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By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 26th May 2016 at 2:00 pm
You know that phrase, “loud enough to wake the dead”? Saturday night at Canadian Music Week 2016 may not have been all that loud, but it was definitely the most crowded night out in town, with plenty of locals out and about to lend a party atmosphere. It sure was very cold and windy, making me wonder whilst wearing my hat and gloves if the dearly departed residents of St. James’ church cemetery near my accommodation for the week were rattling around in their graves.
When it comes to the elements, I consider myself reasonably hearty stock if dressed appropriately, having faced wind and driving rain in my face on many occasions in the UK. However, following along in a theme that has repeated in most everywhere in North America this spring, it was just too damn cold Saturday night. In stark contrast, I saw The Spook School play an early set at the Garrison that afternoon when it was sunny and bright, and I had wished we could have bottled that poppy sunniness and used an atomizer over the entire chilly week of CMW 2016.
My plans for the last night of CMW 2016 would take place solely and in one of the nicer clubs in all of Toronto. Velvet Underground on Queen Street would be seeing out the festival in style, thanks to a ‘Music is Great Britain’-branded showcase put on by UK Trade and Investment. The first two bands on the bill are friends of TGTF; the other two, well, you’ll have to read on.
As a rule, TGTF does not condone skipping school for the sake of music. However, we’re going to give The Orielles a wide berth, as they arrived in Toronto as close as humanly possible to play their first show during CMW while catching as much school as they could before they left. I understand they had finals to return to after; I hope the adrenaline off their first North American music festival saw the band through them.
While they played, excited whispers abounded all around me. “They’re how old?” “And they can play *that* well?” “When did you discover them?” “Liverpool Sound City?” “No, 2013?” “Seriously???” “How old are they again???” Opening the UKTI showcase might well have been ample cause for anxiety, but the young yet experienced in gigs trio from Halifax came out with tune after tune. The Orielles’ first North American appearance was a triumph in every sense of the word, impressing industry and punters alike with their energetic garage and surf-tinged performance.
The People The Poet, now SXSW veterans after showcasing back to back in 2015 and 2016, were up next. From the surfy, psych vibe created by the Orielles, the Welsh band brought things back squarely to good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll. The vocals of frontman Leon Stanford – growly, emphatic and Joe Cocker-esque – are a force to be reckoned with on their own. But accompanied by the band’s driving instrumentation with the anthemic glow of any Springsteen number worth its salt, the complete package of The People The Poet provide a formidable punch. Check out recent single ‘Club 27’ below.
Very early on in my CMW 2016 schedule preparation, I’d pencilled in The Undivided for my last night in Toronto. I’d gone through the profiles of all the UK bands headed out to the festival, and I had been most impressed with the oomph of ‘Invincible’. I fully felt the emotions of this band, displayed on their sleeve for all to see. It was a feeling I’d experienced 2 years ago at Liverpool Sound City when faced with Geordies Boy Jumps Ship for the first time. (They’ve just released their debut album this month, and I couldn’t have been prouder of and happier for them.) When you listen to the power of their music and lyrics together, you just know this means an awful lot to every member of the band. Even more weirdly coincidental, both of these bands’ names suggest an inclusionary, “all for one, one for all” mentality that is comforting in this crazy world we live in.
The Welsh band released their latest EP ‘Satellites’ on the 6th of May when we were all out in Toronto, so I hadn’t had a chance to listen to it. It’s on Spotify now, and it’s good stuff. This is loud, fast-paced rock with plenty of heart, and you should do yourself the favour of checking them out now. You know, before they hit it big and I say in a smug tone “I told you so” to your face.
I have gotten onboard with Slaves and have been known to sing along – loudly – to ‘Where’s Your Car Debbie’. However, I have to admit that I still haven’t quite figured out the appeal of Fat White Family. Is it the camp posturing of Lias Saoudi that gets people hot and bothered? Is it the spitting? Is it the sleaze of ‘Touch the Leather’? Or is it just the anarchic feel of their brand of punk? Of all the bands at the UKTI showcase, they brought in the biggest crowd of the night. Is that a commentary on the music lovers of Toronto? Let’s hope not.
I left Velvet Underground with the same feeling I had closing out what will probably be my final Sound City in 2014. What was I missing about this hugely hyped band? A few weeks out now from my first CMW, I have come to the acceptance yet again that as they say, there’s no accounting for taste. TGTF will continue to do what we’ve always done: champion the little guy and the music that moves us. And we appreciate you all – bands and fans alike – being along with us for the ride.
By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 25th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
Brighton’s Fear of Men are gearing up to release second album next week. Ahead of the LP’s drop, they’ve released a new video for a track from it. From its title, ‘Trauma’ sounds like a heavy listen, but the approach used in the promo utilises what looks like black mud and two actors clearly up for getting a wee bit dirty. Watch the mess unfold in the promo video below.
‘Fall Forever’, Brighton trio Fear of Men’s sophomore full-length effort, will be available from Kanine Records on the 3rd of June. For more on the band on TGTF, go here.
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.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 24th May 2016 at 6:00 pm
Header photo by Mia Mala McDonald
Aussie psych rockers Methyl Ethyl, led by Jake Webb, released their debut album this spring on Beggars imprint 4AD. The band from Perth’s first single ‘Rogues’ was born in the heat of an Australian summer according to triplej, and it’s hard to argue that ‘On Inhuman Spectacle’ is not a reflection of that kind of environment. Take, for example, ‘Twilight Driving’, a single taken from the debut. There is an ease in their musical style that equal parts throwback and fresh sunniness. And let’s face it, we’ve got a long weekend on the brain, and we could do with some gentle coddling this Tuesday night. Watch the promo video ‘Twilight Driving’ from the exciting new trio from down under below. ‘On Inhuman Spectacle’ is a global release available now.
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.
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