Thu to Sun, Sep 20 to 23
MANIFESTO at various venues, Rating: NNNNN
Almost any superlative could describe the groundbreaking ManifesTO Festival . The main event at Nathan Phillips Square assembled over 50 artists and thousands of curious fans. Up-and-comers performed underground and mainsteam-inspired hiphop, spoken word, R&B soul music, plus live-instrument-embellished freshness.
The evening's Legendary Live Mixtape proved an unprecedented display of Canadian hiphop. The greatest-hits-jam-style showcase, mixed by DJ Mensa and Todd Skimmins , featured the Original Godfather, aka Maestro , who burst into Drop The Needle like it was only released yesterday.
The microphone then passed to Mathematik , Citizen Kane , Dan-E-O and Grimace Love , a rejuvenated Choclair , Tara Chase , the excruciatingly anticipated Saukrates , the eternally enjoyable King Lou of the Dream Warriors , then to the hiphop queen of Canada, Michie Mee (who still owns the stage and the crowd when she spits her fire.) Finishing off with an explosive version of Maestro's Let Your Backbone Slide, the show went into overdrive when all the performers jumped onto Rapper's Delight for an awe-inspiring freestyle cypher.
Fri, Sep 21
OKKERVIL RIVER at Lee's Palace, Rating: NNNNN
Decked out in dark suits and blue shirts, Austin indie darlings Okkervil River showed off their folk, pop and rock stylings, kicking things off with Plus Ones, a track off their fantastic new disc The Stage Names, and it was a love-in from then on.
They also played a number of songs from Black Sheep Boy and even a few from their 2002 record, Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See. And the set-ending one-two punch of John Allyn Smith's Sails and The Beach Boys' Sloop John B made this performance a must-see.
INQUISITION at the Metal Bar, Rating :NNNN
Inside the cavernous Metal Bar, shirtless singer/guitarist Dagon, one half of the Seattle Satanic black metal two-piece, relied on his unnerving presence. His tense, guttural, monotone resembled the recitation of a black mass, proving to the clearly ultra-devoted crowd that the band doesn't give a shit about anything but conjuring a genuinely spiteful and dismal atmosphere.
Sun, Sep 23
DJ PREMIER at Revival, Rating: NNNN
Just when you thought hiphop had gone the way of Pavarotti (R.I.P.), out busts hallowed DJ Premier with the rap defibrillators (his turntables), rubbing them together and yelling "Clear!" Premier also did his share of screaming into the mic along to all the timeless scratched hooks he's cobbled together for the likes of Nas, Biggie, KRS-One, Rakim, Jay-Z, Fat Joe -- the list goes on. Bottom line, he made the packed club lose their shit, hands, blunts, drinks in the air, for a couple of hours on nothing but the strength of his own classics.
Mon, Sep 24
POLARIS MUSIC PRIZE GALA at the Phoenix, Rating: NNN
Montreal art rockers Patrick Watson won the $20,000 Polaris Music Prize , catching even the band's frontman off guard. In a cheerful and expletive-laden acceptance speech, a noticeably lubricated Watson insisted fellow nominee Chad VanGaalen was more deserving.
Also part of the VanGaalen fan club was New Brunswick's Julie Doiron . After playing two songs with Eric's Trip , she told how excited she gets any time the Calgary singer/songwriter performs. Halifax's Joel Plaskett and Montreal's Besnard Lakes put on impressive mini-sets before Miracle Fortress played their noisy pop.
COMMON/Q-TIP at Kool Haus, Rating: NNN
Common , who sold out Kool Haus days before the exciting show, started with Go!, from Be, and jumped around the end of his catalogue for an hour and a half with a gifted five-piece band. His version of Testify was Oscar-worthy, and his acoustic version of Misunderstood touched many. Kareem Riggins 's live drumming was utterly stunning, layering the gems with pristine percussion. Hearing Common quote Ice Cube in a classics medley was rap irony at its finest, and seeing him change outfits four times showed his awareness of his evolving image(s).
NICK LOWE with TEDDY THOMPSON at the Mod Club, Rating: NNN
Strapped with an acoustic guitar, reformed pub rocker Nick Lowe kept things mellow during a 75-minute set.
A rollicking version of early 80s CFNY staple Cruel To Be Kind livened a humdrum strum through sombre tunes from his recent At My Age (Yep Roc) disc. The obligatory rendition of his best-known number, (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?, was dutifully delivered. For the encore, Ron Sexsmith harmonized on the Louvin Brothers' classic My Baby's Gone, which was swell enough but not the a knockout closer.