May 9, Danko Jones
The sight of the "Mango Kid," alias of Danko Jones's namesake frontman, on the Healey's marquee held enormous potential for hilarity. A chance to see Mr. Jones jamming on blues standards? Put me down for that.
"Jeff called me up and asked me to sing a few songs. You can't say no to Jeff," explained an uneasy Mango Kid before the show. "Then two days ago he calls back saying, 'Have a good show. I'll be in Brazil.'"
So no Healey, but watching Mango Kid bluff his way through tunes he'd never sung before with local bar fixtures he didn't know, namely Jerome Godboo and Greg Godovitz, still proved highly entertaining.
It started getting good when he forgot the third verse of Elmore James's Sun Is Shining and walked offstage. He returned a couple of minutes later, saying, "My baby made me feel so bad, I had to go off and cry," and the crowd ate it up.
Every muffed line seemed to go down better than the last. When he got to John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillen, he decided to improvise a rap based on his sidemen and the whole strange predicament, which got loaded regulars jumping on chairs just like at a Danko Jones gig. Go figure.
May 10, Sam Roberts
Sam Roberts has got balls.
Prancing onto the Rivoli stage, the Montreal singer/songwriter stripped off his jacket to reveal... a Montreal Canadiens shirt and began barking about "the team of destiny." His guitarist shortly followed suit. Leafs fans in the room shifted uncomfortably.
Had one of the members of intensely mediocre opening band National Anthem pulled that kind of stunt, they might have been bottled off the stage. Roberts survived because he was on form.
Backed by a tight band, our man kicked out moddish, slow-burning power pop that lurched with grace and occasionally came across like Spiritualized without the pomp.
It was a solid set with plenty of swagger, one that almost made up for the Habs shirts. Almost.
May 11, Oochinova
After a weekend of hard-core smoking, my lungs thanked me for checking out the Victory Café's upstairs room Saturday night. The folks at the Victory have surreptitiously been showcasing cool local bands like twangy balladeers the Blackeyes in a smoke-free joint.
This week fledgling west-end foursome Oochinova played a solid set of Dave Matthews-inspired acoustic guitar-driven tunes to a hippie-heavy crowd. The tunes were inoffensively decent, but the band really shone on a growly cover of Frankie & Johnny that showed off singer Jem Ucar's pipes to full advantage. I'd like to see what these dudes could do with a little more experience and a lot more confidence.