Congrats to our pal Backxwash for winning the darn Polaris Prize 2020. Here’s the time she stopped by the station to wreck shop in the music office.
On the corner of Avenue Laurier O and Rue Saint-Urbain is where you’ll find Datcha. Its blackout mirrored exterior kept the cold away from the music shared in the hip, Russian, low-lit bar. The intimate gathering of many people from diverse walks of life made for an indulgent night shared with a group of friends. Intoxication triumphed, perhaps from the wine served but namely from the musical performance of Zach Frampton and Martin Heslop.
The Nova Scotia natives played sets with musical inspirations of jazz, soul and hip-hop. Zach, the pianist, was having fun and his facial expressions were infectious. Martin, the bassist, was at ease as the two blended repertoire and improvisation seamlessly. The two were set in the corner of the smokey, dim-lit room, their black clothing faded into the walls, but their sound flooded and filled the entire room. The electric piano and bass combo was refreshing, the pair was dynamic and innovative. I recognized a personal favourite ‘Summertime’ a standard that was reinvented through the use of a loop and constant trade off of melody from one instrument to the next. The crowd was all ages, styles and from many different walks of life. The music was intended for the diverse group that attended and appreciated the event.
The jazz was TESS BUCKLEY accompanied by tarot card readings and synchronized light boards. We didn’t have any food, but indulged in a few drinks which where exceptional. The host of the event was Isaac Larose, a character and Quebec City native. Isaac is known as “the Modern Hatter,” he co-owns a millinery label (Larose Paris) and hats heads around the world. He is in high socio-artistic as well as fashionable standing. Isaac’s focus is quality and organic growth rather then finances. Isaac’s ideals and creativity was front-stage in the event he birthed and shared with the Montreal community, thank you Isaac.
Datcha’s owner Thomas Von Party is known as a “one-man party” who was “raised to rave.” He created the nightclub as a modest space intended for intimate events featuring artists hand-picked based on talent. I truly respect the talent based curating and presentation of many unique artists. It’s not just about the lights and names for Datcha, which is refreshing and sadly rare in today’s industry.
Emotions are thought to be an instinct as distinguished from reasoning or knowledge. Music is capable of changing a state of mind, by sparking one’s mood, or memories, even subconsciously. It takes a certain type of individual and performer to successfully evoke many different emotions from their audience, Zach and Martin did just that. April 5th was wonderful, I would highly recommend this event to a friend and hope to return one day.
Datcha was not just a night of ‘Jazz and Tarot’ it was an experience. The smokey room, and collective created by the eclectic listeners was electric and led to a memorable night
— Review By Tess Buckley
It may seem rather typical that the first time I went to a concert was to see a band that I adored in middle school. What makes my experience different, I suppose, is that I attended my first concert at age 20, last weekend, as the Wombats took the stage at Theatre Corona.
The Wombats of my adolescence were really just one album: 2007’s A Guide to Love, Loss and Desperation. Their sound on this album is distinctly whimsical and pop-flavored, with a punky rhythm section backing up the singsong Scouse and guitar of Matthew Murphy. I think you will agree if you give this album a listen, which you should. At the same time though, the songs feature themes of anxiety, loneliness and dysfunctional romance, almost without exception. The song that stands out most immediately from this album is the Wombats’ best known single, “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”. This song is infectiously catchy, and embraces Murphy’s pouty British voice to the utmost. In my school days, this was my preferred anthem while my peers sung along to “I Gotta Feeling”, “Umbrella” or “Replay”, by the Black Eyed Peas, Rihanna and Iyaz respectively. Looking back however, I feel that some of the other songs on the album, especially those that slow down the pace from “Joy Division”, are their best work, particularly “Party in the Woods (Where’s Laura)”, “Patricia the Stripper” and “Here Comes the Anxiety”. In retrospect, the angst of the songs can get to be a bit whiny from time to time. Folks who prefer rap or metal exclusively may find it to be too light, but if you like pop music, this may be for you.
I had some concerns, attending a concert. I didn’t really like the idea of mindless, strobe-lit hordes pushing each other around, based on my unpleasant and infrequent visits to McGill frosh events and various nightclubs. I also don’t like it when music is super loud, just in general and especially recently because I have been having some problems with my ears, so the volume was certainly a worry. The other thing is that, I really like recorded music, with all its complexity and maximum of quality. I’ve never really seen the appeal of live music, my thought process being, “This can only be worse. It cannot be better than the versions they perfected in the studio”. Also, I had heard horror stories from all over about musicians taking the stage hours late, and of those who put on awful or insulting shows.
I was justified in being concerned about most of these things. The Wombats played super loud, which at first, I actually enjoyed. My ears were getting numb by the end of the setlist though. The crowd, although manifesting in large numbers within the excellent Corona venue, didn’t really bother me too much, it wasn’t that crazy
The Wombats were not worse in live performance than on their records, and they put on a fantastic show. It was certainly, however, a very different music than what I knew of them, and it was a pleasant surprise for me. They dove after each sunshine-pop melody with the intensity characteristic of arena rock and punk music, with the rhythm section pounding through with the volume it deserved. Murphy’s guitar parts were quite the highlight for me, as he wove high-pitched chords into alternate melodies between his singing. To be honest, the only songs I recognized were “Patricia the Stripper”, “Moving to New York” and “Let’s Dance to Joy Division”. Most of the songs were from their new release from February of this year, Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life. Two of my favorites are “Cheetah Tongue” and the lead single “Lemon to a Knife Fight”.
My direction now is clear: start listening to The Wombats again, and continue to attend concerts.
~ Review by Will Anderson
From the band’s very first address to the audience, it was clear the Hop Along show at the Belmont last Saturday would be a relaxed evening with hearts warmed by great music and charming and humorous band members. Throughout the evening, banter between spectators and band would blur the lines between the two for an intimate show appropriate of the Belmont’s shoebox performance space.
Before this, Washington, D.C.-based Bat Fangs warmed up the stage, announcing their provenance via the bassist’s Capitals tee and a brief introduction from singer/guitarist Betsy Wright. Wright and drummer Laura King formed the band after bouncing around a few other groups, and their experience oozed out of their ripping guitar riffs and flourishing tom hits. As if their stage presence didn’t scream of enough rock n’ roll cool, they introduced the song “Bad Astrology” by yelling out, “was anyone here just born bad?” It took a moment for the audience to respond, probably because they first assumed it was a rhetorical question meant for the band members themselves. The answer was a clear “yes.”
Hop Along took advantage of the sizzle left by Bat Fangs’ riot grrrl torch and immediately launched into the lead single, “How Simple,” off their album released earlier this year, Bark Your Head Off, Dog. Onlookers lining the front of the stage and pockets of them throughout the venue bounced and hooted along to the contagious melody of the refrain, reflecting the more optimistic half of the lyrics, “Don’t worry we will both find out/ Just not together.” The set that followed would include most of the 9 songs from the short-but-sweet track-list. Origin-indicating shirts seemed to be a motif of the night, with a member wearing a Modern Baseball shirt, this time referencing a fellow band from Philly.
Front-woman Frances Quinlan broke the ice by thanking the crowd for coming out on their “only Saturday of the week,” adding that, “it’s just bazonkers.” Over the chuckling crowd-members, she ironically added, “yeah, I’m a wordsmith.” Though meant in jest, one of the band’s greatest strengths is Quinlan’s songwriting. She excels in stringing together monologues that put the listener in the shoes of characters imagined, observed, or of her own in ways that are still deeply relatable even through layers of idiosyncratic imagery.
The band then took a brief detour through their past discography with “Kids On The Boardwalk” from 2012’s Get Disowned and “Texas Funeral” from 2015’s Painted Shut. By the time the irresistible rhythm guitar of newer song “Somewhere A Judge” rung out, anyone in attendance not previously unabashedly crying out memorized lyrics would have understood their excitement. Indeed, successfully singing along with Quinlan and coming at all close to replicating the often unexpected turns in melody and her many vocal inflections should definitely be considered a feat. Quinlan’s voice has the ability to take on as many identities as the diverse assortment of those described in her lyrical narratives, from understated whisper to disinhibited howl and somehow, in combination of both, a throaty yelp full of simultaneous force and restraint.
“What’s the Montreal version of a Waffle House?,” Quinlan asked, foreshadowing the next song, “I Saw My Twin,” about Quinlan spotting her doppelgänger in a West Virginia location of the restaurant chain (the crowd’s decided equivalent: “La Belle Province”). Afterwards, Mark Quinlan, the band’s drummer and Frances’ brother, lightened the topic of lives that could have been and the thin veil of celebrity by joking, “just about 420 songs left.” In response, a member of an enthusiastic group in the crowd that had previously screamed out an open invitation to their address after the show, yelled in ecstatic recognition, “the weed number!” The tone of the show became serious yet again as Frances started off “Look of Love” as she does in the recording, with just her voice and her acoustic guitar. Lyrics containing the album’s title wove a story about a guilt-ridden childhood experience in which her wish that a disliked neighborhood dog would stop barking at her is fulfilled by a car accident. Though Quinlan had warned the audience of melancholy subject matter just prior, the song ended in an uplifting reflection on the beauty in life after death upon returning the dog’s grave and seeing birds feeding on the garden over it.
The thematic intensity continued, this time taking a turn for the biblical with “What the Writer Meant” and “Not Abel.” Hop Along’s latest work differs from their previous efforts with the addition of strings either bowed or plucked in the background of most of the album, including these songs. Understandably, this feature was not translated to their tour, but the absence of the arrangements was barely noticeable with Quinlan’s poignant lyricisms and the band’s camaraderie that both made their playing seamless and the audience feeling like a part of the family.
With this atmosphere in mind, I almost expected Hop Along to make light of the traditional encore formalities and perhaps continue straight into the end of their set after a wisecrack about not leaving the stage. Though in the end they went through the motions, they promised to return as soon as possible after treating fans to old favorites “Well-Dressed,” “The Knock,” and “Tibetan Pop Stars.” I have no doubt they’ll have an even greater troupe of loyal music lovers waiting when that happens.
~review by Dylan Lai
Paradoxically, one of the best ways to characterize the music of Son Lux is that it’s difficult to do so. The genre-resistant group was originally the solo project of Ryan Lott until 2015, and his proclivity for out-of-the-box musical exploration has drawn comparison to (and a collaborative project with) Sufjan Stevens. Personally, his unique vocal timbre is reminiscent of James Blake. This affinity for the unusual also apparently extends to Son Lux’s choice of touring partners, as openers Sinkane and Hanna Benn blended their own selection of sounds to give audience members a taste of what was to come. As I entered the Fairmount this past Monday to catch the end of Hanna Benn, the already substantial crowd was a clear indicator of the magnetic power and intrigue of ambiguity.
Benn’s crystalline vocals, which also made an appearance on Son Lux’s 2016 EP Stranger Forms, floated over compositions influenced by her eclectic classical and gospel training. Sinkane, up next, mixed the music of his Sudanese roots with jazz and funk elements for an energizing set that showcased the talents of the group’s members. The guitarist got a few improvisational solos in, and the harmonies of keyboardist/vocalist Elenna Canlas backing up frontman Ahmed Gallab’s soothing tenor transformed to lead vocals for the majority of the band’s final two songs.
Before long, Lott’s faux-hawk appeared under the dim stage lights. He was joined by guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang, and the trio introduced themselves with the first few chilling verses of “Forty Screams,” then the opening song from their latest album Brighter Wounds. The project is the second to include Bhatia and Chang as official band members after 2015’s Bones, though the group has been performing together since 2013. Though the most recent album is sonically more accessible than the last, Lott hasn’t lightened his hand lyrically. It’s an intimate reflection on his alternating hope and uncertainty for the future spurred by the recent birth of his son. His trembling falsetto, sounding always as if he might be moments away from tears, lends itself to expressing the raw content of the music. Varyingly passed through filters and paired with his eclectic production, full of instrumental samples and effects with a distorted yet organic feel, it can be hard to be sure he’s emitting the sounds you’re hearing or if they originate from some otherworldly source.
Though Son Lux is Lott’s brainchild, the group’s writing process is reportedly highly collaborative. Accordingly, the musicianship of the of the other members was given ample time to shine, with the band adapting their recordings for the stage to highlight their skill. Bhatia had a few solos and covered string parts by adjusting his tone, and for “Stolen,” Chang broke into an extended drum break to finish off the song. Building off this energy, Lott later showcased his usually restrained voice by belting out the resplendent chorus of “Dream State.” Digging into the keyboard unconventionally angled away from him, it seemed like he was holding on against a musical fervor that would otherwise sweep him away.
As he approached the end of the set, Lott joked with the audience, playing on the traditional faux exit and encore by telling the audience, “the song after this is our last…but not really. Just pretend it is.” The crowd happily obeyed, keeping energy levels high. When the band got to their “last song,” they requested that the people in the venue participate, instructing the crowd and cueing them in to sing a melody adapted from one of the string parts in the song. The tune in question, “All Directions,” was befitting of the impromptu choir, since a similar effect is applied in the final refrain of the recording. The lyrics, “And weren’t we the beautiful ones/I promise we were,” also stir up a collective impression of loss and redemption that was easy to feel part of.
As promised, Son Lux exited the stage before re-entering and delivering a smoldering performance of “Aquatic.” To spark things up again for their (actual) last song, they treated everyone to their most popular tune, “Lost it to Trying,” getting the audience to join in once again – this time without any request needed.
~ review by Dylan Lai
Last Sunday, Theatre Plaza hosted an ode to DIY music with three distinct artists demonstrating synth-laden electronic, good ol’ rock, and a final act that combined the two. Local group Tess Roby opened the night with a simple setup: Tess on keys behind a mic, and her brother, Eliot, on guitar. Her warm, unadorned vocals (strikingly similar to the few studio recordings she has released) and pulsing synth cascades instilled a moody stillness, the only movement coming from the intermittent stomping of guitar pedals and the milling about of audience members. For her final song, “Ballad 5,” she requested that all the lights be turned blue, softening the ambiance one last time before taking her leave.
Girl Ray appeared shortly afterward with a classic guitar band outfit, adding just one touring member to their three-girl London-based act. Layering a modern lo-fi guitar sound over 70s folk/pop influences, they ramped up the energy along with the swelling crowd, even garnering cheers for a brief coordinated shimmy between guitarist/vocalist Poppy Hankin and bassist Sophie Moss.
With the clock approaching midnight, Porches frontman Aaron Maine took the stage with his back to a charged audience. After counting the band in with his swinging hips, he turned to deliver “Now the Water,” a song off his new album The House. A few tunes in, gentle head bobbing turned to jumping and jiving as the crowd got down to “Find Me,” a single off the album that juxtaposes lyrics about struggling with anxiety against dance-worthy beats. Energized by the response, Maine expressed his appreciation for everyone coming out by informing us he’d worn a “special shirt” for the occasion, indicating something apparently exceptional about his otherwise nondescript black tee. That shirt soon became a centerpiece for communicating the artist’s personality throughout the night, like his deadpan humor when he later clarified that we should actually ignore the shirt and “focus on the music,” a point he reinforced by briefly hiding behind it after lifting it up and over his face for a moment towards the end of his set.
Just as Maine’s dry sarcasm kept the audience guessing, The House navigates the ambiguous emotional spaces of post-breakup introspection, motivated by his recent split from Greta Kline of Frankie Cosmos. Still, the music of Porches has never shied away from melancholia, and the 15-song set, split evenly between the most recent and previous (sophomore) album, felt like it could be part of a single work connected by its synth and heart-heavy sound.
Whether or not the awkwardness was deliberate, Maine seemed most comfortable mid-song, swaying along to the murky emotions simulated by the swirl of rhythm, melody, and lyrics that frequently invoke water as a metaphorical vehicle. One couldn’t help but feel the simultaneous solace and solitude in his music when, during the encore, the rest of the band crept, kneeling, into their spots while he began the heartfelt ballad “Country.” Before giving anyone time to reflect, the band closed the night by stripping back the synths and returning to their roots with “Headsgiving” off the debut album, lifting spirits with hearty guitars and drums. It was a perfect way to end. Lyrics like, “And in her eyes/I want to die/Before I die the sad kind,” contrast with those about giving head to encapsulate the sadness, sometimes whimsical, sometimes sincere, but never overly self-indulgent, that Maine likes to inhabit with his songwriting. This emotional gray area has a hazy relatability, even if not always readily accessible – though wallowing in Maine’s world for the better part of an hour certainly helps tap into this space. As I stepped outside to let the cold wind blow away any remaining gloom, I felt a sense of catharsis, and though unexpected, I was sure I wasn’t the only one.
~review by Dylan Lai
If you weren’t dancing and singing along at the Alvvays concert on Friday, you were missing the entire point.
The concert was a joyous event. The Toronto indie pop band played almost all of their songs from their latest album, Antisocialites, and some fan favourites from their first album. Fan favourites like “Archie, Marry Me” and “Not My Baby” caused loud singing from the audience, with the audience practically screaming lyrics back at the band. While most songs provided an opportunity to dance, the dancing reached its ecstatic peak during “My Type.”
The most powerful moment of crowd participation came during “Forget About Life.” I’m going to be honest: “Forget About Life” (the last song on Antisocialites) was not a song that stood out to me when listening at home. On Friday night at Club Soda, I got it. When Molly Rankin stood underneath the blue stage lights and sung “Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?” the whole crowd answered her back. This was the rallying call for everyone at the concert. During the chorus, the crowd almost over-powered Rankin’s voice as they sung back:
Did you want to forget about life?
Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?
Underneath this flickering light,
Did you want to forget about life with me tonight?
I have now been playing that song nonstop and can still feel the sense of oneness and camaraderie I felt in that crowd on Friday.
I have always enjoyed Alvvays music, but this concert made me fall in love with them. Their lyrics are easy to sing along to, all while expressing deep, emotional truths. Their melodies are catchy and easy to dance to. Their songs invite (and command) participation.
– Review by Ella Chatfield-Stiehler
This past weekend I made the 9-hour trek to represent CKUT at Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (FME). I spent two nights in the pine-rimmed rural city of Rouyn-Noranda, hopping from venue to venue in an attempt to escape the unseasonal chill that descended on Quebec this Labour Day weekend. Despite the slightly disappointing “summer” weather, the festival-goers and locals alike came through on a collective promise to make the fifteenth FME a fête to remember.
While I was only able to experience half the festival – it ran from Thursday, August 31 to Sunday, August 3 – I was able to compile a comprehensive “field journal” of sorts for this truly unique festival experience. Hopefully, along with some visual aids, it will serve to successfully capture the essence of FME 2017. Bonne lecture! Continue reading
The end of summer is nigh, but don’t shed your festival gear just yet: we are just a week away from the 15th edition of the Festival de musique émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (FME), held from August 31 to September 3 in southwestern Quebec. This year, close to 70 artists, most of them Canadian or Québecois, will descend on the sleepy city of Rouyn-Noranda and party all Labour Day weekend.
To prepare you for this unique festival experience, this author has prepared a curated Spotify playlist featuring artists who will be performing at FME 2017. Below are short descriptions of the tracks and artists for you to peruse at your leisure.
Look out for exclusive interviews with artists from the festival on TOTAL ECLIPSE in the coming weeks, as well as live coverage coming at you from my CKUT Twitter account, @jmvanamsterdam.
FME 2017 HOT PICKS
- Pierre Kwenders (“Woods of Solitude”): Kwenders is a Congolese-Canadian rapper and musician who blends traditional African themes with dance music and hip-hop. He performs on August 31 at 9:15pm.
- Thus Owls (“Smoke Like Birds”): Thus Owls is a Swedish-Canadian husband-and-wife duo based in Montreal. Together they create a dark, layered indie pop sound. Thus Owls perform on August 31 at 8:00pm.
- Phillipe B (“Explosion”): Phillipe B is a Québecois singer-songwriter hailing from Rouyn-Noranda, though he is currently based in Montreal. He produces haunting, expansive music that incorporates acoustic guitar plucking and orchestral accents. Phillipe B performs on August 31 at 9:00pm.
- La Mverte (“The Inner Out”): La Mverte is a Parisian electronic artist whose music is reminiscent of Kraftwerk’s “robot pop.” He performs on August 31 at 5:00pm.
- La Bronze (“Aimons-nous”): La Bronze is a band hailing from Quebec, blending a capella harmonies with alt-rock instrumentals. They perform on August 31 at 8:30pm.
- A Tribe Called Red (“R.E.D.”): A Tribe Called Red is a Canadian electro-hip-hop group based out of Ottawa. The trio is comprised of First Nations members, and they famously meld “powwow step” with hip-hop and dubstep to create powerful, contemporary powwow dancehall music. ATCR perform on August 31 at 10:15pm.
- Andy Shauf (“The Musician”): Andy Shauf is a Saskatchewanian singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who creates highly-acclaimed indie pop, notable for its inclusion of the clarinet. He performs on August 31 at 10:15pm. Continue reading
Art’s Birthday was originally proposed in 1964 by artist Robert Filiou as a celebration of all things Art. Ever since that fateful year, arts organizations all over the world celebrate Art’s Birthday with parties and performances. CKUT has produced special programming in celebration of Art’s Birthday since 2007.
According to our calculations, Art will be turning 1,000,047 this year, and once again CKUT will be ringing in the occasion with a variety of stunning performances. From the serious to the silly, the night will be a celebration of Art in all its varieties.
See y’all at Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent) this Sunday.
Doors are, 9:00 music at 9:30.
8-10$ — a fundraiser for CKUT!