Wed, Jan 30
DJ SHADOW and CUT CHEMIST at the Phoenix Rating: NNN
The Hard Sell show felt like time travelling. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist each took control of four turntables, and a stage-spanning TV screen behind them projected random video clips of obscure animation and quirky cinema that took us right back to 1998, without a hint of hipster irony.
It was decently entertaining to hear the tag-teaming DJs drop nostalgic snippets of pop culture ditties like the Gilligan’s Island theme over slammin’ beats. But too much trainspotting and not enough dancing dampened the show’s party potential – and the nonchalant attitude of the two technical studio wizards didn’t exactly make for DJ Scratch Bastid-level turntablism.
Their choice of records was respectable, if not entirely fresh. (Pharcyde has more songs than Passin’ Me By, fellas.) But incorporating Mistadobalina by Del, and Patti Dooke by De La Soul into their multi-genre melange was a good choice.
Thu, Jan 31
WINTERSLEEP at the Phoenix Rating: NNNN
They looked so unassuming, so regular, so innocent. But by the time Wintersleep played their third song, the devout, sold-out crowd in the Phoenix were eager and willing listeners.
A good 90 minutes’ worth of melancholy melodies bound (and gagged) to punchy percussive breakdowns and disarmingly charming harmonies made for a truly exhilarating experience. Audience members dreamily swayed to and fro as Wintersleep showcased Welcome To The Night Sky and more, while others enthusiastically frolicked in the frenzy and fury.
There were genuinely epic moments: red lights flooded the stage as Paul Murphy wailed, “Are you a righteous man?! Are you a wanted man?!,” and the music crescendoed from a meek whisper to a wall of rock rawness during Oblivion. They annihilated the stage with a spaghetti-western-meets-Metallica 7/8 time-signature riff for their spectacular grand finale, a 12-minute journey of delicate destruction that featured no fewer than three jaw-dropping drum solos by manic Holy Fuck percussionist Loel Campbell. The amazing encore was almost too generous.
Fri, Feb 1
TEENANGER at the Tranzac Rating: NNN
Although the snowstorm and the last-minute cancellation of Quest for Fire left many feeling a little less enthused about the night, local garage punk foursome Teenanger took the opportunity to impress the packed Tranzac crowd.
Their sweaty, bluesy and downright mean-sounding floor-level set was as much about drunken, tambourine-shaking revelry as it was about short and punchy tunes led by singer Chris Swimmings, who growled like a pissed-off Mojo Nixon after a whiskey bath. While the set was short enough to leave the crowd wanting more, the band played with a natural coolness and raw energy, complete with floor-stomping bravado, that made braving the elements well worth it.
Sat, Feb 2
SPECTRUM with the FLOWERS OF HELL, EASY TARGETS and ROMAN PILATES at the Silver Dollar Room Rating: N
Setting the technically challenged tone for the night, opener Roman Pilates chugged his way through a short noise set replete with playing on – not strumming – his guitar. The Easy Targets provided some nice bass hooks, but like the eight-piece orchestra/rock ensemble the Flowers of Hell, there was no pressure in any of the build-ups, each song deflating before it could rise. But the most disappointing act was Spectrum; hype and expensive equipment could not mask the lack of talent revealed in his four-note Casio anti-melodies.
Sun, Feb 3
SPICE GIRLS at the ACC Rating: NNN
Is it possible to recreate the magic devout preteen girls felt in 1996 as the video for Wannabe reached number one? The Spice Girls, singing about romance, friendship and a little thing called “girl power,” emerged during the boy band craze as objects of emulation and crushes.
While fans who once practised slumber-party dance moves in front of the TV have since shed their braces and platform runners, there’s something about the Spice Girls that continues to exhilarate. The reunion tour brings the Girls – now “grown-up”– back to make some cash with their old gimmick of catchy names in mismatched outfits. They perform all the same hit songs (some even twice), but their voices have deteriorated and their dancing is weak.
But, hey, if a Spice Girl revolution still gets girls of all ages costumed out and giddy, it shouldn’t matter that the only thing we learned was how to “zig-a-zig ahh,” right?