Tag Archives: concert review

The welcoming sign to Rouyn-Noranda, birthplace of FME

CKUT @ FME 2017: Post-Fest Field Journal

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

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Concert Review: Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas @ Corona Theatre

The cacophony in Montreal’s old Corona Theatre rose steadily this past Wednesday, as the crowd eagerly waited for Cult of Luna and Julie Christmas to take the stage. This was going to be my third time seeing Cult Of Luna, but the first with Christmas, who was added as a featured member for the band’s new album, Mariner. This Montreal show was the third in a series of just five North American tour dates for Cult of Luna, where, with Christmas’ help, they’ve been performing Mariner in its entirety.

The group took the stage in almost complete darkness. Four spotlights were aimed into the crowd and then instantly replaced with heavy backlights, shrouding all the members in darkness and leaving only their silhouettes visible. In all the Cult of Luna shows I’ve been to, I’ve never seen their faces – I wouldn’t be able to recognize them if I had to (but I’m sure they’re all beautiful; they are Swedish, after all).

They began with album-opener “A Greater Call,” starting off with steady post-rockish layers of keyboard, guitar, and drums, and then crescendoing alongside Johannes Persson’s unique growl. Julie Christmas responded to Persson with melodic lines that claimed “we are not conquerors/we float with the tide,” hypnotically repeating the phrases. Her ethereal voice was a welcome contrast to Persson’s, as was her eerie and magnificent presence on stage – Christmas pulled off pieces of her dress over the course of the set, twirling them as she howled before throwing them into the crowd. During “Chevron,” the heaviest song on the album, her demonic lyrics and entrancing headbanging captivated the crowd, Christmas’ hair becoming a rhythmic display against the backlit stage.

Christmas clearly established herself as a tough collaborator to match, but, as always, Cult of Luna did not disappoint. Their intense playing and visuals made the space-themed Mariner into a true journey. “The Wreck of S.S. Needle” best evoked the other-worldly subject matter, with its ominous keyboards and sinister lyrics, ending with Christmas’s enchanting request to “put me down, where I can see you run.” During album-closer “Cygnus,” strobe lights pulsed to the beat of the snare like a high powered camera flash, momentarily disrupting the crowd’s optical receptors; every time my vision returned to normal, it was just as quickly jolted by the next hit, leaving me completely spellbound. This part of the record was heavily influenced by the Star Gate sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey, an inspiration that certainly translated live: it felt like the whole theatre was crossing the outer-limits of the universe, about to finally progress into the darkness of the unknown cosmos and disappear, bringing the performance to a satisfying close.

The band exited the stage while Christmas stayed back, shaking hands with the whole front row, creating a connection with the audience that was very un-Cult Of Luna. Leaving the venue, I heard people express how mind-blown they were by the evening, particularly by Christmas’s incredible voice and immaculate stage performance. I had a hard time disagreeing. My only wish was that it had been even louder, but that might just be my ears fading from going to so many shows – a small price to pay for nights like this.

– review by Nadège Radioskid

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Concert Review: Alan Licht at Suoni Per Il Popolo

alan licht show

Alan Licht is one of those extremely prolific avant-garde musicians who keeps re-emerging in different musical contexts. Since the beginning of his career, Licht has explored large tracts of musical territory with endless collaborators and a consistently refined yet elusive style, one that resists description – ephemeral might be the best word for it. Whether he’s atonally plucking a subdued guitar with Loren Connors on Two Nights, or diverging into drone remixes of disco anthems on Plays Well, all of his output is confident and fascinating. Given this diverse discography, I was quite curious to see what Licht would play when I arrived at La Vitrola on June 3rd for his Suoni Per Il Popolo show.

The evening began with two strong performances from two very different guitarists. The first was local solo guitarist Vicky Mettler, who I’d never seen before. Mettler got the crowd’s attention with her loud, distorted acoustic guitar; any other sound in the audience was barely audible amidst the heavy tones she produced. Playing an assortment of atonal chords, Mettler sung and wailed alongside the creeping tones of her instrument, harmonizing in a foreboding and ominous way – a promising start for the night.

The second opener was an Icelandic guitarist by the name of Kristin Haraldsdottir. Her music, in direct contrast with Mettler’s, was hushed and lingering; Haraldsdottir let her instrument breathe in between notes, the guitar exhaling over empty air or a backing track of oceans, rivers, and various other hydrologic manifestations. Unfortunately, some of the effect was lost due to (in Licht’s words) a particularly noisy ‘polka-disco’ party underway downstairs. But despite the potential distractions, Haraldsdottir’s performance was captivating, and I hope she makes her way back to North America sometime soon.

By the time Licht went on, the room was quiet, the music from downstairs finally having subsided. Licht entered the stage quite unceremoniously, acoustic guitar in hand, and without skipping a beat he sat down on a chair centre-stage and began playing.

Licht’s guitar tone was clean and bright; you could hear each note reverberate as if it was a bell chime. He strummed his guitar, up and down, in a straightforward rhythm, and kept fingerpicking techniques to a minimum. There was no dissonance, no distortion – Licht was simply playing his guitar in the same way someone might play in their room at home, strumming chord after chord, thinking that maybe this progression would hypothetically sound good in a band someday.

Despite these rudimentary tools and straight ahead style, Licht did not fail to deeply impress. Throughout the show, he continuously convinced me that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that he was doing it well. Early on in the set Licht confided that, after reading Keith Richards’ biography, he was inspired to write a lot of these songs in open G. The tuning allowed him to hit all six strings of his guitar with every stroke of his hand, creating a real fullness and depth to the sound.

The songs themselves were like hurried meditations on hypothetical childhood memories, not nostalgic, but rather invoking in me the same sense of solipsistic optimism that I used to feel when I was a kid. Rather than leaving me with the chills, Licht’s gave me a warm feeling, like the one you get in your stomach when seeing a friend after many months apart. In a way, it felt as if Licht had turned La Vitrola into his own living room, and the audience members were his welcomed guests as we sat there and watched him play.

Licht didn’t linger on stage once he finished, instead hurrying over to the merch table, leaving his audience to find our way back to reality. The concert had been an exclusive peek into another world, Licht’s performances like bedroom renditions of the best rock songs never written. Eventually, I begrudgingly got on my feet to leave, feeling as though I was arriving home from a vacation, the sound of Licht’s guitar still repeating over and over in my head.

– Review by Rudy Quinn

photo taken by Aaron Bentley

Concert Review: Kaytranada @ L’Olympia

photo taken by Aaron Bentley

photo taken by Aaron Bentley

Final exams didn’t faze dedicated fans from attending a sold out show at L’Olympia from local electronic producer Kaytranada. Taking the stage at 11:20pm, the venue was packed to the brim with people eagerly anticipating the eccentric young artist to perform his latest mixes for everyone. Fellow local artists Planet Giza and Lou Phelps opened the show earlier on that night with their own sets to warm up the crowd. However, if you planned on catching just the main act then you would’ve had to bear waiting outside in line for over half an hour before stepping foot into the venue.

Once inside L’Olympia, security pushed their efforts in patting down every single person before letting anyone onto the dancefloor. The crowd was immense, nothing but a sea of bodies could be seen in every direction and by the time my friends and I made our way inside, Kaytranada had already took to the stage with performing his mixes.

We made our way up towards the front of the stage, the energy in the room was unparalleled to the show that Kaytranada performed back in May for the release of his debut LP 99.9%. By this time around people knew what to expect from the young producer, his debut album garnered widespread attention and has been making appearances on end of the year lists for the hottest albums of 2016.

He performed fan favorites from 99.9%. The tracks “Glowed Up” and “Lite Spots” had the audience going ballistic and vibing hard off of the hottest two singles on the album. During another point of the show “Cranes In The Sky” off of Solange’s latest record A Seat At The Table had people grooving hard to the funky remix that Kaytranada was able to provide on the track. The liveliness of the venue was constant, everyone in the building was able to lose themselves to Kaytranada’s crisp production that has become distinct to the artist’s production style.

After over an hour of material the show finally concluded around 12:35am, roars of excitement and cheer filled the venue of L’Olympia as Kaytranada thanked everyone for coming to the show. While it’s only been a couple of months since 99.9% dropped, the amount of playability that album holds is always refreshing when listening to his debut efforts. On a live stage all his songs translate exceptionally well to the dancefloor, which makes total sense. His music is meant to be danced to, meant to be played at parties, and most importantly is meant to showcase that Kaytranada is no one-trick pony when it comes to making music.

-review by Michael Eidelson

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Concert Review: Porches, Japanese Breakfast, and Rivergazer @ Bar le Ritz PDB

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This summer, I became acquainted with the music of Porches in a big way. Their most recent album, Pool, came into my life at a time when I really needed some new stuff to listen to, and ever since,  I’ve had Porches’ music on pretty much constant repeat. On Monday, October 3rd, I got the chance to see them play alongside Rivergazer and Japanese Breakfast at Bar Le Ritz PDB, a show that sold out early on in the night and did not disappoint.

Rivergazer kicked the show off at 9:30 – though usually a trio, they performed as a duo with synth and bass fronted by Kevin Farrant, the guitarist from Porches. Rivergazer’s music is mostly synth-heavy love ballads accented with extreme auto-tuned vocals, with the members trading off as lead vocalist accompanied by tight backing harmonies from the other. As someone in the crowd described, they sound “kind of like a sad Porches”, in terms of the kind of heavy emotional stuff found in their lyrics, especially in songs like “Only 4 U”. They were a great opener in terms of setting the mood as a fun-but-not-over-the-top night.

The next group, Japanese Breakfast, is a four-piece rock group from Philadelphia fronted by high-energy vocalist/guitarist, Michelle Zauner. Their vibe was a lot different than the two other bands, playing more straight-up fun rock with an non-self-conscious attitude towards enjoying themselves on stage. I found their music to be a little one-dimensional, and the mixing of the band made it so everything blended together into a muddled wall of sound. Zauner, though, was a powerful presence, driving the show forward despite poor sound quality.

Finally, Porches took the stage around 11:15, and played a tighter set than I’ve seen in a long time. Admittedly, the songs weren’t new to the band – their latest release, Pool (not including the EP, Water), came out in February, so they’ve had plenty of time to get the material down to a science. However, the performance still felt fresh, and the whole crowd seemed to get swept up in the clean grooves they were laying down. Aaron Maine, the band’s frontman, interacted with the audience a little between numbers, mostly to deadpan sarcastically or comment on how much he liked the venue. He seemed to really like Bar Le Ritz. A lot.

Towards the end of the set, the band had to drastically lower their volume due to police complaints, but the turn of events played almost to Porches’ favour. The set ended with two solo numbers by Maine, one being the classic “Xanny Bar”, a melancholy tune he often ends shows with. The other was a new song, which he introduced by saying he’d never played it live before and he was pretty nervous about it. By the end of the tune, the whole audience was singing along.

Loitering outside the venue after the show, the general sentiment was the same: Wow. Porches put on a show that was, on the one hand, entertaining and quirky, with quips from Maine in between songs and coordinated dance moves within the band. On the other hand, some moments were incredibly emotive, particularly in those quiet moments with just Aaron Maine on stage and a whole crowd of fans eating it all up. Overall, an amazing show from a band that came into my life far, far too recently.

– Review by Nora Duffy

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**WICKED LOCAL** Concert Review: Lake Street Dive @ Thompson Point

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Though it was expected to be chilly on the evening of the concert just outside of Portland, the mist accompanied by a brisk wind off the water made for a pretty miserable wait on the expansive outdoor pavilion of Thompson Point. However, that did not deter the many fans of Lake Street Dive, a folk/rock/jazz/soul quartet hailing from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA. We didn’t have too long to shiver in the elements before the night warmed up with The Ballroom Thieves, a gritty folk trio also from the Boston area, who showcased both their luscious three-part harmonies and raw, foot-thumping intensity. Ultimately they provided not only an excellent opening set for the main event, but lent an atmosphere of seeing two smaller concerts for one ticket.

After they wiped down their instruments and exited the stage to a growing level of cheers, we once again waited in the rain and tried to keep ourselves warm by huddling together. A carpet was placed on the stage to prevent slipping, and thermoses of tea were brought out in place of the usual beer or water. At long last, Lake Street Dive walked onstage to raucous cheering, with lead singer Rachael Price flouncing in at the rear, her signature golden curls providing some much-needed sunshine. They launched straight into “I Don’t Care About You,” a callous, upbeat power-ballad from their 2016 release, Side Pony. Price was a firecracker at the front of the stage, bobbing and dancing and swaying as she belted out the lyrics into the microphone. The background vocals, provided by Mike Olson (trumpet, guitar), Bridget Kearney (upright bass), and Mike Calabrese (drums), were weak at the start, most likely due to the malfunctioning equipment in the damp environment.

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“Call Off Your Dogs” came next, which found Price stepping away from the mic during musical interludes to dance along to Olson’s guitar solos. Before launching into the title song “Side Pony,” she commented on the weather, complimenting the crowd for their exuberance. A life-size blow-up pony was “galloped” onto stage by a roadie, to wild cheers and whistles, before hastily being removed after it narrowly missed crashing into Olson. “Clear A Space” was performed next, a track off their 2012 EP Fun Machine. Price led a call-and-response for the chorus, and Olson traded his turquoise guitar for a trumpet, which he continued to play for “Mistakes;” a fabulous pairing with Price’s sultry alto.

“Hell Yeah” and “Spectacular Failure” were performed in quick succession, with varied introductions; the former was another strong call-and-response exercise, but the latter started off shakily before finding ground and soaring from there. Price took a moment before “Saving All My Sinning” to tell a personal anecdote about saving a chocolate bar in her freezer, breaking into self-conscious laughter at the absurdity of her childhood habits. The harmonies showcased in this and in “How Good It Feels” were especially strong, another example of how Lake Street Dive is able to combine separate talents and utilize them in a group setting.

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Each member of Lake Street Dive brought a different personality to the table for the concert, a hint at the benefits of having four equally talented musicians working in tandem. Price was radiant and full of life as the lead singer, a true starlet in her own right. Kearney was her female foil, brunette to the blonde, quieter but providing the backbone to many a song on the bass in addition to having significant writing credits. Calabrese was full of quirky facial expressions and, to our surprise, drummed without shoes on even in the inclement weather. Olson was probably the least expressive, dutifully playing guitar and trumpet with finesse, though after his brush with the rogue pony I can’t blame him for being a little subdued.

Price announced a shift to cover songs in the performance, something the band frequently does. In an homage to overcoming recent gay marriage rights hurdles and the ongoing struggle for transgender rights, Lake Street Dive kicked off with The Kinks’ “Lola,” an apparent favorite of the crowd. For me, it signified a very good ending, as I had to leave soon after. Though I was unable to stay through the end of the concert, I left feeling more than satiated with good music and Price’s infectious energy. Exiting Thompson Point, I couldn’t help feeling grateful that even if for an hour or two, the damp gloom of the day had been lifted by some good ol’ live music.

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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**DOUBLE FEATURE** Album and Concert Review: Are You Serious – Andrew Bird

unnamedThe master has returned home. Andrew Bird, expert violinist and whistler-extraordinaire, released his latest LP Are You Serious into the music cosmos last week, his first full-length album since he took a break three years prior to focus on his family and thematic side projects. A simultaneous celebration of his newly-formed family and a refocusing of the spotlight from the sidelines, many tracks seek to explore the newfound longevity of relationships. Bird takes time to analyze the sacrifices and compromises that have to be made as two people get to know each other through the lens of love and commitment. The album serves both as an inward analysis of his personal life and as a clear-eyed celebration of musical creation in a way only Andrew Bird can accomplish.  Continue reading

SXSW 2016: Taco the Town

words/pics: Nick Schofield

In the words of Little Scream’s Mike Dubué, SXSW is a glut. From the free-flowing beer, excessive sponsorship, sweaty heat and 3,000 showcasing bands, Austin actually gets super-sized tenfold every March for nine days of music, film and interactive; I think in an attempt to trigger a mainstream eruption of sanctioned sub-cultures. Now in its 29th year, and my second time attending, the lay-of-the-land is pretty established, but the real magic of “south-by” is the random-ass situations that snowball into the eventual exclamation of “Austin is awesome!”

To be clear, for most bands, the whole thing has a somewhat tarnished rep because there’s generally no-pay, rarely anyone gets a soundcheck, the impetus of networking overrides artistry and finding accommodations is pretty tricky. There are many perks, ‘though, including the coveted Jansport back-pack. This is my personal account, one with really fortunate conditions, so there’s gonna be a lotta taco-talk and other stories about food, dogs and beer.

Saxsyndrum (me + Dave + AP) were lucky enough to stay with Eileen, who, upon our arrival tossed us a coupla’ Lonestars, ordered P. Terry burgers and popped $6 champagne. Hello Texas. The next day we picked up our wristbands at the convention centre, had free beer and McDonalds for breakfast (ugh) and headed to the ASCAP cruise on the Colorado river. On the boat, amid more free beer and blue skies, my tongue-ring fell apart, I met the LANDR guys and felt the first tingle of a sun-burn.

Afterwards, we’re chilling by the water and I’m like where’s the green at, and just then a dude asks us for papers. We end up hanging with their crew, Boraj from Chile, and ventured into the convention centre together, stoned, touring the instrument trade-show. Synths, guitar pedals, drum machines and show posters everywhere.. I tested out all the Fairfield and Strymon gear to my hearts content.

Honestly, so much happened Thursday so I’ll sum it up quickly: hung with a big ol’ Montreal crew at Loretta Lynn’s outdoor show (happy to report she’s going strong at 83), got five free Bud Lights™ at Aluna George’s corporate shindig, randomly saw Niger’s star Tuareg guitarist Bombino at Hotel Vegas patio (bypassing a huuuuge line with artist passes) then got totally mind-melted by avant-Kraut legends Faust, which was reminiscent of a bad mushroom trip I had last winter.

Post-show, we were totally exhausted and decided to jump a fence into the nearby cemetery and burn a j at the epicentre. On our way home we stopped for what we all concurred were our best tacos, ever. Super simple hand-made fajita, spiced fatty pork with diced cilantro and onion, that’s it. Mind blown.

Friday, we had an interview with a blog called My Many Moons, saw Pearl Earl, Boraj and Hinds rock the eff out, played our first show in a converted warehouse alongside new/old friends Maïa Vidal and Motel Raphäel (so many umlauts) with Mike Dubué graciously doing sound for us. It was a total breeze even though there was a raging thunderstorm outside. After our set we hustled to catch Ghostface Killa and ended the night back at Hotel Vegas again, this time in awe of Thee Oh Sees double-drumming mayhem. There, we bumped into Toronto friends For Esmé and brought them to the cemetery spot for a late night-cap.

Saturday eve was our more anticipated gig, the M for Montreal + POP Montreal showcase at Barracuda, formerly Red 7 — this is the same venue I saw SUUNS and Besnard Lakes at last time I was at SXSW. We started off the show around 8pm, so got in a solid sound-check beforehand, and right after we finished there was free poutine, with real curds. Since it was all Montreal bands playing, the gig was a total friend-fest with buds Nancy Pants, For Esmé, Look Vibrant, Antoine 93, Sheer Agony, Doomsquad, Motel Raphäel, Milk & Bone and the dynamite Chocolat switching back and forth from the indoor/outdoor stages. I ended up getting pretty sauced and stoned at Barracuda, and sadly missed Deantoni Parks, who was playing a mere 50 feet across the street. For shame.

Sunday was our day of rest that never ended. Dave flew back to Montreal so AP and I missioned to the Panache hangover show at Beerland, missing Nancy Pants but catching punky Boy Toy and NY-psych-jazz trio Yonatan Gat, who played a total of 17 shows in Austin. For lunch, Jeremy from Nancy Pants knew a good Korean spot close by, and damn, it was so nourishing. Then, AP and I got coffees and bread at a really posh pub/café/ping-pong bar called Easy Tiger with a sprawling back deck. From there we took a Lyft (like Über) to Barton Springs and went for a serene walk in the woods along a creek, meeting a little golden lab named Grace who’s got a bright future ahead. I love Grace. Anyway, we linked up with For Esmé at Campbell’s Rock, lounged in the sun with beers and were introduced to two incredibly kind locals who invited us back to their pad at sunset. They led us through a really creepy/beautiful forest into a backyard and we sat around the fire passing scotch, slanging brews, burning j’s… and one room-mate even brought out a succulent rack of ribs. Like wtf, c’mon. We all capped off the night at El Taquito for one last taco session and that was it, my south-by was over. AP and I flew back to Montreal with Jeremy the next day and I think we’re all really happy with our matching Jansport bags. For real, “Austin is awesome.”

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Concert Review: BAIO at Bar Le Ritz PDB

IMG_0800Chris Baio chose the coldest place to end his Northeast tour for his debut full-length album, The Names. As I’m sure anyone in Montreal who ventured out of their homes yesterday knows, the polar vortex hit the city with force. However, in the dimly lit Bar Le Ritz, summertime was imminent. Bouncing back and forth between his keyboard and center stage clad in a white suit jacket and a cheery red bowtie, Baio brought a refreshing vibe to the intimate space, accompanied by George Hume on the electric guitar. BAIO is a solo DJ project, with both instrumental dance tracks and indietronica numbers featuring Baio’s eclectic singing style. While some subtle elements in Baio’s work can be traced back to his involvement as Vampire Weekend’s bassist, he has done well in differentiating himself as an independent artist. The Names is an innovative and refreshing take on indie dance and electronica, and the inclusion of a live guitarist in concert further underlined this fact.

On this tour, BAIO has had local electronic artists open for him, and Montreal’s performance was no different. Local IDM artist CRi was featured, and played for approximately an hour before Baio and Hume took the stage. They opened with “Brainwash Yrr Face,” the opening track to The Names. At first the guitar was not in sync with the programmed keyboard instrumentals, but Hume quickly righted the ship and the rest of the track went without a hitch. Baio was doing vocals in center stage, shaking his hips while the crowd warmed up. In between album tracks he would improvise with his keyboard, a true DJ at heart. Baio soon after featured a new, untitled song, with cheers from the crowd. Next was “Needs,” transitioning smoothly from a few minutes of improv. He then took to the mic, poking fun at the cold by complimenting the audience on their fortitude: “I’d be at home chilling in front of a fire with a cat.”

Another unnamed track followed, which demonstrated his penchant for DJing. Hume’s guitar work was highlighted quite a bit in this performance, ripping out strong solos before the bass beat exploded about halfway through the track. The crowd, mostly swaying and bobbing, came to life at this as if by the flick of a switch, and Baio mirrored the change in pace, grinning and bopping up and down behind the keyboard. He transitioned right into the album’s hit single, “Sister of Pearl,” to cheers from the audience. In an interlude between “I Was Born in a Marathon,” Baio cheekily plugged merchandise and introduced Hume. He then played a few more tracks off The Names, covering The Eurythmics’ “Here Comes The Rain Again,” with and earsplitting bass and audience participation on the lyrics. Baio ended his hour-long set with “Scarlett,” the last song on The Names and a purely instrumental track with a pensive melody and expert layering. He said a small goodbye and thank you to the crowd and stepped off the stage, leaving Hume to wrap up the outro.

The concert was short, intimate, and light; a perfect oasis in the wintry desert that Montreal has become. Baio was quite comfortable in the intimate setting, but his sound is really meant for a bigger crowd, one that has room to move and groove and shake their hips right along with him. His sound is honest and vibrant, with candid and clever lyrics: a welcome change in the IDM and electronica scene. Hopefully, BAIO will return to Montreal to bring some warmth and cheer in the near future.

review by Juliana Van Amsterdam 

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Concert Review: The Paper Kites at Théâtre Fairmount

IMG_0469I arrived late to The Paper Kites’ concert this past Wednesday, having endured a four-hour study session for an upcoming final exam. In a panic, I rushed up the stairs of the Fairmount Theatre and stuttered my name to the woman behind the counter, praying that there had been no confusion about the guest list. The next few minutes were a blur: hand stamped, coat and bag checked, and when I finally registered my surroundings, I noticed that no artist was on the stage. It was 10:11 pm. “Late,” I thought, but was glad because it meant that I could see the whole performance, despite missing the opener Old Man Canyon. Within the next few minutes, The Paper Kites had ascended the stage to raucous cheering and clapping from the packed theater.

The venue itself is intimate, located on the corner of Fairmount and Parc in the Mile End. It was the perfect place to reflect the atmosphere and sound of The Paper Kites, especially their newest release twelvefour (see my review of the album here). The band is a five-piece from Melbourne, led by frontman Sam Bentley. They came onto the small stage with quiet professionalism, and launched into “Renegade” without introduction. The crowd swayed amicably, at times imperceptibly, save a handful of fangirls in the fringes of the crowd chatting excitedly in rapid-fire French and grabbing at each other.

The Paper Kites have toured in North America only once before, and are still labeled as an “up-and-coming” band by many. However, they played with a polished air, as seasoned musicians completely at home with their instruments and with each other. David Powys slipped up on a guitar solo but recovered quickly with a smile, and Christina Lacy’s microphone was initially too low to make out her harmonies in a number of songs. Other than these small mishaps the concert went off without a hitch, and it was refreshing to be reminded that often, live music can be complicated.

Bentley spoke after playing two or three songs, speaking in halted and rehearsed French, before switching to English. The audience applauded his attempts and gave encouraging yells before he introduced “Bleed Confusion,” stating that “it’s got a little story to it, which I’ll sing now.” This was clearly not the end of his goal for audience participation; after performing “Bloom,” an older track that had the audience giddy with excitement, he challenged us to remain completely silent for the next song. In many concerts I’ve gone to, this tactic has been used by artists mostly in desperation; Bentley, however, had an expression akin to a mad scientist, admitting that “I’ve never tried this before, let’s see if it’ll work.” It did – this is Canada, after all – and the room fell silent almost immediately, with plenty of shushing reverberating through the venue. Bentley, accompanied only by Lacy, then started “Neon Crimson,” pausing initially to tune his guitar. This song was a beautiful solo, and the silence in the audience only magnified this. All ears and eyes were on Bentley.

He also took the silence as an opportunity to make a long intro to the next song, also a solo. Dedicating the song, “Paint,” to long-distance relationships everywhere, he sang a deeply intimate and emotional song that had the audience rapt. This signaled the end of the solo work, however. The next few tracks were again with the full band, and they really came to life in the last twenty minutes of performing. A fantastic rendition of “Turns Within Me, Turns Without Me” bled straight into “Relevator Eyes,” and the band exploded to life for “I’m Lying To You Cause I’m Lost.”

The Paper Kites finished the hour-long set with the slow-burning final track “Too Late,” hammering home the intimate, late-night feel of twelvefour. Bentley announced that there would be no encore, which was refreshingly honest. Thankfully, no audience members acted out or complained; we were all adults here, coming together for some good music in an intimate, amicable setting. The Paper Kites did not disappoint with their new album, and seeing them perform it live was just as good a musical experience as listening to it in the station. I can only hope that these Aussies come to Montreal again soon; they will most certainly be welcomed back with open arms.

Review by Juliana Van Amsterdam