We’re Back! And so is Hooky!

Well it’s been a minute hasn’t it?

Things were going along swimmingly near the end of 2019. We had just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime dream gig in Hebden Bridge, UK to see the temporarily reformed Adorable play two stellar gigs at the Trades Club, visited Manchester where, with a music legend leading our way, experienced first-hand some absolutely iconic locations never to be found in any tourist guide, and had returned to Canada to settle in for holiday season with all kinds of plans for Disarm 2020 already brewing.

What’s the saying? Life happens while you’re making plans? Outside of the scientific community, I don’t think very many could have predicted Covid-19, or the impact it would have on the entire planet. We lived through the SARs scare of 2003 in Toronto, which resulted in a music festival where thousands rock-and-rolled at Downsview Park with Rush, ACDC and the Rolling Stones. No lock-downs. No panic. None that I recall anyway. Why would this be any different?

I wonder if anyone kept their Rolling Stones face mask?

In the early months of 2020, work sent us home “for a few weeks”. Just in case. We never returned, at least to that office anyway, as working remotely turned out to be an efficient, and appealing answer for the industry I’m in.

Most of the world shut down. Live music played to packed rooms vanished and the venues and pubs locked their doors. Many forever. The landscape of our world and how we spent our time since Disarm was born was essentially wiped out within a few months. Sadly, we lost a lot of our music heroes too.

Needless to say, the world changed over the next two years. Everyone I know, save a single person, has been hit by Covid. Fortunately, those cases were relatively mild. We too went through it and came out no worse for wear.

So here we are, (mostly) on the other side of it. Restaurants are open. People are socializing. LIVE MUSIC IS BACK!

And so is Disarm.

But where to begin…well what better way to kick it into gear than with Hooky?

Peter Hook and the Light will grace our much-loved Danforth Music Hall for a two-night stint on August 11th and 12th, performing the Unknown Pleasures and Closer albums by Joy Division, and opening with a New Order set.

We are beyond chuffed to be attending the Peter Hook experience for what will be the 7th time, testament to the fact that Hooky and the band never fail to deliver a set that keeps us moving and singing all night long, and always leaving us wanting more.

Tickets are still available, so grab em’ while you can. We hope to see some familiar faces and raise a few toasts to those that survived it, and those that didn’t. It’s the “perfect kiss” to start things up again.

Words and Hooky photos by Dave MacIntyre. Sars photo by Aaron Harris of the Canadian Press.

The Watchmen at The Danforth Music Hall

On Saturday, November 23rd, The Watchmen’s fans gathered for an assured good time at at the Danforth Music Hall. Set amid the sweet spot between adjusting to winter darkness and the full-on holiday season, this evening was an occasion for friends to get together for one big night out of Canadian Rock and Roll from one of our greatest bands who disbanded in 2003 but have played together occasionally since 2010.

The Watchmen packed their set list full of gems the crowd knew by heart, and still found time for some surprises that reminded us that Daniel Greaves has an incredible vocal range and versatility: on this occasion there were nods to Billy Bragg, Spirit of the West, Bob Marley, and others amid a rapid fire set of The Watchmen’s own classics.

The twin high points of the evening encompassed the story of music in its highs and lows. The band adapted their planned set on short notice to pay tribute to the late John Mann of Spirit of the West, with an unforgettable cover of “Political” dedicated to “The Spirit of John”. The rendition was inspired, a proper tribute. People in the crowd danced wildly or cried discreetly in the moment. Another surprise came in the form of a (long delayed) gold record presentation for their 2001 album Slomotion. Everyone in the room got to feel like friends and family, celebrating this milestone, no easy feat in a country this large and spread out. Celebration is so important and often denied artists, and it felt really special to share the moment with a band who deserves much acclaim. It all reminded us that this band is one of the few holding the torch left by The Tragically Hip, their contemporaries, who can take us on emotional and musical journeys with an ease that seems effortless.

The Danforth show covered all the albums we know and love, featuring Slomotion most heavily with five songs. The selections from that album and Silent Radar are sing-along anthems their fans have held dear for twenty years, and are now burnished as Canadian rock classics.

The evening was fluid with spontaneity: A bit of “I Can See Clearly Now” a dash of “Superman” a hit of “Between the Wars” (for aren’t we still, and always, between wars of some kind or another?) a mention of a song that brewed from an inspired moment “at a sound check in Grand Bend” making us think of the famous camping party spot of our youth, and picturing the band right in the thick of it and still finding time for innovation, a guest vocal from a boy who appeared to be a young friend or Greaves’ son, an acoustic cover of “Highwayman” on piano and an unheard of double encore (after house lights had been brought up) which sent us off into the night with a gorgeous rendition of “Redemption Song”.

Words by Jacqueline Howell.  Photos by Dave MacIntyre and Jacqueline Howell.

Peter Hook and The Light Live at the Danforth Music Hall

Peter Hook and the Light’s tours have grown with a clear sense of devotion and a work ethic that won’t quit, since hitting the world stage seven years ago. You’ve had to be there, and there could mean so many places where long time fans feel the same way: devoted to the New Order catalogue unfolding sequentially through each tour, and gobsmacked at hearing Joy Division’s music live after so many years, in all its urgency, grit, and singular power.

One cannot help but note the storied career of Peter Hook while the usual suspects – Toronto’s best music fans – who by now finally mostly know each other, against local custom – wait and discuss competing biographies and tours with the devotion of British football fans. For this is our football. Our only sport: music and its peaks and troughs, tragedy that courses through this story’s origins and even us kids like a marble vein, and the resistance to grief that New Order invented out of ashes, their improbably going ahead to New York in full shock and despair (and commitment) and discovering the saving powers of early dance club music, which they absorbed fully into their blood stream and packed in their duffles home to England, is like Camelot to us 80s kids. There is no story like the New Order story, and while it’s often sad and feels so public and yet personal to millions, it never, ever gets boring, in large measure thanks to this man and what he’s lately built.

Tonight Hooky has brought us Technique and Republic, as well as a full separate closing set of JD songs. The set list feels raw and new, considering they’ve been touring it for months elsewhere and our stop is almost at the extreme end of the run. Lead vocals are traded off between Hook and (Monaco band mate) Pottsy, who has added much to the show since he joined, with his better-than-the-real thing Bernard Sumner vocals that thrill and delight some very tough customers who memorized every note decades ago. There seems to be a few moments of confusion about who and when sings which parts, but no matter – these shows, songs, instruments, and Hook’s sheer will never have rust on them and never will, and their authenticity is always so refreshing to see that it works. The format Hook has chosen for these yearly tours is a risky one: instead of playing the tried-and-true hits, of which New Order has so many, and perfecting a formula that might be an easy one, he starts over each time with an intention to recreate full albums and see where the night takes the band.

Full albums were never arranged to be performed live at all, and not in album order, that trend that has become the (no doubt maddening) formula in the recent years of our formative music’s live resurgence. Technique is one of New Order’s very best let it play albums, but unfortunately for this writer its tracks are light on signature Hook bass lines and truly blinding moments of euphoria that we’ve become so spoiled to enjoy this close for some years now. It’s an addiction, the best kind. And we are used to getting so much of the pure stuff. It’s not a point of pride to say one misses the Substance tours, as nothing on earth can compare to that playlist, culled as it was from the best and most popular of a decade that shaped our very heartbeats and lives there still. And no real fan stops there.

Because the moments always happen. Second song “All the Way” hits in brand new ways, with its clear, pure poetry, written by a young man that resonates more with years on us:

It takes years
to find the nerve
to be apart from anyone
to find the truth inside yourself
and not depend on anyone

A surprising highlight of the evening is the rarely (if ever) played “World in Motion”, helped quite capably on guest vocals (we hear) by a mate of the band’s young son (well done, lad!) And while the crowd dances and bops and hollers for allsorts, there’s one particular glowing moment of private joy where we stand, in the form of “Regret”, which is a song that sparked love that is now in its 25th great year. It is a monument for just us two, who’ve been closer than we ever could have dreamed to this legend and now stand swaying at the back of the room.

The music of classic Technique and better than you may remember Republic is all much missed and holds up so gorgeously. The Hook shows over these years of true graft that new and hungry bands should envy and aspire to have seemed to build a solid group of us returners as well as continuing to awakening new/old fans who were under the misapprehension that our music was from a bygone time and lives only in YouTube now. This, friends, is not nostalgia at all, not a blip, but offers powerful encouragement. The word of Hooky’s stunning shows has spread so delightfully in the old-fashioned manner – hand to hand and word of mouth, that it’s become something of a resurgence of the immediacy of our 1980s culture itself, hard as that is to quantify. You had to be there.

Jacqueline “Forever and a Day” Howell

Ride Live at The Danforth Music Hall

Ride takes the stage at Toronto’s jewel, the Danforth Music Hall, like visiting old friends. This is one legendary British band who never forgets us, not in the period of recent global shoegaze resurgence or once they began recording new music again in 2017, with return visits on both album tours since. This venue feels a bit like a secret, where so many great British bands we could largely only long for in the 1990s as we pored over back pages of NME and Select magazine, have found their way regularly in recent years.

They enter to “R.I.D.E.” beginning a nineteen song set confidently with two more brand new ones: the shimmering “Jump Jet” and the infectiously jangly, harmonious and optimistic “Future Love”, rounding out their opening set with the eternally fresh, still urgent call to creative soul action: “Leave Them All Behind”, its extended outro firmly setting tonight’s musical mood. We are in for a treat, with classics and new tracks seamlessly mixed, a range of moods and sounds blended together with mastery, and all of it united by Ride’s iconic harmonies and tight-as-a-drum rhythm section.

The new record (the band’s sixth) is the extremely well received This is Not a Safe Place, their second new album in two years (2017’s Weather Diaries was their first since 1996’s Tarantula). Six new songs are played tonight, including one for the very first time (“End Game”). There’s the blistering, driving and psychedelia-tinged “Kill Switch” the exciting driving dance beat of “Repetition” and “Shadows Behind the Sun”. “Eternal Recurrence” sounds as if it could have emerged from any era of this band, and all the new music is stunningly impressive. It is the sound of a band – still united today with all four original members – who still have much to say, who won’t be pigeonholed by genre, era, or scene – the hallmark of true artistry.

The rather foreboding yet presciently titled This is Not a Safe Place speaks to this precise moment of late 2019, at the close of the first twenty years of a new century, so far from the defiant optimism of the 1990s we remember. The title suggests: Don’t get too comfortable. Stay alert. Be ready to move. It seems to connect to 2017’s Weather Diaries, then a darkening global moment when we were, perhaps, still looking for signs mystical, tribal or elemental, to save us. Ride’s new message is received clearly by the realest communities, global ones, a people united by music, values, critical thinking ability, and taste. Music is still a powerful form of protest, of rebellion, and of activism. It shakes us awake from the 24-hour news scroll, and fortifies our spirits for the daily onslaught, the next bad headline, or the gloom that’s come to rest on our shoulders too permanently. This album and its messages are sure to top the best of lists for this year as well as inspire both emerging bands and Ride’s contemporaries alike to create something new, urgent, and fearless in 2020, in defiance of all the noise.

The rest of the set is judiciously spread across the strong back catalog, including: “Chrome Waves” “Chelsea Girl” “Twisterella” “Drive Blind” and “Vapour Trail” (custom designed to ricochet you like a DeLorean back to whatever age you were in 1990).  The crowd may not be too familiar with the weeks’ old new album yet, but they are committed and enthusiastic throughout. It is always heartwarming when lager louts don’t push forward for just their favourite old song, but a crowd settles into some sort of harmony for two hours. It is the ideal, and somehow, in the alchemy of rock and roll, it’s influenced by the artists themselves.

Shortly after the show, the band casually reconvenes at a nearby pub, itself a local institution that still welcomes new and traditional music to its small stage. Here, music talk is avid and casual, all barriers removed, as Ride’s harmonies still run through our heads and a few keen-eyed fans suss them out for a shy hello. The band are gracious, chill, and the epitome of cool, standing right there at a neighbourhood local, at ease with all of it: life, music, us, and the road, their home away from home.

Jacqueline Howell

Photos: Dave MacIntyre

Lowest of the Low – AGITPOP Release Party at The Danforth Music Hall

Lowest of the Low AGITPOP Record Release party, Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, May 31.

It’s a spring Friday night in Toronto and the Music Hall is packed full of Lowest of the Low fans. People who know this band’s 1991 debut record word for word. We’ve grown up with it. It holds a very special place in our Toronto memories (and beyond) and it has the power of great, singular music to transport its fans back to our younger selves. Not a few of us are here with the same ones we’ve been listening with since the 1990s, when bands had lots of time to bake, albums were played until they became our own anthems, and time moved slower.

Shakespeare My Butt, is, as the irreverent title suggests, an energetic twenty-something that’s equal parts bookworm and upstart. It was not common at the time for Toronto bands to take pride and ownership in this city, still then, deep in its insecurity complex and far too susceptible to American and British media, music, and notions of what cool was. But Lowest of the Low did that. They sang about making out late at night on Bathurst Street. The simple drunken joy of a tin of beer at the east end’s Only Café (a legend, already, back then and an institution by now). The Carlaw bridge appears. These are not references for the tourists, they do not pander to the American radio market, and they mean nothing to people unfamiliar with our neighbourhoods. They are community references, and references now belonging to fans of this band.

The album is Canada’s own George Best, the much-lauded classic Indie British record by The Wedding Present from the same period which documents, in sometimes excruciating detail, the cycle of first love through open-hearted, ripped from a diary verses. Both albums took hold of their respective cultures.  Shakespeare My Butt is an edgy album, featuring a then very bold use of profanity and frank talk of sex, both things that fuel young lives.

Bands with iconic albums slow-brewed over our formative years have an uphill climb when releasing new music today. There will always be the nostalgists, the “play the hits” louts. But the release of new music for our important 1990s (Canadian) bands is a big milestone today, and one well worth celebrating. The set weaves old and new rather seamlessly, with a lot of thought given to the set list and where to place the sure fire hits. But the Low needn’t worry. The new material is wholly their sound, still full of activism, boldness and the gritty love of those in need that their band name speaks to, with a well done accompanying video display that weaves historic civil rights march footage with the contemporary and the local, as seen as a backdrop on “The Barricade”.

Friends are brought out, filling the stage with a horn section and a bongo drum player. Guitars are swapped madly as the band runs through songs with the same energy as the records, and with Ron Hawkins in the rarest of voices, one ever-clear and unchanged across 25 years. A wonderful moment comes when Hawkins places his microphone in front of a woman in the crowd to ask her to tell us a story. She doesn’t hesitate. She’s ready. She mentions back in the day, CFNY 102.1 The Edge, hearing the song they are kicking into, having gone through a rough time and how it helped her through it. It’s a perfect soundbite of a story we all can relate to. Ron lays back on the stage, the microphone above his head, like he’s at home on his bed in that time travel world of last century on a long distance call over a cord stretched from one room to another. He looks utterly at home. He says speaking of CFNY…

Dave Bookman’s death of last week is still right under the surface of this city’s skin. Hawkins says some perfect words up to the rafters and beyond about Bookie, that he’s here, that “we’re just gonna keep on doing what he would do until he tells us to stop”.

The Low demonstrates that they still have their finger on the urgent pulse of what matters. Tonight the front row (in our end of the room) is solely comprised of petite, devoted women, who get to see and hear a rallying cry from one of our clearest voices for their rights, which are being challenged as we speak, even in 2019, half a century after the civil rights movement.

And it’s a fight that needs to be fought at every corner, even in rooms as friendly and warm as this one.

All standing room rock shows bring out the possible tension being shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, in an unregulated area which relies almost totally on non-dickish behavior. Here, as in past Lowest of the Low shows, the room is quite an even gender mix (more than in many rock shows). One complete star of a fan is at the barrier on crutches. You gotta love music fans with all your heart. But one man emerges, looking to “good-naturedly” push and bully his way to the front. He is large, and uses his size to get his way, along with an uncomfortable jocularity. For we are not all jocks. We all have the right to enjoy a show in our own way. Majority rules, I guess, and in this part of the room (which happens to be the front row, stage right) there are quiet couples and women giving each other reasonable space. Until one man elbows, high fives and points his way to the front during, predictably, one of the hits. He even pats a stranger on the head. He’s alright when people go along with his ploy to push in front of others, the oldest trick in the book to the seasoned gig goer, but when he meets any resistance (even being ignored) he turns ugly. He disappears halfway through the show, a relief.

Tonight’s show closer is the melodic, honest sing along, “Rosy and Grey”, which talks about the simple pleasures of life on the margins / for the young. The fleeting freedom of the EI check (Unemployment benefits / “the dole”) meaning one can pay for a round of drinks. Regrets and reminiscences. The cheeky line about oral sex which is part of a couplet that is actually one of the most romantic in Canadian music history. This is The Lowest of the Low. The album became a phenomenon because their punk sensibility and fearlessness about their content broke through and said what everyone was thinking, told the truth about what young people (and hell, older people too) were doing and how we were living. And it holds up today, is enshrined as a classic album, as much as contemporary music ever can be in this country, these days, by a bands’ own bootstraps and the goodwill of fans willing to buy a box set.

Jacqueline Howell

Photos: Dave MacIntyre

Social Distortion Live at the Danforth Music Hall, Toronto

The Danforth Music Hall bristled with energized anticipation Wednesday night.  It had been a while since California punk rockers, Social Distortion, had been to Toronto and fans were ready to ingest everything Mike Ness, Jonny “Two Bags” Wickersham, Brent Harding, and David Hidalgo Jr. could and would throw at them.

After Tennessee singer/songwriter Will Hoge opened the night, Social Distortion walked out in front of their customary backdrop of 50s iconography stage props and launched into “Reach For The Sky”.  And with that, the night took off and didn’t let up.  Social Distortion played a solid selection of songs spanning their 1983 to 2011 discography with a few great covers and new songs added much to the delight of fans waiting for news of a new record.

Highlights of the set included “Bad Luck”, “Machine Gun Blues”, new songs “Over You” and “Born To Kill”.  The encore set ended with a pair of Johnny Cash songs including “Folsom Prison Blues”, and a Social Distortion classic “Ring Of Fire”.

It was well worth the wait.

The fall tour continues into the United States ending just before Halloween in Huntington Beach, California.

Complete Set List

Reach For The Sky
Highway 101
Don’t Take Me For Granted
She’s a Knockout
Bad Luck
Mommy’s Little Monster
Another State of Mind
Machine Gun Blues
Over You
Far Behind
California (Hustle and Flow)
Don’t Drag Me Down


Born to Kill
Angel’s Wings
Folsom Prison Blues
Ring of Fire

Dave MacIntyre

Wolf Alice Live at The Danforth Music Hall

London 4-piece Wolf Alice visited Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on Friday night and delivered an inspired set of infectious alternative rock.  The band have been touring in support of their critically-acclaimed September 2017 release of Visions Of A Life.

Dave MacIntyre

Alison Moyet Live at the Danforth Music Hall

Alison Moyet doesn’t perform her hit song “Invisible” anymore. (And hasn’t for eons.)

As she tells the Toronto crowd, hilariously, conversationally, and in a way that should head off any moaning: She doesn’t do it anymore for a couple of reasons. One has to do with being comfortable with one’s natural accent rather than the style the song was sung in. The other? In her 50’s the singer no longer feels like longing (pining?) about a man (that’s an asshole). (The exact quote was not caught due to roars of knowing laughter from the crowd).

That song is just one of Moyet’s many across a broad body of work. “Invisible” was a major hit in the U.S. In Canada, however, and in Toronto, particularly, we’ve always had at least one ear open to the U.K. when it comes to musical quality and news and do not learn about notable British music via our neighbours south of the border.

If anyone is caught up on one song in a repertoire this interesting, unique and broad, they’re not really here. What really matters is that beyond the front packed section of die-hard fans in this unseated main floor is that there’s a middle layer of the Toronto people we live to see and have missed: they have room to dance, and are doing so with abandon like we haven’t seen since some time in the 80s. The party is right here: full of straight sweethearts and LGBTQ couples enjoying themselves. And legendary Yazoo Synth-pop tunes are as crisp and fresh as they were when they once blasted out of our beautifully indie radio stations, our exciting new music television, our school dances and our world-class nightclubs. “Situation” has lost nothing over the years, it is absolutely transformative. Imaginary (once so dreaded but, also, inevitable) smoke from smoke machines seems to envelope us for 5 minutes.

The biggest of the Yazoo-era songs for this crowd has to be “Don’t Go”. The mini-dance floor erupts, as hands rise from all over the Danforth Music Hall. The people who might have wanted a seat are now the envy of all in the balcony. This is one of those songs that Toronto always claimed as ours and has stayed in our blood. It erupted from car sound systems on the Danforth and Bloor Street cruising nights, from high school parking lots, from basement rec rooms. It existed outside of visuals, almost pre-music video, that’s how it felt: we projected ourselves onto those keys and oh, that voice. If only.

But. Ask any fan in a big city who still prioritizes seeing the greats on tour formed in the 80s: this is not nostalgia. It is nostalgia for five seconds when you first/finally hear that iconic tune played before you live, but thereafter is recognized to be endless, relevant, influential, iconic, classic. And it’s high time our generation(s) recognize the 80s artists for what they were (and ARE). Our own British Invasion. Our sweeping Gothic romance complete with rolling moors and dark romance. Our happy, cool, messy anti-Woodstock, in darkened rooms with lifetime loves or with strangers. In grimy rock clubs and eventually, towering nightclubs. Each night a success and a memory, never recorded by cameras that just didn’t work in nightclubs and were beside the point of youthful living, then (and now, try it). Those of us who valued that will always put the camera phones and the thoughts of social media posting mostly away in times of real music like this. Brief exceptions are made for connecting with friends or exclamations that state how utterly speechless you are with happiness. One photo. But that’s all.

And Alison Moyet’s range, as her legions of devoted fans know well, is far deeper than her biggest hits or her earliest records with Vince Clarke (later of fellow Synth pop legends Depeche Mode and Erasure). There’s 9 solo albums in addition to Yazoo’s two. Tonight, across 21 diverse songs, there’s real artistry at work, a vocal queen who can rightly call this an instrument. There’s depth that could form the backbone to stage a production in London’s West End or Broadway. There’s aspects of Moyet’s voice that are highly evocative of Bowie, an artist never far from fans’ minds these days. There are Torch songs. A word we forgot about. There is a tradition of Synth Pop here that has evolved in Moyet’s signature style with a one-of a kind bluesy voice, and most of the show is an utter bop. And as we take it all in, having just seen shows in recent weeks by some of the biggest names in pop, we realize that Yazoo, Alison and Vince, might have actually invented our entire era’s notion of a banger. Or as we called it then, a club anthem. A dance floor filler. A dance floor killer.

A personal favourite slow dance classic ” Only You” (come on, Tim and Dawn at the best ever Office party) is played early on and it is thrilling. It is such a sad, yearning song and is so beautiful. Moyet introduces the exciting “Nobody’s Diary” from Yazoo’s second album, as a song she wrote at the age of just 16. “The Man in the Wings” is one of the show’s many expert shifts of mood,  into a torchy-ballad that demonstrates Moyet’s softer side. “Changeling” from 2013’s The Minutes is a crisp, urgent, slickly produced fresh dose of Electronic music with a big payoff in the chorus when Moyet’s vocal acrobatics soar. It reminds us we’ve got some new records to buy from this icon.

The current tour continues through the United States, Ireland, Scotland, throughout the U.K. and European cities until the end of the year. Alison Moyet’s official site.

 Jacqueline Howell

Photos: Dave MacIntyre

Oh Sees / OCS Live at The Danforth Music Hall

A full Friday night of music featuring warm up sets by Toronto Surf Punk band King Beez, Peeling (Toronto) and Solids (Montreal) sets the stage for Oh Sees highly anticipated return in support of their August release, Orc.

Oh Sees (who are now making music under OCS again and best known as Thee Oh Sees) in their 20th year with as many albums under their various incarnations, transform the fabulous Danforth Music Hall into something that feels not just like the hottest spot in the downtowns of our imagination, but of our imagination of the mythical 1970s we all long for.

The Garage/ Psych / Freak Folk band’s opening three songs include new single “The Static God”, while the set overall ranges pretty broadly across the band’s impressive roster. Well-represented are albums Mutilator Defeated at Last (“Sticky Hulks”, “Web”, “Withered Hand”), Carrion Crawler / The Dream (“Contraption / Soul Desert”, “The Dream”) and Floating Coffin (“I Come from the Mountain”, “Toe Cutter / Thumb Buster”.)

Oh Sees stage set up is worth mentioning: all four band members are foregrounded in a row close to the front of stage, including their two drummers. Unusual, and impressive: two drummers working in tandem with almost no breaks for about 2 hours is something that must be seen from all corners of the room.

John Dwyer’s signature playing style and the band’s tightness with long, fluid, meandering riffs create a beautiful sense of time suspended and rearranged. It’s often hard to totally forget the innate routine of all live performances when you are an active concert-goer, the rhythm that despite what band is up there conforms to certain norms and imposed rules. We are too tied to the ever-present blinding flash of the phone screen, and the automatic glance at the time. But here, tonight, it goes sideways and feels spontaneous and alive in a way that is very rare in this city. The mobile devices are mostly stashed in favour of something deliciously throwback. Many of us are old enough to know just how much music needs to throw us all back into something more real, and for tonight it is the law of the land.

The rhythm of Oh Sees is uniquely their own, following its own internal flow.  The live show’s psych meanderings do nothing to disrupt the unflagging energy & pace of the overall thing. The mind drifts along this river of sound, this is what we came for, imagining things out of Dungeons & Dragons and remembering snatches of things from the fringes of the fantasy books that many creative people subsisted on in their youth. Back when Fantasy and D&D was uncool, underground, thought, prejudged by the uptight establishment to be dangerous. Good music is always dangerous. In the best way.

It’s a really happy and lively crowd tonight. An impressive amount of friendly- seeming crowd surfing including females is a feature, and those held aloft seem to be held up in a friendly way all across the front of the hall, rolling gently like beach balls. No one seems to take a sudden dive. Real music is doing its job, like no one else can do. The outside world is forgotten for a precious few hours. (Hey, did anyone ever claim that lost shoe?)

Touring the just-released Orc, (and ahead of November release Memory of a Cut Off Head) Oh Sees occupy a prime place in the very valid, not at all “just trendy”, decidedly genuine grass-roots rebirth of vinyl appreciation with its special properties that make it worth shelling out real money for, in contrast to all the years of whining from the out of step major labels (and in a heartwarming collective middle finger to the music “experts”). Fans take John Dwyer at his word near-ish the end of the set when he says the song they are about to launch into is a long one if anyone wants a break (i.e. bathroom, bar or merch) leading to a brief exodus to clean out the already picked over merch table. Fans briskly return to the hall with armloads of records, records that are seemingly full of treasures like limited edition colored vinyl and limited issues. This band knows their way around fantasy, for sure. And it’s a great goddamn time to be a live music fan in this part of the world.

A long and wide-ranging tour schedule over the summer continues in select cities until September 25th. You can still catch Oh Sees in Chicago, Milwaukee, Missoula, Vancouver and Portland.

Jacqueline Howell

Photos: Dave MacIntyre

RIDE Live at the Danforth Music Hall

RIDE returned to Toronto this week to share their hits as well as a generous helping of their just released new album, Weather Diaries, at one of the first live performances of the new material. Andy Bell, Mark Gardener, Laurence Colbert and Steve Queralt bring a well-tuned ease on their return to Toronto.

Just two years ago, the band returned to the stage for the first time in the new century (almost, they had been inactive as a band since 2001) heralded widely by fans worldwide who’ve never stopped listening to their rich & genre-defining 90s output. All four of their early records charted highly in the U.K. and their fanbase has remained devoted to their music with its timeless clean harmonies, layered guitars and dreamy highs.

Weather Diaries, the first RIDE album since 1996, debuted mid-June to strong chart success, and RIDE is firmly back with us. The Monday night Toronto show at the lovely and historic Danforth Music Hall is a mix of classics and energetic renditions of their new material that jumps off the recorded versions’ somewhat chill electro / synth based grooves to become something that flows more seamlessly with the early songs than one might initially expect.

Stage banter is kept to a minimum, while not without warmth toward the crowd, but there’s much to observe. There’s a seamlessness and an ease with which the foursome exchange riffs, rotate guitars, and trade off vocals. There’s a nice bit of sound experimentation on Weather Diaries and there’s even a surprise as Loz Colbert does a nice bit of singing from behind the drum kit.

It’s been a busy month for RIDE having played Glastonbury, Benicassim, Latitude Festival & Pitchfork before Toronto. On this sweltering summer evening, the direction set by the band was decidedly forward looking, with 7 new songs – almost half of the setlist (including All I Want, Lannoy Point and the title track) mixed in with an economical cross-section of their early tunes. Classics like Vapour Trail, SeagullLeave Them All Behind and Chelsea Girl were featured to great applause from a perhaps, nostalgic crowd (Toronto was an instant sell out in 2015 and so this may be the first time in decades / ever seeing the band play for some in the crowd), but the audience was very receptive to the new material even if it was clearly the first time a good chunk of them had heard it.

Cali has some ringing guitars that beautifully call back the best of the the sound of our beloved 90s, evoking a shimmer of an imaginary hazy beach scene we’ll all dream of on long winter days ahead. These same guitars have been taken up by the new generation of musicians operating in the Gaze/ Dreampop and Noise realm, all of whom eagerly cite RIDE as inspirations. Don’t let anyone in music insinuate guitars are going anywhere – that’s a lie made up by those who don’t know how to wield one. Play them off with this nice Cali dream.

“All turned back a century

We’ll be wiser when we fall
Like the dinosaurs before
When we’ve swept ourselves away
A better sense can start again…” – Lannoy Point

For devotees, however, it’s a nice continuum of music from one of their favourite bands who helped define the 90s sound out of Britain (and greatly influencing music out of the U.S. and Canada) who still have a lot to say and are not in the nostalgia business. They are back with new sounds and new feelings about the passing of time and the state of the world, lyrics still evocative and just slightly impressionistic, leaving ample room for the music to build upon itself, in a movement towards some 90s-style depth that popular music has been sorely lacking and will be a boon to both the summer charts, and to hungry hearts.

Jacqueline Howell

Photos: Dave MacIntyre

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