• Concert Review: Rammstein at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto, May 8

    16. Mai. 2011, 3:50

    Sun 8 May – Rammstein, Combichrist

    From my blog: My Aimz is True

    A while ago I promised my good buddy Schneider Weisse that I would go with him to see his favorite band, the German band Rammstein, if they ever toured North America, which they rarely do. Last summer they played a festival in Quebec City, but neither of us could make the show. This past December Rammstein played in the US for the first time since 2001. They did only one show, at Madison Square Garden, and it sold out in about four minutes or something ridiculous like that. Schneider Weisse somehow got a ticket and flew from Toronto to NYC for the weekend for the show (review of the NYC show from Spin). I wanted to go, but I was in the middle of trying to get my shit together to move to Boston and couldn't pull it off.

    Since the Quebec and New York Cities shows went so well, Rammstein must have decided to do a mini North American tour, and in early 2011 announced that they were playing six US, three Canadian, and four Mexican dates in the spring of 2011. Fortunately, one of those dates was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, within stumbling of Schneider Weisse's condo. So I booked a flight and got my sorry ass to Toronto for the May 8 weekend.

    The Air Canada Centre was nearly sold out, and we had perfect seats just off of the floor facing the stage. German industrial metal bands will always attract it's share of goths, chicks in short skirts and fishnet stockings, dudes in black skirts and combat boots, and enough black lipstick and nail polish to paint a hearse (on both the chicks and the dudes). But I was really impressed that Rammstein attracted fans of all ages. While the kids mostly stayed in the pit area - the ACC's floor was cleared of chairs so people could mosh - my section had a wide range of ages, within plus or minus 20 years of 35, I would guess. Leader singer/entertainer Till Lindemann is 48 years old. My crew of simps (Rockstar Aimz, Schneider Weisse, Haifisch, Warlock, and Paul) averaged around age 35. Haifisch, who is a native of Germany and has two daughters in their late teens/early 20s, commented, "This is a much better Mother's Day present than toast in bed." Yah!!!

    Someone like me who isn't overly familiar with Rammstein's music, except for their only North American hit, 1997's Du hast, attends these type of concerts for one reason: to be entertained. In others words, for the pyro. Both Lindemann and keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz are licensed pyrotechnicians, and work with designers to set up pryo, lights, and other effects for their shows. And the pyro did not disappoint. There were giant flames from the stage, fire coming out of metal wings on Lindemann's back, flares blaring out of the end of Lindemann's big-ass bazooka, fireworks, sparks on wires flaming out over the audience, flames from the top and the bottom of the stage. We were on the far side opposite the stage and we could feel the heat from the pyro. The performers and the kids in the pit must has been cooking!

    Rammstein is also know for their stage props and other theatrics. This tour included Lindemann throwing Lorenz into a basin and torching him from above, only to have Lorenz crawl out of the basin wearing a head-to-toe gold sparkling jumpsuit. Lorenz then scampered back up to his keyboards and spent the rest of the show walking to the beat on a rotating treadmill ("Flake" must be in incredible shape). Lindemann also torched a "fan" who "ran" onto the stage, and towards the end of the main set, boarded a giant penis and blew foam at the fans, some of which made it all the way back to our section. During the first encore Lorenz in his jumpsuit boarded an inflatable raft and "sailed" out into the audience. As the fans pushed him along, Lorenz hoisted a big Canadian flag, much to the crowd's delight. Don't worry, the flag wasn't torched. Maybe they saved the flag torching for the American shows? That was a joke people.

    Pyro, props, and theatrics are all well and good Aimz, but what about the music? Rammstein played about half of their set from the 2009 album Liebe ist für alle da . (Translation = There Is Love for Everyone) They sounded AWESOME. From the minute the guitars chopped through the backdrop during the opening song, to the metronome-like timing and pounding by the drummer, and the keyboards tying every song together: the band was tight and focused. Other reviewers mentioned that they had a hard time hearing Lindemann's deep baritone voice, but from my vantage point he sounded wundebar. I could hear him rrrrroll every "R." At one point Lindemann sang a solo with just an acoustic guitar backing him (can't remember which song). An acoustic guitar at a metal show, you ask? Of course! That's how you score with the chicks!

    I was also blown away by the knowledgeable crowd. Considering that a vast majority of the crowd presumably did not speak German, it was incredibly impressive how the audience knew the music. Basically, the only non-German Lindemann said the entire night was, "Sank you Toronto. Merci beaucoup." During the aforementioned Du hast, the crowd essentially sang the song back to the band. That has to be something pretty special for Rammstein, having 14,000 non-German speakers on a different continent sing a 14-year-old hit back to you in German. Check it out:



    I was completely entertained for the 100 minute show. I even threw in a few fist pumps and devil horns. It's not a show I will see on every subsequent tour (that is, if they have more North American dates before 2021), but I highly recommend a Rammstein gig not only for the pyro and stage show, but also for the killer metal. "Other bands play, Rammstein burns!"

    Setlist
    (from MetalSetlists.com):
    1. Rammlied
    2. Bückstabü
    3. Waidmanns Heil
    4. Keine Lust
    5. Weisses Fleisch
    6. Feuer frei!
    7. Wiener Blut
    8. Frühling un París
    9. Ich tu dir weh
    10. Du Riescht So Gut
    11. Benzin
    12. Links 234
    13. Du hast
    14. Pussy

    Encore
    15. Sonne
    16. Haifisch
    17. Ich will

    2nd Encore
    18. Engel


    Combichrist opened the show with a 30 minute set, and since it took forever to get through the Air Canada Centre security pat-down, I only saw their last song, where they tipped over their drums sets and smashed their shit. Rock on! Their PR people did send me their latest ultra-violent, extra-boobies video for the song Throat of Glass, which has a very Nine Inch Nails vibe. Needless to say, the video is not safe for work. Watch the uncensored version here: http://vimeo.com/20610214

    Check out these killer photos of the show by Tom Pandi.
    http://www.examiner.com/event-photography-in-toronto/rammstein-at-the-acc-picture?fb_comment=32956086#slide=32956226
  • Concert Review: Rammstein at the Air Canada Centre, Toronto, May 8

    16. Mai. 2011, 3:49

    Sun 8 May – Rammstein, Combichrist

    From my blog: My Aimz is True

    A while ago I promised my good buddy Schneider Weisse that I would go with him to see his favorite band, the German band Rammstein, if they ever toured North America, which they rarely do. Last summer they played a festival in Quebec City, but neither of us could make the show. This past December Rammstein played in the US for the first time since 2001. They did only one show, at Madison Square Garden, and it sold out in about four minutes or something ridiculous like that. Schneider Weisse somehow got a ticket and flew from Toronto to NYC for the weekend for the show (review of the NYC show from Spin). I wanted to go, but I was in the middle of trying to get my shit together to move to Boston and couldn't pull it off.

    Since the Quebec and New York Cities shows went so well, Rammstein must have decided to do a mini North American tour, and in early 2011 announced that they were playing six US, three Canadian, and four Mexican dates in the spring of 2011. Fortunately, one of those dates was at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, within stumbling of Schneider Weisse's condo. So I booked a flight and got my sorry ass to Toronto for the May 8 weekend.

    The Air Canada Centre was nearly sold out, and we had perfect seats just off of the floor facing the stage. German industrial metal bands will always attract it's share of goths, chicks in short skirts and fishnet stockings, dudes in black skirts and combat boots, and enough black lipstick and nail polish to paint a hearse (on both the chicks and the dudes). But I was really impressed that Rammstein attracted fans of all ages. While the kids mostly stayed in the pit area - the ACC's floor was cleared of chairs so people could mosh - my section had a wide range of ages, within plus or minus 20 years of 35, I would guess. Leader singer/entertainer Till Lindemann is 48 years old. My crew of simps (Rockstar Aimz, Schneider Weisse, Haifisch, Warlock, and Paul) averaged around age 35. Haifisch, who is a native of Germany and has two daughters in their late teens/early 20s, commented, "This is a much better Mother's Day present than toast in bed." Yah!!!

    Someone like me who isn't overly familiar with Rammstein's music, except for their only North American hit, 1997's Du hast, attends these type of concerts for one reason: to be entertained. In others words, for the pyro. Both Lindemann and keyboardist Christian "Flake" Lorenz are licensed pyrotechnicians, and work with designers to set up pryo, lights, and other effects for their shows. And the pyro did not disappoint. There were giant flames from the stage, fire coming out of metal wings on Lindemann's back, flares blaring out of the end of Lindemann's big-ass bazooka, fireworks, sparks on wires flaming out over the audience, flames from the top and the bottom of the stage. We were on the far side opposite the stage and we could feel the heat from the pyro. The performers and the kids in the pit must has been cooking!

    Rammstein is also know for their stage props and other theatrics. This tour included Lindemann throwing Lorenz into a basin and torching him from above, only to have Lorenz crawl out of the basin wearing a head-to-toe gold sparkling jumpsuit. Lorenz then scampered back up to his keyboards and spent the rest of the show walking to the beat on a rotating treadmill ("Flake" must be in incredible shape). Lindemann also torched a "fan" who "ran" onto the stage, and towards the end of the main set, boarded a giant penis and blew foam at the fans, some of which made it all the way back to our section. During the first encore Lorenz in his jumpsuit boarded an inflatable raft and "sailed" out into the audience. As the fans pushed him along, Lorenz hoisted a big Canadian flag, much to the crowd's delight. Don't worry, the flag wasn't torched. Maybe they saved the flag torching for the American shows? That was a joke people.

    Pyro, props, and theatrics are all well and good Aimz, but what about the music? Rammstein played about half of their set from the 2009 album Liebe ist für alle da . (Translation = There Is Love for Everyone) They sounded AWESOME. From the minute the guitars chopped through the backdrop during the opening song, to the metronome-like timing and pounding by the drummer, and the keyboards tying every song together: the band was tight and focused. Other reviewers mentioned that they had a hard time hearing Lindemann's deep baritone voice, but from my vantage point he sounded wundebar. I could hear him rrrrroll every "R." At one point Lindemann sang a solo with just an acoustic guitar backing him (can't remember which song). An acoustic guitar at a metal show, you ask? Of course! That's how you score with the chicks!

    I was also blown away by the knowledgeable crowd. Considering that a vast majority of the crowd presumably did not speak German, it was incredibly impressive how the audience knew the music. Basically, the only non-German Lindemann said the entire night was, "Sank you Toronto. Merci beaucoup." During the aforementioned Du hast, the crowd essentially sang the song back to the band. That has to be something pretty special for Rammstein, having 14,000 non-German speakers on a different continent sing a 14-year-old hit back to you in German. Check it out:

    [youtube]http://youtu.be/tk2hQHdI558[/youtube]

    I was completely entertained for the 100 minute show. I even threw in a few fist pumps and devil horns. It's not a show I will see on every subsequent tour (that is, if they have more North American dates before 2021), but I highly recommend a Rammstein gig not only for the pyro and stage show, but also for the killer metal. "Other bands play, Rammstein burns!"

    Setlist
    (from MetalSetlists.com):
    1. Rammlied
    2. Bückstabü
    3. Waidmanns Heil
    4. Keine Lust
    5. Weisses Fleisch
    6. Feuer frei!
    7. Wiener Blut
    8. Frühling un París
    9. Ich tu dir weh
    10. Du Riescht So Gut
    11. Benzin
    12. Links 234
    13. Du hast
    14. Pussy

    Encore
    15. Sonne
    16. Haifisch
    17. Ich will

    2nd Encore
    18. Engel


    Combichrist opened the show with a 30 minute set, and since it took forever to get through the Air Canada Centre security pat-down, I only saw their last song, where they tipped over their drums sets and smashed their shit. Rock on! Their PR people did send me their latest ultra-violent, extra-boobies video for the song Throat of Glass, which has a very Nine Inch Nails vibe. Needless to say, the video is not safe for work. Watch the uncensored version here: http://vimeo.com/20610214

    Check out these killer photos of the show by Tom Pandi. [url= http://www.examiner.com/event-photography-in-toronto/rammstein-at-the-acc-picture?fb_comment=32956086#slide=32956226] http://www.examiner.com/event-photography-in-toronto/rammstein-at-the-acc-picture?fb_comment=32956086#slide=32956226
  • Concert Review: Hayes Carll with Jason Isbell and Shovels and Rope, April 23, Boston

    5. Mai. 2011, 3:11

    Sat 23 Apr – Hayes Carll / Jason Isbell

    From my blog: My Aimz is True

    About a minute into Hayes Carll's first song Chances Are a big cheer erupted from the crowd. No, the crowd wasn't cheering for the protagonist in this heartfelt ballad. They were celebrating the fact that the Boston Bruins had just beaten the Montreal Canadians in double overtime. For a second there I thought I was back in Canada, but then I remembered that the Leafs never make the playoffs. I hope the Texans on the stage weren't confused either. Welcome to Boston!

    Carll headlined the sold out gig on Saturday, April 23, at the Brighton Music Hall in Boston, playing all but one song from his tremendous 2011 album KMAG YOYO (And Other American Stories), and other great tunes from his back catalog. (The one song he didn't play from the new album was a Christmas song, which really didn't fit on the day before Easter).

    After the warm up ballad, Carll and his band dug into the country rock with Hard Out Here and It's a Shame, along with Drunken Poet's Dream, which he co-wrote with Ray Wylie Hubbard. By the time he got to the title track to his new album, KMAG YOYO, which to me sounds like Subterranean Homesick Blues on meth, the crowd was rowdy and dancing up a storm.

    A few down-tempo tracks later, including my favorite song Beaumont, Carll introduced a new song that he co-wrote with Bobby Bare Jr., "One Bed, Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine." This song, along with the venerable She Left Me For Jesus, which is a quality Easter song, is one of the reasons why I love Hayes Carll's music. There is a long tradition of humor in country music, and so few songwriters use humor in their songs these days, and even fewer use it well. The only other modern humor-using country-ish songwriters that immediately come to mind are areTodd Snider and Corb Lund, both of whom have guest vocals on the song Bottle In My Hand. A tour with Carll, Snider, and Lund would be worth TSA molestation and domestic air travel.

    Early in the set Cary Ann Hearst of first opener Shovels and Rope (see below) joined Carll on stage for the duet Another Like You. Hearst actually sings on Carll's album, and she is exactly what I pictured: sassy, snarky, and wonderful. "Another Like You" reminds me a bit of the John Prine/Iris DeMent duet In Spite of Ourselves, only Carll's song is framed as a liberal man and a conservative woman getting drunk and mouthing off while actually being attracted to each other. As Carll said, "At the end of day we are all American. I'm convinced that all it takes is a little bit of alcohol and physical attraction." Carll recently announced on twitter that he was talking to James Carville and Mary Matalin about being in his video for "Another Like You." For those of you too young to remember 1992, Carville was chief political strategist for Bill Clinton's successful presidential campaign, while his girlfriend Matalin was deputy campaign manager for George H.W. Bush's unsuccessful re-election bid. I can't find it right now, but I remember reading some brilliant essay written by Carville on how he had to suck up to Mary after the election. They married in October 1993.

    Carll's band was fantastic. First, they were all wearing pearl snap shirts, including Carll. Old school. The pedal steel player switched to a different instrument for every song, including mandolin, Dobro, banjo, and probably some stringed instruments that I'm forgetting. The lead electric guitarist also played lap steel and accordion. During The Letter both the lap and pedal steel guitars were going full force. That's a lot of steel guitars for just $15.

    After a short encore, Carll returned to the stage to play the melancholy Hide Me solo. The rest of the band slowly ambled onto the stage and by the end of the song the band had fully assembled to kick the audience into next week with a hard rocking cover of George Jones' White Lightning. Shovels and Rope joined them on stage to sing, play, and rock out. Perfect ending to a perfect evening of country-rock!

    Set List
    1. Chances Are
    2. Hard Out Here
    3. It's a Shame
    4. Drunken Poet's Dream
    5. KMAG YOYO
    6. Bye Bye Baby
    7. Another Like You
    8. Rivertown
    9. Little Rock
    10. Beaumont
    11. Bottle In My Hand
    12. One Bed, Two Girls and Three Bottles of Wine
    13. The Letter
    14. Faulkner Street
    15. Grand Parade
    16. I Got A Gig
    17. Long Way Home
    18. The Lovin' Cup
    19. Girl Downtown
    20. She Left Me For Jesus
    21. Stomp And Holler

    Encore
    22. Hide Me
    23. White Lightning (George Jones cover)

    Hayes Carll and Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit alternated as the headlining act for this mini tour, with Carll closing the Boston gig. I've seen Isbell and his band live twice before, and had never seen a Carll gig, so this setup worked out perfectly for me. Isbell's new album Here We Rest is a slight departure from his previous two solo albums in that it is more of a singer/songwriter type of album as opposed to the blues-based country rock that permeates his previous releases. For example, Alabama Pines is an homage or even a love song to his home state, which really shows Isbell's growth as a songwriter.

    Not that we fans haven't known about Isbell's musical talents for years. While Isbell and his band mainly played tracks off of his superb new album, he also treated we longtime fans to a few of his older songs from his days with the Drive-By Truckers. I was especially thrilled to hear Outfit, one of the best songs in Isbell's, as well as the Trucker's, catalogs.

    Isbell is also a tremendous guitar player. Before launching into Never Gonna Change he shredded on his electric for a few minutes, and broke up Never Gonna Change with Hendrix's Stone Free. So killer. And the rest of his band is fantastic as well, switching from the electric instruments to the acoustics and upright bass for the country-folk Codeine, and back to the rock and/or roll for The Meters cover Hey Pocky A-Way ("New Orleans Music" - Isbell) and a new track Tour of Duty. Isbell's lead guitarists Browan Lollar is not only a bad-ass guitarist, but also an artist. He painted the album art for Here We Rest.

    As much as I loved seeing Hayes Carll headline the gig, Isbell's set left me wanting more. Come back to Boston soon, Jason!

    Set List
    1. Go It Alone
    2. Alabama Pines
    3. Never Gonna Change ---> Stone Free (Jimi Hendrix cover) ---> Never Gonna Change
    4. Goddamn Lovely Love
    5. Codeine
    6. Hey Pocky A-Way (The Meters cover, drummer Chad Gamble on lead vocals - I didn't actually know this song and had to look it up.)
    7. Tour of Duty
    8. Heart on a String
    9. Outfit
    10. Streetlights

    A few weeks ago I messed up my left foot, and I finally saw the doc about it last Wed. She gave me this ridiculous boot to wear which prevents me from bending my toes, and helps my third extensor digitorum longus tendon/third metatarsal heal. So I limp all over the place and have a hard time walking. Why am I telling you this? Because my slow walking and limping made me miss the bus, then miss the subway, and completely miss the first openers Shovels and Rope. Why didn't I just take a friggin' cab? Shovels and Rope are husband/wife duo Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent. Judging by the ruckus applause they received as I walked in, their set went over very, very well. In fact, I talked to a couple who were there just to see Shovels and Rope, and had never heard of Hayes Carll or Jason Isbell.
  • Concert/Album Review: Todd Snider Live, Boston, Feb. 5

    13. Feb. 2011, 5:55

    Sat 5 Feb – Todd Snider (solo acoustic)

    From my blog: My Aimz is True

    One month into this Boston gig and I already got to cross an artist off of my bucket list. Believe it or not folks, I saw Todd Snider for the first time on Saturday, February 5, at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston. This was my first Boston music outing, and compared to Toronto venues, the Paradise is way too nice for me to be hanging out in. It doesn't have the distinctive smell that the Horseshoe has. It doesn't have duct tape holding the walls up like at the El Mo. It isn't 20 bazillion degrees like Lee's Palace. Seriously, there is nice, shiny paint on the walls, plus unstained carpeting, the bartenders are fast, and the bathrooms aren't toxic. What's up with that???

    This show was a sit-down affair, which I wasn't really prepared for. I was mentally prepared to rock out all night (not that you can't do that sitting down, but still). The last time I was at a gig where seats were on the dance floor was at Gary Louris and Mark Olson in Toronto in February 2009. Like that show, I brought down the average age at this gig. And of course I didn't get there when the doors opened at 8, so I didn't get a seat, which is fine because I prefer to stand. I ambled up to the balcony and ended up meeting a bartender who is a huge fan of The Sadies (fuck yeah!), and the coolest dude ever, Zman, a well known taping fanatic. Rock on Zman!

    This is where I mix the show review in with a review of Snider's latest album, Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller. I've been following Snider's music for a long time now, and his music and songwriting range everywhere from manic to brilliant. He's one of the few artists who still incorporates the long tradition of adding humor to country music. From everyone who I have talked to, who's blogs I've read, who post comments on alt country message boards (yeah, I'm a tool), they have all said that the Todd Snider live show is a completely different beast than his studio recordings. Not that his studio recordings aren't killer, but his live show's reputations supersede him. (Does that make any sense? I've been drinking.)

    Regardless, my first "experience" with a Todd Snider live show came by the way of the greatest bootleg of all time, and I say this without hyperbole. One of Snider's superfans compiled, spliced together the best recordings, mastered, and made cover art for a five volume set of bootlegs which he named Tales From Moondawg's Tavern. Aside from the bootleg series for Bob Dylan put out by Sony records, this is the best bootleg in the world. I think my alt country music blogger colleagues would agree with this statement.

    Snider and his people aren't stupid. They know that people love the Moondawg's boots. They know that people live for Snider's live shows. So it came as no surprise to anyone when Sinder released a proper double live album, the aforementioned Todd Snider Live: The Storyteller. This album was complied over several shows during the last year and a half. On the album he is backed by a live band called Great American Taxi. His live set in Boston was solo acoustic. For the Boston gig he initially followed the first three tracks from this album, then veered off into audience requests and stuff that Snider felt like doing. Importantly, Snider sold/is selling official recordings from this show and subsequent shows. I bought a code card for $7 which gives me the right to download and listen to the show that I just saw. In this digital age, being able to download the show is an incredibly easy marketing tool, and a great way to support the artists that you love. Snider is the first artist whom I have seen take this approach. I suspect that many others will follow suit.

    The Moondawg's boot covers material from 1996 to 2006. Most of the songs and stories that Snider plays on his new album and played at the Feb. 5 gig I was already very familiar with from the boots. It's not to say that Snider live isn't fantastic - he is! It's just that, with the exception of the covers, I knew exactly what was coming after he hit the first few cords. The same goes for the older songs on the Storyteller album. Like I said, this isn't bad, just predictable. For the post-2006 material on Storyteller, I was laughing my ass off. If you saw someone last week walking down Cambridge Ave. in front of Mass General Hospital, laughing her ass off while listening to her MP3 player, that was me listening to Mushroom Story, which itself is worth the price of the album.

    "That last song was such a touching little number about athleticism and hallucinogenic drugs. You don't really hear enough of that in folk music any more. I'm just doing what I can."

    To sum up, go see Snider live, buy the show download, and buy Storyteller. Give Storyteller to a friend who has never heard of Todd Snider. Folk music and stories like these are meant to be shared.

    Set List
    1. Greencastle Blues
    2. Is This Thing Working?
    3. Just Like Old Times
    4. Tension
    5. Iron Mike's Main Man's Last Request
    6. Play a Train Song
    7. 45 Miles
    8. Doublewide Blues
    9. D.B. Cooper
    10. Tillamook County Jail
    11. Vinyl Records
    12. Keep Off the Grass
    13. Beer Run
    14. Stuck On A Corner
    15. Runaround Sue (Dion cover)
    16. Bill Elliott Story
    17. Sideshow Blues
    18. Stoney
    19. Conservative Christian, Right Wing, Republican, Straight, White, American Males

    Encore
    20. Come From The Heart (Guy Clark cover)
    21. Relax Your Mind (Leadbelly cover)
  • My Favorite Albums of 2010

    28. Dez. 2010, 23:41

    My normal year-end favorite albums list usually tends to favor the bands/artists who I saw live in that year. This is only somewhat true for 2010. While The Hold Steady, The National, Drive-By Truckers, and Justin Townes Earle all had killer live gigs in Toronto this year, I just couldn't get into their 2010 releases. Turns out that I tended to like some of the opening acts better than some of the headliners, which makes me sound like an even bigger music snob than I already am. And this list makes me sound worse! Only three pseudo mainstream indie records made the cut. I also noticed that the albums I favored this year leaned towards the Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty-style of rock. I'm not sure why, but that's just what tickled my fancy, or something, in 2010. If I could, I supplied links to buying the albums directly from the band's/artist's web site (more $ for the band). Go buy these records! Most have cheap shipping, and it's only like $1-2 more to ship to Canada. All of these records are worthy of being in you collection.


    1. The Fox Hunt - Long Way to Go

    This modern bluegrass quartet out of Martinsburg, West Virginia, put out the best album in 2010. From my original review posted in September: The band has two primary songwriters, John R. Miller and Matt Kline, who both cover a range of human emotions in their music. Women, sinning, drinking, misery, temptation, you know, the happy subjects, are covered in depth in their lyrics. Their music is mostly uptempo country/folk, filled with vocal harmonies, and lots of banjo and fiddle, rounded out with acoustic guitar, mandolin, and upright bass. And the musicians frequently rotate instruments and share lead vocals. Now that's talent!

    Long Way to Go spans an entire range of roots music, with a mid-tempo opening track called Screw Me Up which is about a woman messing with a dude's head. Later, a snappy song called It Suits Me which is ostensibly about a one night stand (the instrumental outro kills me). One of the best songs on the album, Four Horses is a slaying meditation on life and death. "No one said that life was easy. No one said that life was fair." Gulp. One of my favorite songs on the album, I'll Drink Cheap, is about breaking the bank to please your lush of a woman. I listened to and enjoyed this album more than any other record released in 2010. You should be doing the same.

    Favorite Song: Four Horses


    2. Glossary - Feral Fire

    Remember when The Hold Steady released their first few albums and everyone, including me, said they were the second coming of Thin Lizzy? Wrong! Ladies and gentlemen, I present Glossary. Feral Fire is such a killer rock album. It takes its name from a line in the Cormac McCarthy book, The Road. Apparently this is their sixth album, but I am just hopping on the bandwagon now. Can't wait to listen to their back catalog, some of which is free on their web site. If you like Bruce Springsteen/Tom Petty/Drive-By Truckers kind of rock, then get this album pronto.

    Favorite Song: Save Your Money for the Weekend


    3. Matthew Ryan - Dear Lover (electric and acoustic)

    I got a copy of Matthew Ryan's Dear Lover back in October 2009, and I have been dying to put it on my top 10 list for the last fourteen months. From my original review from February: The entire record revolves (evolves?) around the theme of a romantic relationship. Relationships are complicated, wonderful, confusing, stressful, exhilarating, scary, empowering, and even lonely, sometimes all at the same time. "I could be your super hero. I could be your biggest disappointment." Ryan is telling stories in his songs, but the stories are vague enough where each listener can interpret the song in his/her own way. The mark of a great songwriter is the ability to let his audience decide what the song is about, and Ryan thrives in this aspect of musicianship.

    The songs on Dear Lover are power pop anthems, indie rockers, soft ballads, and electro/synth tracks you could hear in a Manhattan martini bar. Some people may be turned off by the ambient/electro-sounding songs, but I think they really add to the overall feel of the album and show Ryan's willingness to experiment with diverse sounds. In fact, one fan called Dear Lover "Matthew Ryan's synth/techno/electro Nebraska."

    Later in 2010 Ryan released Dear Lover as an acoustic album, with a different track order, and one new track, which makes it a completely different album. I haven't heard of an artist doing this before, except in the context of a live album or something. This approach may be a new way for indie/DYI artists to get more mileage out of one record. Screw that iTunes "exclusive" or iTunes "sessions" crap. I may be old school, but I like the physical disc in my hand, in both electric and acoustic forms.

    Favorite song: City Life


    4. Joe Pug - Messenger

    I saw Joe Pug open for Justin Townes Earle back in March, and I was totally taken with Pug. At the time I didn't own the album Messenger, but after subsequent listens I was enamored with his work. This is a solid singer/songwriter folk-ish, country-ish album, with brilliant lyrics and great storytelling. I don't have a lot to say about this album. The music speak for itself.

    Favorite Song: Not So Sure


    5. Tim Barry - 28th & Stonewall

    I had the pleasure of seeing Tim Barry in concert twice this year: once opening for Chuck Ragan in February and once opening for The Gaslight Anthem in July, both times solo acoustic.

    Barry is intense, and pissed off, but also deeply sincere and forthright. He has deep convictions, and he stands by them. You don't fuck with Tim Barry. You also don't fuck with his album 28th & Stonewall, an intersection in Barry's home town of Richmond, Virginia. I would love to know about the significance of this particular corner. This album continues with Barry's style of simple storytelling about complicated people. The characters in Barry's songs are presumably semi-autobiographical: they are fucks-up who are trying to do the right thing, but keep stumbling into people who are constantly letting them down. In addition, he's also very self-deprecating and self-aware. 28th & Stonewall is Barry's most well-written solo album, with vibrant lyrics boosting his powerful voice. But, this album is not for the timid. You may be offended by some of the content, but Barry doesn't give a shit, and neither do I.

    Favorite Song: (Memento Mori)


    6. Two Cow Garage - Sweet Saint Me

    The fact that Two Cow Garage hasn't cracked the indie rock glass ceiling completely baffles me. Sweet Saint Me is their fifth album, and as I said in my November review, this album as a whole is their strongest one yet. Sweet Saint Me is nearly a pure rock album, but this time the lead singers, mostly Michal Schnabel with a few tracks by Shane Sweeney, seemed to have really concentrated on honing their songwriting technique. The entire album seems more mature and focused. But don't worry, "mature and focused" can also kick fucking ass! Take my favorite track, Lydia; "Lydia, you're much too young to have your teeth on the tip of my tongue. If your lips were just a little bit older…" I heard through the twittervine that when Schnabel premiered Jackson, Don't You Worry at SXSW, a song dedicated to Sweeney's baby son, grown men were weeping. Indeed, I took a hard gulp the first time I heard it. And I'll be damned if Schnabel didn't steal the Insolent Youth lyric "just because you can doesn't mean you should" from me, cause I've been saying that for years. Sweet Saint Me is peppered with hard rock anthems (My Great Gatsby), love songs (Closer To You), and stories (Lucy and the Butcher Knife), with the occasional lyric borrowed from Bruce Springsteen, Townes Van Zandt, and Bob Dylan. To paraphrase my reader Ron from Buffalo, Two Cow Garage has written better individual songs (No Shame, Swingset Assassin Humble Narrator, Mediocre, Saturday Night,Come Back to Shelby) but this album is solid everywhere.

    Favorite Song: Lydia


    7. The Sadies - Darker Circles

    A few months ago I was listening to a podcast of the CBC radio show Q where the host was interviewing The Sadies lead guitarists/singers/songwriters/brothers Dallas and Travis Good. One of them said that after their mom listened to Darker Circles she called them to make sure they were OK. You know you've made a good album when you freak your mom out.

    Per my May review: Darker Circles is a very different album from their 2007 release New Seasons, although both were produced by Jayhawks member Gary Louris. Darker Circles is, well, much darker than New Seasons, with lyrics like, "it won't be long 'til all your hopes and dreams are dead and gone," (Another Year Again), and "I turn to oblivion night after night," (Tell Her What I Said). The songs have themes of isolation, regret, remorse, and ponderances of "what could have been." There is even a country-rock killin' song (Violet and Jeffrey Lee, not quite a murder ballad). The entire album has a very psychedelic feel to it, like a 2010 version of The Byrds. Especially my favorite track Postcards, which sounds like it could be straight out of Roger McGuin's 1960s catalog.

    This is not an album that will cheer you up on a bad day, but it is a killer country-rock psychedelic folk bluegrass record (its damn impossible to categorize The Sadies). As my friend Whiskey Devil said, "Dark Sadies might just be the best Sadies."

    Favorite Song: Postcards


    8. The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang

    I was apprehensive about The Gaslight Anthems newest release until I saw them live back in July. They totally lived up to the hype. Blew me away actually. They blasted into the title track American Slang and never looked back.

    American Slang and The Gaslight Anthem are filling in a much needed niche in music right now: they are a solid rock band. They don't fart around with pretentious new sounds, or have weird outfits, or feel the need to do namby-pamby acoustic folk songs (and I like namby-pamby acoustic folk songs). American Slang is essentially following the same Tom Petty/Bruce Springsteen rock formula that they have been using since their 2008 debut album Sink or Swim, except that they have become better singers/guitarists/musicians in general. I'm hoping that the Gaslight Anthem will get today's teenagers interested in rock and roll. God knows that popular music needs it.

    Favorite Song: Stay Lucky


    9. Kasey Anderson - Nowhere Nights

    Nowhere Nights came out in early 2010, and as I predicted in February, it set my standard for the year in rock music. It contains eleven tracks of solid rock songs: some slow, some fast, some you can dance to, some that will make you think, and some that will just make you rock out.

    Anderson's rock influences are all over this album. You can hear Tom Petty in Sooner/Later, Bruce Springsteen in Leaving Kind, and Mike Cooley-penned Drive-By Truckers songs in All Lit Up. Real Gone is an obvious nod to Tom Waits, but it also seems like it could be Anderson's Desolation Row.

    I Was A Photograph (Blake's Song) is the song of the year. Anderson wrote this song about Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller after reading an article about the Iraq veteran in Rolling Stone. You can read Anderson's thoughts on the song on a post he did for Ninebullets.net.

    While the album is largely autobiographical, the themes and stories easily resonate with everyday folks (in other words, me). Two songs specifically hit home for me. The first track, Bellingham Blues, reminds me of never feeling at home in the town where you grew up. Similarly, the song Home reminds me of my home town. I'm assuming that this song is also about Bellingham, a city similar in population to my home town. "That's how it goes in a town this small. You either play your hand a little closer to the vest, or you don't play at all." Great lyrics, and so true.

    Favorite Song: I Was A Photograph (Blake's Song)


    10. The Black Keys - Brothers

    The Black Keys do it again with a killer blues-based rock album called Brothers. This album makes me want to tap my feet, shake my ass, and drink hooch like an old blues man on Maxwell Street. Some have compared The Black Keys to The White Stripes in terms of a blues-based rock duo, but The Black Keys has a deeper, more restrained and disciplined sound, as opposed to blues-spaz-rock and bizarre lyrics that sometimes spews from Jack White. For Brothers itself, the recording is raw and uncomplicated, but you can also hear a bit of punk rock and hip-hop influences throughout the record. The songs are catchy, fiery, and sexy, and will get stuck in your head. This is a good thing.

    Brothers also has the worst/laziest album art of 2010.

    Apparently The Black Keys are driving some of my US peeps crazy because several of songs are licensed for TV commercials. But those licenses didn't reach Canada, so I can't complain!

    Favorite Song: Next Girl
  • Concert Review: NQ Arbuckle with the Warped 45s, Horseshoe Tavern, Dec. 2

    4. Dez. 2010, 18:20

    Thu 2 Dec – NQ Arbuckle, The Matthews Brothers, The Warped 45s

    I was in dire need of a rock and roll soul cleanse, so I headed out to the Horseshoe last night to catch a few of my favorite locals acts. I had a late conference call, so I missed opener The Matthews Brothers, but made it just as The Warped 45s started their set. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Horseshoe was at about three-quarters capacity. Lots of fans out to support the local acts, plus a bunch of grumpy Leafs fans, with a few noticeably double fisting bottles of beer.

    The Warped 45s played a 50 minute set which leaned heavily on new material. They announced that they will soon be recording their follow-up to their 2009 debut, 10 Day Poem For Saskatchewan. The new songs sounded great. One was about bootlegging liquor to Dee-troit via Windsor during Prohibition in the US. Another, called "Live Bait," was a a rocking little number about a down-on-his-luck man selling bait to get buy. Between the storytelling and the amped up guitars, I could really hear the Drive-By Truckers influence in their new material. I'm looking very forward to the new release.

    Neville Quinlan stumbled onto the stage in his perpetual blond bed-head, wearing bright red corduroy pants, and carrying four bottles of Blue. This is a dude who doesn't fuck around when it comes to drinking and rocking. NQ Arbuckle played for about an hour and a half, playing a set very similar to the one they played at the Dakota Tavern back in September, with only one cover (Atlantic City), and the addition of a keyboard player (Jason something? I was drinking). The addition of keyboards really filled out the sound of the band. I can't wait to hear more from the keyboard player.

    Quinlan is so awesomely goofy on stage. You can sort of see the rest of the band members thinking, "I hope he doesn't embarrass us too badly tonight." But I suspect the band is used to various high jinx. Regardless, they sounded fantastic, playing tracks spanning all three of their studio releases plus a few off of their wonderful 2009 collaboration with Carolyn Mark. I didn't take a set list because I was busy drinking, but they played all of my favorites including I Liked You Right from the Start, In Another Time, I Can See the Moon, Downtime, Don't Remember Me, and Goodnight Irene on New Years Eve.

    I can't remember during which song, but somewhere along the way Quinlan incorporated lyrics from New Order's Temptation into one of his songs, which completely freaked me out. In a good way. I had flashbacks to listening to Substance on my Sony Walkman when I was in high school. I also wondered how many people in the audience caught the reference. Not many, I imagine. I'm old.

    Quinlan mentioned that they will soon be touring Japan and Italy. I can't find any official info on these tours, but here's to hoping that Italians and Japanese speak the universal language of killer drunken bar band.

    -------------------------
    I was looking for some NQ Arbuckle vids on Youtube, and came across this one posted by their label Six Shooter. That's Justin Rutledge and Royal Wood (on keyboards) to Quinlan's right (your left), and Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland on Quinlan's left.

  • Concert Review: Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans, Nov. 2, Oakville Centre for the…

    11. Nov. 2010, 22:08

    I'm spoiled and I know it. Toronto is the New York City of Canada, and every touring band/artist comes through Toronto at least once every few years, sometimes every year (Drive-By Truckers), and sometimes several times a year (Tim Barry). Except for Two Cow Garage, but that's another story. I'm even more spoiled by the fact that I live within stumbling distance and/or a cheap cab ride from all of the major and minor music venues in the city.

    Despite living in a killer music city and dwelling in close proximity to the music venues, I've had terrible luck tying to see Corb Lund and his band The Hurtin' Albertans. I've been out of town when they have been here, or something has come up. Last year I tried to see them at the Horseshoe, and I got infectious gastroenteritis and landed myself in the hospital for three days. Not good, but at least I got some morphine out of it. I did catch Corb and the boys at Hillside this past summer, but I really wanted to see them play a full set.

    I was pretty excited when it was announced on Lund's web site that they were doing a mini tour of Ontario this fall. But then I became less excited as I realized that there were no Toronto dates, and I would have to drag my sorry ass to the suburbs to see them. Gawd I hate the suburbs. Again, I'm fucking spoiled. The great ones play through the pain, so I sucked it up, battled rush hour outbound traffic, and drove out to charming Oakville, Ontario, to finally see one of my favorite acts play a full set.

    As coincidence would have it, Nov. 2 was also my birthday. I hate birthdays. What's more, I really, really hate birthdays that fall on US federal election day. Last time this happened, George W. Stupid was re-elected president. If I had stayed home instead of heading to Oakville, I just would have spent the night throwing empty Budweiser cans at the TV. Furthermore, my parents still think that I am a 19-year-old broke college student, so they always send me a wad of cash for my birthday. So, this concert not only got me out of the house, it was also a birthday present from my folks. Thanks Rockstar Maw and Paw!

    The Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts is a roughly 500-seat theatre in the heart of downtown Oakville. Not surprisingly, only about half of it was full when Lund and his band took the stage. They opened with This Is My Prairie, a song off of the wonderful 2009 album Losin' Lately Gambler. This is an environmental song that questions the need for greedy oil companies to be digging up the land the Lund grew up on. Now, here is how our friends at Wikipedia describe Oakville: "The median household [in 2006] income was $83,982 with an average house value of $306,209. Oakville is among the most affluent municipalities in Canada." So when Lund sings, "Take a good look at the stock that you own," the irony that about half of the people in that auditorium probably own oil company stock was not lost on me.

    Lund and his band played for nearly two hours, playing a range of fan-favorites from their last four studios albums, plus a few new tracks, plus a few killer covers, with Lund telling stories and goofy quips between several of the songs. Despite the fact that the southern Ontario mini-tour was all in theatre-style venues, Lund commented, "A bar is our natural habitat." What a coincidence! That's my natural habitat too! But there are a few good things about theatre shows: 1) Families can bring their impressionable teenagers to them. 2) There is not some tall irritating drunk guy standing in front of me (although there was an annoying couple making out next to me). 3) The sound is usually better than the in bars. 4) You can actually see the musicians and appreciate their well-honed craft. Per point number four, I could actually see drummer Brady Valgardson switch from sticks to mallets to brushes, and even play marching band style on I Wanna Be In The Cavalry. Grant Siemens rocked the electric guitar, mandolin, and steel guitar. Sweet Jesus he's good. Kurt Ciesla on upright bass had a few wonderful solos throughout the show.

    For most of the night Lund had his black hat pulled low, almost covering his eyes. He dedicated The West Just Fades Away, a song commissioned by CBC Song Quest, to his father (you can stream about 30 seconds of the song here). He didn't leave his mom out either, dedicating another environmentally-themed song to her, The Truth Comes Out. He surprised and delighted the hell out of me by covering the Ray Charles/Willie Nelson classic Seven Spanish Angels. Overall, it was a pretty damn good night of music.

    Despite the fact that I would have rather spent my birthday drinking and watching one of my favorite bands in a bar (I was getting a little squirrelly in my seat by the 1.5 hour point), I could not complain about the quality of the entertainment for that evening. The other good thing about theatre shows is that they are over early. Yay Oakville Tuesday nights! I was back home eating cake, drinking bourbon, and throwing things at my TV by the time I usually go out for a show in Toronto.


    Set List
    1. This Is My Prairie
    2. I Wanna Be In The Cavalry
    3. Horse Soldier, Horse Soldier
    4. Student Visas
    5. Five Dollar Bill
    6. Drink Like You Mean It (? new ?)
    7. Big Butch Bass Bull Fiddle
    8. The Oil's Back In Town
    9. Carefree Highway (Gordon Lightfoot cover)
    10. Devil's Best Dress
    11. The West Just Fades Away
    12. Alberta Says Hello
    13. (Gonna) Shine Up My Boots
    14. Hurtin' Albertan
    15. Chinook Wind
    16. Long Gone To Saskatchewan
    17. The Truth Comes Out
    18. Heavy And Leaving
    19. Expectation And The Blues
    20. It's Hard To Keep A White Shirt Clean
    21. Hair In My Eyes Like A Highland Steer
    22. Seven Spanish Angels (Willie Nelson/Ray Charles cover)
    23. Time to Switch to Whiskey

    Encore
    24. Little Foothills Heaven
    25. A Game In Town Like This
    26. The Rodeo's Over
  • Concert Review: Social Distortion with Lucero and Frank Turner, October 23, Toronto

    4. Nov. 2010, 20:15

    Sat 23 Oct – Social Distortion, Frank Turner, Lucero

    From my blog: My Aimz is True

    There is a serious lack of good, mid-sized music venues in Toronto. The last time I was at the Kool Haus was in 2007 for a Kings of Leon show, back before KOL started sucking. Kool Haus is a big, hollow, characterless venue which has a capacity of about 2500. It takes forever to get a freakin' beer there. But when Frank Turner, Lucero, and Social Distortion are in town, I suck it up and head to the not-so-cool Kool Haus.

    I had a hard time getting tickets for this show, but fortunately, I know people who know people, and my main woman Rad Jen got us on the freakin' guest list, meaning I had $50 extra bucks to spend on beer! Rad Jen RULES! So on this rainy, crappy Saturday, October 23, not only did I get to see three killer bands, but I also got to get loaded.

    Frank Turner is an up-and-coming folk/punk singer form Winchester, England. I've been following his music for the last year and a half or so. His 2008 album Love Ire & Song is really good. He reminds me of Billy Bragg meets Tim Barry, but he doesn't preach at you like Bragg does, and he isn't as angry as Barry. Turner and his band put on a terrific eight song mini-set that I really enjoyed. His band was fantastic, especially the drummer, who also sang backup. Turner talked about his musical influences such as Black Flag, Minor Threat, and, of course, Social Distortion. He got the small opening crowd to sing along, and screamed, "I love Toronto!" The only thing that I regret is that I did not attend his full set at the Horseshoe the previous evening. When I chatted with him later, he told me that the Horseshoe show was crazy, and that he was still hungover from the previous night. That's my kind of rockstar!

    Frank Turner mini-setlist
    1. Eulogy
    2. Poetry of the Deed
    3. Try This At Home
    4. Reasons Not to Be an Idiot
    5. I Still Believe
    6. Love Ire & Song
    7. The Road
    8. Photosynthesis

    I've been a fan of Lucero for years. As Rad Jen commented, "Lucero is another band who I have watched turn gray." I saw Lucero last year when they were touring with their horn section. For their opening slot for Social D., they traveled with the full band without horns, but with keyboards and pedal steel. With the little time they had, they essentially played a "greatest hits" set which spanned four albums from 2002 to 2009. Lead singer Ben Nichols sounded really good; rumor has it that he just quit smoking, and his voice is better for it. Nichols is one of the more charismatic front men in music today, using the requisite amount of cursing, commenting, "How about Frank motherfuckin' Turner? Goddamn that boy's good!" I love Rick Steff on keyboards. Very few people do rock piano anymore, but Steff excels at it. The piano parts on 2006's Rebels Rogues & Sworn Brothers made the album for me. Steff played the horn parts of the newer tunes on the keyboards (The Devil And Maggie Chascarillo, Goodbye Again), which gave the songs an unusual, but not unpleasant, twist. Todd Beene (who also plays in Glossary, another killer band) on pedal steel really makes the band. I was chatting with Nichols later and I told him that his next album needs more pedal steel. He replied, "I completely agree." In a recent video on Spin's website Nichol's commented that he would like to do an acoustic album. How sweet would a Lucero acoustic album be? Especially if it was full of steel guitars.

    Lucero mini-setlist
    1. The Devil And Maggie Chascarillo
    2. Nights Like These
    3. Bikeriders
    4. Slow Dancing
    5. Tonight Ain't Gonna Be Good
    6. Kiss the Bottle (Jawbreaker cover)
    7. Goodbye Again
    8. Raising Hell
    9. Last Night in Town
    10. Nobody's Darlings
    11. Tears Don't Matter Much

    By the time Social Distortion took the stage, Kool Haus was packed to the gills. Rad Jen and I were way up front for Frank Turner and Lucero, but we moved to the back for Social D., lest we get our asses kicked by the serious punk rockers. The downside of being in back is that I had to put my glasses on so I could see the stage (I'm old and vain). The upside is that we got to watch security haul out the wasted sluts! Not that we weren't wasted, but we seasoned drinkers can at least hold our liquor.

    Social D. did everything you expected them to do, and even introduced a few new songs from their forthcoming album Hard Times And Nursery Rhymes which is scheduled to be released in January 2011. One new track called "Bakersfield" is essentially about the fact that Bakersfield, California, sucks. They also did a "greatest hits" style of set, including songs from the late 80s/early 90s which I listened to when I was in high school. My favorite Social D. song, Ball and Chain, was played fairly slowly, which made it sound not so good to me. And it didn't seem that way just because I was drunk. The reviewer at Chartattack verified this observation, although he was more enthusiastic about the song (and the show) than I was. Most of the audience was there to see Social D., and Social D. was very well received and whipped the audience into an rock and roll frenzy and so on, but I have to admit that I enjoyed the two opening acts more so than the headliner. Even in my beer-induced haze, Social D. was rather predictable. Maybe I would have liked the show more if Social D. had played at a venue besides the Kool Haus.

    Social Distortion Set List
    1. The Creeps
    2. Another State Of Mind
    3. Mommy's Little Monster
    4. Sick Boys
    5. Don't Drag Me Down
    6. I Was Wrong
    7. Bye Bye Baby
    8. Still Alive
    9. Ball and Chain
    10. Through These Eyes
    11. Bakersfield
    12. King of Fools
    13. When She Begins
    14. Making Believe (Jimmy Work cover)

    Encore
    15. So Far Away
    16. Prison Bound
    17. Down Here (With the Rest of Us)
    18. Ring of Fire (Johnny Cash cover)
  • Cory Branan and Drag the River, Oct. 4, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto

    17. Okt. 2010, 14:21

    Mon 4 Oct – Drag The River, Cory Branan

    From my blog: My Aimz is True



    I have been following the music of Cory Branan and Drag the River for a long time. In fact, Drag the River's album You Can't Live This Way was my favorite album of 2008. I've been trying to see these guys live for years, and have been stewing about the fact that they haven't toured Toronto in my tenure in this city. It turns out that they hadn't toured Toronto, or Eastern Canada, period. Their Toronto debut at the Horseshoe Tavern on October 4th was their last stop on their North American tour before heading off to pillage Europe.

    Branan opened the show with a short acoustic set. There were only about 30 people there, which is, sadly, not surprising for an alt country show in downtown Toronto on a Monday night (see my Scott Miller review where only about 10 people were paying attention to him). Despite the low turnout, everyone there was there to see Branan/DTR, and everyone was paying attention to the show (i.e. minimal background chatter). Branan sounded fantastic. He's a hell of a guitar player and one entertaining dude. After the second song Jon Snodgrass of DTR joined Branan on stage for some sweet harmonizing. Holy crap do Branan and Snodgrass sound great together. Their voices are completely different, but they complement each other incredibly well. Even my buddy Jenny leaned over and said, "This sounds really good." Branan and Snodgrass put out a split album last year, but they should seriously consider doing an acoustic duets album. See the video below.

    I got a chance to chat with Branan after his set. What a totally nice dude! He said that he has a new album ready to go and it should be released some time in the spring of 2011. Branan mentioned that he is "very proud" of the new album, and that it is full of storytelling, something which Branan excels at. My pea brain is already plotting to somehow get Branan to play a gig at the Dakota Tavern in support of this new album sometime next spring. Please?

    Cory Branan Set List
    1. Eh? I couldn't place this song and I wasn't even drunk (yet). I will presume that it's a new one.
    2. Survivor Blues
    3. Karen's Song
    4. Tall Green Grass
    5. The Corner
    6. Sour Mash
    7. Tame
    8. Walk Around
    9. Wreck Of The Sultana
    10. Girl Named Go



    Awesome!

    After a short break, the audience doubled in size, and Drag the River ambled onto the stage, with singers Jon Snodgrass and Chad Price on electric and acoustic guitars, respectively. I'm going to describe this set as pseudo-disorganized chaos. DTR is not the kind of band to show up with a prepared set list. It was basically Jon asking the audience what they wanted to hear, selecting a random request, then ripping into it. This is essentially how it went down for three hours. Snodgrass and Price alternated lead singer duties, while bassist J.J. Nobody and drummer Steve Bauer kept the singers in line.

    The band meandered through originals and covers. They covered their favorite songs by their contemporaries such as Bad Astronaut and The Bottle Rockets, classics by Sam Cooke and Thin Lizzy, and even song by their previous bands, Armchair Martian and All. I am pretty sure that I was only person in the audience, maybe in all of Ontario, or maybe even in all of Canada, who got it when Snodgrass, a native of St. Joseph, Missouri, threw in a reference to Festus, Missouri, during Indianapolis. Spending six years of my life in St. Louis finally pays off in obscure Missouri geography references.

    Drag the River was all over their extensive catalog, going back to some of their 2000 demos, right up through new, unreleased songs. Everyone got to hear their favorites. How Snodgrass and Price have the stamina for this type of show, I do not know. But hell, they are professionals. As Snodgrass said, "I'm looking forward to my 40s since I've never had a fucking day job!" Which made me seethe in jealousy.

    Drag the River set list
    1. Me & Joe drove out to California...
    2. So Lonely
    3. strange
    4. Calloused Heart #2
    5. Brookfield
    6. Mars Motors
    7. Disbelieve
    8. Br00tal
    9. Booze n' Pills
    10. Indianapolis (The Bottle Rockets)
    11. Death of the Life of the Party
    12. Tobacco Fields
    13. Medicine
    14. Eh? I went to get a beer and missed this one.
    15. Amazing G.
    16. She Used To Smile
    17. Spiderman, Wolfman
    18. Until I Say So (All)
    19. Tomorrow Morning
    20. Dancing in the Moonlight (Thin Lizzy)
    21. Having A Party (Sam Cooke)
    22. Get Drunk
    23. New
    24. Jessica's Suicide (Bad Astronaut)
    Note: I'm hammered at this point, so my set list taking skillz really go to hell.
    25. New, I think
    26. New
    27. Hybrid Moments (Misfits)
    28. Eh? Drunk. Maybe new?
    29. Crocodile
    30. Hang Dog
    31. tired & fired
    32. Break Your Frame (Bad Astronaut)
    33. Peachy Tuscadero

    Yeah, 33 songs is nuts, and they weren't finished! I had to leave at this point because I was, as the French say, "Chateau Shitfaced," and I had to be at work in six and a half hours. I only know that Peachy Tuscadero was playing when I left because I ran into Branan on my way out and he told me that "Peachy Tuscadero" is the name of Chad Price's dog. At least, I think that's what he told me. I hope I didn't just make that up.

    I bought their goofy gig T-shirt (logo below). A friend said to me, "That is the most ridiculous shirt I have ever seen." Which is exactly the point. When people ask about the shirt, which looks like it was drawn by a five-year-old, I say, "It's by Jon Snodgrass who is in Drag the River. They put on a killer show at the Horseshoe with Cory Branan...." and I get to tell people about what a kick-ass, crazy night I had, and introduce them to their new favorite artists.

    DTR first formed in 1996, and put out their first demos in 2000, and Branan released out his first album in 2002. That's 18 collective years from first album to playing in Toronto. Gentlemen, let's tour up this way a little more often, OK?

  • Scott Miller, Sept. 28, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto

    4. Okt. 2010, 0:01

    Tue 28 Sep – Scott Miller, Small Sins, The Strumbellas, Spaces Between Stars

    Scott Miller was screwed before he even got to Toronto. First, all of his stuff was stolen after the previous night's gig in Buffalo. To quote Miller, "Fuck Buffalo." He played his mini set at the Horseshoe Tavern, part of the free "Dave Bookman’s Nu Music Nites," with borrowed gear. Next, his set was placed between two local bands, and most of the audience members were there to see the first (The Strumbellas) or the third act (Small Sins), and didn't pay attention to his set at all. The audience annoyingly chatted loudly, and maybe ten of us were actually paying attention to Miller. The 'Shoe should have had Miller play first. You can't blame Miller for being somewhat grumpy given that the world seemed to be conspiring against him that night.

    Regardless, Miller pressed on with a way-too-short 45 minute acoustic set. He's a funny dude, and even picked on the audience at one point. "Did y'all come in one car?" He told stories about his songs, and mostly took requests. See the below video for the history behind the song Ciderville Saturday Night. He even pulled out an early Christmas song saying, "I hate babies, but I love the baby Jesus. He's my second favorite Jew after Sammy Davis, Jr." Look for the Christmas album sometime after Thanksgiving (that's the end of November for you Canadians).

    1. I Won't Go With You
    2. I Made a Mess of This Town
    3. Freedom's a Stranger
    4. Mary (The V-Roys)
    5. 8 Miles a Gallon
    6. Yes Virginia (?, from a forthcoming Christmas album)
    7. Ciderville Saturday Night
    8. Across the Line
    9. Daddy Raised A Boy
    10. Drunk All Around This Town
    11. Amtrak Crescent