The tenth annual Wolfe Island Music Festival is happening in Kingston, Ontario this weekend. Interestingly enough, it will take place on Wolfe Island, one of Kingston’s most beautiful places and probably the world’s most perfect spot for a small indie music festival. I’m obviously biased, but if you’ve ever had the chance to catch the free ferry that goes from downtown Kingston right through to where the Cataraquai River empties into Lake Ontario, across to where the ferry docks right on the island’s main street, well, you’ll know what I mean. Add some excellent music to the mix, some drinks, some camping and some good friends and there’s actually nothing better you could ask for. Actually.

I’ve only made it to the festival once before, but I am still forever talking about the experience. It usually runs for two days – the Friday and Saturday of the second weekend in August – and features awesome Canadian indie bands. Last year I had the privilege of catching Handsome Furs, the Abrams brothers, Land of Talk, the Acorn, and Plants and Animals among many others.

If you don’t have plans to come pitch a tent over here for the weekend and kick back with a cold one, bring your laptop outside (if it’s not raining) and chill out with my Wolfe Island Musicfest ’09 playlist.

Sarah Harmer

Sarah Harmer

To start is Sarah Harmer. A Kingston local, she’s always sure to turn up at a rocking indie show as a guest drummer or vocalist. This weekend she’s got her own gig at the General Wolfe Hotel and it’s sure to be breathtaking. This is the first Sarah Harmer song I ever heard, and once I heard it I was hooked for life.

Sarah Harmer – I Am Aglow

Ohbijou

Ohbijou

Next is Ohbijou, who will be playing on Saturday, set up in the island’s baseball diamond while we lucky listeners will either be getting baked in the sun or drenched in the rain. The forecast doesn’t look too good, but nothing will keep me from catching these phenomenal Toronto-based musicians; especially not from their soulful layers or Casey Mecija’s unique vocals. This track is from their latest release, Beacons.

Ohbijou – Wildfires

Continue Reading ‘Wolfe Island Musicfest’ Mixtape »

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— , August 7, 2009    4 Comments

If you don’t know where you came from … who cares where you’re going.

In a recent interview with Pitchfork, speaking about the inclusion of a group of elementary school kids on his and band-mate Zach Sheilds’ new music project (Dead Man’s Bones) beefcake and apple-of-the-Canadian-eye, Ryan Gosling, said the following:

You know when you’re a kid and you get crayons and papers and just draw whatever you want and it’s just a bunch of messy lines, but to you it makes sense, and then they put it on the fridge? From that point on, you’re always trying to get back on the fridge, you start drawing things that look like something, like, the more it looks like a horse, the more chance you have of getting it on the fridge. We wanted to get back to that place before we were trying to make the fridge. We wanted to work with people who hadn’t been affected in that way yet.

The interview goes on to talk about Gosling’s new project, which is shaping up to be amazing – but that part stuck out in my head, made an impression, and re-surfaced when I got a chance to speak with the manager of Kingston, Ontario’s Grad Club earlier this week.

The Grad Club is an old Victorian home on the outskirts of Queen’s University and for 38 years it’s been a home, bar, restaurant and (at times) place for music, for students and local community members. Recently, it was one of a hundred venues to be included in CBC Radio 3’s list of top live music venues in Canada, and over the past few weeks, thanks to votes from patrons, Canadian live-music fans, pretentious Queen’s University students and indie kids alike, has made the top 10 list, currently in contention for the coveted “numba one spot” of Canada’s Best Venue.

For a venue around the size of a student home, with “a stage the size of a post-it-note” located in a city of 120,000, this is really an impressive feat. So much so, that it got me thinking about what has driven people in droves to vote for this charming venue, and what the Grad Club’s success in this poll represents for the live music scene/business in Canada and even around the world.

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— , February 23, 2009    6 Comments

Plants & Animals

The London Ontario Live Arts Festival has come and gone for another year, and again I was there. I previously expressed my concerns over the line-up, and while it didn’t live up to last year’s event, there were still some gems to be found. I didn’t bring my camera, so you’ll have to do without my shoddy amateur photograpy.

I was torn on Friday, as I would’ve liked to see Bocce since I’ve heard their show is much improved. I previously saw them a few years ago after they opened for Shout Out Out Out Out instead of Crystal Castles, who were no-shows. Sadly, even promises of songs about bears couldn’t force me to go clear across the city to see them that early. The free shows appearing at Victoria Park that day weren’t that appealing to me, so I only caught a bit of Do Make Say Think before travelling to Call the Office where the real night would begin. While I wasn’t flat out bored by DMSY this time around, I still have issues with post-rock in the live setting. For me, it works well as background music but when it’s forced to take centre stage, I’m not really sure what to think. I mean, I can’t dance to it, it’s too disjointed. I can’t just sit there, it’s too hypnotic. Anyway, enough babbling, suffice it to say, I was ready for a chance of pace.

I left the park early to beat the rush heading to the bar for the after-party, thus the room was still rather quiet. Sure enough, the masses began to pile in as Woodhands began their set. I was only passingly familiar with the duo, having stumbled upon a few songs in the blogosphere and figuring it was worth the gamble to see them. Indeed it was. A keytar was an integral part of their act, how can you not love keytars? After acknowledging the city, noting that they usually play the Alex P. Keaton (a place I oddly have yet to visit), the pair burst into an electro-dance party that got the people moving. Highlights include a rap session resulting in the drummer jumping into the crowd, hilariously performing a Jay-Z song he didn’t really know, before stopping and moving onto a cover he actually knew. The band closed with Dancer, the first track from their album Heart Attack. In lieu of the woman singing on the album, the drummer took lead vocals on the verses, sheepishly saying it was because he sounded like a girl. All in all, they were good fun.

Woodhands – Dancer

After a brief interlude and rush to the bar, We Are Wolves took centre stage and owned it for the rest of the night. The Frenchmen commanded your attention while ordering you to dance, and dance you did. I was also relatively unprepared for what the three-piece brought to the table, having only heard the single Fight and Kiss before the show, but the frantic rock and roll was crowd pleasing and a fitting end to the night.

We Are Wolves – Fight and Kiss

Day two had two acts playing the Victoria Park bandshell I was interested in; the first was Plants and Animals. The band drew quite a large crowd even before they burst into the opening chords of Good Friend. What followed was a pretty excellent set of folk-tinged rock and roll, marked by guitarist/vocalist Warren Spicer existentially musing on life while tuning his guitar, as well as an excellent whistle opening to Feedback in the Field by drummer Matthew Woodley. After ending the show on a high note with Bye, Bye, Bye, the band was brought back for an extremely forced encore after the rather obnoxious MC got the crowd to chant “PLANTS AND ANIMALS.” This isn’t knocking the band, but really the MC, whose schtick got a little unbearable after awhile. Even moreso when he pulled out the classic, “When I say holy, you say: FUCK!”

Plants and Animals – Good Friend

After the childish chanting of their name (seriously, aren’t we over that yet?) Holy Fuck hit the stage and started performing their phat beats with their fantastic machines. Truth be told, my experiences seeing Holy Fuck have been mixed at best, it’s highly dependent on my mood (or relative degree of sobriety). This time around, I couldn’t help feeling something was off in the sound department. Perhaps it was just the open stage in comparison to the usual seedy clubs I frequent, but that atmosphere can’t be undervalued. It certainly would’ve gotten more people moving, in any case. Anyway, I really only go so I can hear them play Lovely Allen, then I can leave happily.

Holy Fuck – Lovely Allen

Line-up concerns aside, LOLAfest is a hugely important event to London, and I have to give full credit to the people that make it happen year after year. I don’t know where I’ll be this time next year, but hopefully LOLAfest is back and stronger than ever.

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— , September 21, 2008    2 Comments

Plants & Animals

I just checked out Montreal’s Plants & Animals this weekend at the Wolfe Island Music Festival and couldn’t have been more pleased. A bit Wolf Parade, a bit Apostle of Hustle, but undeniably their own, Plants & Animals is definitely becoming one of Canada’s indie bands to watch. They released their debut album on Secret City Records this February, which was announced in July as one of the contenders for Canada’s Polaris Music Prize.

Plants & Animals – Bye Bye Bye
Plants & Animals – Good Friend

The winner of Polaris will be announced on September 29. The 2008 shortlist is as follows:

I’m rooting for Two Hours Traffic because they’re pretty much my favourite Canadian band right now, their album rules, and they’re the underdog. Any other favourites?

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— , August 15, 2008    2 Comments

Happy New Year (two weeks ago)! I finally got around to ushering in 2008 (a fortnight late) with a new volume of “Indie Lexicon”, aiming to volumize your vocabulary, plump your perspicacity, and straighten your senses relating to musical genres. Hopefully I can do this without stealing any more adjectives from my shampoo bottle.

Math Rock

Math rockers are a lovable, slightly abrasive, nerdy bunch of hipsters. Cousin to space- and noise-rock, its heavier big brother is known as mathcore (a name which amuses me to an extent where I can’t actually appreciate the music it encompasses). The definitive aspect of math rock is the rhythm. Instead of using 4/4 common time, math-ies usually play with asymmetrical time signatures. Also, most popular music will subtly switch the signature 2-3 times in a song, while math rock is known for frequent dissonant, jumpy transitions. What this means to us non-musical-non-math kids: instead of the tune playing over the regular beat of the drums, the rhythm becomes a large focus of the music. Usually layered with this geometric-sounding drum pattern are synthesizers, screechy guitar, and the occasional frenetic vocals, although a lot of math rock is instrumental. The overall effect is sometimes chaotic, often jarring, but almost always interesting.

I’m not completely versed with the genealogy of this field, but it all kind of started out with art-rockers like Frank Zappa, Yes, Rush, etc. When it developed into a more distinct category, some key contributors (bringing an edgier feel than its artsier predecessors) were Drive Like Jehu, Q and not U, and Shellac. As for more recent examples: Last year Battles released a stellar album in the genre, “Mirrored”. Definitely worth more than one listen. Mahjongg are soon to officially release Kontpab, which I’ve checked out already. I don’t think it will stay in my permanent listening repertoire, but it fits in well with the category.

Battles – Snare Hanger
Battles – Ddiamondd

Mahjongg – Wipe Out

Finally, although they aren’t pure math rock, Holy Fuck’s 2007 EP and LP were certainly numerically influenced with their organic lo-fi electronic goodness.  Here’s the vid for Milkshake, apparently directed by Chad VanGaalen (news to me).

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— , January 15, 2008    2 Comments