Thu, May 3
EL-P at the Opera House
Ticking rhyme time bombs Slow Suicide Stimulus and underground superheroes Hangar 18 ripped open the Opera House before album-of-the-year contender El-P emerged bloody and battered, wearing his Guantanamo Bay-inspired "Smithereens" orange jumpsuit, to the delight of the insane audience, and then performed most of I'll Sleep When You're Dead.
El-Producto, Mr. Dibbs and the Mighty Quin sonically pummelled fans for just over an hour, opening with the mind-blowing Tasmanian Pain Coaster. El-P had the nearly full venue screaming along two songs into his set, but in more controlled chaotic moments like The Overly Dramatic Truth and Stepfather Factory (one of the only back catalogue bombs he dropped), he held everyone in awe.
Mr. Dibbs DJed with surgical perfection as well. The League Of Extraordinary Nobodies was hilarious. El pretending to invite us to do coke with him before the song started was the perfect intro, and the El-P!-chanting crowd got a three-song encore as an outro. Def Jux wins again.
Sat, May 5
SONNY ROLLINS at Massey Hall
Jazz saxophone colossus Sonny Rollins is at that point in his career when he's still a formidable presence onstage yet, somewhat sadly, he's outlived most of his contemporaries who shared his high level of skill, creativity and wisdom. So while the musicians he assembled for the Massey Hall show around long-time electric bassist Bob Cranshaw - including trombonist Clifton Anderson , guitarist Bobby Broom , drummer Kobie Watkins and percussionist Kimati Dinizulu - were all competent sidemen, there wasn't one moment during the evening's stodgy performance when Rollins was challenged to raise his game. They breezed through the uptempo numbers without much fire, and when Rollins eased into Like Someone In Love, he was clearly the only man onstage who understood that there's more to putting across a ballad than slowing down the tempo.
The 76-year-old Rollins, dressed in a black zoot-style jacket that hung below his knees, shuffled slowly around the stage. He still has that huge, commanding tenor sound, but his tone has taken on a harsher, more metallic edge in recent years, which inspires a momentary fantasy of a throwdown with John Zorn's Masada. Anyone would be better than the obsequious crew who tried to follow the master's lead Saturday night.
Sun, May 6
THE DWARVES at the Reverb
The infamous Blag Dhalia and his punk rock death squad the Dwarves made a rare appearance at the Reverb Sunday. Twenty-plus years of fighting, riots, spit, drugs, pissed-off promoters, death hoaxes and naked guitarists - you wonder what it will take to put down this San Fran band of sickos. Not in Blag's hedonistic lifetime, as songs like Free Cocaine and Fuck You Up And Get High might suggest.
Fellow Dwarves lifer Hewhocannotbenamed is an imposing presence, as any stark-naked guitarist wearing only shoes and a lucha libre mask, testicles swinging within inches of the front row, would be.
Blazing through a song from Dwarves Are Young And Good Looking, He... came to the tip of the stage brandishing his guitar, smacking the faces of unappreciative fans up front, one of whom yanked He... off the stage and began pummelling him in the head. He... managed to escape his assailant and crawl back onstage to finish the song, but the irate fan wasn't finished.
After the guy ambushed He... from side stage with another flurry of punches, the whole band dropped their gear mid-song to chase him off with glares and shaking fists. The pissed patron reappeared later, tossing a beer can that bull's-eyed Blag in the face, but fortunately it ended there.
For a bunch of perverted dirtbags, their Ramones-on-more-speed rock is anomalously effective and, if their shows offer anything commendable, it's the promise of stomach-turning, chaotic danger that all too often feels extinct in punk's modern era.
FUJIYA & MIYAGI with PETER BJORN & JOHN at the Phoenix
Is there a rule that says pretty much every English punter who brings electronic-leaning music to the masses has to resemble an even less hirsute version of Hot Fuzz/Shaun Of The Dead creator Simon Pegg? Beyond the valley of the Fatboy Slims and Gilles Petersons, Fujiya & Miyagi 's David Best (he's Miyagi) leads the new charge of near-cue-ball-pated pasty dudes whose urgent electrosexy tunes compel even the most blasé nouveau Lacoste poseur to shake it, at least slightly, on the dance floor.
Though it was clear that most folks at the sold-out Phoenix were there for Peter Bjorn & John 's sensitive Swede-pop (which the trio delivered with contagious energy and a shocking quota of outlandish rock star moves, from scissor kicks to bass-hoisting mugging), the Brit openers acquitted themselves well with their boutique-friendly version of hooky and occasionally funky electronic pop that felt more like a Depeche Mode remix than anything close to neo-Krautrock.