Tonight's performance featured two aspiring young bands making their first forays into Canada. The opening act, Laguardia, has recently released their first album on Universal Records. Having spent the majority of the last year touring with top underground artists such as Interpol and Brian Jonestown Massacre, they were no doubt happy to be hitting the road with another "new" group, the Fire Theft. The Fire Theft, as many may already know, features three quarters of the near legendary indie rock/ emo quartet Sunny Day Real Estate. Also out in support of their debut record, the band's experience allowed them to propel ahead of their counterpart in Toronto to capture the title of "best new group" on this night.
Laguardia walked out on stage, introduced themselves and began their set. With lead singer Joshua Ostrander seated behind a keyboard, the band unveiled the bulk of their new record, Welcome to the Middle, as Lee's began to fill up. Live, the album's atmospheric tracks possess a straight ahead rock feel. Anchored by Greg Lyons' powerful drumming, the music is much more energetic and upbeat. The increase in energy allows the material to shed its Radiohead influences and take on a unique sound of its own.
Clearly the focal point of the show, Ostrander belted out his lyrics with overwhelming passion. Switching between keyboard and guitar his animated performance breathed new life into tracks such as "Holy Ghost" and "Roseanna". Admittedly, the other members of Laguardia could take some lessons from him when it comes to stage presence. With his eyes glued to the floor, guitarist Lee Bernstein stood motionless for the bulk of the concert. Standing on the other side of the stage, bassist Michael Morpurgo spent the whole show with his back partially turned to the crowd, staring at Lyons. The talented bassist wore a blank expression on his face and almost looked like he was playing in a recording studio by himself instead of in a club full of eager music fans. Although their music was pretty well-received, appearing as if they were into what they were doing would probably have drawn and retained the attention of more people. With a strong album behind them and a solid live sound the group has the potential to go places. A more focused stage show which reflects the powerful music being played will help the band turn more heads and perhaps eventually push them to headliner status.
Although they also showed little movement on stage, the sheer musical force and charisma of the Fire Theft more than made for an unforgettable performance. Opening with the lead track off their self-titled debut, "Uncle Mountain", the five members started quietly playing their instruments before kicking things into high gear. The near capacity crowd stood completely mesmerized as Jeremy Enigk's awesome, angelic vocals cut through the music and grasped for the heavens above.
The audience, comprised mainly of adoring SDRE fans in and around their 20s, showered the group with applause after every number. Feeding off of this undying praise, the band put on a spectacular showcase of their new material. Watching the three core members of the group, it was evident that they were happy to be playing in such comfortable, familiar surroundings again. With his eyes closed, bassist Nate Mendel grooved along to the music with a smile on his face. Enigk bopped his head up and down while William Goldsmith kept the group on track with his fiery drumming. Ending things with a stellar version of "Sinatra" the group thanked the audience and left the stage.
With the audience hollering for more, Enigk returned moments later accompanied by touring guitarist Greg Suran and keyboardist Nick Macri. The crowd roared its approval as he stated "We don't have many songs so I'm going to play something from five or seven years ago," before playing "Explain" from his solo album, Return of the Frog Queen. Finishing up the track he was rejoined by Mendel and Goldsmith for the final number of the night, "Heaven". The epic song provided a fitting end to the evening. With Enigk bellowing the lyric "I'm falling in love with you," it was overwhelmingly apparent that the legions of SDRE fans present were feeling the same sentiments about the Fire Theft.
Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.
Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.
"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"
The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".
Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .
Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.
Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.