Wednesday, January 24
APOSTLE OF HUSTLE and the BESNARD LAKES at the Rivoli
Word on the street was that the Besnard Lakes ' appearance at Apostle of Hustle 's Wednesday Rivoli residency was one of the hottest tickets in town. Thanks to early buzz around the Montreal space rock threats' forthcoming Outside disc, the show was sold out and the guest list slammed.
But because of the first big snowstorm of the year or the fact that the Besnards took the stage relatively early, the back room of the Riv was maybe only half full by the time Jace Lasek , Olga Goreas and their bandmates crashed through the last 70s rock-meets-90s shoegaze jam.
Weird, but maybe for the best -- it was a weak set compared to typical Besnards gigs. On the other hand, the residency has been great for Andrew Whiteman and his Apostle crew, whose headlining set was the best I've ever heard from them. The increased focus of his newer material has done away with the flailing looseness of past performances, and the relaxed tone of a weekly format gives Whiteman space to have fun -- his amped-up cover of Sarah Harmer's Coffee Stain was killer.
Saturday, January 27
KOTV/OHBIJOU mash-up at the Music Gallery
Now that recorded mash-ups are as retro as non-video iPods, transposing the double-artist hybrid to a live context is one way to make the form feel current. It's a great idea in theory but tricky to execute well.
Sporting ghoulish white makeup with words scrawled across their faces and billing themselves as Kids on Bijou , electro-punks Kids on TV and chamber-popsters Ohbijou attempted a live mash-up Saturday at the Music Gallery . It came off more as a buzzing, humming version of Kids on TV, bolstered by effects-heavy strings and an occasional glockenspiel. Most successful were their engaging stabs at other folks' tunes, including a bizarrely touching cover of Roxy Music's In Every Dream Home A Heartache, during which Scott Kerr crooned whilst hoisting a nekkid blow-up doll on his shoulders. Sweet.
Sunday, January 28
JON-RAE & THE RIVER at Nathan Phillips Square
"This isn't nearly as bad as we thought it would be," said Ian Russell , bassist for local alt-country heroes Jon-Rae & the River , performing at Nathan Phillips Square .
Hard to say what they thought would be worse: playing at 3:30 pm on a frigid Sunday, rocking out for ice skating families and Cirque de Soleil-esque stiltwalkers, or touching a stage that the Philosopher Kings had played just two days before (ooh, dis!).
Whatever it was, the gang of seven got over it and spread the warmth of hard liquor across a shivering audience with upbeat snowbank-melters, including the jaunty Best Of My Time.
ROCK PLAZA CENTRAL at Lee's Palace
Maybe Ottawa is now, inexplicably, on the leading edge of cool. According to reports from the nation's capital, Rock Plaza Central are, like, the hottest band in T.O. This will come as a shock to Torontonians, judging from the intimate gathering of 50 or so we found ourselves amongst Sunday night at Lee's Palace . Apparently, an 8.4 from Pitchfork ain't what it used to be.
In any event, RPC are a seven-piece, sci-fi/country ensemble in various stages of hairiness who sing songs about robot horses. Despite this, they are fairly rockin' and almost vaguely sexy. No, they're not the hottest act in Toronto. But we would not rule out their one day being such
Monday, January 29
KEVIN DEVINE and JENNIFER O'CONNOR at Lee's Palace
Need a remedy for insomnia but don't wanna take sleeping pills? Seeing a solo Jennifer O'Connor on a Monday night at Lee's would've done the trick. The Brooklyn songstress lulled the scarce crowd with soft guitar picking and lacklustre indie melodies. Fortunately, headliner Kevin Devine amped it up with his full band. The 150 or so in attendance were wholly appreciative of the Capitol signee's John K. Samson-meets-Bright Eyes folk tunes, and in spite of O'Connor's uninspired set - and an extremely intoxicated reveller who enjoyed shouting between songs - Devine made the night worthwhile.
CRADLE OF FILTH with THREE INCHES OF BLOOD and 69 EYES at the Phoenix
You'd think that after so-so openers Three Inches of Blood and 69 Eyes and a bullshit half-hour sound check, England's grandiose blackened goth-metal mainstays Cradle of Filth would've come out with guns blazing. But it was 20 minutes before the muddy sound cleared up and lukewarm vocalist Dani Filth and his muscle-T-and-mesh-clad band hit their stride. Pandering to old-school fans, the band tore through epic classics like Ebony Dressed For Sunset and Dusk And Her Embrace while showing off their freaking impressive chops. Campy, but fun all the same.