Sunday, October 24, 2010

Show Review: Dr. Dog - Live at the Phoenix, Saturday October 16, 2010

You can read my review of the Dr. Dog show over on blogTO:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Show Review: Marco Benevento Trio - Live at the El Mocambo, Sunday October 17, 2010

The logic behind playing a concert on a Sunday night is difficult to understand. People are worn out from Friday and Saturday and most just want to laze around and watch their Sunday night favourites on television. Last night’s Marco Benevento Trio show at the El Mocambo was real evidence of this theory. Wrapping up his mini-tour of Canada that included stops in Montreal, Ottawa, Hamilton and finally Toronto, Marco and the gang were welcomed to our fair city by seldom few concertgoers. Fortunately for those thirty people in attendance, Marco is a professional. Where most groups would have played a short and uninspired set to an audience that small, Marco did the opposite. Supported by Dave Dreiwitz on bass (Ween) and Andy Borger on drums (Tom Waits, Norah Jones, and Ani DiFranco), Marco proceeded to put on a first-class, intimate performance.

Triggering a pre-recorded sample from one of the many toys on his completely tricked-out saloon-style acoustic piano, Marco splashed some bright piano work into the crackling sounds of “Record Book” from his first release Invisible Baby. He slowly winded through the introduction before blasting out the chords, all the while Dreiwitz was adding guitar-like fills through a distorted bass. David Fricke of Rolling Stone Magazine once stated that Marco plays his piano like a guitarist and this couldn’t be truer. His chord-work and sense of melody is simply impeccable, and he effortlessly handles both rhythm and lead roles.

Next up was a choice cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” from his latest release Between the Needles & Nightfall. Winehouse’s smooth and sultry vocals were mimicked by jazzy piano lines, while Borger threw in some very impressive drum fills. The few women in the audience took the opportunity to dance and sing to this familiar tune, and the band played to their energy. Marco took a minute to take the mic and introduced the first party song of the night, “The Real Morning Party”. Never one to hide his sense of humor, “The Real Morning Party” can only be described as elevator music played by a madman. Borger proceeded to destroy his toms while Marco laid down the infectious, and humorous melody. Smiles could be seen ear-to-ear on everyone in the crowd.

Showcasing his love for timeless artists, Marco laid down a spirited take of “Seems So Long Ago Nancy”, a heartbreaking tune by the legendary Leonard Cohen. The band ran through a few more songs before finally exiting the stage. Though it was Sunday and already past midnight, the fans still chanted for an encore. The Trio returned and of course, someone in the audience called for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird”. The request was met with embarrassed laughter, but Marco rose from his chair stern-faced and began to play the familiar chord progression, breaking rock and roll’s number one faux pas. Looking shocked and a little bit appalled, Dreiwitz surprised everyone by joining in, playing the classic vocal lines on his bass. Soon enough Borger laid down the drums and we were in the midst of a full-fledged cover of “Freebird”. Finally coming to the realization that this was just wrong, Marco shifted gears, seamlessly segueing into the familiar and far more respectable sounds of “Fearless” by Pink Floyd. But the classic rock parade wasn’t over. The band proceeded to sandwich “Benny & The Jets” by Elton John into the middle of the song, before returning to the Floyd classic. And that was how the band left it. Finishing up their encore by half past midnight and looking just like the audience, tired and beat, the Trio waved their goodbyes and probably headed off to sleep.

Photo Credit: Greg Abramowitz

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Big Light: Live Video & Stories From The Road

One of our favourites over here at Back In 15 Minutes is a band called Big Light from San Fran. Right now the foursome is on tour with jam-giants Umphrey's McGee and they're keeping a great journal from the road. Read this hilarious encounter they had with an Umphreak:

We'll share this story from Arizona: The other night in Flagstaff, although the crowd's reaction to our set was encouraging and we played pretty well, we encountered this one guy after the show at the merch table... Apparently this dude's friend had purchased for him (as a gift) one of our CD's thinking that it was an Umphrey's album. After receiving the album from his buddy and realizing that this wasn't an UM album, but instead a record by the opening act that he hated (us), this dude came to the merch table, told Jeremy he thought we sucked, and then asked for either the money back (something we did't want to do) or for it to be exchanged for a Umphrey's disc (something we didn't have the power do).

Well, had the encounter happened with a different band member, perhaps this guy might have actually gotten his money back. Luckily for the band, he approached Jeremy- who promptly let the New Jersey in his blood rip, demanding to know how on earth someone could firstly tell an artist that he thought his band sucked and then secondly ask for money back on A CD HE DIDN'T EVEN PAY FOR, effectively robbing us of our fucking gas money! Anyway, the guy walked away, Big Light CD still in hand, contemplating why on earth he didn't ask one of the little dudes for the refund instead...

Big Light also stopped by MOG to record this great live version of "Good Time of the Year".

Big Light - Good Time Of The Year (Live MMN Session) from on Vimeo.

Show Review: Do Make Say Think & Greed - Live at TIFF Bell Lightbox, Tuesday October 5, 2010

Toronto’s post-rockers Do Make Say Think took on the ambitious act of scoring the 1924 silent film epic, Greed, by Erich von Stroheim. The original version of the film runs an astonishing seven hours in length but luckily for the band, this version was scrapped. While a marathon concert and film screening would have been nice, it probably would have been a bit tolling on everyone. Those attending last night’s screening of Greed watched a two and a half hour performance from the band, which is still longer than most concerts.

Joined by members of Broken Social Scene and the Weakerthans, Do Make Say Think and their friends filled the Bell Lightbox stage with several guitars, electric bass, upright bass, a horn section, drums and percussion and several classical stringed instruments. Having scored the silent film Tales of the Uncanny last summer during the Luminato Festival, it was clear from the get-go that Do Make Say Think were comfortable amongst their musical friends, the quiet and attentive audience, and the classic film being projected above them.

The truly successful silent films are rich in emotion, allowing the acting and the plot to make up for the lack of speech. The plot of Greed is highly emotive in and of itself. Middle-class couple Mac and Trina McTeague win a $5,000 lottery and the selfishness and greed that ensues is not unlike what happens to modern day lottery winners. Needless to say, their “friends” and family all believe they deserve a piece of the pie. Mac’s best friend Marcus is especially adamant that lottery money belongs to him. After all, he set Mac up with his cousin Trina, who he then married.

The Do Make Say Think ensemble expertly captured both the initial happiness of the characters as well as the growing tension between them. Mellow and lush arrangements were used to fill out sections of the film where the story line was being established, while eerie and ambient noises filled the theatre as Mac began to question his relationship with his wife. A spirited take on the traditional song “Freight Train” was one of two non-original pieces by the group. Finger-picked guitar notes bounced playfully against a chugging drum beat as characters sifted through dirt with hopeful faces at the gold mines.

The climax of both the film and the score came as Mac finally let his anger towards his stingy wife take over, brutally beating Trina to death in order to claim her lottery winnings. The musicians steadily pounded deep and dark sounds from their instruments. The sounds growing louder and fiercer with every moment. The music emanating from the stage mimicked both the anger and madness that was happening on screen so well, that it was easy to forget that this was not the original scoring to Greed.

After two and a half hours the movie came to an end and the collective of musicians finally put down their instruments. Witnessing a live scoring is an immensely impressive thing. The sounds created by Do Make Say Think and their friends were completely original but more importantly, familiar enough that you truly believed you were watching a real film score. It comes as no surprise that the band is interested in scoring more films and after attending Greed, I’m eager to see what they tackle next.

Photo Credits: Dimitri Sarantis