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Monday
Jun262017

NXNE Port Lands 2017

The return of the North By North East Port Lands festival landed on one of the busiest and most exciting weekends in Toronto.  The lineup delivered on incredible local talent, buzzworthy artists from all over, and some names that you better know by now.  With the headliners Post Malone, Kaytranada (stepping in for Tyler the Creator), and Passion Pit the event promised to be eclectic to say the least.  In this day and age of a seemingly endless list of festivals taking place NXNE brought some serious talent to the Port Lands, and added to the festival from the first year's set up.  Rides and games made the space feel a bit like a midway, and the comedy tent was certainly a refreshing addition.

The fun really began when Toronto's EMP took the stage, led by a dj tearing through some big tunes to warm up the crowd.  Followed by Eestbound taking the stage for an unexpected guitar solo before being joined by Milly Manson and Pree.  This performance was larger than life.  Similarly their collaborator River Tiber brought the soulful, captivating sound of his album Indigo back to his home of Toronto for the first time in a while.  The storms had passed, the sun came out, and then what followed was a show we'll never forget.

Twin Peaks fired up their dedicated following within seconds of the start of their show.  One fan in particular screamed so loud that Clay Frankel invited her to join the band, stating they 'can't scream like that anymore.'  The show found the Chicago band in the midst of supporting their album Urbs In Horto and their 7" series.  There's no doubt in our minds that many spent the following days with 'I Wanted You' stuck in their heads.  Looking back, that hook feels like it could have been a message from a festival to the fans who never showed up.

 

Sleigh Bells is a band we've loved for a long time, follow with each new release, and wouldn't miss the chance to see live.  So the moment they take the stage for a less than stellar turnout is bittersweet.  While some in the crowd complained, some took to social media, others felt for the artists, something became clear to us.  As the way the world takes in and discovers music changes, so will the way we see it live.  Within that grand experiment it's become too easy to lose track of those moments and appreciate that this may be the best seat I'll ever have to see Sleigh Bells.  The defiant, underdog spirit of their song 'Comeback Kid' makes it a personal anthem for tons of their fans, and it took on new life in that context. 

For artists like Post Malone, Kaytranada, Passion Pit, Bleachers, and Sleigh Bells alike, this could be the closest you'll ever get to their performance.  Several acts noted it had been some time since their last Toronto show, and who can say when their tour schedule sends them back this way.  For Bleachers, this was their first show outside of the United States since last year.  Jack Antonoff stated that it was the first time they'd done so since America elected it's 45th President, and joked that they felt slight shame in representing The U.S. as a result.  They took that moment to further draw in an audience that at times seemed indifferent and uninterested in the performances.

Bleachers ended their set with a jam that included Antonoff singing a part,that was then played back on saxophone, then urging the audience to sing it back to him.  What followed was a moment that's tough to describe, and hard to forget.  Where we approached the Bleachers show curious about this often buzzed about band, we left reminded why the fuck we all show up for things like this in the first place.

Sure the event was heavily sponsored by a few different companies.  That's the cost of doing business when it comes to festivals these days, for better or worse.  We overheard audience members complaining of the lack of amenities in the VIP, and even comparing the NXNE Port Lands to the disastrous Fyre Festival.  While it's truly a matter of expectations, the major difference is that the Port Lands actually happened, that inexplicable, magical element of live music was there if you were open to it.  

It was a privilege to join in, and we want to voice our appreciation for everyone who contributed to this event.  From the organizers, to the artists, the on site staff, technical crew, security, and the volunteers, we appreciate you. 

NXNE has changed. the beauty of it was travelling around the city.  Headliners like Spoon and The National performed at Yonge and Dundas square, and a Saturday night could mean seeing Chad Valley at the Great Hall and then crossing Queen Street to the Drake Underground to see Smif N' Wessun.   It still possesses the exciting possibility of discovering brilliant new music, and seeing your favourites up close and personal, just in a different setting. 

-Words and Photos by Scott Mitchell

Monday
Dec052016

Plants and Animals at Mill's Hardware, Hamilton, ON (04/12/16)

 

 

This past Sunday night, in the town of Hamilton, Ontario - Montreal band Plants And Animals took a quick break from their work as support for Half Moon Run to make some magic at the one and only Mill's Hardware.

Mill's Hardware is an incredible event space / concert venue with awesome sound and acoustics and enough space for everyone to enjoy the show comfortably.

We had the pleasure of learning about Plants And Animals many years go, opening for Secret City Records label mate Patrick Watson at the Mod Club in Toronto. We were hooked from the jump - but they have genuinely gone from an awesome band that we dug right away to an absolute force. In ten or so years they have released four full length records and have toured relentlessly.

All of this was clear as day the moment they set foot on stage on Sunday and treated the appreciative crowd to an intimate show comprised of most of the new record Waltzed In From The Rumbling, as well as a glorious selection of classics and favorites and a beautiful Leonard Cohen cover during the encore.

Plants And Animals create raw electricity on stage. It's cliche as hell, but it's true. You will zone out entirely. You will rack your brain to find other bands as captivating. You will love every second of it.

Make sure that you check out and really absorb the new Plants And Animals record. It is absolutely so great. Every song. Make sure you see the band on tour as well. You will be so happy you did.

http://millshardware.ca/

http://plantsandanimals.ca

Friday
Oct072016

Ta-Ku at The Opera House

Ta-Ku and Wafia may have just released their collaborative EP '(m)edian' but there's a lot more music from them that we were dying to witness.  And we weren't the only ones.  The Toronto stop on their tour sold out rather quickly, and if that wasn't enough indication the anticipation leading up to the show was quite evident in the audience.  It's a unique experience to find such a tightly packed crowd for artists synonymous with delicate, beautiful slow jams. 

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Monday
Oct032016

Natasha Leggero at #JFL42

What can you expect from Natasha Leggero?  At her headline show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for JFL42 she delivered the irreverent, outrageous show we'd hoped for.  Along with her she brought the incredible Nate Bargatze, and unexpectedly though unsurprisingly Moshe Kasher.  Bargatze delivered a unique version of the material he'd performed in his own headliner sets earlier in the week.  It was a testament to his skill to adapt and still win over the audience.

Kasher is so quick chances are you'll miss a bit of what he does, no matter how closely you watch.  He's a prime example of what we love most about stand up comedy, he's bringing real issues in our world to the conversation but in a way that is disarming and thought provoking.  The outspoken comedian treads into some territory that bordered on offensive for some of the Toronto audience, but the fact is he's addressing bigotry certainly not participating in it.  He brings a pronounced physical energy to his set, making it emphatic in a way that is a perfect compliment to Bargatze's laidback style. 

We'd been looking forward to this show for some time, but really weren't sure what to expect.  As tough as it must be with such a large audience, she lets us into her personal life and shares what a new experience getting married has been.  An interesting highlight came when she discussed meeting a long time female friend of Kasher's and the competitiveness that ensued.  The free form discussion of a real life situation that is largely relatable (we're not all travelling comedians) helped the audience connect to Leggero.

Then there were those moments where they turned ice cold.  A couple of times as Leggero delivered outrageous lines, cutting in their wit and landing close to home, she drew gasps from the audience rather than laughter.  This came as a surprise for us, after following her career we expected even more.  To close out the show, Kasher returned to the stage and he and Leggero invited a couple onstage.  The newlyweds offered up some advice for the couple from the audience, a very endearing moment serving as the finale for an unpredictable, exciting show.

Sunday
Oct022016

Nate Bargatze at #JFL42

Nate Bargatze takes the stage and has an instantly disarming presence, no matter the venue.  Within moments his stories seem like they're coming from an old friend.  It's not exactly obvious but part way through the show we realize this is a big part of Bargatze's mastery of the craft.  With such casual ease he performs material that makes it feel like he isn't performing at all. 

The Royal Theatre hosted his headlining performance, and along with him came opener Sarah Tiana.  Her energetic show was a perfect compliment to Bargatze.  She had the audience losing their minds within minutes and set up a brilliant long form set.  Later in the week Nate performed at the Queen Elizabeth theatre opening for Natasha Leggero.  It was incredible to witness his ability to tailor the material to a different audience and setting. 

He lets us into his world, and has no fear in admitting how much he loves Wal-Mart.  Bargatze puts a brilliant shine on everyday life, and keeps you thinking outside your own experience.  He's never loud or outrageous, he'll ease you into a new idea and surprise you everytime.  The Nashville upbringing and laidback attitude seemed to make him a favourite with Toronto audiences.  Impeccable timing and a politely subversive perspective make him a legend, because he makes it looks so easy.