The Organ @ Festival Internacional de Benicassim

The Organ
The Organ @ FIB

. : : July 22nd, 2006 : : .

 

What if Morrissy was a lesbian, and the Smiths were an all-girl band from British Columbia, Canada?

 

Well, if you were a fan of indie rock music in the mid-2000s, you might not have to wonder very hard. Especially if you were exposed to The Organ.

 

Had you blinked, you might’ve missed it. If you hadn’t, you might have caught the band’s debut EP Sinking Hearts, or the follow up Grab That Gun (the latter essentially a re-recorded and expanded version of the EP).

 

Grab That Gun spent “more time on top of the Canadian campus-radio charts than any other record released that year” (Wikipedia), and with good reason. The band’s titular instrument heavily encompasses the retro-inspired new wave pop and frontwoman Katie Sketch‘s dour lyrics boldly pay tribute to the influences that made it feel like they could’ve been The Smiths for the Millennial generation.

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The Good Life @ the 360

The Good Life
The Good Life @ 360

. : : May 17th, 2005 : : .

 

You know that album that you hear at just the right time in your life? The one that hits you in the feels every song, from top to bottom? The one that you listen to obsessively for weeks / months on end, almost exclusively?
 

There’s been a few of those for me, but one of the biggest was 2004’s Album of the Year by The Good Life.
 

The Good Life is often diminutively noted as Cursive‘s front man, Tim Kasher‘s side project. One where, for the first two albums, he explored with keyboards and drum samples; lo-fi productions that sound like they were recorded intimately in bedrooms, whispered so as to not wake a roommate or neighbour. A sharp contrast to the angular, aggressive emo of his other band.
 

But the band’s third album took a hard turn into folksy Americana. Album of the Year is a play on popular phrasing — rather than an award or accolade, it’s accounting for a year of an all encompassing and then self-destructing romantic relationship.
 

The subject is not exactly new territory for Kasher; Cursive’s Domestica is famously the only-slightly fictionalized story of his divorce, released four years earlier. But the years between seem to have opened him up to a more balanced, reflexive view that replaced anger with regret.

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The Grenadines @ Drake Underground

The Grenadines
The Grenadines @ Drake Underground

. : : November 13th, 2011 : : .

 

Guess we might as well keep the Birmingham, Alabama-based bands who opened for Maria Taylor theme going.

 

I posted about Dead Fingers last week, but since discovered that I also neglected to post the night’s first opening band, The Grenadines.

 

You’d be forgiven if you haven’t heard of them. Looks like after a couple of lowkey EPs, a self-titled LP on a small indie label, and maybe about four active years, the band called it quits. There’s little online of the husband and wife team of Lauren and Michael Shackelford (not to mention guitarist David Swatzell) that hasn’t been scrubbed, but what there is appears to be overwhelmingly positive.

 

Their pop-infused psychedelic rock is infectious, hook-filled and fun that captured the attention of influential indie stalwarts such as Jenny Lewis, Jim Eno, and Andy LeMaster.

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Dead Fingers @ Drake Underground

Dead Fingers
Dead Fingers @ Drake Underground

. : : November 13th, 2011 : : .
 

Speaking of bands that opened for Maria Taylor that I haven’t uploaded in the better part of a decade…

 

Maria’s sister, Kate Taylor, and brother-in-law Taylor Hollingsworth formed an alt-country “cowpunk” bluesy husband-and-wife band known as Dead Fingers. Some four-months before their debut album dropped, with only a three-song sampler to their name, Maria took the duo on the road with her to help generate some buzz.

 

It must’ve been effective, because the duo was listed as one of the top 12 bands you should know in Alabama by Paste Magazine shortly thereafter. A follow-up disc, Big Black Dog, was issued in 2014, but the band has been radio silent since. While Hollingsworth continues to regularly release as a solo artist, Kate seems to have transitioned to a part-time role in the scene (perhaps to care for the couple’s daughter, born shortly after the eponymous debut).

 

A shame, really, because both spouses have the support of indie rock darling Conor Oberst, who has featured both, separately and together, in various incarnations of his bands and has even released a cover of Hollingsworth’s song Dominos with Phoebe Bridgers.

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PJ Bond @ Drake Underground

PJ Bond
PJ Bond @ Drake Underground

. : : February 9th, 2014 : : .

 

While the world’s in a COVID-induced lockdown, I’m still in the process of combing my archives and trying to rediscover recordings that haven’t made it online for whatever reason.

 

My recording of PJ Bond, opening for Maria Taylor at the Drake Underground, is another that slipped through the cracks at the later end of the blog’s earlier incarnation. I actually had to double check the site to verify whether or not it had been already posted.

 

Seven and a half years later, I get to listen to the recording again for the first time — and I wonder why I didn’t remember it more vividly. Songs like Darlin’ I’ve Been Drinking Nights and Untitled (Robot Golf) are the kind of rootsy, punk-influenced Americana that is directly in my wheelhouse.

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Emilie Mover @ Drake Underground

Emilie Mover
Emilie Mover @ Drake Underground

 

. : : January 25th, 2013 : : .

 

Emilie Mover‘s performance in January of 2013 was another in a series of concerts I’d EQ’d, tracked, started the info file for, and just didn’t finish…

 

… with one notable exception: It has a much better story.

 

Set to open for Brooklyn’s Wakey!Wakey!, the Drake Underground was decently occupied with fans. Probably the most fans of any Wakey!Wakey! performance to date, which was exceptional because it was a freezing cold Canadian night, with a steady, solid stream of snowfall.

 

Things were slow to get started, and when Emilie finally took the stage, it was clear it was an unusual pairing.

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Whitehorse @ Horseshoe Tavern

Whitehorse
Whitehorse @ Horseshoe Tavern

. : : March 26th, 2021 : : .

 

Whitehorse has remained one of the hardest working, most visible bands during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The band had a weekly Happy Hour Facebook and Twitter streaming concert, put on for free, for about 3 months. They launched a Patreon, performed a couple of Christmas-adjacent sets from the head office of their record label, released an album, performed a set at a movie theatre drive-in, launched the Horseshoe Hootenanny live stream series with a record release party for their disc, Modern Love, and performed another set live with the Kitchener-Waterloo Orchestra.

 

This recording, of the aforementioned record release party at the Horseshoe Tavern, was the first full-band show (out of necessity, due to pandemic restrictions) since 2019 if I’m not mistaken, and features a familiar line up of Ryan Gavel, Johnny Obercian, and Gregory MacDonald (who seems to be a part of every second name-recognizable band in the country!) alongside husband and wife core duo Melissa McClelland and Luke Doucet.

 

The performance was broken into two sets: the first, an introduction to the Modern Love album, with a selection of six of the dozen songs featured. The second was a quick run through of several obvious, greatest hits tracks from their earlier catalogue.

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Grizzly Bear @ Massey Hall

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly Bear @ Massey Hall

. : : September 26th, 2012 : : .

 

After EQing, tracking, and then opting not to post Unknown Mortal Orchestra‘s opening set at Massey Hall in 2012, I decided to check the status of the evening’s headliner, Grizzly Bear.

 

Boy, was I shocked to see the work was already done! Tracked, EQ’ed, encoded, and ready to be uploaded. More so, I was blown away that the recording actually sounds leagues better than the opening band’s.

 

Lyrics are only slightly distant, rather than virtually inaudible. Drums are a bit reverb-y, but otherwise crisp and clear. Guitars are chimey and present. Only the bass sounds like I rolled it back a bit too far.

 

Why didn’t I post this back in 2012 then? They were a significant band in the Pitchfork-endorsed indie circle. The show has a couple of special local guests: Leslie Fiest and Owen Pallett. The sound quality was pretty passable.

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Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Massey Hall

Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Unknown Mortal Orchestra @ Massey Hall

. : : September 26th, 2012 : : .

 

Wow.

 

I’ve mentioned a few times — I really, really hate the sound at Massey Hall, and have no idea how it’s earned the prestige it has locally or internationally. It has uncomfortable seats, poor sight lines, and stadium-tier acoustics in a mid-sized theatre.

 

Listening back to this tape of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, a band I’d previous seen under significantly improved conditions at the far-superior Lee’s Palace, I was instantly reminded as to why the recording has sat on a shelf for the better part of a decade.

 

The instruments were muddy. The vocals sounded like they were in another room. You’d never know my seat for the show was actually pretty decent, if slightly off to the side (but closer to the speakers!). Even an extensive EQ job barely makes this recording roughly a C- grade.

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The Love Machine @ El Mocambo

The Love Machine @ El Mocambo
The Love Machine @ El Mocambo

. : : December 10th, 2011 : : .

 

A couple of months back, I posted a 2011 recording from Toronto band, The Elwins. I’d already posted the evening’s headliners, Paper Lions, about a week after the concert. But I’ve somehow neglected to include The Love Machine‘s set from that evening yet.

 

Which is weird because I distinctly remember being really excited about their set and hoping to see more.

 

I did a poor job on following through, hadn’t heard a peep from them since, and figured their story ended the way so many young bands do.

 

Although it seems they’ve only released a single and EP since (within a couple of years of the debut LP Sweater Weather they were promoting back in 2011) and their .com website is offline, their social media remains relatively active and it looks like there were live shows as recent as 2018. Band members are pursuing other endeavours, but as far as I can tell, these guys are still at it!

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