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I think I died and lived again during the eighth OBEY Convention in Halifax last weekend. The annual meeting of contemporary music and art is one of the most thoughtfully curated festivals in the country, and it’s never been more inspiring or influential. Programmer Andrew Patterson told an audience that OBEY is designed to offer a narrative. This can be any narrative you choose, created by however you experience it. Some of the artists and acts were so progressive, uncomfortable and confusing that I found various personal hells. By the third day, I ascended into a heaven from which I’ll probably never return. This year more than any other, OBEY offered incredible balance. Here are some of my peaks:
THURSDAY NIGHT DANCE PARTY
On Thursday night, Andrew Neville (Moon) created a hot dance session in the mini-room at Menz Bar, mixing Joy Division, Da Rude and some Gucci Mane (#FreeGucci) with a passion that’s usually gripped tight to the chest. Neville openly gave blessing after blessing before DJ Fadzwa’s eclectic set.
CONTAINER, GASHRAT, BUCK GOOTER
Rhode Island’s Container (Ren Schofield) is a bridge to many things, like from punk to techno, from acid house to hip-hop, from 90s London rave to present day gay bar. His work is ascetic in its simplicity and regular in its execution, but more intense than any electronic act I’ve ever experienced. I had a panic attack and then almost threw up. The harsh frequencies isolated nerves in my stomach that made my core tremble. The floor was shaking so hard I thought it would collapse. Everyone was talking in tongues.
Then the Bus Stop Theatre opened for Montreal’s Gashrat, who told me last month, “We are a ROCK band and we love to ROCK, it’s not complicated.” And really, it’s not. It was as easy as four women shredding, ripping and destroying heavy songs. I started praying to them, screaming, “This fucking rules,” like Hail Marys into the void. They played scuzzy, hard, clean, compact, visceral, staggered and smooth. The crowd circled around them, protected and illuminated in a light that faded on all sides into darkness. It was a baptism and I was soaked. Then OBEY summoned Virigina’s Buck Gooter, an unlikely duo making “primal industrial blues” that comes off like a twisted sacrifice from unseen shadows of the Appalachians, a creativity unleashed by calling upon mysterious things. Billy Brat played a theremin with a bubble gun and later held a speaker in people’s faces as Terry Turtle tore his guitar into halves. It was surreal, spooky and the start of my descent into madness. I lived in this obscurity until the sunrise.
BONNIE DOON, HOMESHAKE
Ottawa’s Bonnie Doon was as fresh as the afternoon rain, falling between Wire and surf-rock, cut-off t-shirts and discordances. Check them out. By midnight, Menz Bar was full (totally full) of worshippers for Montreal’s Homeshake featuring Peter Sagar and Brad Loughead (Each Other). The place was packed, likely because Sagar used to play with Mac DeMarco, which is kind of a big deal, I guess? Anyway, the only thing I learned about Sagar in our short time together was that he’s a big Hall & Oates fan. But the set itself was very special, even if some people didn’t understand it. Here’s why it ruled: it’s a rarity to see a band so well-rehearsed that unity appears to be the simplest thing on heaven and earth, but we know it’s not. Few bands are on the same wave together as Homeshake, pulling off nuanced ultra-jazz flourishes, soul drums, Brad on bass, R&B rhythms. This was the celestial part of OBEY; this was the ascension. Sagar’s languid vocals hover just above the noodles. He’s a noodle angel. They played “Chowder” with more power than the recording, and “Making a Fool of You” with more clarity, more surprise in the changes, more precision than you’d think possible, and yet effortlessly. That’s the jazz.
It was a beautiful day for church as everyone filed into the Halifax Music Co-Op for Gift of God, which couldn’t have been more apt or terrorizing to the senses; the trio creates a disorienting assault that pierces limbs to the floor, one by one. Then later, at the Common Roots Urban Farm, as the sun hung low in the sky and the breeze moved through us, Nick Dourado played very inspired organ and sax, his breathing tempered by whatever mystical spirits have been unearthed in that place. I sat stupefied thinking about what had happened over the previous 36 hours. This was the best OBEY Convention yet.
Though it was recorded in the thick of a wild Nova Scotia winter in a cabin in the woods, two-time JUNO Award winning Old Man Luedecke's new album, Domestic Eccentric will be your backyard bonfire soundtrack. Recorded with multi-Grammy award winner Tim O'Brien, Domestic Eccentric will be released July 24 on True North Records and is available for preorder now.
Have a listen to "The Early Days", an ode to parenthood and change.
2. The Girl In The Pearl Earring
3. The Briar And The Rose
4. Brightest On The Heart
5. The Early Days
6. Wait A While
7. Low On The Hog
8. Real Wet Wood
9. Old High Way Of Love
10. Chester Boat Song
11. Now We Got A Kitchen
12. Hate What I Say
13. Year Of The Dragon
14. Happy Ever After
Local electronic artist Wyon gives a sneak peek of "Electric Boots," a track from the upcoming Equal at Night, released Tuesday, June 2. Wyon (AKA composer, multi-instrumentalist and sound designer Lawrence Curry) conceptualized this downtempo, atmospheric album after reading Charles Dickens' 1860 essay, Night Walks. Get into some historically inspired electronic music on a grey Friday, why don't you?
1. House Call
2. Regency Dance
3. Glimpse the Fire
4. Strokes of Four
5. Debtor’s Door
7. Electric Boots
8. The Last Degree
Violinist Giora Schmidt kicked off the Scotia Festival of Music this Monday with a performance of Bach’s Chaconne. It was a gutsy way to get things going. Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin is widely praised as one of the greatest tests in music, demanding not only virtuosic skill but serious emotional depth.
Giora strutted onstage and plunged into the piece before the audience had even settled themselves down. But he stole their attention for a thrilling 15 minutes of wild violin skills and sensitive artistry. (Except for 30 excruciating seconds when someone painfully unwrapped a candy, which, given the circumstances, seemed like a total farce).
It looks like this year’s Scotia Festival, a two-week celebration of all things chamber music, will live up to its bold opening.
Architek Percussion, a four-man rhythm troupe from Montreal, is one of the more experimental acts on the varied program. Surrounded by drums, cymbals, tin cans, marimbas, beer bottles and more, they resemble mad scientists in a sort of percussive laboratory.
“We usually play recent compositions,” says Architek member Mark Morton. “But at Scotia Festival we get to play a lot of the classics. These pieces are tried and true crowd pleasers, and a lot of contemporary percussion music emulates them.”
Among those classic pieces are Béla Bartók’s 1937 composition Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, which Morton describes as a “tour de force” with “monstrous” piano parts. And on Sunday they’re playing John Cage’s 1941 piece Third Construct, one of their favourites.
“Third Construct is a blast to play,” says Architek member Alessandro Valiante. “You hear something different every time you play it.”
You can catch Architek Percussion, Giora Schmidt, and a host of other world-class musicians at the Scotia Festival of Music, which runs at the Sir James Dunn Theatre until June 7. For info go to www.scotiafestival.ns.ca.
Thursday May 28
It’s been said that “if Keith Richards, Joan Jett and Ray Charles could somehow spawn a love child, it’d be Romi Mayes” and truer words have never been spoken. Winnipeg’s raw blues-rock goddess struts to the Seahorse with special guest Thomas Matheson in tow to release her new album, Devil On Both Shoulders. The Seahorse Tavern, 2037 Gottingen Street, $7, 7pm
Friday May 29
Endless Nameless w/La La Loverings, Dead Broke
Everything you’ve ever needed in one place. A Nirvana tribute, a Pixies tribute and Oakville punk rockers Dead Broke make up a bill so eclectic, you may not need to see any other shows this weekend. Gus Pub, 2605 Agricola Street, $8, 10pm
The Franklin Electric w/Quiet Parade
Folk-pop outfit The Franklin Electric are skyrocketing. Fresh off tours with Half Moon Run, City and Colour and Ben Howard, the foursome is on a solo tear across eastern Canada before taking festival season by storm. Catch them at the Seahorse so you can say you knew them when. The Seahorse Tavern, 2037 Gottingen Street, $15, 7-10pm
Saturday May 30
The Scoop Outs w/The Odd Socks, The Cannisters, The Stutz-Bearcats
Dartmouth punk, garage rock and folk to cure what ails you. Or to ail you even harder. Jacob’s Lounge, 106 Portland Street, Dartmouth, $5, 9pm
The Brood w/This Ship, Dendrosound
Local staples The Brood and This Ship co-headline this artsy rock show, but the real ringer is ska/surf act Dendrosound. Where have all the ska bands gone? Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola Street, $7, 10pm
System Shit w/North End Metal All-Stars, Spew, Vicious
It’s been three years since the North End Metal All-Stars have played Halifax, but they’re banging their luscious heads of hair down to Spring Garden with friends System Shit, Spew and Vicious. Spew only recently returned from a hiatus, so this is a hairy homecoming for the ages. Oasis Pub, 5561 Spring Garden Road, $7, 10pm
Sunday May 31
The wind must be blowing hard across the prairies, because so many badass female performers from the flatter regions of the country are appearing in the city. Regina’s Belle Plaine is blowing into town for her third appearance in Halifax since September. Taz Records, 1521 Grafton Street, free, 1pm
“Mandarin Collars With Women,” Long Long Long
“Gimme Gimme Gimme,” Dirty Projectors
"Pulses,” Steve Reich from Music for 18 Musicians
“Sometimes (Mix #9),” Erykah Badu
“Smells Like Content,” The Books
Belwiz Entertainment is throwing an event charmingly called Summer Bling with Memphis, Tennessee's Snootie Wild and Long Beach, California's O.T. Genasis and a DJ battle. Here's what we know: It's all ages, July 18 at 8pm at the Halifax Forum and tickets will be available soon. Tickets range from $35-$49 with VIP tickets going for $80.
Before playing a cross-Canadian tour kick-off show this Thursday, May 28 at Menz & Mollyz Bar with Quaker Parents, Harley Alexander and the Universal Lovers and Municipality ($6, 9pm), Mauno's Nick Everett takes a break from writing chill pop tunes to answer a few questions. But he doesn't reveal too much though, mystery is important.
Q: Can you give me a brief history of the band?
A: Mauno started in September and since then we've toured the Maritimes and to Toronto a handful of times, most notably on separate tours with Vulva Culture and Omhouse. I've been writing these songs for a couple of years and brought Eliza Niemi and Evan Matthews on to help me finish them.
Q: Where is this tour taking you? Two months is a long time for Canada, it'll be a nice pace, I bet.
A: We're going as far as Victoria, meeting Gianna Lauren in Calgary and playing as her band through BC and then back east. We're taking so long because we're not just traveling as Mauno—between the four of us we have four projects (Gianna Lauren, Mauno, Nick Everett solo and Eliza Niemi solo. That way we can use less gas, play a few shows, and hang out in a city for a little longer.
Q: Do you have more recordings planned?
A: We do. We're on the verge of finishing a new album and we'll have a single out for the start of our tour. We recorded it here in Evan's basement (where Vulva Culture did their "Where we practice" thing) and at Drones (Mike Wright/Haligon diaspora's space) in Montreal. We've been mixing with our friend Alex Sheppard who teaches at OIART in Ontario. We'll be releasing it in August through Canadian and American labels that we can't yet disclose.
Q: Are you all planning on staying in Halifax for the forseeable future?
A: Our tour is spanning the entire summer and into September. Going west and back June and July, Ontario and the Maritimes (Newfoundland inclusive) in August, and then over the pond in September to play with Gianna and as Mauno.
Q: How is the songwriting split up? Does someone bring a song to the table finished and everyone fleshes it out? What inspires the lyrics? Do you keep a notebook?
A: We write as most bands write—snippets turned into full songs. Anyone brings something forward and we flesh it out. We're currently working on two new songs for tour, one where Evan wrote the guitar part, Nick the vocals, and then as a band we made it a real song.
Q: Can you tell me how you settled on the name?
A: Mauno is Eliza's grandfather's name. It's a really common Finnish name—kind of like John or Mike. We settled on it because we liked the sound of the word but there's a better story. While Mauno's dad, Albert (Eliza's great-grandfather) was very musical, Mauno wasn't. Albert had a huge influence on Eliza's father, Art, so it seems to have skipped Mauno entirely. We see our using the name Mauno as a reclaiming of Mauno's understandable frustration toward music, reclaiming his name as the missing link. Also, it's pronounced Mao-No.
I can't even believe I'm even typing the word "October" right now, but apparently it's a real month that exists (lalalalala), and it's coming. To soothe the thought of October's brisk winds before we've even felt June's balmy breezes is the prolific husband and wife duo of Whitehorse, riding in to town on a white horse to play at the Rebecca Cohn, Thursday, October 8. Supporting their latest album, Leave No Bridge Unburned, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland will perform new, more lush tracks while you relax in some soft ass seats, y'all.
Tickets go on sale Friday, May 29 at 12pm. $31.50 in advance and $36.50 day of show (including tax and CIF), available at the Dalhousie Arts Centre box office, by phone at (902) 494-3820 and www.sonicconcerts.com. Additional fees may apply.
Like most bands with many records’ worth of songs, it was a wide-ranging set that should’ve satisfied longtime fans, radio-single lovers and casual visitors. They got “Mr. Jones” out of the way on song three (of 20), singer Adam Duritz taking many liberties with melody and timing, mostly ignoring the chorus’ falsetto. Other August jams included a boisterous “Rain King,” “Anna Begins” and a call-and-response “Omaha,” while Recovering the Satellites was repped by Duritz’s singular seated performance for a faithful version of “A Long December.” For a high-energy show, the ballads went over really well—“Colourblind” and the show-closing “Holiday in Spain.”
The six other Crows, many of whom have been in the band for most of its life, are a tight unit with nary a missed note in two hours, though guitarists David Immergluck and Dan Vickrey could dial it way back—I’d written down “too many solos” by song four.
The latest album Somewhere Under Wonderland got a lot of play as expected, the highlight being the terrific eight-minute opener “Palisades Park,” which kicked-off the three song encore. The biggest question mark going in was “Who is a Counting Crows fan 20 years on?” and the surprising answer is “everybody”—the respectable concert bowl crowd spanned the gamut from high school teens to old dudes to third-life crisis-havers (cough), most of whom knew most of the words. The band skipped “Round Here,” so cross your fingers for 2037.
THURSDAY MAY 21
Primenine, The Donairs, Abandon Suburbia, The Cathartics Punk and pop-punk acts to get the blood flowing. In your veins and probably out of your nose if you get too close. Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola Street, $6, 10:30pm
Oh Susanna American-born, Canadian-raised Oh Susanna is the best of both worlds. Combining Canadian alt-country with flavours of classic Americana, the delicate and accurate twang of Oh Susanna’s voice is only topped by her lyrical prowess. Whether she’s singing about heartbreak or happiness, every line on her latest release Namedropper is spot on and goosebump-inducing. Move over, Gillian Welch. The Carleton, 1685 Argyle Street, $17.50, 8:30pm
FRIDAY MAY 22
Billie Dre & The Poor Boys: The Last Finger One final night with Billie Dre and the Poor Boys. I suspect that the hometown boys won’t go gentle into that good night, but rather go out thrashing and screaming. The Seahorse Tavern, 2037 Gottingen Street, $10/$12, 9pm
Spring Party w/Skratch Bastid The sun is out, the birds are chirping, the trees are in full bloom, you’re puking on your shoes on Gottingen Street after a few too many vodka cranberries at Skratch Bastid’s spring bash. Marquee Ballroom, 2037 Gottingen Street, $15, 10pm
SATURDAY MAY 23
Williston Irvine Album Release Singer-songwriter Williston Irvine drops his debut album Songs of Last December with a little help from his friends Hillsburn and Together Apart. If the debut single Gas Station Blues is any indication, Irvine has poured his heart, soul and harmonica into the album. The Company House, 2202 Gottingen Street, $5, 9pm
Bloody Diamonds w/Costume Party, Jacob Strang & The High Class Hussies Despite their busy touring schedule, Bloody Diamonds proves they haven’t forgotten about us here in Halifax. The duo’s homecoming show comes right before they relocate full-time to the Big Smoke, so you can reunite just in time to say goodbye. Gus’ Pub, 2605 Agricola Street, $8/$10, 10pm
Funded by Casino Nova Scotia's sacks of cash, a brand new Nova Scotia Music Hall of Fame branches will be opened at both the Halifax and Sydney Casino locations. Who will grace the halls? Feel free to spitball some ideas in the comments. The Halifax site is scheduled to open this fall and Sydney's branch will follow in 2016. Memorabilia (the Thrush Hermit ROCK & ROLL sign? Carla Gillis' guitar pick?) and inductees will be decided by the Music Nova Scotia team announced in June. A gala celebrating music of the east coast and the inaugural inductees will be held October 15 at the Casino Nova Scotia Schooner Showroom.
Summer rap fun continues! East Coast Lifestyle, Second World Collective, Sure Fire Entertainment and thisisafterdark.com (it takes a village, y'all) are bringing the inimitable A$AP Ferg to town July 3, at the Cunard Centre (doors at 8pm, show at 9pm). Tickets available May 28 at 10am, prices vary from $39.50 to $59.50 at Ticket Atlantic Box Offices, participating Atlantic Superstores, online at www.ticketatlantic.com, by phone (902) 451-1221 or toll Free 1-877-451-1221. FB event, click here!
My dinner suggestion while ASAP Ferg is in town: ASAP Rocky's kebabs.
Non-conventional workplace friendly video by former Haligonian Andrew Hines below (man, why would you serve A$AP Ferg broken yolks though?):
The Almighty Rhombus w/Special Costello, Orchards
Hailing from the only place in the universe that looks more like the moon than the moon itself (Sudbury, Ontario) The Almighty Rhombus are far from home and probably stoked to see something other than rocks. Welcome the pop rock outfit to the city, but show up early for local acts Special Costello and Orchards. Gus' Pub, $5, 10pm
FRIDAY MAY 15
Hilotrons w/Gianna Lauren
Hot on the heels of the vinyl release of their latest album To Trip With Terpsichore, experimental Quebec fivesome Hilotrons are touring the maritimes with local fave Gianna Lauren. The Company House, $10, 8:30pm
The Brood w/Owen Meaney’s Batting Stance, Best Fiends
Part of the Carleton’s seventh anniversary concert series, this lineup boasts music to your ears, food for thought and probably some more idioms. The Brood are witty and sharp while maintaining their unhinged performance style, and they’re joined in this lineup by other brainy bands Owen Meaney’s Batting Stance and Best Fiends. The Carleton, $5, 9pm
SATURDAY MAY 16
The Lazys w/Black City Avenger
After giving an electrifying performance for the unsuspecting people of Dartmouth last year, Australian hard rockers The Lazys are back, this time touring their self-titled debut album. Presented by the Halifax Urban Folk Festival, join the down-under rockers and local act Black City Avenger if you want to Shake It Like You Mean It. The Seahorse Tavern, $10, 8pm
SUNDAY MAY 17
Los Angeles based DJ Party Favor turns up on a Sunday to celebrate the long weekend. Local support comes from Mixre and JAYHUBZ. Dance off all the barbecued food and beer from the holiday. Reflections Cabaret, $10, 10pm
After nine years and 27 album releases, boutique metal label Diminished Fifth Records is closing up shop. Voted Best Record Label in Halifax by Coast readers five consecutive years, Diminished Fifth's departure from the scene marks the end of an era for Halifax's metal community as owner/operator Josh Hogan looks forward to bigger and beardier things.
If you're looking for a face-melting fix before the final farewell, you're in luck. All of D5R's releases are on clearance, with CDs on sale for $5 and digital downloads for $3.
When you're through with stockpiling discount metal, alleviate any buyer's remorse with this tune from D5R darlings Death Valley Driver.
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