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saxsyndrum

Concert Review: Saxsyndrum @ POP Montreal

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Snuggled between a strip-club and a vegan café lies the intimate new venue Mademoiselle.

Tired and tipsy, I hop up the stairs and into the room.

Faint neon fixtures and stage light illuminate the space just enough for me push my way to the center of the crowd.

In front, the stage sprawls out surrounded by crimson fringe.

On stage, three musicians revel in the limelight.

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Creeping into audibility, the hums of the synth usher the crowd to a calm.

Bergeron, crouched on the floor, leans into the mic.

A soft whisper passes through his lips.

Within moments, the indiscernible slivers of his voice transform into a blaring roar.

Suddenly, blasts of alto sax pierce through the thickening sound.

Mild patters of a drum intensify, attempting to tame the band’s mercurial beat.

Together, A.P. Bergeron (vocals), Dave Switchenko (saxophone), and Nick Schofield (drums) galvanize their spellbound crowd.

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Mid-set, a girl in the front row, full pint in hand, professes her boozy love for the band.

“Dave, I love you!”

He shakes his scarlet curls out of their plastic grip.

A gratified smirk flashes across his face.

Bergeron giggles.

Schofield grins.

Howls erupt.

A group to my right begins chanting.

“Saxsyndrum! Saxsyndrum!”

The crowd wants more.

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For the duration of the set, the trio maintains total control over the crowd.

The audience is swept into a trance, engulfed by the song.

_________

Saxsyndrum’s fusion of synth pop and electronic with funk undertones flooded to every corner of the room. The band’s absurdly wondrous energy spread throughout the venue and persisted even after the set came to a close. The crowd, unwillingly accepting the night’s end, lingered until the main lights came on. As I stepped back out into the chilly brink of Saturday night, the consensus appeared to be as such: if you realize a late night craving for a local strain of transcendental-electronica, then a night with Saxsyndrum will quench your thirst.

– Review by Soraya Mamiche Afara

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: Oh Hi Collective

Oh Hi Winter Concert Hi-lights

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(see what I did there)

On Saturday February 20th, I found myself in a quite literally underground music environment that showcased the wide array of musical talent involved in local music collective Oh Hi.  Montreal heavyweights such as Saxsyndrum and Devon Welsh were paired up with younger musical acts such as Loon and Nanimal in a way that emphasized community and provided for an excellent night of positive vibes and beautiful music. Continue reading

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Art Not Love hosts The Montreal Sessions (#2)

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Art Not Love returns for their second week of sharing & airing art that is close to the label’s dark, oozing heart. In the words of Charlie Twitch, label founder, here’s what’s up…

“Today on CKUT FM we’re back on the Montreal Sessions with two new guests: familiar face Nick Schofield of Saxsyndrum, and costume designer and artist extraordinaire Jenn Wade! Tune in to 90.3fm from 3pm – 5pm EST or www.ckut.ca to hear what they have to say for themselves!”

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Island Frequencies hosts The Montreal Sessions :: October 21

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Now in its third week, Island Frequencies is back shaking up CKUT’s radio waves with courageous music from Montreal’s underground scene. On the show today Sebastian Trafalgar will be treating us to an in-studio performance and interview ~ that’s coming up at 3:30pm. To start off the show, at 3pm I/F will be airing recordings from a show that went down last night at Sala Rossa’s resto; you’ll hear excerpts from ONA, johnny_ripper, saxsyndrum and Le 4e discours. To cap things off Martin Simon Greizis will be stopping by to chat about his efforts to promote and propagate QC music via ListenLocal514.

 

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Saxsyndrum/Sweet Mother Logic/Helado Negro @ Casa del Popolo, July 26

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How often do you hear someone say, ‘Of the three bands in the concert, I liked the first one best’? Like bridesmaids, opening bands are expected to support the main act without overshadowing it. But if the upbeat electro-funk of Saxsyndrum, a local sax-and-drum duo who are gaining momentum in and beyond Montreal, runs counter to the pretensions of the indie scene, it’s hard to fault them for it. They’re just too much fun.

Thus on Friday, a small but rapt audience paid tribute to the spirit of good music by watching the improbably synchronised pair perform. Even their body movements were coordinated, when cheerful drummer Nick wasn’t attempting to kick one leg higher and higher. Their frenetic but tightly controlled energy was irresistible, and in no time much of the floor was dancing – at only 9:30 pm.

Second to play was Sweet Mother Logic, another local act with a sleepier, more intricately constructed sound. Like Saxsyndrum, they are purely instrumental, but their music is less aggressively dance-oriented. They play mellow and melodic songs with a gentle groove, structured around a cello and a violin that seemed subtly out of tune on Friday, just enough to lend their music an eerie quality.

After two acts with unusual instrumentation, the crowd welcomed an American artist who played no instruments at all. Aside from a set of loops and samples, Helado Negro relied on his mellifluous voice and dynamic stage presence to engage the crowd. And he is fascinating to watch: his gestures and expressions give him the appearance of someone telling a story. You can dance to him, or you can stand and watch in admiration as he plays out his imagined narratives. Helado Negro, aka Roberto Carlos Lange, has a number of other projects right now, including OMBRE (ambient) and Epstein (hip-hop/electronic). Hopefully this means plenty of opportunities to see him perform in Montreal.

In all, it was a night worth spending out, and credit goes to the MEG Festival for presenting three great acts. All were unique and inspiring, although my heart still belongs to Saxsyndrum. Just don’t book them for your wedding.