Allie Hughes showed the Saturday-night Horseshoe crowd that she may have a career beyond reality television.
Tue, Aug 26
PONYTAIL with DON CABALLERO at Lee's Palace Rating: NNN
If you're familiar with the term "chipmunk funk" - when hip-hop and R&B producers tweak a chorus to Alvin C. levels of falsetto - then giddy Baltimore four-piece Ponytail might be what you call chipmunk punk.
That's mostly due to diminutive frontlady Molly Siegel, whose feral, high-pitched howls and coos give you an idea of what a no-wave band might sound like if it were all Ewoks. She's constantly dancing in this hunched position like one of those Maori war dancers, with a beaming smile, exuding a wild abandonment that her otherwise all-male group, including plucky guitarists Jeremy Hyman and Dustin Wong, feed from. Don't sleep on these kids; check them out in a hurry.
While Ponytail are a band on the way up, Don Caballero - looking tired and unenthused to be on the road - seem very much on the way down, as the 17-year vets of prog instro, fronted by original drummer Damon Che, played an endless stream of unremarkable riffs.
Fri, Aug 29
SIMPLE PLAN at Molson Amphitheatre Rating: NNN
While I maintain that being operated on without anaesthetic is preferable to listening to their CDs, if I were a peppy little tween on the verge of puberty, crushes and rebellion, I think I would probably be into the Montreal band's parent-approved pop. Huge points for unintentional irony when they wrote an impromptu "silly" song about partying with all their female fans that sounded about as well put together as all their others.
But the band knows exactly how to keep everyone happy, which leads to a question: Is it creepy when an almost 30-year-old man tells a young, mostly female audience that "Toronto girls are fuckin' hot"? You bet. Would you also have lost your shit and swooned for hours if you were that age? Probably.
NY GIANTS at the Opera House Rating: NNNN
Rising Toronto rapper 9th Uno ripped the stage open even better than his KRS-One opening earlier this year, while the Mixtape Massacre DJs and Muziklee Inzane set the atmosphere, spinning bona fied bangers. The Beatnuts came out screaming like intoxicated demons, dropping favourites like No Escapin This and the explosive Reign Of The Tec.
When the Diggin in the Crates crew assembled onstage, a two-hour onslaught of a decade-plus of East Coast hip-hop enthralled the audience. O.C., A.G., Lord Finesse and Diamond D delivered nostalgic versions of many memorable hits, including Thick, Time's Up, Hip 2 Da Game, Hiatus, Soul Clap and dozens more. You can't wish for something as perfect as hearing Diamond drop, "Gotta give a shout to my man Large Professor" in a Stunts, Blunts And Hip Hop gem, with Extra P actually in attendance, saluting the crowd on cue.
Sat, Aug 30
ALLIE HUGHES at the Horseshoe Rating: NNN
Don't overlook this rising indie chanteuse just because she was a finalist on How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria? Or because of her background in classical piano. Allie Hughes also knows how to rock: she's been spotted as part of Katie Stelmanis's fantastic backing band and is now scoring decent local gigs of her own.
Commanding a large cheering section while seated smiling behind her keyboard, Hughes sometimes sounds like the new Sarah Slean, except with more Rufus Wainwright theatrics and a decisive pinch of punk. Her three-piece band was generally very good, especially the rock-solid stand-up bassist in nerd glasses, but I kept wanting to hear more from her hipster guitar player. Considering how epic and grandiose most of her originals become - thanks mainly to her rich and powerful voice - it might not be a bad idea to promote some of the guitar parts from tepid rhythms to sustained solos and jangly melodies.
That said, some of her songs contain serious hooks that are still stuck in my head. Definitely a performer to watch out for.