Fri, Feb 23
TELMARY at Lula Lounge
Friday night at Lula Lounge , rising Cuban hiphopper Telmary performed a dangerously charismatic set. Flanked by a tight seven-piece band, the MC kicked high-speed Spanish flows with nimble-tongued dexterity. With her head wrapped in white and her expressive vocal inflections, facial expressions, steps and gestures animatedly relaying her meanings, the assertive MC magnetically pulled the crowd from the venue's fringes to directly before the stage.
After her rapid-fire rhyming over furious salsa and funk rhythms, when the word "revolución" was used more than once, it was surprising to hear Telmary's whispery-soft speaking voice as she briefly thanked all for coming out. She was here to promote her latest album, A Diario, and after catching her performance, it's very safe to say that this won't be the last we hear of this Cuban street poet.
BRUTAL KNIGHTS, CAREER SUICIDE, CPC GANGBANGS, SWEET JANES and TERMINAL STATE at the Silver Dollar
Everybody knows that from the moment the Brutal Knights step onstage, it's only a matter of time before flabby frontman Nick Flanagan doffs his shirt to proudly display his beer gut. Considering that Friday's gig was a release party for their boldly bashing new Feast Of Shame (Deranged) disc, and factoring in the chilly late-February temperature, it seemed safe to bet his T-shirt would be gone by the fifth song into the set. Erring on the side of caution, I took song four in the informal "Naked Nick" pool. Evidently, he was prouder of his post-holiday slimming regimen than anticipated, cuz the chest hair was out by the middle of the third tune. Freakin' Flanagan - that's five bucks down the drain! Ripping set, though.
The biggest shock of the night was that Montreal's CPC Gangbangs , fronted by Paul "FUBAR" Spence , actually rocked righteously. While their 70s Detroit-inspired twin guitar attack was oddly out of step with the evening's punk and hardcore lineup, Spence and his sharply attired crew kicked out the jams for a sweaty 30 minutes. Watch out for their debut studio album due in April, but those harbouring a FUBAR sequel fantasy can forget it. Spence says, "We were thinking of doing a prequel, but we gave up pretty quick."
JESSE SYKES & THE SWEET HEREAFTER and SPARKLEHORSE at the Mod Club
Even by the Mod Club 's generally impressive standards, the sound during Friday's Jesse Sykes / Sparklehorse shindig was kind of jaw-droppingly, heart-stoppingly pristine. It sounds trite, but it's shocking how much difference it makes to hear a decent band play when their songs are filtered through a quality system and - more importantly - engineered by a knob-twiddler who knows what he or she's doing.
In the case of Jesse Sykes and her double-barrelled band, the rich, full delivery of Phil Wandscher 's cinematic, Richard Hawleyesque guitar backdrops, carefully mixed with raw drums and Sykes's low, moody moan transformed the dark downer vibe of newer songs from her recent Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls Of The Soul (Barsuk) disc into gloriously ragged Crazy Horse-style rockers. Live, Sykes herself takes on a whole different persona, coming across way less as a Cat Power-style brooder than as an androgyne mystic along the lines of Nico or Klaus Nomi.
Mark Linkous and his Sparklehorse crew, on the other hand, were somewhat less thrilling – though the crowd of hardcore fans clearly didn't agree. One strike against Linkous is that the vocal distortion that works well to lend atmosphere on disc starts to feel gimmicky when it comes in the form of a dude wobbling back and forth between a regular mic and a filtered one onstage.
That said, drummer Scott Minor 's electric/acoustic combo kit was insanely well miked, so his arena-sized percussion was the most engaging part of Sparklehorse's set.
Sat, Feb 24
FINAL FANTASY with PHONEMES and 123TEN at the Tranzac
There were plenty of good vibes Saturday afternoon at the second of two benefit shows philanthropic fiddler Owen Pallett headlined in an effort to raise cash for the Tranzac , a community theatre needing more than few repair jobs.
Three jubilant teens in 123TEN kicked off the love-in with their dodgy programmed beats and cheery trade-off vocals. Imagine Gwen Stefani's Hollaback Girl, but with a twisted sense of humour and made-in-a-bedroom production and you've got some idea of the girls in 123TEN.
Magali Meagher , lead singer/guitarist for the Phonemes , took the stage with a joker-size grin that never left during their entire opening set of sparse and heartfelt songs. The ex-Hidden Camera was obviously thrilled to be playing with her pal Pallett, who joined the band on keys for a couple of songs.
Accompanied by a slide show of crude 2-D illustrations, Pallett played his soft and delicate tunes in near darkness. The dim atmosphere suited him perfectly, keeping audience members steadfast and rapturously quiet as he skipped through numbers from He Poos Clouds and Has A Good Home. It's nice to see a live band environment where everyone is so completely focused on the music.
GERMANS at Sneaky Dee's
Germans have so far been super-fantastic at the following: chocolate, beer, efficiency and, now, catchy post-punk fun.
Except these Germans aren't German Germans, but a Toronto five-piece already known for their live-show goodness. Saturday was no exception, as the band rocked through a fast-paced set celebrating their CD release. Changing up their instruments kept things interesting during their loose and sweaty performance, which echoed the early 20-something melodic urgencies of Braid and Cap'n Jazz.
The only real letdown was that they didn't play longer.