Mini Show Reviews: November 2016

Danny Elfman’s Music from the films of Tim Burton – October 30

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As you may know, I’m a big Tim Burton fan, and one thing I absolutely adore is his collaborations with Danny Elfman. The day before Halloween, I attended the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s perfomance of select songs from Tim Burton’s movies, including Edward ScissorhandsFrankenweenie, and – the movie everyone was waiting for – The Nightmare Before Christmas. During the songs, they projected scenes from the movies and/or Tim Burton’s original sketches onto a big screen as visual entertainment, but it was really cool to hear some of my favourite film scores live. The ice dance scene from Edward Scissorhands always hits me in the feels, and it was even more emotional watching the orchestra playing it.


LANY – October 30

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I actually won tickets to this concert, which meant I ended up with back-to-back events on the 30th, but I’ve been hearing a lot about LANY, so it was cool to check them out. Opening band Transviolet was interesting – not really my type of music, but cool to see live because they’re really good performers. Their singer looked like a cross between Luna Lovegood, Lorde, and what’s-her-name from The Pretty Reckless (aka Jenny from Gossip Girl), and she was fascinating to watch. Their bass was super heavy, which I usually enjoy, but they probably could have turned it down a notch in such a small space.

LANY has very similar aesthetics (and sounds) to The 1975, so if you’re into Matty Healy and co, you might want to check these guys out. They’re pretty mellow, but some of their songs have a great beat to them – stuff like “Where the Hell are My Friends” and “Like You Lots” (which, to be honest, are the only two songs I remember the names of). They were fun to see live, but I’m not sure if I’d listen to them outside of a club/venue.


The 1975 – November 3

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As you may recall, I saw The 1975 earlier this year, in May. This show was my fifth time seeing them and in the course of three years, they went from playing the Mod Club to playing the ACC – one of the biggest venues in the city. So that’s impressive, but it was also weird to be standing so far away from them…also the fact that the screaming from the fans was about 129790% louder than ever.

The opening act was 070 Shake (I think that’s what she’s called)…she wasn’t really my cup of tea, but she was certainly interesting to watch.

The 1975’s set was as polished and mesmerizing as ever. They played such a great mix of “old” and “new” (I’m OBSESSED with “Loving Someone” now), but they also made the decision to include some of their instrumental tracks, which I thought was an odd choice. On the one hand, it’s nice to hear them live and watch the band jam out to the them, but then, as an audience member, you can’t really do much during those 3-5 minutes. Also the fact that they could have included other older songs (like “The City” or “Settle Down”).

During the encore, Matty asked the crowd to sing “Happy Birthday” for his 80 year old grandad so he could film it…and as a “thank you” for indulging him, they played “Robbers“, which they haven’t been playing this tour!! Of course it was magical, and the “now everybody’s dead” line is still spine-tingling. 100% recommend seeing The 1975 live, though now you’ll have to be prepared to pay arena-sized prices.


Crown the Empire – November 18

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I was supposed to see Simple Plan on the 18th, but they postponed until March, and, long story short, I decided to see Crown the Empire that night instead. My sister and I have been listening to them for a few years, but we’ve managed to miss them every time they’re in town. So apart from a short set at Warped this summer, we’ve never seen them live, and we needed to get it out of our system.

We got there mid-way through blessthefall’s set – they were good, not really what I expected (I’ve only heard a handful of their songs), but nothing mind-blowing either. The crowd seemed to love them though.

Crown the Empire came on at 9:40 and I was a little disappointed that they only played an hour. There was a lot of stuff from their latest album, Retrograde, which is super mellow compared to their older albums. The highlight for me was when they played “The Fallout” (the song that first introduced me to CTE) right before the encore. And while I like “Millennia“, I’m not entirely sure why they decided to slow the set down.

Overall, they were good but not great. I’m glad I got a chance to see them live, but I probably won’t run for tickets the next time they’re in town. Also, where the heck is Dave?


Biffy Clyro – November 25

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When I was in Dublin at the end of November, my sister andI saw Biffy Clyro at 3 Arena. First of all, that place is HUGE. Secondly, Biffy always puts on an incredible show – everything from their explosive opening song “Wolves of Winter” to their brilliant (in multiple ways) light show. They played a lot of my faves and my sister lost it when they started “JustBoy”. They’re such polished performers and you’d be lucky to catch them live to see what a real rock show is like.

Meanwhile, Brand New opened for them and, while they were decent, they weren’t great. Their set was designed to appeal to hardcore BN fans and the majority of the audience couldn’t have cared less. I’m a casual BN fan so i was disappointed when they sped through my favourite song “Sic Transit Gloria” but then played a 12 minute outro. As a headliner, they would have been impressive; as an opening band, they seemed to waste their time on being Artists and not actually making an effort to appeal to people who may not have listened to them before.


Phil Coulter – November 26

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Also in Dublin, we went to Dun Laoghaire (sorta of a suburb type place, 20 minutes from the city centre), to see my dad’s favourite musician, Phil Coulter, an Irish legend, perform. It was a two hour long show that included a mini intermission; most of the perfromance was Mr. Coulter sitting at a piano and chatting with the audience before delighting our ears with some of his original compositions (including my favourite, “Coultergeist“) as well as classic Christmas tunes (such as “Silent Night“, with his wife Geraldine singing). Another guest included a former Celtic Thunder member, Paul Byrom, who serenaded us with songs that Phil wrote for him.

We sat in the third row and even got a shout out from Phil himself who had been told that we’d travelled all the way from Canada to see him (he never plays here). It was a mellow evening, but we were all stoked to hear (and later meet!) the man who usually soundtracks our Sunday nights at home.


Hands Like Houses – November 30

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We’ve seen Hands Like Houses twice but both times it was a short set so we were excited to see them headline. Opening band The Color Morale was pretty good; I saw part of their set at Warped a couple of years ago but haven’t really gotten into them. Next was Our Last Night; I’m more familiar with their covers but I recognized quite a few of the songs they played, including “Road to the Throne”, and their cover of “Cold Water”, featuring The Color Morale’s Garrett and Hands Like Houses’ Trenton, was fantastic.

HLH was, of course, amazing. They were energetic and lively and the entire club was sweating like nobody’s business within minutes of them taking the stage. They played a lot of songs from their most recent album, Dissonants, including lead single “I Am” and “Colourblind” (which I love), and older songs like “A Tale of Outer Suburbia“. Basically, the show was 10/10 and I would absolutely see them again (and not just because the lead singer is cute)!

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Mini Show Reviews: October 2016

Bastille – October 5

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I’ve seen Bastille twice before this (and have tickets to see them next March) and they never fail to put on a fun show. While their most recent album Wild World is fairly mellow, they’re so full of energy on stage. Singer Dan Smith was especially impressive this time – they’d cancelled their New York show the night before ours because he strained his voice, but he was still able to perform for us, hitting all the high notes with minimal effort. The first 3/4’s of the show was basically their album (minus a handful of songs), including “Send Them Off!” and “The Currents” (both of which I really like) and it was cool to hear because it gave me a better appreciation for their new material. Of course, my favourite part was when they broke into their last three songs,pulled from their debut album, Bad Blood, including my fave “Pompeii“.


This Wild Life – October 8

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I’ve seen This Wild Life before (briefly at Warped 2015 and then opening for Mayday Parade), and, while their songs (which are mostly acoustic) can be very mellow, they put on a really fun show. Lots of energy and sing-a-longs, and the band members seem like genuinely nice dudes (we saw them hanging out outside the venue before their set). Opening bands Movements and Have Mercy were pop punk-y fun (I realized belatedly that I actually know a Have Mercy song, “Two Years“). This Wild Life’s set was just over an hour long, during which they performed some of the new songs from their recent album, Low Tides (such as “Hit the Reset“), as well as fan favourites from previous releases like “Pink Tie” and “Concrete” (which is really good live). My sister compared them to an acoustic version of twenty one pilots, which is accurate, and I hope more people start paying attention to them.


Sum 41 – October 18

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Even though I JUST saw Sum 41 at Warped this summer, I was still pretty excited to see them headline. Opening band As It Is was as energetic as ever (I still can’t take Patty Walters and his constant tongue-sticking-out move seriously, but they were fun), and Senses Fail was also pretty good (their songs tend to blend together for me, but that’s just because I’m waiting impatiently for “Can’t Be Saved“). Sum 41 burst onto the stage and played for about an hour and forty minutes (longer than I expected), with a set that was a nice mix of new songs from their recent album, 13 Voices and “classics” from their 15+ years as a band (“Motivation“; the heart-breaking “Pieces“, which I forgot about but still love; opening with “The Hell Song“). Deryck Whibley has a surprising amount of stage presence which I didn’t really feel at Warped, probably because the stage was so far away, but in a sweaty venue, it was exactly what you want in a punk show. Obviously the highlight was “Fat Lip” (which they closed with) because MAN, that’s such a good song!


The Wonder Years – October 24

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Our last show of the month was super pop-punk – just the way I like it. Seaway opened the show, and, even though I just saw them at the end of July, they were still very entertaining. I had been looking forward to Knuckle Puck’s set, but, unfortunately, they couldn’t make it across the border after getting into a fender bender (with a DEER)…instead, I put all my energy into jamming the heck out to Moose Blood (they played my two favourite songs – “Gum” and “Knuckles” – back-to-back, which means I almost died). I don’t know what it is about RealFriends, but I just can’t get into them (I’ve tried like 4 times), so I didn’t really pay attention to their set.

The Wonder Years is the type of band that I forget I enjoy until I randomly hear a song or catch them live. They have such great lyrics – my fave off their recent album, No Closer to Home, is “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” – and, especially now that I’m 26, I love screaming along to “Passing Through a Screen Door”. They put on a solid performance (not every band can get away with starting a set with an acoustic song), and their encore of “Came Out Swinging” was everything a pop-punk fan could want.

Mini Show Reviews: August 2016

Warped Tour Chicago – July 23
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Even though Warped didn’t make a Toronto stop this year, I was in Chicago for their date and I truly feel like I finally experienced Warped the way it’s meant to be experienced. There were no delays from bands struggling to cross the border; all the merch was available instead of stuck in transit; and it was so hot, I broke into a sweat just by sitting still (rather than being rained on, which happens every year). We started the day with Young Guns (highly recommend) just after noon and ended the night around 7:30pm with Sum 41 (Canadians represent!) who drew a huge crowd. In between, we saw about a dozen bands total (including partial sets from bands we happened to be passing or who we caught while waiting for the next band), but the highlight for us was The Maine who ALWAYS puts on a stellar show. I’m so glad we got a chance to hit up Warped this year – the summer just isn’t the same without a day at pop punk camp!


Seaway – July 29
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I’ve seen Seaway a couple of times before, but this was their first headlining tour (and they sold out their final date in Toronto!). They’re pure pop punk and I love it: nothing like thrashing around to bangers like “Freak” or “Your Best Friend” on a Friday night. I missed the first two opening bands because I was eating dinner (sidenote: people rave about Sneaky Dee’s but I was quite unimpressed – their nachos weren’t as good as other people would have me believe), but Coldfront was decent. I like how Canadian this tour was!


Nothing But Thieves – August 2
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For something completely non-Canadian, we saw Nothing But Thieves play their first Toronto show ever at the Velvet Underground (I’ve never been there, so that was cool). Opening band Weathers was really good – catchy and decent performers – and the second band, The Unlikely Candidates, were okay, but the singer was greasy in an unpleasant way and it coloured my ability to enjoy them (you know in books when people go to shows and the band is made up of really sleazy dudes? That was this guy). Nothing But Thieves, however, was phenomenal. His voice is so impressive (and very Matt Bellamy) on the album and live he’s even more powerful – check out “Excuse Me” for an example of his range. The highlights, of course, were “Wake Up Call” and “Trip Switch“, but the whole thing was well done and I’d 100% see them again.


blink 182 – August 21
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I’ve always wanted to see blink-182 live, and I finally got my chance on the 21st. I was all sorts of stoked when I originally found out that All Time Low was opening for them, and I definitely lost my voice during their set – they played “Six Feet Under the Stars” (the song that made me an ATL fan) which I wasn’t expecting, plus Jack Barakat ran past me halfway through the opening song (“Lost in Stereo“), and I ALMOST touched him. I’ve also heard great things about a live A Day To Remember show, and let me tell you, they did NOT disappoint. They’re literally everything I want in a band (and a little more), and I’m kicking myself for not getting into them sooner, because they’re sooooo good (“2nd Sucks” might be my new favourite song/video/thing in general).

So I was already pretty hyped before blink even came on stage…and while they were good, they weren’t as magnificent as I imagined. I’ve always heard that All Time Low’s stage presence was greatly influenced by blink, but there was no banter, and barely any audience interaction, apart from a handful of sentences thrown out by Mark Hoppus. And while the hits were awesome to sing along to (the crowd was so boisterous, I couldn’t even hear myself during songs like “The Rock Show” and “All the Small Things“), they seemed to be playing them by rote and without any real passion. I also have to say that, while Matt Skiba did a decent job on vocals, it was weird hearing certain songs without Tom DeLonge’s nasally voice, especially that second verse of “I Miss You“. It was still worthwhile seeing pop punk royalty like them, but they were probably more exciting a few years ago. Travis Barker is a MACHINE, though, and watching him drum was definitely the highlight of their set.

Mini Show Reviews: July 2016

Panic! at the Disco and Weezer – July 6

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I’ve been waiting for this show for MONTHS. I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale in JANUARY and it was agony waiting so long to be in Brendon Urie’s presence again (I haven’t seen Panic! since August 2014). SUCH AN AMAZING SHOW, I CAN’T EVEN TALK ABOUT IT PROPERLY.

Not only was Andrew McMahon amazing as always, but during his (opening) set, he ran through the crowd, including the row behind me (so close I could have touched him!), and along the lawns, all while singing “Synesthesia“. I also loved that he played “Dark Blue” which is one of our favourite Jack’s Mannequin songs.

Panic!, of course, was the highlight for me. With an hour-and-a-bit long set, Brendon (or BAE-don, as I like to call him), made the most of his time, storming through his set with his usual energy and panache. The best part of the show was when he played three of my favourite songs back to back (“Ready to Go“, “Nine in the Afternoon“, and “Crazy=Genius“), culminating in a drum battle that was super impressive. It felt like it was over too soon, but the elated feeling I get after a Panic! show stayed with me for the next week.

Weezer closed the show and, while they were good and their set was full of recognizable jams (“Undone – The Sweater Song“, for example), they didn’t seem as into it as Brendon did. For most of the set, they looked pretty bored, like they were doing it because they had to and not because they wanted to. Still, I never realized how easy it is to air-guitar to Weezer, so that was nice.


5 Seconds of Summer – July 12

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I often referred to 5SOS as my “guilty pleasure”, but let’s be real: I really enjoy these guys. They’re like a young All Time Low (and I LOVE All Time Low)! So I was pretty stoked to see them on their “Sounds Live Feels Live” tour, and they did not disappoint.

We missed the opening band, Hey Violet, because the line to get into the amphitheatre was HUGE. Second band, One OK Rock was really interesting – they’re from Japan, and, while they have a somewhat poppy sound, they were heavier than I was expecting (there was even some screaming! Like really-early Fall Out Boy!) – I especially enjoyed “Mighty Long Fall“.

5SOS came out just before 9pm to THUNDEROUS applause. I was not even a little close to the stage (in the 400 levels), but the noise was DEAFENING. The guys seemed to really enjoy themselves and looked like they had a lot of fun running around the stage and working up a sweat. They banged through most of their set, pausing only a handful of times to chat (even though it was hard to hear/understand them over the screams) and make up a couple of Toronto-only songs: “Poutine Doesn’t Taste Like Poo Poo” was one, “Living In the Six (With Drake)” was another. Their actual songs were awesome: “Permanent Vacation” is my favourite, but fan-favourite “Amnesia” was also really good (I liked that a lot of people held up paper hearts). And while “Jet Black Heart” is a fantastic song, I do wish Michael Clifford had skipped the smoldering intro mostly because I thought my eardrums were going to burst from all the screaming (I’m not ashamed to admit that I covered my ears at one point because it hurt so much). Still, they put on an entertaining show, and I’d see them again…but I’m going to have to invest in a pair of earplugs first.

Mini Show Reviews: June 2016

The Summer Set – May 31

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I’VE MISSED THE SUMMER SET SO MUCH. It had been nearly two years since they were last in Toronto, and they didn’t hold back when it came to putting on the best show they could. I missed the first opening band, but the other two were good: Royal Teeth was like a hybrid of Echosmith and The Summer Set (see “Mais La“), while Handsome Ghost had a The Ready Set-meets-Nick Santino vibe (check out “Graduate“).

When TSS came on, though, I (along with most of the crowd) lost my mind. They played a lot of songs from their most recent album, the addictive Stories for Monday, but also included some of their older stuff, including their first major hit, “Chelsea“, and one of my favourites, “Boomerang“. From the gorgeous opening chords of “Figure Me Out” to the last lines of “Lightning in a Bottle“, they were fantastic – full of energy and genuinely excited to be back on stage. It was the first show in a while where I left the venue, sweaty and voiceless but completely exhilarated.


PVRIS – June 5

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For a band that’s doing their first headlining tour, it’s impressive that PVRIS has managed to sell out almost every city, including Toronto! .

Openers Polyenso, CRUISR, and Lydia were all enjoyable. CRUISR’s sound doesn’t really match their physical appearance, but I kinda liked them (I actually saw them open for The 1975 a couple of years ago, which I did not remember, but “All Over” is really fun). And I’ve seen/heard Lydia before – a lot of their songs are pretty mellow, but they’re quite upbeat during a live show (including a single from Run Wild, their most recent album, “Past Life“).

Because PVRIS only has one album, they pretty much played all of White Noise, plus a new song (“You and I“), and one of their very first songs (“Only Love“). They had a lot of energy and, of course, are super talented, so their set was basically flawless and their growing popularity is much deserved. Plus their lighting and set design was visually appealing, and I loved that Lynn forced everyone to put down their phones for “Holy“, even calling out someone during one of the verses. If you haven’t checked out PVRIS yet, you definitely should!


twenty one pilots – June 7

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It’s hard to believe that the last time I saw twenty one pilots (in September, last year), they played to 3000 people and this time, they stood in front of a crowd of (probably) 15000. I’ve never seen the amphitheatre that packed (I was expecting the seats to be sold out, but holy smokes, even the lawns were crowded!!), but I don’t think anyone left disappointed. TOP was energetic as always, barely pausing in between songs as they played a mix of old and new, including a medley of really old songs (for the die-hard fans) on a mini stage somewhere in the 400 levels and a couple of covers (you haven’t lived till you’ve shouted the words to “My Heart Will Go On” with thousands of other people). We left before their last two songs to make our train on time, but I could hear “Trees” from the parking lot, and it was still incredible. TOP is one of those bands that I started out casually liking and ended up being (borderline) obsessed with – their live shows are phenomenal (the staging/backdrops/lighting alone are worth the price of admission), and I can only imagine that they’ll get bigger and more popular in the next couple of years.

I missed the first opening band, Chef’s Special, but the other band, Mutemath, was decent. Not really my type of music, but I appreciated that Tyler and Josh are fans and were able to tour with a band they really admire. Isn’t that the dream of any musician?

Mini Show Reviews: May 2016

Since I’ve been to a couple (well, three) shows in the past week-and-a-half, I decided to write mini reviews rather than dedicate a full post to each one.

Pearl Jam – May 12

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My sister and I bought these tickets for our dad (who really only goes to shows if one/both of us is with him) since he’s been listening to Pearl Jam for years. I have to admit that I only knew a handful of songs on the setlist, but that didn’t stop us from having a good time – you gotta love some nineties grunge/alternative. A personal highlight for me was “Daughter“, which I like warbling at my dad, and when they surprisingly played “Last Kiss” (if you ever want to feel sad, listen to that song). For a bunch of “old” dudes (the band has been around literally as long as I’ve been alive), they had a lot of energy and played for over two hours straight with maybe a five minute break before the encore. My dad also loves that Eddie Vedder swigs from a bottle of wine while on stage, but miraculously is still coherent (well, mostly – we had a hard time understanding him, but it could have been our nosebleed seats). They’re also some pretty stand-up guys: they mentioned a couple of benefits they’re working with, not to mention the fact that some of the proceeds from their show were going to Alberta to help for the Fort McMurray fires.


Enter Shikari – May 19

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Admittedly, one of the reasons I was stoked for this show was the opening band – those wonderful Australian chaps, Hands Like Houses – but Enter Shikari were brilliant as well.

HLH’s set was short but tight, and I can only imagine how insane their headlining shows are. They’re so full of energy and the setlist – mostly tracks from their recent album, Dissonants, including the epic “I Am” – flows together really well.

I also found myself really getting into ES this time around. One thing I like about them is the combination of some of my favourite musical elements: a sick beat and some unclean vocals. They didn’t stop to chat too much (though there was one hilarious moment involving a crowd-surfer who lost his shoe), but powered their way through their set, playing some tracks off of The Mindsweep such as “Anaesthetist” and older tunes including “Solidarity“, plus their new single, “Redshift“. The crowds are always so wild during an ES show, so I tend to sit on the balcony if I can manage it, but I do think it’s about time for them to be ungraded to a bigger venue (it was hot as balls in the club because of all the people).

P.S. You can read my interview with front-man Rou Reynolds for idobi radio here!


The 1975 – May 201975This was our fourth time seeing these English gents, first time since they released their second album, and the show was, of course, amazing. Matty’s gotten a bit chattier since that first time they played in Canada, but they genuinely seemed to be having fun. Their drummer had been injured about a week or so ago, so they had a replacement – but you could barely tell he wasn’t an original member because they sounded so put-together. It’s also wonderful to see the way they’ve grown as a band, both in terms of their sound and the tightness of their set, but also their popularity: they went from playing to 600 people in 2013 to 5000 people in 2016, which is pretty impressive. Of course I loved the older songs – “Chocolate”, “Robbers”, and “Sex”, in particular – but the new songs were also beautiful – especially my faves off the album, “A Change of Heart“, and “UGH!“. They also paid a mini tribute to their original fans with “Fallingforyou“, a song off of one of their first EPs.

If you get a chance to see The 1975 live, do it! They’re completely worth the money (and the hype)!

(Un)Covered Round-Up: March-May 2016

I may have mentioned that I write a column for idobi about song covers. Here are the ones that have been posted since March!

AND, even though I wrote a review of V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows here, I also wrote a review for idobi, which you can check out here!