• 2012.03.23 - Saul Williams, Cadence Weapon @ The Great Hall

    27 mars 2012, 0h10m

    Fri 23 Mar – Saul Williams, Cadence Weapon, Spoek Mathambo, The Battle of Santiago

    Given the amount of bitching I've done about how late shows get started in Toronto, you'd think that (finally) moving into the city would mean that I'd be out every single night. Instead, living a 45-minute walk in the opposite direction from where those shows happen means that, by the time I get home from work most nights, I can't be bothered slogging back downtown to some shitty pub for 10:00. 40, you son of a bitch, I can feel you getting closer with each passing day.

    Anyway, it hasn't been nine months of cultural void since that Aretha Franklin show. The Gord Grdina Trio with Mats Gustafsson put on a blisteringly loud show at the Music Gallery last summer that was, all things considered, probably too much for the space until they reined it in a little ten or fifteen minutes into the set. Grdina's group was an interesting discovery, and I'm always up for more Gustafsson, so the jazz festival didn't end up being a complete triumph of corporate flatulence... yay, positivity!

    A bit further into my stay downtown, I finally got to see Sons of Otis, too, and while they didn't blow my mind, they splashed around the thick, gloppy grooves that I had been hoping for and seemed to be pretty nice guys on a chatting-with-the-audience front, too. Dark Castles were also on that bill, and I could have done without two-thirds of the vocals, but if they ever go on a laryngitis tour, I'm there.

    That's about it for the catching-up material, I think. I tried to see Oval when they rolled through town last fall, but showed up at the ol' Gallery to find a "SOLD OUT, BOZO, WHY DIDN'T YOU PRE-BOOK A TICKET WITH THAT FANCY MEMBERSHIP OF YOURS?" sign on the door. An old classmate might very well have been on the bill for a large group performance there not too terribly long ago, too, but it was scheduled for two days after the ol' membership expired, and who wants to pay twenty bucks just to see if they might know the bassoon player in the group?

    So... Canadian Music Fest. SXSW had barely slipped out of the news when our own world-class "me too!" event clogged the streets and streetcars with wristbanded drinkers. (Bring it on, premature curmudgeonliness!) Who knows what good industry events are for a band's career these days, but at least CMF ("Cleanse Mold Fanipulate"?) brings a decent roster of international talent into the city for the better part of a week. A lazy dinner with some good company saw me stumbling into the place about a song and a half from the end of Cadence Weapon's set, and he was just as impressive as his recordings would make you think. Charisma, noisy backing material, and an Expos hat... the guy's good, to the point that even my teeny-tiny show date who probably hasn't bought a CD since high school wanted to know more. Next time, I want to show up in time for the whole set.

    Thirty minutes later, Spoek Mathambo's international groove armada pretty much lit the place on fire. Technical problems abounded, but that didn't actually convince the Toronto crowd to be its usual immobile, texting self... people were going absolutely nuts for the group, and with good reason. Holy energy, generosity of spirit, and all-around fun. People who joke about Saul Williams kicking their asses and/or make ass-shaking Joy Division covers need to be heard more often... so what the heck, I'm going to embed a video (not of the Joy Division song) now. Shill! Shill! Shill!

    Speaking of generosity, Williams was apparently cool with letting the Mathambo gang play over their allotted 40 minutes or so, so CX Kidtronik didn't get to start confusing/alienating the crowd until about a quarter past midnight. Now don't get me wrong... I adore the guy, and he's as much the reason I was there that night as Williams or Pemberton, but his warm-up act seemed to consist of playing 30-second snippets of random songs and adding some thudding electronic accompaniment while three guys in the audience who were determined to Dance Real Hard waved their arms and irritated everyone around them. So... not the greatest start that a set has ever had. I'm also not completely sold on Williams' latest album, which feels like somebody encouraged him to make the most of the cringeworthy bits of his repertoire to date (especially the singing), but at least he comes across as being genuinely into it. Also, say what you will about the guy, he's willing to throw a million ideas at the wall and run with each of them at least briefly. Last Friday, the one that really worked was being backed up by a trombone and a proper drummer along with CXK's sputtering machines. "DNA" and "Black Stacey" with halfway soul-horn edges was tremendously impressive stuff — right up there with the effects-treated cello back when he was touring prior to the release of Amethyst Rock Star — and I'd pay good money for an entire show of that sort of stuff. It didn't all work, mind you, but the stuff that did made me glad to have been there when it happened, and it's impossible not to marvel at the range of people who will show up to see the man perform.

    UP NEXT: Thomas frickin' Dolby comes to town next Monday. I'm just about peeing myself with excitement already.
  • 2011.06.24 - Aretha Franklin @ Metro Square

    25 juin 2011, 5h32m

    Fri 24 Jun – Aretha Franklin

    Leave it to a bank to kick off a music festival with a contemptuous dick in the ass of 90% of the people in the audience. On the off chance that the organizers weren't being condescending fuckers, though, some advice for the future: if you want to put on a show for a couple of hundred people in a tent, do that, and do it anywhere you damn well please; if, on the other hand, you'd rather stack opening night with a show that will draw 10,000+ people, then perhaps you should do it somewhere where huge tents and trees won't keep most of the audience from seeing a blessed thing. (Hint: Metro Square, rammed full of tents, is not that place.)

    Where to start with the list of logistical boners on display tonight? Advertising a free show at 8:30 on a Friday night sounds pretty good... until you get there and find out that you're expected to watch on it a big TV. And that there are a million tents and barriers set up between the street and said TV, which pretty much railroads anyone who wants to see anything through one of two very narrow corridors up to the front. And that, because of the tents, you didn't see the thousands of people who were already there, and who are now pissed that more and more people are trying to crowd into an area that's already full. And that, before the show starts, you'll get to listen to autofellatory speeches from TD Bank's director of marketing and the CEO of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (who, to his credit, ditched his cue cards when he was roundly booed as he took the stage). And then be thrilled as Sponsor #3 gives away a watch to some random person in the tent. And then clap and cheer as CityTV's rent-a-dress can't even be bothered to know the name of the unexpected (and entirely unnecessary) opening act... though, in her defence, said act only hucked up an hour of empty, ossified "blues". (Note to band: When you play "What's Going On" without actually trying to make a point, you're letting us all know that you're just on stage to warble, pose and trade tired licks. Also, fuck off.) Oh, and then there was an intermission. Did we mention that all of the washrooms in the area were closed?

    By 9:45, a full third of the crowd was wandering around with a look of "I can't see a thing, and when is this concert actually going to start?" on their faces. Shortly after 10:00, the band and back-up singers were on the stage, but if you hadn't been sardined up front for about two hours, you pretty much got to hear the drums, some muddy bass, and indistinct vocals. Had the sound guy drunk himself to death in despair as the Blues Angels decided that they needed to do a plodding encore? Aretha Franklin came out to much hooting and stamping of feet, but after a couple of songs and several vantage points, two things were clear: first, that the sound blew just about everywhere; and second, that, no matter how professional a singer she might be, Franklin is well past her prime now. I'll likely be on eBay tomorrow, cherry-picking her years on Atlantic, but by 10:20, I was already heading for the train station... a disappointing end to a mostly frustrating day.
  • 2011.06.18 - Devo @ Yonge & Dundas Square

    20 juin 2011, 3h27m

    Sat 18 Jun – NXNE Showcase: Devo

    Devo has always been one of those bands that never quite grabbed me like I thought they should have, which is weird. They're my first memory of music that wasn't just something I heard on the radio in the car with my parents — I think I've still got a tape of some CIUT top-whatever countdown show from the fifth grade somewhere — and there were a couple of intriguing tapes in the glove box of an ex's car, but they never quite clicked for me. Their Nine Inch Nails cover got me to buy the embarrassing Supercop soundtrack but got old really fast, and... well, I guess I do really enjoy the song they did for that Dell commercial. The love's never been there, though, and it probably should have been.

    Last night, being a free show, seemed like as good a time as any to rectify the situation. Sure, there would probably be a nasty-large crowd to contend with, but the killer P.A. that's usually in place for shows there would mean that we could retreat across the street if need be. Also, CityTV was running some ridiculous movie about a bear (UPDATE: It was Grizzly Falls!) on their colossal video screen, and the action occasionally synced up with the music quite well. And what do you know? The crowd wasn't awful... just big, but mostly pretty mellow in the back third.

    Performance-wise, it was about what you'd expect from an act with 30+ years of history behind them: a couple of (relatively) new songs to get things started and then a stream of old favourites to keep people excited. All the hits were there, the stuff that hadn't really excited me during the cursory listen I gave "Something for Everybody" came across really well in concert, and even some of the old songs were surprisingly punchy after all these years. It wasn't all good news — "Whip It"'s vocals were pretty lifeless — but the good far outweighed the bad, and did I mention that it was free? Some dancing even happened before it was done, though not so much that my neck wants me dead today. Just enough, in fact, that I seriously considered hopping on a bus to see them again in Burlington this afternoon, but in the end, my fear of Burlington won out. Mustn't surrender to the madness altogether. In any event, great job, old guys! I'm very likely going to buy one of your records this week.

    PS: If anybody's interested, there's already some official footage of the show up on YouTube. I'd embed it here, but there's some baleful "sharing on Facebook and Twitter only" boilerplate and it wouldn't do to run afoul of the Smart Patrol.
  • 2011.06.10 - Dublab: Tonalism @ The Music Gallery

    19 juin 2011, 22h17m

    Fri 10 Jun – Tonalism

    It's been ages since I've been to an all-night/bazillions-of-musicians event of any sort, and I hang responsibility entirely on my recent tendency to fall asleep at 9:00 PM. Getting older sucks, and I encourage you to avoid it if you can.

    Thankfully, the weather was fairly pleasant when I got off work for the afternoon, so a quick walk around the city stuffed my bag full of CDs that I'd been meaning to hear for a while, stuffed my guts full of pretty-good burrito, and found me outside the Music Gallery at about the same time as the security dude for the night showed up. A short wait later, I was inside, chatting with a recent arrival in the city from London who knows his Steve Reich a whole lot better than I do. For whatever reason, I almost never talk to people at shows, and it was a nice change to have someone to chat with for a bit.

    Musically, things were pretty varied. Sure, the DJs blended together in the background, though the occasional screech or blurp would poke its way through the conversation to demand your attention for a moment. Up on the courtyard stage, Wallace Halladay was the first one to play a note, accompanying several other reeds on a backing tape with his soprano sax and sounding, to my ears, a lot like Clarinet Thing. He was, as it turns out, playing some kind of Reich composition, which lets you know how much I know about 20th-century minimalists, but I'm keen to learn more... the piece ended on a really bright, uplifting note and Halladay seemed like a good guy, too.

    Somebody familiar-looking set up a MacBook Pro and started making noise about twenty minutes later, but he was driven inside by drizzle and, honestly, didn't stand out from the DJs in the least. Coming back from a sandwich run a bit later, I found that Isla Craig and Colin Fisher (who I didn't recognize at first without his big ol' beard) had started a droney yoga/meditation set that would normally have put me right to sleep, but on a cool(ing) night outside, it turned out to be a really nice accompaniment to lying in the grass and enjoying the weather.

    GuSHee... I'm a bit more ambivalent about. They took a while to get their gear strung together, and while they were doing it, the iPhone-photo-blogging crowd took up position right in front of the stage and wouldn't let anyone see much more than their asses and beer bottles. When the duo (Insideamind's Professor Fingers and some woman I didn't recognize) got started, their microKorg improv was perfectly decent head-nodding stuff, but nobody's mind was blown wide open. Is it petty of me to be mildly annoyed by the DoRkY cApSiNg in their name? Probably, but at least the preening teenagers went inside to lick the sandwich trays clean when the set was over.

    And then, finally, in the last half-hour before the city drove everyone inside, I finally got to see Not The Wind, Not The Flag in person. They got started with Colin Fisher on drums and Brandon Valdivia on kalimba and looping pedal and actually kicked up a pretty solid free-jazz clatter. (It's unfair, incidentally, for Fisher to be such a competent-to-excellent player on so many different instruments... the rest of the world should at least get a crack at some of that talent.) About fifteen minutes in, they switched places, with Valdivia beginning to pound the everloving hell out of the kit and Fisher picking up his guitar to howl holes in everyone's faces, and there was much ecstatic fire. Everyone in the neighbourhood who wasn't there, you got to hear the best bits of the night for free.

    Things headed inside, where the pews in the church had been dragged around into a funky diamond-patterned layout and coloured whizziness was being projected every which way on the walls. Had I not had to show up for work the next morning, it probably would have been a lot of fun to wrap up in a blanket, lay a pillow down on a pew somewhere and zone out for a couple of hours, but the train home beckoned and so I presumably missed out on a whackload of blunted beats from California. Stupid part-time job.
  • 2011.05.07 - Baby Dee @ The Music Gallery

    19 juin 2011, 19h24m

    Sat 7 May – Baby Dee, Wyrd Visions

    This was one of those nights where somebody in Promoterland had clearly dropped the ball. The show wasn't listed on the Music Gallery's site until a few days beforehand, and whoever it was that was supposed to be handling the ticket sales didn't have a blessed thing on theirs. Two dozen people still managed to show up, but that's criminal for a Saturday night.

    So, after giving any hypothetical stragglers an extra ten or fifteen minutes to stumble in, Wyrd Visions started his woozy set of looped guitar and vocals that reminded me for all the world of Tim Renner's Mourning Cloak... nice and spacey, and probably capable of turning your tiny little mind inside-out with the help of even the slightest bit of sleep deprivation. Definitely a name that I'll be looking out for on future bills.

    Baby Dee was also in top form, which was pretty admirable considering the pathetic crowd she had to play to. After several trio sets in Toronto, it was nice to see her playing with a slightly larger band — the episode-prone Binky was still there on cello, plus greatly-appreciated percussion in the shape of Jon Steinmeier (when do temple blocks and glockenspiel not make everything sound better?), and sometimes-wobbly support on tuba and bassoon from a third guy I didn't know — that was able to bring a bigger and entirely more unhinged sound when the songs demanded it... and, happily, they absolutely demanded it by the halfway mark. The new record was news to me, but a magnificently varied performance of "The Pie Song" was all it took to sell a copy to pretty much everybody in the room. Seriously, go and find a copy of Regifted Light and tell me that it doesn't feature one of the greatest four-line songs ever written.

    Anyway, the usual flurry of melodrama, raunch, sadness, sudden outbursts of laughter and songs that more people should have sung along with ensued, and I'm already wondering when she'll be back in town again... seriously one of the best entertainment prospects going these days. Next time, promoters, do your fucking jobs.
  • It's music-movie time!

    13 mars 2011, 18h31m

    There's been a disproportionate number of music documentaries grabbing my attention lately, and this is probably as good a place as any to tell y'all why you should check them out.

    THE AGONY AND THE ECSTASY OF PHIL SPECTOR: I will always be a sucker for Phil Spector's arrangements. I adore several of the better girl groups from the '60s, and even a couple of their more obvious follow-ups in the present day (Kinoko Hotel, The Milkees, etc.). I even think that Tina Turner and Spector together are about as close as it's possible for music to come to the divine. None of this makes me generous enough to read some of the director's fawning annotations to the music as anything but the work of the smart-but-lame sort of kid who probably edited your high-school yearbook. The CourtTV material was really tacky (and, having been shot on video, butt-ugly), too, which gave the movie an uneven and biased feel, but there's just so much incredible music on display that it's hard not to recommend the thing. Hell, it even makes John Lennon come off as being a pretty good guy with some interesting ideas, and there's a brilliant knife in the guts of Brian Wilson's songwriting abilities about halfway through that still makes me smile.

    SYNTH BRITANNIA: Being in elementary school when most of the stuff was happening for the first time, it's kind of hard to appreciate what a direct line can be drawn between, say, Cabaret Voltaire and Depeche Mode, but this odd little BBC documentary lays out pretty plainly how one thing led to another. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense that enjoying stuff like Gary Numan and Visage could very easily grow out of digging Throbbing Gristle's queasy homemade electronics, and it's really cool to see them given equal time on TV today. That said, not all of the interviews are anywhere near that balanced: there's a crapton of The Human League drowning out the thirty seconds or so of the Pet Shop Boys, and Thomas Dolby is nowhere to be seen. Still, if you want to wonder how somebody convinced Richard H. Kirk to walk around the grubbier bits of Sheffield looking pensive for the camera, here's your chance.

    CURE FOR PAIN: THE MARK SANDMAN STORY: Morphine was one of the names that I scribbled down in the dark when I was listening to Brave New Waves instead of going to bed during high school. To this day, I still haven't bought anything other than a copy of "Cure for Pain", but man, have I listened to that disc a lot. I've never spent much time with music magazines and their compressed biographies, either, so most of the material in this picture was news to me. It's mostly about the concert footage, though, so even when it's making the point that Sandman's father didn't think much of his music for the fifth time, there's another great song all of a minute away. It also reminds you of how atrocious streamed video looked in the '90s, and what an abomination it is that that's as good as archival material gets for a lot of that decade.

    PS: You'd think that the Bell TIFF Lightbox would have a frickin' payphone somewhere on the premises, wouldn't you? You would be entirely, optimistically wrong, and that's ridiculous.
  • 2011.02.19 - Rasputina @ Lee's Palace

    20 fév. 2011, 16h47m

    Sat 19 Feb – Rasputina, Brown Bird

    Last night was like a masterclass in how not to start an evening. Dinner was unremarkable and slightly too big, and a horrible woman — think Sara Gilbert, crossed with a beluga whale, talking out of her blowhole — brayed at her boyfriend about his taste in movies the entire time. Walking back down the street, the strummy-folky-whatever-with-a-beard Brown Bird had been replaced as openers by the homegrown buzzkill of Ariel (still not the band described here, still no big loss). They were cheesy when they opened for The Legendary Pink Dots a couple of years ago, and without a bass player last night, they were cheesy and disorganized. Yay.

    Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the late start times of shows in Toronto? "DOORS AT 9PM" is one of my least favourite things to see on a ticket, because it means that nobody will be anywhere near the stage until at least 10:00, which means that even a 40-minute set by the opening band will probably put the headliners on at eleven-something, which then makes for a panicked dash for the last train at the best of times. Factor in an opening band that has to light candles and pile Bombay Co. tchotchkes on every available horizontal surface to "set the mood", and that's a panicked dash for the train that starts halfway through the headliners' set. Thanks, guys! PS: It's even harder to take your tosspot exoticism seriously when the Japanese word for "urine" is belted out phonetically halfway through your last bit of foreign-language yodelling.

    After an awfully long wait considering that they really only had to tune a couple of cellos, find the drummer's mallets and make sure that one another's cheeks were appropriately rouged, Rasputina finally got going just after 11:30. The affected banter between songs would probably get old if I saw them regularly, but considering how much their wonderfully odd sound brightened the room almost immediately, I actually found lines like "I just can't stop thinking and writing about feral children" kind of charming. There were a couple of less-than-ideal moments (mostly the crackling mic that Sound Guy said they steadfastly refused to replace and whoever felt the need to shout out a request for "Transylvanian Concubine" all of two songs into the set), but the thirty-five minutes or so that I got to see of them were lively and fun and, most importantly, didn't require earplugs. Not everyone would necessarily turn to songs about tragic accidents and cannibalism as a way to kick off a long weekend, but performed that well by a band with their own sound, I think it all turned out okay.
  • 2011.01.23 - Hélène Grimaud @ Koerner Hall

    25 jan. 2011, 1h57m

    Sun 23 Jan – Hélène Grimaud

    You kind of forget, going to shows in grubby pubs with horrifying bathroom stalls, that there are concert halls out there with custom-designed acoustic baffles, lighting that isn't always blue and red, and maybe even chi-chi washbasins with soap dispensers that get refilled once in a while. Get your sister to buy you a ticket for Christmas and you, too, can spend an afternoon in one. (Thanks, sis!)

    That's what I did yesterday, trekking downtown to see the world's most expensive piano recital. It didn't start out all that auspiciously — the usual thank-the-sponsors bit got sidetracked by snobby, self-congratulatory "Art is so much more important than *shudder* football!" talk — but once the talking head gave way to an actual performer, things got much better. For one thing, she had really shiny buckles on her shoes, and who doesn't like buckles?

    Being one of the least-qualified people alive to comment on classical performances, I'm sure there were countless subtleties to the program that were completely lost on me. It was pretty much impossible, however, to miss just how much Hélène Grimaud laid into the piano at times, or how well the hall's acoustics carried her laboured breathing at least as far as the fifth row. She's had her health issues over the years, but this mostly came across as seriously intense playing. Liszt's half-hour "Piano Concerto in B minor" didn't entirely overwhelm my teeny attention span, which is a feat all by itself, but it was the way she blazed through the Bartók that really grabbed me (by the throat). After the requisite walking off and back on to the stage to rapturous applause — a conceit of the artsy world that's even worse than rock-band encores — she barely acknowledged the presence of the audience before laying the smack down on the keyboard. I don't know how danceable those Romanian folk dances were as a result, but they were palpable, physical things and it felt like the last notes should have been pounded out with a fist. And that, folks, is the sort of playing that justifies a seventy-dollar ticket price.

    Oddly enough, I'm listening to her latest CD (which is all the same material as yesterday's program) right now, but where a lot of it is fairly bright in the high end, the Steinway on stage didn't travel nearly as well as Grimaud's rasping. I don't know if that was the fault of the room or the instrument — there was someone out on stage during the intermission prodding at it and checking the tuning — but the possible technical issues just make it that much clearer what a powerful performance we got. Seriously, sister o' mine, many thanks.
  • 2010.12.31 - catl @ Lee's Palace

    1 jan. 2011, 22h01m

    Fri 31 Dec – Elliott Brood, CATL, Bradley Boy

    People kind of suck. In large numbers, tanked, convinced that it's time to celebrate something or other, they're fucking intolerable. You'd think that I'd remember the proud tradition of singing all the way home on the GO train (through repeated calls to shut the hell up from other riders), but no... both it and the fact that the 12:45 train out of the city had been delayed by 45 minutes to allow the most drunken asshats possible on board had slipped my mind. If anybody knows how to wipe those memories from my head, please get in touch.

    Anyway, the show. Bradley Boy got started in front of a largely empty house at 9:15 and wrecked shop. I don't know if the good-ol'-boy drawl is affected or not, but he's the best one-man-band I've seen in ages. A close-mic'd stomp providing all the bass whallop a guy with a guitar could ever really need, yowled vocals that probably push the mic just a tiny bit too far (to good effect), and some simple stories. He was fantastic and I want to record him live at some point, if only because I can't imagine anything he'd produce in a studio being anywhere near that powerful.

    Catl were impressive when I saw them about a year and a half back, and they've only gotten better since then. Like what I suspect about Bradley Boy, their two albums don't convey terribly well just how big they sound in person, and they're particularly let down by the clarity of the backing vocals. Blown out on stage, the two singers' voices blur together brilliantly, as do the raw guitar and simple organ lines, and the drumming never calls any unnecessary attention to itself. It's all basic, raucous, rough-and-tumble racket that deserves every last hop off of the stool that it seems to generate from guitar-and-vocals dude. So far and away my favourite local band since moving back to Canada.

    And then there were the headliners. I didn't know a blessed thing about Elliott BROOD prior to showing up, but they came out sporting twice as many fedoras as any other act on the bill, so... um... authenticity? Yeah. Anyway, they were evidently the big draw of the night and there was lots of excited dancing and singing along on the floor. They rocked a similar indie-country-whatever vibe to the others, though it was cleaner, perkier and in a major key a bit more often; if it's hard to call catl a blues band, it's flat-out impossible to say that of the Brood. Aside from a looping instrumental number with a neat deep backing track that they played just before midnight, they didn't make much of an impression, but they're clearly professionals who are comfortable on stage and at least one of them has a voice that I can see working really well in a variety of other contexts.

    Come midnight, the usual countdown and enforced jubilation happened, and after being repeatedly high-fived by strangers, I got the hell out. Got a nice party hat from some random woman on the way back to the station, only to pass it on to the first guy who complimented me on it all of a minute later. GO train nonsense followed soon thereafter, and it was really nice to get home and fall asleep at 3:00 or so. Happy 2011, everyone... it's bound to be colossally different from 2010. I'm going to go and see if anybody was killed by a falling lighting rig at the Horseshoe now.
  • 2010.12.17 - Ultimate Indie Showcase @ The Opera House

    19 déc. 2010, 2h23m

    I know, I know... "showcase" is another one of those watchwords, stinking of bands who want to "make it" and bored A&R types who show up for the free drinks. When a co-worker says "Hey, my band is playing a showcase this Friday... can you come out to support us?", though, all I can think of is how awesome it was to have a co-worker or a handful of students show up for my concerts once upon a time, and at that point, my Friday night is pretty much written for me.

    For the most part, the names don't matter. Wandering inside at 7:00 — after being asked for ID and thoroughly patted down; is any other venue in the city as pointlessly paranoid as the Opera House? — some generic radio-popper was already grinding around to an unremarkable backing track and, aside from every song she introduced being "her favourite" in some way, I don't remember a blessed thing about her set. Plenty of competent-but-forgettable acts followed, and with only one or two exceptions, nothing has stayed with me beyond the names that they almost certainly list as influences in their press kits: one probably really digs Faith No More (and, to be honest, I do remember them making balloon animals before going onstage); another would likely be disappointed to see that Living Colour was already recording most of their set when they were starting grade school; still another was like an amalgam of '70s hard-rock sounds with a singer who was, until the last song or two, consistently a quarter-tone flat; yet another probably sounded like some metalcore act I've never heard of, and who I'd probably like well enough if they'd muzzle their singers. Like I said, though, the names are pretty much gone.

    Two of them, however, have stayed with me. Leaving on Tuesday stuck because... well, partly because it's the height of pretension to give yourself an abstract band name when you're just a guy with a guitar. (To his credit, he didn't refer to himself in the third person or as "we".) The lion's share of it, though, is that he played the sort of aggressively douchebaggy, "my girlfriend is so pretty" pap that sells by the bucketload to divorced middle-aged women and/or teenage girls, and it's hard not to hate that it probably gets him laid like nobody's business. Anyway, after yelping out his third or fourth "you're perfect just the way you are" monstrosity, I was daydreaming about someone drilling him in the temple with a can of tuna, and when I looked up — RELIEF! — he was gone.

    The other name that stuck, Inner City Elegance, was that co-worker's band and, no lie, they were pretty good. The recorded material on their MySpace page and the like sounded pretty flat and pop-centric, but they blazed through a half-hour set of solid, energetic rawk that, okay, won't likely bring the songwriting world to its knees, but they were a damn sight better than anything else I heard last night. The next step, guys, is a well-recorded live album. And at next year's Christmas party, Bruno will be singing the Queen songs instead of me and four other tone-deaf schmucks.