Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Begin the Ben Gunning

Ben Gunning used to be in The Local Rabbits. Now he's got his own thing. He's one of those artists who slides between genres; he's a little bit Jeff Buckly, a little but John McLaughlin (circa the Cellar Door), a bit garage rock ... He has an extremely capable band, a remarkably tensile voice and he really gives his all on stage. (Not that it's easy squeezing a whole band on there, for the obligatory group shot, if nothing else.)

Ben at the microphone!

Dafydd Hughes plays the keyboards, handles the electronics, etc.

That rhythm section. Drummer Robin Buckley is now handling the traps in Kepler. As for the bassist, as the show was going on I was thinking "Gee, this guy has a small Gallien-Krueger amp, just like Doug Friesen, who I recently saw playing bass for another former Local Rabbit, Peter Elkas! He has a Gibson bass just like Friesen. And the same haircut and glasses!" The reason: He's Doug Friesen. It took me a little while to figure that out. It was late, eh? He's also played in a band called Egger along with former Inbred Dave Ullrich that has a record, Force Majeure, out on Zunior.

Ben gets down!

Why should Gunning have all the odd facial expressions to himself? The members of the band enjoy entertaining each other, so here's Buckley's best go.

Ben shouts, the rhythm section rhythms ...

Microphone-wrasslin' action!

Jazz-rock-pop action!

The also obligatory silhouette shot.

For the encore, Mantler came back on stage to join in on a Spinners' cover (I'll Be Around, if memory serves).

A swell show; a pity the crowd was small.

Monday, January 30, 2006

This, that, and the other thing

Jan. 27 was definitely what you call a mixed bill: You had DJ Pho, Mantler (a solo performer of melancholy piano pop) and former Local Rabbit Ben Gunning's garage-fusion.

First, a picture of DJ Pho. You can tell this show took place at the Avant-Garde Bar because of the ever-present Depeche Mode video playing behind him. (Also in silhouette, because I like that kind of thing.)

Hands down winner for sartorial splendour, Chris A. Cummings, aka Mantler. All through his set I was trying to think of who he reminded me of, but the best I could do was Roger Daltrey singing Robert Wyatt tunes.

Ben Gunning chipped in some guitar later in the set.

It was a diverse entree; more Gunning later.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

That's just sick

They were turning people away at the door by the time The Sick Fits got on stage (if not before) - they draw quite a crowd. You can read all about the who's who in the sundry writeups I've done about their gigs here, there and everywhere. So ... on with the show?

Drum intro!

"Do you think I'd go on stage without a scarf and blazer? Not likely!"

Kenny and that new Telecaster.

X-Ray X models the off-the-shoulder look.

Just you stop doing that, Chase Manhattan!

All is well!

And a Sick finale.

(Also larger, if you like).

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Shaken baby syndrome

I should have suspected something was up when the lady minding the door at The Dominion only charged me $5. Unfortunately, the NYC contingent of last Saturday's gig - The Baby Shakes and The Electric Shadows - were stopped at the border by the ever-vigilant men and women of the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (or whatever it's called these days). Instead, we got The Sweet Janes. I'm always up for a Sweet Janes/Sick Fits bill, so no problem.

The ever-fashionable Janes: Grady in his streetwalkin' cheetah jacket (or is it leopard?) and Jackov Jeff in his matching Misfits shirt and cap. (And Toddy Fokks too!)

Carl in closeup.

Dual singing action from Fokks and Finch.

Abnormally normal drumming machine Chris Smith, as per usual.

Finch was grousing about feeling sleepy; not much room to work on a small stage either - this may, or may not, explain the gurning.

Les Janes will be playing the Dominion again Feb. 18, this time with Brutal Knights; they're playing another show with The Sick Fits Feb. 25 at Club SAW.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Gimme an F

For Friday! TGIF, etc. First, here's a picture of The Sweet Janes' Grady Finch - taken with the wrong aperture setting, but okay nonetheless - to tide you over until Saturday when I'll post the few other pictures I took at last Saturday's show that I didn't mess up. I promise they'll be slightly more in focus ...

And now a show reminder: Ben Gunning plays the Avant-Garde Bar ... yes, another veteran of The Local Rabbits, and like Peter Elkas he's a highly touted live performer.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Feist and last and always

My plan last Thursday was too wrap things up at work, zip home to eat dinner, then dash over to the Capital Music Hall to see Feist. While I handled the zipping, eating and dashing well enough, wrapping things up at work proved a little more troublesome. By the time I got there, about two hours later than I had planned, Peter Elkas had come and gone and Paso Mino was down to their last couple of songs.
This caused me a few problems picture wise - every other show at the Capital Music Hall I've managed to snag a place in the front row; this time around I was one of the last people to arrive. As you'd expect of a woman who recently won two Junos on the strength of her reputation-making sophomore album, Let It Die, Feist easily sold out the 1,000-person capacity Capital Music Hall, and all of them were between me and the stage when I arrived. Thus, this entry is long on text and short on pictures (all five of which are crap, anyway, so no harm there).
Anyway, the last few songs from Paso Mino sounded good. I saw them provide backing duties for folk-rocker Jason Collett at Ottawa'’s Bluesfest in the summer of 2005. At the Capital they sounded like hazy, fertile Americana and drew a good crowd response.

You can sort of make them out ...

The audience was super-keen to see Feist, and as her expected arrival on stage drew nie just about everyone who wandered on (sound people, guitar techs, Paso Mino members retrieving their gear) drew expectant yells.
Feist has a diverse set of influences, most of which emerged on stage. Her first band, Placebo, had their start as an opening act for the Ramones. Since then she'’s performed with Toronto rockers By Divine Right and Broken Social Scene. She'’s roomed and recorded with smut-rapper Peaches and hip hop production ace Chilly Gonzales. She'’s sung with the Kings of Convenience and Jane Birkin.
Her sophomore album blended chansons, bossa nova and indie rock, and included songs by Francois Hardy, The Bee Gees and Ron Sexsmith, among others.The result of this melting pot is the Left Bank'’s answer to Kate Bush, a woman who can make a garage rock riff sound like a flamenco lick.
Her star has risen far in Canada, and there was a roar of approval when she bounded on stage wearing tight white slacks and matching shirt-jacket, very little of which can be made out in this picture:

She performed her first song a cappella, singing into one microphone, looping the result and singing over it. She then picked up her Guild semi-hollowbody guitar for a more rocking tune before summoning her backing trio to flesh out her songs with a wide variety of instruments: Drums, vibraphone, French horn, bass, guitar and a small and cheesy synth gave her music a far more robust sound than it had on record, but her aching croon still conveyed their melancholy heart.

After a few tunes with her backing band, she sent them off and switched to a parlour acoustic for a few solo songs, including some from the album she intends to start recording in a month'’s time.

Feist was an active stage presence; shaking her past-the-shoulders shaggy '‘do, swinging her guitar during her all-guns-blazing version of Sexsmith'’s Secret Heart; shadowboxing and miming tears while the audience sung the chorus to Fighting Back the Tears. She also invited a couple up on stage to slow-dance, shushed some chatty show-goers during an encore of Intuition and raised the roof with her cover of the Bee Gees'’ Inside and Out.

At the end of the show various members of Peter Elkas' band (including Alanna Stuart) and Paso Mino came out to sing along.

One more cruddy picture ...

I'm definitely looking forward to her next album.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Music city

Sybris, as everyone who has heard about them should know by now, are named after the city of Sybaris, the burg that gave us the word sybarites. Despite that, I can't detect any themes of shameless hedonism in their music. Like a lot of popular current acts (Interpol, The Organ, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, etc.) they have deep roots in 80s indie rock. There's some shoegazing welded to a driving rhythm section and guitar scree in the vein of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine.

Angela Mullenhour was super-active on stage (as you'll see from the following pictures) and also has a passionate voice that goes easily from coo to howl.

Guitarist Phil Naumann works the feedback.

Most of their 2005 album was recorded with drummer Bill Bumgardner; this is new guy Eric Mahle.

I tried to get a good solo picture of bassist Shawn Podgurski; this pic with Mullenhour was the best I can do.

Rock action!

More twisting ...

Yet more twisting ...

And some bonus head-tossing action.

The final feedback workout.

And all together.

A very entertaining set, and they had a tough act to follow in Anathallo.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Eight is enough

Anathallo is an eight-piece collective from Mount Pleasant, Mich. There were bits of sensitive-boy indie pop, post-punk clatter and experimental folk in their sound. They were certainly well-received by the audience who seemed to prefer them to the headliner (unlike myself). Quite apart fom the music - which came off like a concoction of Animal Collective, The Sunburned Hand of the Man and Iron and Wine - they had a fairly dynamic stageshow as well.

They started off with some unison clapping.

Anathallo is definitely one of those multi-instrumental bands, with everyone except the drummer (and perhaps the bassist) playing something else at one point.

They didn't bring the kitchen sink, but they did muster a few pots and pans ... from left to right we have Seth Walker, Andrew Dost and Daniel Bracken.

What the heck, throw some chain in there too, courtesy of Erica Froman.

Main brain Matt Joynt.

Dual xylophone action with Brett Wallin and Greg Leppert!

Yet more percussion with drummer Jeremiah Johnson.

Singalong action!

Everybody shake!

Everybody fall over!

Some more brass instrumentation ...

Some more twisting and shaking ...

On their last song the used only vocals and some piano.

The obligatory group shot (actually, someone is missing; I blame the post).