Two Gallants @ Lee’s – September 29/12

November 30, 2012 Written by Krystle Merrow No comments
Two Gallants @ Lee’s – September 29/12

Cuff the Duke & Jenn Grant @ Winter Garden Theatre – November 24, 2012

November 27, 2012 Written by Wini Lo 1 comment

The moment you walk into the Winter Garden Theatre and marvel at the (fake) leaves hanging from the ceiling, the painted lit-up moon on the ceiling and tree trunk pillars, it’s like you’ve stepped into a magical place.

Halifax’s Jenn Grant took the stage first with her three-piece band, which included husband Daniel Ledwell. Her stage setup complemented the Theatre’s magical forest décor perfectly – a lit-up leaf-bare tree stood in the background and two owl lamps sat atop guitar amps.

Joking somewhat nervously, Grant greeted the audience with, “It’s good to be here in… Regina!” to which she revisited after playing several songs to assure that she had been just kidding. Somewhat giddy with a slight penchant to ramble, Grant’s bubbly personality was an adorable juxtaposition to her brooding, soulful songs.

During her set, Grant called upon Toronto musician Julie Fader and tourmates Cuff the Duke (who stood arranged like a barber shop group in front of one microphone) for backing vocals on several songs – most notably the upbeat “White Dove” from her latest album, The Beautiful Wild and “Parachutes” from Echoes.

However, make no mistake that Grant’s powerful, expressive voice requires any accompaniment – her voice truly shone in the fan-requested “Heartbreaker” and in a surprising or perhaps, random cover song later in the set. Grant, with only Ledwell on keyboards, performed a slow, soulful version of “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor (yes, that iconic 80’s song!). Upon its introduction, Grant had a mischievous twinkle in her eye, but the song itself was delivered without irony.

Returning for a quick encore, Grant said wistfully, “I wish I could play you a hundred songs! But instead I will finish my set so I can drink wine and dance to Cuff the Duke.”

Cuff the Duke took the stage shortly after – with frontman Wayne Petti commenting on what a nice venue Winter Garden Theatre is – a far cry from shows they used to play in Oshawa when they first started out.

For a young band that has been playing music for over ten years (with several lineup changes), Cuff the Duke’s stage presence and togetherness as a band truly showcases their experience and professionalism. Now a five-piece on stage, this lineup may be their strongest yet. The show’s setlist consisted predominantly of songs from their two most recent releases on Paper Bag Records: Morning Comes and Union, which just dropped in October.

Julie Fader reappeared once more for “Follow Me” and “Rockin’ Chair” – both from Cuff’s 2009 release, Way Down Here (Fader also provided backing vocals on the studio tracks). Petti remarked with a smile that Fader is the “one you call when you need a voice to accompany your own.” Jenn Grant also returned to the stage to provide vocals on “Side By Side” (subbing in for Basia Bulat, who sings on the studio version).

The standout song of the night was “Stay” – a lovely, heartfelt song that Petti had written for his wife, whom he’d just married in February. Also a standout track on Union, “Stay” outshines the studio version in live performance simply from witnessing Petti’s earnestness and sincerity in his delivery.

Cuff the Duke paid homage to their Oshawa roots (where founding members Petti and bassist Paul Lowman grew up) in “Rossland Square.” Amusingly enough, many of the landmarks referenced in the song no longer exist, Petti commented with a chuckle.

The set concluded with the hoedown-esque stomper, “If I Live Or If I Die,” in which Lowman skillfully played the fiddle. In typical audience participation fashion, half the audience was instructed to sing “If I live,” while the rest was to sing, “If I die.”

For their one-song encore, Cuff the Duke, along with Jenn Grant and her entire band, stood arm-in-arm for an unplugged version of “You Were Right.” This being the final show of their double-bill tour, this last song sounded joyous as their voices rose together, but also bittersweet. The camaraderie was apparent as the musicians thanked the audience and bowed in unison. And then they left the stage, to part ways, for new adventures and new tours.

RAA + Dan Mangan @ Danforth Music Hall – October 25, 2012

November 27, 2012 Written by Jamie Macdonald No comments
RAA + Dan Mangan @ Danforth Music Hall – October 25, 2012


Death Grips @ Wrongbar – November 19, 2012

November 27, 2012 Written by Cosette Schulz No comments
Death Grips @ Wrongbar – November 19, 2012

Photos of opener Mykki Blanco by Brian Vendiola

“COME UP AND GET ME!” The first words heard from the toxic and generally unclassifiable duo (electronic-crash-boom-bang-art-noise-rage-rap) Death Grips, that being daft drummer Zach Hill and diabolical vocalist Stefan Burnett. The two nonchalantly weaved through the crowd, clothed in black from head to toe, and began to set up the stage themselves. Two monitors, a laptop, a three-piece drum set and a microphone. After assuming their performance attire (and by that, I mean shirts off and the meanest mugs you ever did see), the duo stood silent, impatiently waiting for the sound engineer to cut the music and let them begin their set. MC Ride screamed, “CHECK!” The music shuts off immediately, and the first electronic buzz of ‘Come Up and Get Me’ sneak into the air. From now on, all hell is welcome to break loose.

Death Grips were on tour promoting – well, somewhat – their latest effort No Love Deep Web, which they released without their label Epic’s knowledge and has quite the memorable cover art. It somehow manages to be more aggressive, mentally possessive, chaotic and disturbing than earlier works Ex Military and The Money Store combined. They brought this new collective of chaos to Wrongbar on Sunday night, feeding a crowd that surged towards the stage as the auditory madness swirled about. Burnett and Hill were men of no words, banging through track after track with scarce pause in between. The songs melted into one another, a bubbling mess of Hill’s primitive and animalistic drumming, backed by Andy ‘Flatlander’ Morin-produced beats (he was MIA, for reasons unknown) and heralded by the passionately possessed Burnett. The two onstage are quite a sight to behold; Burnett flails his arms in almost unprecedented, joint-less ways, pausing now and again to shiver and violently shake to the beat. The two seem consumed by their sound, completely in their element. It is intense, sheer doom, an auditory attack.

The crowd, most of whom assumedly were pained by the cancellation of their scheduled NXNE set, were simply mesmerized by the two, feeding off their energy and reacting heavily. Tracks like “Guillotine,” “I’ve Seen Footage” and “Takyon” broke it off, while “Get Got” and “The Fever (Aye Aye)” saw Burnett commanding the crowd to move in an almost villainous manner. Link Wray-sampler “Spread Eagle Cross The Block” was thrown into the mix, that being a rare taste of their first EP Ex Military during this set made up primarily of their newest work. Hill banged away tribally, Burnett spewed and screamed and skewed his vocals throughout the barely hour-long experience.

Just as quick as they began, the two reassumed their outer attire, and snuck their way through the crowd. No words spoken, but none really necessary. This is a duo that doesn’t give a damn, quite frankly. They came, they conquered, and left everyone completely bonkered. That being said, there was a slight feeling of dissatisfaction that couldn’t be shaken. Perhaps it was realizing that MC Ride is not, in fact, some embodiment of a satanic being, but a man that was beginning to show signs of vocal strain. Perhaps it was the strong disconnect that was felt during the set; perhaps it was the length of the set. There still can be no denying that seeing Death Grips live is worthwhile and wild. Give it a go – if they keep on keeping on, that is.

Ellie Goulding @ Sound Academy – October 14, 2012

November 27, 2012 Written by Kristian Pedersen No comments
Ellie Goulding @ Sound Academy – October 14, 2012


The trouble with being a pop musician, is that your reputation always precedes you. Ellie Goulding has struggled of late to be more than a two trick pony. While her debut full-length had a successful run on the charts in her native England, her fame has still yet to truly take off within North America.

Hot on the heels of her second full-length album, Halcyon, Goulding and her four-piece band were in Toronto to prove that they had more up their sleeves than her pop-radio breakout, Lights.

Although it was apparent early on that a lot of the crowd wasn’t familiar with her newer material, Goulding wasted no time showing it off. Filling the sonic spaces with pianos and cinematic strings instead of her trademark jingling synthesizers and acoustic guitar, the songs seemed to be an ideal middle ground between fans who expected for radio hits, and those who discovered her through her beautiful cover of “Your Song” by Elton John.

Ellie Goulding’s live set is where her roots as a singer-songwriter really shine. Her stage mannerisms err on the side of Jagger over Aguilara, and for those skeptical of her musicianship, a mid-set departure from the brooding tribal sounds of Halcyon to a fingerpicked rendition of “Guns and Horses” should be enough to convince any naysayers.

During the set, Goulding borrowed a page from Feist’s book by adjusting early songs like “Salt Skin” to fit in with the mood of her new set. At times, the band let go of their given instruments entirely to beat a bevy of floor toms. A trick that wore thin as the set went on, but never failed to elicit cheers and applause from the packed crowd.

In an act of delayed gratification that nobody seemed to mind, Goulding saved her (and Elton’s) best for last. She worked her way towards the finale with her newest single, “Anything Could Happen” and segued into “Lights” before heading off stage. She returned in what seemed like mere moments to perform a stripped down rendition of “Your Song” before closing off with “Starry Eyed” to a huge fanfare.

It was hard not to notice the excitement of the crowd filtering out. It was a crowd far removed from the group asking what song she was playing only an hour and a half before. For the casual fan, this was a concert that should have solidified Ellie Goulding as pop star with purpose. Now it’s just a matter of time until the radio stations catch up.

Of Monsters and Men @ Kool Haus – November 16, 2012

November 23, 2012 Written by Meryl Howsam No comments
Of Monsters and Men @ Kool Haus – November 16, 2012

Icelandic six-piece Of Monsters and Men have taken the world a bit by storm. Their first EP, Into the Woods, was released in 2010, and their first and only full-length album, My Head is An Animal, came out in 2011. Animal has since appeared on charts in the U.S. and in Europe, and the band’s current world tour for the album includes many sold-out shows (the two Toronto dates sold out in minutes!). Their folk-pop anthems have drawn comparisons to bands such as Arcade Fire, the Cardigans, and the Magnetic Zeros.

After Icelandic singer-pianist Sóley finished her opening set, Of Monsters and Men’s seven band members (trumpeter Ragnhildur Gunnarsdóttir joined the band for the 2012 tour) took the stage. They were met with raucous cheering as the first notes of the debut track from Animals, “Dirty Paws,” began, and crowd participation began early, as people belted out the chorus of “la la laaaaaaaaa” with vocalists Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir and Ragnar Þórhallsson. Audience participation was encouraged (probably unnecessarily) throughout the night — Nanna introduced the third song, “Slow and Steady,” with the entertaining dialogue, “this song requires you to have hands” (for clapping). She introduced the single “Mountain Sound” by encouraging the women and men of the audience to sing the call-and-answer chorus: the women would sing with Nanna (“Hold your horses now…”) and the men with Ragnar (“We sleep until the sun goes down!”). The drummer, Arnar Rósenkranz Hilmarsson, was enthusiastic throughout the whole show, standing up and motioning when to clap along.

Of Monsters and Men don’t stray far from their album style in their live show, which isn’t a bad thing when your album sounds like it’s meant to be performed live. The energy captured on the album by the two vocalists singing about beasts, forests and howling ghosts, combined with the sounds of accordions, glockenspiels, foot stomps, and catchy hooks with many shouts of “HEY!”  translated perfectly to a concert setting. That said, the few surprises were welcome: the band played a cover of “Skeletons” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs; Ragnar spoke his few words of the night by dedicating “Your Bones” to his mother for her birthday; and “Lakehouse” lasted a long time — the last few “la la la”s were drawn out to the audience’s delight.

Of Monsters and Men played every song in their repertoire, fittingly ending the three-song encore with the final track on the album, “Yellow Light.” They do a nice job with the amount of music they have, and it’ll be interesting to see where they are a year from now.