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?

Every word will shape me, every scar will build my throne

Last week really proved the difference between arena shows and club shows. On Monday, we saw Madonna and while it was a great show, it didn’t leave us sweaty and hoarse. Then Thursday rolled along, and we saw Bring Me the Horizon, which resulted in me having a crackly voice on Friday.

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Lee, Matt Nicholls, Oli, Matt Kean, Jordan

I was also thrilled to meet BMTH at HMV before the show. I had received a wristband when I bought their stellar album, That’s The Spirit a few weeks ago (it’s probably going to be my album of the year, that’s how good it is), so I skipped out of work a little early, lined up, and got an autograph from the band. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take photos with the band because of time restrictions, but I was able to tell them all that I had seen them play Wembley last December, which earned me a couple of high fives (from Jordan and Oli). Yes, it was awesome. And yes, I fangirled.

We made it to the venue with time to spare, but thanks to slow-moving security, we missed the first two and a half PVRIS songs. Technically, we could hear the songs from our position in the line outside, but it was distorted and we couldn’t hear Lynn singing. We made it in in time to see/hear the rest of their set, but I was disappointed at missing the intro to “Mirrors”, which is my favourite PVRIS song.

Next up was Issues. I’ve tried many times to get into Issues (mostly because they constantly tour with BMTH, so I have no choice but to hear them), and I just can’t. I don’t know what it is about them, but they just don’t seem to work for me. This time was no exception, though I can now recognize some songs.

As soon as BMTH came on stage, I knew we were in for an amazing show. They opened with “Doomed” and segued seamlessly into “Happy Song”, just like on the album. After that it was just jam after jam.

The setlist was relatively short – about 13 songs in total – and most of the songs came from That’s The Spirit and 2013’s Sempiternal (which was fine by me since those are my preferred BMTH albums), with two older songs thrown in.

Oli Sykes is a frontman who can command his audience, no matter the size. When he says “jump”, you jump. No questions. Even if it means almost colliding with the guy nursing the broken arm beside you (sorry, dude). All five band members seem like they’re really enjoying themselves on stage, which adds to the overall experience: if they’re happy, their audience feeds off of it. Their light show was excellent as well, the giant screen behind them occasionally flashing out the words to the songs, encouraging us to shout along.

Not ones to end with a whimper, BMTH’s last song was their anthemic “Drown”, complete with dramatic puffs of smoke from onstage and one of the loudest sing-a-longs I’ve heard in Toronto. It was magnificent.

I don’t blame you if you’ve been scared off of BMTH in the past; their older albums are not for the faint of heart. But they’ve taken a more rock approach to their past two works, and I highly recommend giving them a chance if you haven’t already.

Warped Tour 2015

I used my really great (and obvious) title for last year’s Warped recap, so I’m stuck with generically listing them from now on.

Anyway, this was my SIXTH Warped experience!

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For some reason, a bunch of bands on our list were playing between 1:50 and 3:20, so it was hard to determine who we saw and who we neglected, but we generally went with bands we’d never seen before (which meant I missed Neck Deep and The Wonder Years, but that’s okay because they both have new albums coming out, so I’ll catch them on tour). We “discovered” some new bands we ended up liking it (Moose Blood), saw some old favourites (Family Force 5), and managed to catch the top three bands we most wanted to see: PVRIS, Hands Like Houses, and Mallory Knox.

In order of when we saw them:

As It Is

They sound better live than they do recorded; also, he has a very high voice.

PVRIS

Vocalist Lynn sounds even more powerful live than recorded, and it’s so impressive. They played the main stage, and it was well deserved.

Moose Blood

A British band that has an old-school Taking Back Sunday vibe? Count me in!

Hands Like Houses

Three words: Australian David Beckham. The music is excellent too.

Asking Alexandria

We weren’t that impressed with them, which was sad because we were expecting their set to blow us away.

Black Veil Brides

Andy’s voice is considerably deeper than you would expect from someone who looks so effeminate, but it was a pleasant surprise.

Man Overboard

Classic pop-punk. You can’t really go wrong with Man Overboard, even if Zac’s dancing weirds us out.

Family Force 5

It’s impossible to stand still during one of their shows – it’s always so much fun.

Set It Off

“Why Worry” is such a jam.

Mallory Knox

We were front row and we didn’t stop screaming from the time they walked on stage. It was amazing.

We also saw part of ’68,Juliet Simms, and August Burns Red, plus the first song from This Wild Life before we wandered away to look for the Mallory Knox band members (we ended up finding Mikey, the singer, who was very sweet!).

Overall, it was one of the most successful Warped experiences we’ve had, despite it raining for the first 6.5 hours (including an hour when we were standing in line to get in). I can’t wait to see what next year brings!

Best albums of 2014

This year, for my “Best of” lists, I decided to do something a little different. Instead of listing 10 albums, I went with 14 (because it’s 2014, obviously…); and, instead of just making a list, I put them into completely made-up categories, that sort of hint at why I consider them the best of this year, along with my favourite song.

Without further ado:

A favourite band’s new album that took a while to grow on me:

Cavalier Youth – You Me At Six

Latest incarnation of a talented singer:

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Andrew McMahon (in the Wilderness)

Concept album/sequel to another concept album:

The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways – Crown the Empire

“Sing-alongs and headbanging are unavoidable”:

Happiness Is… – Taking Back Sunday

Scottish album that took forever to come out, but it was worth it:

The Great Divide – Twin Atlantic

Country-style old school rock ‘n’ roll:

Big Skies – Nick Santino

“Finally new music from these guys!”:

Losers & Kings – The Downtown Fiction

Dance all night:

The Bad & the Better – The Ready Set

If all female-fronted bands sounded like this, I would listen to female-fronted bands more often:

White Noise – PVRIS

Unapologetic pop-punk (from a Welsh band, no less!):

Wishful Thinking – Neck Deep

Final album from a band that’s been around for over a decade:

Lowborn – Anberlin

Solo music from a guy in a popular (fun.) band:

Strange Desire – Bleachers

Pure pop-rock:

Oh, What a Life – American Authors

Guilty pleasure:

5 Seconds of Summer – 5 Seconds of Summer

BONUS:

Most magnificent/unexpected single:

Centuries – Fall Out Boy

This list doesn’t even include those albums released in 2014 that I haven’t listened to in full yet, such as This Wild Life’s Clouded, not to mention any re-releases (The Maine’s deluxe edition of Forever Halloween), or albums by bands that I love(d) that left me feeling a little “meh” (Breathe Carolina’s Savages).

I think you’re a saint and I think you’re an angel

I’ve been listening to this song on and off for months. It’s unreasonably catchy.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really listen to female singers, but for the past year or so, I’ve been trying to expand my musical horizons – which includes listening to bands with girls. I’ve only heard two songs by PVRIS (pronounced, I just learned, as “PARIS”), but Lyndsay Gunnulfsen has the type of voice I can probably get behind.

Their first full-length, White Noise, just came out this past week. I’ll be giving it a listen as soon as I can sit still for more than fifteen minutes.