Friday, July 24, 2009

Japandroids + invites – July 14 at Club Lambi

Slim Twig
As I strolled into Lambi last Tuesday, Play Guitar were dismantling their gear, and in their place arose a single skinny white dude and a mass of pedals. To my delight (and thanks to ambiguity of "+ invites") this turned out to be Torontonian Max Turnbull, aka Slim Twig – who quickly summoned the crowd's spirit with a stream of rich backing beats, sermon-y sing-yelps and value-added live keyboard loops.

After about a half-hour of his freak-Dylan hip-hop routine, Slim finally picked up the Fender Jaguar he'd set aside at the beginning of the show, and closed with strongest (and loudest) tune of the evening. Maybe the former of his apparent influences deserves some more attention.

The hard-rockin'-and-oft-laughin' best friends from Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada took the stage and soon drove into a exhuberant "The Boys Are Leavin Town" – until the fresh, deep wound in drummer/singer David's right hand made his sticks too hard to handle. (He claimed it didn't hurt, but that all the blood made it impossible to grip anything.) After a couple more false-starts, someone (tour manager?) came onstage and bandaged him up real good, and nary was a stick dropped for the rest of the night. Still, it's not often that a percussionist keeps on keepin' on with such a bloody gash – which his better half, guitarist/vocalist Brian explained happened as they loaded in their gear that day. (Despite all the money saved on those pesky CD pressings, they're still touring sans roadie.)

Their willingness to play on may have been due to the pure joy of being back in their homeland, as Brian also reminded the crowd how lucky it was to live in Montreal instead of the middle-America they'd just escaped. As for the set, "Heart Sweats" reached new fist-pumping proportions, "Crazy/Forever" evoked more Sabbath than what's usually healthy (little), and "Wet Hair" rolled along with all its adolescent fervour. So yes, the hopefully-not-over-hyped west coasters delivered on their self-described "maximum rock."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Stevie Wonder at Jazz Fest

"Free Stevie Wonder concert" – what a great idea (on paper)! Pick a music legend in which the entire world has at least a passing interest, throw away the cover charge, and see how many people try to cram themselves around screens smaller than Westmount home theatres. While I'm all for democratizing live music, the hugeness, ineffeciency, and danger this wondrous shitshow manifested had more in common with the main sponsor's former cashcow than an actual concert. Thanks GM, now please go back to what you're good at (i.e. going bankrupt; killing the planet in the name of getting to work, etc.)

So, how did such a great idea turn bad? The first problem is actually one of Montreal's best traits: density. There just isn't enough room downtown to have 100,000+ people see a concert. That's why festivals happen in deserts, and on farms. (The sight of a stretcher trying to make its way into the area that took us two songs to maneuvre through was a little off-putting.)

Realizing there was no way for everyone to be within earshot or the main stage, Jazz Fest organizers smartly synced up screens on every possible stage. These ended up functioning like roadblocks to those vying for a spot near the main stage (not once did the steady two-way traffic in front of me cease to waddle), though it was difficult enough to even catch a glimpse of these why-didn't-I-just-wait-for-the-DVD-to-come-out-so-I-could-watch-this-on-my-Macbook-in-my-underwear projections. Near the one where I stood, dozens of people decided it'd be exceedingly intelligent to jump on a temporary wood wall, and subsequently onto the roof of the building next to it. But hey, they looked cool doing it, and that's always a good reason to do something.

Right then, so about the music. Before we got any, we were treated to the obligatory headliner half-hour delay, and a speech during which Stevie asserted that anyone producing anything about Michael Jackson should give all the profits to the urr-vray-day-I'm-strugg-a-lin' Jackson family. Though something tells me MJ's back catalog might be worth something someday. Like, today.

Despite fibbing over the first line on opener "I Can't Help It" from Off The Wall, Wonder was in fine form, his voice growing stronger with every signature smile to the side of the mic. I'm glad I got to "see" him, though it really just made me want to actually see him. Granted, if, like Ken the commenter, I'd stayed for the whole show, my opinion could've well been a little sunnier. (Rain joke!) Regardless, like Gaby says, the Gazette review really sucks. What's with those ellipses?'s to Jazz Fest 2009!