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culture

What We Saw At Record Store Day 2012

This past weekend, Record Store Day shoppers were treated to live performances from bands like Born Ruffians, Plants and Animals, and The Elwins.

The crowd filling up all the aisles at Sonic Boom for their Record Store Day in-store performances.

Many of Toronto’s music shops had sales and special offerings on Record Store Day, which took place on Saturday. The annual event is intended to highlight the fact that plenty of people, young and old, still buy their music somewhere other than iTunes. (For Record Store Day preview coverage on Torontoist, check out our profile of band Alberta Darling, and Historicist feature on record shops of yesteryear.)

Here’s what we saw at Sonic Boom (782 Bathurst Street), and Soundscapes (572 College Street).

Army Girls
Sonic Boom, 1 p.m.

The majority of the crowd in the sprawling store was shopping for deals (the register line-up snaked half-way across the place), but more and more made their way to the back to see Carmen Elle and Andy Smith’s Army Girls as the band’s set progressed. “Good morning,” said Elle cheerfully to onlookers after the band’s first song, a little after one (it was the weekend, so we forgave the imprecision). The performance was a fairly bracing start to the day, and while we enjoyed all of the set, we tended to favour those songs where Elle’s voiced soared in counterpoint to her guitar’s snarls. Before the last song, Elle reintroduced the band to a noticeably larger crowd. “We’re Army Girls,” she said. “Thanks for being here, and supporting records—NOT a dead format.”

The Darcys' Jason Couse (Left), and Dave Hurlow.

The Darcys
Sonic Boom, 2 p.m.

We admit, the first thing that really stood out for us in The Darcys’ set was a cool guitar effect—a steel drum sound. But The Darcys, who eschewed stage banter, slowly won the early afternoon crowd over with their atmospheric and subtle set. While it may have been less attention grabbing than Army Girls’ performance, the sweat dripping off frontman Jason Couse by the end was evidence that this band certainly wasn’t phoning it in. By the end of the performance, the crowd had doubled in size.

A Born Ruffians fan records the moment for posterity on their smartphone.

Born Ruffians
Sonic Boom, 3 p.m.

Born Ruffians were the clear winners in terms of crowd draw for the afternoon, with over 300 people by our count rammed into Sonic Boom’s aisles. “There’s a lot more people here than we expected,” said frontman Luke Lalonde between songs, marveling at how far back the crowd stretched.”It’s a good day. We’re in the middle or recording our new album right now,” he added, to loud cheers.

Warren Spicer of Plants & Animals.

Plants and Animals
Sonic Boom, 4 p.m.

Montreal-based Plants and Animals, in town to headline at Lee’s Palace later in the night, were up next. While they lost some of the large crowd Born Ruffians had attracted, they definitely made some new fans for themselves—and in any case, theirs was our favourite set of the day. They opened with some of the more barn-burner tunes off their new album, The End of That, but then some momentum was lost to shuffling around on the stage between songs, as every member contributes vocally to the choruses, and there weren’t enough mics. The set was one of the shortest of the afternoon, which was clever—they saved something for the lucky folks who got to see them again later in the night.

The Elwins encouraged audience participation during their song "Fox Tale."

The Elwins
Soundscapes, 7 p.m.

Later, at Soundscapes, we saw hotly-tipped band The Elwins. We weren’t disappointed: their set was the most fun of the day, with audience participation (see above) and plenty of charming banter. The boys celebrated their first ever in-store performance (really!) with a limited-edition free hand-painted EP of their Beyonce cover “Touchdown.” But the albums were already completely gone by the time lead singer Matt Sweeney mentioned them. Not to worry—the band promised to upload it as a digitial download as soon as they got home (they did so).

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