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Paper Lions @ El Mocambo

. : : June 15th, 2012 : : .

After wrapping up at Yonge-Dundas Square, it was time to get to the El Mocambo. I was expecting a good sized crowd to show up at the Young Lions Music Club showcase, and didn’t want to risk being left in the figurative cold, and opted out of the subway for a quick and easy taxi ride over to the club.

As the crowd of thousands poured into the subways and out onto the streets, we decided to head southbound, even though the venue was north-west. It only made sense: as we suspected, northbound lanes were immediately filled with gridlock traffic, and southbound remained busy, but active. It wasn’t long before we were able to hail a cab, and immediately turn westward, away from the hubbub.

A short and fairly inexpensive ride later, we had arrived. It was immediately clear we had beat the crowd; no more than two dozen people were in the room, and although we were cutting it razor close to the scheduled start time of the bands we paid to see, we entered in the midst of Ryan O’Reilly‘s set. I was too late to set up my gear and get any of his performance, but we enjoyed the songs while grabbing a quick soda from the bar.

Immediately following Ryan’s set, we set up camp in the best taping location — more or less where I stood for the next two days, it seemed — and the room quickly filled in with Young Lions Music Club fans. It’s weird to write that the audience is fans of a “music agency”, but I’ll be damned if the same people didn’t stand up front for each of the night’s remaining acts, and sing and dance along the whole night. The YLMC knows its fans (literally — they give out personalized, numbered club cards!), and loves them dearly. They must, to put on such a kick-ass line-up of performers, and if the NXNE Showcase was any indication, the love is returned tenfold.

First on the stage was Paper Lions, who have been featured fairly heavily through the summer and autumn of last year, as the band finished up touring duties on their Trophies EP and was in the process of road testing new material for the follow up album. In the downtime since I last saw them, the band got into a public scuffle with their record label, which lead to them a) releasing their excellent EP for free online, b) reaching over 1,000,000 hits for their YouTube video of the infectious Traveling, and c) were featured on the front page of popular webhole, reddit.com.

So, yeah. I guess the band has managed to snag a few more fans. Their shows have always been fairly well attended, but this evening’s was a wall-to-wall affair, and it was a great chance to win over even more fans. Sad to say then, that this was perhaps the most rushed and impersonal set I’ve seen the Paper Lions play yet. Clocking in at almost ten minutes under their allotted set time, the band seemed to be all business. In between banter was generally limited to corny, contrived, and clearly overly rehearsed song introductions, such as “Toronto, we’re just getting started. Let’s stay here for a while,” prior to the song titled (you got it) Stay Here For A While.

Of course, I’m admittedly being overly critical only because I’ve seen the band better and my expectations were astronomical. Did anyone else in the room care? From the looks of the dancing, and the sounds of the crowd belting the lyrics along, I’d say probably not. Besides, Paper Lions at 75% is still more enjoyable than most bands at 110%.

And again, any energy that may have been lacking from the stage was more than made up for by the tremendous energy pouring toward the stage from an uncharacteristically rowdy, fun-loving Toronto crowd that was amped from the opener, Don’t Touch That Dial, to the final number, Lost The War. Toronto came to have a good time, and weren’t disappointed. Even well under 40-minutes, the band managed to cram ten great songs into the set, including a couple of fresh ones new to even those who attended the band’s Supermarket residency last September, and reworked versions of others, such as Ghostwriter, which features an all-new outro.

The band put on a good, solid set of tunes, and although they could be blamed for leaving the crowd wanting more, they are fairly quick to respond: the band will be performing a free, outdoor show in the heart of the city at Yonge-Dundas Square tomorrow evening in promotion of their recently released free digital EP, At Long Creek. If you can’t be there, this will definitely be the next best thing.

The recording sounds great, but is not without a flaw — the first song or two has some weird popping noise that I suspected might have been a straw a concert-goer accidentally got stuck in a nearby fan, but now I suspect may have been a loose cable. The problem SEEMS to subside before long, but definitely is on the master. I don’t see any obvious spikes in the wave form, so I’m a bit perplexed. It doesn’t subtract too much for the recording though, and this is still an excellent listen and fantastic representation of the evening.

01. [banter]
02. Don’t Touch That Dial
03. Stay Here For A While
04. Sweat It Out
05. Pull Me In
06. [banter]
07. Bodies In The Winter
08. Hands
09. Ghostwriter
10. [new song]
11. [banter]
12. My Friend
13. Lost The War

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Pull Me In (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]


Undying love to Paper Lions, Young Lions Music Club and the El Mocambo!

Published inLive Recordings

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