UN's singer/keyboardist Kara Keith and drummer Jen Reimer came across as much more upbeat and cheerful at Sneaky Dee's during their NXNE show than during their last Toronto set at CMW. Their sound, however, was still as gloomy as ever. Most of their minimalist post-punk dance tunes are just washes of dubby vocal echoes over a synth bass line and a disco beat. It sounds like one long song, but it's a pretty cool one.
Got to Handlebar just as Thighs finished building their ramshackle wall of amplifiers. The Toronto band specialize in a type of precision noise rock that often sounds like a punk 7" stuck on a particularly awkward skip. It's an extremely ugly sound, but strangely fun and and light-hearted. Every once and a while you'd spot lead screamer Mark Colborne off to the side of the room, slowly humping the wall.
Back up at Sneaky Dee's, Brooklyn's Brazos embodied the opposite end of the musical spectrum. The cheerful mellow melodies, jangling acoustic guitar and melodic bass lines felt indebted to 70s singer songwriter pop, but with dose of art school adventurousness. Recommended to Dirty Projectors fans.
If you were up front, the Luyas' relentless enthusiasm, large assortment of odd instruments, and homemade light show gave you a lot to look at, but that was invisible past the first couple rows. They sounded great, but it wasn't really the ideal venue for the band, who seemed crowded on the small stage.
While some at Sneaky Dee's were clearly thrilled that Magical Cloudz were the secret guests, just as many were more interested in chatting than getting stared down by imposing vocalist Devon Welsh as he bared his tortured soul over Matthew Otto's electronic drones. There's no denying Welsh's intensity, but his emoting is so over-the-top that it can seem unintentionally comedic if you're not already a fan.
Unforgettable: Realizing the poutine sitting on the bar was free.