Tag Archives: concert review

Concert Review: Daughter (May 7 2013 @ The Great Hall, Toronto)

Daughter at The Great Hall (Toronto)

The haunting beauty of Daughter will unlikely remain contained within intimate venues like The Great Hall for much longer. Their debut album If You Leave (released March 2013) is one that seems a logical continuation of three wonderful EP’s (Demos, His Young Heart, The Wild Youth). It finds lead singer Elena Tonra weaving through slightly more upbeat tapestries whil still maintaining that somber songwriting that hits you “right in the feels”. We’ve all been where she has been and the ease with which she can evoke emotion is something that will take this band far.

The sweltering heat of summer made the two tiny ceiling fans at The Great Hall seem laughable. Openers Wilsen created the perfect vibe to start the night with raw but beautiful songwriting. Definitely a band to look out for. Despite the heat and the 10 minute period of the spotlights shutting on and off at random intervals, Daughter was able to push through with an endearingly timid British demeanor.

They performed songs from their EPs and debut with precision, closing with an incredibly powerful crescendo at the end of “Home”. The crowd, singing along the lyrics to songs like “Landfill” and “Youth” had Elena smiling incredulously, but she should get used to the feeling. Their fanbase is only going to get larger and more passionate as they tour this new album and open for bands like The National this upcoming year.

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Concert Review: Neverending White Lights (Nov, 21 2012 @ El Mocambo, Toronto)

Neverending White Lights @ El Mocambo

From the start, the night at El Mocambo was focused on an exceptional group of singers and their vocal abilities. Playing for a packed house, Neverending White Lights played an exciting set, both musically and visually. Entering to a dazzling light show, Daniel Victor and company kept pace all night as they played through a set full of fan-favourites including “The Grace” and “Always.” There were also great harmonies between Victor and Bed of Stars singer Evan Konrad, as demonstrated during “Falling Apart.” These two guys can sing and their voices perfectly complement each other.

Toronto Indie band Mr. And Mrs. Fox opened the night. Playing for a hometown crowd, they graced the audience with a set full of harmonies and on-stage charisma. Their set was followed by local band Lyon, fronted by the exceptionally talented Lauren Emily Malyon. The showcase of her vocal prowess, accompanied by her electric violin playing, was one of the highlights of night.

Before joining Neverending White Lights on stage, Evan Konrad played an unplugged set of his own, focusing on just his voice and acoustic guitar. Konrad took requests of songs from his impressive repertoire with Bed of Stars and also played several new tracks.

The creativity of Neverending White Lights was prominent in their show, demonstrated by the dramatic light show and stage effects, soulful guitar solos, and the harmonies between Victor and Konrad. Their driving rhythms really got the crowd moving. For a mid-week concert, the atmosphere was incredible. Seeing such a group of musicians in a bar setting seemed a privilege, as the show demonstrated talent, creativity, and composure that could be headlining arena concerts.

-Micheal Vipond
Katuwapitiya.com Contributor

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Concert Review and Interview: Jeff Barkman (Nov, 19 2012 @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto)

Jeff Barkman @ Horseshoe Tavern

Jeff Barkman @ Horseshoe Tavern

There’s something amazing about shows at the Horseshoe Tavern. As one of the most historic live venues in Toronto, its atmosphere is rarely matched. Jeff Barkman and his brand of indie singer-songwriter music did not disappoint in maintaining that atmosphere. His set consisted almost entirely of new songs that will be on his next album, tentatively titled Ghosts. With his talent for songwriting on display, Barkman presented the crowd with some of the most emotional songs in his repertoire. In our last review, we said that the lyrics behind his first album Assembly Line Surgery were sincere; if this show is any indication of how his second album will sound, it will be nothing short of mesmerizing. The soulful approach to his new set of songs was captivating. With a stripped down set including just Barkman’s raspy voice and acoustic guitar, it was a moving set.

The opening acts started the night off on a high note. Exceptionally talented Montreal band The Damn Truth, fronted by the charismatic Lee-La, opened the night with an awesome hard-rockin’ blues sound that is rare in today’s music. Local band Tomahawk Love also brought an entertaining set with a good mix of covers and original tunes. The crowd was dancing through the whole set, right from the opening riff of their cover of Jet’s “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?”.

Compared to the high-energy opening acts, Barkman’s set was quite intimate, something that works well at the Horseshoe. The audience was engaged as soon as Barkman’s voice was heard at the start of the first song “Chains.” With a setlist full of meaningful songs, Barkman kept it light by joking with the crowd and doing shots of whiskey in between songs, ending one of his most emotional songs with the comment “It’s really hot up here. I’m pretty sure I can smell every band that’s ever played here. Seriously, it smells like the Rolling Stones.”

Barkman capped the night with some of the most popular songs from his first album, including “Safe from Hell,” “Without You Within,” and the soulful “Assembly Line Surgery.” With much of the crowd singing along, it was a perfect way to end the night.

We got the chance to speak to Jeff about his first album Assembly Line Surgery, and how he has been influenced as a musician:

The first thing I noticed when I listened to Assembly Line Surgery was that every song really feels like it has its own personal story behind it. Is this how you always approach song-writing?

Yeah, when I write, I can’t write anything that’s just mindless or meaningless. Every single song that I will ever take the time to record and promote and play live will have a story attached to it. Some of them are snapshots of certain moments in time. I’ve had guys jam with me that say “Man, I like how all your songs are about something.”

Watching some videos from your old shows at The Drake Hotel, I thought it was really cool that you started every song with a story about where it came from. Do you always try to have that connection with your audience?

Well that was a really cool gig. I definitely find that it’s something important, and something I want to do more. The Drake really lends itself to telling stories because the sound in there is so beautifully crisp that the audience can actually understand every word that you say. You can connect with your audience on a very real level.

Who has had the greatest influence on your music?

It’s hard to pick a greatest influence. I’ve had so many different influences at different times in my life, but my first big influence was probably Kurt Cobain. I got Nirvana’s MTV Live Unplugged record when I was about twelve. Man, I killed that record. I played it absolutely to death, then I put it down for a couple of years, but I still go back to it. It’s definitely one of my favourites.

With the state of the music industry today, what do you think is the best way for prospective musicians to gain exposure?

Write your ass off. And play shows. Play all of the worst shows you possibly can, where you’re playing for a completely empty room, and just learn to play regardless. Believe it or not, I’ve played something like 200 shows. A lot of those were some of the most heartbreaking shows you can imagine. Seriously, just me and the bartender. And the worst is afterwards when the bartender says “Dude, you’re amazing!” and all you can say is “Thanks… Glad you enjoyed it… Kill me now…”

So do you have any plans for recording and releasing the new album?

I haven’t really even hit the production stage yet. I want the next one to be a lot more low-fi and dirtier sounding. With Assembly Line Surgery, the songs are just a collection of stories. A lot of times, with first records, you end up having a collection of all the songs you’ve ever written. You pick the best ones and make a record. With the second record, the theme is a lot more coherent. I hit a writing block a little while ago and started talking to some friends about it. I had a really rough childhood and my friend said that maybe I should try writing from there. I was really daunted and intimidated at writing from those really horrible places, but they turned out to be real songs with real emotions, and that’s something I care about. I want the production to match that feeling.

Lastly, if you were stuck on a desert island with a CD player, a ton of batteries, and one album, what would it be?

I’ve got this record by Ari Neufeld. It’s called Old Man Songs By A Boy (For A Girl). Seriously, my opinion of this album is like “you’re welcome for telling you about it.” I got a chance to see this guy perform at someone’s house, and I got the chance to make friends with him. It’s amazing. This album is seminal for me.

-Micheal Vipond
Katuwapitiya.com Contributor

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Concert Review: Phife Dawg at APK Live (London, Ontario) (Feb. 16, 2012)

Phife Dawg performing live in 2012

The currently-enigmatic Phife Dawg played a concert at APK Live in London, Ontario last night and I was lucky enough to be in attendance. Before the show, I tried to look up his past setlists, tried to find out about his other upcoming shows, wondered what the hip-hop legend was doing in a smaller venue in a smaller town but found few answers. I had no idea what to expect but seeing as how Tribe put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen (2006 at Kool Haus), there was no way I was missing this.

Opener after opener hit the stage as is often the case with bigger shows in London but when Phife finally hit the stage around 12:30 AM, it was everything we had hoped for. Playing many classics from his Tribe Called Quest days, the packed venue was on fire. Scenario, Electric Relaxation, Award Tour, Can I Kick It, Bonita Applebaum, and Stir It Up (Steve Biko), were just some of the numbers that he brought out. He even let the crowd do the Q-Tip verses. He also unveiled some new solo tracks which had decent production (and also some of his old solo tracks like “Flawless”).

After seeing Beats Rhymes & Life, I was unsure of how he would hold up for a whole set due to his health issues. I noticed that he did lose some energy as the set went on but he hid it well and the crowd was more than willing to fill in the missing verses. Overall, an amazing experience. Super humble, he even stuck around for autographs and photos after the show.

He’s playing Toronto tonight (February 17th, 2012) at Revival at a Hip-Hop Karaoke event.

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Concert Review: Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) at Trinity St. Paul's Church, Toronto, August 2011

When Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) announced a dozen shows out of nowhere, I knew that I had to be at one. Luckily enough, two of those shows were Toronto dates. Not having luck online, I was lucky enough to score tickets in person at Soundscapes for Saturday August 13th. This is the review of that night.

I arrived at Trinity St. Paul’s approximately 30 minutes before doors were to open and was about the 100th person in line. I could already tell that I was amongst true fans and that was a great feeling.

The church itself was a beautiful venue and the fact that it was a dry event really didn’t hinder the fun. The only issue, and it was a major one, was the lack of air conditioning. As each row filled, the church became more and more like a hipster sweat lodge. But when the music started, it became easier to ignore.

Openers Andrew, Scott and Laura (Members of Elf Power & The Gerbils) had an interesting sound. Each vocalist had a different vibe, from Kimya Dawson to The Decemberists, and overall, it was a great way to start the night. The highlight of the set was “Two Skies“. As good as they were, I couldn’t help constantly checking my watch as the set went on in anticipation of what was to come.

Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) live in Toronto

Jeff Mangum (of Neutral Milk Hotel) live in Toronto

The crowd exploded when Jeff Mangum came onto the stage but quickly fell silent when he opened with “Oh Comely”. These were the songs that many have played and replayed for the last decade and the last thing people wanted to do was annoy the labeled-recluse Jeff Mangum, complete with his recluse hat.

Except he wasn’t how many expected. His banter with the crowd was humorous and friendly (responded to a “we miss you!” with a “but I’m right here…”) and after it was clear that he was encouraging crowd participation, the vibe of the concert became even more intimate and special.

You could almost feel the people swaying in the pews during his rendition of “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” and that same crowd became a loud gospel choir, bellowing “III LLLOOVVEEE YOOUUU JEESSUUSSS CCCHHHRRIIISTTTT” during his “King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 2”. Jeff Mangum isn’t the best singer in the world but the rough edges of his vocal range yield a sort of endearingness that I cannot compare to another musician. Any concerns about rust from his period of non-touring were completely unnecessary.

The night finished off with “Engine” as an encore and though the crowd had participated throughout (even humming an extended note which Jeff Mangum used as a backdrop for a song verse), it was quiet enough to hear a pin drop. The vulnerability of his voice paired with guitar was simply magical. To leave that church was to feel renewed (though I’m sure the moksha yoga temperature had a bit to do with that too).

During his set, he even encouraged questions to be asked from the crowd. When someone asked him “When are you going to next record?” he answered that he wouldn’t record until his heart is ready. For all our sakes, let’s hope that happens soon.

Here is audio of his rendition of “A Baby For Pree” from his first album “On Avery Island”:

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