April 25, 2008
The Sound Academy (formerly The Docks). Toronto, Ontario
There was a weird vibe surrounding The Sound Academy when I arrived for the co-headliner Protest The Hero/Chiodos show. I wasn't in a bad mood so I don't think it was transference on my part. Au contrair, I've been excited about this tour, dubbed "Beer The Musical", since I heard about it well over a month ago. Also when I mentioned my felling to a few others they pretty much agreed and were glad it wasn't just them. After some serious consideration (lord knows I must have spent 10 minutes thinking about it) I think it may just be growing pains. What was once The Docks is now the Sound Academy, and seems poised to become the go-to venue in Toronto for not-quit-big-enough-to-play-arenas bands.
From First To Last at the Sound Academy (more photos...) photo by Clint Gilders - staff photographer
The opening act of the night was a recent signing to Underground Operations (UO) going by the name of Lights. UO founder London Spicoluk never ceases to amaze me with his diverse, seemingly out of character signings. Lights plays electro pop with little bit of an edge to it and describes herself as "..a small girl who dwells in Toronto and makes music. Most of what you hear comes out of my bedroom". This description paints a somewhat different picture to the confident, relaxed, powerful woman I met at The Sound Academy. Sure she was a little surprised by the size and fervor of the crowd and even quipped that this was the first time a circle pit had eruptd at one of her shows, but she handled it all in stride.
There's local boys done good, and then there's Three Days Grace. With two members hailing from Norwood, Ontario, and one from just down the road in Peterborough one of hard rock's most successful bands played a benefit concert to help complete the construction of the very facility in which they performing.
As I parked a good ten or fifteen minute hike down the road from the arena I began to get an idea of the scale of the event about to take place in the tiny town. This was a village of 1300 that had sold out a 2000 seat arena! An hour before the doors were to open the line snaked around the parking lot and steadily grew and spread onto the adjacent fair grounds as I strolled around snapping photos.
I didn't relish the idea of joining the end of the line which probably stretched to somewhere near the downtown strip. Luck would have it that my media contact came outside to find me and escorted me into the building just before the doors opened.
Ok, sometimes I miss really really good bands completely, and it makes me wonder if I have been living under a rock. I think the problem is that I don't listen to much FM radio anymore and never activated the satellite radio in my car. Relying instead on my CD collection stored on my iPods and the never ending flow of CD's mailed in for us to review, sometimes big acts sneak up on me. That said - WOW!
The Mars Volta is like wow - man.
No one had given me much of a heads up on The Mars Volta. Though I had heard they were pretty cool, no one had ever given me much more to go on. I really didn't know what to expect. For all I knew they could have been some electronic accordion band from Europe. What they turned out to be is a bad ass rock and roll band that has the look, feel, and sound of a modernized Led Zeppelin moved south of the border.
Combining elements of progressive rock from the seventies, metal, thrash, and flavored with distinctive tex-mex spices they sound like Yes on speed, or a harder faster Incubus. Blazing guitar runs by Omar Rodriguez-Lopez with frantic almost flamenco like jumps and spins by frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala, its hard to imagine that they keep up the pace for their whole show, but they do. I almost didn't even notice that many of the lyrics were in Spanish.
Fronted by Max Bemis, the Los Angeles based six piece power-pop/emo rockers Say Anything brought the end of their tour through Austin with a stop at La Zona Rosa last week. With a little help from our friends over at Direct Events I was invited up to shoot and cover the show.
With an early door, and some un-cooperative dogs conspiring against me, as well as Austin's notorious traffic I arrived late, just catching the last song by Weatherbox. That was a shame too, because they sounded really interesting. Based out of San Diego they are fronted by Brian Warren, ex of Mister Valentine and are worth checking out next time they come to town. I know I will try to be there.
When I arrived at the Kool Haus I was surprised by how thin the crowd seemed. Yeah, it was early but with this being Sum 41 I expected more early birds. Only a few months before the Sums had been scheduled to play the cavernous Air Canada Centre. This was before Deryck suffered a herniated disc and they had to cancel their co-headlining tour with Finger Eleven. So I expected the packed like sardines turn out so often seen at the Kool Haus.
Die Mannequin at the Kool Haus (more...) photo by Clint Gilders - staff photographer
I arrived shortly before Die Mannequin were to take the stage. This a band I have wanted to see live for ages, but somehow seemed to always miss. My first taste of lead singer Care Failure was on the soundtrack of "Trailer Park Boys: The Movie" where she performed with Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson of Rush among others. Who was this beautiful brunette with the frighteningly powerful voice? Care F@$kin' Failure! Die Mannequin are a trio (Care on Guitar and Vocals, Anthony Bleed on Bass, and Ghostwolf on Drums) that play heavy, dirty, sexy rock. Care obviously uses her good looks to her advantage but not to the point where she becomes a mockery. Die Mannequin are pure Rock and Roll: rolling on the stage, jumping into audience, throwing mics, trashing drum kits, mic cables wrapped around everything. D-D-D Do it or die!!!