Dark Mean @ Horseshoe Tavern

      . : : July 13th, 2010 : : .

It is Dave Bookman’s New Music Night at the Horseshoe Tavern. The last time I came her for the coverless Bookman night was 7 years and one month ago, for a criminally under attended The Long Winters set. I brought two friends, and short of the band, the sound guy, two people making out, a fellow taper and two other good-natured patrons, the room was empty. Five minutes before the first band tonight, its not looking much more promising.

There’s a couple against the wall looking very intimate, and no more than four people at the bar in the room. Its unclear how many of them are staff. I sigh. A closer look indicates at least half of them are employed by the bar. The bustle coming from the next room inspires hope. The sound of pool cues striking their mark and amicable conversation carry into the room, but the only clear sound is the country music over the PA. A group enters and heads to the front. A good sign, I think, until they each leap onto the stage. There are officially more people on stage than off it. Luckily the sound of the band tuning up starts to draw a curious crowd in, which continues to grow throughout their set. My fears of a repeat are quickly assuaged.

The band’s music is good, but its mix of influences is apparent through the abrupt and sometimes slightly befuddled juxtaposition of styles. Familiar Indie genre guitar interplay reminiscent of early Death Cab For Cutie is mashed with a baseline ripped almost note-for-note from a popular Joy Division single. A Coldplay-style piano ballad quickly becomes a grandiose Cure signature wall-of-sound new wave rock out. They’re at their strongest, though, when the entire band turns into an impromptu chorus, never more apparent than the apex of their set and the penultimate song, Lullaby.

Technical difficulties mar the set early, and the band seems frazzled by the snafu. Awkward silences meet the crowd between songs for the first half of the set and the silences seem to drag on a bit too long. However, the music is good enough to keep most of the crowds attention, in spite of front man Mark Dean‘s lead vocals being mixed ridiculously quiet and several groups of on-lookers deciding to turn and carry out conversations amongst each other, loudly. For the most part, they are quickly reeled back in with a strong series of songs and the addition of a banjo — clearly an instant crowd favourite. The banjo ends up being more of visual prop than anything, as it too is mixed almost inaudibly low. The increasingly enthusiastic crowd either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care.

The set was definitely uneven, but had enough strong points to warrant further investigation. I’m intrigued to see how the band sounds when they are in better control and more confident. A more appropriate sound mix wouldn’t hurt, either.

After initially writing this blog entry before and after the set, I did a little bit of research on the Dark Mean, and discovered that they are offering their two EPs, 2010’s Music Box and 2009’s Frankencottage up on BandCamp.com in a Pay What You Can style. You can stream the songs or purchase the records in FLAC, high and low quality VBR and CBR MP3, and more.

  1. China
  2. [technical issues]
  3. Frankencottage
  4. Music Box
  5. [mic adjustments]
  6. [unknown]
  7. Lullaby
  8. Happy Banjo

[info.txt // flac fingerprint ]
[ Request FLAC or MP3 Download ]

Happy Banjo (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Dark Mean, Colleen Brown, and the legendary Horseshoe Tavern.

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