Tuesday, July 28, 2009

"I’ve got my rum & I’ve got my tequila, I’ve got somewhere to be"

If your last name is Fun, you better live up to it. And if you're fronting an eight-piece gang of musicians from Cape Breton, you best know how to get the feet movin' boy. A couple tracks into their debut album You Will Land With A Thud and I knew I wanted to be in any live venue where The Tom Fun Orchestra was holding court.

The Tom Fun Orchestra hail from Canada's east coast, and you can hear the Celtic-Maritimer heart pounding a beat through every song, a mix of camaraderie, pride, and joy. The TFO seems on the brink of a musical riot, with this banjo, trumpet, violin, accordion and guitars. But it just lends itself to this feeling like being at a kitchen party where everyone's brought an instrument. Everything seem nice and civil at first. There's the slow exhale of an accordion, the harmonic pairing of a violin and trumpet. Banjos and guitar join in, picking up locomotive speed, things get more boisterous, and by the time singer Tom Fun's whiskey and sandpaper voice leads the charge, the party's in full swing, you're spinning a dance with your new best friends, and barely notice nor care that your dining room set ended up in the street.

The TFO has developed a bit of a rep for a raucous live show, and you can hear that joyous din on You Will Land With A Thud. The opening track is a slow lament, “When You Were Mine”, but by the second track “Rum & Tequila”, you've turned your back on your troubles and found music to drive the feet and choruses that will have you singing back at the band. It's an album of bold music that's best heard loudly, and in good company. The song lyrics read like poetry scrawled in a yellowed note book, sometimes a rallying shout, sometimes warm comfort against cold regrets.


The Tom Fun Orchestra is closing out their summer tour with a number of dates in Southern Ontario and Montreal:

31 Jul 2009 - Montreal House - Peterborough, Ontario
1 Aug 2009 - Phog Lounge - Windsor, Ontario
3 Aug 2009 - The Casbah - Hamilton, Ontario
4 Aug 2009 - Vinyl - Guelph, Ontario
6 Aug 2009 - The Horseshoe Tavern - Toronto, Ontario
7 Aug 2009 - Merritt Park - Welland, Ontario
8 Aug 2009 - Divan Orange - Montreal, Quebec

Contest: I have a 2 tickets to The Tom Fun Orchestra at The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto on Thursday August 6th, plus a CD copy of You Will Land With A Thud.

To enter, email me at the2scoops.contests AT gmail.com with the subject line: “I want some Tom Fun”, along with your full name and email in the body. Deadline is 11:59 pm on Monday, August 3rd. Please be sure you're able to be in Toronto that night. It promises to be a great night of music with Toronto band The Coast opening – I'm always glad for a chance to hear those guys play live.

If you're a fan of kitchen parties, The Pogues, Spirit of The West or The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, or ever wondered what would have happened if Tom Waits grew up as an East Coast Canadian, check out The Tom Fun Orchestra.

Official Website: The Tom Fun Orchestra (check it out, it's pretty snazzy)

MySpace: The Tom Fun Orchestra

Mp3: Last of the Curious Thieves - The Tom Fun Orchestra

Mp3: Highway Siren Song Breakdown - The Tom Fun Orchestra

Official Website: The Coast

MySpace: The Coast

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Broken Social Scene has always been my Toronto soundtrack. Their music intersects with a lot of positive memories and stories of my life in Toronto. And the band has always shown a little extra love for the place many of them call home. When Broken Social Scene canceled their Toronto Island gig for various logistical reasons, they immediately offered up a free show as compensation. A pretty sweet treat, and the location threw me back to the last time I saw them at Harbourfront in 2004. As covered in The Book Is Broken, that show was rumoured that it was going to be their final gig, even announced as such by the band. Fortunately it was just the moment they needed to take a time-out and, though the future wasn't clear for the band at the end of that 2004 summer show, it's come back into focus in recent years.

Created with flickr slideshow.

The day of the gig, word got out that director, Bruce McDonald (Hard Core Logo, The Tracey Fragments), in collaboration with Arts & Crafts, would be filming the show for a new feature film called THIS MOVIE IS BROKEN starring Broken Social Scene. Written by Don McKellar (Last Night, the series Twitch City) the film looks to be that centers around a couple who attend a Broken Social Scene show, but the heart of the film would appear to be the concert at Harbourfront on Saturday night. I'm picturing the concert and love story playing out simultaneously on screen, with the multiple split screens like McDonald used in The Tracey Fragments. So okay, Bruce McDonald, Don McKellar, and Broken Social Scene are a personal trifecta of Canadian content brilliance. I can't be biased, this was going to be pretty damned good.

By the time I arrived, the venue was already full and I claimed a spot around the perimeter of the Sirius stage. Decent sightlines, and they crowds kept coming. I had found out through the band's Twitter feed that Metric was in town, so I'm thinking "all right, Jimmy Shaw and Emily Haines are likely to play tonight, going to be a good show".

Broken Social Scene 07_11_2009 This Music Is Broken

The Rattlesnake Choir warmed up the show, a favourite band of Kevin's who regualrly play The Dakota Tavern. And then the show started, and it was all Broken Social Scene at their best, with the founding line-up on stage.

My first surprise came when Feist came out on the 3rd song, 7/4 Shoreline, and she was pumped to be there. I don't think she stopped the whole show, a whirling dervish of Muppety singing and energy.

Broken Social Scene 07_11_2009 This Music Is Broken

Amy Millan (Stars) came out shortly after, and by the time Emily Haines (Metric) came out, we had the 3 original women of Broken Social Scene. And given each of them is in the midst of either touring or prepping a new release, it's a special night to see all 3 singing on stage together like the old days.

Broken Social Scene 07_11_2009 This Music Is Broken

So even though I expected Emily Haines to appear, I was still knocked out when she led Broken Social Scene through this slowed down version of Metric's big hit “Give Me Sympathy”

YouTube: Give Me Sympathy - Metric/Broken Social Scene

Finally, Jason Collett, fresh from opening at for Steve Earle at Massey Hall earlier that evening, arrived. Here he was playing one of my favourite summer songs, 5 years after I first heard him play it at Harbourfront 2004.

YouTube: I'll Bring The Sun - Broken Social Scene,

I put the camera down long enough to take it in. This was the full damned line-up of Broken Social Scene out in full force. There was Andrew Whiteman, Brendan Canning, Justin Peroff, Kevin Drew, Jimmy Shaw and Evan Cranley jamming away. Lisa Lobsinger was singing, Julie Penner on violin. Jason, Emily, Feist, Amy were all there. So many others, and brass and drums and guitars, more guitars. This was a pretty special night, and it surely was the largest collection of Broken Social Scene members in one place at one time. And I'd seen a number of Broken Social Scene concerts, but there was something extra out there Saturday night. And then they dog piled onto this classic from their album “You Forgot It In People”, effortlessly passing the ball back and forth through the song with a riotous joy.

YouTube: Almost Crimes - Broken Social Scene, Harbourfront

(I love it when Feist can't stop herself and starts air guitaring. I mean, the bands been playing this song for 7 years, and it still gets them charged up)

Speaking of classics, there is a new rule as suggested by the blog It's Not The Band I Hate, It's The Fans. No offence to any singers in Broken Social Scene, but “Anthems for A Seventeen Year Old Girl” shouldn't be performed without Emily Haines present. I can't imaging anyone but Emily singing this song.

YouTube: Anthems for a 17 Year Old Girl - Broken Social Scene, Harbourfront

And just when you thought we reached the finale, the band continued into the endless encore (Kevin: “We finished 20 minutes early. I owe Brendan $20”). And man, it was moving to hear Brendan Canning dedicate an encore song to Martin Streek, the legendary Toronto DJ who took his own life earlier that week. What followed was a repeating cycle of “Meet Me In The Basement” that saw Broken Social Scene play each refrain louder and louder, celebratory and defiant.

Encore for Martin Streek - Broken Social Scene, Harbourfront

By the end, it seemed like they hit every favourite in the catalogue. Two hours of music, and what struck me was that, seeing up to 19 players on stage at once, many of whom have played together for years and some at least a decade, Broken Social Scene looked like they were having the time of their lives. And the crowd was urged to shout their lungs out and scream apologies and declarations of love into the Toronto summer night. The screams echo into the night, as Broken Social Scene said thank-you and good-night farewell, until we meet again in the streets, in the market, in the bars, in the city.

Broken Social Scene are currently recording their new album in Chicago.

This Movie Is Broken is currently in production. There's a call for submissions of footage of summertime in Toronto, with film credits and invitations to screenings as prizes. Click here to check out the details.

Pictures: the2scoops on Flickr - Broken Social Scene at Harbourfront 07/11/09

Kevy Key Jam/ Fire Eye'd Boy / 7/4 (Shoreline) /Love Is New/Chameleon / Amy's Song / Feist & Kev's Song Medley / Gimme Sympathy / I'll Bring the Sun / Soul Unwind /Almost Crimes / MTV Jam / New Country /Anthems For a 17 Year Old Girl / Bandwitch / Frightening Lives

Pacific Theme/ Meet Me In The Basement / KC Accidental / Major Label Debut

Monday, July 06, 2009

I'm a fan of the Polaris Music Prize. It's Canadian, it rewards musicians for artistic merit regardless of sales numbers, and it draws attention to music that isn't usually regarded as commercial. In addition to the $20,000 prize, nominated bands benefit from the exposure this national contest garners. Tuesday morning, the jury selected long-list of 40 albums will be cut to 10 albums vying for the prize.

Tune in to CBC Radio 3 online or on Sirius 86, as host Grant Lawrence broadcasts Tuesday morning from 7:00am - 9:00am PST/ 10:00am - 12:00pm EST with the shortlist announcement live from the Drake Hotel in Toronto.

This is only the 4th year, but we already have a number of artists who've been nominated previously, like Junior Boys and Metric. And anybody has a shot at this, regardless of genre. Past winners like Final Fantasy and Caribou defy any one classification as it is.

I can only base my picks on what I've heard this year, so just because it's not one of my picks doesn't mean it isn't an amazing artists you should check out. I'm annoyed I haven't gotten to check out the albums from $100 or Hey Rosetta's yet. Here's my best guess picks, based on merit and the impression these artists have made live and on record:

  1. Coeur De Pirate - Coeur De Pirate (Website MySpace)
  2. Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (Website MySpace)
  3. Handsome Furs - Face Control (Website MySpace)
  4. K'NAAN - Troubadour (Website MySpace)
  5. Metric - Fantasies (Website MySpace)
  6. Joel Plaskett - Three (Website MySpace)
  7. Charles Spearin - The Happiness Project (Website MySpace)
  8. Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane (Website MySpace)
  9. Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms (Website)
  10. Woodpigeon - Treasury Library Canada C/W Houndstooth Europa (Website MySpace)
Honorary mention: Elliott BROOD - Mountain Meadows (Website MySpace)

This year my money's on K'Naan to win it. His new album is drumming up lots of well-deserved praise, with a stirring performance at NPR's Showcase at the SXSW festival. Feels like it's his year to be critic's choice. My own pick would be Joel Plaskett. Putting out 3 albums worth of music in one shot is an impressive feat, but putting out 3 albums worth of well written songs music is award worthy.

Updated: The list is out

The 2009 Polaris Music Prize Short List.:

Elliott BROOD - Mountain Meadows (Toronto, ON)
Fucked Up - The Chemistry Of Common Life (Toronto, ON)
Great Lake Swimmers - Lost Channels (Toronto, ON)
Hey Rosetta! - Into Your Lungs (and around in your heart and on through your blood) (St. John's, NF)
K'NAAN – Troubadour (Toronto, ON)
Malajube – Labyrinthes (MontrĂ©al, QC)
Metric – Fantasies (Toronto, ON)
Joel Plaskett – Three (Halifax, NS)
Chad VanGaalen - Soft Airplane (Calgary, AB)
Patrick Watson - Wooden Arms (Montréal, QC)

I managed to get 6 out of 10, plus my honourary mention in there. Congratulations to all the competitors. More later.

The winner will be voted on by the jury and announced at the Polaris Prize gala on September 21st.

Past winners:
2008 Caribou for "Andorra"

Links: Website MySpace

2007 Patrick Watson for
"Close To Paradise"

2006 Final Fantasy for "Poos Clouds"

Links: MySpace