Cuff the duke at Yonge-Dundas Square, Friday August 31.
CUFF THE DUKE at Yonge-Dundas Square, Friday, August 31. Rating: NNN
Local roots rockers Cuff the Duke played to a bopping, appreciative, kid-friendly crowd at Yonge-Dundas Square for this summer's final instalment of the free Indie Fridays concert series.
The band, fronted by singer/songwriter Wayne Petti, has been together for over a decade, through various lineup changes, and sounds more than ever like a cross between the Byrds and Tom Petty - jangly and twangy, with lots of catchy choruses, backup vocals and big jams.
Their set focused on material from last year's concept album, Morning Comes and its soon-to-be-out follow-up, Union (which sounds upbeat and romantic, so far), but they also played a number of songs off of 2009's Way Down Here and older fan favourites.
With former guitarist/pedal steel player Dale Murray out east focusing on his solo career and studio, François Turenne played lead guitar, and a new member, Thom Hamerton, was on keys. Despite these changes, the band was tight and played off each other well.
Though it was a consistently good show and Standing On The Edge, Count On Me and soulful Letting Go were especially strong, something was missing in the long arc of the set, which lacked a big finish.
That said, the encore - Tom Petty cover The Waiting - was fun. Petti should do Petty more often.
JELLO BIAFRA AND THE GUANTANAMO SCHOOL OF MEDICINE at Lee's Palace, Wednesday, August 29. Rating: NNN
It's often a letdown to see aging punk rockers take the stage decades after their prime. Punk thrives on the urgency of youth, and rarely holds up to endless touring.
One of the most polemical, outspoken figures of 80s hardcore, former Dead Kennedys singer Jello Biafra seemed like he'd fallen into the trap of bogus nostalgia as he took the stage at Lee's Palace with backing band the Guantanamo School of Medicine. It's fair to assume that many attendees were there to hear Dead Kennedys classics, but aside from playing a few, Biafra refused to "spoon-feed retro," as he told a heckling fan early in the set.
Instead, he attacked a whole new set of targets - the Tea Party, false austerity, the new feudalism, privatized education, "Barackstar O'Bummer" and Mitt Romney alike - while maintaining his mugging, sarcastic presence, delivered with all the subtlety of a kick to the gut.
CROSSS at the Silver Dollar, Friday, August 31. Rating: NNNN
Andy March keeps busy not only as the unassuming singer/left-handed guitarist for psychedelic grunge metal trio Crosss but also as label head of Youth Club Records and cassette-centric Craft Singles, releasing albums predominantly by Halifax- and Montreal-based bands like Play Guitar, Al Tuck, Cousins and Grand Trine.
At the Silver Dollar, his own music took the spotlight. March's high, eerie voice sailed over sludgy distorted riffs, pleasing melodies and locked-in bass that got heads banging. Time signature changes and stop-start rhythms punctuated the music, adding a progressive dimension to its main reference points: metal's slower, psychier spectrum and lo-fi, slacker indie rock.
The short set mostly drew from Crosss's forthcoming five-song album, which includes the excellently creepy Old Sound and Sacred Cow. March, originally from Halifax but who has done time in Montreal and, most recently, Toronto, just relocated to Hamilton, which might cut down on local Crosss appearances. Still, with so many projects on the go, expect to hear lots from him.
DENNIS FERRER at Sunnyside Pavilion, Sunday, September 2. Rating: NNN
Dancing under the stars in a picturesque walled garden to soulful house music is a pretty nice way to say goodbye to summer. However, despite the gorgeous location and a smooth set by NYC DJ/producer Dennis Ferrer, something felt slightly off. The crowd was huge, but there wasn't nearly as much dancing as there should have been. Because the organizers set up a smaller sound system for the local DJs at one end of the space, we were often subjected to the annoying clash of competing beats when standing in line for outhouses, drinks or the bank machine (and, yes, we spent a lot of time in lines).
While it may not have been the most smoothly run event at this unique location, Ferrer's strong set clearly pleased the fans in the front. You could argue that he relied a little too much on modern remixes of classic house anthems, but that is an effective way to get an aging deep house crowd excited.