Horizons Cafe, CN Tower in Toronto, Ontario
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Review by: Jen Polk
Photos by: Pete Nema
My NXNE started nearly 350 metres above ground. Seriously! Audio Blood Media threw an invite-only party inside the CN Tower, and I lucked out on tickets. Not only was the view spectacular, but the bands perfoming were all ones I'd go see anywhere: The Balconies, Hollerado, and Meligrove Band. It was one of the most unique shows I've ever been to. Photographer Pete Nema was there too.
I arrived with fellow blogger Ricky Lam — you can read his review of the show here — at the event space just shy of 7pm. After grabbing some free hors d'oevres and taking in the view, Toronto-by-way-of-Ottawa band The Balconies took to the small stage overlooking Lake Ontario and Toronto Island. This band, and especially lead singer and guitarist Jacquie Neville, impresses every time. So much so, in fact, that I tend to forget just how good a performer and musician she is. Ably backed by her brother, bassist and vocalist Stephen, and drummer Liam Jaeger, she is a real presence on stage. It doesn't hurt matters that the band has catchy, rocking tunes to perform. (I woke up the next morning humming one of them.)
The band crammed 10 songs into their set, leaving little time for banter but plenty for Jacquie's irresistible on-stage persona to make itself very clear. Let me be plain: the woman is sexy and adorable at the same time, knows how to look like a rock star, plays a mean guitar, and sings just as well. Other than, well, watching Jacquie, the set's highlights included "The Slo" and "Battle Royale," both off the band's self-released and self-titled debut album (2009). And both, like all their songs, are quite a bit better live. I gotta go see this group more often. You probably do too.
Hollerado may have played more times this past week than any other (8), and they even hosted their own event, the "Nacho House" daytime affair on the Audio Blood headquaters rooftop. The band's trade is catchy pop-rock and energetic live shows. This time around, the band only played about 5 tunes, but they made them count with mid-song rock jams and even a couple semi-spontaneous vocal guests (Jacquie Neville and friend Claudia Tavernese) who helped out during a great rendition of "Juliette." The set began with one of their best, "Americanarama," which grabbed my attention right away (the official video stars Dave Foley). The band's appeal is clear, but the jam sessions later in the set drove me to the window. That, and this reviewer can only take so much straight-up hooky pop.
[Pete Nema] Hollerado is easily one of my favourite rock bands, and it's not just because of their infectious music, it also has a lot to do with the way they present and handle themselves, both in person and on the internet. These are the guys that made party size trays of nachos for a rooftop full of people the next day. These are the guys that, in the past, spent time illustrating a stack of Dixie cups to hand out to their fans at the Horseshoe so they could join them for a shot. They even hand-packed each and every one of their Record In A Bag CDs in little baggies with confetti and other prizes. We have more on Hollerado coming up: I saw Hollerado again the next night, and Natalia Buia interviewed the band at the Nacho House.
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Video: Juliette, Americanarama
The Meligroves have been slowly working on a new album for a long time now. Their last effort was 2006's Planets Conspire. That was a while ago, but it was so good that the group never entirely disappeared from the Canadian musical landscape. And now a follow-up, Shimmering Lights, is in the can and awaiting a fall release. Did you get that? Meligrove Band has a new album coming out!
The band, now a four-piece including old-timers Jason Nunes (lead vocals, guitar), Darcy Rego (percussion), and Mike Small (bass), and newer member Brian O'Reilly (synth, guitar), performed mostly new songs Wednesday. The sun had gone down, and the event space had filled up a bit with enthusiastic fans, industry folk, and media types. The band began things right, with "Everyone's a Winner," before offering up a few new songs. Violinist Randy Lee was on hand to help out on group's new single, "Halflight," a great version of "Ages and Stages," and some others. The newer songs sounded messier than my favourites from their last album. I came away not quite sure what to make of what I heard: some songs (mostly old, including "Our Love Will Make the World Go Round") were great, while others didn't quite do it for me, at least not this first time around. But I'm willing to blame unfamiliarity. I'll have to go see the band perform their new material in regular settings and get myself their album in September.
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Video: Everyone's A Winner