May 16, Cornershop
Any hope that Cornershop's Tjinder Singh might have purchased a personality in the break between 1997's When I Was Born For The 7th Time disc and this year's Handcream For A Generation set were quickly dashed when the remarkably sullen singer sauntered onto the Phoenix stage Wednesday.
With his backing band playing to tape, Singh displayed a wide arsenal of pouts, scowls and other surly looks, standing with his back to the audience, muttering in the microphone and generally looking like he'd rather be sorting through trash than playing for fans. His band did all they could to liven things up, jamming furiously and trying to stay out of their leader's way, but by the time they stuttered into the perfunctory swing through Brimful Of Asha, with Singh practically snarling the words, even the most dedicated fans had to be wondering what this guy's problem was.
May 18, Three Gut Party
The local art kids behind Three Gut Records are all about creating community, and last Saturday night's house party, thrown to welcome country-punks Cuff the Duke to the Three Gut family, didn't disappoint. Held in the cute student-co-op-style band house, up a dark alley near the Queen Street Market, the event was a total indie-rock high-school moment, with kids in vintage cords and nerdy glasses sitting cross-legged on the floor trying not to look at each other and beer going for three bucks a bottle in the charming kitchen.
Always fabulous Three Gut grande dame Tyler Clark Burke held court in a Dynasty-inspired 80s ensemble (does that chick ever stop snapping photos?), while the Deadly Snakes' Chad Ross played a low-key countryish set. Despite a minor banjo-tuning debacle, Royal City reduced the packed living room to silence (not even a whisper) with their haunting tunes. These guys are at their most powerful in this type of intimate setting. Why aren't there more living room shows going on in this city?
Upcoming, The Backstabbers
It was bound to happen sooner or later -- the Backstabbers country string band have announced they're leaving the Cameron House, where they've held a Sunday-afternoon residency for the past five years.
Mandolin-picking group spokesperson Tom Parker cites the popularity of the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Stabbers' rising profile in conspiring to make the weekly matinees untenable. In other words, they've outgrown the cozy Queen West hangout.
"We needed a larger venue to accommodate the crowds," says Parker. "The people at the Cameron have been swell and we've had a great run, but it's time to move on."
After their final Cameron gig on June 30, the Backstabbers will take the summer off and move into the Canadian Corps Hall (201 Niagara), where they'll appear the first Saturday of each month starting September 7. According to Parker, they'll be more elaborate productions.
"We plan to have a guest singer or musicians perform with us at the shows, along with some comedy from Billy Buck and Slow Poke. We'll also try to get performers we know buzzing through town to play, too. It's a great room, the folks who run it are nice, and the drinks are at Legion prices -- that's hard to beat."