IST ON THE LIST
El Mocambo, Wed, June 14
A band headed up by Neil Young's Toronto-based half-sister Astrid Young is worth a peek, so off to the El Mo downstairs to witness Ist, a trio also featuring ex-Malhavoc guitarist David Kiner. No tight harmonies and wistful ruminations about student riots from these kiddos -- just sludgy heavy metal. Still, not so egregious that Young faces keeping company with Billy Baldwin and Frank Stallone.
HANDSOME NED fete
Horseshoe, Wed, June 14
The release party for The Name Is Ned (Virgin), the definitive posthumous document of Handsome Ned's recordings, was more than a salute to a Queen West legend. It was a celebration of the whole country counterculture Ned helped establish in Toronto.
Without Ned, there'd be no Blue Rodeo today, so it was fitting that that entire group turned out to pay tribute despite having returned from an Australian tour just 48 hours earlier. "I never really noticed what a great songwriter Ned was -- we always had more fun heckling him," cracked Greg Keelor, baffling folks who'd only heard tales of the crazed Cameron days.
Jim Cuddy then broke into Ned's classic Put The Blame On Me, taking full advantage of the song's soaring potential before inviting Lori Yates up for a gorgeous rendition of Silver Wings, followed by a reckless run at Jackson with Cuddy in tow.
It was starting to look like a Rodeo show, when Chris Houston -- in town from Vancouver -- grabbed Cuddy's Telecaster and tore into an arresting ramble through Bacon Boy with the always delightful Mary Margaret O'Hara shrieking wildly at his side. Better still was her entrancing freestyle of Peace In The Valley, which had the Rodeo crew stumped for at least two verses. It's time someone turned this night of the living Ned into an annual event.
Guvernment, Thurs, June 15
Take the decks away from a DJ and you're asking for trouble.
While British afro-house mob Faze Action sure sounded live at the Guvernment Thursday, you have to wonder at what cost. Sure, bassist Robin Lee plucked away at his strings while hired hands flailed impressively on drums and Rhodes, but that didn't leave much for Simon Lee, the group's braintrust and DJ, to do.
With the horn breaks happening live in front of him, Simon was left virtually unemployed and looking just a little foolish, idly rattling a tambourine like Liam Gallagher and watching his trumpet player sketch out a number of Phish-friendly dance steps. Maybe this whole live house thing wasn't such a good idea after all....
Zanzibar, Mon, June 19
Attention, publicists -- here's a tip you can take to the bank. Want to ensure your next record-release party is well attended? Hold it in a peeler bar.
Aquarius Records VP Nanci Malek knew she was onto something when the RSVPs for the launch of local thrash-pop combo Sum 41's Half Hour Of Power CD started rolling in the second the invites to see them perform at the Zanzibar Tavern on Yonge hit the mail. Evidently, music is more interesting when comely chicks in white bodices, garters and weirdly sensible shoes are serving drinks.
In the spirit of things, the Sum 41 lads hit the stage and promptly stripped down to their skivvies -- not quite the full monty anticipated, but a howl nonetheless. Still, word among almost everyone on hand -- and virtually everyone from the industry was on hand -- was that the event was a gas and a refreshing change of scenery from the Horseshoe or Ted's. Righteous all round.