BUCK 65 at the Theatre Centre, Wednesday, August 15. Rating: NNNN
In the five years since it was introduced, SummerWorks' music series has risen enough in stature and acclaim to rival the theatre programming. This year, organizers decided to bridge the gap, pairing musicians with artists from other disciplines for a set of one-of-a-kind performances.
In his collaboration with dance artist Ame Henderson, Toronto-via-Nova Scotia rapper Buck 65 (aka Rich Terfry) took the "one of a kind" idea seriously, delivering songs he'd never or rarely played live over his 20-odd-year career. Terfry has a tendency to fall too comfortably into his unwavering signature flow, but this nearly two-hour performance offered plenty more for the audience to focus on.
An arsenal of performers mirrored and multiplied his unmistakable dance moves, rode bikes around the stage, popped balloons and tossed paper airplanes from the balcony. Each song was presented differently, and some landed better than others. Still, the experimentation made for the kind of spontaneous spark-filled experience that typifies the best live music.
MY MORNING JACKET at Echo Beach, Wednesday, August 15. Rating: NNNNN
My Morning Jacket are still one of the best touring acts around. Perhaps their Kentucky origins, slightly homogenous fan base or beards-and-guitars aesthetic are what relegates them to the pastoral, quaint domain of Southern, roots and country rock (a fact that was lampooned in an MMJ-centric episode of American Dad).
But it makes more sense to view them as far-out stoner rockers, quick with the funk and prone to meandering, mesmerizing riffs that are more eclectic than twangy. Frontman Jim James, a furry space cadet, continually referred to the year-old outdoor venue as "historic Echo Beach," endearing himself to the hordes of gathered lifers.
And the Beach's sound design enabled MMJ's psychedelic tendencies to slip loose, like the traded falsetto harmonies between James and guest Kathleen Edwards on Golden, the swirling sax solo in Dondante, the Billy Joel-indebted piano lines in Dancefloors. Even the choir-like chorus line of Holding On To Black Metal seemed to rise from the crowd.
James stalked the stage, hood up, like a gaucho Jon Snow, bouncing off the drum risers and teasing out guitar solos as reedy and carnal as his distinctive voice. The pace was perfect: two hours of billowing builds and few quiet, acoustic moments.
NU SENSAE at Parts and Labour, Wednesday, August 15. Rating: NNN
On their Sundowning LP, Vancouver punk trio Nü Sensae infused their hardcore fury with dreamy drones and melodies. In concert, the emotional experience is decidedly less varied: the band is taut, intense and loud.
Taking the stage just after midnight, they quickly locked in and kept the all-ages punk kids bashing about for 30 minutes. Those who chose to remain stationary seemed mesmerized by Daniel Pitout, whose precise speed-freak drumming was the most visceral and captivating aspect of the show. Singer Andrea Lukic, meanwhile, zigzagged between shrieks and menacing coos over her growling bass and Brody McKnight's squalling guitar.
Nü Sensae are one of those bands that manage to look as aloof as their sound is aggressive. Perhaps they were in mid-tour mode, but they set up, performed and bid farewell with an almost mechanical efficiency that was satisfyingly ferocious but also somewhat anticlimactic.
YOUNG RIVAL at Yonge-Dundas Square, Friday, August 17. Rating: NNN
This edition of Indie Fridays - Virgin Mobile's free weekly summer concert series at Yonge-Dundas Square - featured Hamilton rockers Young Rival, who first got our attention back in the early 2000s under their old name, the Ride Theory. Since switching their name in 2007, signing with Sonic Unyon and shedding one member, the three-piece have earned a solid rep for their radio-friendly blend of loud, bluesy rock 'n' roll.
The band took a few songs to find their groove on the large Y&D stage, and the large, eclectic crowd - consisting of fans, tourists and curious passersby - seemed to respond better to their fuzzy 60s garage fare than to their more straight-ahead bored-vocalist indie rock. (Think later Stills or early Strokes.)
They could have offered more visual dynamics to match the energy of their crunchy power chords, but the band still managed to entertain with their high-octane cover of Nothin' by 60s Toronto band the Ugly Ducklings. Watch for Young Rival's new record, Stay Young, to drop on Sonic Unyon in October.