Fri, Feb 29
THE GUEST BEDROOM at Teranga, Rating: NNN
The night got off to a slow start while half of the sweet-smelling Kensington Market restaurant split into a rock ’n’ roll bar. Platters of fish bones were still being cleared away as the room filled up for the launch of the 7-inch Haggard Beast compilation. Sandi Falconer's raucous, in-your-face vocals, stark, reflective lyrics and the ease with which she untangles smart, complex guitar riffs are the driving force behind the Guest Bedroom’s charm.
The post-punk quartet have an almost carnival-like quality, a merry-go-round sound of thick keyboards circling the core dynamics of guitar interplay and well-executed drum intervals. The Guest Bedroom continue to be a band worth coming out for, leaving listeners with the dizzy, gleeful feeling you get after the best ride at the fair.
Sat, Mar 1
NUFUNK FESTIVAL at Revival Rating: NNN
The simple set-up of the Elizabeth Shepherd Trio set the tone for the NuFunk Festival grand finale with smooth-as-silk, jazzy soulful funk. As the audience swelled, Ninja Tune’s Bonobo mounted the turntables and spun the near-capacity Revival into a frenzy with his broken beat and acid-jazz platters.
The 20- and 30-something crowd soaked in the brilliant, dark and sexy selections, and when he oddly crashed the momentum with full-stop direction switches, people patiently waited for the funky, percussive pulse to flow again. Over-100-bpm bangers glued many a couple together for intimate moments of dance-floor delight, but the lights remained lower than usual, turning the former church into a grimier environment than usual. Still, when the good music hits, you feel no need to complain.
HEY WILLPOWER at Lee’s Palace Rating: NNNN
Hey Willpower are Will Schwartz of Imperial Teen and Tomo Yasuda of Tussle doing their impression of mainstream contemporary R&B pop, but from a gay indie-pop perspective. This isn’t parody or irony, since it comes from genuine love of the music, but a certain good-natured camp quality keeps things lighthearted.
They were the only live act on the bill, opening up for Men (the DJ duo of JD Samson and Johanna Fateman of Le Tigre). While Men are higher-profile right now, it might have made more sense to have Hey Willpower play in the middle of their set; Lee’s Palace was still just starting to fill up as the band took the stage.
Nevertheless, the dance floor filled quickly thanks to Schwartz’s engaging stage presence and the irresistibly catchy beats. On recordings, their sound is cute and a bit lo-fi, but over a big sound system the latent funk comes across loud and clear. It’s shameless pop that somehow manages to be much heavier and more substantial than they likely hoped. Can’t wait to see them in the headlining slot next time.
Mon, Mar 3
SIA AND HAR MAR SUPERSTAR at the Opera House Rating: NNNNN
Nights like these are why people line up around the block. Inside, the stage was covered with stuffed toys, from Simba to Raggedy Anne and Strawberry Shortcake. As the sold-out venue filled up, eager Sia fans were first treated to the extremely entertaining antics of Har Mar Superstar, who conducted their new-wave 80s revival with irrepressible joy.
For something completely different, Sia and her five-piece set-up emerged to thunderous applause wearing glow-in-the-dark kids’ art outfits and proceeded to steal the hearts and souls of the rapt audience. The bulk of the show consisted of a stunningly note-perfect recreation of most of her new album, Some People Have Real Problems, along with a cut from her upcoming cartoon, H Crusader, and the one-song encore, Zero 7’s Somersault.
Sia’s ultra-quirky personality endeared her to the crowd, and she threw in the occasional vulgarity for comedic effect. Dedicating epic songs like Death By Chocolate and Academia to audience members and telling crowd-rousing anecdotes made the encounter even more touching.