Friday, September 19, 2008
The Rivoli Toronto ON
Probably like nothing you've seen before...though your grandmother may have kicked up her heels to the Boekbinder girls ancestors.
Vermillion Lies is what you get when you pour a healthy dose of Vaudeville, a few parts Bozo the Clown, a dash of Greenwich Village, a pinch of Haight-Asbury and a dollop of Liza Minelli into your local dump for antiquities and give it a good stir. I don't think even that description covers it all.
A couple of cuties who hail from ... not sure actually, but they're out of the Bay Area now. They were in Toronto this past August, opening for Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls, and have returned for what appears to be a quick 'one-off' date.
Perhaps they have family here. Perhaps they like the green.
The Rivoli is fast becoming a favoured tiny venue. Best part is there's no climbing up any stairs. In the heart of Toronto's trendy Queen St West area it's a premiere indi-spotlight club. It may soon find itself fighting the gentrification of the area, and last winter's fire didn't help as we'll likely see condo's rise like the Phoenix. Some are fighting that plan, let's hope good taste wins out over commerce.
So what's in the box?
Well we're going to have to wait a bit to find out. Zoey's high-school friend Kay Pettigrew is onstage tuning a guitar in preparation for a short opening set. She's got a whole 'billy bragg' thing going, with only the electric guitar to accompany her, but she's much easier on the eyes. And strong songs. A bit too much stage chatter with Zoey, sitting behind the curtains but it was more amusing than annoying.
VM's stage-manager-cum-tour manager-cum-hawker-cum-buddy, Dakota, catches me by surprise when she announces she usually opens with a spoken word, performance piece set. I choose not to record thinking i'd run out of disc space, but she does just one quick number before launching into her introduction to the girls. Almost missed the start, sorry I missed her poem on working in an office.
Zoey starts the show with Done Wrong, a tale about a girl who just can't seem to follow the conventions, doomed to always take the wrong path...and she don't care. Lovely telling couplet in the middle of this song: "my man asks me if i've finished my cleaning/i left him on the doorstep yelling and screaming." And that ain't the half of what's gonna happen to him.
She follows that with a new song, soon to be featured on a 7" release, the beyond bi-curious, Bonnie and Clyde. A little equal opportunity dust bowl lovin' on the lam.
So it's apparent early that we're not getting the normal rock n roll subject matter.
The flip side of the upcoming 7" is New Orleans...a jazzy love tune for a city in need of some.
Long Red Hair continues the pattern of songs about things you wouldn't much think about. Sisters joined at the follicles, rosy and fair, and a man who while trying to come between them, destroys it all.
Ahhhh, now for something in the normal range, a song written on Valentines Day. Maybe. Actually it's more like the precursor to Done Wrong. No Good is a warning, if there ever was one. A unlove letter, complete with manual typewriter.
Now it's time: What's in the box? Part 1 The girls have a trunk that contains various percussion instruments, though intstruments might not be the right word. It's filled with things that make noise...some are found items, others were given, not a one would be found in your average band. First out...a bar-b-que grill.
Found Myself is exactly that...a revelation, a coming of age song, a post-breakup rebirth with the catchy chorus of "today i found myself/ right where i left me / up on that shelf." It even has a mono-syllabic Russian verse and audience sing-a-long.
Next up, one of the three top contenders for strangest song of the night. Well, one of the three finalists, they were all contenders. I Have Your Heart is not the love song you might think it is. You don't get many tunes about transplants.
We're back in the box and this time we get.... a little box! Inside the little box, a little man. A marionette, so i guess it's a stringed instrument, not percussion.
Blue proves they didn't learn the lesson from the Found Myself relationship, and now find themselves alone with company and regretting it. "I'd rather spend the night alone/ in my room / than spend the night alone with you."
Grandfather is finalist #2 of 3..."we want our Grandfathers eyes..." A cutting look at what comes out the mouth of babes.
The girls follow with a clap-a-long song, tantalizingly named She Comes. It's a door-knocking song, though, not what you think. It builds into a funky toe-tapper.
Enough with the sweet and light...time for some vitriol. Wednesday's Child is a song about how the week looks from hump-day. Let me tell you...full of woe doesn't have a lot of time for the Sabbath kid. Nice little tongue-in-cheek twist on the closing line.
Bees laments what the cell phones are doing.Dakota is back onstage lending some theatrics and backing vocals, playing the part of the doomed apodias.
Finalist # 3 of 3, Sex, Drugs and Nuclear Physics, is great look at the laws of attraction...and a few other laws too. It leads to another science song, The Astronomer before the girls revist another freak-collage from the first record, Circus Fish. Somewhere in between we revisited the box to pull out some ... panties, an instrument of torture! Not the bad kind...the excruciatingly good kind.
They've done a great job engaging the audience all night. Everyone's had a great time, from Mothers friends, to the Amanda Palmer fans who returned for a reprise, to myself, a newcomer to the mix.
Main set closes with a 6 minute homage to the planet, Global Warming...more audience participation and an enthusiastic call-back for an encore.
We first get another peak into the box for a variety of instruments/furnishings, including a heating vent, played by an audience member.
The show closes with White Picket, a rarely played stomp-a-long. Fitting song to close a night of songs filled with perilous and peculiar relationships.
Here's the complete set list, with some song samples.
Track 01 Done Wrong
Track 02 Bonnie & Clyde
Track 03 New Orleans
Track 04 Long Red Hair
Track 05 No Good
Track 06 What's In The Box? Bar-b-que Grill version
Track 07 Found Myself
Track 08 I Have Your Heart
Track 09 What's In the Box?
Track 10 Blue
Track 11 Grandfather
Track 12 She Comes
Track 13 Wednesday's Child
Track 14 Bees
Track 15 Sex, Drugs and Nuclear Physics
Track 16 The Astronomer
Track 17 What's In the Box?
Track 18 Circus Fish
Track 19 Global Warming
Track 20 encore
Track 21 What's In the Box?
Track 22 White Picket