Show Alert: Hilotrons, an M for Montreal highlight, play Windsor

Fri., Nov. 28
Phog Lounge ~ Windsor

We saw a lot of great shows at M for Montreal; Ottawa's Hilotrons at Casa del Popolo was one of our favourites. That's why we'll be seeing them again a week later at Phog. We loved the music, their musicianship, and how the very Zen guitarist Alex Moxon contrasted with Hilotrons founder Michael Dubue's mad genius.

We weren't the only ones. Anyone out there remember The Gold Dollar on Cass in Detroit? (Hint: it existed 1996-2001). We met former proprietor Neil Yee at the show, who now lives in Montreal, and he shared our thumbs up for Hilotrons.

Here's their latest, a single released in October (with guest vocals by Tara Holloway). Watch for a new album in 2015). You can hear more Hilotrons on their CBC Radio 3 profile page.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

Show Alert: The Rural Alberta Advantage and July Talk

Thu., Oct. 9
The Magic Stick ~ Detroit

Don't let the name fool you. The Rural Alberta Advantage don't live in Alberta, and they're not a country band. Fueled by Paul Banwatt's precise and inspired drumming, the Toronto trio blends Nils Edenloff's plaintive voice-- who is an Edmonton native-- and Amy Cole's soprano with guitar and keyboards into alt pop/rock/folk that sounds like no other band. If you didn't hop the border to hear them at their sold-out show at Windsor's Phog Lounge in 2011, or Phog Phest 4 in 2012, now's your chance as they bring old favourites and new from their fourth album, Mended With Gold. Listen: "Terrified" from Mended With Gold.

Paul Banwatt

Nils Edenloff

Amy Cole

We saw July Talk with Sam Roberts Band in April at The Fillmore Detroit, and the audience gave them a lot of love. It's hard not to when the dialogue on stage is Peter Dreimanis' whiskey-and-cigarettes growl to Leah Fay's sweet and sassy melodies set to energetic and playful alt rock. Listen: "Summer Dress" from their self-titled debut album.

 Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

The Inbox: Black Lady Soul

"We believe music should not be limited by conventional descriptors. They often fall short of justly illustrating the many variations and creations the human mind is capable of...

We heartily agree, Black Lady Soul. Even worse are the "If you like/sounds like..." comparisons. How insulting is that, to be told you sound like some other band? We suppose some bands are okay with it, but we suspect they don't include Toronto's Black Lady Soul. "We've melded elements of jazz, rock, and hip-hop, all tied together by Rai's striking lyricism and unique vocals. We look forward to sharing our experiences with you. Let us know what you think." We think it's pretty good.

Listen to their entire debut album on Bandcamp.

The Inbox: Blackburn Hall

We get a lot of nice notes from people making music in the N2DGmail box and decided it's time to help them out. After all, that's kind of what we try to do. This week we heard from Pete Hall of Hamilton, Ont. and his new project, Blackburn Hall. Check it out:

The album was recorded by Dale Morningstar with assistance by Mitch Bowden and Graham Walsh of Holy Fuck. It was mixed by Walsh, and mastered by Andy Magoffin and The House of Miracles. The entire album is available on SoundCloud.

You may also know Hall from Huron and A Northern Chorus.

Show Alert: Good music at the Festival of Good Things

Sat., Aug. 30
Festival of Good Things
Point Lands, Sarnia, Ont.
11 a.m. - 6 p.m. FREE
After 6 p.m.: $40

Didn't make any plans for Labor Day weekend? We just made them for you. Take a drive up to Sarnia for the Festival of Good Things, which includes some good music. Don't have much to spend? Before 6 p.m., these bands are free:
 After 6 p.m., things get a little pricier. But you also get a lot more for your money:

Kat Burns



Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

NXNE 2014: A Streetcar Named Wintersleep

NXNE is Toronto's music, film, comedy, art and interactive festival.
Our last night at NXNE 2014 can be summed up like this: Wintersleep. On a TTC streetcar.

Yes, it meant we missed METZ again. (But you can read about their show, plus some pining for the good old days, in this report by our good friend Jo Innes for the National Post.)

 But we're pretty sure nothing could compare to lurching along Queen West to the astonishingly-- for being in a streetcar-- excellent sound of Wintersleep. Never again will we hear "In Came the Flood," "Oblivion," "Resuscitate," "Archeologists" or "Weighty Ghost" without being transported back to that streetcar. Thanks to MiO for sponsoring "NXNE's Most Original Venue" and Wintersleep for playing along, giving us memories for a lifetime.

(Numerous artists played the MiO Squirtcar over three days. Here's what it was like on the night Reggie Watts performed.)

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

NXNE 2014 Day 3, part 2: We are stuffed and stoked

NXNE is Toronto's music, film, comedy, art and interactive festival.
We've had meals at NXNE as memorable as the music over the years. Pho at Pho Hung in 2012; breakfast at Aunties and Uncles and Cora. But there's no doubt this year tops the list: gourmet sausage and duck fat fries at Wvurst, superlative stone-baked goat cheese, spinach and bacon pizza at Pizzaville (surely one of Toronto's best deals, $4 for a huge slice we split), the dinner we had at the house we rented (steak salad with grilled potatoes and garlic scapes).

The evening of Day 3, Fri. Jun. 20, we wandered down College Street in Little Italy searching for a place to have dinner. Of course Italian restaurants were abundant, but none tempted our palates... until we found Hey Meatball. How could we resist a place with the tagline "You'll love the taste of our balls"? We're still dreaming of the silken polenta topped with pork meatballs, marinara sauce and a delicious dollop of pesto, all for the reasonable price of $13.

Afterwards, we stopped at a lovely garden around the corner from the Mod Club Theatre outside the First Portuguese Canadian Cultural Centre to finish a latte. A large orange tabby cat sauntered across the street and cozied himself on the bench between us. The end of a perfect evening? No, just the beginning.

Our musical menu began with Toronto's Alvvays. The best thing about Molly Rankin getting an official band and an official self-titled album is that you can now officially find her on the Internet and probably at a show near you. They're touring heavily this summer. The album is also getting a lot of love from listeners and reviewers. Between Rankin, her strong, flanging voice and the incredibly talented Alec O'Hanley alone, there's a lot of songwriting synergy in that band. Two definite gems on the album-- "Adult Diversion" and "Archie, Marry Me"-- prove the potential is there, but didn't quite make it onto the stage at NXNE.

We satisfied yet another long-awaited live performance from a band we've loved since our early days listening to CBC Radio 3: Culture Reject. Although Kensington Market's Handlebar had a decent-sized audience, we managed to grab a seat right by the stage and spent the show in rapt adoration. It's blissfully difficult to slap a label on Michael O'Connell's poetic yet completely accessible music; the influences are varied and global. We're not of the ilk that demands that a band play the hits, but it made our night to hear "Inside The Cinema" live. Who fucking loves Culture Reject? We do.

We barely got into the packed Dakota Tavern for Shred Kelly, Fernie, B.C.'s ambassadors of stoke folk. It's a self-affixed label they completely own. We've seen them several times-- in Windsor just a few weeks before NXNE, where we first heard new songs that promise to be every bit as good as familiar favourites--  and even when they're dead-tired from weeks on a train, they never fail to deliver. But the Dakota show was their best yet. The perfect combination of venue vibe and an audience completely swept up by the band's energy, it felt like more like a family reunion than a show with strangers. If you haven't been stoked yet by Shred Kelly, your life isn't complete.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

NXNE 2014 Day 3, part 1: We are Underwhelmed

NXNE is Toronto's music, film, comedy, art and interactive festival.
There's no shortage of daytime shows at NXNE at a variety of venues. We've seen Slow down, Molasses in the courtyard of the Global Village Backpackers hostel; Les Breastfeeders on a rooftop; Dusted at Urban Outfitters; Allie Hughes in Trinity Bellwoods Park. So it almost seemed strange to see an afternoon show at an "ordinary" venue: The Hidden Pony Records Showcase/5th birthday party at the Legendary Horseshow Tavern. But this is NXNE, and extraordinary is always just around the corner.

The Danks, who redeemed themselves in our esteem at NXNE last year, were on our schedule for 1 p.m., but patio burgers at the Black Bull Tavern with CBC Radio 3 friends trumped. We got to the Shoe just in time for Rah Rah and a huge love-in between more Radio 3 fans and for the Regina band and their prairie alt-rock/pop. It's possible we've seen Rah Rah more times than any other band; they never seem to stop touring. Maybe it was all the R3 appreciation, but it was the best show we've ever seen them perform. There was no trace of the Rah Rah that we've affectionately called the most awkward band we know and love. They were confident and obviously having a great time.

Odds were up next. There we were at the bar, chatting with friends we only see once a year. Until it sure sounded like Steven Page was on stage singing... and then Chris Murphy of Sloan? Along with Jay Ferguson, Odds, Murphy and Page, a hilarious improv-jam-mash-up ensued, with Murphy forgetting the lyrics to "Underwhelmed" and everyone singing along to the na-na-na-nahs of "Hey Jude." Could our evening lineup possibly top that?

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images