August 26, 2011 — Given that this was Conor Oberst’s last tour under the Bright Eyes name and the relative dearth of acts to make their way through London this summer, it seemed only logical to make the trek down Richmond Street. Prior to the show, I was only a casual Bright Eyes fan, but they managed to exceed my expectations and shatter my concept of what a Bright Eyes concert was. Well, if you ignored the legion of teens that were in attendance, which forced me to sip my beer behind a velvet rope. Serving as openers were Toronto’s own purveyors of old-school rock, Zeus.

I had seen Zeus twice before, with only passing interest, but it seems the third time is the charm with them. The members swap instruments and vocals with nearly every song, giving their brand of classic-style rock a great deal of variety. The one-two punch of ‘Greater Times on the Wayside’ and ‘River By the Garden’ was the highlight of their set twice before, and nothing has changed there. By the end of their set, the crowd seemed to have warmed to Zeus as much as I had.

Conor Oberst emerged shortly after, to the expected joy of the crowd, and Bright Eyes opened with ‘Another Travelin’ Song’. The band was touring as a seven-piece, along with a giant drum that the man standing next to me could not get his head around. Despite having a conception of him as a brooding, mopey songwriter type, Oberst, was particularly animated, frequently turning into a whirling dervish on stage, and playfully miming along to his lyrics. Banter was limited, with the most memorable being Oberst claiming that this was his favourite London, and introducing a song with “Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends.” Much of the set list was culled from Bright Eyes’ final album, the surprisingly good The People’s Key, but the biggest response was given to fan favourites like broken-heart anthem ‘Lover I Don’t Have to Love’, ‘Bowl of Oranges’, and ‘Four Winds’.

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— , September 11, 2011    2 Comments

Photograph by Eric Kayne

For the past six years, fellow Canadian music blog i(heart)music has polled Canadian music writers, bloggers, and photographers to publish its annual Hottest Bands in Canada list, summarizing, well, Canadian bands that are hot. This consensus building seems to have worked as top honours in past years were given to critically fawned-over acts such as the Rural Alberta Advantage, Chad VanGaalen, and Feist.

Since the only two rules stated are that bands submitted must be Canadian, however one defines that, and that they be hot, however one defines that, I put together my own criteria for my top 10 submission. I gauged the quality of the band’s recorded output, in most cases their album release, along with the quality I saw and reverence I perceived towards the act’s live show. I also took into consideration if I think they’ve entered or stayed at the height of their careers, and if we can expect big things to come. Most of all, this list answers the completely subjective question of which bands I found most exciting in 2010.

For more of a scientific consensus, check out the full list and for reviews throughout the year of pretty much every Canadian album of the moment, be sure to check out i(heart)music’s feature section.

10. Basia Bulat

Canada’s folk sweetheart continues to bring her orchestrated indie pop to the masses with the steady touring of her second album, Heart of My Own. A talented songwriter with a keen ear for classic melodies, Bulat has garnered a following larger than anticipated for her humble personality.

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— , November 10, 2010    6 Comments

After my one year hiatus from this city, I returned to witness the fifth edition of the London Ontario Live Arts Festival, affectionately referred to as LOLA. Each September, the hipsters of the city descend on Victoria Park to witness four days of free music and art installations. While I missed out on seeing Yoko Ono’s billboard, I was focussed on the musical portion of the festival. What follows is a brief overview of this year’s LOLAfest.


LOLA kicked off Thursday night with a double bill from Zeus and Jamie Lidell at Rum Runners. Although unlike the rest of the festival it was a pay event, it seemed to offer the most value. It’s a wonder more bands don’t play Rum Runners, aside from some poorly placed columns, it’s a fairly intimate venue, and the upper balcony offers an alternate perspective. During NXNE,  I saw Zeus perform at El Mocambo following the Golden Dogs as a secret act. I hadn’t listened to them at the time, so I didn’t feel terrible leaving midset, as I was tired and amped for Pavement the next day. Perhaps feeling remorse for the slight, I thought I would give them another shot. Zeus’ classic rock-inspired style was a bit odd considering the headliner, but I found I enjoyed them much more when not half-asleep. The band members frequently traded vocals as well as instruments, adding great variety and spontaneity to the set. Leaving the stage with shouts for an encore, the band could have easily been a headliner, as there were just as many people coming to see them as Jamie Lidell.

Zeus – Marching Through Your Head

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— , September 24, 2010    Comments Off on London Ontario Live Arts Festival 2010

Photograph by Sam Javanrouh

There’s a day in June that occupies a special place in Torontonians hearts every year. Originally known as the Olympic Island Festival, the recently re-named Toronto Island Concert, is what many of my friends call their “favourite day of the summer”. Curated by Broken Social Scene and their label Arts&Crafts, the day-long mini-fest takes place South of the city, just a few kilometres off-shore from Toronto’s modest and un-scenic harbourfront, on one of the city’s most heavily protected natural gems, Olympic Island. With only a community in the hundreds that inhabits the Toronto Islands, their parks are some of the city’s most beautiful, their few domiciles are some of the city’s most demanded and their concert is one of the city’s most memorable.

After a two-year break from any performances on the island, one because of an unfortunate scheduling conflict last year, and the other unexplained the year previous, the memories of the day are starting to get fuzzy. Remember the year when Feist opened and played all of ‘The Reminder’ before anyone knew that ‘1,2,3,4’ would be a Sesame Street jam? Or how about that year when Canada’s music scene was finally en vogue internationally, after over a decade of indie rock triumphs domestically? Remember how this celebration was marked by Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene being on the same bill, collectively shouting back at the world “the kings are taking back their throne,” a phrase which packed so much punch, years before it found its home on Neon Bible’s ‘Intervention’? Oh, and then there was the time that J. Mascis joined a stage ramshackled-full of 8 electric guitarists and three drummers, spilling out into the audience, and played a song to close the night called ‘Guitar Symphony’ which has never seen the light of day, but was perhaps the strongest reminder of the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll the city has ever seen.

Indeed, the day-long festival has been home to some of the most memorable and important moments in Toronto’s music history. It’s also been home to some of the most memorable and important moments for this writer, personally. One way or another, the Island Concert marks a moment in the Summer around which old friends plan trips back to the city and everyone finds each other, ready to celebrate anything they can. The reunions start early in the day over beers and hugs, and end with the back-drop of a lit-up city, slow-dancing as long as you can before running to make the last ferry back to mainland.

Pavement – Cut Your Hair
Broken Social Scene – Cause = Time
Band of Horses – Our Swords
Beach House – Zebra

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— , June 18, 2010    5 Comments

UPDATE: This contest is now closed, the winner has been notified by email.

After touring as Jason Collett’s backing band for several years, the four members of Dark Horse have re-emerged as Zeus, ready to step out of the shadows with their debut album Say Us, released in February. As much as Collett has been compared to Bob Dylan in terms of the vocal similarity and songwriting, Zeus may appeal to fans of his support, The Hawks, who later found fame in their own right as The Band. The three chord stompers are there, as is the rootsy-feeling.

Whether you’re a fan of the band or just looking to discover one of Toronto’s finest indie rock upstarts, you can’t miss their show this Thursday, May 27 at the Mod Club. Support includes Matt Murphy and Danielle Duval. Courtesy of Collective Concerts, we’ve got two tickets to give away. To win them, send an email to with “Sound Like Zeus” in the subject line and your full name somewhere in the body. This contest closes Wednesday, May 26 at 10pm.

Zeus – Marching Through Your Head
Zeus – Kindergarten

If you miss this show, be sure to catch them at the Toronto Island Festival where they’ll be playing as part of the Toronto Revue. Not to mention that Beach House, Broken Social Scene and Pavement will also be there, so if you haven’t bought your ticket yet, your mother was right and you are completely irresponsible.


— , May 23, 2010    Comments Off on Zeus: The Mod Club