CFCF (aka Michael Silver) got the Drake Underground pumped and primed Friday night.
Thu, Nov 20
M83 at the Opera House
If you could judge a live show exclusively by the sounds coming from the P.A. system, this gig by UK shoegazers M83 would have rated much higher. On a purely sonic level, they succeeded at reinterpreting their densely layered dream-pop arrangements and even managed to make the notoriously boomy Opera House sound reasonably crisp and clear.
A live show isn't the same as a record, though, and when you're attempting the difficult job of taking studio-based music to the stage, you need to make careful choices to avoid coming across like karaoke. Pre-recorded backing vocals? Fine, but blaring pre-recorded lead vocals out of the sound system when no one is even near a mic just seems weak. Ditto for pre-recorded bass guitar, especially when the people onstage were only playing ridiculously simple synth pads that were probably played by a machine in the original studio versions.
Fri, Nov 21
MORE PROOF with CFCF at the Drake Underground
The More Proof guys have been on top of underground dance in Toronto for well over a year, so it's no surprise that they had their eye on hotly tipped Montreal production whiz Mike Silver (aka CFCF) to rock their tight monthly. Colin Bergh, who creates the crew's killer design work, was on DJ duty when I showed up and had the floor going nice and early for the Underground.
After a seamless hand-off to fellow Proofer Gabe Knox, CFCF took over the decks. While it would have been cooler to hear some of his original tunes or his super-catchy Health and Apache Beat remixes, CFCF's DJ set was still a floor-filler, despite a small technical stumble and a weird Chris Isaak remix that missed the mark. That said, his set was fun and unpredictable. And on my count, it inspired at least one fight and five make-out sessions.
Parts & Labor at Sneaky Dee's
Blame the frigid weather or Parts & Labor's unfortunate 1 am start time, but just a handful of folks caught the Brooklyn four-piece's stellar Sneaky Dee's set. We were the lucky ones, witnesses to a brief but barely controlled frenzy of freak-out noise, ingenious musicianship, soaring vocal trade-offs between keyboardist Dan Friel and bassist B.J. Warshaw, and propulsive drumming by Joe Wong.
The band's newest album, Receivers, was created in part using audio samples - drones, spoken word, random noises - sent by fans via telephone and e-mail. Friel incorporated some of these contributions into his synth work, while guitarist Sarah Lipstate pressed a portable cassette deck against her pickups, amplifying field recordings she'd gathered in a Texas airport. Inventively awesome, and melodic to boot.
The Fleshtones, The Invasions, Crummy Stuff at the Horseshoe
New York's garage kings of the Super Rock™ sound came to the Horseshoe prepared to prove they still had it with demonstrations of their vitality. What set off sparkly-shirted singer/keyboardist Peter Zaremba was a lukewarm response to a rowdy rip through six recent tunes knocked out in quick succession. He rolled up a sleeve and asked doubting audience members to come forward and squeeze his flexed bicep, but that wasn't enough.
The group then handed their instruments to random people in the crowd - Rob Sweeney of openers Crummy Stuff fortuitously got the guitar - who jammed along to a beat battered out by Bill Milhizer while bassist Ken Fox and guitarist Keith Streng joined Zaremba on the floor for a quick push-up contest. Then, remembering they had a new Christmas album to sell, they returned to the stage and blasted out Hooray For Santa Claus, Fox's Canadian Christmas and their AC/DC-inspired rip through Aussie classic Six White Boomers, with Streng doing his best Bon Scott. Charming.
Brennan Green at Wrongbar
It was odd walking into an almost empty club for the local debut of DFA's newest indie-dance hope, Runaway. The fact that they failed to make it into the country likely explained the low turnout for the record release party of their new split 12-inch with Brennan Green on Green's Chinatown label.
Luckily, Green made it to his own party, and by the time he took over the turntables, enough bodies had trickled in to populate the dance floor.
The NYC-based Toronto expat has been making outsider dance music since before it was cool, and it shows in the way he approaches DJing. He plays house records that are a little too out-there for purists, disco records that aren't quite cosmic enough for hipsters and lots of quirky dance tracks that don't fit neatly into any category.
By last call he'd managed to turn what started off as a depressingly dead night into a sweaty party, while successfully avoiding the dance-floor clichés of the day.