Posts Tagged ‘concert review’

Jóhann Jóhannsson at The Mod Club in Toronto

May 8, 2010

4 May 2010

Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannsson played his long-awaited Toronto debut at The Mod Club this week to an intimate yet enraptured crowd. Joining him on stage were three violinists, a cellist, and his long-time collaborator Matthías Hemstock, who manipulated sounds and live samples, and the result was a subdued, and beautiful set of neo-classical ambience. Playing compositions from his critically acclaimed Fordlandia, and In the Endless Pause There Came The Sound Of Bees, Jóhannsson sat pretty much motionless behind his gear, allowing the roving emotions in his music to speak for themselves. The string quartet helped make the live show a much more organic experience, and Jóhannsson’s music is so very much alive, this would have been lost if it had been just him up there with his laptop and electric piano.

The set began with the title track from Fordlandia and they played much of the quieter material first. Black and white films played on the wall behind the musicians, which was odd considering there were two large projection screens set up to the left and right of the stage, which remained blank. Tables and chairs were set up for us to sit comfortably through Jóhannsson’s minimal yet swirling arrangements. The highlight of the night was “Guidelines for a Space Propulsion Device” which relies on a loop of bassy synth and patiently grows into an orchestral frenzy, the strings building to a feverish climax, as Hemstock created head-bobbing percussion through live samples.

It was a beautiful show on a warm Tuesday night in Toronto. Very nice.

Trans Am at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto

April 22, 2010

21 April 2010

Thrill Jockey’s post-rock synth trio, Trans Am, played to a full house at The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on Wednesday night, and goddamn it was LOUD. My ears they still be a buzzin’. Live shows at The Horseshoe always tend to be a bit on the louder side, but Trans Am had it right cranked — to the point where it’s so loud it makes no difference even if you have your ears plugged. But I guess a little aural degradation is the price you gotta pay to live like a rock star.

I love Trans Am. But I haven’t listened to any of their albums since Red Line came out in 2000. They’re one of those bands from my youth that hold a very special and revered place in my heart. However, over the years the trio started getting weird and inconsistent, and although I liked the robot and electronic angles they were embracing, there were just so many other musicians who were making similar sounds and doing it better, and so I abandoned Trans Am for close to a decade. But when I heard they were on tour, some friends and I decided to go for nostalgia’s sake, and as an excuse to drink on a Wednesday, so we bought tickets and showed up and were pretty much blown away by their show. It was deep, dark, moody, tight, heavy, trippy, aggressive, poppy, and 100 percent relevant. In short, Trans Am still kick ass.

Drummer Sebastian Thomson was an absolute machine, banging hell out of his kit, shirtless (as always) and spitting and swearing in between tracks. Best quote from him when the crowd requested “Futureworld”: “NO. We play what we want, when we want.” Haha. Fucking rock stars. And true to his word, they didn’t play it, but it didn’t matter, their set still rocked.

Philip Manley was stellar on guitar, effortlessly playing big fat riffs and soft delayed chords to the delight of the crowd. And frontman Nathan Means is always a large presence on stage, and not just because he’s 6 foot 5. He gets right into it, all smiles and occasional looks of innocent wonder, as if while he’s playing the song he’s surprised that it’s actually his band he’s hearing. Plus he loves him some vocoder and did a sweet job playing the part of the robot last night. ‘Twas a tight set and a great one. Go see Trans Am if they play in your town.

Warp Records up and comers Nice Nice was second on the bill and also played a fun and hectic, sample heavy set, that was pretty damn loud and awesome in its own right. Check out their debut album Extra Wow at your local record store. I missed the opener’s Jonas Reinhardt because I had to work late, but all in all it was a great midweek concert to help usher in the weekend.

Loved it.

Hudson Mohawke at Wrongbar in Toronto

March 27, 2010

25 March 2010

Ross Birchard aka Hud Mo played to a wild and packed house at Wrongbar Thursday night. Returning to Toronto after two years for his proper Hogtown ‘debut’, the young producer (who recently released his full-length Butter on Warp), had the crowd acting as if they were at a rock concert. People were crowd surfing, moshing, jumping up on stage, and just going ape shit as he ripped through tracks from his last few releases. It was a great vibe and Hud Mo seemed totally excited at the capacity crowd’s reaction as he threw down his bass heavy crunked beats and “wonky” sounds. To be honest, I find Butter hard to listen to all the way through. It’s a really eclectic mix of almost too many things slapped together, however, it totally worked live, and I was glad I was able to catch this upstart musician at a small venue, cuz he’s about to blow right the fuck up.

A big props has to go out to local promoter and DJ mymanhenri who has helped bring some great talent to Toronto: Flying Lotus, Falty DL, Nosaj Thing, Mayer Hawthorne, Joker, DâM-FunK, and Hudson Mo are just some of the artists he’s helped usher in over the last year. He’s becoming known as a tastemaker around town and deserves all the cred he can get. Please keep it up my man! Good times all around.


The Antlers at The Horseshoe in Toronto

September 26, 2009

24 September 2009


Brooklyn trio, The Antlers played to a full house at The Horseshoe on Thursday September 24th in Toronto. Their quiet/loud dynamic worked well in a live setting and the crowd greedily devoured it with their ears — ears which the next morning would still be ringing from the cranked speakers at the Shoe. Nevertheless, the trio played a tight set, relying heavily on the strongest tracks from their debut album “Hospice”. They opened the show with “Bear”, which immediately drew the crowd in, as Peter Silberman crooned in his eerie emo falsetto, slowly building towards the song’s powerful kick. It definitely started their set off with a bang.

At their best moments, I found myself thinking they sounded like shoegaze heroes Ride, while at their worst, I couldn’t help think that Silberman’s voice was veering off into Thom Yorke territory with his uber-emotive oooh’s and ahhhh’s. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but overall, I like listening to their album at home more than I enjoyed their live show. Part of the reason for this might be because the album is conceptual, meant to be listened to from start to end in its entirety, and their live show diffused the stirring emotion of the album by playing it out of order. Still, this is all purely subjective, as I’m sure others would say the show absolutely kicked ass and made them want to laugh and cry and give Silberman a big hug.

The Antlers are still a fledgling band, and I think they have the skills to surpass the simple grandeur of “Hospice”, but they really gotta stop listening to “The Bends” right this very instant, because the rest of the world forgot about it years ago. I guess I’m just afraid they have the potential to turn into schmlatz if they’re not careful, and this would be a bad thing for a band that’s got a good thing going.

I unfortunately missed opening band Arietta, but I did get to see most of second-billed Holly Miranda, who played a beautiful set of sparse and angular southern-tinged rock and roll. Comparisons to Cat Power and perhaps Stevie Nicks will no doubt abound, and that’s because Miranda’s voice is achingly beautiful and full of range. I think seeing her in a venue where no one is talking throughout the set would be really quite moving. Still, I was glad I was introduced to her music, as I’d never heard of her before the show.

All in all ’twas a good night. Peace.