JUAN WAUTERS with SWEARIN', MICHAEL RAULT, BELIEFS and more at Smiling Buddha, Saturday, June 21. Rating: NNN
Queens via Uruguay folk singer Juan Wauters helmed a three-night stint at Smiling Buddha, his first-ever shows in Toronto. When first announced, it seemed like a fish-out-of-water scenario: here's this sometimes-Spanish-singing lo-fi singer/songwriter - his only arsenal an acoustic guitar and Christmas lights - opening for Calgary's post-punk-meets-Krautrock Viet Cong (Thursday) and local garage-psych band Ketamines (Friday).
As predicted, Wauters wasn't a perfect fit for last night's noise-heavy bill, but he charmed the crowd that just moments before rollicked to Philly band Swearin's loud wall of fuzz. Made up of songs from his recent debut LP, Wauters' 25-minute set saw him whizzing through his folk-pop ditties. Unfortunately, the artist doesn't have the vocal chops or clever guitar melodies to pull off the one-man-show thing quite yet, and could have benefited from a proper backing band. (Or, at the very least, a female vocalist to add some diversity to his limited range.)
Earlier in the evening, Toronto's resident shoegazers Beliefs played an early set to an eager mass. Perhaps tired from their two other NXNE shows, the band looked particularly disinterested onstage. Sure, their brand of music is not known for its liveliness (it is, after all, named after staring at effects pedals), but Jesse Crowe's murky singing felt like a shrug - a shame, given that on record her and Josh Korody's vocals are ethereal. Beliefs' lackadaisical approach seemed even more awkward when Toronto's Michael Rault and his three-piece band rolled onstage equipped with seriously catchy guitar riffs (and the odd 70s-styled solo, courtesy of Rault), a stash of Beatles-esque chord progressions and a totally endearing twangy timbre. During the second last song (the standout Too All My Friends from his upcoming LP), Rault finally took advantage of his long locks, whipping them over his guitar like a true rock star.