Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew sings his little heart out at the Sound Academy Thursday.
Thu, Nov 27
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE at Sound Academy Rating: NNNN
Broken Social Scene pulled out all the stops for their triumphant homecoming gigs, showing that they've honed the controlled chaos of their live show. At one point there were 16 people on stage, but things never descended into bedlam.
There was a balloon drop, Brendan Canning in a shiny gold skirt, synchronized backup dancers (really), a guest appearance by Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock, and they played for about two and a half hours. It was a bit disappointing to hear later that Emily Haines made it out for the Friday show, but that was tempered by the great job Land of Talk's Elizabeth Powell did covering many of the female parts.
Fri, Nov 28
TWO HOURS TRAFFIC with BOYS WHO SAY NO at Whippersnapper Gallery Rating: NNNN
Now sporting a nice stage and lighting rig along its back wall, Whippersnapper Gallery is fast becoming an integral part of the downtown music scene. Gallery runner Luke Correia-Damude's soon-to-be buzz band Boys Who Say No kicked off this all-ages show. Their quirky, orchestral indie pop and animated stage presence connected with the young crowd and set the bar high for Charlottetown rockers Two Hours Traffic.
After a short delay while a CBC crew hoisted a crane-mounted camera into place, the Polaris-nominated quartet busted out their hooky power pop. Sounding like a young Big Star-meets-the Cars (especially when lead singer Liam Corcoran ditched his guitar for a 25-key Korg on New Love), the band delighted dedicated fans who mouthed every word.
Sat, Nov 29
THE LAST POGO 30TH ANNIVERSARY BASH at the Horseshoe Rating: NNN
A creaky and slow-moving crowd filled the Horseshoe for a show that was less an explosive celebration of the Toronto punk scene's best and brightest - most of them burned out long ago - than a ho-hum demonstration of resilience by the also-rans determined to prove they were still vital even though they clearly hadn't performed together in years.
Following mostly competent but uneventful sets by the Cardboard Brains and the Scenics, a new version of the Forgotten Rebels led by strutting frontman Mickey DeSadist spat out a few old faves. Then Steve Leckie of the Viletones brought things down a notch or five.
Flanked by Handsome Ned's guitar-playing brother Jim Masyk and Gary Topp's daughter Alex Topp on keyboards, Leckie sang new compositions from lyric sheets. When people started shouting requests for popular Viletones numbers, Leckie angrily snapped back, "Possibilities? Fuck nostalgia!" Not a single person applauded as he finished his last song and hobbled off the stage.
Sun, Nov 30
DARKER MY LOVE at the Horseshoe Rating: NNN
Psych rockers Darker My Love probably weren't expecting much attendance-wise, especially with the punishing elements of brutal wind and cold rain working against their show.
If DML weren't such road-weary, despondent L.A. scenesters, they might have been able to express some gratitude for the respectable smattering who showed up. Instead, they plowed through most of their set of sprawling and fuzzed-out pop tunes with stone-faced indifference. As friends of the Dandy Warhols, they must share the same aversion to enthusiasm. Too bad, cuz their thundering 60s psych-out sounded tight.
Mon, Dec 1
ELVIS MONDAY 25TH ANNIVERSARY at the Drake Underground Rating: NNNN
Elvis Monday, Toronto's weekly new music series, celebrated its silver anniversary with comedic performances by the People of Canada - a ukulele virtuoso who sings about garbage day's eve and "sugar diabetes" - and an enchanting Bob Snider, whose long fingers looked like bouncing spiders above his guitar strings.
Eighties bands Groovy Religion and A Neon Rome pulled out all the stops during their energetic one-night-only reunion sets and were followed by spoken word artists Tony Blue and Meryn Cadell, who provided first-time attendees with welcome backstory.
The night ended with a nod to the series' past and future. Young upstarts Still Life Still gushed thanks to William New, Elvis Monday's dreadlocked host, for his continuing support. They also admitted that the series is older than any member of the band, a fact that perfectly illustrated New's continuous commitment to giving fledgling bands a leg up.