It’s official: NXNE is in full swing and the masses have taken to the streets, hopping from venue to venue in a frenzied mission to devour as much music as possible without collapsing. Some of us, however, have opted to linger in venues, enjoying the showcases. In the case of last night’s line-up at The Painted Lady, it didn’t disappoint.
A few words about The Painted Lady first: located at Dundas West and Ossington, this narrow, tiny bar plays host to live music on the regular, as well as burlesque shows. Last night’s festivities were no exception, as we were treated to a burlesque dancer working atop the bar to the show. The Painted Lady also is home to a pulled pork sandwich that should be rated NC-17 for the passion it evokes. I’ll be returning for the food alone!
As for the festivities, I walked away with several new bands on my shopping list. In rapid-fire fashion (too many events, too little time to blog), here are the acts I was privileged to see last night.
One of my must-sees for the fest, Whitby band Avery Island demonstrated their professionalism and talent from moment one, with the show going on in spite of half the band not reaching the venue in time (Toronto traffic strikes again). No matter: it was a treat to hear vocalist Lauren Heenan with stripped-down accompaniment, and allowed her rich, powerful voice to shine. Of particular note was the duet between Lauren and Brandon Heenan on an emotional cover of Brand New’s “Degausser”.
In full band mode, Avery Island continued to impress with their melodic indie rock, peppered by wry comments from Heenan. The influence of artists like Brand New comes through in their song structure, although one is reminded more of the lyrical sensibility of Rilo Kiley marinated in Is This Desire?/Stories-era PJ Harvey. Speaking of the latter, I would love to hear Heenan’s take on “Meet Ze Monsta” but I digress. The synthesizer elements blended into the mix evoke Metric raging against their machines in a way Emily Haines wouldn’t dare.
Contemplative and dark, yet certainly not dreary, Avery Island are a treasure that a music fan ought to seek out. Highly recommended.
Adelaide band The Aves took the stage next, winning the audience over with their charm and unadorned rock songs. “Letters To Cleo soaked in Johnny Walker” is the best description I was able to settle upon, and it is extremely complimentary.
Punk-sassy and playful, The Aves sound like the best elements of Little Fish and The Like, choosing to skip effects boards and computer loops for the earthy feel of guitars and drums. It works extremely well – think early Green Day – and expertly frames Lucy Campbell’s rich vocals. Bluesy, almost rockabilly undertones permeate their work, lending a sense of being at a kick-ass street party where you can’t help but tap your feet and nod your head in time. I found myself unable to stay still, and isn’t that the point of rock music? It should move us, not bore us. It should excite and incite.
The simplicity echoes the humble charm of Campbell, who introduced songs briefly, only to quickly decide that we didn’t need a long story – we needed the melodies. In speaking with her post-set, she notes that in Australia, audiences tend to tell bands to shut up and play – something I’ve heard before. I explain the strangely polite audiences of Canada that are the norm and she concurs happily. We also concur that the recent heat is baffling (memo to Nature: what the hell?). On and off stage, The Aves are relaxed and passionate about music itself, a winning formula.
There are other local gigs on tap for The Aves and I strongly suggest you make the effort to catch them live.
Boston’s Animal Talk are one of the more hyped band of the fest, and with good reason. Blending indie rock with dance elements, they evoke memories of that transition period between ’89 and ’93, where music slanted away from the electro-pop of Cyndi Lauper and Debbie Gibson and moved towards the grunge and alternative scene. There are layers of funk dashed in for good measure – think The Philosopher Kings or U2 circa Achtung Baby. The result? Dance anthems for the indie kids, who swayed and moved along throughout the set.
Further cementing that 80s subcurrent, Steven Kilgore dared the audience to prepare for itself before the band launched into a cover of Phil Collins’ hit “Easy Lover”, performed with such precision and gusto that I felt like I’d fallen into a youthful rabbit hole. Well chosen and well executed, it was a cherry on top of a polished set.
Charismatic and confident, Animal Talk are worthy of their hype. Expect to hear more from them.
Hailing from Western Canada, Sidney York may draw easy comparisons to The Bangles, given the trio of women harmonizing on stage via claps, whistles and vocals. While superficially valid – and Brandi Sidoryk’s vocals do remind one of Susanna Hoffs – Sidney York is actually something more complex. My take-away thoughts last night were “The Go-Gos mate with band geeks and dabble in cabaret”, a surprisingly accurate depiction given the “band geek” history of the band.
With sunny, joyous melodies reminiscent of Fun., Sidney York takes it a step further into the burlesque with luscious vocals and the flavour of the oboe and bassoon. The result is a mad carnival of music, a sense of being under the thrall of several talented ringmistresses, all devoted to ensuring you are thoroughly entertained. Infectious and propelled by Sidoryk’s operatic voice, Sidney York take the ball lobbed out by acts akin to The Ditty Bops and run it for a touchdown.
If Jenny Lewis’ lyrics depress you and you like your pop with a little more spice, check out Sidney York. Highly recommended.
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