's Toolbox (feat. Allison Cameron / Jonathan Adjemian/Nicholas Buligan/Matthew Fava)
Canadian Music Centre 2017-03-16 (Thursday)
The Toronto Improvisers Orchestra feat. Christine Duncan and The Element Choir
Array Space 2017-03-19 (Sunday)
Longform reviews of these shows are not currently likely. Recordings from many of these can be found if you dig through the tag cloud below.