Monday, December 31, 2012

Gig: "Garage in the Garage" Party

"Garage in the Garage" Party (feat. B-17 / "Matt Murphy's Band Jams" / Modern Superstitions)

The Garage on Dora. Sunday, July 3, 2011.

After a long day at Pride — which, as always, seems to be on the hottest day of the year — I still had enough energy to head over to Blansdowne for this affair. Billed as a "Garage in the Garage" party, the name was only slightly a misnomer. The private residence hosting the show did indeed have a garage door in the front opening into the living room, but it was a cozy home inside, not an oil-stained car hole. As the solid heat of the day dissipated, it started to feel rather pleasant out and there was a nice crowd gathering, spilling out onto the sidewalk. There was even some tasty jerk chicken on offer. The bands were set up at the back of the living area, facing out toward the open garage door, playing through a jury-rigged sound system that was, natch, a little rough. The vocals would be low all night, but there was a rawness appropriate to the spirit of the event.

After seeing B-17 make their début just a week previously, there wasn't much new to report for the band's second flight. The newly-minted Optical Sounds supergroup offered the same seven tunes as at the Dollar, filled with a raucous, joyful fury. In their early going, there was a lot more undiluted Stooge-y Raw Power in their approach, especially in Calvin Brown's scorching fuzzed-out wah-wah. And in the small, enclosed space Nick Kervin's drums felt quite powerful.

"Never Understand" (one of the tunes which does not appear on the band's recent EP) was a highlight here. And once again there was the proto-version of "Wishing Won't Make It So" without the title and lyrics yet in place. Although bassist Clint Rogerson didn't yet have the vocal hook to really clinch the song it was already constructed to serve as the set-closing freakout — it was modestly notated as "4800 lbs of Bombs" on the setlist.

Listen to a track from this set here.

The middle set was billed as "Matt Murphy and his mysterious, XFactor unnamed band" — and mysterious they have remained. There doesn't seem to be any information that I can wrangle up on this, so I don't know if this is an ongoing project. Similarly, I was hoping the identity of the drummer and bass player would come to light, but I haven't been able to dig that up either.1

At any rate, it was something rather different from Murphy, more known for his poppy sensibility and occasional country leanings. Instead, this felt more like he decided to form his own private Elevator, with a bit of Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and hints of krautrock, though with a garage rock beat instead of the insistent motorik drive.

The first song, an instrumental, featured sawtooth analog synth set against a soothing, melodic guitar riff. The drummer (who was also handling the synth) took the first vocal and Murphy the next. The vox were often a little indistinct, or in the case of one song toward the end, simply wordless "aw-woaaahs". The songs were a little amorphous, as if they were being deliberately kept closer to loose jams, Murphy shouting out chords and other instructions as each began.

One definitely got the impression that these were still works-in-progress. As such, no surprise that a couple meandered a bit too much and sometime staggered over the finish line. I don't know if this was just a casual lark that emerged from the rehearsal space or a project that didn't attain liftoff, but this was a fun little set regardless.

Listen to a track from this set here.

As it got later into the evening, the neighbourhood didn't seem scandalized by the rock'n'roll show going on in their midst — in fact, I could spot people in the midrise condos across the way sitting on their patios and listening to the show from above. The night was closed out by Modern Superstitions, a band that has been around for long enough that it always takes a moment to remember they're still just getting started. Their long-gestating début album was only released a couple months ago, and the band clearly spent a lot of time deliberating upon what sort of sound they wanted to present on it.

In so doing, they actually wrote a lot of songs beyond what ended up on the album, giving them a chance to tailor their setlist to the sort of show they were playing — I know they had several of the quieter songs that would make their album in their repertoire at this point, but for this show they foregrounded their garage side, kicking it out as rough and ready as I've ever seen them. A cover of The Damned's "New Rose" gave a hint of where their heads were at, and the punkish, raw edge served them well.

It certainly seemed to energize vocalist Nyssa Rosaleen, who was the most animated I'd ever seen her — as if acting out the advice ("SOCK IT TO ME") printed on her sleeveless shirt. That compensated for the fact that her vocals were buried below Matthew Aldred's slashing guitar.

"String To The Sun", received its first airing in this set, coming off much rawer than the album version — in fact, comparing the sophistication of the finished product to what the band was playing here gives a good indication that this is a band that has larger aspirations than playing in a garage. And while I'm one who tends to approve of a rawer sound with the rough edges intact, if the trade-off is more polished gems like, say, "Bandits", than that's a promising deal.

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 I asked Murphy after if the group had a name, and he said, I believe, that it was "Band Jams", but I was never 100% sure of that, and even though he repeated the name, I could have misheard him in the party-ish surroundings. I didn't want to be the gauche dude repeatedly shouting at him, "Did you say band jams?" So for now, I am tentatively identifying this as "Matt Murphy's Band Jams".

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