Opting for two $5.50 cans of Labatt Blue at Pride Parade over the $48.50 price tag of the Olympic Island throwdown, Torontoist missed a good show for the second year in a row (rhyme alert). Luckily for us, though, Mr Mason Wright of Propeller was able to get us the scoop. Above is a picture of the Most Serene Republic, and below is his review:
Few things, I find, get fans at rock shows into a frenzy like good horns. Perhaps the acts at this year’s indie rock extravaganza on Olympic Island took note of this — five of the seven employed wind instruments in their sets yesterday, and each one went over like gangbusters.
Last year I tried to christen this event the Semi-Annual All-Canadian Rock Band Love-in, and apart from being too long to be a good name, the organizers went and added non-Canadians to this year’s line-up. Foiled! Thankfully, they could hardly have picked a better group of Americans than Modest Mouse, who headlined a day that also saw Keren Ann, Triumph of Lethargy from Seattle, and Canadians The Most Serene Republic, Do Make Say Think, Metric and Broken Social Scene take the stage on a hot, hot day.
First up was Keren Ann, an accomplished singer/songwriter based in Paris who sang in English and French and was accompanied by a trumpet player with some serious jazz leanings. Keren herself played an old-style electric guitar, harmonica and mouth harp. Her songs went really well with jazz trumpet (even though she’s not so much a jazz artist as a folk/pop artist) and provided a nice, low-key start to the day.
Triumph of Lethargy
Triumph of Lethargy was next, and they can be summed up in one word: Loud – too loud, in fact. Apparently they are an offshoot of a punk band called Murder City Devils and originally were called Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death, a name more awful than Semi-Annual All-Canadian Rock Band Love-in. Their only redeeming moment came when they played Neil Young’s “Helpless.” I’m not a huge fan of groups who are noisy for the sake of being noisy, so I was happy when their set ended.
The Most Serene Republic
TMSR (pictured above) has been getting nothing but great reviews in the Toronto music press lately, starting with the buzz about their set at North by Northeast this month. I’ve also read that they’re the newest act on the Arts & Crafts label and that their CD is very good. They even have cool T-shirts. So, I moved right up near the front for this set. TMSR delivered, playing intricate power pop songs featuring many elements I appreciate in a band: vocal harmonies, kick-ass drums, piano featured as prominently as guitar, hand claps and a few trombone parts thrown in for fun.
Do Make Say Think
A veteran group from the “wall of sound” school of progressive music, Do Make Say Think has a very devoted group of fans and an eclectic personnel featuring, saxophone, violin — and no vocals. As someone who likes words in his rock music, for the most part, I took this set as an opportunity to seek shade. What I heard was great, but I thinking listening to Do Make Say Think is a commitment I just wasn’t ready to make.
The last time Metric played Toronto, if I recall correctly, they sold out four consecutive nights at the Mod Club, a decently sized venue. So it’s safe to say that this was a much-anticipated set, with Emily Haines and company bringing groovy dance punk to the masses. A good combination of favourites from their Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? CD and new material were on display, and Haines was a high-energy frontwoman, shaking her head back and forth and doing leg kicks when she wasn’t singing or playing keys. A real crowd pleaser, to say the least.
Broken Social Scene
And now, your gracious-if-slightly-ego-driven hosts, Broken Social Scene! Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning and friends organized this event, and conceded the headliners’ position to Modest Mouse. With as many as 15 musicians on stage at one time, BSS is always a treat to watch. There’s so much going on between band members, a large brass section and several guitars, and the effect is a many-layered jam session. the cherry on this dessert is a trio of heralded women on vocals (Metric’s Haines, Amy Milan of Stars and, on this day, Juno winner Leslie Feist). Again, a few encouraging new songs were thrown in with the now-standard “Stars and Sons,” “Anthems for a Seventeen-year-old Girl” and “Lover’s Spit.” Definitely a fun set — if you haven’t seen Broken Social Scene before, make a point of it next time they’re in your town.
With the sun finally down, the coming of Modest Mouse signalled the close of the day’s festivities. My wish list included “Never Ending Math Equation,” possibly one of my favourite songs of the past ten years, but beyond that I was just ready for them to rock. The opener was “Paper Thin Walls,” a great way to begin things, and as the set progressed it was clear they are still touring on last year’s Good News For People Who Love Bad News album. I even noticed that during the older songs they subtracted a band member, who would sing harmonies and play upright bass or trumpet for many of the recent tunes. “Float On,” “The Ocean Breathes Salty,” “Tiny Cities Made of Ashes” and “Bukowski” were among the highlights, and the set closed with an extended rendition of “The Good Times Are Killing Me,” featuring members of Broken Social Scene and other assorted friends from backstage playing a variety of percussive instruments. Happily, Modest Mouse returned for a three-song encore, capped with “Breakthrough,” which wasn’t “Never Ending Math Equation” but was good enough for me. A terrific ending to a terrific day.
Finally, I’d like to take another crack at naming this festival. Partly inspired by an answer in the crossword puzzle I was filling out between sets, I think it should be called the Olio Festival. One of the meanings of “olio” has to do with a variety of musical selections, and “olio” also is kinda close to Olympic, so in my mind it’s perfect. The Olio Festival: What do you say, BSS?