Wed, Apr 16
HOT CHIP at the Phoenix Rating: NNNNN
If the pungent scent of illegal substances, a sweaty shirtless bloke and a blinding (quite literally) light show are classic rave signifiers, then five skinny white boys from London succeeded in creating a rave last Wednesday night. Granted, the lone half-naked person was enthusiastic Hot Chip guitarist Al Doyle, whose helpful intros – to Felix Martin (suave drummer at the back), Alexis Taylor (wee bespectacled vocalist and vigorous maraca shaker), Joe Goddard (bear-like percussionist and occasional rapper) and Owen Clarke (guitar-playing synth-wielder) – revealed just how gracious the UK chart-dominating quintet remain.
The set included both And I Was A Boy From School and Over And Over from their 2006 breakthrough album, The Warning, which got an animated arm-waving response from the audience. Emotion-racked piano balladry from the able-voiced Taylor on the title track of their latest album, Made In The Dark, the mesmerizing, stoppy-starty Wrestlers and the urgent, thrashy Don’t Dance dissipated any criticism levied at the album for being too catch-all, too loud or too soft.
To slightly misquote their set’s highlight (and surely soon-to-be Gay Pride classic) Ready For The Floor, Hot Chip, you’re our No. 1 guys.
Fri, Apr 18
THE COAST at the Horseshoe Rating: NNNN
Just back from a six-week tour of the U.S. and Canada, the Coast had the Horseshoe packed for the release of their debut album, Expatriate.
Sonically, the Coast inhabit a territory somewhere between emotive Brits like the Verve and the Smiths and rugged roots rock à la Ryan Adams. Their energetic marriage of these forms instantly registered with the crowd during Tightrope, Killing Off Our Friends and Take A Walk Outside, a highlight off their first EP. To make the night extra-special, the band added producer Chris Stringer and vocal accompanist Kate Rogers into the mix on No Secret Why, then thrilled the audience with future single Nueva York, capping the stellar evening with another surprise, Ceremony Guns, featuring Obijou’s James Bunton on trumpet.
Sat, Apr 19
BBQ at Rancho Relaxo Rating: NNNN
Aside from the sauna-like conditions at the sold-out Rancho, the biggest problem at BBQ’s show was trying to get a glimpse of the guy. Surrounded by an impenetrable wall of dancing kids on the floor and stage, the one-man garage-soul band seated himself to play kick and snare pedals with his feet as he madly strummed his distorted acoustic.
When BBQ is on, it’s hard not to notice; his gravelly, soulful voice carries the conviction of Sam Cooke, while his songs are short and raucous enough to keep the audience buzzing. Aside from a phoned-in encore, BBQ worried more about quality than quantity, of which there was plenty.
LUCERO, YESTERDAY’S RING at the Horseshoe Rating: NNN
While many of the city’s emo holdouts were over at the Phoenix hanging on every mopey refrain of the Decemberists’s Colin Meloy, tattooed roots rock fans looking for a younger, tougher alternative to the hollow stadium holler of Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp were packed tightly into the Horseshoe for the return of Memphis bad boys Lucero.
Warming up were twangy Montreal thugs Yesterday’s Ring, who looked like they came straight off the corner of Queen and Spadina and played like they’d just finished a hard day of squeegeeing. Someone should’ve warned them that a slow, ballad-heavy set wasn’t the way to go. But they probably got the message from the people talking over their set.
Lucero didn’t make the same mistake and blazed away from the first note. Nothing fancy here, just meat-and-potatoes rock ’n’ roll to go with simple, earnest tunes about heartbreak, lost innocence and running wild in the streets from a small-town perspective. Judging by the ladies who were mouthing the lyrics while snapping digital images of raspy-voiced singer Ben Nichols, Lucero have real potential for a mainstream breakthrough in the near future.