Show review: Running with The Pack (a.d.)

Last Thursday night at the Phog Lounge found us in the company of Vancouver garage rockers The Pack a.d..  Having had the opportunity to listen to the track-by-track preview of their latest album we kill computers on CBC Radio 3's Grant Lawrence Live, we knew we were in for a loud, make-my-ears-bleed -until-I-beg-for-more type of evening.

Maya  made it perfectly clear from the beginning that we would hear most of we kill computers and much, much more.  We were not disappointed.  Becky howled, wailed on her guitars, yowled and cooed flawlessly, every note perfect.  Maya beat, banged and pounded out every song with the mastery of a blacksmith creating the King's finest.

Fifteen songs later, it was over.  We wanted more, but there will be another time.  After a short break, the gals were at their merch table, signing CDs and shirts and chattering with the long line of adoring fans.  Selfless, appreciative and honestly humble is what makes The Pack a.d. such an experience.  They are a true ambassador for Canadian Indie music.

Bands give us great performances.  What do we give them?  We buy the CDs and tees and buttons, but what do we really give them?  Thank-yous are a nice touch.  Dinner is great if you can coordinate it.  Carry an equipment case?  The offer is appreciated and sometimes rewarded, right, Lee Hower?  Did the band ask for stickers for their van?  It's the thought and effort that count.  Here's proof.  Thanks Becky and Maya, you rock!   Come back soon, please.

Photos: Russ Gordon

Review review: our code of conduct

Since we mentioned our "code of conduct" for this site when reviewing shows and/or albums, it seemed like a good idea to let you know what it is and where we believe it positions N2DS2W: somewhere between Pitchfork and Ripfork.

1. We will not write reviews that compare bands to other bands or otherwise include analogies, similes or metaphors ad nauseum.
2. We will remember that music is a very personal topic and our views are our own. Meaning: it's subjective, stupid.
3. We will not write a show review that bashes a band for having an off night. They might be awesome the next night, so why discourage others from attending? This is different from noting an obvious weakness or lack of talent.
4. If we come off sounding snarky, we most likely mean it.

Bottom line is, we are passionate about Canadian indie music, and writing about it.

Show Review: The Zolas, Will Currie & the Country French and Bend Sinister

Three bands. Three solid examples of vocal-and-keyboard driven alt-rock. As last week's show at Windsor's Phog Lounge proved, the formula works, over and over, because talent and the infinite variations of human creativity keep it from being too formulaic.
     In the case of Vancouver-
based the Zolas, it was Zachary Gray's earnest and agile delivery of  accessible lyrics, accompanied by Tom Dobrzanski's  I've-got-your-back robust piano and supporting vocals that won our admiration-- and money from our budget for their latest CD, Tic Toc Tic.

They might not take kindly to strangers in Ontario, but we sure took kindly to Will Currie and his band, the Country French. Currie comes off as somewhat shy on stage, which makes you feel privileged that he's sharing his inner life through his songs. His vocals are just as earnest as Gray's but earthier, his keyboard playing focused and energetic. We knew Will from his guest host stints on Radio 3 and were glad to get better acquainted with his music and newest release, Awake! You Sleepers.

Country French guitarist Dan Beacock (left) and bassist Daniel MacPherson.

Last, but certainly not least: Bend Sinister. We watched lead singer Dan Moxon as he waited through the opening acts, quiet, unassuming, helping the other bands with their sound. We were so amazed when Moxon took the stage we made up a new word: flummoxoned.

Bend Sinister nails the power-pop-rock anthem perfectly and it's great to be along for the ride with Moxon's incredible rollercoaster of a voice and superb keyboard work. Although it's our review policy to not compare bands/artists to other bands, it's hard where Bend Sinister is concerned. Is it cheating to note that one of their encores was Supertramp's "Logical Song" and it's a natural? If you haven't seen or heard them before, check out the video below. Their latest release is Spring Romance.

Photos: Russ Gordon

Hey Band Agents!

Sometimes the decision making process that results in a tour lineup seems inscrutable to fans. Just days before the Hot Hot Heat/Hey Rosetta! Show last Saturday in the Crofoot’s Pike Room, we discovered that the 22-20s had been added to the bill. What? Who?

Waiting to see Hey Rosetta! for the very first time was like walking into a classroom in the fall knowing that a professor you admire will be teaching it. Every step closer to the door in the long line and every step up the stairs brought us closer to the realization.

Then, as we were getting IDed and banded, the first notes hit us. “Hey Rosetta! are the opener? How can this be?”

Luckily there were a few spots at the front side of the stage waiting for us, as the Pike Room was packed. It seemed like we’d been there for only minutes when we heard Tim announce “This is our last song.” Once again, disbelief: “How can this be?” Only six songs by one of the best indie bands in Canada?

This is not a 22-20s review nor a Hot Hot Heat review. Both these bands were outstanding and rocked their asses off. It is a review of the agent who, in our eyes, had the opening acts in the wrong order.

Tim waxed poetic on the HR! tour blog the following day.

The fields are beautiful and on a day that finally feels like September should (warm and cool all at once) it’s a perfect sight. Much like the packed Pike Room at the Crofoot in Pontiac last night. What a time. Maybe it’s the proximity to the border, but it felt kinda like home; full and friendly, drunk, unafraid, brimming and lit. We made all sorts of friends and played all sorts of excellent rooms. I told people we’d be back soon and I don’t know if that’s true but I hope it is. We shall let you know.

We sure would love you to be the headlining act next time, because in our world, you are.

Based in St. John's, NL, the six-piece group is comprised of Tim Baker (vocals/piano/guitar), Adam Hogan (guitar), Josh Ward (bass), Phil Maloney (drums), Romesh Thavanathan (cello) and Erin Aurich (violin).

Triple Play!

With a trip to LOLA scheduled for Saturday (Benn Gunning! Minotaurs! Land of Talk! Caribou!), plus the Pack A.D. and Young Rival at Windsor's Phog Lounge on Sept. 23 followed by Holy Fuck at the Magic Stick in Detroit three days later, we tried to talk ourselves out of Bend Sinister with Will Currie and The Country French at Phog this Thurs., Sept. 16. Heck, we're still working on getting a post up about last Saturday's Hot Hot Heat/Hey Rosetta! show.

Until we saw that The Zolas had been added. So much for resisting the allure of Canadian indie music. See you there.

Meet us in the middle

Hey Rosetta! hails from St. John's, Newfoundland, the most easterly point of Canada. Hot Hot Heat are based in Vancouver, British Columbia-- the opposite end of the country. Beyond geography, there is a lot that separates these two bands, but this Saturday they meet in the middle of North America to play the Pike Room of the Crofoot in Pontiac.

The scene is somewhat reminiscent of the Dan Mangan/The Wooden Birds bill last month: darlings of the Canadian indie scene gaining exposure in the U.S. thanks to vets with an established American audience. Formed in 2005, Hey Rosetta! released their first album, Plan Your Escape, in 2007 to much acclaim, followed by the stunningly beautiful, award-winning and 2009 Polaris Music Prize short-listed Into Your Lungs. Like Mangan, they deserve to be discovered here.

Hot Hot Heat has paid their dues and won a few awards themselves over 11 years of recording and touring. Hits from 2002's Make Up the Breakdown ("Bandages"), 2005's Elevator ("Middle of Nowhere," "Goodnight Goodnight") and Happiness Ltd.-- which will have been released exactly two years from Saturday's concert date-- have received regular airplay on Detroit/Windsor radio stations like 89X and 93.9 The River. Lead singer Steve Bays might describe the inspiration for their latest album, Future Breeds, as “Basically, if it sounded like something we’d done before, then it was like we were cheating," but their brash sound is as popular as ever. (Photo by Darren Ankeman)

Venue Spotlight: the Crofoot

What: four different venues for shows--the Crofoot Ballroom and Balcony, (capacity 1100); the Eagle Theater (capacity 600); the second floor Pike Room (capacity 250); and the Vernors Room (capacity 75).

We've seen: You Say Party! We Say Die! (now known as You Say Party!) in the Pike Room (two weeks before the untimely death of drummer Devon Clifford); the New Pornographers (Crofoot Ballroom); Dan Mangan (Pike Room).

The Crofoot's talent buyer Greg Baise was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule for a short Q&A with N2DS2W. We wanted to know:

N2DS2W: How long has the Crofoot been bringing independent Canadian bands to Pontiac?

Baise: Since we opened almost three years ago.

N2DS2W: List some of the bands you first brought in. How were they received?

Baise: Some highlights have been our two New Pornographers shows, Neko Case solo, Destroyer, AC Newman, and Stars. Stars was one of our biggest shows when we first opened up. I think this show was huge for a variety of reasons. First of all, right away we earned the reputation for being the best club in the area, for both bands and fans. Our sound system is unmatchable, and the amenities that bands get here are comparable to what one would find in the top European clubs. Another factor is definitely proximity to Canada and Windsor in particular, as well as the commercial alternative stations that originate in Windsor and actually play most of these artists.

N2DS2W: Who are some of your favorite Canadian indie artists?

Baise: I'm a huge fan of the Sadies, Toronto's cosmic country kings, which played here the other night.

N2DS2W: Do you have a “dream” Canadian indie band/performer you’d like to book?

Baise: A surprise Leonard Cohen show would be pretty cool.

Many thanks to the Crofoot for supporting Canadian indie artists. Our next show at the Crofoot is Hey Rosetta!/Hot Hot Heat on Sat., Sept. 11 in the Pike Room.