Tokyo Police Club’s Dave Monk
Wed, Jul 16
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at the Phoenix Rating: NNNN
Met with equal parts indifference (Pavement fans) and despondence (NME readers) by the line of gig-?goers, news of support act Fleet Foxes' no-?show almost had Stephen Malkmus miffed. "I really wanted to hear 'em as well," smirked the ex-?Pavement main man before launching into a not-altogether-flattering imitation of Seattle's harmonic folkers of the moment.
But nothing seems to faze the ever-?youthful King of Slack these days. The contentment was almost palpable as he purged the room of Pavement requests with string-?bending psychedelic tunes off his latest disc, Real Emotional Trash.
Amongst the pedal-?gazing, there were brief discursions into the poppier territory of his debut solo contribution and a belting cover of Mungo Jerry's Alright, Alright, Alright to liven things up. But garage-?rock mooning seems to be where the Jicks are their happiest, most endearingly unambitious selves.
Sun, Jul 20
Picnic at Fort York Rating: NNN
The weather report for Sunday's sophomore, cellphone-sponsored Picnic promised a surge in fashionable Wellington boot sales. Dutifully, the ominous clouds dumped rain over umbrellas all day. Then came the grinning Rogers staff wanting to take your picture with "the newest 3G cameraphone wotsit." It fell to the varied lineup - Canadian-leaning, with a soupçon of international - to keep spirits out of the mud.
Scarborough's the Carps set the tone with a fantastically frenzied opening set, complete with crowd-surfing and a smashed bass guitar. Following a tight but unastonishing set by Born Ruffians, London's rap superstar Dizzee "what's my fucking name" Rascal displayed remarkable enthusiasm for a stage smaller than his UK dressing rooms, charging across it with an ear-to-ear grin, swearing like a trooper and even doing some ironic old-skool dancing. No matter that nobody knew the words to Dance Wiv Me - number one on the UK charts for the past six weeks.
Of course, the under-agers were there for Ivy Leaguers Vampire Weekend, whose optimistic attire (preppy sailing gear) brought a brief dry spell to match their sunny, sprightly melodies. For the handful of over-30s, there was a typically maudlin Cat Power with sound issues, and for discerning muso types there was a hypnotic set by Animal Collective.
For everyone else, there was Dallas Green's City and Colour, whose epic lighters-in-the-air finale was a beguiling blend of singalong and schmaltz.
ñROCK THE BELLS FESTIVAL at Arrow Hall, Mississauga Rating: NNNN
Regardless of the ruckus that nearly nuked Rakim's set (thank God for DJ Kid Capri's electrical skills), the bar for Toronto hip-hop concerts has been raised. Respect to Guerilla Union for guaranteeing every performer appeared, even Jarobi.
Jay Electronica tried to live up to his hype, but needed some work to remove his performance imperfections. Murs rocked with charisma, Mos Def was generous with his melodic, mercurial spirit, and Pharcyde joyfully reunited. De La Soul performed excellently, even when the sound equipment didn't. Red and Meth's blunted wit was warmly appreciated, while Nas was an orator on fire. Q-Tip's super-charged set introduced A Tribe Called Quest, who completed the cipher with reckless abandon. Phife's gruff Trini raps and Tip's finesse still sounded golden.