Sunday, August 31, 2008

Remix Sunday: Nirvana

I happened upon a couple of decent Nirvana covers last week that are well worth a listen. Belgium's Hooverphonic have crafted a nice version of 'In Bloom' with creative instrumentation and excellent female vocals, and Glasvegas, currently touted as the "next big thing" here in the UK, give us an idea of what Nirvana would have sounded like if they had come from Aberdeen, Scotland instead of Aberdeen, WA.

On the subject of Nirvana, here's a video of one of their first live performances:

And on the subject of Glasvegas, the Glasgow quartet released the second single ('Daddy's Gone') from their forthcoming debut album last weekend. Along with the 'Come As You Are' cover, a nifty live acoustic version of 'Daddy's Gone' was included - and I think I like it more than the newly recorded and produced album version. These guys have already sold out most of the stops on their current tour and tickets for the London date, originally priced at £9, are being sold online for over £30 (that's $60 for you North Americans). Now that's what I call hype. Their self-titled album will be released a week today.

Hooverphonic - In Bloom
Glasvegas - Come As You Are

- a.m.p.m.

Festival Season: Reading Review - Day 2

With Britain’s astonishing success in the Beijing Olympics, I am similarly inspired in my continued attempt to set the world record for greatest number of brilliant bands witnessed over a 3 day period. But before the 2nd lap of my musical marathon can begin, I need to traverse a scheduling hurdle as BTA darlings Collapsing Cities and Bombay Bicycle Club both vie to kick off the day.

Based on their impressive consistency, I plump for BBC. Still too young to legally buy alcohol or vote, these teenagers are disgustingly talented. Julian Casablancas would give his shiny new Converse shoes to sing songs as catchy as ‘Open House’ or ‘Evening / Morning’ when the Strokes’ fourth album finally emerges. At least they look pre-pubescent on stage, as if they’re playing to friends in their dad’s basement. Surely future headliners.

After being listed in NME’s must-see new bands at this year’s fest I decide to give Lovvers a chance to impress. Which they singularly fail to do, coming across like Andrew W.K. minus ‘Party Hard’. They at least finish 10 minutes early, providing ample opportunity to secure a choice spot in the newly enlarged Alternative Tent for Jeffrey Lewis & The Jitters. Jeff has compared choosing his setlist to a game of chess, based on the audience’s reaction to each song. In which case it’s checkmate after the first song, a spine tingling ‘I Ain’t Thick It’s Just A Trick’, one of 3 Crass covers the master storyteller plays for us. One of the real treasures of the weekend.

Over from probably the least to the most mainstream act on the site next for Santogold. Her painfully out of tune vocals live demonstrate why she needs the production levels on her eponymous debut record and there’s an overload of bass emitting from the speakers. The tunes just about fight their way through and the heavily choreographed dancers make a welcome distraction and bring some variety to the standard indie rock fare on offer.

I scamper across to the Festival Republic stage next to catch a few songs of a band getting the UK music press very excited. Twisted Wheel are yet another northern guitar band boasting an arrogance-fuelled swagger, who always seem to carve a special place in British hearts (aka The Enemy, Oasis, Kasabian etc). They allay my initial fear of another The Twang by proving in ‘Strife’ and ‘You Stole the Sun’ they have 2 songs containing a lyrical intelligence and relevance the Brummie band never realised. Fully expect to see them on the main stage next summer.

Mid afternoon on Saturday may seem a strange time for an 80s indie disco but bizarre scheduling decisions are not about to derail the Mystery Jets party train. Still wearing the outfits from their ‘Two Doors Down’ MTV friendly video, they draw heavily from their vastly superior 2nd album to deliver a set of unashamedly 80s pop tunes, like ‘Half in Love with Elizabeth’. Taking away 1 point for once again being without indie folk goddess Laura Marling, they are your typical 7/10 band.

Which makes Los Campesinos a 9.5/10 and proud recipients of the award for best band of the weekend. The set list is sublime, especially as they play 'The International Tweexcore Underground’, sadly omitted from their debut LP. The between song banter also impresses; “I’ve waited 6 months to play a gig with no Ting Tings fans!” As is the crowd's reaction who reach such height with their bouncing I’m sure someone’s snuck in a trampoline beneath their feet. I now appreciate why the reaction in some quarters to their debut was muted; as even though it’s chocked full of indie twee gems, ‘Hold on Now, Youngster’ doesn’t come near to capturing their youthful exuberance and charm.

Moving back into new band research mode now to see Fangs on the BBC Introducing stage. They play dirty glam dance rock and ‘Panic Attack’ and ‘SICKO’ are definitely capable of slaying the indie club dance floors this year. Which of course Black Kids have been doing for many months. They pick up the 80s party baton from Mystery Jets and the masses respond in style with some John Travolta style dance moves.

Thankfully I chose them over the start of The Raconteurs, whose set is sabotaged by the pitiful main stage sound, which I’ve read apparently fell victim to the great British weather. Jack White doesn’t exactly help matters by spending far too much of the set playing ridiculously long guitar solos. Ok Jack, I get it, you’re one of the best guitar players alive today but that doesn’t excuse this kind of musical masturbation.

And the main stage is our home for the remainder of the evening. Bloc Party leader Kele reminds us this is their only festival performance of the summer and they’re clearly relishing the moment, grinning like Cheshire cats. Coming back on to play a storming ‘She’s Hearing Voices’ as an encore, the general mood of the crowd is summed up by one girl’s reaction, “It feels like we’ve just seen the headliners”.

The actual headliners are The Killers, who bring their Las Vegas style (and light show) to Reading. They bizarrely follow up an opening ‘Somebody Tells Me’ by playing a sudo encore at the beginning with a new song and a forgettable Joy Division cover and immediately start to lose the crowd. It’s turned around in style with the usual hits and by the end of traditional closer ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ the crowd is left wanting and expecting more, at least in part as they finish 15 minutes early. Brendan Flowers is known as a resolute perfectionist, and I’m left with the sense that given the sound issues he was too frustrated to continue.

At least I won’t be bemoaning the sound levels tomorrow as I’ll be in the tents staying well clear or the main stage's heavy and comedy rock artists…

Bombay Bicycle Club - Evening / Morning
Twisted Wheel – You Stole The Sun (Clean Edit)
Fangs - Panic Attack (Radio Edit)
Jeffrey Lewis – I Ain’t Thick It’s Just A Trick
Low Campesinos - The International Tweexcore Underground


Friday, August 29, 2008

The Friday Five

Three weeks ago we came up with this idea called 'the Friday Five': five excellent new (or relatively new) tracks every Friday for your listening pleasure. We were sure that we had coined a catchy and unique phrase, but upon closer investigation found the cheesy yet somewhat endearing picture you see above. So then we stole it.

Basically, it's the best of the best over the past week from each of us to all of you, the crème de la crème for our faithful readers. I'm gonna kick it off with a few gems that I haven't been able to shake over the last little while - real growers.


The Black Angels - Doves
Candy Clash - Just Kiss Her (The Shoes Remix)
Bottomless Pit - The Cardinal Movements
The Dutchess and the Duke - Reservoir Park
Headlights - Get Your Head Around It

Myspace linkage:
The Black Angels
The Shoes
Bottomless Pit
The Dutchess and the Duke

- a.m.p.m.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wale's Mixtape About Nothing

I'm really digging The Mixtape About Nothing, the project of DC rapper Wale (that's "wah-lay") mixed by Nick Catchdubs released back in May. As you might assume, the mix includes multiple samples and references to the classic sitcom Seinfeld and even boasts a cameo from Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Pichfork gave the themed 19-track mix a generous 8.4/10 rating last month and the release has recently been generating a lot of well-deserved buzz for Wale. The Nigerian-born artist signed to Interscope Records back in February and his forthcoming debut album is rumoured to feature production help from Mark Ronson, Kanye West, Just Blaze, 9th Wonder and - wait for it - Justice (thanks Wiki). All signs point to awesome.

Give 'The Crazy' a listen - then grab the whole mix here for free.

- a.m.p.m.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Festival Season: Reading Review - Day 1

There is only one UK festival which is purely about the music. V Festival is about peddling as much corporate merchandise as can be stuffed in a rucksack in a weekend. Glastonbury and Bestival are more about the vibe. Reading Festival has none of these distractions and only mission is to cram as many incredible bands as humanely possible into a field to play to the most musically educated fans in the country. Quite simply, it has the best line-up of any of the major festivals this year. And here at BTA we bring you the highlights of the 3 days…

We kick off with Future of the Left, recompiled from the flesh and bones of Jarcrew and the much-mourned McLusky. They deliver a potent mix of raw raucous energy, mountainous riffs and the surrealist lyrics I’ve ever heard. They stimulate some impressive moshing for this early in the day, which is only intensified when the band start throwing out candy drumsticks for the masses to fight over.

Steve Lamacq introduces Pete and The Pirates as having produced the best British debut album of the year and it’s pretty hard to challenge that assessment. Having crafted a collection of quintessentially British indie pop songs with an abundance of hooks and melody they are consistently excellent. 'Knots' and 'Mr Understanding' are the standouts of this triumphant homecoming show, evidenced by the sizable crowd I’m confronted with when I turn around at the conclusion of their set

One of the festival’s new inventions this year is the BBC Introducing Stage, setup to showcase some of the bands tipped for greatness over the coming year. I’m here to see Situationists whose Britpop stylings had instantly grabbed my attention. I was a bit concerned that they tread a bit too close to Ordinary Boys territory for my liking but witnessing them live shows just how far off the mark I was, as they are much more angular and closer kins to a Good Shoes or Bloc Party. I’m rather taken with them and will be charting their upward trajectory with interest in the coming weeks/months/years.

One band I was really looking forward to was Be Your Own Pet. 2 albums in and having barely pricked the mainstream’s consciousness they’ve decided to call it a day and play a handful of final shows as a send-off. And now I wish I hadn’t bothered. They arrive totally wasted, announce they haven’t practiced in months, and proceed to make The Libertines’ early gigs look polished in comparison. The highlight is when the lead singer tries to pimp her guitarist out to the audience, which only generates minimal interest from the female contingent of the crowd. Good riddance.

Much more palatable to the ears are iTunes latest pluggers, Florence And the Machine. In a stunning emerald dress, Florence bounces around the stage like an elf with ADHD and is utterly enchanting. 'Kiss with a Fist', which Florence has been at pains to stress is not a song about domestic violence, is a bona fide hit.

I’d experienced Transgressive’s latest signing Esser a couple of weeks before at their summer showcase and since then 'Headlock' has been generating some serious buzz in indie land. All their songs seem to be about social embarrassment. 'Headlock' centres on being bullied; whilst 'Satsified' is about the inability to please a woman and 'Work It Out' laments over general relationship problems. I decide this is the oral equivalent of the genius TV series Peep Show, and thus succeeds in being both marvellous and cringeworthy at the same time.

Ida Maria comes on stage dressed as the female version of Pete Doherty, complete with requisite black top hat, tight leather jacket and dirty black hair. Brought to the public attention primarily through the juvenile 'I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked', it’s tracks like 'Stella', 'Queen of the World' and 'Oh My God' where she’s most endearing.

The Radio 1 tent is heaving by the time Andrew Van Wyngarden of MGMT appears in a truly vile Orange and Blue poncho. 'Time to Pretend' stimulates the first real euphoria of the weekend but amazingly that’s dwarfed by the mass love-in that 'Kids' inspires. Even as we leave the tent the kids are still bellowing out that keyboard riff in tremendous harmony.

Having waited many years to see them live, Queens of the Stone Age are hugely disappointing. Partly as the awful main stage sound makes them sound almost timid but also as they choose to base their set on Era Vulgaris rather than playing the best of set their position as co-headliners warranted. That said, hearing 'No One Knows' live for the first time was awesome and instantly made amends.

Onto the home straight now, and over to the Radio 1 tent for our final 2 bands on the evening. Although unlikely to win any prizes for pushing musical boundaries, with 'Moving to New York' and 'Let’s Dance to Joy Division', The Wombats bring unbridled joy to the tent and leave me with the biggest grin of the day, exactly what a festival band should do.

The evening ends with Babyshambles, and fortunately for the crowd, and the army of paparazzi lined up at the start of the stage, Pete decides to grace us with his presence and take us through a solid set of highlights from their 2 albums. They don’t quite have enough material to pull it off as headliners but there are some real standouts here. Especially 'Down in Albion' where we’re treated to white and red stage lights simulating the St George’s Cross and offer the first really touching moment of the weekend. That’s followed by a rousing 'Fuck Forever' which represents a fitting culmination to the day’s events.

Oh and if you’re eagerly waiting for a review of Rage Against the Machine’s return, all I can tell you was they were loud. Very loud. So loud that I could still hear them 10 minutes down the road after exiting the site…

BBC Radio 1 Reading & Leeds Festival Videos

Future of the Left - Manchasm
Pete and The Pirates - Mr Understanding
Situationists - We Are Weightless
Florence and the Machine - Kiss With A Fist
Esser - Headlock


Monday, August 25, 2008

New Roots Manuva album September 1st

British hip hop guru Roots Manuva's sixth album, Slime & Reason, drops next Monday. Those who have been lucky enough to get their hands on it ahead of time have turned in rave reviews and lead single 'Buff Nuff' has already been remixed ad nauseum. Second single 'Again & Again' was officially released yesterday but has already been in heavy rotation on my iPod for a few weeks. 7" and mp3 versions include a snazzy remix by Matt Helders - better known as the drummer for a little band called Arctic Monkeys.

Roots Manuva - Again & Again (Matt Helders remix)

- a.m.p.m.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Remix Sunday: Ida Maria

Miss Maria and Co. recently performed in London's Leicester Square and XFM were good enough to record the whole session and have now made an EP available through iTunes. This cover of one of my favourite 80s songs was included in the set.

Ida Maria - Blister in the Sun
You can stream a couple of other live tracks from the performance here.

- a.m.p.m.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Contest: Calvin Harris, August 29th - Circa Nightclub, Toronto

All you bright-coloured hipster dance party-types take note, looky here.
One of the UK's biggest producer/DJ names is hitting the decks at Toronto's biggest dance club. The combo of the two is certainly going to result in a party and a half. Though he's not even close to old enough to live up to the claim, Scotland's Calvin Harris, whose 2007 debut album I Created Disco spawned a couple of massive tracks (moreso in the UK), is doing the ultra-hype DJ set thang at Circa nightclub, next Friday, August 29th. Aaaaand, thanks to Sony BMG friends, we've got a pair of tickets to dish out for the event.
If you've been here before, you know the drill: hit us with an email with the subject line "I Created Calvin Harris". Do so prior to noon o' clock on Thursday, August 28th, at which point we'll pick the winners. it's really that simple.
- bbbykmbrly.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

New Discoveries: The Balconies

Since moving to Toronto from Ottawa in February of last year, it's become apparent that few people outside of the Nation's Capital really give its music scene any credit. Apart from local heroes the Acorn, who have made some ground after signing to Paper Bag Records in 2006, there hasn't been much splash made since the days of Alanis Morissette despite having a handful (albeit a small hand) of very impressive and respectable bands.

Enter the Balconies, a young band comprised of three exceptionally talented and professionally trained musicians. The band is Liam Jaeger (drums), Jacquie Neville (guitar), and Steve Neville (bass), and they just this week played their first Toronto show, completely catching everyone off-guard with their refined product, especially those unfamiliar with their already impressive rock resumes.

It's been less than four months since Jaeger's former project, prized math rockers For the Mathematics called it quits, and already he's found an absolute keeper alongside girlfriend Jacquie, who also plays strings and sings back-up for the Ottawa-acclaimed zillion-piece orchestral rock band Jetplanes of Abraham. With her comes younger brother Steve who, like his bandmates, is studying music at nearby University of Ottawa, where Jaeger has just begun his MA in Classical Guitar while Jacquie finishes up her BA in Music Education.

The three split songwriting and vocal duty, each bringing to the table diverse and eclectic styles, influences, and impressive vocal range (particularly on the part of the female Neville). The result is a blossoming blend of classic and garage rock, catchy pop hooks, and bass lines which twist and groove through an unquantifiable list of influences and genres. While brother Steve holds that down, Jacquie manhandles the stratocaster like she was born to do so, and Jaeger is so natural behind the kit that you'd never guess that it's only one of an entire gamut of instruments that he's trained to totally own, as he's demonstrated both in his educational option and his bass-destroying history in FTM. The fact that they each play a host of different instruments (extremely well, I must add) helps to account for their ability to impress immediately, while still the baby stages of their development as a band.

To date, the band has only recorded three songs, each one of them has quality stamped all over them, though none come close to capturing their impact in a live environment. In the not-so-distance future, according to the male Neville, are plans to continue writing for a full-length record. In the meantime, I'll be bookmarking their myspace page with my eyes and ears on guard for any new material.

the Balconies - Battle Royale
the Balconies - Rest Up

- bbbykmbrly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Fancy Fingers

Knock Knock.

Oh hey, wuzz up ya'll?

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing two of our generations premiere guitar players; Don Ross and Andy McKee. Both musicians are able to play with just two acoustic guitars while the audience hears 10 different arrangements. The way they use harmonic and the fingerstyle picking are both sharp and mesmerizing.

Am I drooling?

Saw the show at Hugh's Room out on Bloor and Dundas (for all you Torontonians and likely visitors) and the the place was very intimate which played well with Mr. Ross's unlikely banter and charm. You know, I always thought of Don as one of those guys who was more introverted but he chatted between every song, joked with the crowd and with Andy. Oh yeah, did I mention Andy McKee played with the great Mr. Ross? Likely you're one of his 40+ million visitors on Youtube; just Youtube. This video is all over the fucking internet.

Bottom line: Two of my favorite guitarists playing maybe 20 feet away with maybe 200 more people in the restaurant. Fucking ace.

You gotta see it to believe it:
Don Ross - Thin Air

Andy McKee - Drifting

MF Blaz :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Festival Season: Osheaga - Day 2

Day 2 in Montreal was overwhelming to the point where we're only collecting our thoughts over a week later, now that's journalism. Day 2 was the Georges St. Pierre to Day 1's Jon Fitch, or pick your analogy where Day 2 is much, much better. For the record, we caught The Black Keys and Gogol Bordello, though neither for long enough to make any worthwhile commentary here.

The Kills - 4:00-4:45
Grade: B

I’m not too familiar with this UK/US duo, despite having heard their name thrown about in all sorts of publications for several years now. With three full lengths under their belt, The Kills were consistent in their loud but minimal garage jams. They have a definite aesthetic appeal, not trendy really, just a refreshing “we could give two (choice expletive deleted) what you think of us or this song,” which was a pleasant way to start our day after missing Jamie Lidell’s soulful stylings for some Peel Pub $6 pitchers.

The Weakerthans - 4:15-5:00

Grade : C+

The Winnipeg post-punk veterans rocked the Mountain Stage in the late afternoon on Monday. For me, the music was overshadowed by lead man John K. Samson's actions about 'insufficient' set time, highlighted by a seemingly passionate exchange with an Osheaga staffer who I saw yelling from stage left. Despite the organizer's finest efforts to dissuade Samson, he decided that the Weakerthans needed more time on stage then what they were allotted, and the band played on. The songs were done well; it was a standard Weakerthans set. Advice for group for future time-crunched sets; avoid unnecessary (and boring) tangents about "the great game of curling", and you won't have these kind of issues.

MGMT - 5:30-6:15
Grade: B

Adorned with an oversized tie dyed t-shirt and an arsenal of beloved tracks to sing, Andrew VanWyngarden of MGMT led the group in a relatively impressive performance at the Meg Stage. For a band surrounded by a great deal of hype, I found that MGMT came on stage with a refreshing level of modesty. Not too much chatter, just straight up psychedelic hipster indie rock. "Electric Feel" and "Kids" were favorites.

Duffy - 6:45-7:45
Grade: N/A

It was difficult to get a good look at the Welsh vixen from our spot on the grass, but I let my imagination roam. Duffy sounded confident and powerful enough to confirm her press package, though I can’t say she really caught our attention all that much. Where the day previous Sharon Jones barked bold statements and dared you not to pay attention, Duffy approached her set with slightly less bravado and we only stayed for a few songs. Hard to rate this performance based on our attention span at the moment.

The Go! Team – 7:00-8:00
Grade: B+

Ninja and crew took the stage with some authority, albeit some of the samples remained as simply playback to accompany live instruments. This wasn’t the case for every track, and I won’t try and make the argument that their songs should be, or are easily converted into fully fleshed out live tracks. Minor gripes aside, songs like “Grip Like a Vice” and “The Power is On” were catchy as they are on record and the band moved around the stage with the youthful energy they channel so well in song. As a big fan of both of their LP’s, I have no complaints about their live showing. They’re as charismatic as Benny Hinn and Randy Savage put together.

Broken Social Scene - 8:00-9:00

Grade: A

The evening BSS set was one of the most anticipated performances of the day for me. At Osheaga, the ever-changing live version of BSS consisted of its regular core (Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Andrew Whiteman of Apostle of Hustle, as well as Amy Millan of Stars, Liam O'Neil from the Stills. And I am sure there were others participating who I did not recognize as well…it is BSS after all. Highlights of the set include "7/4 Shoreline", "Diary Of a 17 Year Old Girl" and "Ibi Dreams of Pavement." Each song built on the next during the set, setting a gorgeous stage for the set's climax; a brilliant and powerfully enhanced version of "Pavement" played as the second last song. However, BSS's finale (an extended version of the already 9:55 minute "It's All Gonna Break") spotlighted Kevin Drew entirely too much, and it took away from the sets momentum in a very unfortunate way. Overall I was surprised by Drew's leadership/dictatorship on stage. Away from his vocal dominance, he presented himself akin to an overzealous high school band conductor, as he waved performers onstage when they had chosen to step aside, introduced members as if they were his own, and acted generally like he was the shit. Truthfully, the set reminded me of eating a cookie with too many chocolate chips in it. It was delicious, but at many points I just wanted to taste the sweet sweet cookie without being bombarded by cheap Kevin Drew cocoa bite after bite.

CSS – 8:30-9:30
Grade: A

The Brazilians, much like The Go! Team before them, brought a pretty bombastic, super-fun-happy-hour kind of set that worked perfectly in the dying light of the evening. Lead singer Lovefoxxx (parents lucked out she didn’t become an adult contemporary Jann Arden type, and yes I know it's a stage name) was pretty wild on stage in her technicolour bodysuit, with tons of running around and that cute Portuguese/Japanese/German/Whatever accent singing “Off the Hook,” “Let’s Make Love,” and new cuts like “Left Behind.” Cansei de Ser Sexy did not disappoint, and along with the Go! Team, buttered up the crowd real nice for the Meg Stage headliners and their bonafied lovin.

Chromeo – 10:00-11:00
Grade: A++

It was epic. A huge crowd chanted in unison when the lights went down. They chanted loud. They even chanted in tune.




Then Boom! The lights came up, and the music started. There was a fancy footwork epidemic spreading rapidly throughout the crowd. Tenderonis everywhere were grinding up on their man lovers. Kitschy dance music was played, and it had never been played better before. Chromeo's set at Osheaga stole the show. The well-traveled dance masters played an unbelievable set in front of a huge hometown crowd, dropping nothing but pure hotness. And best of all, they seemed genuinely happy to be playing at home. If BTA had an achievement award for perfection, Chromeo would be its first and only recipient.

Osheaga, we hardly knew ye. Until next year, hopefully headlined by Chromeo.

- mca & BA

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Festival Season: Osheaga - Day 1

We sent our two most attractive writers to Montreal this past weekend to enjoy the riches that this year's Osheaga music festival had to offer. Also one of us had sex with Duffy, guess which one! Each band gets a letter grade for those of you with real lives too busy to read everything.

The Wooden Sky 2:00pm-2:30pm
Grade: A

The Toronto-based five piece shared their rich folk rock blend under the Scene des Arbres' tent with a natural charm and a shining ability to build a song to a climax. We were especially impressed with the Wooden Sky's unique backing vocals which provided a fullness and passion that made this set one of the day's finest.

*Next, we were ready to enjoy one of our favourites of late, Foals. However, the band canceled last minute due to 'scheduling problems'. We call bullshit. However, the disappointment was curbed quickly, as Texas' Sleepercar were playing a surprise performance on the Mountain stage.

Sleepercar 2:45-3:30
Grade: B

We were set to check out a set from Eddy Grant, who neither of us knew or had heard before. I knew only that he was a reggae artist, but some research after the fact makes me wish he had been there. Grant’s a pretty prolific figure, and did “Electric Avenue,” but I digress…In his place were Sleepercar from West Texas, a side-project of Jim Ward (Sparta, At the Drive-In). The band’s alt-country and rockier tunes were well balanced throughout the set, as Ward showed that his bread and butter yell can be toned down to a blue collar croon when appropriate, well suited to his slow-burning songs about West Texas and everyday obstacles. Highlights were “Wednesday Nights” and “A Broken Promise,” stretched out to incorporate lap-steel solos and singalong builds. Fine set, though a tad slow to get the crowd pumped for Pharrell and co.

N.E.R.D 3:30-4:30
Grade: C

This set was eagerly anticipated by BTA writer mca. He has macked hard on Seeing Sounds this summer, and was anxious to hear the new shit live. However, BTA's shortest contributor was disappointed with set that Pharrell Williams and friends shared. The band started 20 minutes late (a festival faux-pas), the set was marred by pour sound production and a desperation to force the crowd's energy level higher. "Anti-Matter" and "Spaz" came off weak and empty. After a decent rendition of "Rock Star", the BTA team left N.E.R.D's set early to be wowed by Plants & Animals.

Plant & Animals 4:00-4:45
Grade: B-

Playing the remote and rearmost Meg Stage, hometown natives and Polaris nominees Plants & Animals played the majority of their stellar album Parc Avenue. Their set was great, however we couldn’t help notice the 3-piece was going for a faster, much less cinematic version of many grandiose songs including “Bye Bye Bye.” Either for their limited personnel and backing instruments or because they wanted to keep people moving, these uptempo versions weren’t better or worse, just different from what we had expected. Still, the timing and cohesion of the three neon-shaded dudes was tight and they never let any one song become prolonged to the point of stagnation, a necessary tactic when other stages are just minutes away. “Good Friend” was probably the best executed song of the set; funny and lighthearted like the general vibe of the rest of the performance.

Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings 5:45-6:45
Grade: A

After eating some soul food provided by Osheaga's popular poutine shack, we were anxious to check out the festival's Queen of Soul, Ms. Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings. The set began with the Dap Kings getting the crowd going, building anticipation for the entrance of the little soul diva. The beautiful, soulful, and very audible Sharon Jones dominated the stage for the entire performance. As she strutted from stage left to stage right in her Tina Turner dress (and high heeled shoes she would later remove), Sharon Jones showed the Osheaga faithful what Motown/soul should look and sound like. Passionate, natural, fun. Definitely a favourite of the day. And it's soul music! soul.

Devotchka 7:00-8:00
Grade: A

Denver, Colorado’s Devotchka were for me, the surprise of the day. Between east-European gypsy stylings to authentic Spanish mariachi numbers and lots of shit you could categorize at any point in between, these guys were righteous and amazing. Frontman Nick Urata definitely captivated those in attendance with a Morrissey-type swagger and croon, and with a little lady hoisting a massive white tuba to his left and a gent with an accordion to his right they could really do no wrong. Urata played the theremin on a couple tunes, the ancient Russian electronic antennae a performer plays with the proximity of his hands, or in Urata’s case, his guitar and entire body…pretty unreal if you’ve never seen it played by a professional. Recent single “Transliterator” was the most boisterous and well-received of the set, and plenty more aggressive than its recorded counterpart. No lows from this bunch, thoroughly impressive.

Iggy & The Stooges 8:00-9:00

Little did we know, but this would be the last time Iggy and the boys played their instruments (those specific instruments, to make it clearer, their truck got stolen Monday morning). Iggy made it quite clear during the high-energy set that he didn’t give a shit what anybody thought, which is what we all wanted to see. “Be Your Dog,” “No Fun,” and “Real Cool Time” from their eponymous debut sounded spastic and on the brink of collapse. At the point Iggy invited all his fellow freaks up on stage and kids were pouring over the barrier and up the stage wall, with the only thing coming between them and their idol was his purple-shirted bodyguard who boxed them out like Charles Barkley in his prime. A sight to see. Less of a sight to see was Iggy losing his belt and having his jeans ready to fall at any second, but they remained, keeping Iggy on the edge of the law for long enough to play “Search and Destroy” and some other gems. At 61 it’s not easy to explain how he keeps going, but the leatherbacked wonder keeps entertaining the punks and punks at heart as best he can.

Booka Shade 8:30-9:30
Grade: B-

Osheaga met its euro dance party quotient with this German twosome. Armed with a digital drum kit, headset microphones and an odd projection set up, Booka Shade provided a decently-sized audience with an enjoyable and sexually ambiguous 45 minute set. The tracks were solid, but nothing to write home about (sorry mom, one less telegram this week).

Sebastien Tellier 10:00-11:00
Grade: C+

Monsieur Tellier brought his chain-smoking, hobo-haired self and portions of his brilliant Sexuality to Osheaga to close the night as an alternative to those plugs in The Killers. What could have been a very promising, groovy set, especially given the darkness of the Meg Stage and the potential for a dance party dynamic, Tellier and crew played only “Divine” and “Kilometer” to get people moving, disregarding other cuts like “Sexual Sportswear” that would’ve done well with the crowd. One too many slow-burning piano numbers killed the momentum, and solace could only be taken at these moments by observing how incredibly awesome this Parisian is at smoking cigarettes. Like I don’t smoke or anything, but if anybody would get me started into deep, committed chain smoking, this would be the guy to idolize.

At the end of Day 1, we were excited for the talent-filled Day 2, and the prospect that our hostel beds weren't already filled by some gruff, oversized Peruvians.

- mca and BA

Contest: TIME festival ft. SOULWAX, A-Trak, others - August 10th, Toronto

This is a whole new kind of Remix Sunday.

I love to dance. With such an admittance, I'm expecting to be in good company this coming Sunday at Toronto's Sunnyside Pavilion at the first-ever TIME Festival. While the event hours are pretty unconventional for an event of its ilk (it's a daytime-to-evening event, starting at 1pm), the lineup may calm the nerves of anyone worrying if this formula can work.

Belgium's Electro fathers SOULWAX (aka 2 many DJs) head a roster that also includes Fool's Gold man-in-charge A-Trak, UK remixer and DJ Erol Alkan, plus a ton of others with heavy local Toronto and Canadian support: Jokers of the Scene (Ottawa), as well as Torontonians Mario J, Fritz Helder & the Phantoms and Nasty Nav, among others.

Courtesy of Embrace, BTA has three pairs of tickets to give away to the electro-fest to three lucky readers. If you're interested, hit us with an email with the subject line "This ain't your gramma's daytime electronic dance fest". Since the festival is this weekend, get your entry in by Saturday, August 9th at 5pm.

Rolling Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want (Soulwax Remix)
Kanye West - Stronger (A-Trak Remix)
Thunderheist - Jerk It (Jokers of the Scene Remix)

- bbbykmbrly.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Festival Season: Lollapalooza Review - Day 1

Well how about that. Despite donning a Robo-Boot to protect my freshly broken foot/sprained ankle combo from an ill-advised (and poorly timed) skateboarding spill last Saturday, my first ever Lollapalooza also doubled as my most musically indulgent 3-day span in my life thus far. So now I'm going to do my best to recap (if not recapture) the diverse, epic, and gloried weekend spent in Grant Park, Chicago.

The Go! Team (2:15pm)

Listening to the Black Lips tear through their 1:15pm set while sweating through my t-shirt on the outside of a festival behind 20,000 other anxious patrons wasn't terribly easy to swallow. But once we did arrive, the Go! Team seemed prepared to cheer my spirits with their impressive energy that was even more so considering the scorching heat. The crowd was pretty substantial considering their relatively early slot and still lengthy line up, and the Team won them over blasting out tunes from both of their albums.

The Go! Team - Grip Like a Vice

The Kills (3:15pm)

Up next were London, UK's the Kills. Admittedly, I'm pretty sure I hadn't heard a single note from this gender-split twosome. It was strictly off the recommendation of a friend (who compared lead Allison "VV" Mosshart to a less attention- seeking Karen O), and the fact that nobody wanted to go see Duffy with me that lured me to the stage for their antics, and thankfully so. Not a great performance, admittedly, as the two seemed about to melt under the rays. But despite the elements, the strength of their songwriting shone through. Definitely one of the more pleasant finds of the festival, and one that might have the potential to truly hook me in a dark nightclub rather than a day fit for a picnic.

the Kills - Hitched

Gogol Bordello (4:15pm)

Though I opted to bask in the sun and stare gazingly at the big main stage screens, I couldn't help but notice that I may have been the only person in the strong crowd not moving a muscle. Instead, with "gypsy punks" Gogol Bordello leading by example, the response from the crowd was certainly notable. These guys build their reputation on a powerful live presence, which they brought 100% to the Lolla experience.

Gogol Bordello - Supertheory of Supereverything

Mates of State (5:15pm)

Of all the bands on the bill Friday afternoon, Mates of State could perhaps be the one most suited for a park on a bright, cloudless summer day; their pleasant synth-pop melodies seem crafted with exactly this environment in mind. Despite their suitability however, the husband and wife duo of Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel never really seemed to emote much energy whatsoever, which was in time relayed onto the crowd who approved slightly to their breadth of tunes across their 10 year career, but never legitimately erupted at any point during the set.

Mates of State - The Re-Arranger

Grizzly Bear (5:45pm)

After leaving Mates of State relatively unimpressed, I set up shop at the "accessibility zone" (thank you, wounded paw) for a comfortable spot for Radiohead tourmates Grizzly Bear at the City stage, one of the smaller of the festival. At risk of getting criticized by the indie- masses, I've never given their critically acclaimed Yellow House much of a chance. So checking this set out, I felt very much like an open book ready to absorb "what all the fuss was about". The conclusion: subtle melodies over wistful vocals and enough resonance to make me revisit Yellow House, but still a skepticism and speculation that it might not have enough jump to really have my name on it.

Grizzly Bear - Knife

Bloc Party (6:15pm)

It has taken me well over a year to accept the fact that A Weekend in the City is not Silent Alarm. But in that time span, I've seen the best songs from both albums in a live environment three times, each time leaving me with a slightly more optimistic outlook on their sophomore effort. Now, as they seem primed for their third release, their upcoming single "Mercury", which experiments with loops and samples, seems like a valiant effort to expand and progress rather than stick to their guns - the ones which started as fierce semi automatics before retreating to handgun status. In general, the set was classic Bloc - high energy modern rock n' roll, a charismatic lead donning the t-shirt of a man he cannot vote for given his citizenship (guess who), and a rollicking crowd appreciative throughout.

Bloc Party - Mercury

Radiohead (8:00)

Fucking ruled. But of course we already knew that. My first RH experience was everything I could have hoped for - impeccable song selection (In Rainbows heavy, but with a healthy sprinkling of the highlights of all other albums with the exception of the dated Pablo Honey), impressive but simple effects, and flawless recreations of the impossible sounds which only Thom and Co. can bring to live on record, let alone in the flesh.

Radiohead - Bodysnatchers

- bbbykmbrly.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Festival Season: Pemberton Wrap-Up

As I sat on a bus in the traffic in between Whistler and Pemberton, in what major media outlets would later call ‘ a logistical nightmare’, and behind a pickup truck full of shirtless ‘bro’s’, heckling those that took their chances walking, I wondered if this town would still be standing in three days. As I cursed the woman at the media check-in who assured me that the festival grounds were a ten minute walk, I began to realize just how much of a nightmare this could potentially be. Staff and concert goers alike were equally lost in the confusion. So we took it upon ourselves to track down a campsite and settled in a fairly open area at the back of the campgrounds, away from the dust bowls and refugee style tent city area. Well, we had already missed most of the acts of the first day, so drinking seemed like the best way to get down to work. The gracious liquor companies, who saved us from the overpriced beer tents, were more than accommodating to the media. Although I’m not sure I’d say the same for Joe-concert goer. Lines to get into the 19+ areas spanned two or three hours, resulting in some spectacular fence scaling and dashing techniques. I wondered if that’s what the U.S and Mexican border looked like. As I stepped into one of the closed off areas, I found myself surrounded by the seemingly musically challenged and would be Hunter S. Thompson’s. They ranged from fashion magazines to those breakfast radio hosts who make you want to shoot yourself in the face rather than have a cheery start to your morning. All of them going apes shit over seeing the Tragically Hip and Sam Roberts…again! When I mentioned that I was looking forward to covering the likes of Chromeo and MSTRKRFT, I was met more often than not with blank stares. Don’t get me wrong, there were journalists around that border lined hipster-dome, and I don’t expect everyone to be a huge fan of this new indie-electrio dance wave that has been taking the blog world by storm. Hey, I myself am pretty down with Sam Roberts. But is it too much to ask that these people have a general awareness of the new Canadian talent coming up around them? Well maybe not you, hot fashion zine girl, but the music people! Apparently, the answer is yes. That’s cool man, go and sing along to ‘My music at work’. I watched the guy in front of me tip our server with our other national currency, giving me a smile and saying, “It’s gonzo baby”. Better make that two rum and cokes.

I can’t say too much about Chromeo that hasn’t been said about every other performance we’ve seen of them. The sea of people demonstrating their fancy footwork can testify that the boys blew the roof off the tent that night with their own special blend of synth-dance pop that they do so well. Though I will say that it wasn’t as intimate as other shows they have played as they were set up behind what was seemingly an unmovable DJ booth, and separated a few more feet by a security fence. It didn’t seem to phase the dancing though.

The next morning consisted of trying to find some food we could afford, and a line that we could tolerate. We found neither, so we hitchhiked to Pemberton. Someone had spray painted ‘DIRT’ in massive letters right across the four stalls near our campsite. I decided that was a good indication to wait until we got into town. The day consisted of avoiding dust clouds, rum, and the occasional game of hacky sack with neighbors in the camp ground while waiting for the music to begin. Organizers had however begun to pick up the slack from yesterday. Security was tighter, things were getting cleaned, and things seemed a bit more controlled. Mates of State showed they could hit those harmonies and fill the place with sound by means of just the two of them and the occasional help of some strings. The Flaming Lips should play a show where they don’t have massive bubbles floating around and crazy shit blowing up on stage. Where absolutely nothing happens. That would be really unexpected, and would probably mess with the drug-riddled kids even worse. MSTRKRFT took control of the dance party that night, which had been completely charged up by a day of some quality DJ sets. JFK and Al-P kept their usual company of crown royale and cigarettes as they threw down their set. Was that a shout out sample from Ghostface on the intro?

The campgrounds were not as hectic in the early morning hours as I had anticipated, but they were not without character. As one burly dude stumbled around and slumped down on the ground next to me, he mentioned how he didn’t want to see ACDC because they were “fucking head bangers”. It was an appropriate thing to say, as they were not playing at the festival, or anywhere at the time for that matter. He then went on about slitting throats and hobbits or something and proceeded to pass out on top of one of our tents. It was easier to move the tent rather than the guy, and let the medics take care of it.

The final day saw plenty of tired faces as well as those still ready to take in some of the biggest acts of the festival. Vampire Weekend started off the afternoon right, and I really enjoyed the first live performance I’ve seen of them. The airy upbeat sound of ‘Oxford Comma’, and ‘Walcott’ really got fans and new listeners alike bouncing around and set a great mood for the day. I attributed the non-existent encore to the fact that they had played their entire album. The crowd grew restless as N.E.R.D was delayed due to the continuing traffic chaos. When they finally did arrive, they came Chad-less. The guys blamed traffic but this is their second Canadian appearance where he hasn’t shown up. Hmmm I don’t know, but even Jay-Z was telling the crowd that our border security needs to mellow out a bit. Pharell made the best of it by getting as many women on stage as possible, and performing as long as they would allow. I think it was evident to everybody which girl was going to get the backstage tour. And Speaking of Hova, he got the crowd throwing them diamonds up into the night sky. If you’ve seen any footage of Glastonbury, it was pretty much, well, exactly that performance, minus that great rendition of ‘Wonder wall’. I almost forgot, Coldplay was there too.

All in all, it was a pretty good few days up in the mountains. Logistically, yes, there were a number of issues, but that’s to be expected in a festivals inaugural year. Losing MGMT and Brazillian Girls definitely hurt though. With them on the lineup it would’ve been a fairly good balance between the lesser-known acts and the superstars to appease the varying tastes. Pemberton festival has a future, and it is almost definite that it will happen again in 2009. My hope is that it continues to support up and coming artists and gives Canadians the chance to hear something that wasn’t on the top 40 that week. Only time will tell if Pemberton will fall amongst the ranks of the elite festivals, or winds up being a predictable affair with acts you may remember from the 1990’s.

…There was also Guitar Hero and a giant robot spider thing which surely only has one reason to exist. And that is to destroy the human race.

- Matty B.

Surkin ft. Chromeo - Chrome Knight