Friday, August 22, 2008

The Faint
Opera House
Toronto ON

This one wasn't even on my radar, not close. Got a last minute invitation (actually at 2 am of the same day as I was returning from Dylan in Hamilton) 'cause someone backed out of the show. Traded even...a ticket for a recording.

So I go in here knowing nothing about The Faint. I'm sure their songs have filled the airwaves on our 'alternative' station in Toronto but time and circumstance determine who you clue into and who you don't. They had a couple things going against them...Omaha?, for one. The fact I thought the late '90's was a time for more garage rock (a la White Stripes) rather than a reversion to techno-dance. (Plus, any association with Conor Oberst puts you in the 'suspect', not 'prospect' file.) Oh, and my age, as I was as unlikely to cotton to this generations version of disco as I was to do it in the '70's.

Nice crowd they pull in though. It's like it's 50% club-night, 50% concert. It's at least 50% female, which you don't see much. This is likely due to the strong representation of girlswhowanttobewiththegirls. A little colour was added to the proceedings in the guise of a visit from Josie and the Pussycats...4 tightly packaged cuties with the whole motif...platinum blond, fiery red-head, sultry brunette and cute as a button African-American. We had girls in leather and girls in satin. We had wine sippers and beer chuggers. Mini-skirts and cleavage, a little bit of everything.

It would have made for great gawking if the site of that wouldn't have been so unsavory. I must remember sunglasses and earplugs for the next concert.

Genghis Tron opened the evening. And they are what the name promises; the audio equivalent of stampeding hordes and the movie Tron. It's screamo at it's screamiest. Lots of synths and distorted lyrics. I'd say they are band #13 of out of the 3 that will get any airplay. 'Course if they hang in there they might move up, I gotta imagine these guys blow their vocal chords well before they're 30.

Next up, more screaming...but more melody too. The lead singer of Jaguar Love was like a cross between Bon Scott and Little Richard. Too much affectation, not enough soul.

The Faint hit the stage, bracketed by two coffins and led by the goggle bespectacled...ah, you know what? I don't have the energy to deconstruct this band.
Enough to say they were well received by the crowd of over 800 enthusiastic fans. Most seem to have gotten what they came for, even if reviews of the new record are a little sketchy.

Here are the songs and some mp3 samples.

The Faint
The Opera House
Toronto ON

Source:Church Audio Cardioids>CA STC-9000 Pre-Amp >Edirol R-09 at 24/48 >USB >Sonic Foundry 16bit wave> FlacFrontend
Recorded by Krewe Chief

Track 01 Agenda Suicide
Track 02 Dropkick the Punks
Track 03 Take Me To The Hosipital
Track 04 Machine In The Ghost
Track 05 Desperate Guys
Track 06 Forever Growing Centipedes
Track 07 Birth
Track 08 Your Retro Career Melted
Track 09 I Treat You Wrong
Track 10 Psycho
Track 11 Posed to Death
Track 12 Get Seduced
Track 13 I Disappear
Track 14 In Concert
Track 15 Mirror Error
Track 16 Worked Up, So Sexual
Track 17 encore/crowd
Track 18 Paranoia Attack
Track 19 The Geeks Were Right
Track 20 Glass Danse

Robert Gordon
with Chris Spedding
Cadillac Lounge Toronto ON

We're coming up on 4 years running where I haven't missed a chance to see Robert Gordon during his Caddy stand.

Check out my review of the 2006 show.

On Saturday September 6th, 2008 he's doing two shows at the Cadillac Lounge.

8pm and Midnight.

Don't dare miss it!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bob Dylan
The Show

Trying to think of what to say but having as much trouble getting excited about the prospect as Bob was having getting excited about doing a live show. I have never seen such a dour bunch of guys loping through the songs like it was a penance. I've got to believe it's on purpose. There's no way 6 different guys could all look, in the words of Leonard Cohen, "like their father or their dog just died."

This is not hyperbole, to which I am prone.

Everything in this show, for good or bad, is highly choreographed and planned...from where you stand to what you wear to when you play. These guys have been paid to not smile. There were about 7 seconds total in the whole show where someone broke rank. Recile dropped a little triplet at the end of song and Bob smiled (1.5 seconds), Donny's eyes lit up a tad (2.0 seconds) and Stu breyed like a giddy donkey (3.5 seconds).

That was it.

Other than that we got a display of what 30 years of myopia will do to your facial expressions. Oh, and three droplets of sweat.

Bob's penchant for not engaging his audience is legend. He's elevated the art from the minimalist stage chatter, "Thank You, Friends", to turning his back on half the arena with his current keyboard configuration. That's well enough. Perhaps the sheer genius behind this, the deep underlying message which no doubt centers around who owns the artist, as opposed to the art, will become apparent in some distant year when the last Dylanologists are dissecting what's left of Bob.

However is there really a need to drag the other guys into this?

That being said, it's as hard to find fault with the performance as it is to point to moments of high art. While the band is never set free to express themselves outside the limited bounds Dylan has set for this revue, they are more than proficient and even excellent at times. Stu Kimball has been given a solo electric spot in High Water. Denny Freeman does some very nimble work with a slide sleeve on Rollin' and Tumblin'. Recile is hitting the skins and cymbals with more force and volume than over the past couple years. Tony is Tony. Bob is Bob. Donny is the most underused talent in any live band...which ain't an easy title to capture when you're in the same band as Stu.

Overall better than expected, not better than desired. This show probably cracks my top 100 all time, due mostly to my having seen a half dozen the past couple years.

So wha' happened?

4 MT songs...and if that's not bad enough, they were the highlights. When The Deal Goes Down is my favourite of the 'soft' songs on this record, and we didn't get anymore (read: Spirit, Horizon) Only my second Ain't Talkin' ever and it may have been the best song of the night. Rollin' and Tumblin' and Thunder On The Mountain, as a pair, were the equal of LARS and Watchtower as far as the band playing was concerned. All of them very good tonight.

I always enjoy Cat's In the Well so that was a decent opener. The delayed crowd recognition of It Ain't Me Babe was worth a chuckle. Both Mobile and GofNC have long since worn their welcome.

The crowd tried it's best to take over the chorus on Just Like A Woman, and Bob gave them a little space to vent before he jammed the lines into the last quarter-bar of music.

Highway 61 was revitalized from it's languid state of '06-' had a little punch, mostly from Recile on the drums. It's Alright Ma, in yet another 'new' arrangement, was also a stand-out, a pretty intense delivery.

Only a few times did Bob take liberty with the lyrics.

In High Water (for Charley Patton), at the penultimate biographical line, Bob buries, rather than emphasizes, a critical word. What should be his motto: "As great as you are man, you'll never be greater than yourself," which is followed by the derisive reply, "I don't really care," is done with a subtle alteration. In a new singing affectation he's picked up Bob just chokes the "yourself" into an unrecognizable mono-syllabic grunt, coming in hard with the reply. It ain't much, but it's something.

In Tryin' To Get To Heaven he playfully stangles the "Missouri/hurry" rhyme, at most end of lines, into something almost funny. Cuter still was revision in the 'pendulum swinging on chains' verse where instead of "When you think that you lost everything/
You find out you can always lose a little more,"
we get the more hopeful, "I tried to give you everything, everything you're little heart was longing for..."

Finally, Moonlight, which usually is to an uplifting concert experience what an unwanted pregnancy is to an illicit affair, has drastically modified lyrics. Now they might not make it a better song, but they certainly don't make it worse.

Original Verse:
Well, I'm preachin' peace and harmony
The blessings of tranquility
Yet I know when the time is right to strike
I'll take you 'cross the river dear
You've no need to linger here
I know the kinds of things you like

New Verse:
Well, I'm preachin' peace and harmony
The blessings of tranquility
I'm waitin' for that midnight bell to strike
I'll take you 'cross the river dear
You've no need to linger here
You know we think the same, we even dress alike."

And even more dramatic...

Original Verse:
The trailing moss and mystic glow
Purple blossoms soft as snow
My tears keep flowing to the sea
Doctor, lawyer, Indian chief
It takes a thief to catch a thief
For whom does the bell toll for, love? It tolls for you and me

New Verse:
The trailing moss and mystic glow
Purple blossoms soft as snow
Different routes(?) all through the countryside
Around the horn and over the hill
I don't wanna go but go I will
With you onboard I'll gladly take the ride.

We even get a harp break.

Now the best thing about a Dylan show, and it has been the best thing for years now, is touching base with friends old and new. Great to see Federica. Margery and Lori and Paul, the last of a dwindling number of Toronto-based Dylan-friends. Always Michey, even moreso when Rick's in tow. The kids from Windsor, who will be doing this and more when I'm just dust. And a handful of other familiar faces and names that pop up at various places.

Here's the setlist and some mp3's.

Bob Dylan and His Band
Copps Coliseum
Hamilton ON

Source:Church Audio Cardioids>CA STC-9000 Pre-Amp >Edirol R-09 at 24/48 >USB >Sonic Foundry 16bit wave> FlacFrontend

recorded by KreweChief
location Row 2 Center

Disc 1

Track 01 Intro
Track 02 Cat's In The Well
Track 03 It Ain't Me Babe
Track 04 Stuck Inside of Mobile (w/ the Memphis Blues Again)
Track 05 Girl of the North Country
Track 06 High Water (for Charley Patton)
Track 07 Just Like A Woman
Track 08 Rollin' and Tumblin'
Track 09 Tryin' To Get To Heaven
Track 10 Highway 61 Revisited

Disc 02

Track 01 Moonlight
Track 02 It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Track 03 When The Deal Goes Down
Track 04 Thunder on the Mountain
Track 05 Ain't Talkin'
Track 06 encore/crowd
Track 07 Like A Rolling Stone
Track 08 Band Intro
Track 09 All Along the Watchtower

Complete show in FLAC format

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bob Dylan and His Band
Copps Coliseum Hamilton ON

For the first time since 2000 this will be my lone
Dylan show of the year. It's number 100 and something lifetime, starting from 1975 with the bulk of shows falling into the 'Larry Campbell/Charlie Sexton' years of 2001-2002, and a ton of shows in '03 and '04 before the magic started disappearing in '05. I'd have geared down quicker if Bob wasn't continually enticing us with some "A List" opening bands like the Foo Fighters, The Raconteurs and Elvis Costello.

Bob is nothing, if not a mystery. To the untrained eye it may seem like he's riding the crest of a resurgent late-life creative period; the Theme Time Radio Hour now in it's second year, the Drawn Blank art exhibit and book, his pseudo-biographical series, Chronicles, currently stuck at Vol.1, a #1 record on the charts with Modern Times, the I'm Not There biopic, his own film foray,Masked and Anonymous, Grammy's, in a category almost created for him, Oscars, Polar, Pulitzer, a so-called 'special citation in case you don't get the sense there's a bit of a rush to honour going on here. Add to this what is becoming the perennial nomination for a Nobel prize and you begin to wonder even more. In case that don't come to pass in this lifetime Bob's already sewed up the Spanish Nobel prize.

I hope he never gets on that TV show's gonna ruin the ending for me.

With all this he spends a hundred nights a year on the road with a live show.

You'd think something's got to give, eh?

And it did.

The creative energy that went into these other projects, marvelous as they are, seems to have come from the live show. Somewhere in late '04 Bob began to hear a sound he was comfortable became the current 'cowboy band' that is mercilessly beating Love and Theft and Modern Times to death at a venue near you. It's basically taking 4 songs on the road, changing the lyrics so it seems like 16, and minimizing any musical risks.

Two words: bo - ring.

Bob's hung on to this Modern Times ennui for way to long, even as he threatens a third installment, with Love & Theft being the first, party version, of the same world. I've tried to wade through the muck that is an overbearingly oppressive sense of ... "who gives a shit", to ascertain whether songs like Ain't Talkin' or Nettie Moore are classics. Trouble is I bump into the weak minor songs, Spirit on the Water, Beyond the Horizon or the derivative Rollin' and Tumblin', and can't make it through.

In spite of this there are some who feel he's at the top of his game.

They've obviously not seen all the games.

The past couple years have seen the set list shrink in length and variety. And I'm just talkin' about the choice of songs, not the quality. He's damn near incomprehensible unless you've memorized every lyric. I don't say this as one of the multitudes who pertetually whine about Bob's voice...I loved it all those years they didn't. I'm talking from my own experience. When Modern Times was released I didn't listen to it until I was at a show, hearing the songs for the first time performed live. I could barely make out two consecutive words, never mind a couplet or verse. It was an eye-opener to me because I thought everyone could hear every subtle lyric change. It was like amping Charlie Brown's teacher: "wahh, wahhh, wah, wah-wah-wah, nettie moore."

This is not to say that Bob is mailing it in. On the contrary there is evidence he's working up a sweat every night trying to breathe life into the songs, even as the band is draining the blood out of listless arrangement after listless arrangement.

The beauty about Bob Dylan, least it has been in the past, is that if you don't like what he's doing now, just hang in there, he'll be back with something you like even less in three years. Not only does he have a penchant for peeling off one-more layer of skin every 3-5 years, he has an equal talent at hanging in with each incarnation until there's some type of 'push/shove' moment.

Folk-Bob couldn't just leave, he turned his back. Rock n Roll Bob became the most boorish prima-donna in music before his moto-psycho nitemare period. Don't even get me started on Christian-Bob. So if he's waiting until he gets to the unbearable stage with Civil-War-Bob, then the waitin's over.

As fate would have it there's been a recent shakeup in the show. A few MT songs have been dropped and more than a few classics and rarities have made a reappearance. In the week before this Hamilton show Bob has trimmed the MT back to 2 or 3 songs a show and brought out the likes of Chimes of Freedom, Visions of Johanna, I Believe In You (an homage to the recently deceased Jerry Wexler) and Lenny Bruce. Now while that's basically a return to post-Charlie, pre-cowboy band 2004, it's still a vast improvement in the "what's the chance something halfway exciting will happen tonight" sweepstakes. The odds are now at 23%

On the upside, I have 2nd row seats tonight. While that won't be great for recording it will be the optimum for watching Bob. These days you need to get close to the teacher to get your money's worth.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hank & Lily Do Toronto
Rancho Relaxo 2008-08-15
w/ The Burning Hell
Skirt Chasers

Hank & Lily are taking their third kick at the can tonight (missed the ElMo show on Monday). Heard that Hank will be doing a 'solo' show next Friday at Tranzac Club...for the fans of the man with the can.

The Rancho Relaxo Lounge ain't very big...but it's long. Well, not that long actually, but it's narrow. After you've negotiated the stairway you squeeze past the stage to find your spot at one of many available tables, so it's got that going for it, which is nice.

First set artist, The Skirt Chasers, didn't stretch the bounds of the stage too much with their minimalist 'white stripes' set up. Potsy Webber* on lead guitar and some 5' nothing, 100 and nothing pound dynamo, Hillary, on drums. The little drummer girl really was impressive...and concussive. Highlight of the set was probably meant to be a rather loose "Little Red Riding Hood,." but it was outshone by Hillary's turn at the guitar (minimal skills there) and lead vocals on the wonderfully sapphic, I Get All The Girls. These guys need a little image work (gotta drop the glamour boy exterior, leather armed highschool team jacket look) to find a niche in the indie world, especially if you're peddling white-mans-blues.

(The Potsy tag comes from a friend who was at the show. I was going to go with that Chambers fellow from Central Park but my wife said i'ts not his fault he's pretty and I shouldn't wear my envy on my sleeve. So I deferred.)

For the second set we get a few more players onstage as Peterborough natives, The Burning Hell, load up 8 players, 9 if you count the 8 month old, soon to be born, fetus. This stage is not that big but they manage to find room for the xylophone, keyboard, mandolin, bass, guitar, mini-guitar, drums, accordion, horns and whatever the pregnant chick was playing, perhaps a harpsichord. This band has found the secret to small-club success: if you got 8 members with family and friends, you're gonna sell-out every one of these joints on College St or Queen St West. Not only do they have a decent following, it's an enthusiastic one. Some of them even professed a man-love for the lead singer that definitely went beyond an 'after-goal-ass-pat'.
They play some slow songs, they play some fast songs and they play some smart songs. It's like you stumbled upon a Cajun' family Haliburton. It's exactly this kind of communal artistic community that Manson (Charlie, not Marilyn) was trying to talk Dennis Wilson into creating. But without the psycho-furniture-movin'-movie-star-snuffing-race-war part.

The Burning Hell is an ensemble wrapped around lead singer and (I'd imagine) primary, if not sole, songwriter, composer, Mathias Kom. They've got some great songs, the two Grave Situations are monsters. Two songs I couldn't quite figure out the title of, Unpronounceable Place and Born Prematurely are humourous. They sound at times like a New Orleans jug band but cover Men Without Hats and Phil Collins. Actually, the Phil Collins cover was the first time in decades where I didn't care people were talking up a storm through it.

Much more to this band than could be revealed in a non-headliner spot. I will track them down again. They are all over Southern Ontario, look 'em up.

Hank & Lily are joined by friends and fellow-Hootenanny compatriots, Luther Wright (bass), Jennie Whiteley (b.vox) and the den-mother of Vancouver-based indie music, Carolyn Mark (b. vox). Not like any den mother you've had though, as she shakes and shimmies at a shared mic with the 'girl-next-door' cutie, Jennie.

The ladies start the night by singing the gospel-tinged refrain from Long Black Snake Moan : "God won't like it I know..." 'till Hank is ready to roll and Lily sharpens up the saw for a wah-wah-wonderful version of Don't Be Afraid.

Que Hora?, the Spanish lesson from the new record, North America, is much punchier with the support Lily gets on the squealing refrain. We get more songs from the new record tonight, with the inclusion of Long Black Snake Moan, We Can Build You and the title track. Also included, a personal favourite, Prison Song.

Sprinkled throughout the set, a few familiar tunes, if unknown titles. I'm Starting Up A War is a hit another universe. The show ends on an upbeat note with Someone Out There For You.

'Course it doesn't end too soon as the last train to Kennedy is whistling down the track at 1:51 am. Cece and I beat a quick exit and make all our connections.

MP3 Samples:

The Skirt Chasers

Little Red Riding Hood

I Get All The Girls

The Burning Hell

Pop Goes The World

Grave Situation Part 1

Grave Situation Part 2

In The Air Tonight/I Love the Things That People Make

Hank & Lily

Don't Be Afraid

I'm Starting Up A War

Prison Song

Long Black Snake Moan

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hank & Lily Do Toronto
Sneaky Dee's
w/ Walter Haul

I'm thinking this is not a good idea from the start, as I am anything but a 'night person'.

Hank Pine and Lily Fawn have brought their eclectic-vaudevillian weirdness to Toronto for a two-night stand. A Sunday (11 pm) set at Sneaky Dee's and a Monday (10:30 pm) set at the world-famous El Mocambo. I have scheduled a 6 hour in-house training course for Monday, two on-site demo's for Tuesday and a product-launch at a major financial institution on Wednesday. All those things are scheduled to happen when the sun's up.

We will see how it goes.

Check out my blog report on their 2007 Hootenanny set from Kitchener.

Heading out of the home at 9 pm to start an evening is anathema to me. Even when I was young I was the one leaving the party at midnight as the bulk of the crowd was showing up. I wake up at 6:30 am every day. Even on weekends. But there are advantages on a Sunday traffic and plenty of parking as we pull up to the bar at 9:30 or so. We missed H&L's soundcheck and are treated to 15 minutes of Walter Haul setting their levels...and helping me set mine.

For reasons unknown to me, but probably readily apparent to the youngun's who still have decades of their lives to waste, the show never starts on time. That's likely because we are the only two paying patrons in the joint, everyone else being employees, band members or family of the band. By 10:30 pm a smattering of wandering yuppies and assorted freakaloids make their way into the venue and we get a 30 minute opening set of increasingly interesting jazz-based, ummm, music. Walter Haul consists of; a 'computer tech/saxophonist'; some guy who plays two keys, the same two keys the entire set, on a Casio or Fisher-Price piano; a drummer, bass and funky lead guitar/sound effects guy.

They open with a short Icelandic fertility dance with flutes and follow with what seemed like a 15 minute improvisational piece that got better, right at that tipping point where it might have just got absurd. The groove in this song, which threatened to become annoyingly repetitive found a nice interesting hole to swim in. The guitar work that's almost underneath all the noise makes the cacophony challenging and rewarding to cut through. That piece was Steve Reich's Piano Phase. If this stuff at all interests you please read those links (esp the Piano Phase piece), they are illuminating.

Pleasant surprise #1 comes in the shape of an arrangement of a performance art poem penned by Myra Davies, called No Time. What a great piece. At first brutally simplistic in it's exclamations "I can't talk", "I'm too busy", and "I'm working," it gets more intense musically, tempo and volume building, as the exclamations become more exhuberant. Screams of "where's my briefcase" and "there's not enough time", "i got a lot of important stuff to get done" lead to "that's the problem with time, it's so limited compared to me" and "I'm bigger than time." A descent into madness ends with the simple observation; "I don't have time...for you!" And that's how it ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

4th song in the set is another poem, His Mistress the Witch by Toronto artist Phoebe Tsang. It starts too slow and too low for this bar crowd as the early minutes are drowned out by casual conversation and drink orders. It becomes quite the spectacle as it builds in intensity. The whine of the slide guitar work is enhanced by what seems like a purple vibrator playing the other end of the neck. It's like listening to music under water.

The set closes with a Mad Max-meets-spaghetti-western soundtrack outtake Robot Pony, a great arrangement of a song penned by Laura Barrett. Another highlight.

I'd have bet dollars to donuts I wouldn't have liked this band, not being an aficiondo of jazz or even songs with excessive instrumentation. Somebody would have my money and I'd still be hungry.

Set list and mp3 downloads:

Walter Haul
Sneaky Dee's
Toronto ON

Track 01 Icelandic Pennywhistle
Track 02 Piano Phase (Steve Reich)
Track 03 No Time (Myra Davies)
Track 04 His Mistress the Witch (Phoebe Tsang)
Track 05 Robot Pony (Laura Barrett)

Between the sets Hank and Lily show up and do a meet-and-greet with fans. It's ascertained there definitely IS a show at Rancho Relaxo on the 15th...which means I'll take a pass on the second late-night out in a row at the ElMo tomorrow. The stage has been cleared and after a brief, rambling introduction, the dyanmic duo are onstage.

For a mere $25 I was able to purchase the new CD, North America, which comes with the songbook AND a 60 page graphic novel! I don't pretend to understand everything the kids are into these days and the graphic novel craze is one thing I missed. Oh, we had comic books, but it's a whole artform beyond that now, merging with popular culture through movies, videos and live performance art.

F*ck you, SONYBMG, we don't need no stinkin' record companies. Put the money in the pockets of the artists whenever you can. There are those who would argue digital downloads and easy transfer of music is ruining the industry. Well I say, let it die. Talent will find it's way to the top, maybe faster if we clear the slate of all that crap that is American Idol and whatnot.

Hank introduces Lily... "half-deer, half-girl, all woman" and Lily returns the favour... "the creepy Hank Pine." All in good fun, he is much more eerie than creepy, dressed in leather and metal, which in Toronto where humidity and lightning in the sky are the predominant weather forces this year, might not be such a great choice.

Lily is up front with the saw for the opening number. She starts with a poem as the saw and Hank's swampy-guitar create an aural palette that evokes the trail Little Red Riding Hood may have taken. Deep Dark Woods is a preamble to Don't Be Afraid, a wonderfully spooky tale of things that go bump in the dark. It's become their signature tune but they are brave enough to put it away early and let us concentrate on the new material.

Que Hora is a apocalypse (pay attention fans) in Spanish. The fiery end and a warning to set your affairs in order. In the face of all that horror...the secret to survival...we can only sing.

Song 4 is unknown at this time.

Lily is on the drums, pounding the skins like the pro she is, picking up the tempo for Hank's 'love song', I Need A Lover That Can Take Me Down, a bluesy romp with a touch of The Stones hidden in there somewhere.

Quickly back into the new record with Xanadu, Lily upfront on worried lyrics and Hank in with the bridge, making his case for a secret get-a-way to cure all ills.

Hank's on lead vox with the wonderful I'm Starting Up A War (with the girl next door)(?), and it ain't gonna be fair. Ain't nothing like a love song to put the audience in the mood.

And nothing like a 7 minute excurision into the wasteland of The Junkie Shuffle to break it. Just kidding. Uberfan, Kristy Brown is invited onstage to show us how to do it... "you put your chin to your chest...and you grab your elbow...'cause you got your own beat...and you sway real slow...". Hank has Lily pick up the pace and the song turns into a B-52-like hop. Lily gets the best line: "I got scabs on my feet and I haven't shit in a week." Cautionary tales come in all forms.

And for all those who were paying attention the show ends with the spelling bee; APOC-ALY-PSE. No one in the audience could spell it tonight.

It was a hot night in the little club. Hank and Lily don't get out in Ontario as much as I'd like, so it was worth the strain to see the set.

Set list and mp3's

Hank & Lily
Sneaky Dee's
Toronto ON

Track 01 Deep Dark Woods
Track 02 Don't Be Afraid
Track 03 Que Hora
Track 04 ?
Track 05 ?I Need A Lover That Can Take Me Down
Track 06 Xanadu
Track 07 I'm Starting Up A War (with the girl next door)
Track 08 The Junkie Shuffle

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Nine Inch Nails
ACC Toronto ON

Trent Reznor respects the art of the show. One of a handful of artists on my "must see" list. The past few years have seen him taking his show on the road a little more regularly. This year he's touring his 'free' album, The Slip, but he didn't leave behind what he knows works, those songs we paid for. Before The Slip he released a rather pricey version of Ghosts (if you went for the deluxe package) and I don't mind sending money directly to the artists if they find a way to circumvent the industry. Trent's had a long history of not getting his share, his method of going directly to the fans should be a harbinger of things to come.

More important, he didn't leave behind his voice. A cancelled show last week in Minnesota had us worried. (Note: This is the 2nd artist I've seen this year after they decided to cancel a show in Minnesota. I don't know what that's about but I'm glad I live in Toronto.)

Not only does Trent respect the art of the show, he seeks to elevate it. This "Lights In The Sky" Tour has enlisted The Moment Factory, special visual and audio effects people behind the Cirque Du Soleil extravaganza. Just a little something to add some punch, it is used well and extensively everywhere except during the two parts of Ghosts.

The light show is almost beyond description. It's definitely beyond my ability to describe. What's needed here is a coffee-table book of the storyboards used to create this show. It was superbly integrated to the audio portion of the show both thematically and visually.

Technically it was astounding. Two screens were used, one in front of the band, one behind. At times this resulted in a 3D effect where the players seemed to be moving through and around beams of light. During Only the front screen resembled a television covered in snowy reception...except when Trent stepped up to (into) the screen, at which point he became visible in the midst of the static storm. He'd back up and reappear, 15 feet to his left as the hook repeated... "there is no you, there is ONLY me...", a lone shadowy figure.
Another segment saw the final screen shot shatter like broken glass as the song ended and lights faded. Yet another had the band members enveloped in individual glowing orange body-snatcher pods.

NIN was a breath of fresh air when they came on the scene in the late '80's. Trent had found a way to make industrial music almost accessible. Head Like A Hole is as much an anthem of the disgruntled youth of the waning millenium as Won't Get Fooled Again was to my generation. The 1994 'mudmen' set at Woodstock, featuring the superb Downward Spiral, cemented Trent's place in the rock pantheon. Not one to wear out his welcome he seemed to be liking the 5 year breaks between projects...until the money ran out. The past 5 years have seen him wrap up his obligations to the industry and set out on his path of 'gonzo' marketing.

He's reunited on this tour with guitarist Robin Finck, who has been taking up the slack left by Slash's departure in GnR. Josh Freese on the drums and Allesandro Cortini on keyboards with Justin Meldal-Johnsen rounding out the band on bass. (Thanks to Anonymous Comment for the correction!)

This is one of the few bands I don't mind seeing in the cavernous ACC. They are too big for any other venue. That is big on volume, big on visuals and big on raw emotion. Your head would explode if you saw this show at Massey Hall.

Different story for opening band Deerhunter, who are currently more suited to venues named 'soundlab' or 'artworks' or 'tank' rather than the more imposing 'pavillion' or 'forum' or 'arena'. If you turn down the opening slot on a NIN tour you might as well call it a career. So that's where they find themselves on this hot August night...trying to get thousands of ADD afflicted, Wii-addled, youth to pay a little attention. A respectable job on their part, they filled the venue just like a baby-NIN should.

Trent is a talent to be reckoned with, that's for sure. Besides the aforementioned integrated, interactive light show, he brazenly lays out most of the new record, not taking it easy on the fans.

5 of the first 6 songs are from The Slip. March of the Pigs is tossed in the middle to really get the fans focussed but 1,000,000 and Discipline were both enthusiastically recieved making for an energetic opening segment. Echoplex in the second half of the show makes for 7 songs from the new record. He also played 5 songs from Year Zero, 2 songs from With Teeth and 3 tracks from Ghosts...that's 17 of 29 tracks from the last 3 years/4 albums. This ain't no fading star playing out his days with greatest hits. Next to Jack White he's likely the most prolific talent out there today.

Here's the complete set list with some mp3 samples.

ACC Toronto ON

Disc 1

Track 01 999,999
Track 02 1,000,000
Track 03 Letting You
Track 04 Discipline
Track 05 March of the Pigs
Track 06 Head Down
Track 07 The Frail
Track 08 Closer
Track 09 Gave Up
Track 10 The Warning
Track 11 Vessel
Track 12 Ghosts?
Track 13 Ghosts?
Track 14 Ghosts?
Track 15 Piggy
Track 16 The Greater Good
Track 17 Pinion
Track 18 Wish
Track 19 Terrible Lies

Disc 2

Track 01 Survivalism
Track 02 The Big Come Down
Track 03 Only
Track 04 The Hand That Feeds
Track 05 Head Like A Hole
Track 06 crowd
Track 07 Echoplex
Track 08 God Given
Track 09 Trent Talks
Track 10 The Good Soldier
Track 11 Hurt
Track 12 In This Twilight

Complete Show in a single zipped file, mp3 format

Sunday, August 03, 2008

(but that wasn't the worst part)
w/ H2O & The Flatliners

Well, at least I can be pretty sure it won't get worse than this.

What could have been a terrific night out watching a seminal post-punk band run through their old and new, turned out to be a surrender. I used to think I could tolerate pretty well anything at a concert, not tolerate it well, but hang in there for the music. Last night I found my limit...though it did take a convergence of events to finally make me throw in the towel.

A towel, wish I had one of those.

Ironically, the determining factor, in the final, wet, moment, was coming across this link where Rancid sells lossless copies of their shows. This is a great service. Soundboard recordings of the shows you attended. Well worth the cost and as soon as this show is on the list, I'm buying a copy.

Unfortunately I was also keen on capturing the openers, local band The Flatliners, so there I was, stressing over how to get my rig inside. The KOOL HAUS has moderate security, but they do look. I opted not to wear my mics in but to stash them and string them in the bathroom. Sometimes this works. Sometimes when you pull out the mics, they look like a plate of spaghetti. In 10 minutes time I could not get the chords untangled and ended up with a new taping configuation...a jumble of wires tied in a knot and the two mics clipped onto my chest. With the 'busy' crowd this led to a few bumps, some phasing and, oh, ya, don't forget the wetness part.

But that wasn't the worst part.

It probably all started to go awry when Friday turned into Saturday. Not just any Saturday either, a long-weekend Saturday. Not just any long-weekend either, the Caribana Festival is in full swing with events near the lake all day long. My guess is more than a few of tonights fans were well into party mode hours before the show began. Raucous fans do not a disaster make, not on that account anyway. This was a recipe for a terrific show. Rancid brings the party to you in short 3 minute machine-gun bursts. All of this energy coming from tattooed, mohawked, skin-tight t'd (and that's only the girls)youth was infectious. Thing is, there's a fine line between raucous and rowdy, between infectious and infected with an anti-communal bug. Some people couldn't see that line, or if they did, chose not to tow it.

But being tangled up in the loo with my mics didn't help either.

The Flatliners came out and took a wicked kick at the can. A great opening slot for these guys in front of a couple of their primary influences. These guys probably got the idea they could play by watching Rancid bang their gong on the KOOL HAUS stage back in the 90's. Kudos to whoever was running the sound too. This band did not get cheated on volume. It was set to 11 from the opening chords. If I hadn't turned into a 'taping-tard' the past couple months I might have been able to adjust a little better. The recording gets 'hot' at a few spots...but it's still clearer than the slightly muddy mix we received at the show. The boys showcased their 2007 release, The Great Awake, including the obligatory single This Respirator. They did take us waaaay back into their catalogue with 2003's Bad News , so they covered a lot of ground...or as much as they could.

The fans took to them as well. An impressive 'circle-pit' formed and kept up a steady momentum throughout their set. I made the error of assuming this circle wouldn't get much bigger as I set up on the periphery for H2O's set.

But that wasn't the worst part.

I got faked out by the activity on the stage and started my recording early, capturing 20 minutes of people fucking onstage with mics and whatnot. So I decided to shut down. Problem is when I went to start again I missed pressing the REC button. Noticed this about 4 songs in when I went to check my levels. Oh well. No loss. Didn't hear anything that made me want to push 'replay' as they ran through their offering du jour, Nothing To Prove. Mission Accomplished.

OK, that's harsh, I don't really know this band and what I heard was more screamo-based than Clash-based (except for the nice 2minute 30second songs, which is all you need to tell a story). I also blame them for the disproportionate number of frat-boys at this show. Frat-boys show up with no date...this makes them high-risk from the get-go. Without the distaff member by their side most of their decision making process moves from the frontal lobe to the medula. This led to the stage-rush being something akin to a rugby scrum. It wasn't too bad for H2O, the place still being only about 70% filled there was ample room to create space. This wouldn't be the case in another half hour.

While The Flatliners were grateful for the early crowd and the attention paid their set, H2O revelled in the adulation, an outpouring they seemed to feel a tad entitled too, and at times, solicited. "Who's seen us before?" "Who's seeing us for the first time?" "Who knows this one?"...the only question they missed, the one I had an answer for, was "Who's here for the other two bands?" They were gracious for their turnout, which illustrated the level of interest in their set.

The songs did have punch. No let up in this show. Role Model didn't suck. Faster Than the World, with the appropriate reference to making "it through the Canadian border." That's not an easy task for some American groups, as alluded to in the introduction by the band...see, I wasn't enamoured and my rig wasn't working but I was still paying attention to the show. One Life, One Chance had an Offspring-kind of positive message buried in the sonic storm. This is somewhat negated by the more brutally honest 5 Year Plan.

No one can accuse them of mailing in the set though. Well paced and energetic are adjectives that apply. Immediately accessible is one that doesn't.

But that wasn't the worst part.

The circle-pit has gotten much larger and I'm already looking for alternate locations but decide to see how the set starts before I bail for the FOB position. Bad move. Rancid is onstage and they launch into Ruby Soho to open the set. Wham! Bam! and Thank You Ma'am, as the frat-boys stumble and barge towards the stage. I don't even mind the guys that let their chicks lead (no one minds a little frottage from the nubile nymphs) and follow in their wake. It's the slam-dancing attack from the back, and the push-back from the front that results in the jarring obstructions. None of this is made any better by the fact there are now 2,000 kidiots singing along, on an unknown destination.

I decide to surrender some ground and move about 10 feet back, where it looks a little more civil, giving up position for peace.

But that wasn't the worst part.

Rancid follows the opener with a dedication to Jordan...whoever he is, as they roll out Radio before playing the theme song for tonight's crowd, Bloodclot.

Dead and Gone, from the "B & C Sides" comp, evokes a bit of Social Distortion... which is a complement of the highest order. A 'don't look back' kind of song, no time for nostaligia here...well, except for me.

Tim Armstrong's rendition of his solo offering, Into Action, was a highlight of the evening with backing, secondary lead vocals provided by the funky-lookin' Skye Sweetnam. We're quickly into another terrific tune, surf-guitar intro to Journey to the End of the East Bay, a song about the price that's paid for the spotlight.
This is followed by a bitter break up song, You Don't Care Nothin'...appropriately, this is where it all started to get to be too much.

I'd noticed the amber rainbows earlier in the night, something I'd only seen at the Academy in Glasgow. Thought I was far enough back to avoid a drenching, as the throwers were usually near the bar and the targets were usually in the pit. Not so as a waterfall of Canada's best lager wash over my head, soaking my glasses, and down my back. Kind of refreshing actually. Until it soaks in and all that's left is the scent. If I smell like this when I climb on the wife at 2 am it's not wonder she wakes up and gets pissed.

But that wasn't the worst part.

Now I'm moving back towards the soundboard where the singing it louder and the beer is flowing even more freely (some of it towards the front of the venue). I find myself walking past the bar, behind the soundboard, totally f*cking the recording, until I find what looks like a decent spot, a bit farther back than I'd like but in front of the left speaker banks. The 11th Hour sounds good and it looks like things might settle.

Tim and Lars trade leads on Otherside, Rancid's version of Springsteen's No Surrender, I guess. Before they launch into Old Friend, another great riff, ruined only by the second drenching of the night on the next song.

This one came from the front, a two-fisted drinker who couldn't stay clear of the circle. Apparently Maxwell Murder is a crowd favourite and the energy level picked up way too quick for this slumbering drunk. A quick bump and beer #1 is on my chest. He looks bemused at his loss. I'm beaten. Great song though, more superb SouthernCal guitar and an audience about ready to explode.

The intensity level doesn't let up, nor the increasing screaming and bumping in the crowd as I try, yet again, to find a less vulnerable spot. I settle in time for a great version of Operation Ivy's Knowledge...that's a blast of a tune.

By this point, though, I'm finding myself almost behind the left speaker banks as The Way I Feel About You is coming to a close. I've run out of places to hide.

Lock Step and Gone is talking to me. "the ending isn't here, but it's coming real soon...i'm lock step and gone".

Olympia WA is playing as I decide to quit. A shame really but something's been afoot all night and I'm done mucking with it. I could have just made my way back to the bar and put a few away, but I'm driving.

It's only a little ironic I pack it in with The Wars End, with almost another 30 minutes to go. Sorry I missed Time Bomb.

And THAT was the worst part.

My luck changed when I left the venue. The street was jammed with cars as late-night clubbers were coming into the Guvernment. Cars were being double and triple parked. Got mine out just in time.

So it may be a sign that it's time to stop chasing the bands I missed when my kids were growing up. Maybe. I'll take another kick at the can, test out my 'Saturday-summer-long-weekend' theory and catch The Flatliners with Dillinger and NOFX on a Thursday night in the fall.

Same bat-venue.

Same bat-crowd.

I'm betting it'll be less chaotic, but I could be wrong.

Here are some song samples for your troubles, followed by the (in)complete set list:

The Flatliners

This Respirator


One Life, One Chance


Ruby Soho

Into Action


The War's End

The Flatliners

Track 01 There's A Problem
Track 02 Meanwhile in Hell...
Track 03 Mother Theresa Choke Slams The World
Track 04 Public Service Announcement
Track 05 This Respirator
Track 06 Eulogy
Track 07 The World Files For Chapter 11
Track 08 Fred's Got Slacks
Track 09 July! August! Reno!

(incomplete, missing first 2-3 songs)

Track 01 Nothing To Prove (incomplete)
Track 02 Thicker Than Water
Track 03 Empty Pockets
Track 04 Role Model
Track 05 Fairweather Friend
Track 06 Faster Than The World
Track 07 One Life, One Chance
Track 08 Still Here
Track 09 What Happened?

(incomplete, missing last 30-40 minutes)

Track 01 Ruby Soho
Track 02 Radio
Track 03 Bloodclot
Track 04 Dead and Gone
Track 05 Into Action (w/ Skye Sweetnam)
Track 06 Journey to the End of the East Bay
Track 07 You Don't Care Nothin'
Track 08 The 11th Hour
Track 09 Otherside
Track 10 Old Friend
Track 11 Maxwell's Murder
Track 12 Gunshot
Track 13 Knowledge (Operation Ivy)
Track 14 The Way I Feel About You
Track 15 Lock Step and Gone
Track 16 Olympia WA
Track 17 The War's End (incomplete)