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field trip

The details: On an overcast Saturday (June 8th) record label Arts & Crafts had their 10th anniversary celebration Field Trip Music Festival at the Fort York & Garrison Common (which I might add is actually an awesome venue for concerts– you can’t go wrong with history and music). The lineup (listed in the image above) consisted of all bands within the labels’ roster, and it was an impressive lineup indeed. I was particularly excited for Bloc Party.

My experience: I was lucky enough to be put on a guest list to the festival but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get out of work for the day. So, although the doors were open at noon, I wasn’t able to show up until after 5 pm. So sadly, this wont be a full festival experience review.

I was most excited to see Bloc Party (quirky British indie-rock band), in fact they were essentially the only band I wanted to see, although later I discovered I enjoyed the other bands more than I anticipated. We (my girlfriend and I) arrived at the venue while Bloc Party were on, we were hoping to catch the end of their set.

Unfortunately, because we were on a guest list, we had to go to another entrance on the other side of the venue. So as we walked a couple blocks to the west entrance (in hopes of seeing Bloc Party— I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere), we could hear them perform (it was amazing to hear ‘Helicopter’ from a distance). However, by the time we got to the other side, found our way to the tent, got our tickets, went through security and took our first step into the festival, Bloc Party was JUST leaving the stage. Oh cruel world!

Next band up was Montreal indie-pop band Stars. Between sets we grabbed food from the infamous food trucks, and just wandered around the field trip and rustic themed festival. It was nice– they had art, free vitamin water and popsicles, little tents, a kids zone, a Drake General Store tent (which had some awesome merch and knick knacks) and a whole whack of stuff.

Stars: Too be fair, when Stars were on, my girlfriend and I were more concerned with getting food in our stomaches and taking in the surroundings. Not to mention neither of us were particularly fond of the band. I went through my phase where I listened to their album  Set Yourself On Fire religiously to the point that I can’t stand it any more. However, while sitting eating our shrimp and octopus tacos (from Buster’s Sea Cove), we found ourselves enjoying their performance.

Their synth-pop, dreamy, sex, relationship and booze drenched music came across completely different live. While listening to it, I found myself thinking this reminds me of REM, or Fleetwood Mac, or The Cure or any other band other than Stars. I guess this isn’t a trait a band generally tries to achieve, but it made me appreciate the performance more. Maybe it even added an element of surprise.

Feist and her full band @ Field Trip Music Festival

Feist and her full band @ Field Trip Music Festival

Feist: For the first couple songs Feist was joined on stage by a full band. By the third song the band left just leaving her (Leslie Feist), a drummer and a keyboardist. One may think having a full band sound would make for a better live show, but to me the show began when the extra band members left. Feist was able to shine when it was just the three musicians up on stage– her raw talent, impressive guitar skills and vocals were at the forefront.

Feist is a strong performer and she managed to impress even with her slower songs. It wasn’t until she started breaking out older material that the fans loosened up and started dancing and singing along. Fan favourites like “I Feel It All” and “My Moon My Man” were stand outs for me. Not surprisingly, she didn’t perform her breakout hit “1234” and instead she played a remixed dance-y version. It was a very drum and vocal loop heavy version of the song, and it got the crowd moving. Although it hardly resembled the original song, it was a successful and sneaky way to say she included it in the set without actually performing it. I honestly don’t blame bands when they don’t play their breakout hits, but good on Feist for incorporating it somehow.

Her performance started off kind of slow, and built up to a grand finally. I guess I just had to warm up to her, but overall, Feist is an amazing musician and live performer!

Broken Social Scene: I wasn’t sure what to expect from Broken Social Scene, especially since I hadn’t listened to them in years. When I last listened I had their album You Forgot It In People on repeat, to the point that I gained an attachment to certain songs. An attachment I completely forgot about until I heard the songs be brought back to life live.

They opened their set with ‘KC Accidental’, and from that moment I was hooked. Not only are they musically captivating, but the emotional bond I had with the songs jolted to the forefront of my mind. They’re all talented musicians (I was particularly impressed with the drummer), and their stage presence and showmanship are amazing. They’re a big band as is, but the entire set was a smorgasbord of musicians. There was a horn section, additional percussion, hand clappers (people who specifically did hand claps), and plenty of guest appearances. Feist appeared for a song (‘Almost Crimes’), Jason Collett played guitar on a couple tracks, Metric guitarist James Shaw came on stage for a song dedicated to him, and who knows who else showed up? There was plenty of coming and going on that stage!

The peak of the performance for me was when they played ‘Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl’ and ‘Cause = Time’ back to back.  There has only been a handful of bands I’ve seen live that have successfully been able to transport me to a certain time in my life and sincerely have a musical/emotional connection with. I would’ve never guessed Broken Social Scene would make that list, but hearing those two songs one after another was an untouchable experience for me, strictly for sentimental reasons. For me, everything after that experience was mediocre in comparison.

They played quite an impressively long set, and a lot of fan favorites. We left early to avoid the crowd, but they were still going strong long after we left.

In Conclusion: Too be honest, I’m not sure if this will become an annual thing, but I kind of hope that it does. I can’t imagine the lineup changing much year after year (since it’s the labels roster), but it looked like it was a huge success, and it would be great if they could make something more of it. On a personal level, I enjoyed it way more than I anticipated, and although I was debating skipping it (due to work reasons) I’m glad I didn’t.

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Foals' lead singer, Yannis, in the crowd at Kool Haus, Toronto

Foals’ lead singer, Yannis, in the crowd at Kool Haus, Toronto

The Details: Indie rockers Foals, from Oxford England, have been touring in support of their album Holy Fire (out now)! On May 11th, 2013, they played a packed show at Toronto’s Kool Haus with openers Blondfire and Surfer Blood. The following is my review and perspective of the night.

Blondfire: To be frank, I’m not sure how they ended up on the lineup. They didn’t belong with Foals’ indie vibe. Blondfire is a pop band from Los Angeles, and the music is written and produced by a brother-and-sister duo.

At first, I wasn’t terribly impressed because it was blatantly obvious they were playing on top of a pre-recorded track. Second song in, they had three guitarists on stage and none of them were playing the noticeable bass line and picking guitar. Once getting over that revelation, the band did put on a good show, including an amazing cover of Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams.’ The songs were catchy, and the female vocalist was spot on. Their best song was their synth-heavy closing track and single Where the Kids Are.’ It’s still hard to get over the fact that the best part of the songs (cool synth parts and hooks) weren’t even being played live! Needless to say, I’m not running out to buy their album.

Surfer Blood @ Kool Haus, Toronto

Surfer Blood @ Kool Haus, Toronto

Surfer Blood: I already knew about Surfer Blood– they were practically my summer soundtrack during 2010. They’re a indie grunge/surf rock band from West Palm Beach, Florida, and too be honest, I completely forgot they were even opening for Foals! A rush of excitement took over me when they climbed up on stage, declared, “Hey, we’re Surfer Blood” and then tore into a familiar song (I believe it was their song ‘Floating Vibes’ followed by Twin Peaks’). I was really impressed with their live performance and they had my full attention, but what set me over the top was the singer’s vocals, particularly the Modest Mouse/Pixies-esque scream midway through their third or fourth song. They had me at “Hey.”

For such a young band (the members of the band look as if they just started growing facial hair and just finished suckling from the teat of rock ‘n’ roll), formed only in 2009, they’re a very strong, tight-knit and successful group. The lead-singer/guitarist is a clean-shaven, husky, young fellow, but he is an amazing frontman. I would easily compare him to the likes of Frank Black (The Pixies) in his stage presence, vocals, style, and demeanour. The songs are fun and played flawlessly, but the lead singer is what makes their live show, with his quirky moves, cat face paint and his adventures into the crowd, with or without his guitar.

Overall, they put on an amazing show, and if you get a chance, you should go see them live! Also, they have a new album, Pythons, out June 11th.

Foals @ Kool Haus, Toronto

Foals @ Kool Haus, Toronto

Foals: Shortly after 10:30 pm, Foals took the stage with their jammy track (and intro to their new album) ‘Prelude.’ From then on, they had the crowd eating out of their hand; the crowd was dancing, jumping, moshing, singing, and crowd-surfing from beginning to end. This is my second time seeing Foals live, and they never disappoint. They’re an energetic band and you can tell they have fun on stage together– they often huddle around the drummer and jam out their songs.

Near the end of their set, the lead singer/guitarist, Yannis, was very violent towards his mic and its stand. In the span of maybe three songs, the crew had to replace roughly five mic stands and two mics while Yannis moved, kicked, or threw them around the stage. At one point, he kicked the stand and it flew forward and hit the poor security guard in the head. I’m still not fully sure if this was an outlash for potential sound/mic issues (it sounded great from the crowd) or if this was just part of Yannis’s onstage persona. Yannis definitely is a strong frontman, entering the crowd on several occasions, jumping around, and really getting into the music. However, I don’t remember him being that destructive the first time I saw them at Lee’s Palace a few years back. It was entertaining to watch, but I’d consider that the only negative aspect of their performance, and that’s probably only because I sympathize with the crew (since I’ve been in that position). A positive that came from it was that when Yannis wasn’t around a mic to sing, the crowd would sing the lyrics, which is amazing!

After Yannis’s violent mic escapade, the band left the stage. The atmosphere of the place was amazing, the crowd was cheering, and begging for an encore. The band returned just before midnight, Yannis with a cigarette in his mouth, walked up to the mic, and explained they had been looking forward to the Toronto show for a long time and how the crowd lived up to their expectations, and they then burrowed into their heaviest song ‘Inhaler.’

Their final song, off their debut album, was ‘Two Steps, Twice,’ which they jammed out for a solid 10 minutes or more as Yannis ran around the venue and through the crowd with his guitar. During his trek he was standing right in front of my girlfriend and I for a good minute or two playing guitar, I might add, it’s a fascinatingly-awkward moment to have a musician stand directly in front of you and play. At one point, a fan followed Yannis back stage, and ran on stage with crew members chasing after him. The fan then squirmed his way out of his shirt, which the crew member had a firm grip on, and jumped into the crowd.

Conclusion: Besides the few technical aspects, that a normal human wouldn’t care about when attending a concert, the show was amazing! If they’re playing a city near you, I highly recommend you check them out.

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Mistaken For Strangers

The Details: Mistaken For Strangers follows the alternative band The National, during their largest tour in support of their album High Violet. Lead Singer Matt Berninger invited his metalhead younger brother, Tom, to come along as a crew member. As an aspiring filmmaker, Tom caught some behind-the-scenes footage of the band using a Sony Vixia camera.

What was thought to be a documentary about the band turns out to be an emotionally-packed film about two brothers who are at two very different points in their lives.

Review: I had the privilege of seeing a midnight screening of the film at Bloor Cinema during Hot Docs in Toronto. I was beyond excited to see this documentary. In fact, my girlfriend has probably never seen me so giddy over anything, let alone a movie (I’d like to think my squeals of excitement added to the film). I’ll admit though, I’m obsessed with The National and I have a huge man-crush on the lead singer. Even with my high expectations, the documentary didn’t disappoint!

Regardless of whether you know the band or not, the documentary stands on its own because of its relatable storyline and characters. Everyone knows a “Tom”– someone who’s a 30-year-old who has never fully grown up and has the mental capacity and interests of a 15-year-old (he’s super into low-budget horror films and metal bands). He still lives at home with his parents in the deep suburbs of Cincinnati. On the other hand, Matt is at his peak– he’s a rockstar who’s touring the world with one of the biggest bands in the alternative music scene.

The film starts off with a behind-the-scenes look into the bands tour, partying (mainly just Tom), humour and shenanigans. As the film goes on, Toms behind-the-scenes role transitions into the focal point of the film as he starts to find himself. It’s less about The National, and becomes more about the Berninger family. It becomes evident that the younger brother is the one that’s living out many of the isolated themes found in The Nationals music and Matt Berninger’s dark lyrics. The documentary takes that revelation, and runs with it (even Tom himself reluctantly admitted to that during the Q&A).

hot docs

Q&A with Director/Star, Tom Berninger, of documentary Mistaken For Strangers.

By the end of the film the roles of the two brothers have gone full circle. Matt– the responsible and focused one– is now the goofball brother. Excitedly nagging his brother about the completion of the movie. Meanwhile, Tom– the immature slacking metalhead brother– becomes the mature one, determined to finish and complete a strong documentary.

As if seeing the documentary during its first screenings in Canada wasn’t enough, the icing on the cake was Tom Berninger and his sidekick in editing the film (I’m sorry, I don’t remember his name) were in attendance and graced the audience with a Q&A. For me, seeing Tom honestly answering such personal questions enhanced the experience and increased my respect for him and the film. It’s one thing to see a character on screen, but when you see that character in person it adds a whole new dimension to the film. This is real life!

In conclusion: It was well worth the 6$ I paid and the lack of sleep I received from  seeing a midnight screening and getting up for work the next morning. It may not be what people anticipate, but as a fine YouTuber elegantly said in a comment– “…If you watch it, just leave your pre-conceived ideas at the door and enjoy”

Additional Info: The National have a new album, Trouble Will Find Me, out May 20th/21st, 2013.

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The internet has been boasting with excitement this past week for the release of Radiohead‘s new album The King Of Limbs. Its original release was Saturday, February 19th, 2011, but it’s out a day early and can be downloaded now! You can buy the digital version or the “Newspaper Album” here: http://www.thekingoflimbs.com/

The album goes back to the experimental sounds of Amnesiac/Kid A and you can hear influence’s of Thom Yorke’s solo work and the UK dubstep scene. Of course it depends on your taste and tolerance for experimentation but the whole album is superb. Here’s a breakdown:

1. BloomOpener track with a marching dubstep beat and Yorke’s soothing vocals. Similar to ‘Packt Like Sardines’.

2. Morning Mr MagpieSounds like an out-take from In Rainbows. Guitar has a ’15 steps’ or ‘Bodysnatchers’ vibe to it and has some Kid A/Amnesiac-esque attributes to it.

3. Little By Little – More up beat, bass heavy, light piano, with mellow picking guitar. Has a Kid A feel to it.

4. Feral – Most experimental and “controversial” on the album. Clattery drums, filtered vocals and incomprehensible lyrics.

5. Lotus Flower – First single? Or at least the first song with a video. Another Kid A vibe, similar to ‘Morning Bell’ .

6. Codex – Soothing piano/vocal track. Has a ‘Pyramid Song’ vibe to it.

7. Give Up The Ghost – Arguably the most easy listening and least experimental song on the album. Another possible In Rainbows out-take.

8. Separator – Good closer track, more up beat, head bobbing beat, flowing bass, melodic guitar and Yorke’s classic vocals.

Each song on the 8 track album has their highs and lows, my personal favorite is a toss up between ‘Little By Little’ and ‘Codex’. As with any Radiohead album, it may take a couple listens for your head to wrap around it. It’s definitely worth checking out though! Also, check out the video for the track Lotus Flower below:

‘Lotus Flower’

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