Plants and Animals, The Coppertone, Great Bloomers, Brasstronaut, The Wooden Sky
Friday, June 15, 2012
Words and Photos by: Pete Nema
Brasstronaut Review by: Katie Christensen
On Friday, I took an open approach to my NXNE schedule. I knew I wanted to be at Plants and Animals to start and then see Brasstronaut at midnight, but what happened between (and after) was completely on-the-fly.
Plants and Animals did an amazing job on stage at Yonge-Dundas, playing energetic renditions of their rock music. Oddly, two of the members were wearing long-hair wigs and hats that went unexplained. The crowd was filled in throughout the square, but the sound was good all the way to the back. It was still light out when I left the square.
During the afternoon, I learned that Rob Dyer was running a Dream.Love.Cure show at the Burroughes Building with a few good bands, including the Great Bloomers and The Wooden Sky. So my plan was to head from Yonge-Dundas to the Burroughes Building, but I had extra time before doors at the Burroughes. So, I stopped into the Horseshoe, like I do quite frequently, and in this particular case I arrived just in time to see a few songs by the guitar-slinging (and uncomfortably hot) Amanda Zelina with her band The Coppertone.
The clock was ticking, so I left the Horseshoe mid-set and headed over to the Dream.Love.Cure show. There, the Great Bloomers played an awesome set, and even though the sight lines weren't the best, I got way more enjoyment out of their performance than I expected. Mental note: Go see Great Bloomers again. Soon.
Next, I headed over to see Brasstronaut at The Gladstone, who ending up displaying everything I like about NXNE. Their new album Mean Sun is a brilliant piece of work, although relatively soothing at points, so I wasn't sure what to expect in a show setting. Wow. As great as the music is in recorded form, it's even better live, with lead vocals and keyboard player Edo Van Breemen defining cool. The band is based in Vancouver, so opportunities to see them in Toronto are fairly rare, but no matter where you are, they should be considered a must-see Canadian band.
Back at the Burroughes Building, the place was packed for The Wooden Sky. Again, the sight-lines were poor, and the crowd was dense, so I headed "backstage" to try to capture some shots, but even that area was busier than expected, with friends and family filling the gaps between equipment. The music was excellent, the crowd was appreciative, and it was the kind of performance that could have easily been the end to a long and excellent day.
In fact, it would have been the end to my day if I hadn't run into Swav Pior (drums) of illScarlett earlier in the day who let me know they were the surprise guest at the Bovine at 2:00am. So, yes, the Bovine ended up being my last stop of the night... but I will cover that in a separate article.
Plants and Animals
Ever since listening to Brasstronaut's second full-length album Mean Sun, I just had to see how this Vancouver sextet made the beautiful sounds that have continued to entrance me upon each listen. Created not in the confines of a studio like previous album Mt. Chimera (a Polaris prize nominee), but while on the road, and across the beautiful landscape of Eastern Europe. The album encapsulates that calming and peaceful experience of perpetually touring unknown and culturally rich places. It's reflected in its spaciousness and all encompassing qualities. Considering the band wrote the album in a month, the only words fitting to describe the album are: pure genius.
NXNE can be bittersweet — so many amazing acts, but the sets are limited to 45 minutes. Brasstronaut chose their set list wisely, beginning with album opener "Bounce" which showcases the beautiful wailing trumpet and spirited mandolin riffs, played by Bryan Davies Flugel and Tariq Hussain. They followed with the more subdued, but equally mesmerizing title track "Mean Sun" that intertwines unnerving synths and hushed vocals superbly. The lyrics paint a somber story about a fisherman contemplating death while the fish of Grand Banks are dying.
With a simple backdrop and kaleidoscopic lights, the six members are first and foremost good friends who find inspiration in their differing influences. Endearingly, most of their equipment and instruments were kept in vintage suitcases, which also doubled as a stool in the case of Edo Van Breemen's (singer, keys, synth).
I absolutely loved the next song "Francisco"... whereas some of their ballads make you sway to and fro coolly, the upbeat percussion on this track denies you that opportunity and your toes automatically tap away with fervor. Another ambitious track, "The Grove," exemplified Brasstronaut's rapacious style and also displayed Sam Davidson on his EWI (electronic wind instrument) on this one — it is effectively a MIDI instrument controlled by his breath. "Falklands" mesmerized the crowd with punchy pop like melodies and drawn out alt-rock sounds, all as if performed under the ocean. Unfortunately the night had to end at some point, and did on a high note with my favorite track "Revelstoke Dam" with its jaunty mandolin riff and soldierly percussion has a somewhat medieval Midlake feel to it.