Posts Tagged ‘Toronto’

This post will not be music-related. Instead, it will be a rant about something that happened to me earlier today. I tried to shrug it off, but some forms of ignorance and close-minded-ness gets under my skin. Unfortunately, this incident is one of those cases.

I’d like to start off by saying, I have tattoos, and when I wear a t-shirt, they are visible; 3/4 of my tattoos are covered, even in a t-shirt.  I’d like to note that they’re not vulgar, rude, or particularly unpleasant on the eyes. I have roses, birds, and a simplistic, black-outlined, borderline cartoony, piece inspired by the street artist Know Hope.

I was walking to the subway earlier today, and I noticed a middle aged lady staring at me as she walked by, quite obviously in disgust. As she walked past me– and by “past me,” I mean a few steps to my left– she was still in my peripherals and in my full view if I slightly turned my head. She scrunched up her face, shrugged her shoulders, and shook her head as if she had just eaten a cockroach. It was just her and I in that hallway. I had just showered, and besides the tattoos, I’m a very clean and polished man. I may be jumping to conclusions, but I can almost guarantee that it was my tattoos that she was so visibly disgusted by.

I have a full understanding that not everyone likes tattoos, and I respect that; however, in today’s society, and within Toronto — one of the most multi-culural, diverse, and open-minded cities in the world– people should have the decency to keep their opinions and apparent disgust to themselves. She had short, bleach-blonde hair and pastel, outdated fashion (like she stepped out of the 80’s) that I didn’t agree with, but I didn’t make a face as if I ate a lemon because of it. Everyone should respect others’ lifestyles.

What bothers me most is I have very specific reasons for getting the tattoos I have. My most visible one (roses and a heart) I got on the 10-year anniversary of my mother’s passing; she died from a long battle with breast cancer when I was 14. My second tattoo was inspired by a street artist that I would pass everyday on my way to work when I lived in New York City, and now I always associate that artist with my time in New York.

What I’m getting at is, when she scrunched up her face at my tattoos, I took it personally. She was really scrunching up her face at symbols of the most vulnerable time in my life (my own mothers death) and the best time in my life (living abroad in New York). She had no right in judging me just as much as I had no right in judging her poor fashion.

To the lady that shot me a dirty look, I’m not asking you to like my tattoos. Just be more subtle next time.


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ell v gore

Toronto goth punks Ell V Gore released their EP Sex Static, and a video for their track ‘Lobotomy,’  today (June 4th). I can smell the stench of stale beer and other peoples sweat just from listening to it. You can watch the video below starring “my favorite trannies and scumbagzzz in the city” (quoted from the bands Facebook page).

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Details: The Shins fourth album Port Of Morrow came out March 2012, and they haven’t stopped touring since its release. On March 22, 2013 they played a sold out show at Sound Academy in Toronto with guests Ra Ra Riot.

Ra Ra Riot @ Sound Academy, Toronto

Ra Ra Riot @ Sound Academy, Toronto

Ra Ra Riot: The Syracuse, New York pop rockers just released their third full-length album Beta Love in January 2013. Their sound is quite 70/80’s with synth heavy hooks, belting vocals, subtly detailed basslines, and electronic and bass heavy drums. Even the band members’ attire were screaming vintage — the singer wearing a pale pink button up, and the bassist looking as if he just stepped out of a DeLorean with his acid wash skinny jeans, shaggy hair and his large vintage glasses. Meanwhile, the keyboardist/violinist looked as if she was a long lost ABBA band member.

Fittingly enough, Ra Ra Riot’s music does have glimmers of ABBA with their synth-pop sound. They’re a large band (6 members) and good at their craft. The members would switch instruments mid song, they had a cellist (which is awesome) and the lead singer sounded spot on to how he’d sound on the record. To me the peak of their performance was mid set when they broke out their song ‘When I Dream.‘ It’s a simple song but the marching drums, belting vocals, and finger snapping managed to captivate my soul. They then smoothly transitioned into a dance-y song (that I unfortunately don’t know the name of) that got me moving.

All around, they’re a good live band and a great opening band that successfully got the crowd moving and dancing. It’s also good to see a band that has fun with each other on stage — small antics between members, laughing and smiling at each other. Also noteworthy, although not seeing it for myself, the drummer was entertaining to watch because he’d apparently have a huge grin ever time he hit the snare drum. As it was described to me, it was quite captivating, as he was able to transition from a deadpan stare to a huge grin with every hit of the snare.

I’ve heard of Ra Ra Riot before, but  seeing them live definitely changed my perspective of the band for the better.

the shins

The Shins @ Sound Academy, Toronto

The Shins: The Shins came on stage fairly early, around 10 pm. First thing I noticed was female guitarist, Jessica Dobson, wasn’t there — instant disappointment! I was actually really excited to see her perform. To me a female musician, especially one as talented as her, increases the awesome factor of any band, and her not being there took a blow to theirs. It turns out she took a break from The Shins to tour with her own band Deep Sea DiverBesides, she’s only been an official member for a year, so surely The Shins can rock the house without her, and surely, they did (still disappointed though)!

They started off strong and surprisingly played popular songs fairly early in their set. Within the first four or five songs they played biggies like ‘Caring Is Creepy’ and ‘Simple Song,’ which I thought for sure would be encore material. Their set was sprinkled with a good mix of new and old, but they left out some personal favourites (‘Pink Bullets’, ‘The Past And Pending’, ‘Sea Legs’, ‘Split Needles’ and more). That aside, The Shins are amazing live, and they have great sing-along songs. Throughout their set the audience would religiously belt out the oooo’s, awww’s and quirky sounds in each individual song. And if you know The Shins, you’d know there’s plenty of that in their music.

Lead singer/guitarist James Mercer sang flawlessly, and at times he would jazz up the vocals and sing lines differently from the record, which was refreshing. The audience would sing along to every word either way, and James would smile. There was little banter between songs until mid way through the set, when James declared that Toronto always has an amazing crowd. The band then had some good hardy Toronto banter — the drummer said how much he loves Canada, the bassist shared, I quote, “Toronto is my favourite… right now”, and the keyboardist announced that his mother, Wendy, was born in Toronto. Which, naturally, caused the crowd to chant “Wendy! Wendy! Wendy!” as the band members laughed on stage. The chants lead to James making a funny; “Hashtag Wendy”. I never did think of tweeting or even checking if that hashtag caught on.

Near the end of their set they played an epic jammy version of their title track ‘Port Of Morrow’ which transitioned flawlessly into their cult classic ‘New Slang.’ Again, I would have thought it would be encore material. It was amazing to hear live, however, it lacked luster, and it didn’t seem as magical as it could be. Perhaps he’s lost the passion to play the song, which I can understand (when I saw Beck he played ‘Loser’ first, to get it out of the way. When I saw Radiohead, they didn’t even play ‘Creep’, nor did I care they didn’t), but I still expected that… feeling, which I didn’t receive. It was still nice to hear the crowd sing along.

Shortly after, they said goodnight and left the stage. For the encore, James came back solo with his acoustic guitar, and played ‘September’ (the first love song he ever wrote), the band joined him on stage mid song, and finished the song strong. They played one more song, and closed with a jammed out version of ‘Know Your Onion!’ (I think, correct me if I’m wrong).

Conclusion: It was a good show and they’re an awesome band to see live. Was it the best though? No. Was it in my top five? No. Is that a tad harsh? Probably. Would I recommend you see them live? Yes, I still would. It’s the same case for any band, but the more you know their music, the better the show.

Side note: This is my personal opinion and how I received the show.

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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 view of Toronto from Sound Academy

The view of Toronto from Sound Academy

Sound Academy is a Lone Wolf! 

Toronto has an amazing and diverse music and arts scene. When it comes to music, Toronto is a hot spot for bands, and the city hosts several festivals such as North By Northeast (NXNE) and Canadian Music Week (CMW). They’re able to do this because the city has a hardy amount of music venues, halls, theatres, bars and stadiums. However, for mid-sized bands who can’t quite sell out stadiums yet, there’s really only one option; the Sound Academy.

Ask any avid concert-goer in Toronto what they think of the Sound Academy and chances are they’ll have nothing good to say. Think I’m over-exaggerating for the sake of this rant? Check out their Yelp page! You wont believe how many friends/acquaintances I’ve heard say “Even if my favourite band play’s Sound Academy, I wont go.”  Truth be told, if so many of my favourite bands hadn’t played Sound Academy, I’d probably never step foot in the venue.

Bands I’ve seen there: Alt-J, Two Door Cinema Club, Interpol, Refused, Death From Above 1979, Foster The People, Beck (w/ MGMT), Hot Chip, The Shins…shall I go on?

Sound Academy's  floor plan

Sound Academy’s floor plan

Let’s get the boring stuff out-of-the-way: For those who don’t know, the Sound Academy is a general admission, open concept, music venue located along the shores of the Toronto Harbour. It has a capacity of 3,230 occupants. The nearest mid-size venue would be The Guvernment Complex, which is made up of nine rooms with a total capacity of 10,000, the largest room being the Kool Haus at 2,500 occupants. To be fair, there’s also Massey Hall (2,752 capacity) and Roy Thomson Hall (2,630 capacity), which are amazing venues in their own right, but you’re confined to seats, have obstructed views and they’re more suited for quaint musical acts and theatre.

The next step up from Sound Academy would be the Air Canada Centre (ACC), whose capacity ranges from 5,200 to 19,800, or the Ricoh Coliseum at a measly 9,250 occupants. Lastly, let’s not forget the Molson Amphitheatre at a skimpy 16,000 person capacity. Can you see the conundrum here?

The issues: When it comes to the Sound Academy, most of the problems arise from its inconvenient location, its mediocre sound system, and its sight lines (or lack there of). However, the venue has cornered the market for mid-sized venues, and is kind of  a lone wolf. I’m sure during the summer Sound Academy has some stiff competition, but that’s only because any park, square, grassy area, or open space in general, becomes a music venue. However, this is Canada we’re talking about, the weather is crap most of the year! So, besides summer, Sound Academy has us by the balls!

Conclusion: As a picky pants concert-goer, I would choose Sound Academy over the ACC or Molson Amphitheatre any day. I’d rather see a band play two back-to-back Sold Out, jam-packed, intimate shows at Sound Academy than one distant stadium show.

To me, it’s about atmosphere, and that beloved atmosphere is often lost in larger/seated venues. Also, let’s be honest, this issue wont be solved any time soon. It’s an overpopulated city with limited space. Do you think it’s coincidental that the only mid-sized venue is located in the middle of no where, beside a drive-in theatre, a go-cart track, a Chinese market and among industrial plants?

Disagree? Did I leave anything out? Feel free to comment! 

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Toronto based band, Wildlife, has been criss-crossing North America in support of their debut album Strike Hard Young Diamond . Even with the lead singer tearing his Achilles Tandon mid concert and being ridden to a cast, these lads have continued to tour recklessly. Including the Quicksilver Pro New York Music Festival and a Daytrotter session in Rock Island, IL.

All the excitement led to their debut music video for ‘Sea Dreamer’. It’s in rotation at MuchMusic and features rival gangs, street bowling, food fighting, weapons, more fighting and props. Check out the video below:

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