A few quickie reviews of four shows I took in last night at Canadian Music Week 2014 and the bike rides that got me there.
Ghetts (8:30pm at Baltic Avenue)
A fairly brief review of Ghetts because he was around a half hour late so I only caught a small handful of songs. Can’t really blame him since 8:30pm Thursday is a pretty brutal timeslot. Unless you’re Family Ties, I guess. In terms of tangibles, I hadn’t been to Baltic Avenue before but it seemed like a solid enough venue considering it was on the second floor. Kinda lounge-y, kinda wood-y. Also, the person working the door was nice and sad hi, while the DJ spun some Nas remixes to keep people entertained. So there was hat. When Ghetts finally reached the stage, he invited the crowd to nudge forward in an attempt to make the room slightly less stilted. I only caught about 4-5 songs but the delivery was as advertised with Ghetts’ rapid-fire ammo compounded (and sometimes confounded, in a good way) by his accent. Lots of energy to start although the best moments came when he cut himself some slack on mid-tempo fare like “Artillery” , an engagingly-paranoid tune that seems like his best bet for a Transatlantic breakthrough if he were to ever re-release it. Ghetts wore some great camouflage pants too. Cool artist. Wish I could’ve seen more.
Bike ride (Bloor W-College)
Slates (9:00pm at Sneaky Dee’s)
I gave the upstairs at Sneaky Dee’s a visit for the first time since Jay Reatard died (or more specifically, this gig) and was greeted kindly by Edmonton’s Slates, who provided several strands of Sunny Day Real Estate-ish indie rock with chops and heart. There was something inherently likeable about this band and they played with a certain urgency that was hard to pinpoint. Weeks on the road have clearly brought a strong cohesion to this outfit and pretty much everything about their stage show was seamless, from the musicianship from a technical standpoint to the delivery from a engagement standpoint. All told, they were extremely poised, polished and grateful, tipping the hat to the late Jason Molina on, yes, “Molina Blues” before wrapping with a torrid take on “Prairie Fire”, complete with some appropriate lurching about the stage. Points for the shirtless drummer as well, which is a pretty good sign that they’re into it. The solid-sized crowd for a 9:00pm slot was also a good sign that others were into it. I need to hear more of these guys.
Bike ride (College-Dundas W)
Wordburglar (10:00pm at Hard Luck Bar)
Playfully-poised MC Wordburglar didn’t let a small-ish crowd and tech issues cramp his (considerable) “steez”. With a lyrical focus on food, sports and sci-fi, “Burg” spat flow, struck poses and churned out a handful of good-natured rap tunes with plenty of between-song “crowd work” to vet the audience a bit. At this point, “Burg” is a veteran of the stage and his flow, freestyle, humour and presence are all airtight so even the bum timeslot didn’t damper his enthusiasm as he snaked through material new and old. Highlight? Probably “Your Friend’s Brother” which gives a ponder to…. um, the whereabouts of some kid’s brother and cette brother’s various tendencies. Scarborough’s More or Les spun and the duo did a little head-to-head action to wrap the set. Less food talk in that one. The F-word was said at least once.
Bike ride (Dundas W-Queen W)
Teenage Head and friends (11:00pm at The Great Hall)
What was ostensibly a book release party for Geoff Pevere’s Gods of the Hammer, a new Teenage Head biography, (read my Q+A with Geoff about the book here and then buy the book here) became something of a group hug for various Canadian punk and indie icons of the past three decades. The pics below will detail who showed and sang along with Hamilton’s long-running punk heroes. The more notable/unusual attendees were ex-Dead Boys shouter Cheetah Chrome (who visited from wherever USA for the gig) and Don Draper’s wife/John Kastner’s girlfriend (who did not hop on-stage to sing with the boys, as she had done previously with the Jesus and Mary Chain in Toronto). Teenage Head were their typical rock solid selves with bassist Steve Marshall looking lovingly aloof and Gordie Lewis galvanizing the stage with tons of focused hot licks. The gig did have a bit of a karaoke feel, which was a lot of fun as it allows the boys to dive deeper into their back catalogue than they typically would; namely, a few cuts (“Can’t Stop Shakin'”, “Full Time Fool”) from 1988’s out-of-print Electric Guitar–seldom trotted out for whatever reason. Again, Gordie Lewis has been the longtime glue of this band and his guitar playing deserves broader notice, as does his use of a fan to give his considerable locks a consistent windblown look.
Teenage Head with their semi-new singer Pete MacAulay
Teenage Head with that guy from Men Without Hats
Teenage Head with that guy from the Doughboys
Teenage Head with that non-Canadian guy from the Dead Boys
Teenage Head with that guy from Change of Heart