Sat, Aug 18
STINK MITT at the Drake, Rating: NNN
Time was, raunchy electro-soul rhymers and spandex aficionados Stink Mitt's Toronto appearances catered to a trashy, pansexual crowd. They were featured performers at events like Will Munro's queer Vazaleen parties, or Come as You Are's cabaret-style celebration of National Masturbation Month. The subculture-skewed demographics were the obvious best bet to welcome the BC broads' dance-floor-friendly meditations on, y'know, imaginary reverse gangbangs and camel toe.
But a couple of albums later, more than half a decade after Peaches taught the world to Fuck The Pain Away, the novelty of Stink Mitt's in-your-face trashitude is kinda wearing thin. And, following the typical trajectory of consumer culture, the one-time underground curiosities are ready to face off with more mainstream crowds.
That's what it felt like watching the gloriously Goodwill-clad trio of MC-vocalists Betti Forde, Jenni Craige and token dude DJ Mr. Big bust out their unapologetic 80s-inspired tunes about the pros and cons of biker shorts and trying to describe (in song form) their massive orgasms in front of a decidedly different audience at the Drake Underground Saturday.
If the frisson of your music comes from shock value, it's hard to wow your original listeners after the initial spin. But the young urban, horny professionals in American Apparel/Urban Outfitters hipster uniforms and gelled dudes in button-downs who showed up to bump and grind at the Lipstick, Cherry party ate up Stink Mitt's act.
Admittedly, it was hard to tell whether many of the clubby types were paying attention to the lyrics or merely thought the DJs were spinning weird mashups of old Deeelite tunes. But the kids up front who were watching Betti Forde's b-girl efforts seemed delighted.
And ultimately, there was something thrillingly subversive about watching a more normative crowd applaud Jenni Craige, a confident, sexy woman of size preaching from a feminist pro-sex soapbox.
Sun, Aug 19
STOLEN MINKS with EMMA McKENNA at the Press Club, Rating: NNN
With its prime Dundas West positioning and the recent closure of White Orchid one block over, it was only a matter of time before the indie crowds found their way to the Press Club. It's a sliver of a bar in need of upgrades before it can be considered a legit venue, but that all seemed to work in favour of opener Emma McKenna.
She kept the tightly packed room attentive and focused while dishing out a striking solo set of plaintive pieces that seemed to go over well with the Tegan and Sara crowd.
McKenna's twist on the folksy-girl-with-acoustic-guitar cliché is that she plays a fuzzy electric axe, giving her songs more edge. But the level-10 distortion she keeps cranked gets agitating - it's her only musical accompaniment, and after a while it detracts from her still-developing voice.
Playing their second-last show of a cross-country tour, Halifax girl group the Stolen Minks looked a little battered from the road. They rushed through their first three songs like they couldn't wait to get back east, but eventually settled in, locked into their surf-punk groove and began to visibly enjoy themselves while banging out short Ventures-style instrumentals and punky Gossip-infected jams.
Singer/guitarist Stephanie Johns had some fun with the audience, dedicating a song to emo boys, or "perverted creeps" as she likes to call them, and then soliciting breakfast recommendations, which probably garnered the most enthusiastic response of the night.
Right now Stolen Minks' skill set is raw at best, and a garage-sale sound system doesn't help, but they've got lots of potential. You'd be wise to keep an eye out for future showings by these Haligonian hellcats.
Mon, Aug 20
TENNESSEE THREE at Lee's Palace, Rating: NNNN
When you consider that Johnny Cash worship has been through the roof these past few years, it's surprising that the turnout for two players who shared the stage with him for 40 years was so thin. Perhaps booking Lee's Palace was a mistake, overestimating Cash's youthful draw, since most of the greying attendees looked as though it was their first time in the Bloor West venue.
Venerable guitarist/singer Bob Wootton told the crowd, "You may be small in numbers but you're big in heart," then led the Three through Cash classics like Walk The Line, Ring Of Fire and Delia's Gone, to palpable appreciation.
Watching Wootton and drummer W.S. Holland hit their rockabilly stride, you can't help but be impressed by their rock 'n' roll pedigree. Wootton was Cash's right-hand guitar man from 1968 (after Luther Perkins's death) until Cash's semi-retirement in 97, and Holland played on the Blue Suede Shoes single with Carl Perkins, toured with Elvis, then joined Cash all the way to the end. These guys are pure music-history brass.
Wootton's daughter Scarlett and wife, Vicky, added vocals and acoustic guitars, and lively stand-up bass player Lisa Horngren rounded out the combo. Scarlett did a commendable version of Hurt, the NIN revamp Cash covered with shivering emotion, while Vicky made a fine June Carter as Bob and she warmly dueted on Jackson, a song that culminated in a long kiss between the two. That's some real onstage chemistry.