Saturday, June 16, 2012

North by North East: Friday

North by North East continues in Toronto, and the plan for Friday night was to head to Yonge & Dundas Square, the crux of NXNE, for some free outdoor shows.

First up was Eight and a Half; two parts The Stills, one part Broken Social Scene, with Dave Hamlin, Liam O'Niel and Justin Peroff. I missed the first part of the set, but still managed to catch the last few songs. The trio had a good dynamic on stage, and you could definitely tell they were all completely at home playing live. I wasn't sure how their moody, electronic synth driven pop sound would translate live, but they did an excellent job with songs like "Go Ego" and "Scissors", making it seem like there were much more than just the three of them on stage, and they finished the set with "Oh, My Head", starting soft and build in intensity. What I caught was good, but since I missed some of it, it ended up being just a tease. I hope they're able to make it to Vancouver sometime soon so I can see them again. 

Next up was Montreal's Plants and Animals. Their dense and layered rock always seems like it should come from twice as many members as are on stage, but the four of them built hug sonic soundscapes from the free outdoor stage. Starting off with "Undone Melody", they played a set that seemed too short, with songs off all three of their albums. The erratic "Crisis!", one of my favourites from the new album, was great live, and they broke out the autoharp for the rousing "Bye Bye Bye". They capped it off with "Faerie Dance" that started calm and mellow and then exploded into a swirling mass of guitars, and the band going right up to the barrier with microphones for the crowd to join in on the chorus. The set was maybe a little too "bass-y", with both the bass guitar and drum drowning other things out at times, but not enough to spoil an otherwise great set. 

Going in to NXNE I had a self-imposed rule not to see any Vancouver bands -- especially if they conflicted with something -- since it would be more likely to see them at home. The obvious exception to that rule was Matthew Good. Taking the stage with the familiar chanting of  "K-I-C-K-A-S-S, that's the way we spell success" Good and his backing band launched into "Giant" and played a nearly hour and a half set that hit a lot of the major songs and singles from his career.
There's always a strange dichotomy to Matthew Good shows, since his songs can be so serious and full of raw emotion -- when he spits out lines like "it feels like time to fuck or leave" through grit teeth in "Last Parade" -- but then he's always so jovial between songs, joking about things like the giant billboards across the square from the stage; one with a swimsuit ad that came up every two minutes.
Other highlights from the set included "Shallow's Low", the boisterous "Zero Orchestra", and a string from Beautiful Midnight with nearly the entire square singing along to "Hello Time Bomb" and "Load Me Up".
The eight minute roller coaster "Non Populus" weaved expertly from soft and beautiful to chaotic and cacophonous and he ended with another pair of huge sing alongs with "Apparitions" and, for the encore, "Everything is Automatic".
I have seen Matthew Good many times now, in many different settings, and while this show was a bit more focused on the hits, to cater to the "free, outdoor" aspect the show, that didn't compromise the quality; it was still an amazing set.

That was all for the free shows at Yonge & Dundas Square, but the night was not over. There was one more stop to go: Rah Rah at the Dakota Tavern. I had never seen Rah Rah before, so I was very excited to finally see them, and they did not disappoint. They packed the small stage, and even had their cat mascot with them, for a set bubbling over with a great energy and ridiculous amounts of fun.
"Tentacles" had any people singing along, and they played a good number of new songs, from their new 7", and there was even some personnel changed on the fly, as drummer Erin Passmore swapped out to come to the front to sing and play guitar and keys.
My only complaint that the set seemed far too short. They ended almost abruptly with the lead singer procaiming "This is the part of the set where I put away my guitar" and that was it. Luckily, I found out via a tweet after the show they'll be in Vancouver soon (with Imaginary Cities, no less!) so I won't have to wait long to see them again.

Saturday will be another jam packed day for NXNE, with a CBC Radio 3 listener picnic, and then three of the acts I am most excited to see in the evening, of Montreal, The Flaming Lips and Matt Mays.

No comments:

Post a Comment