Scene and Heard is all over local music news, concert announcements, record releases and festivals like a cheap rug. Contact email@example.com to send hot scoops and band gossip.
"If you took me in 2007 and put me in my shoes now, my mind would be blown," says Ryan Gullen, bass player of The Sheepdogs. "On the road we've had to adapt and learn how to work under more pressure---everything last year was flying by the seat of our pants. At that point we didn't have anyone helping us out so we spent a lot of time learning with no buffer from one thing to the next. It helped us to be better." The hardworking band deserves a little luxury this time around, after touring for the past 11 months, pausing only for two weeks to record their new self-titled album with Patrick Carney of The Black Keys, it's been go go go and there's no indication they'll be slowing down anytime soon. "We want to take the music we have, challenge ourselves and get [it] to as many ears as we can," he says. Tuesday at the Olympic Community Hall, those lucky ears could be yours. --LR
Tuesday November 20, 8pm, Olympic Community Hall, 2304 Hunter Street, $27.99/$32.99, 422-7373
You get a real cowboy with Corb Lund, raised on a ranch in Alberta, Lund spent a decade playing in the punk band The Smalls before he returned to his country roots and was rewarded with plenty of critical acclaim. Seven albums later, he's still riding strong with Cabin Fever topping the Canadian Billboard charts and increasing popularity in the US. "It's a good record," says Lund. "We drank a lot of beer, didn't use any studio layering or trickery. It's real. Basically a live album." Authenticity is important to Lund, it's why he stays in touch with his ranching roots and doesn't use a set list at his shows preferring to "wing it" so it feels right. And it works---everyone from rural cowboys to aging punk rockers and song writing folk show up at his shows. Now you can add yourself to that list, too. --Lindsay Rainingbird
It's not a huge change, but it's a change nonetheless. The Scene is now your one stop for all arts, music, film, comedy, literary, etc blog news. Email firstname.lastname@example.org as usual with your arts and music news.
"Maybe it's not on top of the charts, but we're still standing strong. So we'll be here forever. United and hard we stand." —Dimebag Darrell
Now I don't know about you, but this is a quote I've always stood by, and Halifax based record label Spread the Metal serves to remind those who have forgotten that metal will always be a powerful force in music. However, this label plans to take it past the music, and be a powerful force for those in need as well.
Q: Could you give me a bit of background on the label?
A: I started Spread the Metal Records this July, but the preparation for going into business started almost a year before that while I was scouting bands, and soaking up information about the music business, etc. I am more or less self taught, but Josh Hogan of Diminished Fifth Records has been an enormous help in steering me away from costly mistakes. Myself, I had no music industry experience and am actually now a fifth year philosophy student at Dalhousie. There are certainly many others who have contributed to the label's success and Spread the Metal Records is extremely grateful to all of them.
Q: Is your label specific to any type of metal, or does it cover all sub-genres?
A: The label doesn't focus on one sub-genre over another. Personally, I prefer melodic death metal, my favorite bands being Dark Tranquillity, Arch Enemy and too many others to mention. Generally speaking, if I can understand clearly what the vocalist is saying, I won't like it! That being said, traditional heavy metal bands like Answer With Metal have something special to offer and to overlook them would be a costly mistake for any label. In the future, you'll be hearing about more melodeath bands coming to the label, but I don't discriminate. I don't listen to much black metal, but Blasphemy Reborn just does it to me. Their deliciously evil sound is constantly blasting from my car stereo. Being a bouncer in downtown Halifax though, I listen to all types of music and proudly know the words to at least four Britney Spears songs.
Q: Are there any local metal bands you'd be interested in having in your label? A: Diminished Fifth Records pretty much has the local metal scene on lockdown. They are the voice from the east when it comes to metal and the bands on that label are all killer. However, Sanktuary now resides in Nova Scotia and i'm proud to say that they have signed with Spread the Metal. Some other bands that I like around here aren't together anymore, but Hellacaust always puts on a good show and i've always liked Cry Oh Crisis, even though they're not from Nova Scotia. I generally keep these things to myself though, and there are several bands that probably don't have any idea that I'm a big fan of theirs until I contact them directly.
Q: What made you choose the bands in your roster?
A: Every band on the label is a band in whom I personally believe. They are all easy to work with, are immensely talented, and are willing to put in the hours and the effort to get their music heard. I work extremely hard, but I can't do everything for them. Getting signed to a label is not going to instantly skyrocket one's career, there is still a lot of work to be done after that happens. In the beginning stages of the label's development, I sought out bands that I thought would fit well with Spread the Metal. Often, I would be exposed to a new band and instantly I would know that I had to have them! That happened with Fallen Joy and that happened with Crimson Shadows, among others. I do tend to get ahead of myself sometimes though and I have to force myself to not get too excited and send them an offer right away. I find a band that I really love, and then I wait a couple days and listen to their material again. If I continue to like what I hear, they'll be hearing from me.
Q: Having your first event's proceedings go towards a charity is very generous. What made you decide to do that?
A: Maybe i'm being too hard on myself, but I don't think that this festival is enough. My fundraising goal is $100,000 and with the headliners that I have, I think it's a definite possibility. However, not too long ago, a role model of mine by the name of Warren Buffet gave away 31.7 billion dollars of his fortune and not much has changed. People die for no reason every day, and we have the ability to save a lot of them, but for whatever reason, it's not happening. That's why I have such high hopes for not only this festival but for other philanthropic ventures in the future. This first year will be in support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and next year I am thinking about donating the profits to the Cancer Society. Doctors Without Borders is another favorite NGO of mine and so they will be the beneficiary in future years. Also, I would like to start my own NGO, but nothing has materialized yet. The main activities of my organization will be to pay the tuition for children around the world to go to school, but like I said, festival planning and school has sidetracked its development. For now, I am focusing on making the festival a fantastic success and handing over quite a bit of money to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. I think it's the duty of businesses and corporations to use their influence to positively impact the world we live in and my record label seeks to be a big part of that.
The Spread the Metal Festival is being held on July 5 and 6 at the Halifax Forum. Tickets will be $50 a day, or $75 for both. All net ticket revenue will be going towards the Heart & Stroke Foundation.
July 5 features Answer With Metal, Last Call Chernobyl, Dischord, Hallows Die, Descend, Fallen Joy, Blackguard, Kataklysm and July 6 features Cry Oh Crisis, Strigampire, Death Valley Driver, Crimson Shadows, Blasphemy Reborn, Black Moor, Cryptopsy, Morbid Angel
Remember when the Black Keys came to town about five minutes before they blew up? You do if you were at SummerSonic on the Garrison Grounds in 2008. If you're me you also remember the members of Stars flinging flowers into the crowd in the pouring rain, or two cops crossing the grounds and stopping in awe during a Loel Campbell drum solo in Wintersleep's set, or Citadel-wide singalong to The Weakerthans' "Left and Leaving."
Well get ready to make some new memories: SummerSonic is back, September 7-9, with a similarly killer lineup: Ben Harper, Daniel Lanois, Rise Against, Stars, K'Naan, Lagwagon, The Vandals, Bahamas, Matt Anderson, Martin Sexton, The Stanfields with more TBA.
Tickets range from $30-$85 and go on sale July 6 at sonicconcerts.com.
Cold Warps made the most of their brief time on a sailboat by shooting a video, soaking up far too many rays and bashing each others' brains out (exaggeration). Halfway through the second take singer Paul Hammond gets cracked upside his head with Lance Purcell's snare and blood flows. Thankfully, they kept that in, making for an altogether sinister/slapstick video. And the song is good too.
Wednesday: Bloodhouse at the Royal Canadian Legion (Upstairs)
Raw dog rock gods Bloodhouse are the first band of my official Sled Island 2012 experience. The audience at the legion waded through the swampy riffs and swirling delay as Bloodhouse cut loose on them.
Some other bands played that I didn't really pay attention to because I'm a jerk.
Later that same night Victoria's Freak Heat Waves blew my mind. Totally incredible band.
Freak Heat Waves at the Royal Canadian Legion (Upstairs)
Still jet lagged, I decided that take it kind of easy that first night and went to sleep.
Thursday: Monomyth at the Ship and Anchor
Monomyth took the stage Thursday night at the Ship and Anchor, it was really really loud. Calgary immediately fell in love with their sugary sweet hooks and boyishly good looks.
On Friday afternoon there was a cool backyard show featuring Quaker Parents, Cousins, Dog Day, Freak Heat Waves, Calgary's Faux Fur and Jessica Jalbert from Edmonton. It was really cool seeing so many bands (and people) from home all at once in a stranger's back yard.
I was too busy having my mind blown by Faux Fur to get any pictures of them, they're all under twenty and are making crazier music than most adults I know.
Freak Heat Waves at the cool backyard:
Quaker Parents at the cool backyard:
Cousins at the cool backyard:
Dog Day at the cool backyard:
The rest of Friday was a Four Loko induced blur.
I woke up at the crack of noon to go catch Jon Mckiel at the Palomino Smokehouse. A slight scheduling conflict forced Jon and the Grundy twinz to play a quick, to the point set.
Jon Mckiel at the Palomino:
I followed the trio to local 510 to watch them reconfigure and play as Quaker Parents.
Quaker Parents at Local 510:
Next at Local 510 is Each Other, the band I was most looking forward to seeing. Local 510 is just about bursting at the seams by the time the Montreal/Halifax trio play.
Before the night is over I go see Each Other one more time at the legendary Tubby Dog.
Each Other at Tubby Dog:
This is a thing you can get at Tubby Dog:
In ambitious people news, Halloway "Hind Legs" Jones is looking for intrepid volunteers and interesting bands for the mini-festival/art show by the name of Jonestown.
Happening on August 18, the festival sounds like a doozy. "I'm lining the Bus Stop Theatre (academy style) with paintings and multimedia works I've made in my four years of living here, plus collaborations with lots of amazing local artists," says Jones. "There's some performance work, sculpture and projections in the works as well. Eight bands and four DJs will be scheduled to entertain from 2pm to 2am and there's going to be a free (with $5 cover) backyard Bus Stop barbecue lunch and dinner."
Submissions end June 30, Official lineup announced July 7, so watch this space or jonestownartparty.tumblr.com.
The submission guidelines are as follows:
"What judges are looking for: No acoustic acts; no cover bands; good looks; charm.
How to apply: Send an e-mail to email@example.com (subject: BAND SUBMISSION) that includes a link to a video of your band and less than 30 words (short & sweet, please) about where you’re from and what you’re up to. No attachments, please.
The decision process: Seven judges will watch every video submission; at the end of each video the judges will grade the band’s performance between 1-10. After the votes are tallied, the bands scoring an average of 6 and higher are pushed into the second round. In the second round, judges pick their top 10 bands from the remaining acts. The bands that appear most frequently on lists are pushed into the third and final round, in which each judge defends their choices. Healthy debate ensues. The chosen bands will be notified before July 7th.
For a performance, each selected band is guaranteed $100, one small piece of art, free entry (lunch and dinner included) & drink tickets. Each band is welcome to a three-person guest list. Also: our eternal gratitude."
Sounds good to me.
NXNE is now officially over and I feel like a giant skin bag of garbage. Writing will be minimal. Happy vibes will be a-plenty. Wonderful times were had.
On Saturday afternoon I went to see former Haligonians (and former neighbours) The Danger Bees play in a bordello, apparently:
However the band's high-energy set cut through the vulpine atmosphere and had our heads bobbing. Their brand of crackly indie-pop is grungier than I expected and pretty irresistible. Also - and this is another weird embarrassing Toronto thing - the keyboard player from Moist walked in and I pretty much had a heart attack. He was my favorite Moist member, many moons ago. I kept looking at him (he was digging the band) and texting my friend about it and then I realized I was completely regressing and talking about Moist, and I had to leave. Immediately.
Rode to an ace barbecue, prepared by my lovely pal Lisa:
Then we found out the news that the Radiohead stage collapsed. With the potential influx of 40,000 pissy people headed to Yonge/Dundas square for the Flaming Lips show, we decided to re-route ourselves (I have issues with crowds after a simultaneous pickpocketing/bum-squeezing incident in West Africa a few years ago.) More CanCon. Limblifter reunion! First though, we had to sit through one of the worst bands I've ever seen. I will not mention their name, but their arrhythmic baby-music-filtered-through-unpracticed-Animal Collective-spasticity-vibe forced us outside, where we watched an old drunken man stop, listen to the band for a minute, and throw his head back in unrestrained and cruelly mocking laughter. "I am missing Bloodhouse and the Flaming Lips coming out of a giant vagina right now," we muttered.
Then there was a cute duo called Shellshag. They looked like faintly crunchy, possibly vegan punks, and played simple, sweet little songs about love and magnets. Although the female drummer kept losing the beat on her stripped-down kit, I found her cymbal substitutes - a chain of bells wrapped around her legs and ankles that clanged when she jumped - pretty endearing. They were also from Brooklyn. "I wonder what kind of life these guys lead in Brooklyn," my friend mused.
I had to pee so fucking badly through Limblifter's set that to be honest I can't really attest to how they were. They sounded decent, considering that only one original member - Ryan Dahle - was representing. Sloan's keyboard player, who was assuming guitar duties, wore a Sappy hat. I really tried to stay up front for "Tinfoil" but the pee issue was too much and I ended up hearing it from the back of the bar with two sad friends who had traveled from Montreal for Radiohead and were, in their words, "drinking haterade."
Then the Breastfeeders came on! I have missed this band about 800 times so we were happy to see them. And yep they're pretty much the best. Best outfits, best vibe, best dancing. Whiskey.
Let's fast-forward through most of Sunday, where I endured horrible abuse and suplexes from my seven-year-old nephew, who has bestowed me with the flattering nickname "Uncle Female", and go straight to Sneaky Dee's, where I sweated profusely (pattern!) and watched the last band of the festival for me, a Halifax band, CROSSS. They were looking pretty fresh considering they were on the end of a tour or two. Rhythm mates Ryan Allen and Nathan Doucet were quite excellent, and Andy March's vox spooked and calmed. What a great way to close off this crazy week/weekend.
I have to get back to work, and the crazy guy across the street is playing "When the Saints Come Marching In" on his flute across the street, the way he does when it threatens to rain. All is right in the world.
I'll try and keep this one short because I know you get bored easily and breakfast is calling my name. After biking nearly 15K on Thursday night we decided to stick at one venue the next night. First we met up with some familiar faces at the Exclaim!/Jagermeister BBQ, where free samples were indeed offered and enjoyed. The HPX folks and I marveled at our unintentionally matching tangerine t-shirts. We piled on the lanyards and did our best douchey pose. As there were many actual douches afoot, it was easy to do.
Then a slow stroll down College, where A Taste of Italy was in full swing. This meant steak sandwiches:
And a packed street, closed off to traffic:
And fife bands (loads of fifes! EVERYWHERE.) And little kids jamming with their dads on the street.
We rolled to the venue covered in sweat. I got a beer and realized I didn't smell too great. Whoops. Then METZ started and the entire world imploded.
Not only were METZ the best band I saw that night but I'm pretty sure they will be the best band I see for the rest of this festival. Sorry, everyone else. Recently and rightfully signed to Sub Pop to record their first record, METZ are piercing hellfire, gnashing skrokky punk, perfect screams, and the wildest, most electrifying presence I've seen in ages. I don't know what else to say. It was unreal. This is the feeling I've been chasing and it was buried in METZ's black scratchy heart the entire time.
The Men came on next and the room filled up. Sweat dripped from the ceilings and down my spine as I watched these capable fellows bust out a set of pure fierce rawk. Pages torn from the Dinosaur Jr songbook, and when I say that, I'm including the heavy influence of classic rock and tasty guitar solos in general - my husband astutely stated that they were a group of punk dudes who never quite shook off their parent's Deep Purple and Creedence playlists on summer car trips. Solid solid set. No photos due to moisture.
Then the Death Set came on. They are basically the Australian Japanther. Not quite the same but you get the idea. The somewhat-emptier room turned into a giant joy-dance mosh pit. We fell into tables and people were flying all over the place. Uncomplicated but very fun, and a great way to round out the night.
So yesterday kind of became the anti-NXNE day (sorry, festival organizers). First off, England was facing Sweden, so there was no way I was going to miss that.
So after about four hours of watching the game at The Duke of York and eating a pretty hefty meal of bangers and mash (England!!!) I headed down to The Burroughes building at Queen and Bathurst to watch the Skate 4 Cancer benefit show.
S4C’s concert wasn’t technically part of NXNE, but it was certainly during the same week, so that has to count for something, right? Also, I liked the lineup more than most of the concerts going on at the surrounding venues, with acts Dusted, Great Bloomers and The Wooden Sky fitting the bill.
It was also a pretty unusual venue to see a concert in. From what I can understand, The Burroughes Building was an old furniture warehouse way back in the day, but since then all seven of it’s floors have been converted into loft style workspaces, with the top floor being used primarily for galas and receptions. The building also has a rooftop patio and dance floor, which was worth the price of admission alone to see the Toronto skyline that high up at night.
I was a little skeptical of how the concert would turn out at first. I think S4C is a great cause and I hope if you’re reading this you’ll click on the link posted above and give them a look, but something about the event screamed a little bit too much Toronto hipster for me, being that the bar was purely Pabst Blue Ribbon.
I had never had PBR before that night, but I had always heard two things about it. 1: People who drink it are trying to seem cool. 2: If someone likes the taste they are a lying, because it tastes like a Budweiser took a piss in your mouth after eating asparagus for dinner. I now understand that both of these statements are true. I’m hungover and I only had four drinks over a five hour period. Damn you, PBR!
So early on after the doors opened Dusted took the stage (which was actually just the front of the loft tapered off with electrical wiring). I had never heard of Dusted before this week, but they had been getting a lot of buzz at NXNE and had been hitting multiple venues during the festival. They were a pretty cool band. I think the crowd could have been a bit more responsive, but as a guitar and drums duo they were super fun to watch. The drummer in particular was interesting because he played multiple synthesizers while wailing on the drums, which is obviously a pretty dexterous endeavor. Near the end of the set I realized the guitarist was in Holy Fuck, but at this point I’m too tired to continue researching if I am correct in that assumption.
Great Bloomers hit the stage ten minutes after that to play one of the best and biggest shows I’ve ever seen them perform.
I’ve caught them in Halifax over the years and if you saw them open for The Hold Steady two years ago, this show was quite a bit bigger and rowdier. This band seems to be a magnet for extremely drunk girls dancing uncontrollably at the front of the stage and this night was no exception. The band played a mix of songs off their new album (which I think frontman Lowell Sostomi said will be wrapped up next week and should be coming out soon) and a surprisingly good amount of old ones. The old ones in particular sounded amazing and had a lot more depth live than their original recordings.
After a short break The Wooden Sky came on to a crowd that had thinned out a bit over the evening as people broke off to see more NXNE shows. The band sounded great as usual, but something about the loft space weirdly didn’t do the band’s sonic palette justice with a bit of the more atmospheric numbers being muddled out over the crowd. They did a trio of pretty tight covers at the end of the show with Nirvana’s “All Apologies” and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Last Dance with Mary Jane” and “American Girl”. It was a pretty great performance and I hope next time they swing through Halifax they get posted at St. Matthews because they would kill that place.
I was then offered a ticket to see Radiohead, so I decided to head home and get some rest to prepare for the 36,000-person crowd at Downsview Park on Saturday.
And with that, goodbye NXNE! I wish I could see more of you, but duty calls!
Woke up on Thursday feeling a little fuzzy, but there was another Cold Warps show at 2pm so there was no time to dither around, moaning.
We headed down to JangBang Bar and Grill, a tiny little spot that serves Korean tacos. There we sat in a fog of booze sweat and found a clutch of Halifax folk, including the estimable and babely Shannon Webb-Campbell and Stephanie Johns. Army Girls opened up. These Blocks Recording Club kids have been getting lots of buzz in T.O. and justifiably so, I think. Lead singer/guitarist Carmen Elle is a ripper and oozes easy, unassuming cool. As Steph and Shannon walked in she was playing the guitar behind her head as easily as brushing her teeth, and the room kind of gasped around me, and I'm pretty sure I was grinning like a fool. Good times, Army Girls. Listen to the jams here.
Then Cold Warps played again, and did very well, considering they were probably more tired than I was and had to drive to Sarnia later that day. A bunch of folks who had been at the show the previous evening at Parts and Labor were there, I noticed. We danced. It ruled.
After a bit of a rest stop at home, we headed out again to check out Hind Legs - backed up by Alex Currie and Jenna Empey of Fuck Montreal - at Rancho Relaxo. Again there were tons of Halifax folk around and it was super fun. We also enjoyed a slice of Massimo's pizza, which I have been craving since I first moved here.
Then we biked to the Drake Hotel. I am not the biggest fan of the Drake. The drinks are expensive as hell and it feels like everyone is coolly appraising each other and no one laughs. But we were intrigued by the possibility of catching B L A C K I E, who the internet described as both "harsh-wave" and "the Hulk to Gil Scott-Heron's Bruce Banner" (props to Little Red Umbrella on that one!) First we had to sit through the Toronto group Doom Squad. I wondered if their name was a cute play on Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad and then I realized I didn't care. Rather than attempt to describe the band, I will share a photo of my notes:
Then we watched B L A C K I E set up his own sound system, which appeared to be a bunch of heavy duty amps piled on top of each other. Dude took off his shirt and tapped his foot with his back to us for awhile. Then he hit play on his iPod and BOOM. YELL YELL YELL! Lyrics I can't decipher! Chest and head beating! Seems very angry! Getting in your face! Grinding on the floor! Jumping around fuck! Very sweaty indeed!
This one was taken right after he kicked a glass candle holder off a table and smashed it.
For someone described as an "affirmative rapper" this guy seemed really angry. My companion accurately described him as the best hardcore frontman without a band that he'd ever seen. It felt like he was yelling about important, genuine stuff, but over the wall of noise-grime and his screams, I couldn't understand it. While I was glad I saw a bit of B L A C K I E, there is only so much of this type of shit that I can take in an hour. In some ways I am very grateful that this anti-music spectacle happened at the Drake. We left and giggled as a woman in high heels and a fancy dress and a man in a pressed suit walked jovially down the stairs, completely unaware of what they were walking into.
Then we biked to the Velvet Underground for Cousins. Lots of Halifax stuff going on! I guess that means I miss Halifax. There was also a decent buzz for Cousins' set (they were due to play at 2am that night too, and are playing again tonight at a $30 BBQ on Manning Street.)
There were some sound issues and guitar shit happening but Aaron and Leah were typically charming about it and the audience loved them. There was a fortyish guy who looked like Michael Douglas in Falling Down beside me wearing shirt buttoned up to his collar and a black tie, and he was looooving it, fist-pumping and whooping it up.
Then we went to the El Mocambo to check out A Place to Bury Strangers. Billed as the "loudest band in New York," we were duly stoked, as was the packed room. The first song was pretty insane - heavy bass and propulsive drumming, crazy spooky lights and a weird thrum that exploded into wild, Jesus and Mary Chain-style guitar histrionics. Not a lot of vocals. They are like uber heavy weird post-rock. Cool stuff, especially if you like weed, but not something I would put on while cleaning the house. As the guitarist and bass player scraped their instruments against the ceiling of the venue, I was pretty enthralled. As the set continued and each song sounded progressively the same, I was less enthralled. Then a bunch of drunk girls kept falling over and we left.
Then at last we went to the Silver Dollar Room to see the band I had been waiting for ALL DAY. I fucking loved Bleached. The two Clavin sisters Jennifer and Jessica - formerly of the mighty Mika Miko - delivered a note-perfect set culled from their three 7", "Searching for the Past," "Carter," and "Squeeze." Perfect sunshine pop-punk with a tiny bit of grit. They also unleashed the sweetest cover of the Misfit's "Horror Business" that I've ever heard. Best band of the day, and they play for two more nights so you (or me, most likely) get to see them again!
Then this adorable girl came up afterwards as we stood outside and handed us demos of her own two-piece band, Puffy Shoes. I'm listening to the CD right now. It's awesome. I thought she was so great that we took a photo together.
Then it was 4am, so we went home and DIED. See you later!
I’ve always been enamoured by Asian music. Well, at least Asian interpretations of Western music. You may or may not remember (probably not) my name-dropping of Japanese kraut-rock enthusiasts Cornelius in 2011's Best of Music year end issue. But my love of Japanese art rock doesn’t stop there. Who could ignore the stoner riffs of glam-metal juggernauts Boris, or the nauseating arrangements of Japanese psychedelic godfathers Boredoms.
But when it comes to Asian pop, I know nothing about the history of rock n’ roll in China. So after picking up my NXNE press pass I headed down to Toronto’s National Film Board headquarters to watch the Canadian premiere of Andrew Field’s Down: Indie Rock in the PRC.
It turns out there was a reason I hadn’t heard of many Chinese rock bands—they didn’t really exist until a few years ago.
The film charts the country's affair with popular music, beginning with a massive performance by Wham! in the mid-1980’s. This is the point when rock n’ roll first reached the People’s Republic of China. Yes, you read that correctly. Wham! brought rock n’ roll to China.
But as society progressed a slew of new punk bands cropped up in China. Drawing influences from Nirvana and Joy Division came bands like Subs, Carsick Cars, Lonely China Day, and PK 14. Even though this sounds like the bill from a high school battle of the bands in 1994, the bands were surprisingly good, delivering a kind of sludgy interpretation of ‘90s slack-rock with production that resembled the punk sheen of At the Drive-In.
It was a pretty eye-opening experience. And with that I went back to my brother’s apartment and picked up some Mamma’s Pizza and fell asleep watching Game of Thrones.
After some pretty lucid dreams involving multiple beheadings and overtly gratuitous incestual sex, my brother and I grabbed something to eat at Whole Foods (because we’re verrry punk rock) and headed down to catch headliners Bad Religion at the free punk showcase at Yonge and Dundas Square.
Now, I grew up in Toronto, but I was never living in the city when Yonge and Dundas made it’s transformation from creepy wasteland into a pseudo-Times Square/cultural hot spot for the city. When I think of Yonge and Dundas, I think of glue-sniffing derelicts trying to rob me outside HMV and people buying drugs at Popeye’s, not free punk rock shows.
Anyways, if you end up heading to the free Matt Good show tonight or Saturday’s Flaming Lips concert, let me give you a tip: don’t arrive three hours after the show has started, because you’re not going to see anything.
No joke, this was the best vantage point I could find. Actually, that’s note true.
This was taken after finding a bunch of garbage to stand on top of. We actually debated going to Milestone’s and getting a seat on the patio four storeys above the venue, but that was even a little too anti-punk rock for two dudes who just had dinner in Yorkville. So yeah, get here early for concerts.
I didn’t get a chance to see Bad Religion when they played the Forum a few years ago, but if I know the Forum, I’m sure it sounded like poop. Nothing against Bad Religion, but a bingo hall with a tin roof usually doesn’t have the best acoustics. But the sound at Y&D was surprisingly clear for a bunch of punk rock blasting through the open air between skyscrapers and LCD televisions. I attribute this to the fact that unlike most punk bands Bad Religion has three guitarists, so they sound pretty freakin' powerful.
For a band that is made up of a bunch of guys in their late 40’s, Bad Religion sounded insanely tight and looked pretty healthy (minus all the balding). There was the usual pointless stage banter that accompanies most punk shows—jokes about Reagan, Celine Dion and Justin Bieber—but there were a few gems amongst all the nonsense. Graffin mentioned that the band had a new album in the works they expect to come out next year (which would be their 16th. Who are they, Yes?) and bassist Jay Bentley said the band’s next tour would be a strictly Canadian endeavour.
And with that we left before the encore to beat the crowd and find a good bar playing the OKC/Miami game, bringing a close to my mostly un-punk rock day of punk rock at NXNE 2012.
Hey guys! I'm doing some NXNE stuff and blogging about it right here. This is my first NXNE EVER so I have no idea what I'm doing. I guess the purpose of the blog is for you to learn from my mistakes.
A really good thing to do before you attend a big multi-day festival in Toronto is not lose all your ID. Unfortunately, I did this during a move across town. Fortunately, I have some wrinkles and a generally harried expression most of the time, so I am using these attributes to help get into bars at the moment.
After I picked up my pass on Wednesday afternoon I went to check out a talk with Sam Sutherland, who writes for Exclaim! and just finished a big book about Canadian punk, and Damien Abraham, who is the lead singer of Fucked Up. For an hour or so they talked about their favorite modern punk bands and their enduring influence. Sometimes when two people talk about punk it can be a bit of a dick-measuring contest, but these guys were hilarious as well as being insanely knowledgeable and articulate. Damien told a story about Henry Rollins ignoring him and then later waving to him from the window of his Prius. "I guess I was the guy whose name he wished he could almost quite remember," he said.
In between stories and jokes they played songs. I had heard about Toronto legends the Viletones before but had never listened to their music, and well, now I'm a fan. Also I didn't realize the lead singer, Steven Leckie, is in American Psycho for a minute.
Afterwards I biked over to College Street for a zine launch. I am still a really shitty biker and by the time I got off the bike and entered the store I was panting like George Wendt. The launch was cute and held in a vintage store, the type of place that had pen and ink drawings of James Brown mugshots on the wall:
After awhile I had eaten all the celery and hummus and I realized I couldn't afford to buy records or vintage clothes, so I left. The zine is called Static Zine and it's fun. You can check it out online here.
Then I went home and Eric and I biked over to Parts and Labor to see COLD WARPS!
My old leathery face got us through the door and into some cold beers. Lots of friendly former Haligonians in the crowd. The bar had a nice scuzzy basement-y type feeling that made us feel right at home. Then the band started and we all jumped around and sang along. A guy kept stepping on my feet so I poured my beer on him. AND WE ALL LAUGHED.
Everyone was dancing and sweating. Paul wore a tank top and kept jumping into the crowd and making wry remarks. A guy beside me kept looking around and grinning beatifically, like he couldn't believe this was happening. I feel like Toronto doesn't see many bands like Cold Warps, so when they do, it's twice as fun. Summer's here!
I missed the second band due to smoking and returned for the K Holes - a wonderfully-named group who performed weird swampy noisy songs that reminded me a bit of Siouxie and the Banshee mixed with Fear. I actually don't know if I liked them or not but they were fun to watch.
Then we biked home and I pretty much died, being a) old and b) slightly drunk. Hopefully we will get better at biking as the week progresses, and hopefully I won't get carded! Stay tuned!
Sometimes I like to run on the weekends. Certainly that makes up for a week of sitting on my duff, right? But despite what my "recently played" might tell you, one does not run on Waka Flocka Flame alone. Pigeon Row's newest Select Series compilation, How Did We Even Get Here?, has enough punchy jams to take any weekend jogger around the park and back.
Trevor Murphy put the compilation together and counts it as a good sampler of "a scene that that thrives on angular, aggressive music steeped in a rich Halifax tradition of math-rock and post-punk." The compilation shines a light on Halifax music's more aggressive underbelly. Expect starts, stops, math up the wazoo and unique time signatures from bands like VKNGS, The Wides, fRAME, Force Fields, Kuato and more.