Paper Bag Records 10th Anniversary @ The Great Hall – September 27-29, 2012

October 13, 2012 No comments
Written by Melody Lau

Photo by Dustin Cordeiro

The last time Paper Bag Records held an anniversary party was in 2003 for their one-year birthday bash. A two-night stand at the Horseshoe Tavern, the label’s premiere bands, Stars and Matthew Barber headlined each night and the stress of planning those two shows alone scared Trevor Larocque and co. away from planning any more – until now. Marking their ten-year anniversary, a feat that shouldn’t go unnoticed especially in the music industry nowadays, the Toronto label now boasts a stronger, bigger roster; one that deserved not one, not two, but three nights of celebration and music at the significantly larger Great Hall.
To go along with a bigger show is a more varied roster of artists. Paper Bag Records are somewhere between growth and maturity. Having spent a decade learning and building from the ground up, Paper Bag has now finally hit their stride of signing one great artist after another, solidifying themselves as one of the best labels in Canada with each addition. And although they will continue to grow, they’ve hit a high point in their careers with this milestone display of talent that shows the strength of their label across all genres, from folk-rock ensembles to electro-dance forces.
Here are the top five stand-out performances of #PBR10:
5. Woodhands
The electro-pop collaboration of Dan Werb and Paul Banwatt have been relatively quiet of late, but with their highly successful day jobs (one’s working on a PhD, the other is now a lawyer), no one can blame them. Their PBR10 set marked a comeback of sorts of the keytar-drum duo and the audience served as testers for a slew of new material. The songs, though clearly in need of some developing, showed off what they did best, pairing electrifying synths with the most frantic of beats, creating a whirlwind of addictive tracks to dance to. Closing their set with their hit single “Dancer” – including Banwatt’s spot-on rendition of missing guest Maylee Todd’s vocals – we were quickly reminded why we loved Woodhands so much and will be waiting on the dancefloor for a new record to drop.
4. Austra
Closing off the three-night stand festivities was Toronto’s Austra and it almost goes without saying that this band brings it every time they perform live. Singer Katie Stelmanis’ voice is impressive on record, but carries the ability to blow roofs off onstage. The band’s collective performance sets a dark, seductive atmosphere with every song and is something that will never get tired.
3. PS I Love You
Kingston’s PS I Love You knows how to perfect rock music that’s both noisy and bombastic yet melodic all at once. Buried underneath all of singer-guitarist Paul Saulnier’s barrage of guitar fuzz are the catchiest of melodies and even if it takes a bit of digging here and there, once you discover the pure genius of PS I Love You’s songs, it’s hard to stop seeing them live. And if that wasn’t enough, Saulnier spent all three nights of the event DJing as well. A kickass guitarist, songwriter and DJ? Well, don’t we feel lazy.2. Yamantaka//Sonic Titan
Yamantaka//Sonic Titan are pretty indicative of the variety on Paper Bag Records’ roster right now. Grabbing from a plethora of genres including metal, J-Pop, traditional Chinese and a handful of others, this duo-turned-five-piece live is a tough one to categorize. But one thing that isn’t difficult to see is the sheer talent this band possesses. One might not be able to grasp at every aspect of the music they produce, but their theatrical, and sometimes operatic, take on music is something that proves exactly why they deserved a Polaris Music Prize nod this year.
1. You Say Party
One of the most anticipated performances of PBR10 was the newly-reunited You Say Party. Having gone on hiatus for over a year now, the original line-up (sans drummer Devon Clifford, who died in April 2010) came together to create something entirely new, yet still representative of the sound we’ve come to associate You Say Party with. Gone are the dance-punk riffs and bubbly-pop melodies; instead, the four-piece churned out dark, edgy synth ballads that were emotionally wrapped in the songs of their past. Reworking tracks such as “Dark Days” and “Giant Hands,” the band now evokes a somber but powerful sound that’s triumphant. Lead singer Becky Ninkovic – who sported quite the big baby bump – projects her voice in an operatic way reminiscent of Austra’s Katie Stelmanis, and her harmonies with keyboardist Krista Loewen sent chills down everyone’s spines. This new direction sheds various layers of the band’s past while still carrying the some identity they’ve spent years carving out. It’s still unclear as to what the band’s next steps are, with Ninkovic and band member Stephen O’Shea expecting to become parents by the end of the year and other band members with full-time gigs outside of the band now, but everyone in attendance on the last night of PBR10 got a taste of what’s to come and are definitely craving for more.

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