Minnesota's John Mark Nelson and his band opened for Little Green Cars at Lee's Palace on April 27. This tour marks their first time in Canada and they delivered their easy going and mellow sounds with soothing melodies and harmonies for the crowd filtering into the venue. They also put the spotlight on keyboardist Kara Laudon who got to sing "Sleepwalker".
Thirty five years ago today Van Halen released their fourth studio album, Fair Warning. It's one of my favourites with a darker production quality and some of my all-time favourite Van Halen tracks like "So This Is Love?", "Sinner's Swing!" and "Unchained". The guitar playing is immaculate and incendiary, while the songs rock hard in classic Van Halen fashion. So glad that I was able to catch the band with DLR at the mic back in the day.
Check out my favourite tunes from this album. I picked out some live clips to remember that live vibe and put in links to the isolated guitar tracks if you're into that. For the full studio album, click over here.
Ash released their third studio album, Free All Angels, fifteen years ago. This is a great album of solid power pop music that I love to this very day. I was lucky enough to catch the band live at Lee's Palace back in 2012. The band shines in the studio and on the stage.
Check out my favourite tunes from this classic album:
The band is releasing a new album, called Rhonda, on October 14. In the long run-up to that date, we'll no doubt get to hear some new tunes. This all gets started right now with the release of the video for the first tune on the album, "War".
The song sound great, slowly building in intensity accompanied by sometimes sexy, sometimes disturbing and always intriguing visuals. I hope to catch the band live during CMW at The Great Hall on May 5.
July Talk are easily one of the best bands playing today. Their live energy and chemistry is second to none and their music has that special blend of rock and groove with grit and attitude. Their instant classic début album has been out since 2012 and the addition of three new songs on the For Your Bloodshot Eyes EP did little to quench fans insatiable thirst for a full-length dose of July Talk magic.
Well, yesterday we got a 30 second tease (they're so good at the tease) and today we get the full climax of a new July Talk song. It's called "Push + Pull" and it's streaming now. I hope you've already pressed play below and you've gotten the funky beat and hook-laden structure of this fantastic new song. It sounds amazing and will be a relentless stomper coming off the stage. I'll be waiting for it at Field Trip on June 4. Now that we've got this hit, we're all going to switch our hunger towards the rest of the full album that's got to be coming, and the thought of catching the band live.
Wintersleep released their latest album The Great Detachment earlier this year. They've just released an official video for the great tune "Amerika". The video, directed by Scott Cudmore, contemplates the rise and fall of civilizations and the juxtaposition of personal struggle versus being part of a nation founded on optimism and hope.
Wintersleep are a great live band that I've had the pleasure of seeing twice, most recently at Lee's Palace in Toronto. In May, Wintersleep returns to the US for a select run of Northeast dates with co-headliner Plants & Animals. Summer tour dates have been announced including Quebec City's Festival D'été, Pemberton Music Festival, Riverfest Elora, and Halifax's Gridlock Festival. They're in Toronto next week for two Canadian Music Week appearances.
Dublin, Ireland's Little Green Cars came through Toronto last night in support of their latest album Ephemera. They delivered their beautiful melodies and exquisite harmonies to a crowd of fans at Lee's Palace. Highlights for me were my favourite Little Green Cars song "The John Wayne" plus "Harper Lee" and "Big Red Dragon" (although I'm not sure if my memory is playing tricks on me and maybe they didn't actually play both of these tunes).
They ended their main set with "Easier Day" from Ephemera before returning for an encore. They closed out the show by coming down into the middle of the dance floor and playing "The Factory" completely acoustically. The rousing refrain of the song carried through Lee's Palace and was a perfect ending for the show.
Riverfest Elora has just announced their 2016 line-up. The festival takes place in scenic Elora, Ontario at Bissel Park on August 19, 20 and 21. The ticket pre-sale is on now.
The really solid line-up includes Chromeo, Walk Off the Earth, The Sheepdogs, Hey Rosetta!, Matthew Good, Wintersleep, The Rural Alberta Advantage, Yukon Blonde, Dear Rouge, 54-40 Unplugged, Kardinal Official, The Zolas, The Slackers, Radio Radio, Busty and the Bass, Reuben and the Dark, Dilly Dally, Bry Webb, Grand Analog, Young Rival, Jeremy Fisher, Fast Romantics, John River, The Wet Secrets, Whitney Rose, Ivory Hours, Good for Grapes, Bruce Peninsula, Stella Ella Ola, Sun K, DCF, Bossie, Highs, Raven Shields, Lee Watson, Let's Just Be Friends, Etiquette, Brandon Wolfe Scott, Rich Burnett, Alexandria Maillot, The Medicine Hat, Goodnight Sunrise, Tupper Ware Remix Party, D'Eve Archer, Madison Galloway, Lowlands, and Deboer and Joel.
Click through on the links to my concert pics of some of these artists.
And here are some of the acts that I'm looking forward to seeing.
North By Northeast (NXNE) and Budweiser have just announced the first acts confirmed for the NXNE Port Lands, taking place June 17-18, 2016 in Toronto. Ghostface Killah, Shamir, Daniel Caesar, and Mick Jenkins will perform on Friday, June 17, and Father John Misty, Mother Mother, Dan Mangan, The Zolas and The Devin Cuddy Band with special guest Jim Cuddy will appear on Saturday, June 18.
NXNE had previously announced that for this year, they were adding a major outdoor festival experience at the Port Lands, a new Interactive, Music and Gaming Conference at the Ted Rogers School of Management with location sponsor Ryerson University, and a new format for the NXNE Yonge-Dundas Square take-over to the 2016 Festival.
The Port Lands, located at Cherry and Commissioners Street, will be the home of a major festival hub that will reflect the spirit of NXNE. The ticketed “festival within a festival” will feature live music from discovery bands, artists on the cusp of glory, and stellar headliners creating the soundtrack to this immersive experience that will include art installations, a convoy of food trucks and you-had-to-be-there moments in a convenient location.
In addition to the new two-day outdoor experience, NXNE will continue to program events in key Toronto clubs and venues, in partnership with Collective Concerts, such as Lee's Palace, The Mod Club, and Danforth Music Hall from June 15-19.
NXNE Club Land has confirmed performances by The Motorleague, Adam Baldwin, Birds of Bellwoods, and Jesse Mac Cormack. NXNE Club Land will also host an Indigenous music showcase, co-presented by iNATIVEfest and Gunner Records, featuring Stevie Salas and Bernard Fowler in The IMF's, Shawnee, Mariam, and DJ Shub at The Great Hall.
All NXNE Club Land tickets, and NXNE Port Lands single day, weekend and VIP passes will be on sale on Friday, April 29 at 10am EST through TicketFly at nxne.com/tickets/.
Previously announced acts as part of NXNE Club Land from June 13-19, 2016 include: A-WA; Bad Sports; The Beatdown; Bertrand Berlin; Big Eyes; Big Ups; Bionic; Brains; Bry Webb & Providers; Cold Specks; DIANA; Danny Rebel & the KGB; Dig It Up!; Duotang; Eagulls; Escondido; Eternal Sleep; Full of Hell; God's Hate; The Hunna; The Joy Formidable; Kamasi Washington; Kevin Morby; King Khan and The Shrines; K-Man & the 45s; Mikey Erg; Moving Units; Nails; NQ Arbuckle; Pere Ubu; Prozzak; Radioactivity; SATE; Screaming Females; Shred Kelly; The So So Glos; Stonefield; Sun K; USA Out of Vietnam; The Worriers; and The Yardlets.
Click through on the hyperlinked artist names above for my concert photos of these acts.
Here are some of the acts that I'm most looking forward to covering, along with the inevitable new discoveries that festivals like this bring.
The Duke Spirit are releasing a new album called Kin in the next little while. We've already heard "Blue and Yellow Light" and "Here Comes the Vapour" when I posted them last September. Now check out the powerful "Hands" and the beautifully mellow "Wounded Wing".
I couldn't stop listening to "Luv, Hold Me Down" from Drowners' self-titled 2014 début. Both the song and the album appeared on my best of lists for 2014. They've got a new album called On Desire coming out June 24. Check out the addictive, powerful and hook-filled "Cruel Ways" from the new album. Now all I need is a Toronto tour stop...
Garbage have a new album on the way. It's called Strange Little Bird and it's coming out June 10. It's been said that this album harkens back to their 20 year old début (which I featured on its anniversary) and this powerhouse track would certainly be at home on that now-classic album.
Give a listen to the first single from Strange Little Birds, "Empty".
The Kills' new album Ash & Ice comes out June 3. The band are in Toronto at The Danforth Music Hall on May 21 and I'm hoping to have some pics to share with you after that show.
In the meantime, here's the new video from the new album. The track is called "Heart of a Dog" and it's got that patented Kills groove, cool riffing from Jamie Hince and killer vocal from Alison Mossheart.
I Mother Earth released their second album, Scenery and Fish, two decades ago today. It was and it remains one of my all-time favourite albums. It's got such an amazing blend of excellent songs, amazing musicianship and an energetic vibe that hasn't lost any of it's impact. The guitar playing is unique and addictive, Edwin's vocals are unparalleled and the rhythm section propels the band forward as though rocket powered while keeping the groove intact.
The band has recently reunited with original singer Edwin and is putting on shows to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of this album. I hope to be at their June 3 show at The Phoenix Concert Theatre here in Toronto. Other tour dates including a June 4 show at the same venue are here.
Every single tune on this album is amazing, so I'm just going to have to go ahead and ask you to listen to all of them.
"Like A Girl"
"One More Astronaut"
"Three Days Old"
"Used To Be Alright", which may be my favourite tune on this album of favourites
It was on this day in 1991 that an album came out that knocked me on my ass. The songs, the production, the musicianship, the performance and the way the whole album fits together with interludes and off-kilter tunes along with more accessible anthems was a revelation. It has elements of metal along with tons of funk and rock. They lyrics paint an unabashedly pessimistic yet realistic view of modern inner city urban life with a heavily anti-drug message, mixed with an undeniable uplifting and optimistic undertone. The album is The Reality of My Surroundings and the band is Fishbone.
Forty-five years ago today The Rolling Stones released their landmark album Sticky Fingers. It's a fantastic and diverse mix of rock and roll with bits of country and lots of blues mixed in as only the Stones can do it. It's considered to be one of the band's best albums and I can't help but agree.
"Brown Sugar" is perhaps the best-known song on the album and it was a staple cover song for many, many bands, most of whom struggle with figuring out and then delivering the lyrics. "Wild Horses" and "Dead Flowers" have become Stones-country classics while "Can't You Hear Me Knocking", "You Gotta Move" and "I Got the Blues" dive into their blues roots. "Bitch" is perhaps my favourite Stones tune. I love the guitar riff, the intensity and the attitude of the song. And those horns!
Check out my favourites from this incredible album:
For an album to still be remembered, revered and loved forty years after its release is a major accomplishment. For an album like The Ramones' début album to be all of those things, plus being incredibly influential is incredible.
And so it was, forty years ago today, that The Ramones released their self-titled début. It only took them a week to lay down their relentless, high-speed, punky pop tunes that influenced generations of young musicians. Check out my favourite tunes from this album and consider for a minute what our modern music might sound like if we were never exposed to this ground-breaking band.
I seem to have a vague memory of seeing the band live at The Spectrum on the Danforth back in 1991. If anyone can remember the other bands on that bill then I can confirm it. I think hHead was there...
"Blitzkrieg Bop", perhaps the band's best known tune and the first single from this album
"Beat on the Brat"
"Judy is a Punk"
"I Wanna be your Boyfriend", the other single from this album, showing the band's kinder, gentler side
I attended The Subways' Toronto show at The Mod Club on April 19 as a fan. However, I couldn't resist bringing my point-and-shoot camera along for the ride. In the end, I thought my pictures were worth sharing so here they are.
The English rock band have been a favourite of mine for a long time and they've been on the concert wish list for a while. This tour in support of their eponymous album brought them to T.O. so I had to go. The set was strong including tunes from all their albums, 2005's début Young For Eternity, 2008's All or Nothing, 2011's Money and Celebrity and last year's The Subways.
The band have a stupid amount of energy and they put their all into every show. It was a pleasure to see their live show and it was well worth the wait, although I hope I don't have to wait too long before seeing them again.
Here are some of my favourites from their setlist.