Diamond Rings, Dum Dum Girls, Ty Segall
June 17, 2011
Review by: Max Mertens
Photos by: Michelle Cortese
Friday night was by far the most challenging night to cover geographically-speaking —it took us from Yonge-Dundas Square to Lee's Palace to Wrongbar and back — but also one of the most rewarding, with a variety of different acts from different genres.
To say that Diamond Rings' John O'Regan has been having a pretty good year would be a huge understatement. So far in 2011, O'Regan has opened for Swedish pop star Robyn, put out a well-received remix series entitled "Remix Rainbow", and had his debut album recently named to the long list for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize. Not bad for a guy whose synth-heavy electro-pop is a far cry from his previous day job as lead singer and guitarist of Guelph indie rock band The D'Urbervilles. Playing Yonge-Dundas Square with the sun disappearing into the Toronto skyline, O'Regan's performance felt like a celebration of his recent success, and his energy and good mood was contagious. Sticking to a best-of Special Affections set, including album highlights "Something Else" and "Wait & See", the singer shimmied across the stage, played the keyboard, and called on the crowd to help him sing the lyrics. "All Yr Songs" was predictably saved until near the end and it had even the most reserved audience members tapping their feet.
Dum Dum Girls
By the time we arrived at Lee's Palace on Friday night, there was a sizable lineup down the block to get into the show, which included the 1-2 punch of Los Angeles' Dum Dum Girls and New York City's Cults. While the later might have had a slight edge when it came to buzz — largely due to their debut album recently receiving a favourable 8.5 out of 10 score from Pitchfork — the former are no strangers to critical acclaim or hype themselves. Though they might get lumped in with all the other bands (see: Crystal Stilts, Frankie Rose and the Outs, Vivian Girls, etc.) making lo-fi garage pop that's heavily indebted to 60s girl groups, the all-female quartet stand out for a few reasons, including the all-black goth burlesque outfits they wear onstage, frontwoman Kristin "Dee Dee" Gundred's magnetic voice, and their knack for a well-placed cover (their version of The Smiths' "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" on the 2011 He Gets Me High EP is an album highlight). While there was a noticeable lack of chatter from the band in-between songs, you perhaps couldn't blame them, as it seemed like they were racing to get in as many songs in as their forty-something minute time slot would allow. For those who couldn't get into Lee's — and there were many — never fear as the Girls will be back October 16 with Crocodiles.
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If there was an award given out at this year's festival for the best Kurt Cobain impression, Ty Segall would've taken home that prize. The guitar troubadour from San Francisco can shred like no one's business, and if you squint, he kind of looks like the late shaggy blond-haired Nirvana frontman. Segall is 23-years-old, one year younger than Cobain was when Nevermind came out, and already he's released numerous solo albums and played with various Californian bands. If nothing else, Seattle's favourite son would've admired Segall's ability to get the kids riled up — the minute he hit the stage at a packed Wrongbar at one in the morning, there was a sea of bodies bouncing off the walls, moshing and throwing their drinks.
Backed by a bassist and a female drummer, the singer played a set of fuzz-drenched garage rock tunes, pausing only occasionally to take a swig of beer. While songs from his most recent album, Goodbye Bread (released this month on Drag City) show off Segall's growing strength as a songwriter, it was older tunes like "Caesar" and "Girlfriend" that had the crowd in a frenzy. Towards the end of his set, Segall got into the action himself, handing off the microphone to a few fans and diving into the sweat-drenched crowd. With shows as memorable as this, it won't be long before the singer-songwriter is playing larger venues in Toronto and the rest of North America.