Phog Phest 7 re-embraces the great outdoors

After two years behind doors-- mostly the Capitol Theatre-- this Saturday, Sep. 19 Windsor's Phog Lounge tells the Phest to go outside and play. In the true spirit of N2DS2W, The Crofoot in Pontiac has stepped in as co-host of a bill with something for everyone: Windsor favourites, Detroit's Ponyshow and George Morris (formerly of The Satin Peaches) and the Gypsy Chorus, Grand Analog for the hip, The Sadies for the rock and country roots and indie veterans Wintersleep. See ya there.

NXNE 2015 Highlights

There were some lowlights at NXNE this year. The wi-fi at The Hub was terrible and our favourite hotel replaced all their coffeemakers with Keurigs. We know, #firstworldproblems. But there were highlights, like...

Language Arts at the Mod Club Theatre:  A complete delight. From Kristin Cudmore's off-beat, adorable stage banter to her vocal delivery and wonderkind words, Language Arts is an imaginative standout in alt pop-rock.

Language Arts / Joel Visentin
Language Arts

Language Arts / Kristen Cudmore
Language Arts / Kristen Cudmore

Language Arts / Kristen Cudmore
Language Arts / Joel Visentin

Wall animations at Lee's Palace
Seeing former CBC Radio 3 host Alanna Stuart (Bonjay) meet many R3 bloggers in person for the first time during the Paper Bag 100 at Lee's Palace. #FOR3VER indeed.

It was hard leaving Lee's, especially after seeing Diana, Rolf Klaussner (The Acorn), Nils Edenloff (Rural Alberta Advantage) and knowing more great performers were to come. But it was worth it for...

(Right) Rolf Klaussner
Cuff the Duke was the house band at the Paper Bag 100.

Nils Edenloff (Rural Alberta Advantage)

Nancy Pants at the Silver Dollar: Nancy Pants-- Ohara Hale (vocals), Adam Waito (Adam & the Amethysts, bass) and Jeremy MacCuish (Parlovr, Cobra and Vulture, drums)-- don't deserve labels, because they're much better and far less elemental than that. Yes, they can do great pop and garage rock, but there is some real creative talent here and it shows. Fingers crossed for a second album. We also liked:Comet Control, a psych rock reboot of Quest for Fire that include former members Chad Ross and Andrew Moszynski.

Jeremy MacCuish / Nancy Pants
Ohara Hale / Nancy Pants

Adam Waito / Nancy Pants
Ohara Hale / Nancy Pants

Jeremy MacCuish / Nancy Pants
Adam Waito / Nancy Pants

Ben Caplan and the Casual Smokers and catl.: Sorry, Odonis Odonis. We just couldn't resist the CBC Music showcase at The Hub and a chance to see Nova Scotia's other shaggy rocker. Caplan is a singer-songwriter first, but his big voice, eclectic mix of styles and generous scoring take it far beyond the ordinary. Caplan and the Casual delivered a grandiose set complete with a brass section literally plucked from busking on the streets of Toronto.

Grant Lawrence, one of the CBC Music showcase hosts.

Jaron Freeman Fox / Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers
Ben Caplan

Brendan Melchin / Ben Caplan & The Casual Smokers

It took brass to step up and sight read their parts, but these
buskers didn't miss a note.

After being aurally accosted by a disaffected Iceage, we more than welcomed the aural assault of catl. The duo has more than made up for fewer members by turning up the volume and intensity. Although the bluesy Mississippi Delta-inspired jams have morphed into more scorching rock and roll, the roots are still there.

Sara Kirkpatrick / catl.
Jamie Fleming / catl.


Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

NXNE 2015: What can we say?

What can we say about NXNE that we haven't said before? Well...

We can say that because it was scaled back this year, it just didn't have the same feel of being part of something big. Attendance was obviously scaled back as well. There was almost no one picking up badges and wristbands when we arrived at The Hub-- the new NXNE headquarters at Queen and Spadina-- on Thursday afternoon.

We can say not a single show we attended was packed, unlike previous years (keeping in mind we avoid Yonge-Dundas by choice). Too much competition? There were two other music festivals going on in Toronto at the same time as NXNE. You can't swing a guitar now without hitting a music festival, spreading bands and attendees thinner and thinner. Music malaise? From our tunnel view, the industry has been stagnant. Maybe we were just at the wrong shows.

We can also say we've never had so many gaps in our show schedule. Of course it depends on what you want to see. But in past years, our days and evenings were packed, and only after plenty of angst over conflicts. Bands we were super excited about when they were announced ended up playing only on Wednesday, long after our vacation days were locked down. We heartily wished the Paper Bag 100 at Lee's Palace on Thursday could have been Saturday night, because must-sees that evening were a bust.

We can say, just like in previous years, NXNE staff were great, we had some great moments and saw some great shows; stay tuned.

Show Alert: A double dose of dreamy

Tue., Jun. 16
Bahamas with Hayden (opening)
The Ark ~ Ann Arbor

When we saw that Bahamas-- aka Afie Jurvanen-- was in the lineup for The 38th Ann Arbor Folk Festival this past January, we weren't at all surprised he turned up on the calendar with a show of his own. We knew they'd fall in love with him just like the CBC Radio 3 community has for years: he's the "Hey Girl" Ryan Gosling meme to R3 bloggers.

What did surprise us was Hayden showing up as an opener. There are some artists we thought would never come to Michigan, and Hayden is one of them. Plus, he can fill a room in Canada all on his own. We've been listening to Hayden even longer than Bahamas; we can remember when "Bad As They Seem" was getting airplay on 89X in Detroit.

We fully expect these two supremely talented musicians will deliver one of our top shows of the year.

Where N2D won't be at NXNE (and will be, too)

One place we definitely won't be is anywhere Action Bronson is. We're all for free speech, but pretty sure if he was glorifying violent acts against minorities, no one would have given him a stage at Yonge Dundas. At least we hope so. Apparently, it's permissible if it's about women. Anyway, that's our take, and in the end believe NXNE organizers did the right thing.

We've alternated between arriving Wednesday and Thursday over the years, weighing the cost of an extra night at a hotel versus getting to see more shows. We opted for Thursday arrival this year, and of course the Wednesday lineup looks great.

Where we won't be on June 17; get there for us, will ya?

8 p.m. on at Lee's Palace: The whole lineup looks pretty great. It would be tempting to just hang out there all night, but we'd head out for...

9 p.m., Mod Club Theatre: Tasseomancy

10 p.m., Rivoli, NQ Arbuckle

11 p.m., Horseshoe Tavern, Moon King

Where we'll be on June 18:

 8 - 9 p.m., Lee's Palace: Paper Bag 100. Another great lineup at Lee's. But we definitely want to check out...

10 p.m., The Silver Dollar: Nancy Pants. We'll be sticking around after for Comet Control.

Where we'll be on June 19:

Friday is conflict night. We already had a solid schedule laid out, then CBC Music announced their Music at The Hub lineup. But we'll for sure be starting out the evening at...

7 p.m., Mod Club Theatre: Language Arts

8 p.m.: Dinner at Hey Meatball! (just down the street from the Mod Club) or How Sad at Handlebar

9 p.m., Mod Club Theatre: Aidan Knight (if we don't go from Handlebar to The Hub)

Where we'll be on June 20:

Saturdays used to be a no-brainer. We'd be at the Shoe at the CBC Radio 3 Showcase. Lately it's been our least packed night. But last year we ended up on a streetcar with Wintersleep, so who knows? Here are two shows definitely on our sked.

9 p.m., Handlebar: Louise Burns

10 p.m., The Horseshow Tavern: Slim Twig

The Almighty Rhombus: The Shape of Things to Come

For obvious reasons, the beginning of the year is typically the slowest when it comes to Canadian indie bands touring through Windsor and Detroit. We kicked off 2015 with a great Elliott BROOD show in mid-January at The Ark. Our next must-see was a month away. What to do in the meantime?

We checked our show calendar. The Almighty Rhombus? From Sudbury? What's a band from Sudbury sound like?

"Sudbury has all kinds of different bands," says Clayton Drake, keyboardist and backup vocalist. "But one thing that unites us all is that, over time, our bands all end up getting way heavier than when we start. There's a brashness to Sudbury bands. We all write big songs that you can't really ignore. It's music that you're supposed to pay attention to."

We're glad that four years after forming the band, The Almighty Rhombus haven't hit that heavy phase yet. As we knew from hearing them on CBC Radio 3, the band's solid indie pop is upbeat, well-crafted and has a refreshing clarity to it. Plus, they're a whole lot of fun. Check out The Almighty Rhombus Facebook page for proof, or better yet, see them live when they return to Phog on Fri., Jun. 19. Until then, you can get to know them better through this email interview with Drake.

N2DS2W: Pretty sure we heard some new songs when we saw The Almighty Rhombus at Phog Lounge. What's the status on a new album?

Those tunes you heard are tasty meals that we've been preparing in the Rhombus test kitchen. We need to keep working on these delicious recipes until they are ready to scale up to the industrial level and pump them out through our vertically integrated chain of restaurants. Once they are perfected, we will have a mouthwatering buffet of new material ready for mass consumption. It'll likely be another year or so.

N2DS2W: What do you like best about being in a band and making music?

The feeling of elation of performing on stage and connecting with an audience is like a narcotic. There's also a deep satisfaction that comes with putting music together in just the right way with a group. We share a lot of laughs in this band as well. Plus, we all want to be filthy rich and we figure starting a rock band is the best way to do that.

N2DS2W: What are the origins of the band's name?

The word Rhombus is derived from the ancient Celtic deity Grombs, who, while extremely hideous, was purported to visit children in their sleep and whisper sweet things in their ear, giving them nice dreams. As science progressed, Rhombus came to represent a shape, and mathematicians still regard it today as "The Kindest Shape". We are like the king of the kindest, sweetest, shape.

N2DS2W: What's on the band's wish list (beside world domination and making a million dollars)?

Mainly, we hope our van the Wet Jet never breaks down and leaves us stranded again.

N2DS2W: Today's music industry: what would you most like to see change?

It'd be nice if Pay What You Can and Pay to Play went extinct. Also, it'd be great if Sonicbids just went away and never came back.

N2DS2W: What else would you like listeners to know about The Almighty Rhombus?

If you let us sleep on your couch, we promise to do all your dishes.

The Almighty Rhombus are: Michael Kenny (lead vocals, guitar); Clayton Drake (keyboards, backup vocals): Keegan McDonald (guitar); Laura Willett (bass, backup vocals); and Carter Drake (drums, backup vocals). Check out their video, released earlier this year, for "Down South."

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

N2DS2W does NXNE: The 2015 Edition

What? NXNE is less than a month away? How did that happen?

Five years of covering NXNE? How'd that happen? Want a look back at all the music and shenanigans? We've collected links to all our NXNE posts here (or just click the NXNE link below our banner).

2015 has a lot to live up to; we saw a third of our top shows for 2014 at NXNE. Although the festival dates and schedule have been trimmed down, we predict no shortage of scheduling angst. Here are some of the artists and bands on our radar.

Aidan Knight: One of our top shows of 2013.
Babe Rainbow: We've always been intrigued by his music.
David Vertesi: We love his solo work as much as Hey Ocean!.
Etiquette: Graham Walsh + Julie Fader = worth seeing.
Frog Eyes: Original and charismatic.
Louise Burns: Glad we'll have the chance to hear Louise again (since they took away hosts at CBC Radio 3)
Mardeen: Fun and witty pop from Canada's East Coast. We're in.
Moon King: S2W's over the moon about this Toronto band.
Nancy Pants: Off the cuff garage rock with our friend Jeremy from Parlovr on the drums.
Odonis Odonis: Will this be the year we FINALLY see Odonisx2 at NXNE?
Pick a Piper: We only caught part of their NXNE set in 2013; can't wait to hear more.
Saukrates: Our NXNE hip hop fix.
Slim Twig: We love how NXNE always gives us a chance to see longtime CBC R3 favourites.
Tasseomancy: Mesmerizing, mystical and magical.
USA Out of Vietnam: Our secret patio friends from Montreal.

Show Alerts: The best of Canadian indie comes to Detroit

Fri., May 15
Great Lake Swimmers ~ Majestic Cafe
Hey Rosetta! ~ The Shelter

If you love beautifully crafted indie folk/folk rock, it doesn't get any better than Friday in Detroit. Our choice was a little easier than our last show conflict, as we saw Hey Rosetta! at The Ark in February. We last saw Great Lake Swimmers at a nearly sold-out show at The Ark as well-- in 2011. To help you make yours, here's how these two seminal and incredibly talented bands compare.

Great Lake SwimmersHey Rosetta!
Home baseTorontoSt. John's, Newfoundland
New album
            A Forest of Arms

On our top 10 albums of all time listLost ChannelsInto Your Lungs
Our favorite song"Your Rocky Spine"N2D: "New Goodbye"
S2W: "Black Heart"
Lead singerTony DekkerTim Baker
Violinist extra-
Miranda MulhollandKinley Dowling

Our take: It's absolutely impossible to choose a favorite here. Both bands are equally remarkable in all the right ways: voices you won't forget, melodies and poetic lyrics that take up permanent residence in your head and heart, musicianship that sets the standard for Canadian indie.

Show Alerts: Border Issues

Sat., Apr. 25
Hilotrons ~ Phog Lounge, Windsor
Odonis Odonis ~ PJ's Lager House, Detroit

Border issues: As in, which side of the border to be on this Saturday night?

It was a tough, tough call for us. We're going with Hilotrons (Ottawa) because we loved them so much at M for Montreal, and missed their show last November at Phog Lounge when one of us was sick.

If we could be in two places at once, we'd also be at Odonis Odonis (Toronto). Since we can't, we're planning on seeing them at NXNE in June.

Will you go north to Detroit, or south to Windsor? We'll let the music help you decide.

The Inbox: The Bandicoots

Bandicoot (Australia):

The Bandicoots (Hamilton, Ont.):  

The Hamilton Bandicoots let us know they've just released their second EP, This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things. We're glad they did, because we think it is a nice thing. We liked their alt-pop that sounds like it's been run through the Wayback Machine with the dial set to the late 50s/early 60s.

The Bandicoots-- Nicolai Kozel (lead guitar), Andrew Parkinson (drums), Lorant Polya (bass) and Justin Ross (vocals/rhythm guitar) tell us that "Props go to Michael Keire (Dirty Nil, Wildlife, Dark Mean) for his mixing skills as well as Brian Lucey (The Pack AD, The Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys, Dr. Dog) for his mastering."

Show Alert: Blues Stones Advance CD Release show

Fri., Apr. 10
Olde Walkerville Theatre ~ Windsor, Ont.
Facebook event page 

Black and blue.

That could have been the result when we were extras at the making of The Blue Stones' "Rolling With The Punches" video.

That also could have been the result when Ghostface Killah made a very late entrance and early exit at the Walkerville Theatre on Mar. 29.

Black and blue at the Walkerville Theatre is a guarantee this Friday as Windsor's The Blue Stones celebrate the release of their first full-length album, Black Holes. It'll be your chance to grab an advance copy of the Ian Blurton-blessed album before it's officially out later this year, and if you haven't already, experience the beautiful Walkerville Theatre.

There's plenty of parking available-- here's a map-- so you'll have no problem getting there in time for openers The Locusts Have No King.

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images

Our top shows of 2014

We hit a new low in 2014: the fewest shows we've seen in a year since before 2011. That wasn't the only thing that made last year unique. Only four of our top shows last year took place in Windsor or Detroit; yet overall, we saw more shows north of the border in 2014. And we noticed something: more and more people are attending Canadian indie shows in Metro Detroit. We hope that means more and more bands will put Detroit on their itinerary in 2015.

Even though our chain of show wrist bands didn't grow as much, there was no shortage of shows to put on this list. So here they are, our top shows of 2014, in chronological order. Where are the photos? Well, that's why this post is so late. When our new Toshiba Canvio external hard drive failed after only two months,  data recovery re-sorted thousands of photos. S2W is still trying to find them all, but it's been an arduous process.
  1.  The Wet Secrets (Call the Office, London). First, they gave us a great show with music that has everything we like best. Then they made us put on a marching band hat and took our picture. We love these guys and gals so much.
  2. Bend Sinister (PJ's Lager House, Detroit). Lager House owner PJ meant to stay just for one song.  He was so blown away by Dan Moxon and company he ended up watching the whole set. That alone made it a top show for us.
  3. Zeus (The Pike Room at The Crofoot, Pontiac). FINALLY. So good, it just made us regret all the times we missed them even more.
  4. Chad VanGaalen with Cousins (The Pike Room at The Crofoot, Pontiac). We were thrilled to at last experience Chad VanGaalen, one of Canadian indie's most creative, multitalented artists.
  5. Doomsquad, (NXNE, Toronto). We saw them in their hometown of Montreal too, but this is the show that made our hearts Kalaboogie.
  6. How Sad (NXNE, Toronto). Exactly the way we like our pop: Effervescent, a little frenetic, organic and not too sweet.
  7. Shred Kelly (NXNE, Toronto). Just when we think a Shred Kelly show can't get any better, they prove us wrong.
  8. Wintersleep (NXNE, Toronto). They've played St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, but we decided to wait until we could see them on a TTC streetcar. It was the best ending ever to one of the best NXNEs we've attended.
  9. Octoberman (Phog Lounge, Windsor). It was a year for seeing CBC Radio 3 legends, including Andre Ethier and Culture Reject. Add the original and contemplative Marc Morrissette to that list.
  10. Library Voices, Gord Downie and the Sadies (Festival of Good Things, Sarnia). When it came to music, the event should have been called the Festival of Sublime Things. The perfect end to summer.
  11. Canailles (M for Montreal). Their brash music might be a mash-up-- Cajun, bluegrass, country and more-- but no band we saw at M made us feel more like we were in Montreal than Canailles.
  12. Hilotrons (M for Montreal). Somehow we'd forgotten how irresistibly catchy Dubue's music can be. Thanks for the reminder, Hilotrons, and our last top show for 2014.

Show Alert: Writing It All Down For You

Fri., Jan. 16
Elliott BROOD
The Ark, Ann Arbor

The Sadies w/Duende
The Loving Touch, Ferndale

It's not often, especially lately, we get two can't-miss Canadian indie shows on the same night. Happy New Year.

We've seen both these bands multiple times in a variety of venues and can say you're guaranteed a great show. We consider Elliott BROOD's Mountain Meadows (2008) one of the best Canadian indie albums ever made. It's perfect from start to finish. They've come a long way since we first saw them at the Majestic Cafe in 2009; so has their once literally brooding, edgy "death" country sound. They're all Work and Love (2014) now-- and Juno award-winning (Roots and Traditional Album of the Year, 2013). Listen: "Jigsaw Heart," from Work and Love.

Whether sharing the stage with Gord Downie-- and making our list of top shows last year-- or with family (Home County, 2013), The Sadies are Good. That would be Dallas and Travis Good, Sean Dean and Mike Belitsky. They should be: they celebrated 20 years in 2014 of superb Canadian indie. Listen: "What's Left Behind" from New Seasons (2007)

The Sadies. Yes, they're as bad-ass as they look.
(Photo credit: Don Pyle)

M pour Montreal est merveilleux

When it comes to music festivals, we've been selective. NXNE and London's Home County Arts & Music Festival have perfectly suited our schedules, wallets, ability to travel and the way we like to consume live music. But after meeting M pour Montreal's Mikey Bernard at NXNE, we decided it was time to dust off our high school French, venture out of our comfort zone and head to M pour Montreal.

How we got there: Porter Air from Windsor to Toronto Island to Trudeau Airport. Reasonable price, and landing on a small island is pretty amazing. We even had time between flights on our way home to grab lunch at Wvrst in Toronto. Good to know: Budget $40 for a cab to and from the airport to downtown Montreal if you don't want to take the bus.

Where we stayed: Trylon Appartements at Ste. Famille and Milton. Except for incredibly lousy Wi-Fi-- a challenge not limited to Trylon, we discovered chatting with other M for Montreal attendees-- also very reasonable. Great staff and location, highly recommended. Good to know: Everything was within walking distance, although we cabbed it a few times because of the cold (around -9 C) on Thursday and Friday.

 Where we ate: Thanks to Montreal resident and fellow Radio 3 blogger Hedgehog Friend, we had the inside scoop on great iconic places to eat in the city, including Amelios (bring your own beer); Juliette & Chocolat; Schwartz's; Beautys; La Sala Rossa; and our favourite, spruce beer and tourtiere at La Binerie. We also had the best coffee (we ordered Americanos) ANYWHERE at Pikolo.

What we didn't do: We missed Betty Bonifassi's show and Py Py due to logistics; sad panda, because we love them both. We didn't have time to make our pilgrimage to Breakglass Studios or be tourists. But hey Montreal, we'll definitely be back.

(Click on a photo for the slideshow)

Who we saw:

Kandle Osborne of Kandle and the Krooks

Jeff Innes of High Ends

Le Trouble;  check out their CBC Beetle Roadtrip
session with Grant Lawrence at

Canailles. We were sold when we saw that the drummer
had a trash can lid as part of his kit.
They had the whole room line dancing.

Peter Dreimanis of July Talk.

Leah Fay of July Talk.

Banjo oh my darling Lisa LeBlanc

So, our beloved Parlovr is no more. But Alex, Jeremy and Louis
are still making music. We saw Alex's new
band, Holy Data, at L'Escogriffe. This is Jordan.
You might know him from Sunset Rubdown and Miracle Fortress.

This is Alexis Dionne

This is Reg Kachanoski

And this is Alex Cooper.

We never thought we'd get to see a Unicorn--
Alden Penner-- performing Unicorn songs.

Badbadnotgood was anything but.

Yup, supreme just about sums up their M for Montreal show.

Michael Feuerstack

Doomsquad @ Divan Orange

How Sad made us happy again at La Sala Rossa
Hilotrons were a hit with us.
Michael Dubue sang the vocals for Animal, Master

Alex Moxon / Hilotrons

Photos: Russ Gordon/N2D Images