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David Byrne Can Borrow My Sports Jacket Anytime 

I feel like last night’s Arts & Crafts showcase at the Marquee was the show at Pop Explosion that people felt the most compelled to go see. By compelled I mean people felt they should go see the bands, not that they necessarily should go see them. Not that that’s a bad thing, but the whole vibe upstairs was one of curiosity rather than passionate fandom. I had that same curiosity. Apostle of Hustle, Most Serene Republic and Young Galaxy are the lesser known artists on the Arts & Crafts label, with Andrew Whiteman (ex- Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, current Broken Social Scene collaborator), the Apostle himself being the most high profile member.

Grand Theft Bus got things going and turned quite a few heads in the audience, including my own. Even though they’ve been around for a while and have played Halifax many times, I’ve never had the pleasure of seeing them. Young Galaxy took the stage afterwards. Originally from Vancouver (woot woot left coast!) now based in Montreal, the group get comparisons to shoegazer acts like Slowdive and Galaxie 500, but based on their live show, the boy/girl back and forth of leads Stephen Ramsay and Catherine McCandless reminded me more of labelmates Stars with out Torquil Campbell’s onstage douchebag persona (I love the band but something about affected sincerity just rubs me the wrong way). Most Serene Republic, a multi-instrument and instrumentalist group of kids (they looked like they were 20 years old!) certainly have the chops to be a great band, but despite the technical flashes I kind of feel like they lack the focus to write memorable tunes. This was also the case with Apostle of Hustle. Andrew Whiteman’s David Byrne Goes to Cuba thing got old fast for me (maybe it’s the 5 hours sleep I’ve been getting each night since HPX started?) and with both Apostle of Hustle and Most Serene Republic I got the impression the bands came up with the concept of the band before they even picked up an instrument together. Oh yeah, Whiteman’s rant about a restaurant on Gottingen closing (“Why is everything good in the world shut down?”) and claim that “We didn’t ask to be born” kind of bugged me to.

Now, the scene downstairs in Hell’s Kitchen was MUCH different. I managed to catch a bit of These Electric Lives who sounded somewhere along the lines like Motion City Soundtrack (to be honest I didn’t hear enough to make a great judgement) but their lack of pretension and willingness to simply rock was refreshing. Up next was my real reason for coming to the Marquee – Toronto’s Small Sins. If the OC were still on TV this would be Seth Cohen’s favourite band. While their records which are essentially written and played by front-man and bass player Thomas D’Arcy, their live show amps everything up to 11, especially the handclaps and assorted flourishes provided by Kevin “the Clapper” Hilliard. Ever seen any one take a rock stance (legs split far apart bent slightly at the knee, look of intense rocking on face) to play tambourine? I have, cause that’s what Hilliard did last night. Small Sins tight, dancy pop-rock tunes were undeniably a hit with the few who ventured into Hell’s Kitchen to see them. I think my girlfriend put it best saying that while Small Sins were a perfectly sharpened pencil the bands upstairs didn’t even know if they wanted to be a pen, pencil or a paint brush.

I heard that Tegan and Sara’s two gigs were great earlier this week and that openers Northern State really took everyone by surprise (in a good way). Tonite I’m going to check out Attack in Black who I’m sure will be blazingly spectacular at the Pavillion (cause I like being the oldest dude in the room) and then it’s back to the Marquee (again) for Dog Day, Brent Randall and (in my opinion) Halifax’s favourite Coldplay wannabes In-Flight Safety (look, they do what they do really well, but it’s just not that original. You could probably argue that for any band I’ve raved about in this blog as well, but I’m the one doing the writing here, so for now that’s how it stands.) I’m looking forward to the Museum Pieces in Hell’s Kitchen as well. I’ll (hopefully) make it to the Just Friend’s Brunch at Gus’s Pub tomorrow morning and to Canzine in the afternoon before the big Eric’s Trip gig back at (wait for it) the Marquee tomorrow night. Oh and I haven’t gone yet, but at somepoint I intend to check out Chris Smith’s photo exhibit at the Lord Nelson and so should you.

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