Monday, January 31, 2011

Recording: Best Coast

Artist: Best Coast

Song: Boyfriend

Recorded at Lee's Palace, September 25, 2010.

Best Coast - Boyfriend

My notes from this set can be found here.

Recording: Male Bonding

Artist: Male Bonding

Song: Paradise Vendors

Recorded at Lee's Palace, September 25, 2010.

Male Bonding - Paradise Vendors

My notes from this set can be found here.

Gig: Best Coast

Best Coast (Male Bonding)

Lee's Palace. Saturday, September 25, 2010.

Saturday night at Lee's, and what would later be a packed, sold-out house was semi-full with curiosity-seekers checking out openers Male Bonding. Though hailing from London, the band has a very "American" sound — more specifically, their debut full-length Nothing Hurts reminded me a lot of some of the bands that Sub Pop signed in the post-grunge goldrush. I'm thinking specifically of Seaweed here, but there were a lot of other bands mining the same seam back then. It works out sort of tidily, in a things coming full circle sort of way, that Male Bonding are now signed to Sub Pop, keeping the label's discordant rock rep alive amongst a sea of gentle guitar-strummers that are also calling the label home these days.

Live, the trio stepped on to a rather spartan stage and it felt right that the band looked the part — Arthur Webb (guitar) and Kevin Hendrick (bass) coming across, variously, as lanky, shaggy and be-toqued. It was as if, save for the accents, they could have stepped out from the pages of Buddy Does Seattle. They launched into "Crooked Scene", followed by "Weird Feelings", which on the album feels like a hit. Live, the sound was far mushier and less compelling than the album, the songs a bit harder to tell apart. The band looked a bit off their game a couple times, too, having to stop and confer occasionally as to how the songs went, and abandoning one rather quickly that wouldn't get off the ground. They channelled that into a sort of half-hearted alienation affectation — "stop fraternizing with us... that's why we're fucking up," commented Webb at one point to the enthusiasts up front.

The set's last song broke the mould a little with Ali Koehler coming out to add some backing vox. There were some songs here that worked but on the whole, the band didn't live up to the promise shown on their album.

Listen to a track from this set here.

When I had come into the venue I'd noticed Best Coast guitarist Bobb Bruno was manning the merch table. And now, getting set up between sets, he was up on stage, not only tuning his own guitars, but doing the same for frontwoman Bethany Cosentino's coral green Mustang. I was wondering to myself if this was a bit of a diva move for a singer whose buzz prestige had shot up even more since the last time I'd last seen 'em, with their full-length Crazy for You getting a lot of attention.

But rather than rockstar hubris, Cosentino's waiting until the set's beginning to make an appearance had a less glamourous explanation. "I'm sure you all read my twitter," she explained as she emerged, (and, um, no) "I'm very sick.... I'm going to try the best that I can to bring all that I have for you Toronto." Indeed, she looked not at all well, but from the outset she had the crowd onside, whether they were handing her cat-related novelties or celebrating her stoner-friendly lyrics by lighting up their joints.

"This song goes out to the homies smoking weed in the front," she said, introducing "Sun Was High (So Was I)". In retrospect, given her outspoken pro-ganja lyrics and sentiments, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by all the potsmoking, but still, it's pretty annoying to have to breathe in other people's stinking fumes. During "Goodbye", the guy in front of me blazed up just in time to celebrate the stonerrific sentiment "I wish my cat could talk", and I just shrugged and went with the flow — or was getting relaxed from second-hand smoke as the haze overhead was making the room look more like a Cypress Hill gig.

Given Cosentino's condition, it was a little hard to get a full grip on how the band was progressing overall. Recently-added drummer Ali Koehler (ex-Vivian Girls) definitely looked the part to be playing with the band and her playing fit nicely, though the added potential for her to add in some more backing vox wasn't tapped. And although she wasn't feeling well, Cosentino was probably in a better voice than during NXNE, when she was fighting a sore throat. Bruno, meanwhile, stoically kept cranking out the leads on song after song.

"It smells so good in here — it's making me feel better," Cosentino commented by mid-set. And after another song, she gave in to the urge to self-medicate, accepting a joint handed up from the front row. ("Hope you don't get sick!" she said, passing it back.) Declaring this "the first time in the history of Best Coast I ever smoked weed on stage," she got a bit of a second wind — as well as some mellow wisdom, declaring a couple songs later, "this is a house of weed. You should all be stoned."

But by "I Want To" she was barely holding it together, soliciting the crowd to sing along for that and "When I'm With You". When the set closed with "Something in the Way", I thought for sure that'd be it, but the band returned to play the subjunctively-dubious "Wish He Was You". Bruno, killing time while waiting for Cosentino to return to the stage, endeared himself to the crowd by talking about how much Best Coast like playing in Toronto, perplexing Cosentino, who commented, "you don't know what that means... that man has never spoken on stage before."

Under the conditions, a pretty good show, and a generally memorable one. In the end we got a full set, seventeen songs in fifty minutes. We can hope that Cosentino is at full strength when Best Coast makes their return, already upsizing themselves to the much more spacious Phoenix.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Recording: Timber Timbre

Artist: Timber Timbre

Song: No Bold Villain

Recorded at The C is For Cure Benefit, Music Gallery, January 29, 2011.

Timber Timbre - No Bold Villain

Full review to follow — My notes for this set can now be found here. A massive outpouring of love and support for Bruce Peninsula's Neil Haverty, celebrated with a full day of excellent music. Best wishes and all strength to Neil.

Sunday Playlist #5

Sunday Playlist #5: Improv/Drift

Damian Valles - Rural Routes (excerpt)

Mountains - excerpt

Not the Wind, Not the Flag - excerpt from an improvisation

Carl Didur - Scarborough Bluffs ambient piece

Ghostlight - Gibraltar Point Lighthouse Piece


You can always click the tags below to see what I originally wrote about the shows these songs came from.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Recording: Wallace Halladay

Artist: Wallace Halladay

Song: Grab It [excerpt]

Recorded at Toronto New Music Marathon, Yonge-Dundas Square, September 25, 2010.

Wallace Halladay - Grab It [excerpt]

My notes for this performance can be found here.

Recording: Toronto New Music Marathon Ensemble

Artist: Toronto New Music Marathon Ensemble

Song: In C [excerpt] [composer: Terry Riley]

Recorded at Toronto New Music Marathon, Yonge-Dundas Square, September 25, 2010.

Toronto New Music Marathon Ensemble - In C [excerpt]

This is very much a "field recording", and you can hear the wind blowing past my microphones at a couple points. My notes for this performance can be found here.

Festival: Toronto New Music Marathon

Toronto New Music Marathon

Yonge-Dundas Square. Saturday, September 25, 2010.

A cool afternoon, with big breezy gusts of wind and little interludes of warmth as the sun made occasional appearances. As a prelude to a day of puttering around, popped into Yonge-Dundas Square to catch the first part of a whole day's worth of programming at the third annual "New Music Marathon". An audacious bit of work to put some decidedly non-pop musics in front of the great unwashed, it was fairly quiet in the early going. Besides the usual supply of gawkers and passers-by, there were just a handful of hardy souls dragging metal chairs from the edge of the square over to spots in front of the stage, where the day's first ensemble was soundchecking. A few stalls at the back of the square contributed to the festival atmosphere.

First up on the day, and the thing I'd come by to check out was a performance of Terry Riley's "In C". One of the foundational pieces of minimalist music, "In C" is based on a flexible score — 53 "cells" that range from one to several bars of music. There is no fixed rule as to the number of repetitions a pattern may have — the musicians are to play as they see fit, listening carefully to their neighbours to not move too far ahead or behind. In this way, a delicate mesh of patterns moves in and out of focus, chance harmonies and counterpoints floating to the surface and dissipating. It's beautiful stuff.

As to how that would play in an uncontrolled environment, Contact Contemporary Music's Jerry Pergolesi sounded a bit unsure. After explaining the nature of the composition, he commented, "hopefully people will get into that." He also provided the "pulse", playing metronomic octave C notes on the marimba as a guide for all the other musicians. The ensemble was an ad hoc group of volunteers, with a dozen players including piano, toy pianos, marimba, accordion, hurdy gurdy and guitars — a smallish ensemble for "In C", although again, there's no predefined notion of what sort of ensemble this is designed for.

Once everyone on stage was settled in, the piece began in general unison before individual players started to feel their way along. After a couple minutes, the sax separated a bit and found some space and for a moment almost felt like it was soloing before ducking back into the surrounding instruments. The toy pianos on stage lent the proceedings a tinkly chiming sort of feel. Meanwhile, people walked by, a few stopping to check it out, some just perplexedly hurrying along. Wandering children improvised their own vocal contributions to the score, pitching in along to the whoosh of traffic and the occasional distant siren. And there amongst the to-ings and fro-ings of the square, there were a couple delicious moments of delicate beauty coming in and out of focus as the performers moved through the piece.

At about twenty-five minutes, it was actually turned out to be rather on the short side — a performance can last forty-five to ninety minutes. As far as these things go, this was a decent rendition, but not the most polished — the minimalist equivalent of a hearty pick-up basketball game. With the need for a quick setup and having the performers stretched out across the big outdoor stage, it looked like one result was that the players weren't hearing each other very well, which is crucial for this piece. But still, quite nice to close one's eyes, lean back and let this drift past like the cool September breeze.

Listen to an excerpt from this performance here.

After that, the between-set gap was filled in with some real-time found-sound sonic installation work by New Adventures in Sound Art. This involved mixing live input feeds from around the square into an ambient soup — soon the "walk sign is on in all directions!" announcement from the pedestrian scramble was being looped in around traffic noise and little snatches of conversation as Wallace Halladay began soundchecking on stage. Pretty cool — for my money, they could be doing this 24/7 in the square.

On the recommendation of Jonny Dovercourt (who had played guitar with the "In C" ensemble and would later take the stage for his own Hybrid Moments project), I stuck around to check out Wallace Halladay1 playing "Grab It" by Jacob ter Veldhuis. The melodic core was based on taped voices of death row prisoners, sometimes cut down to individual syllables, with the sax playing along to the melodies of the voice. As might be expected, this was not calm and mellifluous — more of an angry shout, words thrusting out like the quick stab of a spoon sharpened into a shiv.

Given the method, this brought to mind Charles Spearin's Happiness Project, which also explored the musicality of the human voice — but besides employing more of a cut-and-paste sensibility, the source material here gave this a different, angrier vibe. The whole piece ran just under ten minutes, and it was kinda awesome to hear the repeating tape loop of "grab it, motherfucker!" echoing through the square. Easy to relate to and entertaining — a perfect mix of avant-garde and accessible for an event like this.

Grab a sample of this performance here.

The Marathon went on all day til 10 p.m., and looking back over the programme now, there's some stuff that I would have really enjoyed hearing. But shopping and other wanderings beckoned, and I headed off. Anyone interested in a casual encounter with "new music" would do well to wander by themselves.2


1 The name didn't ring any bells with me, but it turns out I had seen Halladay playing previously at the fondly-remembered "Concrete Toronto Music" concert in 2008.

2 Those who dig getting things down in their daytimers well in advance should note that the next Marathon is scheduled for Saturday, September 3, 2011.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Recording: Minotaurs

Artist: Minotaurs

Song: Get Down

Recorded at Wavelength 507, The Garrison, September 24, 2010.

Minotaurs - Get Down

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Fond of Tigers

Artist: Fond of Tigers

Song: Pemberdunn Maples Wolfs (Part 2)

Recorded at The Garrison ("Wavelength 507"), September 24, 2010.

Fond of Tigers - Pemberdunn Maples Wolfs (part 2)

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Wavelength 507

Wavelength 507 (feat. Minotaurs / Fond of Tigers / Eucalyptus / Secretary City)

The Garrison. Friday, September 24, 2010.

A very pleasant September evening where it felt almost too nice to head in to see a show. Stepped in to the early-quiet room, hopeful that things would start on time, but had a few minutes to kill. Stopped and paused and looked around The Garrison for a minute, reflecting how rock'n'roll is like a country song — if George Jones aged thirty years in five, a music venue's maturing is probably even more accelerated. Living the rock'n'roll life has The Garrison's back hall veering into the sort of casual desiccation that gives a room, um, place-yness. Less than a year before, the floors — now dull, grimy, used — were fresh and shiny. The paintjob no longer looks fresh. And now we can act like this has accorded the place character in the way we hope the same for our own sagging faces — like it's seen some livin'.

But showing some age doesn't mean losing vitality, as the venerable Wavelength has shown. Transitioning from Sunday night institution to an occasional concert series hasn't changed things too much. On this night Jonny Dovercourt was filling in on MC duties, trying his best to rock the vote for the then-looming civic election before introducing Secretary City, who took the stage to a background typewriter beat. A "new veteran" band featuring members of local riot grrl units Cougar Party and Scandalnavia, the quarrtet wasted no time in showing their willingness to rawk, leading off with the thematically appropriate "Ready to Rumble".

In front of Amanda Lee's thundering drums, the band's composition was striking for its no guitars/dual bass alignment — often with one fuzzy and playing "lead" and the other in more of a melodic role. Vocalist Emma Phelan powered the whole thing, exhibiting an ability to belt it out without ever sounding forced.

Besides the fast ragers like the totally catchy "Rock the Shitty!", the band also showed a deft hand with the slower smoulder of "Secretary City". Playing just a quick six song, twenty-minute set, this hit me in the right place — this is stuff I dig and look forward to hearing more of. Given that some of the band are living on the other side of the continent right now, shows are a little thin on the ground — that means when you do get a chance, don't pass it up.1

Listen to a track from this set here.

The openers weren't cut from the same cloth as the rest of the night's bands, but it wouldn't feel like proper Wavelength without a stylistic left turn thrown in. After Secretary City's more elemental rock'n'roll lineup, there'd be more complicated set-ups for the rest of the night, starting with Eucalyptus, filling up the stage with seven players. That'd be the same number of bodies as when I saw 'em before, though this time out there was a vibraphonist replacing the piano. Plus, here, everyone was amplified and mic'ed up, which meant everything took longer to set up and get sounding right.

There was a bit of feedback to get sorted through — no surprise given the number of instruments to balance, but once that was fixed, the band was quite a pleasure to listen to. Once they started there were the same gentle, calypso-inspired sounds that I had heard from Brodie West and co. previously, evoking a sort of retro-cocktail-hour sophisticated coolness. With everything plugged in, Alex Lukashevsky's guitar was higher in the mix here, which gave a different edge to the sound.

Also adding to the sound was a constant layer of chatter coming from the back of the room, building slowly as the set moved along. By about three songs in, the bulk of the crowd were treating this as a backdrop to their mingling. Of course, against the idea of a band blandly playing background music, here the musicians were visibly "at work", thinking through the arrangements and occasionally pushing against each other a bit. During "Dirty Goods", the last track of the set, there was a sense of the music nearly coming out of sync, and one could see the rhythm players looking at each other, laughing as they torqued things a bit.

Probably not the sort of thing that a lot of people might be going to Wavelength for, which made it a good choice. And anyways, not everyone was ignoring it — the swaying danciness of it seemed to work on one couple who were soon making out against the wall for most of the set.

Interestingly, the crowd that had been busy ignoring Eucalyptus were rather more intent to see Vancouver's Fond of Tigers. Another complicated setup, the band rolled with seven members on stage, including dual drummers, violin and trumpet. No vocalists, though. The band's stock-in-trade would be finicky music with a propensity for sneaking up on itself in twists and turns, located somewhere on the boundary between jazz and post-rock, mediated through a vaguely proggy sensibility.

Playing music from their third album Continent & Western, the set started with sawing, slicing sounds before building up in density. Without a vocalist there was no real frontman, but trumpet player JP Carter at centre stage drew the most attention, especially as he'd turn to his electronics to manipulate his sounds. Founder Stephen Lyons, meanwhile, mostly played his guitar with his back to the crowd, watching the drummers.

Give Fond of Tigers credit for not playing rote post-rock clichés and for not just piling instrument on instrument — there were some nice delicate moments during the fifty-minute set. But there's something in "tricky" music, shifting time signatures, etc., that just doesn't capture my fancy. They were good, but didn't engage me.

Listen to a track from this set here.

With one last complicated setup to go, it was twenty past one when Minotaurs took the stage. With the late start I was feeling kinda wobbly, like this was hour twelve of a gig at The Shrine. Or perhaps that image just popped into my mind based on the punchy Afrobeat-inspired sounds from the band. The band got right into it, launching with the simmering groove of "Caught In The Light", one of several top-notch jams from their recently-released album The Thing.

"Everyone still awake?" asked bandleader Nathan Lawr at the end, and indeed I felt jolted back to awareness with the high-energy run of songs at the set's start. The band is designed for high-octane grooving, including the hefty punch of the three-man horn section and the guitar work from Dan and Ryan Levecque.

Lawr took the pace town a bit in the middle, for "Windchymz" (which isn't on the album) and "Runaway Lane" (which is), but even that's relative here, as even the slower material is cookin'. The album is pretty tasty, but it can't be overstated how well-suited this material is for live performance. Plus, the band is clearly getting more familiar with playing this stuff on stage, now starting to stretch out a bit more during "Pink Floyd". There was a thinner crowd by the end, but I got the impression that some of the people were lurching around from something other than binge-runs at last call.2

Listen to a track from this set here.


1 The band has five songs that you can download here to make a sort of demonstration EP.

2 Do not miss any chance you get to see Minotaurs live — I note they'll be playing Night 3 of the Wavelength 11th Anniversary Festival, February 18th at Steam Whistle Brewery.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Recording: Vagina Bison

Artist: Vagina Bison

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Korova Milkbar, September 23, 2010.

Vagina Bison - unknown

My notes for this set can be found here.

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

Recording: The Deeep

Artist: The Deeep

Song: Muddy Tracks

Recorded at Korova Milkbar, September 23, 2010.

The Deeep - Muddy Tracks

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Jonathan Adjemian

Artist: Jonathan Adjemian

Song: Some Liquidity For These Troubled Times [excerpt]

Recorded at Korova Milkbar, September 23, 2010.

Jonathan Adjemian - Some Liquidity For These Troubled Times [excerpt]

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Not the Wind, Not the Flag

Not the Wind, Not the Flag (Vagina Bison / The Deeep / Jonathan Adjemian)

Korova Milkbar. Thursday, September 23, 2010.

It was a good day for walking, on the 23rd of September. The sun was shining — the sun was shining. Had some time to kill after an in-store performance at Soundscapes, and it was an agreeable enough evening to stroll around some. Eventually, I made my way back down to College to head up to the upstairs space at Korova Milkbar, a new-ish spot. It turned out to have a very livingroom-like atmosphere, and indeed wasn't much bigger. The "stage" area was the floor in front of a big picture window overlooking College Street, the stage lighting some old desk lamps perched on the floor and on the ledge that ran the length of the long wall. Opposite that was the stairway up from the street, protected by a very precariously shaky-looking railing that I wouldn't want to lean too hard against nohow. On this night, the room was decorated with little cloth banners and feathers hanging from strings stretched across the walls. There was a smaller room in the back with the bar (PBR tallboys always on special!) that led to a smokers' deck. All told, rather cosy and inviting for this kind of show.1

Folks were milling around in a manner not unlike a house party, and one got the impression that this was very much an audience of people who knew each other.2 There was some time to linger as there was a bit of a struggle with the sound system, stuck in loudly-buzzing mode. Deciding to just play through it was Jonathan Adjemian — whose last name computer spell-checks want to change to "bohemian" — who suggested that the audience merely pretend we were in the tropics, surrounded by buzzing insects. A keyboard player with a fondness for zwipping analog synths, Adjemian has put in time in some local rock bands (he was a member of Jon-Rae & The River), but is probably seen more often amongst the improv/weird music crowd.

Here, he was playing solo, with keyboards, electronics and laptop on hand. "I typically apologize in advance," was his lead-in here as he started playing his first song, "Blue Gardenia". For the first several minutes he filled the room with a flippity-buzzy cosmic noise, part of it actuated by hand motions on a proximity-sensing microphone. Most of it was pretty gnarly, though the apology might apply to some of the sustained low-frequency blasts, which could feel a little unsettling as he held them at length. That melded into the vocal part of the song, appealingly crooned while the whirring drone of the keyboard parts continued, the whole thing stretching out over twelve minutes.

the second, and final, selection was "Some Liquidity For These Troubled Times", which was instrumental all the way through. This came off a bit more shimmering and less pulsating than previous, like the music that played in the background at the planetarium while something about supernovas was being explained. The four people sitting on the floor closest to Adjemian would be playing later that night and were listening intently — Isla Craig was nodding back and forth a bit, eyes closed, while Brandon Valdivia, as cool as a zen cucumber, looked like he might break out into some tai chi. Intriguing stuff — a bit of it was difficult to listen to, but generally likeable.

Listen to an excerpt from this set here.

Struggling some more with the sound system and a notional sampler, it took a little longer than expected for The Deeep — with three e's, yes — to get going. A duo the last time I saw 'em,3 this time beat provider Wolfgang Nessel was joined by an extra keyboardist, mostly contributing to the bass grooves that are central to the band's sound, which is based on Marianas Trench reggae riddims, drum machine beats, and the glorious pipes of Isla Craig, multiplied by her loop pedal. Although you could think of this band as a stealth delivery system for Craig's vox, you also wouldn't think of this as being particularly lyrically driven — the vibe of what she's singing gives away more than specific words. From time to time you could catch a phrase here or there that'd help define the emotional terrain — one section looped the word "away", for example, and the music took it from there.

Listening to this, I was caught between thinking "I'm not sure where this song is going" and "this music is staying in exactly the same place". The music is normally pretty slow, based in drone and repetition — the two musicians sitting at their gear nodded along slowly like they were in a trance — and it's Craig's vocals that act as the transforming element.

Showing off their roots, the songs were set off with rub-a-dub interstitial breaks, and the second song leaned more towards being overtly groovy — I dunno if you'd want to leap up and dance to this, but it can make you shimmy a little where you're sitting down. The one after that removed the bass groove, leaving a sonic backdrop of shuffling percussion, synth loops and the occasional random noise-burst. That was a little too formlessly gauze-y for my tastes, but the set closed with the delicious "Slow Coaster" ("our ballad," Craig explained), which had struck me when I heard it in the Music Gallery courtyard. For a band based in loops and beats, it all feels very malleable, as if the songs could fold in and deconstruct themselves in real time.4

Listen to a song from this set here.

Meanwhile, setting up away from the stage were the possibly-unfortunately-named Vagina Bison5, a collaborative project between Andrew Zukerman (who runs local experimental label Bennifer Editions) and Montrealer Emilie Mouchous. With a couple tables of gear looking like a science fair project that had gotten out of hand, the pair produced the sort of stuff that Zukerman, after making blooping noises for a few minutes while setting up, had to explain to the audience "we haven't started yet". Once they were going, they provided a collage of muffled found-sound television samples, looped percussion that sounded like a game of Pong and bursts of static. Imagine, perhaps, a cassette of a John Carpenter score slowly being chewed up as an Open University lecture droned on in the next room. When it all paused for a second and someone started cheering, Zukerman looked up and commented, "we're not done."6

A bit of a mixed bag, then. As an experience, it was saved by the fact that the composers weren't taking themselves too, too seriously — one experiment involved an attempt to play a friend's hair with a bow, for example. And I suppose the best way to face this would be to ignore and notions of musicality and just try to appreciate it as sonic sculpture.7 It was in that frame of mind that I faced the final section, with percussion that sounded like the noise made by a child's bubble-blowing toy lawnmower combined with blurbering noises like something from a Jawa instructional language tape.

The set ended with a bit of a game of "are we done yet?" with Mouchous hitting play on a heavy metal cassette for a few seconds, which was followed by more popping, fritzing noisemaking, then more metal, and so on, which I found to be the most trying part of the set. But I know what I hate, and I didn't hate this. I wouldn't say it brought me great comfort or joy, but it wasn't charmless, especially in that "this would be more fun to do than to listen to" sort of way.

Listen to an excerpt from this set here.

And then time to head down to the street for some fresh air — the room was getting a little stuffy — as the headliners got ready. Once the instruments were set up Not the Wind, Not the Flag — who were playing this show to earn some gas money for their tour — finished the preparation by lighting some incense. Colin Fisher even thoughtfully went down to the street and back patio to round people up before sitting down to play. And then he said, after looking through the window and greeting friends in the room, "we'd like to acknowledge the Moon for this set."

Such is par for the course for this musically versatile duo. Always taking their cues from the environment they're playing in, the pair's mood and intensity and even choice of instruments are always subject to change. Here, the full moon outside inspired a rocking groove at the start, Brandon Valdivia providing a solid beat while Fisher, on guitar, started off seated as he played a surging low part into a looping pedal, then standing up to play more on top of that. This gave the backbone for a fully righteous thrust, going about eight minutes before Valdivia came in in the flute, slowing things down as the guitar became more atmospheric and echo-y.

After exploring that for a bit, Fisher switched over to the drums and Valdivia picked up a thumb piano for the next section, which was dedicated "to the clouds around the moon". Exploring a gentle rhythm, this was very lovely, slowly building up to a logical conclusion without needing to get overly frenetic. Entrancing stuff and really worth staying up late for on a night like this. NTW,NTF never play the same set twice, but I would say they're always worth seeing.8

Listen to a song from this set here.


1 I'd feel a little bad if that description made you eager to check the space out for yourself, for it looks as if this venue is already defunct, the restaurant downstairs shuttered. When I walked by last week, there was a hand-lettered sign in the window that simply read, "WE LOST".

2 It could probably be expected that a night of "outside" music would have this sort of "inside" crowd. There's probably a graph to be plotted here, revealing an inverse relationship between the size of a crowd and its pre-existing social familiarity — at the opposite of a show like this would be a giant arena pop show, with a crowd of strangers.

3 The extra "e" is for "extra member".

4 The Deeep will be playing in the afternoon portion of "The C is for Cure" benefit show at The Music Gallery on January 29, and have plans for a special 12" release show for late February.

5 I must confess that to be sure I wasn't missing out on anything, I checked at Urban Dictionary to make sure this wasn't the name of something unmentionable in polite conversation, but as of yet, it is unclaimed as slang.

6 Random smart-ass comment from the crowd: "play the single!"

7 Taking a look at Zukerman's collage-based artworks, which feel like the visual counterpoint to this sonic experimentation, could also provide a sort of conceptual way in to what's going on here.

8 In what promises to be an intriguing night Not the Wind, Not the Flag are playing The Tranzac in February 2, 2011 with Khôra and Nick Kuepfer, who released two of the albums in Constellation Records' very tasty recent series called "Musique Fragile". Highly recommended!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday Playlist #4

Sunday Playlist #4: guitar + voice + microphone

Julie Doiron - Elevator Show

Grant Hart - Never Talking Talking to You Again

Leif Vollebekk - Don't Go to Klaksvik

Melissa Boraski - Too Tall

Wayne Petti - Up On the Hillside


You can always click the tags below to see what I originally wrote about the shows these songs came from.

Friday, January 21, 2011

In-store: The Golden Dogs

The Golden Dogs

Soundscapes. Thursday, September 23, 2010.

Y'never know what you're gonna get at an in-store performance — whether it's going to be a three-song acoustic taster or an amped-up rager. This one was at the latter end of the scale, with the band playing what turned out to be a full-length set. I was passingly familiar with local stalwarts The Golden Dogs, but, aside from having seen their members pitching in onstage to other things here and there, I'd never seen a proper show from the band. Though they have a solid back catalogue to draw from, they were here to celebrate Coat Of Arms, their third album released recently on the ever-reliable Nevado label.

The store was filling up nicely as the band set up. They even brought furniture — at first I thought that the old candelabra that keyboard player Jessica Grassia was setting up was just for show, but it turned out to be an essential prop, used as a holder for a series of round, kickdrum-sized signs each illustrated with a song's title. They'd be swapped into place as each selection began, adding a bit of visual dazzle to the proceedings as well as being like manna for anyone making notes of what the setlist was.

The band's music worked in that vein, too. A well-worn foundation with some bright-coloured flair on top. The Golden Dogs are undoubtedly not too far away on the spacetime/rock continuum from, say, fellow local revivalists Zeus — although there's a bit more of a power pop sound in evidence there's still a third-hand British Invasion kind of feel. To look at it another way: I could imaging this band covering "She's Not There" without breaking a sweat.

Mixing all of that up, opener "Dear Francis" had a bit of a bluesy tone underneath it's rock'n'roll attack. Besides the hatted Dave Azzolini, who sang most of the lead vox, the band also has a capable secondary weapon in Jessica Grassia, who took the mic for a couple (including "Cheap Umbrellas"), keeping things nicely mixed up. Whether listening for the little bits borrowed here and there (like "Travel Time" which lifts a line from Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne") or basking in "Lester"'s bright rays of AM glory (its pictograph, in fact, included a radiant sun) there was a lot to like here. The band even threw in a brand new one, called "Pretending".

I also dug how they were even entertaining as they performed an elaborate switchover act while rotating instruments, with a complicated three-way drumstick and bass exchange that ensured the hi-hat rhythm was never stopped, even as a new drummer took over. The set ended with "Burst"'s fading reverse echo guitar shimmering over the crowd, as someone from the audience started calling for a "disco dance party!". The band then shrugged and went ahead and did it, or at least jammed out a dance-y little instrumental, as a guitar was passed out to an audience member, who appeared to be too shy to try and add to the outro.

In the end, we got a fifty-five minute, thirteen song set that celebrated the hell out of Coat Of Arms by presenting every track from the album. You can't ask for much more than that for free.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Recording: The Golden Dogs

Artist: The Golden Dogs

Song: Weapon

Recorded at Soundscapes, September 23, 2010.

The Golden Dogs - Weapon

My notes for this set can be found here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Recording: The Two Koreas

Artist: The Two Koreas

Song: Disco Slave Songs

Recorded at The Piston, September 17, 2010.

The Two Koreas - Disco Slave Songs

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Terror Lake

Artist: Terror Lake

Song: Chief of Staff

Recorded at The Piston, September 17, 2010.

Terror Lake - Chief of Staff

My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Persian Rugs

Artist: Persian Rugs

Song: Always All

Recorded at The Piston, September 17, 2010.

Persian Rugs - Always All

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Planet Creature

Planet Creature (The Two Koreas / Terror Lake / Persian Rugs)

The Piston. Friday, September 17, 2010.

In an epic burst of bad streetcar luck, the night got off to a lousy start. By the time I straggled my way over to Ossington for my pre-gig pho, I was a good chunk late on my dinner plans. So once I got there, I decided I just wasn't going to be in a hurry for the rest of the night. Though I have a certain rigourous dedication to getting to places to catch the bands at the bottom of the bill, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and relax and count on the fact that you'll have another chance to see 'em again. Having good company and tasty, tasty pho made it easy to recalibrate and accept that for the gig I'd get there when I got there.

And anyways, you can usually count on a gig to start late, so despite thinking I'd miss 'em entirely, I still managed to catch the last few songs from Persian Rugs. Which was lucky as I was definitely interested in checking this new-ish combo out. In the big family tree chart that we will someday make of beloved local bands, Persian Rugs would be one generation down in the lineage from The Airfields and The Diableros — who will be colour-coded in the chart in such a way to designate beloved-and-missed groups now gone. The face I most recognized was guitarist Ian Jackson, although I have seen Ali Sunderji playing before as well.

The winning surprise here was keyboardist Kaye Hamilton, whose textures tied the music together. Plus, in a band employing a bit of a pass-the-mic approach to vocals, she provided the top contenders here, including the lovely "Always All".1 With a textured, slightly dreamy vibe informing the best of their material, the band exhibited a very argyle sort of sound, just like Jackson's sweater. I assume he was wearing it to reinforce just this sort of association, as it was damnably hot in the room. That said, they could rock out a bit too, throwing in a cover of Television Personalities' "Part Time Punks". I was definitely glad to have gotten a quick taste of the band, and looking forward to more.2

Listen to a track from this set here.

Between sets, I had a chance to properly take a gander at the venue. On Bloor beside the big Long & McQuade store in the spot formerly occupied by the Concord Café, The Piston is a comfortable space, split into two parts with the bar (giving the feeling of a reasonably cosy local) up front and the venue in the back, all in a fairly long, narrow alignment. That layout means that, similar to, perhaps, The Rivoli, there can be a bit of a bottleneck when passing into the back space, especially if there's a crowd intent on hanging around at the back of the room, but it opens into a roomier zone in front of the low stage, with a few seats along the walls. All told, a decent space for a show like this.

It hadn't been so long since I'd seen Terror Lake, so I was curious to see if I'd be getting a "more of the same"-type show. But as "Junebug"'s count-in3 led to the driving surf beat, the pleasing rush of the band's sound pushed any worries out of my mind. And there's enough live electricity give-and-take in the two-guitar attack that the songs don't get to sounding too rote or predictable. As it was, the setlist was also mixed up a bit, though there was the same buildup to the more deliberate "Redskin Panic" toward the end. The sound (with Pete Carmichael behind the board) was mostly sharp throughout the night, but especially during this set, with both guitars crisp and distinct in the mix, filling the room nicely without being too loud.4 Meanwhile, the band was as eager as the rest of the crowd to hear Planet Creature, so they kept their set to a succinct six songs.

Listen to a track from this set here.

The Piston's stage looked a little crowded with the five bodies of The Two Koreas, who played a set scattered with material from their forthcoming third full-length, Science Island.5 Although the sound was a little mushy for them at first, the band mostly keept things bouncing along with their avant-new-wave-boogie-insecurity anthems. As always, vocalist/critic Stuart Berman was out to entertain his bandmates and the crowd, his antics, as always, exploring the tension between planned showmanship and improvised goofing. Here, for example, after falling to the stage at the end of the first part of "Retarded Architect", he took care to dramatically twitch a bit before springing to his feet to resume the song.

As I think I've suggested before, I'm never sure if these well-read theoreticians are trying to deconstruct rock'n'roll as they make it or if they live in a realm of particularly rich in-jokes that they constantly deploy to amuse each other. Or even if they just like to leave weird traces in their wake to see if anyone will pick up on them — here, for whatever reason, the band's setlist was written on Manolo Blahnik stationary: is this some sort of jape about rockstar conspicuous consumption? Do they just like wearing Manolos? Well, anyways, a few years ago, I wouldn't have really said that The Two Koreas were a band you could go and dance to and have a fun time — but now they are, and we're better for it. Any metatextural flourishes you happen to pick up on are just a bonus.

Listen to a track from this set here.

And after that, a long-coming moment in the spotlight for Planet Creature, celebrating the release of their first EP. The well-recorded Pigeon is a nice demonstration of where the band's at, showing their different musical sides and including a couple real aces. Their set pulled from that, but also the rest of the stock of songs they're building up.

Besides having a recording to boast about, the band has become increasingly solid on stage, with their vocal arrangements starting to become a real strength. There was good energy in the galloping guitar line of "Ramona", and it didn't take long for a dance party vibe to prevail on the floor, with Optical Sounds compadre Lee Brochu (of The Hoa Hoa's) leading the way. There's an interesting range in their sound, from the tougher-tinged garage stuff ("Loaded") to the glorious C-86ish harmonies of "Das Pirates", a cracker of a song that brings The Shop Assistants to mind. Playing that one, the band got a bit unstuck and out of sync — it looked like that was one spot where the bandmembers couldn't hear each other very well, but there was enough self-assurance and danceparty forward momentum to keep things going.

There were some other signs of the band's increased proficiency, too — they've got their instrument switcharounds down to a much smoother process than they used to be, and the whole set had a streamlined, steady pace. Closing out with the snappy "Tetris", where Kristina Koski's squiggly keybs sounded not unlike videogame background music, the efficient set went out with leave-'em-wanting-more good vibes.

Listen to a track from this set here.


1 The band is giving a demo of this song away at their bandcamp.

2 I have subsequently managed to catch a full set from the band, and will have more to say when I get caught up to that show, though you can check out a track from it here. Suffice it to say, this is a band worth checking out.

3 It's one of those small things, but drummer/vocalist Wendy Fowler might grace the band with some of the best count-ins in the the city, always delivered with an excited cheerful eagerness.

4 Although the room seems to have a decent sound system, its Achilles heel on this night was the stage sound — I'd later overhear a member of one of the bands commenting that there wasn't great sound on stage, and later I got the impression that the night's headliners were having some trouble hearing each other.

5 This is now slated for a March 1, 2011 release on Last Gang, so keep your eyes out for it. One can assume there'll be an album release party to go with that, as well.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Recording: Land of Talk

Artist: Land of Talk

Songs: Goaltime Exposure + Summer Special

Recorded at Lee's Palace, September 16, 2010.

Land of Talk - Goaltime Exposure

Land of Talk - Summer Special

My notes for this set can be sound here.

Recording: Suuns

Artist: Suuns

Song: Sweet Nothing

Recorded at Lee's Palace, September 16, 2010.

Suuns - Sweet Nothing

My notes for this set can be sound here.

Gig: Land of Talk

Land of Talk (Suuns)

Lee's Palace. Thursday, September 16, 2010.

Another one of of those nights where I was out to see if a band whose records hadn't done much for me could win me over live. Though from general chatter it seemed like I was one of the few who wasn't on board with Land of Talk, I was still surprised this was a sold out gig — as usual, I had no idea how relatively popular the headliners were. There was even a fairly robust crowd on hand for opener Suuns, a Montréal quartet with some buzz.1

The music lead off with a rumble of guitar and a couple analogue-y synth lines in an unrushed intro before the beat came in — and then another minute of build before the song got to the vocals. This wasn't a band in a rush to get to the chorus — actually, I'm not if the song even had one. The next tune eased back on the sonic velocity, and was filled with whispery vocals — more atmospheric than something you'd find yourself humming along to. My first impression was that this was a band aiming for a one chord, unsexy version of Franz Ferdinand.

Having gone in without doing any research, I felt there was something familiar about them, but it was only after the show that I realized had, in fact, seen them before — more than a year back when they were called Zeroes. I don't recall so much about that set, but my notes show that I managed to get basically the same impression twice — that this was a sound that I found interesting without being captivated by. When they brought out a guest sax player for a song, that added something interesting, and from there, music took a Clinic-al edge. But the band was bringing some different flavours, ranging from rattling bursts of freneticism to minimal slowburners. In the latter camp was one song whose only lyrics were the repeated digits "two-one-two". That and the final song brought to mind Snakedrill-era Wire, who I think we could count as a clear forerunner of what the band is working on. Despite all of that being kinda in my sweet spot, and although music like this can sometimes really hypnotize me, I found the set merely likeable. I will keep an eye on further developments, though.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Meanwhile, as the floor got to be pretty packed while things were getting set up for Land of Talk, it looked like they would be getting an assist from Suuns, who left their keybs and sundry other gear on stage while a small second drumkit was being set up in the back corner. In fact, Suuns — who amusingly re-emerged dressed up in shirts and ties that they'd not worn for their own set — would be fully integrated as a central element in the reproduction of the songs from the just-released Cloak and Cipher. As the set lead off with the title track, it was a larger-than-expected seven-member combo on stage.

I suppose that it shouldn't be too much of a surprise as the band has always featured a revolving cast around singer/guitarist Liz Powell — although she normally works with the more compact trio format. For the first half-hour here, players would come and go, meaning each song could be served with as much embellishment as required, whether extra backing vocals or percussion.

For a band that has some exceedingly dedicated fans, I've never been fully won over by Land of Talk's recorded material. It uniformly features some fully engaging moments, but never seems to cohere into songs that really grab me. And I was having more or less that same reaction at this show — some stuff, like "Some Are Lakes" (the title track to their 2008 full-length) registered, as did the downcast "Goaltime Exposure" from the new one. But overall I wasn't pulled into it.

I actually got a bit more of a charge when, mid-set, the band stripped down to their original trio format to look back to some older material like "Magnetic Hill" from debut Applause Cheer Boo Hiss. It was amusing to then see the rest of the extra hands re-materialize2, sort of like the punchline to a joke about Canadian indie-rock "collectives" — they're a trio, but look away for a second and suddenly there's seven of 'em. The lashing "Yuppie Flu" that the trio had delivered was then contrasted with stuff like the textured "Color Me Badd".

Powell was effusively thankful to have a supportive and "really safe crowd" for the expanded group's first show. Around me, there was a pretty positive reaction from both "I know all the words" devotees and drunken "I heard they were cool" casuals that were rubbing shoulders in the crowd. They all joined in for a clapalong to the extended intro of "Sixteen Asterisk" and clearly wanted the band to keep playing past closer "The Hate I Won't Commit".

That extended a seventy minute main set as the band returned for what looked to be planned as a one-song-and-out encore with "It's Okay", which had a few people singing along in that way where you get the idea that this song really matters to them. That led to prolonged applause before the band came back on stage. If the previous song had been the rote, typical encore, the return felt like the real thing, with Powell acknowledging that crowd wasn't going to let it go at that.

Going back to the trio, the band had another chance to dig back to some of the older material that they couldn't squeeze in to the main set, like the winning "Summer Special". Playing songs out of the current rotation and not relying on recent rehearsal, the second encore was probably the the most vital part of the whole night, where even a few mistakes didn't subtract from the spontaneous energy of it all.

But still, I left feeling more or less like I did when I came in. I can tell this band is good, but whatever that spark is — that one that gives you that vivid sense of connection to a certain singer or their songs — I'm just not getting it here.

A couple selections from this set — you can compare a trio song to one with the expanded lineup here.


1 Those interested in the musical overlaps of the Montreal scene would be intrigued to know that keyboardist/bassist Max Henry used to split time with this band and Young Galaxy, though he has now departed from the YG fold to focus full time on Suuns. The band's forthcoming full-length was also produced with Montréal mainstay Jace Lacek of The Besnard Lakes, a sign that, if nothing else, it will be a well-recorded artifact.

2 Actually, the start and end of the trio segment was accompanied by some extended tuning breaks. They echoed the rather anticlimactic way that the band took to the stage originally, leading off with a couple minutes of audience-ignoring tuning. I've heard that this is actually less of a problem now than it used to be for Powell, who jokingly solicited the audience for a volunteer guitar tech to join them on tour at one point.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Playlist #3

Sunday Playlist #3: Something Else!!!!

Feuermusik - Doppelspiel

Buildings - unknown

Apostle of Hustle - Dark is What I Want

Alpha Yaya Diallo - Unknown

The Woodchoppers Association et Jah Youssouf - unknown


You can always click the tags below to see what I originally wrote about the shows these songs came from.

Recording: Dr. Ew

Artist: Dr. Ew

Song: Dance All Over My Grave

Recorded at !059, January 15, 2011.

Dr. Ew - Dance All Over My Grave

My notes from this set can be found here.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Recording: Lullabye Arkestra

Artist: Lullabye Arkestra

Song: new song*

Recorded at Four Corners II, Steelworkers Hall, January 14, 2011.

Lullabye Arkestra - new song

Full review to follow My notes for this set can now be found here. Four Corners II had the same number of corners as its predecessor, and about 100% more metal.

* Does anyone know the title to this one? The obvious guess would be "Set It On Fire". Please leave a comment if you have heard anything!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Recording: Doldrums

Artist: Doldrums

Song: unknown*

Recorded at Against Life III ("Dream in High Park" Stage), September 10, 2010.

Doldrums - unknown

My notes for this set can be found here.

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

Recording: Tonka & Puma

Artist: Tonka & Puma

Song: Break Up Song + Fred

Recorded at Against Life III ("Dream in High Park" Stage), September 10, 2010.

Tonka & Puma - Break Up Song + Fred

"Fred" features vox & manipulations by Doldrums. My notes for this set can be found here.

Recording: Fresh Flesh

Artist: Fresh Flesh

Song: Space Diamonds

Recorded at Against Life III ("Dream in High Park" Stage), September 10, 2010.

Fresh Flesh - Space Diamonds

My notes for this set can be found here.

Gig: Against Life III

Against Life III (feat. Fresh Flesh / Tonka & Puma / Doldrums)

"Dream in High Park" Stage. Friday, September 9, 2010.

Going to this was a last-minute decision. But given that the listed started time was at midnight, even the last-minute didn't come early. After the end of my night's more regular gig, I had some time to kill and consider my options. Not only was it cooling off outside, but I could feel the first vestiges of a cold coming on. Standing outside in the crisp September dead of night in my short pants was probably inadvisable. Plus, I did have some mixed feelings about the last event like this I'd gone to. But still I'd gone to that one, and as the hour grew late here I was heading out to this.

As is usual for these things, the location was revealed only on the day of the show. Showing their flair for finding "off the grid" spots in the city, the organizers this time came up with a familiar landmark — the amphitheatre in High Park most usually populated by summertime Shakespeareans. And so I found myself taking the Queen streetcar out past all of my usual landmarks and treading uphill into the dark, quiet park. I crossed paths with a couple joggers, but I otherwise was feeling the Omega Man vibe, peering suspiciously at the smudges off in the distance here and there.

Despite knowing that punctuality is not a virtue at shows like this, it wasn't long past midnight that I found myself looking for the path down from the road. I remembered it vaguely from previous trips, but it's always another matter entirely when it's pitch dark out. It actually wasn't that hard to find and I headed down to find the entrance gate blocked off with a metal gate and a WORK ZONE sign. Someone had invitingly moved the gate open by a few feet and I headed in. As I came to the top ridge of the tiered amphitheatre, I could see people moving about on stage, getting the generator going and providing a little bit of light.

I found myself a spot and started waiting for things to begin as the cool damp of night started to descend. The steep arcing rows of seats above the stage encouraged people to settle in and spread out, and soon, people were tricking in, calling out for friends and hanging out. The dark stairs leading down toward the stage were soon illuminated by tiki torches.

Things got started right at one, when it was announced to the crowd, "the vibe will be a lot better for everyone if you come on the stage". And right like that, I remembered why I like things like this. Although the sound system and artists were set up right against the far back of the stage, everyone had internalized that that was the place for the musicians and the seats were the place with the crowd. But with the announcement that membrane evaporated and the bulk of the people on hand got up and clamoured onto the stage. It's actually a pretty big space up there, so it didn't feel all that crowded.

And getting closer to the lone light illuminating the PA meant we could now see Toronto-via-Halifax rapper Fresh Flesh (government name: Zoë Solomon), who was leading things off. Her ultra lo-fi beats were on cassettes that were switched in and out of a walkman hooked up to the sound system, an apt backdrop for her rhymes, which featured a flow somewhere between Peaches and Tom Green and a propensity for whimsical subject matter ("mystic crystal power", ham, puke and the assertion that "space diamonds are real"). Some of it rocked the bells pretty well, and the minimal casio/drum machine beats were rather likable.

On the second song, the generator konked out temporarily, underscoring the patched-together nature of the sound system, and adding to the vaguely post-apocalyptic vibe of the whole night. As the air grew colder and it felt like this was one group of survivors — or outcasts — dancing together to keep warm in some remote sanctuary, the closing song with its "can't wait to celebrate nuclear war" refrain fit perfectly.

Listen to a song from this set here.

Between sets, a guy shuffled up beside me, leaned in and asked, "D'you want any MDMA?" I shook my head no and felt vaguely disappointed that I'd wasted all that time memorizing the street names of drugs in an attempt to appear "with it". It looked like the dude might have had some takers, however, as there was an element of the crowd that looked to be out for a Burning Man sort of pagan celebration, complete with hippie twirling dance moves.

And getting ready to play, it looked like a big bottle of wine was the mood-altering substance of choice for Tonka & Puma. Another facet of the always-busy Daps Duo, T&P is a pairing of Hooded Fang's April Aliermo (bass/shouts) and Daniel Lee (drums/vocals) featuring hardcore velocity, extra-sloppy style, all in a whir of April's extra-fuzzy bass and Daniel's howling. As their anthem says: "we're two cool cats with nothin' to do / so give us some booze and we'll kick it for you".

From where I was standing, the vocals were sometimes inaudible and there was an amusingly trainwreckish quality to the minute-long songs — perfect party music for something like this. And helping to shake up the formula a bit, Airick Woodhead of Doldrums joined in to manipulate the sounds and add some messed-up vocals and the sloppy fun of it all actually came into focus for a few minutes. Much more of a soak in the madness-type of set than a hi-fi experience — but you're almost certainly not coming to something like this for the latter.

Check out a couple quick blasts from this set here.

Between sets, the music was mostly weird-rock and out-there mutant sounds from around the world — psychedelic Bollywood, disco drone and stuff like that. The stage was filled with people trying to keep warm with drunken dancing or drunken drinking. There was a lurching quality to people in general, just as there would be to the music as Doldrums got underway.

This would be the third time I saw Airick Woodhead's pop project — and it was rather different from either of my previous tastes. Woodhead, here in one-man-band mode, brought to life a crazy cut-and-paste world, starting with a snatch of sampled movie dialogue, adding all sorts of looped and sliced and treated vocals, all with glitchy beats being manipulated on the fly. One could have an "emperor got no clothes" reaction to this and call it gussied-up noise, but there is an underlying pop sensibility. And if it's a rather fragmented sort of pop sensibility, one gets the idea that comes from the fact that Woodhead's vision is at a slightly divergent angle to ours.

All of that would come across as even more messed-up in this environment, including some random weirdness with the sound cutting out every so often mid-song, all while Woodhead bounced around, including into the crowd, offering the mic around for any yalps the audience would like to throw into the mix.

And then, about quarter after two, less than fifteen minutes into the set, the real game changer of the night as the police dropped by to pause the show in the least-invasive manner imaginable. The two officers came up on stage and walked through the crowd to Woodhead, who kept the music going while carrying on his half of the conversation into his microphone, a woozy slo-jam beat still playing in the background.

"What's the officer, problem? "You're not into it? Whaddya think of this?" The cop actually made a sort of semi-apologetic ambivalent gesture but obviously got his point across that the music had to stop. Weirdly, there was no sense of confrontation ("Does it have to be us and them all the time?" Woodhead asked) as once the music stopped the police just turned around and left. Whether this was post-G20 goodwill or wanting to avoid an incident I wasn't sure — or whether they'd said something to the effect of "just make yourselves scarce".

With the music stopped, everyone stood around for a few minutes, unsure if the show was done or what. I lingered, but with that break my body suddenly remembered that this had started as a work day and I'd been going for quite a while. As some people started straggling out, the organizers weren't making any moves to shut things down, but thinking about the hike yet ahead of me I realized I was done for the night. As I made my way back to the road and was about to make my way toward the Bloor night bus, I heard the sound system come back to life and the music starting up again.1

Listen to a track from this set here.

If you're a fan of music/drug analogies, Doldrums might be something like acid-laced cough syrup. And in a way, that kinda applies to the vibe of the whole night, which might be one thing imposing a limit on how much I felt I got out of this show. Maybe because I was mildly underdressed for the weather and had a cold coming on I felt less into it, but it felt like a less-successful happening than the last one.

There were definitely some positives here — this felt like the last fling of the summer and I would have felt a little sad to have missed it. And once again, I love the place-making (or "place-taking") element of this, giving a location a new, personal meaning. The next time I'm there, I'll be thinking, "yeah, I stood on that stage". But I also have the lingering feeling that I'm coming at things like this from the wrong way to be able to get into them fully. Is a show like this meant to be more than a debauch? Or is that the thing that each participant is supposed to bring with them? After all, this isn't pre-fab culture, presented to you in a microwave-ready pouch.

Anyway, once the weather warms up again, there will be more events like this. And I suppose I'm not saying that I won't be there.


1 In fact, I heard after the fact that the rest of the night went off without a hitch or further interference.