R. Jeanette Martin
METZ at the Horseshoe, Friday, October 12. Rating: NNNNN
With the release of their self-titled Sub Pop debut, METZ have become the band of the moment for an international indie rock scene rediscovering its love of nervy 90s-style post-hardcore. They've had Toronto fans in their corner, though, ever since they first started blasting feedback into our eardrums.
After years of being Toronto's secret-weapon band, unleashing their short gut punch of a set at beer-soaked multi-band club shows and as openers for the occasional touring band, METZ finally got the chance to be the main draw. They seized it, delivering what they called "the longest set we've ever played."
They had the confidence and panache of a veteran touring act, delivering a measured and balanced performance rather than their usual quick blast. But they haven't abandoned the manic energy for which they're known. The crowd surfed and dove with abandon while the trio attacked their instruments with furious precision, ending the night drenched in sweat, Hayden Menzies's hard-beaten drum set worse for wear and shouter/guitarist Alex Edkins's glasses completely fogged over.
MISHA BOWER, BRUCE PENINSULA, DOUG PAISLEY, SIMONE SCHMIDT and SEAN DONALD at the Great Hall Front Room, Thursday, October 11. Rating: NNN
Misha Bower's launch for her debut collection of short stories, Music For Uninvited Guests (Cringles), focused more on music than prose, though the night did centre on storytelling, mainly of the set-to-music variety.
After Bower's theatrical recitation of a story about a man who's lost at cards, banjo player/guitarist Sean Donald played some grim folk songs that achieved uplift from his banjo-picking and strong, clear voice. Simone Schmidt of One Hundred Dollars and Fiver continued the sombre mood with low, moody incarceration tales.
A terribly sick Doug Paisley stole the show with his nimble guitar work, brilliant songwriting (plus Al Tuck and Bob Dylan covers) and hilarious banter. "I'm going home to take NeoCitran. If you've never taken it before, just imagine what it would feel like to be a prehistoric petrified log."
Bower's own Bruce Peninsula ended things with toned-down versions of gospel-folk tunes that prominently featured the author, it being her night and all. But just before she traded in her writer card for singer, she read us a story about two brothers with a predilection for bombshell babe postcards.
Bower is an admirably unselfconscious performer, and her writing is engrossing enough to hold our attention all night.
FLYING LOTUS at Danforth Music Hall, Saturday, October 13. Rating: NNNN
Dressed in a sparkly purple hoodie and standing over 6 feet tall, electronic auteur Flying Lotus resembled a flamboyant boxer in front of a packed crowd at the cavernous Danforth Music Hall.
On his critically lauded fourth LP, Until The Quiet Comes, Steven Ellison fuses instrumental hip-hop, space jazz and microscopic sonic textures that lean toward IDM abstraction. Live, however, his resoundingly maximal aesthetic is more like bombastic EDM.
For nearly two hours, he sent us careening through space to a soundtrack of dubstep, pitched-up hip-hop bangers, house and drum 'n' bass, cutting between genres the way a hip-hop DJ breezes through hits. The best moments came when he blended the recognizable with the weird, like when Kanye West's Mercy gave way to the handclaps of his own Putty Boy Strut.
Encased between mesh screens displaying geometric visuals, Ellison played up his image as a post-hip-hop visionary by raising his arms heavenward as if frozen in an alien tractor beam. The uproarious response he got each time suggests that this far-out sci-fi spectacle is only going to further that rep.
BEN GIBBARD and JULIE DOIRON at the Danforth Music Hall, Sunday, October 14. Rating: NNN
Though he didn't say it, Toronto was a bit of a test run for Ben Gibbard's tour in support of his debut solo album, Former Lives, which kicks off in earnest November 1 in Minneapolis.
But the Death Cab for Cutie singer's acoustic guitar and piano versions of popular Death Cab and Postal Service songs (along with more obscure stuff like You Remind Me Of Home and When The Sun Goes Down On Your Street) went over well. Where he had some difficulty was with material from Former Lives, a craftily overdubbed album.
That said, the solo acoustic treatment allowed the lyrics to pop out on Teardrop Windows, while Duncan, Where Have You Gone? and Something's Rattling (Cowpoke) showcased his beautiful falsetto, a nice departure from his usual style.
By the end, Gibbard had endeared himself to the crowd by promising to write a male version of Lady Adelaide (about a spinster), gushing about Rush (who played the same night) and complimenting opener Julie Doiron, who he's been a fan for 15 years. He also did a one-off cover of the Tragically Hip's My Music At Work, just for us.