The infrequently-updated site blog, featuring a range of content including show reviews, musical musings and off-color ramblings on other varied topics.
Brighton Music Hall
September 17, 2015
Photos by Lindsay Corry; more photos here
Algiers self-titled debut this year blew me away with its raw, layered sound and politically poignant lyrics, but for the same reasons I had low expectations for the live show. The Georgia band has created a kind of industrial gospel that combines a Savages-like take on post-punk with angry chants in the style of old slave songs. With echoing handclaps, armies of humming overdubs, and screeching guitars near death, the band needed to either pare its sound down to its most essential elements or unimaginatively play large sections of the tracks on a computer. Surprisingly, Algiers created almost all their sounds live - and not only did it do the album justice, but it gave a picture of how innovative bands like Algiers put songs together.
The band played at Boston’s Brighton Music Hall, a small, comfy venue with a couple billiard tables in the back and pictures of Pete Townshend and Paul Simonon on the wall. Local band Aneurysm opened first. The level their amp knobs were turned to was probably higher than the number of people in the venue as they fired to-the-point riffs similar to post-hardcore bands like Touché Amoré. Unfortunately, the singer - who I can best describe as sounding like an incoherent, drunk hillbilly - made the band into mostly a comedy act. Still, I would check them out if only to hear those badass guitar riffs. Next was Dark Blue, who is on tour with Algiers. They sounded like if somehow New Order and Interpol’s Paul Banks did a collaboration together, giving an interesting mix of 80s and contemporary rock. The bass player seemed almost too into the music - jumping around like the Pete Townshend on the wall, all while the Paul-Banks-like singer apathetically stood still for the whole show - but otherwise it was a chill way to cool down from the loud goofiness of Aneurysm and get ready for Algiers.
I should mention that during Aneurysm and Dark Blue there was this one weird dude in the audience who would occasionally go up right next the speakers, covering his ears but meditatively bobbing his head to the beat. I had my suspicions but wasn’t totally sure until Algiers got on stage that that weird dude was lead-singer Franklin James Fisher. The band took a risk and opened with what’s probably their most well-known song, “Black Eunuch.” It was an abrasive introduction - for a couple minutes the four-piece clapped and shouted those slave-song chants until guitarist Lee Tesche started playing those short, sharp riffs. Throughout the song the band looped a bunch of hums and “ooohs” on top of themselves until there was a wall of vocals behind them as they finished.
The four-piece wall of sound became a formula throughout the show, but a welcomed formula. Before each song the band would spend several minutes of what seemed like tuning their instruments and checking their mics - playing a few notes on a guitar or keyboard, the drummer hitting something a few times, someone shouting into the mic - until finally the track came alive. Every piece of complex tracks like “And When You Fall” and “Irony. Utility. Pretext.” were there on stage without sounding pre-produced or too much like the studio recording. I especially have to give credit to bassist and keyboardist Ryan Mahan, who put together a ton of those sounds. For the whole show he had this intense, 1,000-mile stare into the 50-person audience as he made really short yelps into the mic that sounded totally awkward while he was doing it but totally awesome when he looped those yelps on top of the song.
One highlight I have to point out was “Old Girl.” Once again the band spent several minutes creating a looped choir before beginning the song, and then they extended that drums-only breakdown in the middle of the song. The drummer had a regular drum set and an electronic one, which made this really hard-hitting mix of raw and produced sound. The wave of hums and “ahhhs” the band looped during those minutes poured out when Tesche delivered that buzzing, screeching guitar line that’s my favorite part of the whole album - and in turn that was my favorite part of the whole show. People should get tickets if only to hear that song live.
I can definitely see Algiers getting bigger, so it’s worth seeing them now while they’re playing at cheaper, smaller venues for a more intimate show. You’ll be able to hang with Fisher if he’s in the audience and then get a close view of his soulful singing and smooth dance moves to modern protest songs. In the coming weeks they’ll be in Denver, St. Louis, Chicago, Cleveland, Montreal, Toronto, and Brooklyn before heading on their European tour.
THE TOP FIVE ACTS ON THE RIOT FEST UNDERCARD
Last year I started my Riot Fest coverage by getting kicked in the head and ended it with a man drinking whisky out of a catheter bag. In between some bands played. While topping that experience will be difficult, this Saturday and Sunday I am venturing out to the Downsview Park, a giant field north of the city that is still technically a part of Toronto, to cover this year’s festivities. If you’re into long distance, out of focus, photos and acerbic commentary you can follow my exploits on twitter.
This year’s line-up is headlined by the Alexisonfire reunion, The Wu Tang Clan, and two nights of Weezer (Because clearly the lively and energetic live show that is Weezer could not be contained to just one evening). The festival also features performances by site favourites Frank Turner, Andrew WK, and Rancid who will be playing …And Out Come The Wolves in its entirety (Because someone at Riot Fest clearly wants me to blubber cry in front of a bunch of strangers).
By now I’m guessing that concert goers have figured out who they want to see on the main card, but below I’ve thrown together some of my suggestions for some (slightly) lesser known acts. If you’d like to argue with me about why this list is the best or the worst, again, twitter.
Fidlar play up-tempo California indie punk. They sing about drinking and getting high. They’re one of the first acts on the second day of Riot Fest. They are the hair of the dog. They’re gonna be the morning booze that lets you keeps you going. (Roots Stage. Sunday September 20th. 12:40)
While never quite reaching the commercial success of Alexisonfire or Billy Talent, Moneen were mainstays in the Southern Ontario scene around the turn of the century. Admittedly it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the band play – they’ve been mostly inactive since 2013 – but during my formative years Moneen were the bench mark for live bands. I’m willing to vouch for them. (Riot Stage. Saturday September 19th. 3:00)
Three: THE OBGMS
Toronto’s OBGMS (Oh Baby Gimme Mores) are danceable Thrash-rock in the vain of Death From Above 1979. Their music would serve equally well as the soundtrack for the best house party of your life or that day when you drank too much and decided to fight a mailbox. That’s something you’re either going to understand or you’re not. (Riot Stage. Saturday September 19th. 1:45)
Two: The Cancer Bats
Earlier this year the Cancer Bats released Searching for Zero, a contender for 2015’s best hardcore record. Equal parts Black Sabbath and Black Flag, The Cancer bats seamlessly blend metal and punk, beating their audiences into submission with a seemingly relentless energy. Plus the band looks like game of thrones extras dressed like kids from Detroit Rock City. (Riot Stage. Saturday September 19th. 4:25)
One: The Diry Nil
The Dirty Nil play dirty, guitar driven, rock and roll. Earlier this year singer/guitarist Luke Bentham quit his day job after crashing a limousine and celebrated by buying a clear guitar. The story kind of works as a larger metaphor for the whole band. It’s the devil may care irreverence accompanied by a lo-fi balls to the wall grit. (Radicals Stage. Saturday Septmeber 19th. 8:00)
Photo of the Dirty Nil via YOSH PHOTOGRAPHY
Earlier this week I was browsing my twitter feed when I noticed the a number of posts using the hashtag #ImagineOctober20th . The tweets were Canadians speculating on what the country might look like if the Conservatives are voted out of power in the October 19th federal election. The tweets also highlighted some of the controversial decisions made by the Tories including their commitment to fossil fuels, reduced funding for the CBC, and Prime Minster Stephen Harper’s refusal to speak with journalists, among others.
One of the main contributors to the hashtag was Stars frontman Torquil Campbell, who answered questions and chatted with fans, while encouraging posters to get involved in any way they can. In response to the hashtag a series DIY arts events have popped up across the country where musicians, writers, and other artist are coming together to share their distaste for the current administration. Campbell is hosting his own event in Toronto on September 30th. The show will take place at 918 Bathurst and features performances by Feist, The Sadies, Dave Bidini, and more.
I recently had the chance to speak with Campbell about #ImagineOctober20th and the role artists play in politics.
Graham Isador: The first I heard about #ImagineOctober20th was through your twitter. Can you explain when the hastag is and why you got involved?
First I want to EMPHASIZE that this has no leader. There's no bank account. There's no office. There's just an idea and a bunch of people who feel hopeful about change in this country. What we hope is that people use their hearts, minds, and energy to imagine a new chapter in this country. That simple. It can come in the form of something as small as poem, or as large as a concert. If we all imagine the country we want to live in, maybe we can start to shift the dialogue and actually get it closer to that dream. And when another party does take over, they will know what the people who elected them expect. And they should be held to account for it just as toughly as Stephen Harper. I’m one voice among many. It’s just as much your thing as it is mine.
One of the main things you’re doing to promote #ImagineOctober20 are arts events across Canada. What role do you think artists have to play in politics?
In a healthy society artists can reflect the conscience and the emotion of the community. Artists speak about matters of the heart, which politics often dismisses as simplistic or unhelpful. I believe very strongly that art spreads compassion and empathy, and I think those things are sorely missing from a lot public policy.I think the reason so many artists have responded to this (#ImagineOvtober20th) is that they feel powerless and they feel afraid of public censure and judgement. The shut up and sing syndrome. This is a platform for the imagination. I think artists feel most comfortable in that realm, not in the realm of so called "politics".
I’m not a political person- I care about people and I see how public policy effects the lives of the vulnerable and the powerless. When they are it ignored, it fucking makes me angry. I think it makes a lot of us angry. Not just artists, but everyone. You know, conservatives think people suck. They base their policies around fear and selfishness. But people don't suck. Most of us know that. If you invest in people's goodness, good things happen.
There are a lot of parallels between #ImagineOctober20th to The Rock against Bush campaign in 2004. Are you at all concerned that associating a political cause with artists might mean people take these cause less seriously?
Anyone who would take a cause or issue less seriously because an artist spoke out about it is an idiot. Not to put too fine a point on it. I don't really have much more to say about that. We pay taxes. We raise our kids. We work for a living and we have as much right to speak as anyone else does. The idea that we don't is ridiculous.
The #ImagineOctober20th website lists a number of reasons to be tired of Harper and the Conservative Government. Is there any of their actions that stands out to you as particularly offensive?
For me, although I think almost all of their policies are wrong, the real problem with the Harper era is that it has made Canada a more divided, fearful and angry place. That's not leadership. I know lots of truly great people who don't share my political views. I have great, respectful, passionate arguments with those people that end in a beer.
The Harper government doesn't want to talk; they want to fight. For too long the left has shied away from the battle. I think people are ready now to stand up and call this government what it is: a divisive, arrogant mess that doesn't represent this country as we all imagine it. This movement is an attempt to move beyond that and say; ok, they are on their way out. We've had enough. Now what is going to emerge in their place? What kind of country do we want? And how do we get to that beautiful idea? The connection to that dream is what I think is resonating about the imagine October 20th movement.
You’ve expressed multiple times that what #ImagineOctober20th is a community. What do you mean by that? How can other people get involved?
All you have to do to get involved is do something. Make a t-shirt or a lawn sign. Have a party where you and your friends read essays about the Canada you imagine. Set up a concert in your town. There's a website you can send the info too and all that stuff will get posted there. All you have to do is find your positive energy and direct towards the morning of October 20th. That could be one amazing party, man. That's what we're suggesting. It's up to us, and if we take action and follow our hearts and imaginations, they will be beaten. We will have the chance to start again.
Please understand that I, nor Dan, nor anyone else is the leader of this thing. There is no leader. There is just an idea and a community. And that's all we need to have an effect.
Photos via: Twitter and Wei Ye Chen
Graham Isador is a writer living in Toronto. You can follow him on twitter: @presgang
NOFX, Lagwagon, Dillinger Four, Strung Out, Swingin' Utters, The Flatliners, Masked Intruder, toyGuitar, Bad Cop/Bad Cop
August 28, 2015
No review, see photo gallery below.
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion
August 7, 2015
As Karl Marx said, the relationship between a band and the context it is playing in is metabolic. Both are changed by the process of interaction. Actually, Karl Marx did not say that. If he did, he certainly was not talking about bands and the venues they hold court in.
In a dark and sweaty club Jon Spencer and comrades shine like a diamond, in this slightly bigger affair with an audience mainly comprised of burly men, they still worked their magic. The immediate and long-term impact of Jon Spencer's ouevre is difficult to overstate. In modern design "form follows function," but what form do you choose if you decide that it should function in any particular way? Jon Spencer Blues Explosion is a lil' bit more out there than their descendents The White Stripes and Black Keys. The trio is operating in a space that's completely their own: mixing a myriad of styles from funk to hippity hop via hard rock to punk to a unique, subversive melange. Less than Spencer's theatrics and the tight machinery that JSPX has always been, your humble narrator was enthralled by Russell Simins pounding like a madman while locking grooves in perfectly. A highlight of the show was him taking over vocal deliveries along with Spencer wildly gesticulating to put his Theremin to good use.
Another enjoyable, chilly Friday night on the beautiful campus of the University of Sydney.
Photo by T.
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I forgot to post this prior to week one, but given the outcome of that game, maybe it was for the best. Anyway, the Browns season is underway and that ... read more
Over the weekend a band that was very dear to my heart announced their sudden breakup and played their final show. I first became acquainted with Life Long Tragedy over ... read more
I was yelled at again for writing this, and since I am applying for a job at a local newspaper, I don't really want this hanging over my head. Sorry ... read more
Last night my band played with Souvenir's Young America, City of Ships, and Monolith at Siren Records in Doylestown, PA; it was a fun time all the bands played real ... read more
If you didn't hear the news, Roy Scheider died this week at the age of 75. Jaws is one of my all-time favorite films. I am extremely sad. I fully ... read more
They could make me look not so good to certain people. Nobody read them anyways. read more
So, back when Cave In's Until Your Heart Stops dropped on the hardcore masses several years back, I had the chance of catching the band at Middlesex County Community College. ... read more
I broke out my CD for the Gehenna- The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness and saw something that always made me smile. Allow me ... read more
Hello. Some of you might remember (or have participated in) my experiment over the summer collecting people's wishes on this page. I got over 160 entries and published them all ... read more
Imagine being in this kid's place... Interview w/ Henry Rollins read more
Even though it is just a joke, I'd still vote for Stephen Colbert for president before I'd vote for anyone else for running, outside of the longshots that have no ... read more
Dear Atreyu, Please stop. No seriously, please stop...now. - File has been removed. It was up for a month. It was the band's cover of Faith No More's "Epic." - ... read more
I woke up today at 5:30am to get my ass to the store to open it for what I figured would be another boring Sunday at work. Work has been ... read more
So the man that founded Factory Records and helped Joy Division become as huge as they did through hype died today. Not alot of people repect what Wilson did for ... read more
Yesterday during rush hour traffic on 35W the bridge than spans the mighty Mississippi fell. There was no earthquake. There was no terrorist attack. The bridge just buckled and toppled ... read more
Part 1: Mission Statement, Introduction, and first terribly nostalgic musing A number of years ago, a few friends of mine, myself, and people who would quickly become my friends used ... read more
Shook Ones, for the uninitiated, are a melodic hardcore band from Seattle, Washington. Their debut LP, Sixteen, had some serious Kid Dynamite aping going on, without a doubt, but it ... read more
Remember when the idea of Friday the 13th used to be scary? Maybe its because I am a grown adult, but there just does not seem to be any horror ... read more
You have no idea how wonderful it is to be finally typing these words. Not that my work is done: a SPB staffer's work is never done! But seriously: typing ... read more
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