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?

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New Music Round-Up: February 2016

There’s still another week left of the month, but I figured I’d round up some of the standout songs that have been released recently!

Figure It Out – The Summer Set

A classic-sounding TSS song, I can relate to the lyrics about getting back to the basics and trying to figure out what’s most important, not to mention that fantastic first line: “I’m a bit too pop for the punk kids, but I’m too punk for the pop kids”. Mostly, I’m just happy they didn’t break up and are releasing an album/touring this spring.

They also released another song, “Missin’ You”, a couple of weeks ago which is worth a listen:

Good Enough – The Ready Set

Slower than what I expected when I found out TRS was also releasing an album, but it’s still catchy and fun, just like most of their songs.

Colourblind – Hands Like Houses

This video came out right before I started working on a review of their third album for idobi, so I’ve been listening/watching it quite a bit. The singer looks like David Beckham, but that’s not the (only) reason I like these guys.

Opinion Overload – Simple Plan

I haven’t really listened to Simple Plan in a while, but I really like what I’ve heard from their new album so far. Maybe it’s time for me to get back into them, because this is pure pop-punk gold from one of the scene’s “veterans” (they’ve been around for a while).

What have you been listening to lately?

Top Ten Tuesday: Books & Music

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

This week’s prompt is Books and Music. These are two of my favourite things, but I rarely put them together (except for the thing I wrote here). So I’ve decided to make a list of songs that are based on literature/authors and/or make literary references.

I know there are a lot more out there – especially David Bowie and Radiohead and The Cure and whatnot – but I limited the list to songs I’m really familiar with.

1) “Resistance” – Muse; based on George Orwell’s 1984

2) “Time to Dance” – Panic! at the Disco; based on Chuck Palahuick’s Invisible Monsters

3) “Legendary” – The Summer Set; references J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan

4) “Painting Flowers” – All Time Low; references Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

5) “Weight of Living (Pt. 1)” – Bastille; based on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

6) “To the End” – My Chemical Romance; based on William Faulkner’s A Rose for Emily

7) “Win Some, Lose Some” – You Me At Six; references Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games

8) “Back to Life” – Paradise Fears; references S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders

9) “Bukowski” – Moose Blood; refers to the author, Charles Bukowski

10) “Sowing Season” – Brand New; the second verse is inspired by Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”, and the title of the song comes from Stephen King’s Secret Window, Secret Garden

I’m positive I’m missing really obvious ones from my music collection, but those were the ones I came up with (of course, there would have been more if I repeated artists, such as All Time Low’s “Somewhere in Neverland”, Bastille’s “Icarus”, and Paradise Fears’ “Stories in the Dark”, etc).

Let me know in the comments if you think of other songs that could make this list!

Gimme a break

If there’s one thing cooler than new music from a favourite band, it’s when two bands I like collaborate and release something completely new.

Meet Nekokat, a band comprised of Jess Bowen (drummer from The Summer Set), Jordan Witzigreuter (aka The Ready Set), and Cameron Walker (who used to be a touring guitarist for The Ready Set).

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So far, they’ve released a 4-song EP, the first single being “Gimme a Break”.

This is a super fun song. It may be short, but it’s certainly sweet, and I’ve already named this one of my songs of the summer. Just try to get it out of your head after you listen to it once.

I couldn’t wait for the summer and the WARPED TOUR

It’s the most glorious time of the year – Vans Warped Tour is in full swing!

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I’ve attended the Toronto date since 2010 – it’s my second favourite day of summer (the first being Ro’s birthday, of course).

In the months leading to Warped, I carefully make a list of bands: which ones I desperately want to see, and which ones I wouldn’t mind seeing if I happen to have time. Because that is Warped’s biggest downfall: timing. Inevitably, a band you want to see will be on one stage and another band you want to see will be playing all the way on the other side of the grounds and you have to make the decision of which one is more important to you. It’s heartbreaking, but sacrifices must be made.

This year was a little more disorganized than the past few years (and that’s saying something!) For one, I hate the venue (the Flats at the Amphitheatre are a pain in the butt on a normal day – throw in a few thousand sweaty music fans, and you get chaos!), plus a lot of the bands were late crossing the border from Indiana, so the schedule wasn’t released until over an hour after doors opened.

I could dwell on the bands I (regrettably) missed (don’t even get me started on Crown the Empire because I might cry), but, after a rocky morning, the day got better.

On Friday, we had the best possible weather – the past two years, rain bursts delayed performances and basically just made a mess (Warped ’12 stands out in particular, as the tour was actually put on hold for almost an hour and everyone was crammed into the amphitheatre because of the storm) – but it was all clear skies and brisk windy periods.

These are the bands we saw (in order) and my favourite song of their set:

We the Kings

The Maine

The Ready Set

Neck Deep

The Summer Set

Breathe Carolina

We also saw parts of RealFriends (they were on right before The Maine) and The Color Morale (we could have seen more but they took forever to set up and we had to walk all the way across the grounds to see Breathe Carolina). Plus I met Rob Dyer from Skate4Cancer (who is one of the sweetest people in the WORLD), and Eric Halvorson and Nick Santino from A Rocket to the Moon (Nick was playing acoustic – stupidly enough at the same time as The Maine – and Halvo was their secondary merch/tech guy).

I was disappointed that there were bands that I missed (*sniff CROWN THE EMPIRE sniff*) (also, if Anberlin doesn’t play a final show here, I might riot), but at the end of the day, I was sweaty, sticky, smelly, and sore…and satisfied. I can’t pick a “best” Warped experience because each year has been so different (in terms of bands playing vs bands we actually saw, weather, etc), but it was still an excellent day of music, merch, and meeting band members – three of my favourite things.

Top 10 (but actually 15) of 2013

For my last Music Monday of 2013, I thought I’d do something different. Lots of music publications have been sharing their “End Of The Year” lists over the past couple of weeks, so I put together my own top 10 albums, limiting myself to albums I actually (physically) own.

Thus, in no particular order, here are my top 10 releases of 2013 (including my favourite song from each – sorry that I’ve used some of these songs in past Music Monday posts):

1) Save Rock & Roll – Fall Out Boy

When FOB announced their return after a 4 year hiatus, my heart (and Twitter feed) exploded with excitement. Save Rock & Roll is a fantastic album that combines classic FOB with their newer, somewhat more mature outlook on life and music in general.

2) Too Weird to Live, Too Rare to Die – Panic! at the Disco

P!ATD can do no wrong in my book, and their 4th album continues their trend of always surprising their fans by never sticking to one sole genre and experimenting with different musical elements. They’re still as charming as ever, though!

3) Forever Halloween – The Maine

A little more mature, a little more rock & roll than their previous efforts, The Maine never fails to delight me. Plus the amount of time and effort they spend on making new music for their fans is incredible: 2013 also saw the release of their “Imaginary Numbers” EP, approximately 6 months after their full length album dropped.

4) Sempiternal – Bring Me The Horizon

One of the more recent bands for me (I’ve been listening to them for about a year and a half, maybe less), this album allowed singer/screamer Oli Sykes a chance to use clean vocals (whereas before it was all screaming all the time), and it made them more accessible to people who aren’t necessarily metal fans.

5) Battle Scars – Paradise Fears

I love these guys and they consistently put out great songs, whether it’s a cover of a current pop hit, or something as deep and meaningful as this album’s title track, “Battle Scars”.

6) Legendary – The Summer Set

This third album from the Arizona quintet features songs that combine fun danceable jams with slightly more serious undertones – for example, the title track, “Legendary”, which touches on the idea of growing up and also references “How I Met Your Mother”.

7) Burnout – Anarbor

Seeing Anarbor at Warped this past summer made me realize that a) their singer, Slade, got a lot better looking and b) (on a less superficial note) they may have disappeared for a while between albums, but they’re still as fun and refreshing as ever.

8) Old Souls – Deaf Havana

Though it technically won’t be released in North America until mid-January (I picked up a copy in London at the beginning of December), this album continues Deaf Havana’s shift from semi-screamy to alternative-but-still-catchy-as-heck.

9) Genuine & Counterfeit – William Beckett

I love anything WB touches and his first full length solo album is no exception.

10) Wild & Free – A Rocket to the Moon

As sad as it was to see ARTTM split up shortly after the release of their long-awaited sophomore album, they went out with a bang!

HonourROble mentions (aka albums that my sister Ro owns):

1) Opposites – Biffy Clyro

Their SIXTH album helped solidify them as a certifiable rock band and one that everyone needs to see at some point because their live shows are crazy-energetic.

2) Bad Blood – Bastille

So catchy, so fun, so good to see live. These guys are talented and I hope we see more of them in 2014 and beyond.

3) The 1975 – The 1975

Ditto. (though for some reason, these guys get more recognition than Bastille, even though they probably fall into the same genre).

BONUS BESTS OF 2013:

EP: The Pop Underground – Andrew McMahon

Remember when I said I love everything William Beckett touches? The same goes for Andrew McMahon, including his first solo EP. I’m pretty sure I listened to “Synesthesia” on repeat for over an hour when it first came out.

Re-Release: Don’t Panic, It’s Longer Now – All Time Low

Just when I thought 2012’s “Don’t Panic” couldn’t get any better, ATL re-released it and included 4 new songs, as well as 4 acoustic tracks. I had a hard time picking between “A Love Like War” and “Canals” as my favourite new song, but I absolutely adore this video (if I was making a list of favourite videos, this would probably be numero uno).

Plus, I didn’t even consider Mayday Parade’s Monsters in the Closet because I’ve only listened to a handful of songs. And just this past weekend, I bought Pierce the Veil’s Collide With the Sky and The Wonder Years’ The Greatest Generation, but they both need another 2-3 listens before I can pass judgement.

Here’s hoping 2014 brings even more fantastic albums!

Must be the music

The Summer Set  falls more on the pop side of the spectrum, with music that is fun and – for the most part – upbeat. They’re also contagious (just ask Nina, who was forced to listen to them multiple times and now loves them), and a great live band.

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Jess, Josh, Brian, and the Gomez brothers: John and Stephen.

I first saw them open for All Time Low 3 years ago. Since then, I’ve seen them 5 times, including twice this year (I almost saw them again a couple of weeks ago, but they opened for 3OH!3, and I couldn’t justify spending $30+ tax just to see TSS’s 30 minute set).

I love the ending.

Speaking of the ending: sometimes when I talk about The Summer Set, I like to mention my girl-crush on their drummer, Jess Bowen:

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Isn’t she adorable?

There are so few female drummers, especially in the bands I listen to. And Jess is legitimately talented – she basically owns the stage and it’s impressive to watch her pound away at her drums and hold her own against the guys. Basically, if I could be any one else in the world, I’d want to be Jess.

I imagine she broke a lot of hearts when she came out of the closet, but she and her girlfriend are so cute together.

One of the great things about The Summer Set is that they know how to have fun and still be serious. For example, the lyrics to their song “Legendary”:

When I was a kid, I’d fly around and Peter would mention
Don’t be afraid to die, ’cause to die would be an awfully big adventure
One day I stopped believing, now my friends say they’re so bored of me
I used to be a real boy with real plans, now I’m just reality TV

I used to be your knight in shining armor, and I’d rescue you from hell
Lately I stare into the mirror, and I say to myself,

I’ve spent too many nights watching “How I Met Your Mother” alone
Now I’m searching for my yellow umbrella, hoping I’ll take her home
Maybe I just wanna be legendary
Yeah we all just wanna be legendary

Since all 5 members are 21-25 years old, they really get the whole “I’m in my early twenties, what am I doing with my life” thing. Which definitely helps them relate to their fans, most of whom are probably around the same age.

This year, with the release of their third album, Legendary (which, by the way, came out on my birthday, making it a great present for myself), they started the Half Moon Kids movement, in an effort to establish a community that “shares the common thread of understanding that our dreams are not futile” – which is a pretty important message to spread, in my opinion. I like that The Summer Set is trying to connect with fans outside of the realm of music, and for such a good cause.

Be brave. Be curious. Be legendary.