The Gig: Indie Week 2010
Where: Underground Garage, Bovine Sex Club and The Hideout, Toronto, Canada
When: 14 October 2010
In one word: Chemistry
I’ve been spending a lot of time lately thinking about chemistry – not the molecular stuff but the intangible, can’t-put-your-finger-on-it click between people. I guess it started when, after the awesometastic Gorillaz concert last Thursday, I headed over to the Elmo and saw Beekeepers Society. Now Beekeepers Society are a good band, with good songs and good musicianship. But as I watched them, I couldn’t help thinking that something was missing. And then it hit me: chemistry. While each member of the band had his/her own distinct style and skill, their performance lacked that chemical spark.
Fast forward 24 hours to Indie Week’s Aussie showcase. The original scheduling called for a solo acoustic performance from Melbourne’s Shane Walters, but due to an impromptu meeting and follow up jam session with Toronto’s Que Sarah (Sarah Calvert), everyone at the Underground Garage was treated to a duet set. I wouldn’t say it was a tight performance, technically (Calvert, on keyboards, had some cheat sheets), but the modest connection between the artists was real. Walters was still the star with his solid roots rock songs and very cool slide guitar performance. And Que Sarah’s contribution complimented the performance, as opposed to being an adjunct. It was a shame that only a handful of people were around to enjoy it.
While the connection between Shane Walters and Que Sarah was very natural, for the self described ‘suicide damaged pop’ duo, WAZU, the chemistry seemed a bit contrived. They impressed Indie Week judges enough to win the showcase, but apart from the few Aussie compatriots and fellow musicians watching, the growing crowd at the Underground Garage was not engaged and didn’t seem to be buying it. WAZU had some musically interesting moments with hints of ABBA and some cool, eerie, atmospheric synth sounds. Given that they’ve only been together for 4 months, there is plenty of room to grow. However, I found it interesting that one pair, having known each other for one day, could outshine another who had been working together for several months.
Following WAZU’s set I headed over to The Hideout to see singer songwriter Valentine Black, aka Peter (Peco) McLoughlin from Kildare, Ireland. He performed with a back up band referred to as the Valentine Black family. Several songs stood out from their set, namely, “The Return of the Lotus Eaters”, “More Than New York” and “Take Me To Your Leader” which is about “stupid people” (i.e. politicians) in Ireland. With our municipal elections right around the corner, hearing lyrics such as “You lie to us” and “You don’t represent us” was quite fitting. In terms of performance, the band were quite solid, the term ‘family’ did seem to suit the band, though perhaps a bit too much. For a good chunk of the first part of the set, the bass player had his back to the audience and faced the drums – a HUGE pet peeve of mine!
From the Hideout, it was on to the Bovine Sex Club to see Kitchener punk band Broadcast Zero – acting on a tip by MV editor Brian, who called them Friday night’s “safe bet”. In a genre where cred is often questioned, these guys have the goods – no wannabes here. While their songs aren’t exactly unique, they’re not exactly cookie-cutter stuff either. Broadcast Zero play with heavy intensity. Each of the four band members had a very distinct on-stage presence, and combined as a whole, they were the complete package.
The night ended with a bang back at The Hideout with a performance from local band (originally from Ireland), Nightbox. This band may look very boyish but their live show is not to be underestimated. They drew in the largest non-press/industry crowd I had seen all week. Singer Jake Bitove’s stage presence was very charismatic and had not a few women fawning over him. There was a real energy in the venue as band and crowd fed off each other. The chemistry was not just between the members of Nightbox but with the audience as well. Hence by then end of the night I came to the following conclusion: the best bands are the ones that have that spark; the best gigs happen when the audience ignites that spark into a flame.
© Renee Saviour, Music Vice