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5 Aug 2010

Best in Show…August 5

Best in Show…August 5

Gentlemen Husbands @ The El Mocambo

After a quick soundcheck, I knew I was in for a meaty treat with Gentlemen Husbands before they played the El Mocambo last Thursday.

Younger than I think any of the four would like to admit, Derek, Jed, Ryan and Danny play a wise rock and roll.  Country boys at heart and stretching surprisingly far from they’re historic days living wild in Cobourg’s  ‘hardcore’ scene, the quartet are a combine of North American rooted influences sold short by the term ‘blues-rock.’

Edging upon the handsome dynamic, I’ve never seen a more cohesiveve group. Imperially represented by guitarist Ryan Hutcheson, the boys took Pink Mafia into the alley and told us dirty little boy secrets about home and their mom’s and why the best things in life really are free.

“We all live at home and have very liberal parents” and all between the ripe young ages of 20 and 24, these boyish confidants from the all-the-more-lovable 705 are about the sans stress lifestyle of multiple back yard pools and mom’s who tailor shirts to order. “Realistically, we don’t really have anything to worry about. We don’t have to pay rent.”

Outside their “urban cowboy” dress (a term they all used to describe their look), they’ve also been described as “sounding like their shirts,” (Plaid. Carhart. More Plaid, only this time mom tailored. And ‘wife beater’. Respective, and respectfully.) and have developed a solid fan based.

A resume stocked with performances at NXNE and Scenefest, the group of avid buskers and over-bookers play Lee’s Palace on August 19th with friend band ‘The North’ and will carry through well into the fall with a University Frosh week tour including stops at Guelph, Waterloo, and Queen’s.

Wholesome. Fashionable & Likeable. What more do they want?

Boasting with a sound they’re proud to call “pretty minimal”, Gentlemen Husbands put the peaks back in Canadianarock and roll. Vocalist Rick Ballard, leveled by an explosive tier of bluegrass strings, refreshes pop writing for country music while maintaining the bands “natural and raw sound.”

Keep your eye on these ones for sure… For the sake of Holy Roller Novocaine.

Photo Credit: Courtney Lee

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros @ The Phoenix

Rewind back to April this year. It’s nearly 100 degrees as the sun sets in California. Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros are about to take to the Outdoor stage and it is beyond packed. Little did I know it would turn out to be one of the most memorable and enjoyable performances I’d experience. Not because they particularly sounded better than any band I’d heard or that their sound was cutting-edge, rather they pulled an engaging crowd unlike anything I’d ever seen! There was not one person “too cool” to get involved. It was a full on gypsy psych-out dance party comprised of joyous singing whilst skipping around barefoot linked arm to arm until the sun went down. Now fast forward to July 30th at The Phoenix where Edward Sharpe brought his band of marry men (and woman) for a sold-out-scaplers-hawking-at-$100-a-piece-show. After my Coachella experience, I was convinced this performance couldn’t measure, thankfully my pessimism was wrong and though it lacked beaming sun and a picturesque setting, it was still a fantastic Woodstock throwback.

Men with long hair and beards joined ladies with floral prints to fill a pot-scented room. The backdrop to the stage was painted with the poppy field beneath the Emerald Castle – appropriate  in a sense as the band would be taking the audience on a journey of sorts through sounds of the past. A journey they are willing to commit entirely to as long as the crowd will allow and the participation in turn dictates the shows overall energy. From the shouts of “Hey!” during “Janglin” to the skip-a-thon that was “Home” the Toronto crowd was fantastic to be a part of and completely held up their end of the bargain.

Nine members gathered together on stage led by Alex Ebert, the messianic Edward Sharpe, who is as easy to love as rainbows and kittens. He is tall, dark and hippie and his charisma wraps around the crowd with open arms and lovingly pulling them in. He is at the very core of this band. Donning his signature red scarf, he was playfully intermingling with his many band mates, exchanging banter with cute as a bug Jade Castrinos and telling jokes to the crowd between songs. My favourite: “What do you call a Mexican with a prosthetic toe?” Answer: “Roberto!”

Their songs are constructed in a way that conveys a dream-like state and the ensemble whisks the crowd away to another time altogether. At times their sound is a touch Rolling Stones, but for the most part they stay true to the Laurel Canyon sound. Rolling hills and flowing streams, in the 60s and 70s it was a hub for counterculture and home to such influential artist as Frank Zappa, Brian Wilson and our homeboy Neil Young (amongst many others).  It was here that their debut album “Up from Below” was recorded and their sound as a result is profoundly impacted by the rich history.

They may not go down in the books as a highly influential band themselves, but they will certainly be remembered for their enigmatic live shows. The finale was incredibly moving. What started casually enough with an old track and new, turned into one of the coolest things I’ve witnessed in a minute. Alex hopped down from the stage into the crowd and made his way to the center of the room. He paused for a brief moment before dropping and sitting cross-legged on the floor. With a few patting motions to the ground he encouraged the audience to join them, and amazingly they did. Those who were standing with little to no room to move were asked to sway like trees as he closed the night with a beautiful rendition of “Brothers”. Peace and love.

Words by Kate Masewich

Photo cred: Kay Lazer

Blitzen Trapper @ The Opera House

Decisions, decisions! When faced with a night that pits The Black Keys first show of their two night stint at Kool haus against Chromeo‘s triumphant return to the scene via their Business Casual tour, you can always opt for the alt road less travelled and go to The Opera House for Blitzen Trapper. This sentiment was shared by a few however the bigger names definitely pulled the crowds and as a result this crowd was a lowly potpourri of sorts. One part kush tokers, one part romantic couples and just to spice things up a bit a couple of girls who like to make-out with each other in front of their frat boy friends, you know, for good measure. Still, sometimes you just need to chill out and listen to some beardy Portland, OR folk, ya know? Given it wasn’t a sold out show and with the other two shows that were vying for concert-goers, I prepared myself for a mellow night of solid tunes and Blitzen Trapper delivered.

Like many of the bands in the vast sea of indie, Blitzen Trapper have been developing their sound over the last decade or so and with each effort they put forth the sound is more refined and skillfully crafted than it’s predecessor. A little twang of country with bits of psychedelia and rock get woven into their folksy tapestry of narrative based songs. Their lyrics are extremely well written, it helps no doubt, that they also write literature for kicks. They are capable of telling a story that develops a plot, builds characters and evokes emotion often in under 4 minutes. They have a uniquely beautiful relationship with chord progression and they eloquently showcase their depth and range. They tap into sounds that refrain from becoming stale over time and shy away from being derivative in favour of being reminiscent, even though Eric Early’s voice can trail off just like Bob Dylan’s.

Their set list was behemoth. The sextet’s clairvoyance was very much admired by those in attendance, less of course the overt jabs at Canadians dished out by Marty Maquis. When you play the melodica you sort of rule and are granted a free pass or so it seems. It covered the bulk of “Destroyer of the Void”, a solid chunk of “Furr” and tapered off with some tracks from “Black River Killer (EP)”. The finale was totally improvised and fueled by the audience shouted requests, an apology of sorts for putting down our driving skills and selection of brews perhaps? The set list created a mellow and relaxed environment for everyone to chill the folk out.

Words by Kate Masewich

Photo courtesy of Sub Pop records

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Kate Masewich



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