Paper Lions @ Yonge/Dundas Square

. : : June 29th, 2012 : : .

Virgin Mobile is putting on an Indie Showcase this summer; each Friday evening, a new independent band will be performing two showcase performances in the heart of the city, Dundas Square. There will be no openers, no cover charge, aDnd really, no reason not to go.

Kicking off the summer event was Paper Lions, whose music is a well-documented love of mine, but after Paper Lions’ somewhat underwhelming set at NXNE festival, I checked my high expectations at the proverbial door.

After all, how could the sound and atmosphere at Dundas Square, a cleared block of little more than concrete and plastic chairs, compare to the intimacy and sound of one of Toronto’s most legendary venues, the El Mocambo?

I’d been surprised by Dundas Square before, though — as recently as the Matthew Good show that kicked off my NXNE experience only a couple of weeks earlier. I arrived some 45-minutes early, and there were only small pockets of mostly under-aged girls standing around and gossiping. I grabbed a spot in front of the left speaker stack, which I held for twenty-odd minutes before a camera man took the spot right in front of me and set up a tripod and mobile flash.

Annoyed by the obstruction and the certain synthesized “shutter click” that would certainly permeate the recording, I called an audible and switched to the right side. Several non-tripod carrying camera men lines the barrier (what is it about free concerts that attract every wannabe with an SLR?), but some distance allowed a better view, and some hope of the shutter sounds getting lost in the air.

Paper Lions were some ten or so minutes late taking the stage, but once they appeared, they were all but unrecognizable to anyone whose only prior experience was the comparatively lethargic NXNE showcase.

The band stormed the stage with energy and captured the varied audience, from die-hard fans to family passerbys, and the elderly to immigrants. The band, perhaps well aware of the unique opportunity such a large pedestal offered them, played their hearts out and certainly made a large number of new fans.

Thankfully gone was the almost condescendingly cheesy, rehearsed between-song banter, returned was the band’s natural suave charm. All bouncy smiles, the band leapt from pop gem to pop gem. And the sound? Well..

The wind picked up quickly, which lead to no small amount of anxiety. After all, my recent Kathleen Edwards / Dan Mangan outdoor tape was an unmitigated disaster. Marred to the point of inaudibility, the aforementioned show is virtually unlistenable. Having learned my lesson, this time I came prepared with appropriate windscreens for my microphones, but having never been properly road tested, I had no idea how they would perform.

I’m happy to announce not only did the mics perform admirably (wind is only really audible during the softest of songs, including, unfortunately, the beautiful gem Polly Hill — but even then, never even approaching overwhelming or even distracting), but the sound at Dundas Square was phenomenal. I’m tempted to go on the record saying not only is this one of the best Paper Lions live recordings I’ve taped, but one of my best live recordings, PERIOD. Each of the instruments and vocal harmonies come through reasonably loud and crystal clearly. The balance is fairly steady, only shifting as I try and block myself from particularly large gusts of wind.

Appropriately, this is arguably the best Paper Lions performance I’d seen yet. Not only did the band perform energetically, but also generously. With two sets combined to reach 70-odd minutes, there was nary a song a fan could fairly ask for that wasn’t played. In fact, the band stretched themselves so thin, they had to go back to the well in the second set, and played an encore performance of Ghostwriter.

The original take, the band played the new, stripped down, acoustic version of the song, as featured on their recent EP, At Long Creek. For the set-closing return, the loud, brash version of the track likely to be on the forth-coming full length, and more familiar to fans who’ve caught their live performances over the last year, was retread.

There’s a wealth of free Paper Lions material online. The band recently made 2010’s EP of absolute pop perfection, Trophies, available for free download. The previously noted At Long Creek is also available as a free download to fans. But if you’re clamoring for a crisp capture of the band’s excellent live performance, you shouldn’t hesitate a moment longer. Grab this fantastic tape, and share it with all your friends. A fun, fantastic set that is an excellent reminder of just what a wonderful band Paper Lions is.

01. [introduction]
02. [banter]
03. Sweat It Out
04. Don’t Touch That Dial
05. Pull Me In
06. Hands
07. [banter]
08. Bodies In The Winter
09. [banter]
10. Ghostwriter [acoustic]
11. Polly Hill [acoustic]
12. Sophomore Slump
13. Stay Here For A While
14. [new song]
15. I’m On Fire
16. [banter]
17. We Survive
18. Parents Talk
19. My Friend
20. Trouble
21. Lost The War
22. [banter]
23. Travelling
24. [encore]
25. [banter]
26. Ghostwriter

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Travelling (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Big, massive thanks to Paper Lions, Virgin Mobile, Dundas Square and Indie Fridays!

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