Stars Torquil Campbell (left) and Amy Millan get the fans out of their seats Saturday at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Photo by: Paul Till
Thu, Dec 11
LOVE IS ALL at the Horseshoe Rating: NNNN
Of the numerous bands bent on revisiting the jerky post-punk sound of 1982, hyperactive Swedish threat Love Is All are one of the few that get it right.
A big part of that is attitude, and these Gothenburg goofballs have always considered themselves more hobbyists than careerists, which comes across in the delirious delight they take in slamming out jams. You can hear it in Love Is All's recordings, but the thrill of their attack really hits home when they're rocking a party like Thursday night's at the Horseshoe.
For all the roughhousing kicks and apparent chaos onstage, constant touring has turned Love Is All into a super-tight combo whose muscular rhythm section maintains a stone-solid groove that allows the rest of the band to get as messy and skronky as they like. Having a front person like charming singer Josephine Olausson who can actually carry a tune - as well as yelp, shout and scream - is a huge asset in making palpable pop sense out of the thrashy foolishness happening around her.
JAMES MURPHY, SEVERINO at Wrongbar Rating: NNNN
James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem and DFA Records fame) has been trying to turn dance floors on to obscure underground disco for a while now, but generally Toronto crowds have been reticent to embrace those sounds. Thankfully, it was a very different story at this edition of the 7th Heaven party. The club was packed and sweaty and the response undeniably enthusiastic for the oddball club classics Murphy's currently in love with.
It's not that he's mixing better or picking hotter tunes, just that the scene's shifting and ready for this sound now. Following Murphy, Severino (of Horse Meat Disco) took over the sound system and injected some fierce queer energy into the vibe, raising things to another level.
As several key figures in the disco revival scene have commented over the last year, this era of dance music just doesn't have the same power when you disconnect it from its Stonewall roots, one reason those in the know were anticipating Severino's Toronto debut so much.
Fri, Dec 12
STONES THROW'S MOVE: BADD SANTA EDITION with MAYER HAWTHORNE at Wrongbar Rating: NN
Based on the sound of Mayer Hawthorne's throwback soul single Just Ain't Gonna Work Out, it was anyone's guess whether the Detroit upstart would show up fronting an R&B band or carrying a case full of dusty 45s. But few expected him to be decked out in a Carlton Banks-style plaid sports jacket and sweater vest or to play Motown oldies from a laptop, intermittently adding wicka-wicka scratches when not playing air keyboards.
Though it was a Friday night at one of the coolest dance clubs on Queen West, the floor was empty for most of his set. When Hawthorne dropped one of his own tunes, he mouthed the lyrics with his eyes closed and pointed his finger at key junctures as if conducting an orchestra while puzzled hipsters stood around silently wondering how they got trapped in a 60s sock hop time warp.
STARS at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre Rating: NNN
Nestled somewhere in the frozen wasteland that is the CNE fairgrounds, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre is inconvenient to access - especially in cold weather. Inside, it's a cool, classy soft-seater. But as soon as hometown heroes Stars hit the stage, the sold-out, all-ages crowd made one of those collective decisions to stand up, ditching those cushy chairs.
For better or worse, Stars fully embrace the romantic. There's no emotional half-stepping here. To that end, the stage was adorned with hundreds of bouquets of flowers that frontman Torquil Campbell frequently chucked into the audience with reckless abandon. After the fitting opening single The Night Starts Here, it became apparent that while he's a charming and talented songwriter, Campbell likes to go over the top onstage - especially compared to his technically superior and more reserved counterpart, Amy Millan. This meant cranked vocals that weren't always in key, and some cringe-worthy semi-political stage banter about how the Queen sucks.
Millan and bassist Evan Cranley held it down for a rocking version of Ageless Beauty and a haunting rendition of Going, Going, Gone.
Sat, Dec 13
FAKE BLOOD at Wrongbar Rating: NNN
Hard to believe it's already been a year since Wrongbar first hung its mirror ball and opened the doors with a Hercules and Love Affair show. The club owners have since made good on their promise to become a venue that welcomes varied music scenes, but there's no denying that of-the-moment electro DJs have become its bread and butter.
So for Wrong's first anniversary, it was appropriate that they brought in mysterious identity-shielding DJ Fake Blood. FB turned us down for an interview (along with all other media, he says), but judging by the young dancers crowding his laptop onstage like his name was Mike Gillis, he didn't need the publicity.
Blood banged out the requisite siren-laden tracks to keep the dance floor hyped up, and remixed his blog hit Mars to much fist-pumping. But otherwise, his set felt standard-issue, and by the end his heavily guarded identity was much less intriguing, considering that he sounds like everyone else.