Drake Underground in Toronto, ON
June 11, 2012
Review by: Lee Fraser
Photos by: Allison Janzen
Hill and the Sky Heroes CD release: it was short and sweet and it kicked your ass.
Hill and the Sky Heroes
It was not even 8:30 in the evening and the Drake Underground was packed. Right from the outset, it was evident that this was a "show", not just a band playing a gig. The back of the stage was draped with a black backdrop full of pin-holes, through which bright white light shone in spacey rays. The band members were all dressed in simple white and black, an eye-catching look against the red drapes of the Drake Underground stage. The star of the show sported a sparkling red starburst around one eye.
Across the front of the stage, an absolute powerhouse of Toronto talent: on guitar, the phenomenal Donna Grantis; on keys and backing vocals, Saidah Baba Talibah; and centre stage, the front woman herself, Hill Kourkoutis. The back of the stage was none too shabby either. Roger Travassos was killing it on the drums for the whole set. Mike Olsen worked some magic on the keys to add depth and the obligatory eerie effects to justify the self-defined genre of alien surf rock. Rounding out the strong base is bassist Lucas Silveira.
This was a show with one strong number after another after another. With every song standing out as being catchy and unique, it was interesting to reflect back and note that every song has a solid 60’s-style rock arrangement. Working together with her band-members, Hill has crafted these songs as expertly as she crafted her debut album and the CD release show.
As if there was not already enough talent on the stage, Hill was joined by Serena Ryder for a song they co-wrote, "Rent an Ocean" and by Damhnait Doyle for another collaboration, "Starseed". The highlight, though, was definitely the desired result of the seed of an idea planted by Hill when she asked the audience if they had purchased their kazoos yet. Saving the most fun for last, "The Better Way" featured a host of recording contributors on-stage, accompanied by a healthy percentage of the audience, all playing along on kazoos.
If you missed the CD release, you will have the chance to catch Hill and the Sky Heroes play the El Mocambo as part of North by Northeast. It's an early show on Wednesday, the perfect way to kick off your NXNE experience. Every aspect of everything this band does is incredible; don’t cheat yourself of the opportunity to see them as soon as you can.