Buraka Som Sistema at Wrongbar, Friday, January 13
BURAKA SOM SISTEMA with A TRIBE CALLED RED at Wrongbar, Friday, January 13. Rating: NNNN
Friday's Buraka Som Sistema show at Wrongbar was the perfect opportunity for Ottawa's A Tribe Called Red to add to their growing buzz. The DJ trio played a welcome blend of dance-floor-friendly dubstep, moombahton, electro, soca and lots of dancehall, throwing in their own original pow wow step songs to keep the teeming bar steamy.
Then the Lisbon-based sound system stepped onstage to chants of "Bu-ra-ka!" Recent single Hangover (BaBaBa) set the tone for the manic, sexy, workout-paced performance that followed. It also demonstrated the Portuguese group's hooky prowess: you might not understand emcee Blaya's high-pitched rapping, but you can shout "ba ba ba" along with her.
Early-career singles Kalemba (Wegue Wegue), Yah! and Sound Of Kuduro slotted between newer songs, all anchored by pulsing bass, held the sweaty, dancing crowd rapt. Buraka would benefit from a bigger stage, though, for their percussion set-up, their three bouncing emcees and for members of the crowd to booty-shake onstage.
CAVEMAN at the Horseshoe, Wednesday, January 11. Rating: NNN
Caveman had a good 2011 that culminated last week in Fat Possum's signing the band's in-house label, Magic Man!, to a distribution deal. This means their critically acclaimed debut, CoCo Beware, will get re-released to a much wider audience.
Like the War on Drugs, the Brooklyn five-piece mixes classic Americana songwriting with tons of guitar effects and washes of echo. But Caveman are less like Tom Petty and more like a shoegazer take on Pavement, making them more accessible to indie rock types.
They summoned a wall of sound as soon as they hit the stage, but the dense layers tended to overpower the songs. Less droning ones, like subtly bouncy My Time, translated better. All in all, it was enjoyable but not incredibly engaging. The audience politely clapped but made no move to ask for an encore.
RICH AUCOIN at the Drake Underground, Friday, January 13. Rating: NNNN
Rich Aucoin's latest album, We're All Dying To Live, involved a cast of hundreds and, as a result, is closer to the multi-layered anthemic indie rock of Arcade Fire than to the lo-fi synth pop dance party of his live shows. It's a great album, but you're missing out if you've never caught his giddy, over-the-top multimedia extravaganza in person.
The Haligonian's audience participation routines are reminiscent of Dan Deacon's performance-art-inspired weirdness, but set against a soundtrack along the lines of a garage rock Daft Punk fronted by Diamond Rings. Confetti cannons explode, the audience gathers under a parachute and pogos like mad, group singalongs erupt and everyone leaves drenched in sweat and grinning ear to ear.
If only it were possible to capture that on record. On the other hand, it's refreshing in this internet era to discover that some things still need to be experienced in person for maximum impact.
THE ELWINS and WIDE-EYED TOUR GUIDE as part of CRAFTSTOCK 4 at Kapisanan Centre, Saturday, January 14. Rating: NNN
The fourth edition of Craftstock wasn't an all-ages show, but certainly felt like one. Apart from the overzealous bouncers checking ID at the doors, it had all the elements: atypical venue, inclusive environment complete with DIY craft and diet-friendly food vendors, and a crowd that looked an average 20 years old, including those onstage.
It took a bit of jostling to get to the front to discover that Wide-Eyed Tour Guide are a trio without a guitarist - just a drummer, keyboardist and bassist. But that didn't prevent them from delivering a hooky, upbeat set.
The Elwins have been getting "next big thing" hype, but seem less like avatars of Toronto's future than relics of its mid-00s past, an era when bands like the Bicycles and the Adorables were waving the local flag for unabashedly cutesy indie pop.
Lead singer/guitarist Matthew Sweeney's melodic vocals maintain a vigorous core, while exuberant sideman Feurd keeps up the energy on second guitar, keyboards and lead mustache.