Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Playing catch-up.

Sappyfest is coming right up, in just over a week. Also, I'm moving back to Sackville tomorrow, and seeing The Got to Get Got play again the day after that.

Also, I know I'm behind on that SaltyJam day two post. I'll get on that on the weekend. I have it mostly drafted, I just haven't finished it. I'm sorry! I'll give you the lineup here, though, of the bands I saw:

The Tom Fun Orchestra at the Boardwalk Stage

The Envy
16th Avenue
Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees
Tokyo Police Club
at the Water Street Tent

The Shinjuku Mad
Ruby Jean & the Thoughtful Bees
at a-khord.

So! I'll get on all of that, yeah? Sorry for this!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

SaltyJam! Day One

I have to say, I was a little disappointed by the first day of SaltyJam (Friday the 10th!). I didn't catch much of Gisto, the first act, but what I heard... enh. I mean, I like reggae as much as the next white electro fan (probably a bit more), but he bored me.

Bomba though, they were interesting. A rhythm-based latin collective of some kind, from all across Latin America, from Mexico to Cuba to Peru to Chile and more, I'm sure. It was a really interesting combination of sounds--there was a violin added to the mix of percussive instruments and keys, and it was just altogether interesting and rather enjoyable!

Third up, and it still confuses me as to why they weren't the headlining act, was Montreal's Plants and Animals. They put on one hell of a show--though not as good as the one in Sackville back in January. This one was still fab, though, in the midst of a great blue-and-white striped tent, with the local beer flowing free and a guy who looked like Zach Galifianakis dancing along with a baby strapped to his chest. They brought the energy and the crowd--albeit a small one, regrettably--loved every minute of it. There were enough singing along to make it worthwhile for all involved, and I had a good time! I did miss the autoharp on "Bye Bye Bye", however. What gives? Where's the autoharp?

Toronto's The House of David Gang closed the show, and again I'm not entirely certain as to why they were the headliner. A reggae outfit, they sounded better than the first one but still left a little something wanting. I don't know what it is, but I just couldn't get into a reggae show on a slightly chilly Maritime night, by the harbour. Just the way I was wired I guess.

Afterwards, a couple of friends and I headed over to the a khord to take in the late night show. We managed to catch most of the Wooden Wives (which includes on guitar Sappyfest performer Adam Mowery) before they decided it was time to go. My ride being one of them, I left too, and missed Hospital Grade--regrettably. Wooden Wives though put on their usual fab rock'n'roll show, and, maybe because of the nature of the earlier show, but the floor in front of the stage was absolutely awash with people dancing free and fun--it was a sight that really made me smile.

Tomorrow I'll do a bit of a writeup on tonight's concerts--concerts which blew me away, absolutely and completely. Stay tuned!

First Look at the Halifax Pop Explosion 09

In it's 17th year, the Halifax Pop Explosion is almost old enough to drink in Quebec and from the looks of the initial lineup, it's already sneaking into bars and coming home rowdy. My first HPX was in '05, and it has since then showcased some of the greatest lineups. This year looks no different.

Most exciting, I think, is seeing Vancouver's Japandroids on the bill. I have the album and the EP kicking around my various musical devices and I honestly can't get enough of this... this extreme sound. I've never seen them, I can only imagine the rock they bring to a venue. NYC's Japanther is likewise on the bill.

Final Fantasy is back, Ohbijou and The Acorn (who recently put out a joint split EP which is worth a listen) are added, and in almost a step back in time, there is set to be a set shared between Julie Doiron and Herman Düne, which, as a Sackvillite (or whatever our demonym is) who has only ever heard tell of these coordinated efforts, I am hopelessly excited for it.

I'm sure more news will come along soon. Early Bird passes are available for $90 from Ticketpro, and the last day for application to join this already fab lineup is the 20th of July.

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

New Video: Julie Doiron - Consolation Prize

Fred Squire as a dentist, dancing zombies, and Julie being altogether adorable--what more could you want?

Courtesy of Stereogum.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Halifax's Bloodsport are a fairly recent addition to the Haligonian music scene, making unpretentious rock music under pretentious titles. Their debut 7" EP, "Goodbye to the Holy Mountain" was released last month on From Here To There Records.

The record has been described elsewhere as "shoegaze for punks", clocking in at twelve-and-a-half minutes of music the sort Halifax hasn't produced in a good while. With twenty seconds of feedback kicking us off, "Photos From My Last Trip To Salem" gives a grungy vibe not so much reminiscent of the Seattle scene back in the day, but could certainly draw a comparison to East Coast heroes Eric's Trip. I could create some wild and pretentious genre for them, like "melodic grunge-revival" or "flannelcore", but I won't.

"Swallowing Werewolves", on the B-side, is a great track, sounding like an unconventional, polygamous marriage between Eric's Trip, Boxer the Horse, and Thom Yorke. Go figure, right? But it works, to great effect, and it might just be my choice cut from the record.

Closing off the album is something a little more mellow, and the first time we hear bassist Tara Thorne sing backup to Matt Charlton's vocals, with "Japanese Democracy". Their voices complement each other well, in a manner very suited to the music. It's an altogether ace record, and from what I've heard and read, I can't wait to see these guys live.


You can catch Bloodsport at Sappyfest in Sackville, NB, from July 31st to August 2nd.

This entry can also be found at East Coast Overture. Check it out!

Amelioration and recovery, forever.

Now, I think I should admit before I go on: The Got To Get Got are one of my favourite bands at the moment. Not just out of East Coast bands, but all told. And I absolutely love this album.

Back in 2005, I was in Halifax for the Pop Explosion. Underage, I heard about this All Ages show Ted Leo was doing at the Pavillion, so of course I wanted to check it out. This was the first and last time I saw North of America. Quasi-defunct at the time, they had just played a few dates with Ted Leo and were closing off the mini-tour, going back into this state of non-existence. Little did I know that even then, Mark Mullane had the beginnings of The Got To Get Got underway and now, four years later, we hear their first full-length offering: Sahalee.

I hate to compare these guys to North of America--so I won't. There's not that much to compare, anyway, as The Got to Get Got is a different beast altogether. These guys were a bi-coastal collective (now based entirely in Halifax) complete with violin, cello, and xylophone and Sahalee is one of the most deliciously rocking records I've heard in a long while. Before I'd gotten my ears to it, my expectations were, I have to say, mighty high, but Mark & co. did not disappoint.

I've had "Rattle Off" stuck in my head since the first time I heard it, months upon months ago, and it remains one of the best tracks on the album. However! I wouldn't call it a stand-out track, just because so many more of the tunes are just as quality. "Rattle Off" uses both Mark and Eleanor's vocals to the greatest extent, with solid, well-written lyrics and the instrumentation is so beautifully layered, even live, that it makes excellent use everybody in the band.

"Gettin' Dirty in the Afterlife" reminds me of something that I can't quite put my finger on. It's bouncing indie rock tune about, well, "rolling around in our graves". You can't not smile (and, according to some, can't not dance) when you're listening to this track. This one I'd heard a couple of weeks before the album, too. Straight up, an ace rock song.

And speaking of ace rock songs, "Crosses" is the kind of song that gets a crowd going, no matter if you know the song or not. It has great hooks, driving guitar and violin, and it just sucks you in and gets you moving. Gorgeous, fist-pumping, fast-dancing, sing-along rock'n'roll music is "Crosses". And, for that matter, most of the second half of the album. There is not a bad track in the bunch.

"War of Letters" especially is in the same vein as "Crosses"--oh, just listening to this album through makes me hungry for a live show, makes me hungry for a rock'n'roll dance party. That's what this whole album is, that's the only way I can describe it. A rock'n'roll dance party that'll have you smiling the whole way through. I mean, come on, there's a xylophone. Who won't smile at a xylophone?

They do slow it down a bit with "Peyton & Perry", but the tone isn't lost at all. Maybe even better use is made of the non-standard rock band instruments, at the expense of Brad's guitar, until about two-and-a-half minutes in, when one of the most singularly beautiful moments on the album occurs, until the end of the track. Fight on, fight on, fight on.

It's just struck me, while listening to "Some Loud Thunder Clap..." that TGTGG kind of make me think of what would happen if Mark Mullane had been in The Unicorns. Especially with "Gettin' Dirty in the Afterlife", there's that same apparently dark subject matter treated with a smile. ("If the coffin's rockin', don't come a-knockin'!") Not all the way through, of course, but they maintain the ability to do that. There is no low point to the album. It's just absolutely gold from beginning to end.

Rating: 9.5/10
Release: 14 July 2009

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An East Coast Extravaganza! Really!

Now, last night there was a free show on the Boardwalk in uptown Saint John, in a celebration of the stroke of midnight on the 1st of July. (Me, I don't buy into this whole Canada Day celebration, but! Music is music!) Most of the lineup, too, was unremarkable, but two names on those posters had me awfully excited: The Got to Get Got and Joel Plaskett Emergency. The last few times I'd seen Joel play, it had been either solo or, most recently on his tour backing "Three", a rather interesting mostly-acoustic setup--but back with the Emergency, this had me excited. TGTGG sealed the deal. Oh, and it was free.

I missed most of the first act, Laurie Jones, but what I did hear was good enough. I liked her voice, I suppose. That's what you get when you start a show at 5:30, I guess.

Greg MacPherson, out of Winnipeg, has some ties to the Maritimes but I'm not entirely sure what they are. I think his wife may be from around these parts, but I'm not sure. Don't quote me on that. His set happened to happen at the same time as I was eating dinner, but I ate on the patio by the stage--Oh!

I should mention that this was at the waterfront in Saint John, on the Market Square Boardwalk, where we have a little stage built. It was an all-ages haven growing up in Saint John, and these days I can partake in the fare of one of the many pubs across from the stage--I think there are four!--and have a beer while the band plays.

In any case, during Greg's set I was sitting on the patio with a friend, having dinner. The sky looked slightly ominous. I rather liked his voice but his music left something to be lacking. Maybe if I had paid slightly more attention to the set it would have been more enjoyable--but I didn't hate it! And, as I said, I did rather enjoy his voice.

But really, what I was waiting for was Mark Mullane and The Got to Get Got. After Greg's set I finished my beer and headed up to the stage, as they were setting up. No Brad LaHead, as he is on tour with "his other band" (presumably Tomcat Combat, though I didn't know he was still in the band) so they played a one-guitar set. It still sounded absolutely ace. These guys know how to bring the rock, and get people moving. During the previous sets, very few people were standing at the stage and no one was moving. For this set, I'd guess about forty people were standing, and they really made us feel welcome--throwing CDs and t-shirts into the audience. It was a great experience, I'd say.

TGTGG did a really interesting one-guitar rendition of their song "Gettin' Dirty in the Afterlife", which you might know as a pretty rockin' ditty. They didn't slow it down, but rather they changed up the instrumentation, relying more on the cello and violin to drive the song. Even missing a member, there were still six people up there on stage, there was still a mighty full band. They even got everybody to yell along with the build-up in "Rattle Off", and it just turned into a wild cobblestone-and-brick dance party.

I might also note that they had pre-release copies of their new album, "Sahalee" available for sale, and played most of the tracks from that album (they opened, for instance, with "Bethpage Black" and I recall "Rare Rain" being a particularly rad performance--they didn't leave us longer-term fans hanging, though: they played "Tenerife" from their EP). A friend of mine bought one--but as a poor umemployed university student I couldn't shell out the $20, and just bought the $8 7" single. Which is on white vinyl. And is fantastic. Hunt one down--I hear they're in stores in Halifax.

The David Myles Band was up next--we had gone for a walk between sets and missed the start of his, but that was surely not a problem. He played an excruciatingly long set. At first, I was really enjoying his stuff. A dozen or so songs in, when he had begun to rely on new and obscure Bob Dylan covers (such as "Things Have Changed") it became tedious. Of course, that wasn't the end of it. He played probably for about 90 minutes. I will say this: he looked like he was having a fantastic time--the grin never left his face, which was nice--and the girl playing the electric piano was some kind of talented.

By this point it was dark, and the space in front of the stage was absolutely packed. There were definitely upwards of 200 people, and even that is probably an estimate on the low end of things. There were a lot of comings and goings during David's set, and then the next band started setting up the equipment. A friend of mine said to me, 'Joel Plaskett, handpicked by Paul McCartney to open his only Canadian tour date, still sets up his own gear'. I like that in a musician, but I don't think I'd trust other people handling my gear, anyway. Along with Dave and Chris (the Emergency), Joel was joined onstage by Rose Cousins, and someone who I consider a legend, but no one I've talked to has heard of.

Peter Elkas was once a Montrealer, but has made a new home for himself in Halifax. His old band, Local Rabbits, likewise made the move. This man come from away has made a real name for himself as a musician of the Maritimes over the last fifteen-or-so years, now engaged in a solo career and, it seems, as a member of Joel Plaskett's touring band. He acted as a multi-instrumentalist, handling the keys, the second guitar, and the harmonica.

They opened the set with, interestingly enough, the first Joel Plaskett song I'd ever heard, back in '03: "Work Out Fine". The set as a whole was a neat fusion of rocking out and folking out, as one might put it, and they covered material from all across his solo career. The usual suspects--"Fashionable People", "Nowhere With You", "Love This Town"... they were all represented, but so were some songs that I haven't heard live in years. I don't think I've seen Joel play "Come On, Teacher" since 2006.

The whole thing was just such a wonderful experience. Joel is a great entertainer, he knows how to make the crowd happy, and he's just got this awfully quirky stage persona. He always seems a bit awkward, to me, which is nice. It got a bit surreal when he and Rose did a duet on "Happen Now", just the two of them and their acoustic guitars--midway through the song, the skies opened up and it started to rain. Not a heavy rain, but a steady one. A refreshing rain. This took us to midnight, Joel counting us down with a broken clock... and then the show went on!

Like I said, it was a fantastic show, and it was great to see Joel rocking out again. Between the venue, the material, the weather--just everything, it made for one of my favourite Joel Plaskett concerts, anyway. I only wish I had pictures. Oh well, someone will supply me with them, I'm sure! And then they'll appear on this blog.

But for now, farewell!


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