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Archive for the ‘Live at Massey Hall’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: ANDY SHAUF-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I know Andy Shauf from a Tiny Desk Concert.  I was fascinated then and am now by his long hair, soft-spoken voice and astonishing lack of movement in his body and mouth when he sings.

The record he is touring here is 2016’s The Party which propelled him onto bigger stages, including Massey Hall.  He says in his characteristically quiet way

Every stage is a little different.  I’m a big fan of that Neil Young record.  That was here.  That was here (smiles).

“Twist My Ankle” starts the show with his gentle guitar strums.  Twin clarinets (Daniel Pencer and Karen Ng) propel this song slowly forward.  It a wonderful melody.  Then Shauf starts singing with his unique vocal patterns.  I can’t figure out what it is about the way he sings, but the way he enunciates words is so peculiar.

Later he says that there was one interview when I said The Party isn’t a concept album, and that has followed him around.  It totally is a concept album, but I was thinking more of Mr Roboto or something.  The whole album is about a party with the common theme of humiliation and shame.  People are just making mistakes while drinking at a party–trying to navigate social situations.

“Twist My Ankle” ends with the line, “everybody’s laughing at me I wish I’d just stayed home.”

“You’re Out Wasting” has a simple, repetitive but very alluring guitar melody.  It’s a wonderfully catchy song about wasting time with the right guy.

“Quite Like You” is a bit more upbeat and catchy–the crowd reacts very warmly to it.   but again the lyrics are pretty dark.  It’s about a guy trying to pick up his friend’s girlfriend.

“Early to the Party” is a mellow song with wonderful instrumental interludes–the horns really brighten the song.  This is one of many places where his enunciation is so strange.  Especially since he sings so quietly: “tying you in nawts.”

“The Word in You” has an upbeat piano melody which his vocals follow perfectly. He says it’s exciting playing with strings and clarinets.  A lot of parts are six voices and now we have six voices–it makes the songs more exciting to play.  A lot of time you get sick of playing the same songs every night but this time the shows have gotten a little bit bigger so you can feel a different energy when people are excited to hear a song rather than trying to introduce your songs to people.

People respond loudly to “My Dear Helen.”  This song is just him on the guitar, the starkness really helps you to focus on the words.  It’s a letter to an old friend in which an old man confesses something terrible.

For the final song, “The Magician everyone comes back.  The addition of bass clarinet (Michael Sachs) is wonderful.  There’s pizzicato strings that turn into big swells from Emily Hau and Leslie Ting (violins) and Moira Burke (viola).  The doo doo doo doo part is really catchy.  The song builds and builds and is the most rocking thing with Olivier Fairfield’s drums really coming forward.  Colin Nealis on keyboards and Josh Daignault on bass flesh out this excellent set ender.

[READ: July 24, 2017] “Everything is Far From Here”

This story serves as an unrelenting indictment against immigration polices.

It opens with a woman having arrived, at last.  She is bruised and sunburnt, covered in birds and bugs and worn out.  She is told to sleep, but she cannot for she is awaiting her son.  She had been separated from him a few days ago being told there were too many of them.

She is finally able to ask someone where her son is.  The guard speaks Spanish and tells her about the family unit.  But among the children, her son is not there.   But one woman tells her that her own son arrived a while week after she did.

She decides to wait.  They let her store her clothes, her broken leather sandals, a plastic comb, and elastic hair band.  They take her pocketknife (no weapons) a sleeve of cookies (no food) and a tin of Vaseline (no reason). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENNIFER CASTLE-Live at Massey Hall (November 23, 2017).

I didn’t think I knew Jennifer Castle, but I see that she has appeared as a guest singer on a whole bunch of records by artists that I know: Eric Chenaux, Bry Webb, Constantines and Fucked Up.

She has an unusual voice–soaring, delicate and whispery with a slight warble and yet you know she could belt out if she wanted to.

She starts the show saying Toronto has incredible beautiful old buildings and its rare these days to go inside one.  Inside Massey Hall it’s lit up to be another member of the band and to be part of the show.

I found the music to be incredibly spare–too spare in fact.  It is primarily piano and her vocals (with backing singers), but the piano (Jonathan Adjemian) is not a primary instrument, it is simply playing chords for her to sing over.  The sparseness was a little disconcerting.  But the backing vocalists (Victoria Cheeong and Isla Craig) are stellar–they really add a lot to the music and their voices soar in their own right.

But I think that sparseness allows her lyrics to really come through.  “Like a Gun” has the lyric “he was lik e gun [hah, from lovely backing vocalists] he was always going off.”

“Nature” has even better lyrics

Despite all my feelings of life parallel
Nature is happening without my goodwill
I called my friend up and she said it still
Happens to you even when you are ill

and ends with this interesting conceit

I lift my skirt for the economy

“Texas” is played on guitar with a very catchy “hoo hoo hoo hoo” clap-along.

I go down to Texas
To kiss my grandmother goodbye
She forgets things
But when I look her in the eye
I see my father
And he’s been gone so very long
In the name of time travel
Help him to hear to my little song

Jennifer plays electric guitar on “Truth is the Freshest Fruit” which changes the whole dynamic of her songs.  She plays guitar with piano accompaniment on “Sailing Away.”

She is the first person to mention the renovations Massey Hall is currently undergoing:

I know that Massey is going to go through a great big change but it feels good to play while the history is still on the paint.

The final song is absolutely wonderful.  She says she wrote “Please Take Me (I’m Broken)” because she knew they were coming to Massey and it celebrates the school of Greek mythology

The backing vocalists sing a verse by themselves and they sound great.  I love the chorus

Please take me cause something don’t seem right; something don’t compute.  I don’t belong here.
Please take me I’m broken;  I’ve woken up and I should be dreaming.
Please take me back to those other realms they seem much kinder on a dreamer like me.
I’ve always looked up to those ancient Greek stories.
I love the thrill of the scale; I like the the roll of the chorus.

A thoughtful and unique performer.

[READ: July 17, 2018] “Now More Than Ever”

I  feel like Zadie Smith’s recent stories have been exploring a new style for her, a more “in the present” kind of vibe.  This story has meta-elements and is very much an of the moment piece.  It seems to address current hot button issues and her own inability to fully wrap her head around them.

It begins: “There is an urge to be good. To be seen to be good. To be seen.  Also to be.”

This is what she told Mary.  She also told Mary that no one is called Marty these days.  “Could you get the hell out of here?”  So Mary left.  Then Scout came by–a great improvement.

Scout is active and alert on all platforms. She;s usually no later than the 300th person to see something.  The narrator was “the ten million two hundred and sixth person to see that thing.” (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JAPANDROIDS-Live at Massey Hall (October 4, 2017).

Japandroids are one of the most energetic bands around.  Is that because there are only two of them and they need to do even more?

Well, whatever the case, they rock Massey Hall.

They are playing four nights in a row at Boot & Saddle in Philly in a couple of weeks.  The shows sold out almost instantly, but I got a ticket for the second night.  And this video has gotten me really psyched to see them again.

The show opens with David Prowse, the drummer talking about Massey Hall.  It’s by far the most legendary venue in all of Canada.  There’s a lot of emotion tied up in playing this room–equal parts terrifying and inspiring.  It’s an honor just to be asked to play here.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity but it’s large boots to fill.

The show opens with Prowse’s very fast snare drums and Brian King eking out feedback from his guitar.

And from there it’s 35 minutes of nonstop energy from both the band and the crowd. The guitars are fast and the drumming in maniacal.   It’s amazing.

What’s so especially interesting to me about this band is that there’s two of them and they don;t rally do guitar solos.  This all seems like a recipe for short songs. But no, most of their songs are about 4 minutes long and live they tend to jam them out a bit, too.

So in this show except you don;t get a lot of songs, but you get a lot of music.

“Near to the wild Heart of Life” plays for nearly five minutes before it is interrupted so Brian can talk about playing Massey Hall and how Toronto has always been good to them.

It’s followed by some great, really exciting versions of these songs: “Fire’s Highway,” “Heart Sweats” and “Younger Us” covering all three of their albums.

Brian thanks then all for coming out and spending a school night with them.

Introducing “North East South West” Brian says, there happens to be a Toronto reference in this song.  Its 10% more fun to play when we play here.  Be sure to sing it out if you know it.  It’s the one glorious moment on tour when we get to hear people in Toronto sing Toronto.

After the song they interview: the participatory nature of our shows makes you feel so connected with a roomful of strangers and we’ve both become quiet addicted to that feeling of connection.  It’s so visceral and it’s a big part of why we tour so much.

Our audience is part of the show.  Their energy is part of the show.  Sometimes it’s just as fun watching the audience as it is watching the band

“No Known Drink or Drug” and “The House Than Heaven Built” end the show in incredible fashion.  There’s even some stage divers (in Massey Hall!) which makes them laugh while singing.

Seeing Brian climb on the bass drum at the end of the set is a great moment.  I’m psyched for next week.

[READ: April 14, 2014] “Rat Beach”

William Styron is a pretty legendary writer, although I have never read him.  I don’t even know what he typically writes about.  This story is about Marines awaiting their next move as they wait on the Shore of Japan in WWII.

The narrator says that if he was a year older he would have been in the Iwo Jima bloodbath. Rather he and his troop were waiting on the island of Saipan.

He says he was “so fucking scared,” but it seemed the others would never let on just how scared they were (he wouldn’t either, of course). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: CLOUD NOTHINGS-Live at Massey Hall (October 4, 2017).

Cloud Nothings are, to my knowledge, the first non-Canadian band to be featured on this Live at Massey Hall series.  The band (which was at one time the solo project of Dylan Baldi) is from Cleveland.

Baldi talks about growing up in Cleveland, Rush and cover band and then putting music online and getting found out.

“Pattern Walks” opens with a great rumbling loud bassline from TJ Duke. This is without a doubt the loudest show of the series (so far).  Baldi has a great rock singing voice that falls somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Paul Westerberg..  The music for this song is fast and loud with some great ringing out guitars from one of the guitarist while the other plays some melodic sections.  The backing vocals (from Duke) just help to bring the melody forward.  The nonstop pounding drums (from the utterly remarkable Jauson Gerycz) keep up the relentlessness.  I love that both guitarists (Baldi and Gris Brown) play a squalling feedback solo at the same time but also independent of each other.

The end of the song is kind of feedback jam which Baldi describes (they intercut his interview) as “lots of parts that are sort of free-form…live we can just go off into more self-indulgent occasionally boring things.  And that’s what I like.  Hopefully it’s not too much.  That kind of stuff is more fun for me than playing the same song every night.”

Psychic Trauma is a bit more poppy/Replacements-sounding.  Even when it thumps in double time for the chorus, it’s still petty clean.

“Modern Act” is the catchiest so far.  Midway through the song Brown plays a solo and its fun to watch him manipulate the sound by playing with the dials on his pedals.

Duke says to the crowd that Neil Young Live at Massey Hall 1971 is one of my favorite records of all time so I’m a little freaked to be here.  Thank you all.

“Fall In” is a thumping pounding track with a whaling guitar solo.  Once again Gerycz is just a flurry of activity.  While “I’m Not Part of Me” is really catchy.  The middle has a fun section that sounds like a great lost Replacements bridge.

“Wasted Days” is the last song.  It opens with both guitarists playing different thing until the drums pounds in.  And once again the drums are amazing throughout.  The song lasts about 3 minutes when it slows down to a slapping drum and Baldi manipulation effects pedals while he continues to solo.  Brown plays with high notes.  The propulsion during this jam seems to be controlled by the drummer who is going fast and slow intermittently until he exhausts himself.  Meanwhile, Duke plays a steady two-note bass over and over.  After two minutes of that the band jumps aback up and starts again.   After nearly ten minutes incredible minutes, the final chorus returns.

It’s an amazing show.

[READ: February 1, 2018] “The Clockmaker”

I had a really hard time following this story at first.  Partially because I didn’t know what an animacula was–and whose fault is that?

A carafe filled with water has been sitting on a table for a week.  The animacula (microbial creatures) “had attained a great antiquity.”

These creatures delighted in astronomy and philosophy.  They based the theory of their world on everything they saw around them–light from the windows and of course the giant clock that sat across from them.  One philosopher thought of a clock maker theory of the world–a giant anilaculum of unheard of bigness who did something to the clock every day.

This version was widely accepted as the truth.  They identified the giant man with the sun and began to think of him as the Clockmaker. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BORN RUFFIANS-Live at Massey Hall (October 14, 2017).

Born Ruffians are a trio who plays fairly punky music but with a surprisingly high-pitched singer Luke Lalonde.

When the show opens, he says I don’t think I ever considered that I would play here–it wasn’t even something …it seemed out of the realm of possibility.  Look at all the people who have played here (waves at pictures) Bassist Mitch Derosier says that these are employees of the month.  And t here is silence.  Drummer Steve Hamelin says do we have to laugh for that?  Mitch: I wanted someone to.

Lalonde says “it feels cool as hell when you’re on that stage.”  Hamelin: “hopefully it is the first of more.”

“Ocean’s Deep” has a loping bass and mostly high chords until the chorus when they burst forth more.  Lalonde’s guitar is almost rockabilly sounding (because it is a hollowed body?)  The drums totally pound (and Hamelin is up front facing the other two).

“Don’t Live Up” has an interesting guitar melody with rather unexpected notes

“& On & On & On” has a cool bass line and a catchy oh oh oh oh oh oh verse melody.  Then he tells the crowd that they just recorded a record and its out soon so they’re going to play some songs off it. (Which this last song was but he next song isn’t).

“Fade to Black” has punchy drums and a fast punky bass. The chanted backing vocals give it a real punk edge.”  After the song someone shouts, “you guys fucking rock, man,” to which Mitch responds: “that was my mom.”

“Miss You” has a great call and response punk feel “with your head held high–with your head  held high” it sounds great.

“Love Too Soon” opens with gentle echoed guitars a weird-sounding whistle from Luke–echoed or processed and rather eerie, but very compelling.

“Forget Me” is a song about dying.  It starts acoustically followed by a kick drum with Hamelin encouraging everyone t clap along with him.  The song dramatically changes pace midway through–slowing down with big thumps until it slowly speeds up again.

Lalonde switches to electric guitar with a heavy echo for “Needle”.  This was my favorite song and I wondered if I’d heard it before, the vocal melody was very familiar and catchy.

The final song, We Made It” has some cool fast plucked guitar chords (from bass and guitar) and some great triplets on the drums.  It’s a powerful punky thrasher with a big, loud, crashing (very satisfying) false ending.

[READ: February 2, 2018] “Patrols”

I really enjoyed the way this story began.

Marty Mason was staying at a place which housed a dog, Murphy.  Each night the dog left his owner’s room, snuffled around and came to settle by Marty.  He would settle by Marty’s bed, alert, for the night.  If Marty looked at the dog, it would slap its tail against the floor.  If he tried to lock the dog out it would scratch and whine.

This prevented Marty from sleeping, but also prevented him from getting up.

Then the story flashes back to a military scene and I kind of lost focus. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: JENN GRANT-Live at Massey Hall (June 23, 2017).

I don’t know Jenn Grant, although her music sounds somewhat familiar.  She’s from PEI originally but her family moved to Nova Scotia when she was ten.  She recently moved back to Nova Scotia with her husband, where they live by the ocean and the woods.

For this show, she is joined by Daniel Ledwell, Michael Belyea and Tavo Dies de Bonilla.  On a couple of songs, she has Julie Fader and Kim Harris for backing vocals (this is Fader’s second appearance in the series).

Years ago shed opened for BNL at Massey Hall, but she wasn’t present. This time she’s very aware of things like the large but intimate feeling of the place.  During soundcheck she felt she never sounded better

“Paradise” is a slow keyboard song with electronic drums.  It’s moody in a Twin Peaks kind of way.  Although it picks up for the chorus.  The drum sounds in the middle of the song sound like when my phone speaker is over powered, it’s unsettling.

“I am a River” is interrupted by her speaking about her new record.  It’s interesting that her music is quite electronic since she is so inspired by nature.  Although this song does have more organic elements like piano and such.

She introduces “The Fighter” by saying “This is a song from an album that we made once.”  She plays electric guitar and that creates more drama and texture in the song.  This has a great overall sound.

“I’ve Got Your Fire” starts with piano.  This song sounds familiar–I wonder if I know it or if it just sounds like a Jane Siberry song.  It’s very pretty.

“No One’s Gonna Love You (Quite Like I Do)” is mellow song, also quite pretty.  “Galaxies” is a bit higher energy and she says it’s “fun to perform for an audience.”  It’s got a cool retro keyboard sound.  Dreamer ends he show quietly with delightful backing vocals.  I like the way the song slowly builds.

[READ: January 25, 2018] “Fourteen Feet of Water in My House”

This story sets everything up right from the get go:

My hometown flooded.  Prediction, as usual, failed us.

And so, when the narrator wakes up with a river in his house, he is quite pleased to see that his boat, kept in the backyard, was banging on his second storey window.  He is barely awake but he jumps into the boat headfirst.

“This is real… Dad’s house is ruined…. Boat seems fine though…. People probably stranded … ”

The rest of the story is his adventure saving people. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKTHE WOODEN SKY-Live at Massey Hall (June 23, 2017).

I don’t know this band at all.  I’m fascinated that he lead singer Gavin Gardiner and the keyboardist Simon Walker have the same haircut and glasses but are not related.  The band has a kind of folk-rock vibe.  Nothing really stands out about them to me, but I did enjoy the songs while they were playing them.

For The Wooden Sky, getting to Massey Hall always seemed unreachable.  But they say that getting here you can feel the history and see that the place opened in 1894.  Its pretty surreal.  Just looking out on stage you can feel–holy shit, this is cool.

“Life is Pain, Pain is Beauty” is a six-minute song that opens with a nifty guitar riff.  The keys and violins act as a kind of drone underneath.  The middle has a cool rollicking section with big drums and groovy keyboard solo.  There’s a nice jam element to the song, too with Jason Haberman on bass.

Gardiner has a kind of drawl or something.  His delivery is unique without being especially noteworthy.  On some of the later songs he puts on a strange vibrato that I find a bit unsettling.

“Our Hearts Were Young” has a cool violin part that runs through the song.  The backing vocals during the chorus are amazingly catchy.

It’s weird that they interrupt this song to talk about them making their record.  They miss a verse and a solo of the song to talk about them recording in their own studio.

He introduces “Deadhorse Creek” by saying that his parents are celebrating their 40th anniversary in a couple of days so this if or them.  It’s about living and growing up in Manitoba.

This song is also interrupted so they can talk more about working in the studio, how they recorded this song three different times.

There a wild harmonica solo from Gardiner mid song.

He invites his best friend Andrew Wyatt to the stage to play banjo–you know the passion he brings to the stage.  HE is listed as a member of the band, so this is a weird moment with him on stage.  They play “The Wooden Sky,” a mellows darker song where Gardiner introduces that vibrato singing. There’s a more mellow harmonica solo.

“Swimming in Strange Waters” is the most fun song. It rocks with some wild singing by the end.

“Angelina” ends the show quietly with Gardiner singing solo with acoustic guitar.  He says it is dedicated to his friend Aaron who passed away in 2010.  The rest of the band gathers around behind him as he plays.  Midway through the song Edwin Huzinga introduces a fiddle melody and Andrew Kekewich plays a kick drum as the song builds.   They all gather round to sing backing vocals.

[READ: January 24, 2018] “Question 62”

This short story has two plots running parallel.  It involves two sisters and wild cats.

How’s this for an opening line:

She was out in the flower bed, crushing snails–and more on them later–when she happened to glance up into the burning eyes of an optical illusion.

Until recently Mae had lived with her sister Anita in Waunakee, Wisconsin.  She now lived in Southern California where it never rained, except that it had been raining all week.  The snails loved this rain and were destroying her garden.  Which is why she was destroying them–despite being a vegetarian and wishing no harm to come to animals, really.  She and Anita made a vow to become vegetarian in junior high school.

But it was while she was crushing snails that she looked up and saw…could it be?  A tiger? She was startled, obviously.  She quietly cried for her husband (he was asleep inside). The tiger didn’t seem aggressive, it just seemed inquisitive at the sound of her voice. (more…)

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