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Full Flex Express. Friday, July 13, Fort York.
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SKRILLEX, PRETTY LIGHTS, DIPLO and GRIMES as part of Full Flex Express at Fort York, Friday, July 13. Rating: NNN
Ambient pop weirdo Grimes is one of the more conventional live musicians playing Skrillex's Full Flex Express festival, and though she was saddled with technical problems, she still put on an engaging show while the massive venue filled with neon-clad partiers.
Diplo did his usual genre-hopping, crowd-pleasing DJ routine. The long lulls between performers, though, made you wonder why the organizers didn't set up a separate DJ booth so acts like him could entertain the crowd during set changes.
Like Skrillex, Colorado's Pretty Lights has quickly gone from being unknown to massively popular, though his melodic chilled-out electro-soul has little in common with the former's heavy metal dubstep vibes.
In Skrillex's current set-up, he's just mixing between two CDs of his own music, which is pretty lazy even for electronic music. But he brought the visuals, performing in a giant space ship that moved around the stage, and setting off enough lasers to blind people in Hamilton. Sure, most of his music sounds like Transformers having rough sex, but it's undeniably entertaining.
IRON MAIDEN and ALICE COOPER at the Molson Amphitheatre, Friday, July 13. Rating: NNNN
Insane lineups and humidity couldn't dampen spirits during Iron Maiden and Alice Cooper's Friday the 13th tour stop in Toronto. Both veteran metal/hard rock acts filled their sets with head-banging retro classics and unsettling visuals, and the Maiden-shirted crowd couldn't get enough.
Opener Alice Cooper is still getting mileage out of the Halloween props he's been using forever - guillotine, super-sized Frankenstein, decapitated heads - though they looked sadly bargain-basement in the daylight. But B-movie horror's his thing, and mixed with top-notch showmanship and classics like Poison, No More Mr. Nice Guy and School's Out, it was loads of fun.
Iron Maiden seemed like rich kings in comparison, on a two-tiered stage with changing backdrops, pyrotechnics and various Eddies - their zombie-like mascot - that made you shudder rather than chuckle. Theatrical singer Bruce Dickinson rarely stopped running, wailing or gesticulating, while bassist/songwriter Steve Harris shouted along to every word.
Although the tour celebrates the band's 1988 Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album, the Brits played their lengthy, complex 80s-era tunes with such vigour and urgency, you'd think they'd written them last week.
TRUST at the Great Hall, Friday, July 13. Rating: NNN
The perils of naming your band Trust: not only are you practically un-Google-able, but English metal band Iron Maiden will show up backstage at your gig thinking you're the 80s French rock band of the same name and then leave in disappointment upon realizing that you're a gloomy acid-trance band from Toronto.
If the Maiden had stayed, they would've witnessed a hometown love-in for the group, whose frenzied followers arrived ready to rave. So sweltering was the Great Hall that rakish singer Robert Alfons was glistening in sweat right from the opening bars of the first song. His distinctive, croaky baritone was often on the cusp of being swallowed up by the very loud, pounding industrial dance beats and strident synths.
For the most part, the audience matched the energy of his raver dance moves and, despite the unintelligible lyrics, enthusiastically sang along whenever possible.
PINK MOTH and KITE HILL at the Tinshop, Saturday, July 14. Rating: NNN
Few things are lovelier than passing a hot summer night with a handful of patrons and musicians, all gently rocking inside an under-the-radar venue newly brought to life with love, care and fresh white paint.
The warmly lit Tinshop's second-ever music show (it's primarily an art venue) featured a solo Kite Hill and the four-piece Pink Moth, whose bandleader, Ray Cammaert, is behind the Ossington/Bloor venue.
Kite Hill's Ryan Carley writes earnest, melancholy songs delivered in a world-weary voice contrasted by astounding and lively piano lines. Though he's often accompanied by auxiliary percussion, strings and wind instruments, this one-man version set an intimate tone. Watch for a new album in September.
Pink Moth rocked things up slightly (houses surround the space, so the volume must be kept low) with a set of thoughtful, nuanced art-pop interwoven with intriguing lyrics. Humming Wurlitzer, shuffling drums and muted double bass hugged Cammaert's voice and acoustic guitar like a blanket.
The goal now is to get more bodies out to the events.