Indie Week Report Card: The Elwins @ The Hideout 76%

The Elwins Indie Week

Matthew Allan, October 11, 2012

The Elwins Indie Week

Sound 4/5

The indie pop stylings of Toronto’s The Elwins have gained the band some high profile opening slots for bands such as The Arkells and Tokyo Police Club, high praise for being early in their career. Their sound owes equally to The Beatles, Belle and Sebastian and Born Ruffians. I can’t wait to hear when they extend beyond the “b” artists on their iPods.  

Performance 3/5

The Elwins are certainly tight, their songs are pretty good, and they look to be enjoying themselves onstage. However, something felt lacking in their performance. Though it was not enough to stop them from making the females in the audience swoon.

Professionalism 4/5

There is very little to complain about with this band. They took the stage, smiled like the cute kids they are, and performed their songs with an appropriate amount of enthusiasm and luster.

Aesthetic 4/5

Ridiculous mustaches, cardigan sweaters, and fluorescent shades of guitars – the Elwins look like the younger brothers of so many successful indie bands.

Authenticity 4/5

They seem so innocent – like pulling a flask from your pocket or sparking a joint in the vicinity of these young gentlemen may prompt a well-rehearsed scolding. Luckily, The Elwins aren’t vying for rock and roll bad-assery, so you should have thought twice before trying to pass the dutchie in the first place.

Overall 19/25


Indie Week Report Card: Silvergun and Spleen @ Cherry Cola’s 86%

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Myles Herod October 12, 2012
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Sound 4.5/5

Merv, Vern, Johnny and Chris make up the raucous outfit known as Silvergun and Spleen, harbouring crunchy riffs, breakneck beats and an affection for glam attire. Made up as twins, both girls (also sisters) the two resembled a Bowie meets Gwen Stafani pastiche, thrashing Mick Ronson licks with a sexy punk vivaciousness that confronted you up front and centre.

Performance 4.5/5

Rock ‘n’ roll. Heals perched, mic stand bent forward, two hands clasped overtop, lead singer Merv brought it with her black-rimmed glasses and pulled back beehive-meets-Mohawk do. Ditto for Vern, shameless in her power chord stance, fashioning her Gibson SG like a galactic punk princess, converse shoes and legwarmers included. Both gentlemen were equally wild-eyed too, specifically the inspired drumming, complimenting the riffage with crashes and booms like a party animal.

Professionalism 4/5

Cherry Cola’s sensual red ambience only accentuated Silvergun and Spleen’s set, taking the excited crowd into their universe of boisterous space babes and a dynamite aural assault. For their last song, Merv riled the crowed for a call and response, yelling, “What’s up with that?!” allowing the audience to retort with, “Are you on crack?!” The party never ended.

Aesthetic 4.5/5

It was hard to take your eyes off both sisters. Their wardrobes were slick and fresh while their playing was fuzzed-out and explosive. The two males on the other hand played it relatively safe stylistically, although the drummer was decked out in suspenders and a bowtie.

Authenticity 4/5

Lets put it this way – Silvergun and Spleen were like cheerleaders who kicked the high school band off stage, winning over the audience with their style and attitude. They literally grabbed you by the throat. They sang. They strutted. They were theatric. It wasn’t hard to surrender and go along for the journey.

Overall: 21.5/ 25

Photography by: Myles Herod

Indie Week Report Card: West Hammock @ Annex Live 66%

west hammock

Erin Fahy October 11, 2012
west hammock 
Sound: 3.5/5

This two-piece surprised me; an accordion and acoustic guitar? As bizarre as that sounds, it worked like chocolate and peanut butter. West Hammock’s blend the Celtic-like tones of the accordion with the chill guitar strumming and excellent set of pipes in a great harmony; it’s like Jason Mraz by way of Newfoundland. The vocalist achieved an Eddie Vedder rasp-iness without losing his own voice.

Performance: 3.5/5

Understated, they were very relaxed and had great banter with the crowd. Their two covers were awesome.

Professionalism: 3/5

The guitarist broke a string and capably carried on with a minor adjustment. The two guys worked well together and seemed very relaxed together.

Aesthetic: 2.5/5

Fratboy chic. From California.

Authenticity: 4/5

While their sound is fresh and a great blend of two things I grew up on (Celtic and Folk music), it was the obvious joy they got out of playing that spoke to me. Their relaxed and happy vibe flowed into the crowd and I know I enjoyed the band more because of this. This is a band ideal for those summer days on the dock. I hope to hear more of them!

Total: 16.5/25

Indie Week Report Card: The Futureless @ Nocturne 72%

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Sheena Lyonnais October 11, 2012
thefutureless 

Sound 4/5

Toronto’s the Futureless harness Pulp influences, turning them into a magnifying and electric combination of frantic energy. The duo is two parts vocalists, one part synths and one part guitar, together creating a lot of noise for a small act. An endless groove, the Futureless can definitely make an audience sway. I was transfixed.

Performance 3/5

Dynamite. Mic stands were knocked down while loud human-made drum beats complimented panicky guitars. The audience was sub par – a crying shame considering the band travelled all this way to deliver a killer performance to essentially no one. They played like it was packed, true soldiers through the muck.

Professionalism 4/5

What lacked in audience was made up in enthusiasm by the band’s ability to deliver a solid set. Well rehearsed and fueled with lasers and grime, the band handled themselves on stage like true professionals, never letting their disappointment with the lack of crowd show. A few straggled media sipping cheap Jack Daniels and a couple judges sprinkled here and there, a small gathering gifted with a large show.

Aesthetic 3/5

Great look complimented by the projection of the performance in the background, a welcome and complimentary characteristic via the venue. These guys were cool, calm and collected like a ghost. A nonchalance that suited a duo that is clearly influenced by the sounds of New York.

Authenticity 4/5

With music so ethereal, it was hard not to feel lost to the Futureless.

TOTAL: 18/25

CORRECTION: We originally reported that the Futureless were from Brooklyn, but they’re actually from here in Toronto. We got confused and apologize for the error. They do, however, play Brooklyn quite often.

Indie Week Report Card: Ashley Robertson @ Cameron House 70%

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Myles Herod October 11, 2012
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Sound  3.5/5

Ashley Robertson took the stage at Queen Street’s Cameron House like a yearning prairie rose. Strumming and picking her way on an acoustic, a clenched set of teeth remained a constant visual – each word chirping from the curl of her lips – a facial contortion reminiscent of Joanna Newsom’s similar stage delivery.  Aided by a bass player who provided some bottom, Robertson’s forlorn ballads hit every broken hearted checkpoint, with the question of love and longing a recurring motif. Her spirit was bright, even if the twang inflection of her pleads were ‘too cute’ some of the time. To be fair, though, the Winnipeg native did cite Nashville as her newly appointed stomping grounds.     

Performance 3/5

With her feet barely leaving the parameter of her shadow, Robertson’s petite presence did offer a hefty voice, reaching highs when necessary, and softly swaying like a wheat field breeze in other instances. Met with cheers upon every finish, she sustained attention as a lovesick, starry-eyed songstress, repetitive material or not.

Professionalism 4/5

Talk was forthcoming, introducing herself, her bass player, and even a song of hers that appeared in this year’s critically acclaimed indie film Compliance. Extra indie kudos for Robertson! Although it was a quiet affair, her heart was big, which was equally met by a loving audience.

Aesthetic 3.5/5

Draped in an emerald silk blouse, smoky eyes and shoulder length locks covering one side of her face, Roberston’s look was simple, yet fetching.  In combination with her voice, it made for a girl who came to indie week not looking to make fans on beauty, but her sound.

Authenticity 3.5/5

You can’t fault Robertson for being honest. With the conclusion of nearly each song, her love of bluegrass echoed at any instance- bouncy, yet bashful – like a young girl newly in love – and rightfully so – Robertson brought it as much as she preached it. Light on energy, Robertson and Co. still managed to solidify the archetype of polite southern charm within a darkened corner of Cameron House with a guitar and love songs.

Overall: 17.5/25

Indie Week Report Card: Shawn Clarke @ Cameron House 70%

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Myles Herod October 11, 2012
shawn-clarke 

Sound  4/5

The second act to grace the stage of The Cameron House on Thursday night, Shawn Clarke came with a song bag full of influences and throwaway lyrics. His off the cuff introduction, “let’s start off with a lil’ whimsy” may have sounded a tad too assured, but, in fact, it was exactly what he fulfilled. In hindsight, it wasn’t a bad thing either. Serenading his mic, eyes closed, like a last goodbye to a lover, Clarke’s lyrics evoked Ontario travels, tribulations and plain ol’ good times. Begin? Perhaps. Channeling McCartney era “Blackbird” with his inspired picking, he glided confidently and composed, like a singer who couldn’t have cared less about his penchant for postcard folk pop.

Performance 3.5/5

With default applause, Clarke positioned himself well as a lone man with his guitar, fighting the dark stage with his clean delivery and light-as-a-feather ditties. He captivated best he could, clearly dedicated to his craft, stepping back from his mic at times to bob his head, strum, and lose himself in his self-imposed groove.

Professionalism 3.5/5

A storyteller through and through, any performer who can earnestly dedicate himself to odes referencing “the noises of Dundas Square” and “just one night in old London town” deserves respect for sheer chutzpah. Never faltering, Clarke spoke to the audience with courtesy, creating a connection immediately.

Aesthetic 3/5

Bulky white sweater, sunburst acoustic, tastefully manicured beard and haircut, Shawn Clarke looked like a troubadour plucked out of a Portland cafe, or, err, Queen St West?

Authenticity 3.5/4

Rolling finger work that fit nicely next to Tallest Man on Earth’s earlier output, as well as the aforementioned Beatle and SOME of his acoustic excursions, Shawn Clarke remains the equivalent of Sarah Polley’s Toronto-centric indie Take This Waltz. While the craft is beautiful – sounding and looking great – it ultimately lends itself as a pleasant afterthought, hopefully with some of the silliness forgotten.

Overall: 17.5/25

Indie Week Report Card: Willy Ames @ Cameron House 54%


Willie-Ames

Myles Herod October 11, 2012
Willie-Ames 
Sound 2.5/5

The sound was big and acoustic driven, like the dark woods of Northern Ontario (even though he is an LA native). Willie Ames enticed a certain hypnotic quality, running through a succession of looped chords, casting a spell over the audience without uttering a single word. And that was only his first song, which garnered anticipation of how his voice would compare to his bold sense of musicianship. Unfortunately, it never lived up; falling flat with a monotone thud, kicked even further with inane lyrics such as “got no electricity.”

Performance 2.5/5

Ames’ guitar work began menacing enough, as he walked across the corners of the stage wielding his acoustic like a disturbed lumberjack, contemplating a final, bloody deed. Once his mouthed opened, though, his utterances muted any pervious intrigue, revealing something far less interesting – a man who simply could not sing nor match the excitement of his fretwork.

Professionalism 2.5/5

Without revealing a single word throughout his first song, it was no surprise that Ames fancied himself a travelin’ man, perhaps even a wondering spirit. “I’ve travelled the 50 states” he remarked with a brooding straightforwardness, “this marks my first international performance.” Alas, his aura was not to last. You could make an argument that his lyrics about desert delirium and man-eating coyotes were pleasantly whacked out, but ultimately ended up sounding rudimentary and embarrassing. Still, the good people of The Cameron House applauded. Perhaps out of pity.

Aesthetic 3/5

Recalling the opened faced grin of a young John Fogerty circa 1969, minus his CCR band mates, Ames’ hair was a mopish shag, a look completed by a plaid shirt and a piercing stare. Frankly, it was hard to tell if he was unsure of himself on stage or if he was suffering from drug induced flashback.

Authenticity 3/4

With a voice and collection of songs that certainly left something to be desired, Ames’ playing was intact, with a forceful urgency, even scary at times. There was a palpable magic in the air before he spared a single word. Makes one think that perhaps adding some band mates would improve upon his weaknesses, leaving him to concentrate on his strengths, and maybe affording him time to work on the rest.

Total: 13.5/ 25

TMS Indie Week Band of the Day: Silvergun and Spleen

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Toronto Music Scene October 10, 2012
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Our last pick already? It’s hard to believe this is our 40th Band of the Day. With more than 200 bands playing Indie Week, I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface. To round off our recommendations, let’s end with a band from our nation’s capitol. Silvergun and Spleen perfectly exemplify tourism Ottawa’s most brilliant campaign of, “Not all our parties are political.” This is a band that is wild and fun, but talented beyond beliefe. A co-ed concoction of energy and ferver, a word I sometimes overuse but I really do mean it this time. Sisters Merv and Vern Mallet are stylized and polished, embracing a little bit of Gwen Stefani meets Care Failure, mashed with dance, pop and rock influences, and chunky bass lines that separate them from the pack. If you’re looking for the real deal, Silvergun and Spleen are your band.

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Indie Week takes place in Toronto from October 10-14. Check out IndieWeek.com for more detailed information, ticket purchases and performance date announcements. Follow @IndieWeek on Twitter for updates.

Watch Silvergun and Spleen perform “Kiss and Tell” below.

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Sheena Lyonnais writes the Band of the Day. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ Toronto Music Scene on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @TorontoMusic.

TMS Indie Week Band of the Day: Animal Talk

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Toronto Music Scene October 9, 2012
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Dance rock fans, have you added Animal Talk to your Indie Week schedule yet? The Boston band started gaining recognition quickly after recording with Grammy-winning producer/engineer Ducky Carlisle in no small part due to their solid assembly and polished sound. Tracks such as “Can’t Dance With It” intertwine a little bit of that Boston soul into the mix, giving it layers of sound that surpass the typical, shiny dance feel. The band is playing a few shows around the north eastern part of the States before playing two Toronto performances in the same night. Twice on Friday, first at C’est What at 9pm then an Indie Week performance at The Underground Garage at 12:30am. Catch them now, because as soon as the shows are over the band is off to New York for CMJ.

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Indie Week takes place in Toronto from October 10-14. Check out IndieWeek.com for more detailed information, ticket purchases and performance date announcements. Follow @IndieWeek on Twitter for updates.

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Sheena Lyonnais writes the Band of the Day. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ Toronto Music Scene on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @TorontoMusic.

TMS Indie Week Band of the Day: The Ascot Royals

BOD-the-ascot-royals

Toronto Music Scene October 8, 2012
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Few local acts excite me more than The Ascot Royals. On stage, they’re dynamite. They captivate the crowd so well they’re the only band I’ve seen lead an enthusiastically willing audience through a rocked up version of “head and shoulders, knees and toes.” You think it sounds silly, but stop thinking that right now. This is a band that possesses musicianship most would (and should) envy. Their recordings are tight, but it doesn’t represent them. It truly is their live performances where they shine. Bringing with them a worldwide kaleidoscope of influences, The Ascot Royals feature two members from England, one from Israel and two from our home and native Ontario who together comprise the sharpest of riff-heavy dance influenced rock. They’re boundless performers from start to finish, climbing all over the stage like wild animals with the mastery of the pros. If this is your first time hearing of them, it won’t soon be your last. The band plays Saturday at the Horseshoe. You won’t regret dedicating your night to catching their show. 

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Indie Week takes place in Toronto from October 10-14. Check out IndieWeek.com for more detailed information, ticket purchases and performance date announcements. Follow @IndieWeek on Twitter for updates.

Watch The Ascot Royal’s video for “Fly Away” below.

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Sheena Lyonnais writes the Band of the Day. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Don’t forget to ‘Like’ Toronto Music Scene on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @TorontoMusic.