The Adam Brown at the Boat (158 Augusta), tonight (Thursday, June 8), 9 pm. $8. 416-593-9218.
Despite living in Montreal, indie rockers The Adam Brown have already experienced their fair share of Toronto's rock 'n' roll lifestyle.
"I've got a good story about Dan Burke," says the band's guitarist, Shawn Petsche, referring to one of this city's more eccentric promoters. "In a span of a minute and half he took us to the Comfort Zone, bought us two shots each and then danced his way up to the Silver Dollar and showed us the door on the way out."
It turns out this encounter with Burke was a test of sorts for their soon-to-be drummer, Bobby Bulat.
"After the night was over we knew Bobby would fit in perfectly," says Petsche. "He experienced Dan Burke, and that's half the battle."
Once Bulat had completed his initiation, The Adam Brown also including guitarist/vocalist Adam Brown and bassist Matt Foster were ready to say farewell to Marc-André Grondin, their drummer of more than a year and co-star of the hit Quebec movie C.R.A.Z.Y. As the film's popularity soared, so did Grondin's acting career. He eventually had to quit the band.
Now, with a solid lineup and an even stronger collection of lighthearted party rock tunes, the band is finally ready to take the next step and find a label with national distribution. Petsche won't say which label they're close to signing with, but he makes it clear that it's not one of the big four. The decision to avoid the major-label route was made even easier after some of their friends signed to a major and ending up owing the label thousands of dollars. To avoid that kind of debt, Petsche says they need to beef up their bargaining power.
"It's good to have a little more leverage before you do one of those deals," he says. "It would be nice to put out a record and maybe prove something first."
SHANNON LEE BRIGGS at the Cadillac Lounge (1296 Queen West) tonight (Thursday, June 8), 1 am. $8. 416-536-7717.
Local songstress Shannon Lee Briggs has received some pretty weird fan mail. "One guy sent me a picture of his johnson dressed up as a cowboy, with a hat and a little bandana," she laughs.
But, while her anything-goes attitude is awesome, don't forget about the music. Her feisty voice caught the ear of Sarah Harmer, who loaned her talents to a few of Briggs's jams. And, since musically she's been compared to Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, it's no wonder she's picked up some of their attitude as well.
"In Toronto, as a girl, you have to grow balls really quickly. You can get manhandled by crowds or yelled at; sometimes you just gotta put it out there."
Briggs's ambition is working overtime, too. With an EP already under her belt, she's looking ahead to a pro-per full-length release, future concept albums about King City and always playing as much as humanly possible.
"Ideally, I will be Shannon Briggs, global sensation. Realistically, my favourite thing in the world is playing, so the more shows I play the happier I'll be."
The farm-raised alt-country singer has only been playing guitar for about as long as it takes to order a pizza.
"I've been playing guitar for about a year and a half. About a month after I got it, I started playing and busking. I was a big fan of playing outside the Royal York Hotel, because tourists are fantastic, but sometimes they tip in foreign currency."
DEBASER at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), tonight (Thursday, June 8), 10 pm. $8. 416-777-1777.
Just for the record, the verb "to debase" has been around a whole lot longer than the Pixies, who wrote a song with the same name as the Toronto-based gloom-rock foursome. But just to be on the safe side, I asked bassist Jordan Bimm what the deal is with their name.
"No, we are not a Pixies cover band, although rumour has it there's a cover band on the West Coast called Debaser as well, but the only thing influencing us about the Pixies is their volume and energy."
Anyone familiar with Debaser, also made up of singer Luke Higginson, guitarist Nevin Douglas and drummer Bill Turnbull, must suspect that these guys drink gallons of Red Bull before playing. How else can you explain their frenetic energy and enthusiasm?
"We love Toronto. It's a great place to play. Even if only 20 people show up, we still have an awesome time this city is conducive to that."
Last year the initial run of Blackouts, their first indie full-length, financed by Higginson's summer job as a garbage collector and Turnbull's commercial acting gigs (he's the guy whose face gets sunburned when he watches his pizza rise in the oven), sold out fast enough to warrant a reprint, which encouraged the shit out of Bimm and his bandmates.
"We ended up charting at stations everywhere from Kamloops to St. John's, which was great cuz we sent them the CD but we didn't call them up to ask them to play it or anything."
Mind over matter
INSIDEAMIND at the Hooch (817 Queen West), Thursday (June 8), 11 pm. $8. 416-703-5069.
When insideamind play next week, don't assume that because they're two DJs you'll be hearing anything like a traditional DJ set. Cheldon Paterson (aka Vision) and Eric Laar (aka Steptone) have both done the traditional club gig thing, but as InsideAmind they're much closer to being a band, albeit one that uses turntables as their main instruments.
Laying down a sparse hiphop beat from a drum machine, the pair construct riffs and textures by cleverly manipulating small sections of sound from their bags of records with their fingers, the mixers and effects. It's atmospheric and laid-back, more about mood than frenetic scratching.
"The turntable element is really important to us. We treat it like our main instrument and want to keep it that way. We're always trying to educate people about it, show that it's more than just the battle thing and more than just noise. I don't want it to seem like I'm putting down battle DJs, but that's more of a sport, like the difference between seeing figure skating on the Olympics and just watching someone dance."
Their quest to educate the public on the art of turntablism has led them to open a DJ school and workshop that they've recently moved into a studio space in the west end. They hold small classes, explaining and demonstrating all the basics of mixing. They've also been taking on other kinds of gigs, including improvising live scores to films, and recently went into the studio to try to capture some of that live magic.
"We just finished recording our debut EP, Fragmental, which is what we'd call live studio tracks, meaning that we recorded ourselves improvising live in the studio, and then cleaned up and edited those recordings. That should be out in mid-July."
KITTY ROSE at Cadillac Lounge (1296 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, June 8), 10 pm. $8. 416-536-7717.
Talking to country & western artist Kitty Rose, I realize immediately that she's the real deal she's got horses, cows and everything.
"I actually just finished looking at a horse!" she laughs, calling from a rest stop off Highway 280 in northern California. "I have a ranch. We have 100 acres and my neighbour has 600. We're a co-op. She has 60 head of cattle and I have the horses, so I round up her cattle."
Growing up in Houston, Texas, the artist formerly known as Katharine Chase was surrounded by her two loves: her horses out on the flatland, and country & western music crackling over the AM radio.
"I pretty much haven't had a waking moment that hasn't had music in it," she says.
Landing at UCLA to study music, Chase quickly found out she wasn't in Texas any more.
"Nobody there had heard of half the artists I'd been listening to my whole life! I didn't even know I was doing something unique until I got out here."
After moving to San Francisco, Chase says, "I was doing covers of Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn songs that are the foundations of country music, and that led into my original stuff," which led to Kitty Rose. The band released their cheekily named Greatest Hits (Wild Affair) record, full of old-time country warmth and pluck, last fall.
"We just had our first guy join the band, a lap steel player. I've always played with women musicians. They're just the best players of traditional music," Chase enthuses.
But don't peg it as a girl band. "I don't really promote that, because they'll notice that when I get onstage. But, boy, it's great travelling when you can all share a room!"
THE HARD LESSONS at Kathedral (651 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, June 8), 1 am. $8. 416-333-4444.
If you tell Augie Visocchi his home city of Detroit is "over," his band the Hard Lessons will gladly teach you otherwise. The singer/guitarist, who leads the garage stomp power trio also made up of singer/organist Ko Ko Louise and drummer Chris "The Anvil" Zajac-Denek, says he hears that a lot since Jack and Meg left town.
But the Motor City's music scene didn't leave with them.
"I hate blanket statements like that," says Visocchi about the proclamation. "How could anyone who loves music actually think that?"
Besides, the Hard Lessons aren't a provincial band feeding off their predecessors. Their affable, off-kilter, souped-up version of classic R&B has chameleon capabilities. They could as easily be on a bill with the Von Bondies as with the New York Dolls or emo sensations Motion City Soundtrack and Straylight Run.
"The kids loved us," recalls Visocchi about playing for emo teens. "They've never seen anything like it; we exposed them to something different."
Visocchi seems to relish the outsider status his band gets from being the incongruous name on a bill.
"We get a lot of cockeyed glances," says Visocchi of his band, whose drummer is a little person.
"We run up against "midgetism' all the time, or people will just snub us for whatever reason. But sure enough, it's the same people who come up to us after the show saying they love us. It's because they see something genuine and intense in what we do.
"When people drop their guard, it's a great compliment."
TWIN FANGS as part of the Rectangle Records Showcase at the Reverb (651 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, June 8), 11 pm. $8. 416-504-6699.
Penny Tentiary loves a good riot, but only when she's rocking the drum kit. Besides being half of guttural rock duo the Twin Fangs, Tentiary owns a popular vegetarian restaurant called Café Mosaic on Edmonton's Whyte Avenue, the epicentre of recent window-breaking, bonfire-lighting hockey hooliganism.
"It kind of makes me want them to lose," says Tentiary about the Oilers' run for the cup. "It's so out of control. There's a riot every night. We're going to have to stay here all night with shovels and bats."
Somebody will have to watch the veggie fort while she and guitarist/ singer Paul James Coutts are here blasting tunes from their newest full-length, Street Sweeper (Rectangle).
Tentiary and Coutts, who roll together offstage as well as on, are kind of Edmonton's indie rock royal couple. As you watch them slam down jittery post-punk, they show palpable chemistry.
"It can go both ways," Tentiary says of being both a band and mates. "When it's good it's awesome. When it's not, it carries over to other things and can be a little awkward."
True, Tentiary and Coutts aren't always on the same page musically. Coutts writes all the songs, and some of the ideas he throws at her land like bricks through a window.
"He wanted me to play a calypso- reggae beat once," recalls Tentiary of one jam session. "I'm a hack, so that was an uphill climb I never made it to the top of."
ZAKI IBRAHIM at Ciao Edie Roxx (489 College), Thursday (June 8), 11 pm. $8. 416-927-7774.
Like fellow soul-stirrers Alicia Keys, D'Angelo, Nelly Furtado and others, Zaki Ibrahim has that rare ability to make a unique sound strongly accessible. The worldly 25-year-old's got range, too. She performs everything from virtuosic, mystic jazz-blues (in the recent Global Divas at the Kool Haus alongside Juno-winning composer/flutist Jane Bunnett) to philosophic chill-like-that hiphop-soul, as heard on a number of underground collaborations with local producers and MCs.
"Whatever city I'm in, it just happens that I do get in touch with the hiphop community first," says the Nanaimo-raised singer about her strong entanglement in Toronto's rap scene, where she's found allies in Kemo, Masia One and DJ Serious, among others.
She's getting ready for a doozy of a summer: festival dates in her father's home country, South Africa, The Heart Bougie Tour featuring Tumi and the Volume, Isis and DJ Nana, and a handful of releases including a current EP, two singles (Daylight and Grow, coming out in France and the UK next week) and three planned LPs a classic jazz vocal album, a collaborations disc and a solo studio full-length.
After a year or so, the tough time she had onstage at Harlem's hallowed Apollo earlier this year will seem like just a bad dream.
"I got booed... but I stayed onstage," she recalls.
Fortunately, the show's host, Mo'nique (Soul Plane, Phat Girlz) had her back.
"Her job was just to rip on people that night she was ruthless! Hardcore! But with me she was cool. I heard later that after me she was like, 'Hey let's not forget all these famous people who played here early in their careers. '"