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Back in April, Selkirk alt-rockers Frightened Rabbit released their excellent fifth studio album ‘Painting of a Panic Attack’. After a brief handful of live dates in the UK, the band immediately turned their attention to the American side of the pond, embarking on a late spring/early summer U.S. tour that brought them to Phoenix’s Crescent Ballroom last Friday night.
Supporting Frightened Rabbit on this American tour are New York rock band Caveman, who are officially a quartet, but performed with six members on stage here at the Crescent Ballroom. The expanded lineup allowed them to fully flesh out their warm, atmospheric song arrangements for a pleasantly vibrant and engaging opening set. Frontman Matthew Iwanusa announced standout track ‘Human’ as part of the band’s upcoming record ‘Otero War’, and it immediately made me think that the new album would be well worth a listen. Also appearing on both Caveman’s live set list and their new album is anthemic track ‘Never Going Back’, for which the band just released the following sci-fi themed video.
Frightened Rabbit’s own recent album release might be described as “triumphant”, after the rather muted vibe of their fourth album ‘Pedestrian Verse’. On stage, they took immediate advantage of this triumph, opening their headline set with a blistering rendition of current single ‘Get Out’ and maintaining the high energy level through older tracks ‘Holy’ and ‘The Modern Leper’. The band started off sounding remarkably tight and energetic, especially compared to the last time I’d seen them live. I had been completely nonplussed by their rather sloppy performance at that sparsely attended show in Birmingham, Alabama back in 2013, when guitarist Gordon Skene was still in the lineup. On this night in Phoenix, however, frontman Scott Hutchison and his bandmates, most notably new guitarist Simon Liddell, who replaced Skene and fit seamlessly into the current live arrangement, seemed exponentially more confident and relaxed.
One of the set’s early highlights, the introspective new album track ’I Wish I Was Sober’, was also one of its slower moments, but Hutchison and company didn’t let their momentum ebb for long. I was excited to hear my personal favourite Frightened Rabbit song ‘Living in Colour’, which got the crowd bouncing along to Grant Hutchison’s formidable four-to-the-floor drum beat. And though ‘Things’, from 2010 release ‘The Winter of Mixed Drinks’, has not been a particular favourite of mine, it was surprisingly effective in this night’s set, combining the full complement of instrumental effects in the band’s five-man lineup with a striking visual lighting display.
A few hardcore Frightened Rabbit fans in the crowd shouted requests for songs from the band’s 2006 debut album ‘Sing the Greys’, and though the band touched on every other album in their repertoire, Scott Hutchison confessed that he didn’t remember how to play all of those early songs. He also declined a rather incongruous request for ‘Poke’ at a high energy point in the middle of the set, calling that song “probably the biggest downer I ever wrote” (which is quite a distinction in his collection, it must be said). Instead, the band wisely stayed with their ever-growing list of established fan favourites, including ‘Pedestrian Verse’ track ‘State Hospital’ and its new album sequel-of-sorts, ‘Lump Street’.
Frightened Rabbit rounded off the set proper with three of their liveliest tunes, racing through storming versions of ‘Nothing Like You’ and the acoustic-flavoured ‘Old Old Fashioned’ before frontman Hutchison invited the crowd to sing along with the familiar and admittedly vulgar ‘Keep Yourself Warm’. Having brought my younger brother with me to the show, I found it a little awkward at first to shout out those particular lyrics, but it occurred to me that Hutchison himself does the very same thing in every show with his little brother Grant on the drum kit behind him, and so I carried on. The rest of the crowd clearly loved joining in on the chorus, and the Scottish five-piece left the stage to thunderous applause at the end of the song.
Scott Hutchison returned to the stage alone to open the encore with a poignant solo performance of ‘Die Like a Rich Boy’, which might have been an effective closer in its own right, but the band had other ideas. Hutchison’s colleagues returned to the stage to play their popular hit song ‘The Woodpile’ and a delightfully theatrical version of ‘The Loneliness and the Scream’, which featured multi-instrumentalist Billy Kennedy on percussion and cemented the band’s brilliant live impression.
Caveman’s new album ‘Otero War’ is due out on the 17th of June via Cinematic Music Group. They will continue playing support on Frightened Rabbit’s American tour with West Coast dates through the 27th of May. Frightened Rabbit will play the Sasquatch Festival in Washington State on the 29th of May before heading back across the pond for a list of summer festival appearances, including T in the Park and Latitude. TGTF’s extensive previous coverage of Frightened Rabbit is collected right back here.
Caveman and Frightened Rabbit set lists:
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
For at least 1 day during a multi-day festival, you owe it to yourself the benefit of a doubt to have a relaxed day. Or you do what I did on Friday at Canadian Music Week 2016, taking it easy and succumbing to the throes of a bad cold Friday night.
It started promisingly enough. Demi Louise, the lovely yet inexplicably unsigned Australian singer/songwriter who I befriended at SXSW 2016, played a blistering series of shows out in Toronto. One of the more relaxed shows she did was at Drake One Fifty Friday afternoon. Despite a chilly wind that pervaded the city all week, the young Demi brought the sunniness from her hometown of Melbourne to the afternoon’s festivities. Her beautiful voice shone on her current single ‘Taxi Driver’, while she sparkled in her stage patter, so honoured in winning a songwriting award now displayed proudly in her family’s home.
I had every intention to make it in time for Vancouver duo Fine Times at the Cave, the dance venue above the famous Lee’s Palace. Unfortunately, I made it just as they were packing up. No matter. I hung out for who I was really waiting for, electropop artist NINA. The German-born, London-based musician was dressed to the nines in a white suit jacket with black accents. And as might be expected for someone from her genre, the beats of her music were massive, and the feeling of girl power – or maybe better phrased as independent woman power! – came through in her uplifting, empowering tunes. She has an EP out this Friday, which should be a great introduction of her music to new fans and a cementing of her talent to her already devoted fan base.
Due to a terrible miscalculation in distance and location, I missed both Northern Ireland’s PORTS and The Magnettes from Sweden playing at the Nightowl. I’ll have to visit the venue next year. When I realised the error of my ways, I decided to cut my losses and head on to the Smiling Buddha, where I had planned to finish out my evening. The College Street venue’s line-up for the night was not one of enlightenment, unless you’re the kind of person who finds hard rock a pathway to such a higher plane.
Double Date with Death are a Montreal lo-fi trio who play loud, hard and fast. If I were to say I could distinguish between their songs, I’d be lying, as I didn’t have time to investigate their music properly prior to the festival. In a way, I’m sure the band themselves had no idea how well the venue’s lack of variation in stage lighting reflect the name of their band perfectly. That said, I did enjoy their slapdash, unforgiving delivery and there were plenty of headbanging punters who clearly agreed.
Broken Hands were up next. Compared to the bare stage setup of Double Date with Death, the Kent band used up nearly every single centimeter of space at the Smiling Buddha. I’d had a taste of their debut album ‘Turbulence’, having the opportunity to watch them do an in-store at Rough Trade East last October shortly after the LP’s release. However, I was sure after touring around the album in the UK, their confidence would be sky high out here in Toronto.
Happily, they exceeded my expectations, the conjunction of sound ringing in my ears. Although frontman Dale Norton was dressed in a white lab coat and looked more appropriate for a biology lab, once the music started, he was more like an angry beast having finally been let out of his cage. More in your face than I had ever experienced before, Norton’s stage presence has definitely increased multifold, spitting out the lyrics to ‘Who Sent You?’ and ‘Meteor’ with strength and a sneer. The only fault to their set, which is a minor quibble, is that the moments of mellowness and balladry on ‘Turbulence’ didn’t get an airing. However, given the tone for the evening and it being their last show in Toronto for the week, I don’t blame them for leaving it all onstage in a blistering show of power.
Right, so on to the last act of the night, Overhead, the Albatross. Being courted on social media by family members of a band performing isn’t something I am used to, but it did increase my curiosity about them. They had even more band members and stuff than Broken Hands did, so they didn’t bother staying all onstage, with two of their group joining us on the floor.
A friend described them as “a cross between Arcade Fire and Godspeed You! Black Emperor”, which doesn’t help me much as I’m not a follower of either band. There’s definitely a rebellious prog edge to Overhead, the Albatross, which makes total sense, given that they’ve christened themselves with a name that while not indicating dangerous subversiveness, it’s sufficient to note the brazen headstrongness of doing their own thing and exactly what they want. Curious? Have a watch and listen to their song ‘Big River Man’ below.
Hometown pride is a wonderful thing. It turns a standard rock show into an emotional and memorable experience that generally resides in both the band and fans’ history as a date to remember. For the case of Cambridge-based band Lonely The Brave, Friday night’s show at Cambridge Corn Exchange was their largest hometown show to date and also the album release show for ‘Things Will Matter’, their staggeringly powerful second album.
Being sure to emphasise that this is a party rather than your run-of-the-mill affair, we have not one but three support acts: The Staycations and Swedish Death Candy kick the proceedings off before Scottish four-piece Fatherson would take to the stage. The crowd started building rapidly to catch this band who are on a quick trip to the top with their heartfelt and anthemic rock sound, and they simply did not disappoint.
When it came to Lonely The Brave’s turn on stage, the atmosphere in the room changed from expectant to vivacious. With the knowledge that the evening was being filmed for potential future release, there was obviously going to be a general anticipatory factor thrown in to both the performance and set, and they more than delivered.
Singer David Jakes, who suffers from anxiety, was more confident than ever before. Consisting of majority Cantabrigians such as myself, as well as the hardest of the core fans (shoutout to the Belgian superfan who’s travelled and seen the band in multiple countries), the swell of pride that came over the crowd when the thunderous ‘Radar’ began was unmeasurable. Being one of the harder tracks from ‘Things Will Matter’, it was a tremendously strong start, with an atmosphere of utter power and control over the audience. Things definitely didn’t digress in the slightest as the set continued, with the majority of the set made up of choices that exuberated the sheer ferocity that this band can attack with. We were even treated to cuts from the redux version of their debut album ‘The Day’s War’. ‘Science’, in particular, held strong ground with its crescendo breaking to new euphoric heights.
One omission from the setlist that was surprising was single ‘Trick of the Light’, though a 50/50 balance of both albums fit the billing well, and the band can’t be said they favour one album over the other. The pride the band takes in its songs is contagious. Emotive and soaring, Jakes uses the canvas laid out by his bandmates to reveal his inner struggles both mentally and physically. The strength it takes for anyone to unveil this is admirable, let alone to a room filled with friends, family and fans.
It was the final three songs where the evening hit its peak. ‘The Day’s War’ cut ‘Black ‘Saucers’ saw the crowd whipped into a frenzy, leaving no shoe undanced. Continuing into ‘Rattlesnakes’ and finishing with fan favourite ‘The Blue, The Green’, this final triple threat proved to just cement what everyone in the room knew already. Lonely the Brave are an unstoppable force that is gaining more momentum on a daily basis, soon to be turned into a juggernaut of melodic and deep-end qualities.
Cambridge is a town known for its academia and scholars, but for the 1,500 people in the Corn Exchange this evening, Lonely the Brave are the only thing from this town that matters, and rightly so. The band continue their English tour through to Friday of this week.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
So that I would not miss one of my must-see bands a good 20-minute walk away, I left the Music from Ireland showcase at the Rivoli before Dublin grunge act Fangclub settled onstage. From what I heard from other punters, they went down a treat, so Carrie and I will need to investigate them further at some point. Walking up Spadina Avenue, then west on Dundas Street, I returned to the Studio Bar, where I’d interviewed Llanelli, Wales group Cut Ribbons earlier before dinner.
I understood The Studio Bar’s lineup for the evening to be entirely electronic, or at least electropop / synthpop based. So it was no surprised to see electronics at the ready when I arrived and local Toronto duo Featurette were performing. They weren’t that bad, per se, but having seen my fair share of mediocre electronic acts at festivals all over the world, it was hard to be impressed. Further dampening any enthusiasm I may have had about them was singer Lexie Jay singing (er, shouting) into a megaphone a song that I’m guessing was by Drake (?), complete with lyrics that can’t be repeated on a family Web site. I give them credit for giving it their all to a handful of onlookers, but not much else.
Cut Ribbons, whose debut album ‘We Want to Watch Something We Loved Burn’ was among my top 5 albums of last year. After some warm-up shows in Guelph and an invigorating visit to Niagara Falls that very morning, they were raring to go, eager to show off new material they’ve been working on at home. While I enjoyed them as much as I did seeing them on the Horizons / Gorwelions stage at the Great Escape 2015, I wish there would have been more punters seeing them that night. That would be one of the cons of Canadian Music Festival: if you’re not hyped enough going out to Toronto, and you find yourself at one of the further out venues, you might not get a great turnout. However, professionals as they are, they put on a great show and I’m really looking forward to hearing their newest music – their new acoustic-based music! – when they make it available to the public. For now, check out a live session track of ‘Helen of Troy’ they shared 2 months ago.
Walking back to the Rivoli with much purpose, I was all about making sure I made it in time for Daithi, with whom I’d had a great chat with Wednesday afternoon in Toronto. On paper, a traditional Irish fiddler mixing his instrument with disparate genres of electronic, house and math rock shouldn’t work. However, live, it’s an entirely unique, lively performance. It’s my understanding that many of the punters who saw him earlier in the evening at Drake Underground walked quite a distance back east to see him play a longer set at the Rivoli. At 1:30 in the morning thousands of miles away from Ireland, Daithi succeeded in being the centre of attention at a dance party of his own creation.
While I have some friends enjoy EDM a whole lot but don’t enjoy watching an electronic master at work, I love the spectacle. Making something off the cuff, from general guidelines the artist has set but otherwise allowed himself to improvise up and away from, and being present while that ephemeral art is being made is an amazing honour in itself. For more on this exciting musical alchemist, have a listen to my chat with him in Toronto here. Want a feel for his music and with a very happy tabletop cat? You’re welcome.
If you recall reading in my introductory post about Canadian Music Week 2016, this year’s festival had a Focus on Ireland, which meant there was a great turnout of acts from the Emerald Isle. All said and done after the event was over on Saturday the 7th of May, I managed to catch nearly every single Irish band who had come to Toronto, save one. It helped that most of the Irish bands and the many Irish who had emigrated to and were now resident in the city descended on the Rivoli pool hall on Queen Street Thursday night for a full night of bands as part of Music from Ireland’s brilliant showcase during CMW. Counterintuitively, I did not eat anything remotely Irish for dinner, instead downing a massive, entirely from scratch chorizo arepa in Kensington Market to keep me full until I returned to my bed that evening.
I knew that many Irish bands successful enough to cross the Atlantic for our continents music festivals would naturally take to one another. But it was at CMW 2016 that I felt the incredible strength of bands and artists’ ties to each other, bonded together by the fact that they are Irish and they are all about making meaningful music. They showed up to each other’s shows to cheer them on and to hug and high-five them after their gigs, and I started to get emotional. It occurred to me that we have supported so many Irish bands over the years, starting with Two Door Cinema Club in my early blogging days, through to all the Music from Ireland showcases at SXSW and The Great Escape. So I am now on the hunt for an Irish contributor or two to join us at TGTF. If you or someone you know lives in Ireland (north or south), is keen on independent music and would like to write for us, please contact us / me on Twitter with your interest.
Young lads Bagels (now rebranded as Search Party Animal) were first up on the bill, starting things off at the 8 o’clock hour with plenty of energy. If you hadn’t heard his accent, you’d have no way of knowing frontman Adam Redmond wasn’t a surfer dude from the West Coast, which is a roundabout way of saying he’s got the boy next door good looks that I expect young girls all over the world to swoon over in due course. But let’s get back to the music. They’ve got that bouncy guitar liveliness that Northern Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club made their name with. You know, remember that sunniness that Two Door used to bring into venues that would light up the room? There’s even a bit of pounding rhythm with jangly guitar that Foals have made famous. If you’re going to sound vaguely similar to other bands, you could do worse, right?
However, the night belonged to MKAI, a band of brothers (literally, not figuratively) from Cork. Evidently, their reputation preceded them, as even before the tall, dark and handsome figures of Cian, Conor, Eoghan and Colm MacSweeny took the stage, there was an excited mass of fans down the front, patiently waiting for them. They have a debut EP out now, ‘Waiting’, which was released last autumn and led to the selling out of their hometown venue Crane Lane Theatre for the EP’s launch party.
Just a wild guess, but I’m pretty sure every one of those excited fans already have it, as I haven’t seen people jumping up, down and sideways so enthusiastically at a show in a very long time. I’m being serious. My impression of them was as a folk-less Kodaline, with a pop sensibility and massive anthemic builds featuring synth swells and memorable guitar hooks. I (well, we) were not left disappointed. Their new single ‘Nothing Lasts Forever’ is out this Friday, and you can read Carrie’s review of it from earlier in the month here.
As I was busy watching Icelandic singer/songwriter Axel Flovent at Drake One Fifty early Wednesday afternoon, I missed Elm’s performance at the opening Canadian Music Week party at Google’s Canadian headquarters in Toronto. No big deal, as they were part of the Music from Ireland lineup. They describe themselves as an alternative baroque-pop band, but that would seem to suggest they sound like Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy. Which they do not.
Truth be told, while I find some things in common with this band with other bands that have a cellist, like Wooden Arms or Passport to Stockholm, I actually found singer Dylan Walsh having an Eddie Vedder, Michael Stipe-like presence, except with a lighter touch. The main concern with a less bombastic vocal is having it get lost in the instrumentation, yet Elm manage to avoid that with thoughtful composition. I will say that Elm are a much more visceral proposition live, as when I saw them this night, they were much louder than I expected them to be, which I wonder if it has to do with the venue’s sound mix for the night. I saw them in conversation with some important looking folk on Saturday at the Sheraton, so I hope that means they have some kind of signed deal in place.
Stay tuned for the rest of my Thursday night at CMW 2016, which includes more from the Music from Ireland showcase, following tomorrow on TGTF.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 18th May 2016 at 4:00 pm
Wednesday night was still ahead of Canadian Music Week (CMW) 2016 conference proper, but there was plenty on music-wise in the good city of Toronto to nosh on before things officially kicked off at the Sheraton Centre Toronto. My first stop was to see several bands on the pretty awesome line-up at recently redone and rebranded 300 Club on College Street. It was put on by our Canadian radio friend Mar on Music, who has a Friday afternoon programme on University of Toronto radio station CIUT. Most of the line-up was locally sourced, which was what I was looking for.
However, the first band was English and making their North American live debut. We saw The Magic Gang at Live at Leeds 2015, and the Brighton band has been going from strength to strength since then. They’re truly a band who have embraced the DIY ethic and managed to come out on the other side with grass roots-earned success. The Brighton band were raring to go with their slot at this evening showcase, and they didn’t disappoint. They brought their brand of sunny indie pop and the feeling of the seaside to the 300 Club, bringing smiles to everyone in the place.
The next band up at the 300 were The Seams, who I understand to be kind of a local indie supergroup of talented musicians all wanting a side project. The trio comprises of band members from WISH, Elsa and Fake Palms, and the resultant noise recalls great ‘90s Britpop. If you’re so inclined to go back that way to revisit all those subgenres back in the day like shoegaze and its more jangly brother, you’re likely to enjoy The Seams.
Of all the Torontonian bands I had on my CMW 2016 schedule, I was most keen on catching Sahara. They recently released a new EP that is described on SoundCloud as psych-tinged post-punk, but I actually think it’s more dream pop than that. In fact, I considered them Toronto’s answer to High Highs. The same description on SoundCloud says of their sound: “a shimmering, summery sound that belies some of their darker leanings”, which is interesting because when they actually played, they played virtually in the dark, as if they didn’t want us the audience to see them. Not that I was expecting a full, strobe-y light show to accompany their set, but I was surprised and a little bit disappointed in the darkness, as I think their song ‘Mirage’ is gorgeous.
Like SXSW, many bands were playing most multiple times at CMW, which afforded me some good options for scheduling in the week. After I’d gotten my fill of Sahara, I decided to head way west to a little place nestled among a residential neighbourhood. When I arrived, I noted that The Central is an adorable venue that looks perfect for intimate, acoustic sets by singer/songwriters. Oddly enough, who I came to see was not a single man or woman onstage but instead, the six-member strong Comrade Hat.
Or maybe they are better described as Comrade Hat the man – Donegal via Derry composer and performer Neil Burns on a Korg keyboard – plus his fellow Irish friends Great White Lies. Like The Seams earlier in the evening, they’re a throwback, but a throwback much further back in time. I imagined being transported in time to a smoky jazz lounge in the ‘70s with a guy on piano, singing about his observations on life, kind of like a jazzed up Mister Rogers. I can see why it makes more sense to have a full band at an international event like CMW because it adds more pomp to the occasion, but they barely had any room to move with all the equipment onstage with them. But if you visit Burns’ own SoundCloud and listen to his ambient burblings such as ‘High in the Rockies’, that’s the kind of stuff I prefer to geek out on.
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