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.
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.
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.
They broke up in 2006. Then reunited in 2011. Then off, again. Then, this past September, to their fans’ delight, were on once more on a Canadian tour. Death From Above 1979, that being brilliant bassist Jesse Keeler and daft drummer Sebastien Grainger, simply melted Kitchener’s The Wax the day after Halloween as part of their ‘Song CPR’ tour.
DFA1979 is scrumptious simplicity, passionately primitive. The way Keeler commands his bass and delivers his delicious bass lines is unreal, feeding sound to the crowd in such an effortless, nonchalant manner. Grainger crashes his cymbals and destroys his drums, filling in the blanks in this perfect combination of noisy harmony. The music they make has so much force and power to it that the crowd couldn’t help but react by erupting into a monstrous mosh, hypnotized by the heaviness at hand. It was a surprise that the enormous sparkling chandelier that hung above the audience didn’t fall from all the vibrations and chaos below (that would, in fact, be a literal death from above…).
The two powered through a barely hour-long set, with the first half acting as a showcase for their newest songs, which, despite their newness of status, satisfied the crowd’s eager ears. These new tunes are works in progress, but remain true to the now-classic DFA1979 sound: an impossibly irresistible bass line complimented and grounded by slick drums. Seeing this band live is quite possibly one of the most exciting things your eyes and ears may ever experience; they are a constant go-go-go and you’ll be gone-gone-gone by the end of it all. It is simple chaos, with a simple stage set-up of their simple backdrop of their elephant-trunked faces: just two unassuming men that destroy.
Stage banter was brief and goofy, which cleared any misconception of their being any real remaining feud between the two. Before breaking into “Little Girl” – a song about Keeler’s daughters – Keeler said that he’s doomed to never have a son after having two girls. “If there’s anyone that can make this man a son, it’s him,” Grainger said. “He should be a son machine.” True, as their 2004 LP title suggests, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. That, and discovering a guy in the crowd that had once made out with the daughter of a member of the Barenaked Ladies and having him brought on stage by Grainger, kept things quite hunky dory.
The second half of the show was an even mix of goods and requests for the encore. DFA1979 blazed through “Romantic Rights,” “Pull Out,” and “Turn It Out,” before slowing down into a groove with “Black History Month.” “We’ll play a song if I can make out what you’re saying,” Keeler said, as the crowd screamed titles in his direction. The duo ended the set with “Do It!” from their 2002 Heads Up EP, which had Keeler seamlessly move from bass to keys (a sticker on his keyboard amusingly read “DON’T STEAL, THE GOVERNMENT HATES THIEVES”). Despite bidding us farewell twice now, DFA1979 have proved that they haven’t lost their touch, energy or connection, and their new release will certainly attest to this.
Thanks to our pals at Live Nation we have a pair of tickets and CD to give-a-way for Allen Stone @ Opera House, November 14th.
“Critics have likened Allen Stone to Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway and Stevie Wonder, yet with his long, curly blond hair and oversize, thick-rimmed glasses, the self-described hippie from Washington state seems an unlikely candidate to be the next big thing in retro-soul music. He doesn’t even do many melismas – those gospel-derived syllable-splitting curlicues that are a staple of the style – but he sings like an angel, soaring effortlessly from urgent, richly rounded tenor tones into the stratosphere. The Seattle singer writes melody-rife tunes in the old-school tradition and surrounds himself with world-class R&B musicians, both on record and with his touring band.”
Read the full article here: http://www.sfgate.com/music/article/Allen-Stone-lost-religion-found-soul-3828623.php#ixzz2BrTn2QJj
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