Tue, Apr 8
JENS LEKMAN, FINAL FANTASY and KATIE STELMANIS at the Great Hall Rating: NNNN
When Katie Stelmanis took the stage at 9 pm, the Great Hall was already packed for this Music Gallery fundraiser. Performing with only a percussion accompanist (instead of her usual three-piece band), Stelmanis was in fine form, in full voice and showing off her innovative songwriting ability.
Next up, Owen Pallett treated the audience to some new Final Fantasy tunes. Insecure about his most recent material, he at one point stopped mid-song to ask for feedback on the bridge he’d just played. His strong set had me looking forward to his next record.
Headliner Jens Lekman is basically the Swedish Morrissey. Seamlessly incorporating stories about awkward dinner parties in Berlin and the perils of passing through customs with a kalimba into his breezy ballads, he dazzled the massive crowd with his affable honesty.
Thu, Apr 10
MASTA ACE at Hip Hop Karaoke Rating: NNN
Moving from the cozy confines of the Boat to the spacious Revival, HHK has come a long way in its first year. The church-like venue was filled with devout disciples of the rap karaoke faith kindly watching new-school newbies and MC veterans alike recreate high-school-era hits.
MuchMusic’s Tim Deegan bravely perfomed Biggie’s Juicy (with a little help from his friends), before HHK staple Ra Soul took over with vigour. Possessed MC Rhinoceros also delighted, as usual, as did a young lady’s crowd-rousing dance-rap tribute to Maestro’s Let Your Backbone Slide.
Masta Ace emerged to cheers halfway through the show and got into the spirit of things, intermittently performing his own hits, Big Daddy Kane’s Warm It Up and Crooklyn Dodgers (with audience members). And he recreated Juice Crew classic The Symphony with a fan and local artist Kagan McLeod, whose stunningly accurate G Rap/Kane impressions had Masta Ace in awe. Too bad the audience thinned out before seeing Ace perform Shook Ones.
Sat, Apr 12
AUTECHRE at Lee’s Palace Rating: NN
By the time opening DJ Rob Hall stepped up to his laptop, most of Lee’s Palace was already packed with revellers (many, I’m certain, high on psychotropic drugs) chatting loudly, impatient to see one of the only decent acts to survive 90s electronica. Despite the obvious anticipation, there wasn’t much to “see” during Autechre’s set.
When the Manchester duo finally began, most of the lights were systematically killed, further obscuring the already difficult-to-see stage. By neutralizing virtually all visual or dynamic aspects of their live performance, Autechre forced the audience to concentrate solely on their sonic output. While they did produce the odd impressive moment, their experimental techno too often sounded like disorganized Daft Punk, lacking strong melodies and climactic moments.
Playing in total darkness – and by “playing” I mean tweaking knobs and maybe bobbing their heads a little – Autechre ultimately failed to produce a memorable experience.
Mon, Apr 14
MAN MAN with YEASAYER and DRAGONS OF ZYNTH at Lee’s Palace, Rating: NNN
Brooklyn’s Yeasayer look like a merger of two disparate rock groups – two parts Williamsburg cool and two parts Deep Purple tribute band. Their quixotic sound reflects these diverse backgrounds, especially guitarist Anand Wilder, whose jazz fusion licks and falsetto harmonies really spiked the group’s Eastern-tinged psych-rock blend. They didn’t hit their stride until two songs from the set’s end, when members of early openers Dragons of Zynth climbed onstage and upped the percussion level, injecting the sleepy set with a pounding jolt.
Philadelphia freakbeat beardos Man Man came on next, clustering at centre stage around drummer Pow Pow and pianist/vocalist Honus Honus, who together form the nucleus of MM’s bizarro double-word rock circus. Honus is a great ringmaster, too, manically jumping up and down on his keyboard while the group bounced through a batch of Zappa-esque cuts from new disc Rabbit Habits, using an array of junk (an engine tube, for example) to add sound effects to the more experimental, off-kilter songs.
Some of his madcap antics detracted more than they entertained, though, like drawing a chalk circle on the nearby wall, then smashing a glass at the target. Maybe he just needed to get that out of his system. At least you couldn’t accuse the Man Man funhouse of being dull.