Wednesday, 27 May 2015

How (Not) to Make Friends at a Concert

Concerts are a great way to meet and interact with new people; everyone in the venue is united by a common, shared love of music. However, finding ways to break the ice with fellow concert-goers can be difficult, so here are some tips on how (not) to make friends at a concert.

1. Bring a Selfie Stick
Nothing says “I’m a great person to be friends with!” quite like a robotic extended limb with a phone attached to the other end. Bringing a selfie stick to a concert shows that you are social, fun, and most of all, smart; how else could you possibly take a photo of yourself? So, have no shame when you take out your robot limb and start snapping some photos! The people around you won’t mind, even if you accidentally hit them in the back of the head with it or block their view of the stage with it. Chances are, once they see how cool your selfie stick is, they’ll want to take a selfie with you.

2. Crowdsurf With a Beer in Your Hand
Crowdsurfing is only cool if you do it with a drink in your hand, so one way to impress people and make friends at a concert is to crowdsurf while holding a beer. The people around you will really appreciate being showered by an ice-cold Heineken as you are hoisted up into the air with your limbs flailing wildly. But, you can’t be afraid of committing to this highly-skilled act; you have to make sure that you dump that cold one on everyone as you pass by. Spill it on their clothes and in their hair; they will absolutely love being baptized by alcohol. People will certainly be impressed by your “mad skills” and will immediately want to be friends with you.

3. Put on your Best Bitch Face
Being excited at a concert isn’t cool. The best way to turn people off of you is to look too eager and enthusiastic at a show. Maintain the perfect “whatever, I don’t care” hipster image by putting on your best pout. Perfect the look by adding an occasional annoyed eye roll. Also, don’t dance or sing; don’t move at all. The trick to perfecting this tip is to look like you are getting no enjoyment out of the concert whatsoever. You could even put your headphones in for the duration of the show if you feel as if you have mastered your edgy look. Nothing says “I’m totally approachable and fun!” like an indifferent bitch face.

4. Don’t Tie Back Your Hair
Who doesn’t love a good ol’ mouthful of a stranger’s hair? Don’t bother putting your hair up at a concert; by leaving your long, sweaty hair down, people will think that you have a relaxed, chill attitude. People will appreciate you so much, they won’t even care that your hair is in their face whenever you head-bang.

5. Push Your Way Up to the Front
If you have just showed up to the venue ten minutes before the doors open and you have found yourself at the very back of the line, have no fear! Once you are inside, just push your way up to the front row! The fans who have been waiting outside for eight hours won’t mind at all as you elbow them out of the way to get a better spot; in fact, they will be quite impressed with how persistent and risky you are!

6. Make Out With Your Partner
Show how much fun and open you are by aggressively making out with your significant other in front of everyone. Who wouldn’t be impressed by such a sweet, romantic action? This would be a sure-fire way to break the ice with your fellow concert attendees (Bonus points if you dry-hump your partner against the person next to you: other concert-goers will be sure to love this obvious sign of passion and affection).

Follow these six simple steps and you will surely be the most popular person at any show!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Top Five Concerts I Have Ever Attended

Concerts are a home-away-from-home for many music-lovers, providing people with a sense of comfort during a rough time or a brief moment of euphoria that cannot be matched. Witnessing a band play live has a different effect on every person who enters the venue, but everyone leaves the show as a different person. Some guy screaming every word in the front row leaves feeling inspired and ecstatic, while the girl in the very back row with a beer in her hand leaves feeling a bit lighter. Concerts have a way of lifting spirits and uniting a large room full of strangers for a couple of hours, which is why I have decided to make a list of the top five concerts that I have ever been to.

5. PUP, The Zolas, and Hollerado @ The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, 13/09/2013

A Hollerado show truly isn’t a Hollerado show until someone chokes on a piece of confetti launched from a giant gun. However, for their special Friday the 13th show, Hollerado coupled their infamous confetti cannons with white foam that poured out during their set relentlessly. Fans could no longer see the band; the only thing that could be seen was this dense, white cloud. The white bubbles stuck to your hair, your skin, and whenever you breathed in, you would choke on it. Your screams for help would be muffled, so all you could do was fling your arm out and try to touch one of your friends to make sure they were still alive and breathing. Not only this, but the confetti would stick to the foam, which would stick to you, so by the end of the show, everyone was covered in sweat, bubbles, and paper. Sure, we almost suffocated, but it was pretty damn cool.

(Credit: Tour Photo)


The near-death experience aside, the concert was excellent, which is why it lands a spot on this list. PUP, a four-piece Canadian punk band that was still trying to make a name for itself at the time (quite literally, as PUP had recently changed their name from Topanga), brought the house down with their loud, angry vocals and screaming-yet-skilled guitar solos.

Following PUP were the much-more-relaxed Zolas, and the pale, lanky, almost-sickly-looking frontman Zach Gray looked as if he was taken straight from a Tim Burton movie. Their calm, sometimes gloomy sound suited Gray’s look and actions perfectly as he walked around the stage with his eyes closed, gripping at the wire of his microphone. Entertaining and chill, The Zolas provided a much-needed breather between PUP and Hollerado.

The quartet from Manotick took to the stage next, providing fans with a show full of sweat, beer, foam, confetti, guitar solos, and crowd surfing. Hollerado never fails to impress me with their energy and musicianship; the band always sounds the exact same live as they do in the studio. Whether it is someone’s first or tenth time seeing Hollerado, chances are they will be back for more the next time they come around (I certainly was).


Personal Highlight: Nixon Boyd, the lead guitarist of Hollerado, using the sticky foam to sculpt his hair into a messy Mohawk.


4. Matt & Kim and Passion Pit @ The Kool Haus, Toronto, 16/02/2013

The snow never let up, blanketing Passion Pit fans in a layer of white bullshit on the coldest day of the year. Fans were stranded outside the Kool Haus for hours in a barren, white world, huddling together in tight circles for warmth. It was so cold, people were crying (mainly me), but the tears would basically freeze upon contact with the unbelievably frigid atmosphere. Sure, Canadians are supposed to be able to handle winter, let the snowflakes roll off of us like water off of a duck’s back, but the weather that day was not “winter”: it was pure hell. February 16th was the day that hell froze over.

Just before my group and I felt totally forgotten and were ready to keel over and die, our savior appeared in the form of Kim from Matt & Kim. Walking up to us with a bright smile, she presented us with hot tea that she made for us in her trailer. Instructing us to dance to stay warm, Kim then left us, seemingly taking the last bit of heat with her.

A later visit from the second half of Matt & Kim made fans forget about the cold for a brief moment, but it was back soon enough, keeping each person in its frigid grip.

However, the wait in the frozen landscape was totally worth it in the end, thus landing this concert a spot on the list. Matt & Kim inspired the crowd to dance, which went a long way in helping people break free from the cold, crusted shells they were trapped inside of for so long. The duo’s high energy was just what fans needed to warm up.

By the time Matt & Kim left the stage, fans were actually sweaty, which was a sensation many thought they would never feel again. When Passion Pit took to the stage, the excitement took over the crowd, and the pure hell of what we all just experienced was quickly forgotten. Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos called the crowd “fucking crazy” for waiting outside for so long, and he was right; we were absolutely insane.
(Credit: Album Photo)

Passion Pit played a phenomenal show, opting to play a wide selection from both their debut and sophomore albums. Angelakos’ sharp falsetto brought all of us to heaven, and it was Passion Pit, after all, that motivated people to stay alive out there in that frozen hell.
Personal Highlight: When Passion Pit played “It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy”, Michael Angelakos came over and had an emotional, intimate moment with my friends and I.
 
3. Dinosaur Bones and Tokyo Police Club @ Sugar Beach, Toronto, 02/06/2013
Out of all the Tokyo Police Club concerts I have ever attended, this “Hometown Tour” show (held by Red Bull, of all things) is by far my favourite, which is why it takes spot #3 on the list. That morning, the sky didn’t look so good; grey clouds above signaled that it was going to rain, and that it was going to rain a lot. However, the foreboding skies didn’t damper the spirits of the fans as they lined up against the stage excitedly, ecstatic that the show was free.
The openers, Dinosaur Bones, took to the stage, and halfway through their set the skies broke open, dumping buckets of rain onto both the crowd and the band (the stage did little to protect them). Then, out of nowhere, the four chivalrous members of Tokyo Police Club burst onto the scene, armed with towels and plastic bags. The Dinosaur Bones continued to play even though they were getting relatively soaked as Tokyo Police Club ran around them, covering the amps, equipment, and band members with the towels and bags. TPC’s guitarist, Josh Hook, embraced one of the members of Dinosaur Bones in a quick side-hug before taking off to find shelter. The singer of TPC, Dave Monks, emerged with an umbrella and ran towards the Dinosaur Bones’ frontman, Ben Fox. Thrusting the umbrella open, Monks held the umbrella over Fox to protect him from the rain. Monks squinted against the downpour with a “holy fuck” expression on his face, and soon retreated offstage to find shelter.
The rain stopped as soon as it started, and the Dinosaur Bones wrapped up their gloomy set without incident, thanks to Tokyo Police Club. Though we were all dripping wet, the majority of the crowd stuck through the horrible weather to see Tokyo Police Club play. As the four Newmarket-natives stepped out onto the stage, the clouds disappeared and the sun came out.
(Credit: Tour Photo)





















Ever since Tokyo Police Club’s sophomore album, Champ, dropped in 2010, fans had been anxiously waiting to hear new material from the Canadian quartet. However, for many of TPC’s hometown fans, this long hiatus was broken as the band played a variety of awesome tracks off of their upcoming album, Forcefield, which came out in 2014. Tokyo Police Club finally gave fans what they wanted after such a long hibernation: new music that sounded amazing.
After the show, drummer Greg Alsop thanked the audience for staying through the rain, but the crowd felt as if we should be thanking them for giving us a spot of sunshine on a dreary day.
Personal Highlight: My friends and I ended up in a dancing montage used in a Tokyo Police Club interview, but hearing all the new Tokyo Police Club music was amazing, too. Also, we ended up running into half of Tokyo Police Club at a nearby restaurant before the show.
 
2. Kimbra, Tokyo Police Club, and Foster the People @ Downsview Park, Toronto, 19/06/2012
Oh, Downsview, the place where I lost my concert virginity. It was here I was almost thrown into my first mosh pit, my sister was offered drugs, and my best friend was almost carried away by this tall, burly guy who wanted her to crowd surf. It was hot, sweaty, and glorious, and by then I knew I was hooked on concerts. Foster the People at Downsview was my first love, and it has quite a special place both in my heart and on this list.
The evening was illuminated by a bright afternoon sun, the early-summer day prolonging the daylight, and the first to set foot on stage was the New Zealand-native Kimbra. Donning a colourful, outrageous dress, she serenaded the crowd with her beautiful voice and stage presence. Kimbra basked in the sunlight, playing many tracks off of her debut album Vows.
Following Kimbra were the good old Canadians, Tokyo Police Club, bringing the audience a sense of home and familiarity. Before this concert, I wasn’t a fan of TPC, but the quartet would soon change my mind after their set. Singer Dave Monks worked the crowd with his big, goofy smile and lanky stature, instructing people to either clap or singalong. Even though the four of them are young, they knew how to take control of the stage like veterans, and the audience couldn’t help but smile right along with them. By the time they got to the end of their set, more than a few people wished they would stay on for longer, myself included.
A hush fell over the crowd and the anticipation built up; soon enough people began to chant “F-T-P! F-T-P!”, begging the California-natives to come out. Eventually, our wish was granted, and Foster the People, led by Mark Foster, strutted out onto the stage and launched into a high-energy set.
Foster worked the stage, doing his signature “Foster Shuffle”, sliding back and forth in front of the crowd. Later in the set, Kimbra joined Foster the People on stage to perform “Warrior”, much to the delight of the crowd.
When it came to the encore, Mark Foster re-entered the stage by himself, much to our surprise. He slowly sat down at the piano, thanking the audience, and then launched into a solo performance of one of the band’s more emotional songs, “Ruby”. People brought out their lighters and their phones, waving them back and forth in time to Foster’s controlled falsetto.
(Credit: Album Cover)
 
To wrap up the show, Foster the People went all out with their production value, bringing out these giant blow-up creatures that are on the cover of their debut album, Torches.  By this point, the crowd was chanting “Pumped up Kicks!”, wanting to hear the band play their biggest single. Foster the People gave the crowd what they wanted by playing a prolonged, remixed version of the track that had people losing their minds. Foster was running around the stage excitedly, playing with the giant blow-up monsters, and just like that, the show ended. Foster the People walked out of all of our lives, much to our dissatisfaction.
As the crowd began to disperse, I thought to myself that this might have been my first concert, but it certainly wouldn’t be my last.
Personal Highlight: Mark Foster commented on the fact that he was killing tons of bugs whenever he played the piano, as a bunch of moths were attracted to the lights on stage. Foster, finding a giant moth, thought it would be hilarious to throw it at the drummer, Mark Pontius, and he dared him to catch it. He didn’t.
 
1. White Denim and The Arctic Monkeys @ Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, 21/06/2014
It could have been the dude dressed up as Alex Turner, the joy of eating pizza while listening to the opening band, or the confused dads surrounding my friends and I, but the Arctic Monkeys’ epic show at the massive Amphitheatre is the greatest concert I have ever attended.
On the first official day of summer, fans flocked to the venue donning black clothes and red lipstick. We could all sense the Sheffield swagger of the Arctic Monkeys, and we all wanted to be as close to it as possible, and for a moment, the majority of people thought that the AM frontman, Alex Turner, was in our midst; leaning against the wall was some dude rocking Turner’s signature quiff, a silk button-up shirt, a chain, and a leather jacket, emulating Turner himself. This confused a lot of people, causing all of us to do a double take, and I am sure this guy got hit on a lot that night.
The doors opened, and people packed themselves into the Amphitheatre, from the floor to the grass. With pizza in hand, my friends and I excitedly waited for the show to start. White Denim came on stage rocking their plaid and jeans, and began to play a couple of bluesy tunes. Though they were not really my style, something about eating pizza and listening to music makes everything better.
After they left the stage, tensions started to build. The sun began to set slowly, and as AM arrived, shrouded in fog, the sun had disappeared from the sky completely. The night suited AM’s sexy swagger, and as the first few notes of “Do I Wanna Know?” hit, everyone collectively lost their shit with the exception of a few confused, lost-looking middle-aged men.
The dads watched with a slight look of fear in their eyes as my friends and I danced and screamed every word, and I began to wonder where their daughters were. Some couple ahead of us began to make out, but no one could blame them; the Arctic Monkeys brought every ounce of their sexiness to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre.
The real Alex Turner on stage kept referring to the crowd as “Ontarionians” in his slow, lazy drawl, but no one bothered to correct him; Turner wouldn’t have cared if he was wrong anyways. The band played a large variety of tracks from all of their albums, and for the duration of the show, Turner either sexily sauntered across the stage or danced like a complete dork.
By the time they reached the end of their set, the Arctic Monkeys had pretty much everyone eating right out of their hands (except for the dads); we would have done anything Turner asked us to do. We were all under his sexy, Sheffield spell, which was abruptly broken after they played their last track of the night, “R U Mine?”.
The band blew kisses on their way out, which were returned by everyone (except the dads). Walking out of the venue in the moonlight, it dawned on me that I would never see a show that phenomenal ever again. Also, many of us realized that it would be a while before we saw the quartet every again. Oh, well. At least we still have that guy who looks like Alex Turner.  
Personal Highlight: When the Arctic Monkeys played the slow “No. 1 Party Anthem”, everyone took out their phones and lighters, swaying in time to Turner’s smooth, silky voice. The moment was brilliant, as thousands of white lights appeared all over the venue, mimicking the stars in the sky.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Mowgli's - Kids in Love Album Review

The Californian septet is back with their nostalgia-filled, summery sophomore album (under Photo Finish and Republic Records), appropriately called Kids in Love. Reflecting on the emotional struggles that exist in the eccentric, always-changing worlds of twenty-somethings, Kids in Love feels like a young adult’s diary that is written in melodies and rhythms rather than in scrawled, hasty handwriting.

However, Kids in Love wouldn’t be a Mowgli’s album if it didn’t promote the message of love, world peace, optimism, and kindness; the mantra of the band is essentially “be kind to everyone!” The band’s sophomore effort delivers on this message, smothering listeners in optimism; the Mowgli’s are absolutely relentless with their positivity, and they are determined to kill everyone with their kindness, one listener at a time.

Though this message is certainly met with more than a few cynical, annoyed eye rolls, The Mowgli’s deliver this idealistic ideology in a way that is goddamn catchy. Kids in Love expands on what The Mowgli’s know best: love.

Kids in Love is a more polished version of their major record label debut, Waiting for the Dawn; in their most recent LP, the band relies less on the harmonies that were so overpowering and frequently used on their first album. In Kids in Love, individual members are allowed to standout more as they do not have four or five other voices clambering on top of theirs. However, The Mowgli’s didn’t lose their signature singalong choruses in their new, more mature album. 


The Mowgli’s waste no time to start promoting their inspirational, positive message; starting the album off is “You’re Not Alone”, a song that reassures people that they are, quite frankly, not alone. Whether the listener wants to or not, they are going to feel loved by the end of the album’s 40 kindness-filled minutes. Jokes aside, “You’re Not Alone” works as a fantastic album opener as it hooks listeners in immediately with its infectious clap-along rhythm.

"You’re Not Alone” flows right into the album’s biggest single so far, “I’m Good”. The tune has a more relaxed feel with its light melodic phrases and instrumentation. Complete with a simple, memorable, singalong chorus, The Mowgli’s reassure listeners that if they are living life the way they want to, then they are doing well for themselves.

Starting with a quiet crescendo that climaxes into a ripping, heavier guitar riff that is quite unexpected of the usually acoustic, calm Mowgli’s, “Bad Dream” is one of the more dynamic tracks on the album. “Bad Dream” starts off with loud melodies and stomp-along rhythms, but this high-energy feel is traded in for a slow, psychedelic one during the bridge. The track’s energy returns ten-fold during the last 45 seconds, and because of its drastic changes in speed and mood, “Bad Dream” might be on its way to becoming a fan-favourite.

Transitioning into “What’s Going On?”, yet another relatable track that reflects the confusion of young adults who have no idea what they’re going to do with their lives, Kids in Love never loses its energy (nor its positive message) for the beginning of the album.
  
Next up is “Through the Dark”, the first single to be released off of the album. At a slower pace than the second single, “I’m Good”, the album’s fifth track then launches into “Whatever Forever” With its singalong chorus and hand-claps, “Whatever Forever” is a phrase that will soon be tattooed on many fans (it’s already inked on a couple of the band members).

“Make it Right” is the slowest, sleepiest track on the new LP, giving it a well-needed breather. Taking a page right out of Waiting for the Dawn, “Make it Right” reverts back to The Mowgli’s comfortable, acoustic style that fans of their previous album have grown accustomed to.
The energy picks up again with the next few tracks, starting with “Love me Anyway”, one of the most unique, dynamic songs on the album. Opening with a catchy rhythm that erupts into the perfect scream-along chorus that is complete with its fair share of indie rock “oohs”, “Love me Anyway” tells the all-too-relatable tale of two less-than-perfect lovers that just might be perfect for each other.

“Love me Anyway” flows perfectly into “Shake me Up”, an infectious tune that could potentially be a new single for the band. Next up is “Home to You”, which has a chorus that pays homage to their debut LP; with its enthusiastic count of “1, 2, 3, 4!” and its laidback feel, “Home to You” sounds like it could belong on Waiting for the Dawn in the best way possible.
The second-last track is “Kids in Love”, which is one of the highlights of the album with the same name. With its fast, dance-y pace, yell-along chorus, and engaging guitar riff, it hooks listeners in immediately as soon as the first note drops. Reminiscing about young love, “Kids in Love” sums up their sophomore effort pretty well.

Closing Kids in Love is the calmer-yet-gloomy “Sunlight”, which brings the album to a jarring halt. With its misty guitar riffs and dreary vocals, the summery spell that the album casts is abruptly broken with a spout of rain. Though “Sunlight” sounds the exact opposite of what its title suggests, there is no better way to end the album than with one of its most interesting tracks.

Kids in Love is a great album for young people that just need reassurance that they are doing the right thing, and who better to hear it from than a great band? Their most recent LP shows a growth and maturity from Waiting for the Dawn, as The Mowgli’s are beginning to experiment with new, heavier styles.
However, their message of love and positivity is not lost within their new sound; in fact, it rings louder and clearer than it ever did before. “I’m Good” sums up their message and the band as a whole perfectly as they sing, “I wanna see another love revolution, I found a way to be a better person. If we come together like we should, we could all be good.”

The Mowgli’s are one of the most selfless, inspiring bands out there, and they are working on creating this love revolution, one catchy LP at a time.

4/5

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Griswolds and Walk the Moon @ The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, 08/04/2015


Toronto needs some cheering up; the weather has been absolutely dismal for the past couple weeks, but Wednesday night was the first sliver of sunshine that the city has seen in a long time. Dedicated fans lined up hours before the doors to the Danforth Music Hall opened, waiting underneath a grey sky and relentless, pouring rain with little-to-no shelter. However, fans had the perfect motivation to stick it out; Walk the Moon was here. The Ohio-natives (as they constantly remind fans) brought a dash of vibrant colour and temporary sunlight to a black-and-white city with their positive, infectious music.
Hundreds of poncho-and-face-paint-clad fans poured into the venue at 7:30, thankful to get out of the cold. Soon enough, torn ponchos littered the floor as fans of all ages crowded closely together, including a pack of nine year-olds that rolled up to the venue in a limo, one boy sticking his head out of the window shouting a “Don’t you wish you were me?” at the shivering fans.

The opening band were the Australian-born Griswolds, and they waltzed out on stage donning shirts that said “Canada” all over them. “We decided to get some souvenirs while we were here!” one member quipped in an Australian accent that made all the fans yell in delight.
The singer, Chris Whitehall, gave out a congratulations to the fans for waiting outside so long in the cold. Whitehall admitted that he went out there for a bit, but then thought “fuck it”. With shaggy blonde hair and a crooked smile, Whitehall played the part of a stereotypical surfer boy, which went a long way in warming up the crowd: stooping down to pick up a flower crown that one fan had tossed up on stage, Whitehall placed it on his head and kept it on for the remainder of the set, an action that was met by a chorus of cheers. Australian heat radiated off the quartet as they thoroughly entertained their audience, playing songs off of their debut album Be Impressive.


Their optimistic, catchy tracks had everyone dancing, whetting the crowd’s appetite for Walk the Moon. The Griswolds’ sound complimented the headliner’s sound perfectly, so the Australian-natives did a fantastic job as an opening band.

As The Griswolds left the stage, the crowd packed tightly together: the lack of a barricade between the fans and the stage caused people to lose their minds. Everyone began to push closer to the stage for a chance to touch the pure sunshine that is Walk the Moon. The anticipation continued to build, and fans began to get restless, constantly checking their phones for the time. All of a sudden, “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King erupted from the speakers. Many fans felt as if they were being reborn as Walk the Moon sauntered onto the stage, met with the lion-like roaring of the crowd.

The band immediately launched into their sophomore album’s opener, “Different Colors”, which the crowd sang back whole-heartedly. As soon as the first note dropped, people were dancing, full of the band’s positive energy. The room instantly became stifling, which was a welcome change from the wind and rain outside.
“Different Colors” flowed effortlessly into “Tightrope”, one of the band’s bigger singles off of their self-titled debut album. People lost their minds by this point, and every time the singer Nick Petricca stepped closer into the audience, the crowd surged forward, creating a pulsating body of people all singing and dancing in unison. Walk the Moon tends to unite fans as one single community, one single family, and they managed to pull it off again that night at the Danforth.

Next up was “Down in the Dumps”, a track off of their sophomore effort Talking is Hard, followed by “Spend Your $$$”, which had everyone dancing, including the band. Walk the Moon obviously loves what they do, and their happiness spread to every single member of the crowd like some kind of blissful, lively plague.

Opting to play a fan-favourite off of their debut, the suggestive “Shiver Shiver” came up next, causing all the ladies to sing the sexy lyrics while pointing at the band (mainly at the bassist, Kevin Ray). Following “Shiver Shiver” was a spectacular performance of Talking is Hard’s “Avalanche”.

“UP 2 U” was next on the band’s handwritten paper plate setlists, and every fan anticipated the upcoming beat drop. When it came, everyone lost their minds and pushed forward, trying to touch the golden ray of sunshine that is the bassist Kevin Ray.  

“Work This Body”, another fan-favourite off of Talking is Hard, had the crowd spastically dancing, whether they knew the lyrics or not. Walk the Moon was basking in the energy of their audience, smiles spreading from ear to ear, mirroring the ecstatic grins of every fan.

Next was the highly-anticipated “Portugal” from the band’s most recent sophomore album, which was a surreal moment for many fans. The majority of the crowd knew every word, and people were singing back every lyric with as much passion as Petricca himself. Once again feeding off of the ecstasy of the crowd, Petricca launched himself into the sea of bodies, having a few intimate moments with some of the fans. The sea of people surged forward like an ocean tide, pushing themselves up against the stage as if it were the coastline, but never receding.

Even when Walk the Moon slowed it down with the perfect 80s-prom tune “Aquaman”, the crowd remained standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a unified mass, trying to get as close as they could to the stage. The band picked up the tempo again with “Lisa Baby”, a track off of their debut, which satisfied a lot of their older fans.

“Lisa Baby” flowed into “Jenny”, a fan-favourite off of their first album. Kevin Ray, with his blinding smile, starting swaying his hips in time to the track, which was met by a deafening chorus of screaming. However, Ray, with his eyes shut, seemed oblivious to the noise, immersed in the sound of his own music.

After “Jenny”, Petricca got the crowd to be quiet for the first moment of the night, and it was then that fans knew he was going to make his infamous speech. His mischievous eyes flicked around the venue, his gaze resting on a couple of faces, and he flashed a brilliant smile. Petricca said that he recognized some people in the audience, but he saw a lot of new faces, too. “Those of you who haven’t been to our show before, this is your initiation into the family”, he said with a sly, mysterious look in his eyes. Bringing his hands to the centre of his chest, he clutched his t-shirt, urging the crowd to do the same. Enticing the crowd, he began to instruct everyone to take “all that shit” and sadness that each audience member might be feeling about their lives in that moment, “gather it all up in your body, and push it out of you”. He raised his arms above his head, and the crowd mimicked his movements, everyone holding their own ball of anger and stress. Petricca continued, saying that he wanted the crowd to push “all that shit” above their heads, as if it were a car, and to let it go. The band then launched into “I Can Lift a Car”, the final song on their debut album, instructing the crowd to lift their worries above their heads during the chorus. There were no strangers in the venue anymore: every member of the audience was now a part of the same family in this magnificent moment, without a single worry or care in the world.

Following “I Can Lift a Car” was Walk the Moon’s most recent single, “Shut up and Dance”. “This is our last moment together”, Petricca said, teasing the audience, saying that they had to make it count. Immediately, Petricca felt the crowd’s excitement, so he began to shake his ass, much to the delight of fans. Once again, the crowd surged forward, trying to catch the last few glimpses of sunlight before they would be thrown back onto the wet streets of Toronto. After “Shut up and Dance”, the quartet exited while waving at their protesting fans.

It wasn’t long until Walk the Moon were called back onto the stage for the encore, beckoned by loud chants of “W-T-M!” As they made their re-entrance, the restless crowd began to scream, “Anna Sun! Anna Sun,” begging for Walk the Moon to play their biggest single. “Sorry guys,” Petricca teased, flashing his sly smile, “but not yet.” The band launched into a magnificent cover of The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” instead, much to the surprise and delight of the crowd.

The foursome wrapped up their set by reminding everyone that they are “Walk the Moon from Ohio” and by waiting for the last possible second to give fans what they wanted: “Anna Sun”. Every audience member sang each lyric back to the band as one being, and the spell of unity was broken as soon as Walk the Moon exited the stage, immersing the city of Toronto back into darkness.

Playing the perfect combination of both oldies and new tracks, Walk the Moon is a fantastic act to witness live; they sound exactly the same both within the studio and outside of it. Also, their infectious dance-y style and positive energy are a lot more powerful when in an intimate concert setting, providing a different, deeper connection to the band that one cannot experience when just listening to a recording.

The audience may have entered and left the concert as strangers, but in that moment with Walk the Moon, everyone was family.

Personal Highlight: Nick Petricca’s motivational speech before playing “I Can Lift a Car”, but Petricca shaking his ass to “Shut Up and Dance” is a close second.

Top Ten Albums of the Decade - So Far

With this decade being half over, it seems appropriate to create a list of the top ten albums of the 2010s so far. The albums on this list are ones that have certain qualities that set them apart from the countless other indie/alternative albums that come out every year. So far, the decade has brought music lovers many stunning, experimental debuts, sophomore efforts, and expanding discographies, and the world can only hope to see more as the 2010s draw to a close.

10. The Black Keys – Turn Blue (2014)
Must-Listen: “Turn Blue”
The first album on this list is The Black Keys’ Turn Blue. The Black Keys are no strangers to the music scene; Turn Blue is the duo’s eighth studio album, giving them an experienced edge. One of the more intriguing aspects of The Black Keys’ music is their skilled guitar riffs, and the album is full of them. Though their newest LP maintains the band’s signature, slightly bluesy vibe, Turn Blue has a slower, psychedelic, almost groovy feel to it that is relatively unexpected. Their most recent LP shows that the twosome will never stop surprising their fans, no matter how many albums they release.
 
9. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (2014)
Must-Listen: “Brooklyn Baby”  
Lana Del Rey has been given a hard time ever since her debut under her current moniker was released in 2012. Critics harshly wrote that she couldn’t sing, calling her debut, Born to Die, dull. However, that didn’t stop her from being nominated for a Grammy. A few years later, she returned with her sophomore effort that had critics eating their words; her beautiful, sultry voice takes centre stage on Ultraviolence, which is darker and more emotional than her previous album, and this impressive growth is why Ultraviolence has earned a spot on this list.
 
8. PUP – PUP (2013)
Must-Listen: “Guilt Trip"
“PUNK’S NOT DEAD!” some dude yells as he discovers this band for the first time, and he is absolutely correct; the existence of Canadian punk band PUP proves that the beloved scene is still alive and kicking. Their self-titled debut is angry, with screaming guitar riffs and barking vocals. Full of head banging and sweat, PUP is everything that a punk album should be, and then some.

7. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)
Must-Listen: “Hannah Hunt”
Winning a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album, the New York foursome’s impressive third LP is an outstanding one at that.  The members of Vampire Weekend are known for their quirky style and even quirkier lyrics, which have only become more polished in Modern Vampires of the City. Eccentric and unexpected, the fact that the album won a Grammy truly says it all.


6. Arctic Monkeys – AM (2013)
Must-Listen: “Arabella”
The Sheffield foursome are known for their sexy swagger, and they brought every bit of sex appeal they had for their fifth studio album. Dripping with black liquor and red lipstick, AM is the sexiest album out there. From the seductive lyrics to the ripping, sultry guitar solos, singer Alex Turner croons about sex, women, and more women. With every single LP that the Arctic Monkeys produce, they show a growth in style and maturity, and AM is no different.

5. M83: Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)
Must-Listen: “Reunion”
The French band’s sixth studio album bears a closer resemblance to a book or a movie than it does to an album; Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming tells a fantastical tale full of nostalgia, love, and regret. M83’s music is magnificent, from the lyrics to the instrumentation: their sound transports listeners to another world, which is why their most recent LP lands a spot in the middle of this list.


4. Passion Pit – Gossamer (2012)
Must-Listen: “Constant Conversations"
Passion Pit is certainly unconventional, from their lyrics to their instrumentation. Using the voices of children in a few tracks that are coupled with the singer’s falsetto, the band brings a certain quirkiness that is quite refreshing. Passion Pit’s sophomore album Gossamer is absolutely delicate and beautiful, as it completely reflects the struggles that singer Michael Angelakos has battled his way through. Gossamer disguises its darker meanings by burying deeper lyrics in a light, poppy synthesiser sound. The album gives fans a look into the raw emotions of the band, providing a personal connection between the two that has never been seen before; fans are able to relate to and find solace within the hardships so beautifully represented through the band’s lyricism at a deeper level, which is what makes this album so special.
 

3. Haim – Days are Gone (2013)
Must-Listen: “Falling”
 Taking third place is Haim’s badass debut album. Very few things are better than a band made up of three kick-ass, musically-inclined sisters. Haim, with their long hair and high-waisted shorts, brought the world a fantastic debut that turned more than just a few heads: Days are Gone is full of gorgeous harmonies and lyrics that young adults will have painted on their walls or tattooed on their wrists. Haim’s debut is the perfect summer album (not to mention the perfect breakup album), alternating between sugary, sweet tracks and complete badass stomp-alongs. The band brings the California sunshine with them on this debut, and a sophomore effort is highly anticipated; Haim is one of the greatest musical discoveries of the decade.

2. Foster the People – Torches (2011)
Must-Listen: “Houdini”
The runner-up is the Los Angeles natives’ stunning debut album. Even though Torches is packed full of poppy synthesizer melodies and ridiculously catchy beats, it is the singer Mark Foster’s impressive falsetto that is the album’s main strength (or at least it’s the aspect of Foster the People’s music that gathers the most amount of attention). Foster stretches his vocal chops all throughout the album, and his voice combined with the band’s inventive lyricism makes Torches a great standalone effort of 2011.
 
1. Tokyo Police Club – Champ (2010)
Must-Listen: “Breakneck Speed”
Topping the list is Tokyo Police Club’s impressive sophomore album, released in 2010. Dripping with a child-like nostalgia, this album truly feels like home, whether it’s someone’s second listen or one hundredth listen. Champ really is the best of Tokyo Police Club: with excellent lyrics and quirky guitar solos, TPC stuck to what they know best with Champ, but made it more polished. Champ shows off a growth within the Canadian skinny-jean clad quartet, displaying a maturity within their musicianship that had never been seen by fans before. Champ is a truly astounding LP that puts an end to the notion that Canadian music sucks.

Honourable Mentions:
Not quite making it onto the top ten list, these two albums are still worth a listen.
 The Zolas – Ancient Mars (2012)
Must-Listen: “Strange Girl”
 
The Canadian band’s sophomore album is surprising in the way that it is completely different from their debut, Tic Toc Tic, but The Zolas are no strangers to getting a complete musical facelift every few years. The most interesting thing about the band is that every time they release a new single or LP, it is always unexpected and unpredictable, and this album is no different.

Alt-J: An Awesome Wave (2012)
Must-Listen: “Breezeblocks”
The only word to describe Alt-J's An Awesome Wave is “bizarre”. Alt-J is definitely not a band for everyone, but the English quartet is so unique that the risks they take with their music can only be admired.   
 




Friday, 12 September 2014

Hollerado and Born Ruffians @ Pepsi Pop Up, Toronto, 04/09/2014


A whole lot of energy had to be stuffed into the “world’s largest Pepsi bottle” on Thursday night rather than a bottle and had a maximum capacity of 120 sweaty people. Despite its small size, the odd venue held its own when it came to containing all of the energy brought forth by two Ontario-born bands. My only complaint? I was very disappointed when I found out that there was no AC to cool fans down on this horribly hot day. A member of the Born Ruffians certainly felt the heat, asking the crowd in the middle of their set, “It’s fuckin hot in here, isn’t it?”. Instead of an AC, free Pepsi was provided (I would have preferred Coca-Cola to be honest).

The first band to take to the tiny stage were Manotick-natives Hollerado, a quartet notorious for a high-energy, confetti-filled set. This was my seventh time seeing the band perform, and they never fail to disappoint. Opening their set with one of their more popular singles, “Pick Me Up”, the whole audience, even those who were unfamiliar with Hollerado's music, became immediately immersed in their set. It is near impossible to not dance to any of Hollerado's songs, which quickly became problematic as the already hot room became even more unbearably sweltering. The uncomfortable heat aside, Hollerado kept the audience entertained, playing hits off of both their debut record and their equally-as-successful sophomore album. Surprisingly enough, the boys omitted the heart-felt single, entitled "So It Goes", from their short yet sweet set. My only complaint? I wish they had played for longer. The ending of their set seemed somewhat rushed, seeing as they left the stage quite quickly, after the last chord of "Americanarama" was played, throwing a humoured "we have no more songs to play!" over their shoulders. However, with all of the energy Hollerado brought to the Pepsi Pop Up, I'm surprised that the venue was still standing by the end of their set.
Soon after Hollerado left the stage, I was lucky enough to find them outside the venue, where I had the opportunity to ask a few of the members a couple questions. Here's what went down (the boys seemed quite relieved that I was not asking them about the new album):
Me: How many times are you mistaken for-
Dean (the bassist): Nicholas Cage?

Me: Yep. How many times on a daily basis?

Dean: On a daily basis? Maybe up to 10. It depends on where I am. If I’m maybe in a place or a country where white people are not the main people, it’s like 50 times a day. Which is, I don’t know. It’s just how it is.
Me: Do they ever INSIST that you are Nicholas Cage?

Dean: No sometimes I insist that I am Nicholas Cage.

Me: Have you ever autographed something pretending to be Nicholas Cage?
Dean: Oh yeah. Hundreds of times. *laughs*
 
Me: How is being in a band, or actually, two bands, with your brother? Does that make you closer or is there a bit more tension there?
Nixon (the lead guitarist): I think it makes us closer because we have to sort out things that are not family-related, and when you do that, you learn how to get along in ways that you never knew you could!

Me: So is it fun being on a bus with him 24/7?
Nixon: Yeah exactly. It’s fun. I actually like it a lot!

 I also had the pleasure of talking to lead singer Menno about his love of horses. He says the band loves all animals, but they love eating them too. I also got to talk to the drummer of the band, Jake, about the economics of being in a band.
Afterwards, I was able to go back into the venue in order to watch the Born Ruffians take to the stage. I am not all that familiar with the Midland group's music, nor have I ever seen them  play before, so unfortunately I was not all that invested in the performance. Personally, I was only there to see Hollerado's banging performance. But, for the most part, the Ruffians were pretty entertaining, even though I could not really pick up on what frontman Luke Lalonde was yelling about. However, the Born Ruffians, even though their style and music is not really for me, seemed to put on a great, sweaty show for their fans.
Leaving the venue, I was extremely happy to see that Hollerado had left their mark on the majority of the crowd, seeing as a lot of us were left singing the catchy chorus from "Americanarama". Hollerado will surely have a lot of us thinking "lord I miss you" as we wait anxiously for their new album to come out.

Personal Highlight: Hearing Hollerado play "Desire 126". That is one of my personal favourites so I was elated that I got to hear it live.


Friday, 4 July 2014

White Denim and Arctic Monkeys @ Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, 21/06/2014


Never in my life have I seen more people wearing leather jackets, winged eye-liner, red lipstick, and high-waisted shorts all in one day. Only one thing could have brought on this multitude of sexy outfits to the huge Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, and that one thing is the Arctic Monkeys. Dripping with Sheffield swagger, the widely-popular foursome played to thousands of fans in Toronto on the first official day of summer, and if you ask me, there is no better way to start off the season than with the assistance of an epic band playing an epic show.

 Analysing the growth in popularity of the Monkeys in North America within the past two years is astounding. Back in 2012, the boys were playing this same venue, but they were only the opening band for The Black Keys. Last September, the band played the Kool Haus in Toronto to promote their latest album, which was a much smaller, more intimate venue. But this time around, the Monkeys had their own headlining show at a massive venue. Not only this, but the band managed to hypothetically blow the roof off of the place with what was the most spectacular live show I have ever witnessed. To top it all off, there was even a guy dressed up as the AM front man Alex Turner, rocking his iconic boots, dark jeans complete with a chain, silk button up shirt, leather jacket, and Turner's signature quiff. If this sky-rocketing growth that results in people dressing up as you does not indicate true success, I do not know what does. 

Standing in the huge, intimidating shadow of the Arctic Monkeys were the Texan-natives known as White Denim.The foursome sauntered onto the stage in their plaid button-ups, old t-shirts, and baseball caps, sporting getups that stood out in stark contrast to the sea of people before them wearing black, black, and more black. Surprisingly, the less well-known group held their own against the monster that is the Amphitheatre, refusing to get swallowed up by its intimidating size. They played a solid 45-minute set, producing a sound that almost mimicked the bluesy style that is pulled off so flawlessly by The Black Keys. However, as I find with most opening bands, the crowd did not really get too into White Denim's sound, as most people remained seated the entire time, absent-mindedly munching on pizza. However, White Denim did make a couple new fans in the audience, as the man seated beside me asked me who they were as he excitedly texted a friend about them. 

 
One thing I have to say about White Denim is that the most entertaining thing about their entire set was their facial expressions. Whether it was the scowls poking out from unruly beards or the full-on pouts, their animated faces were truly amusing. But, the music was not half-bad either.

After about a half hour of painful waiting, it was time for the Arctic Monkeys to arrive. It seemed as if the sun set as soon as the rock stars stepped onto the stage, really adding to their epic entrance. They strutted on stage in darkness, shrouded by fog and smoke, using the album art for AM as a backdrop for their performance. Wordlessly, the band launched into the intro of "Do I Wanna Know?", the sexy lead single from AM. As soon as the "step-clap" rhythm of the song began, it was greeted by a chorus of cheers and screams as people began to move in time to the track. Opening their set with "Do I Wanna Know?" was undeniably a great decision, seeing that it satisfied both long-term Arctic Monkeys fans, along with newcomers.


Following "Do I Wanna Know?" was "Snap Out of It", another hit off of AM that the band recently released a video for. The Arctic Monkeys continued their AM-streak by opting to play crowd favourite "Arabella" next, in which Alex Turner broke out all of his slightly embarrassing, magnificent dance moves. Just before the guitar solo of the sexy track hit, Turner scrambled to retrieve his guitar, leading to a bad ass Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" instrumental interlude in the meantime. But, as soon as Turner had his guitar in hand, it was back to ripping Arctic Monkeys material as he absolutely nailed the solo.

It was around this time that, in true Alex Turner fashion, the Sheffield singer took the time to look at the audience before sauntering up to the microphone and asking "did you miss me?" in a smug, smooth tone. This question received a very clear answer, as every member in the crowd began screaming as loud as they possibly could. Throughout the night, Turner also elected to call all of us in the crowd 'Ontarionians' in his Sheffield accent, and whoever told him that this was a proper term deserves a high five.

Breaking the string of AM tracks, the Monkeys went back in time a couple years and played "Brianstorm", the brilliant opening track on the band's second album. This song got an excellent response from the crowd, probably due to the fact that the guitar riffs in this song are absolutely amazing, sounding even better live than on the album. "Brianstorm" flowed effortlessly into the Monkeys' next song of the night, which was head-banger "Don't Sit Down 'Cause I've Moved Your Chair" off of Suck it and See. During this track, Alex Turner dropped an F-bomb, singing with his smooth, black velvet voice "don't sit down 'cause I've moved your f*cking chair", thus pleasing everyone in the crowd.

Next up was "Dancing Shoes", an old time favourite off of the band's debut album. This jam got everyone dancing and singing back every word. Following such a nostalgic treasure was "Library Pictures", another song off of Suck it and See, which pleased the die-hard Monkeys fans in the crowd.





The foursome opted to play a song from their darker, gloomy third album next. Choosing to play "Crying Lightning", it received cheers from several thousand fans in response as Turner brought out his aggression for the second verse. 
 

Reverting back to playing hits off of AM, the band broke out "Knee Socks", a crowd favourite (I saw several people wearing knee socks to show their support) and potential hit for the Monkeys. Their AM-themed backdrop lit up in time to the song, which added to the overall enjoyment of the performance. For the purpose of a better live show, the Sheffield rockers extended the outro of "Knee Socks" in a way so that it would flow perfectly into "My Propeller", a song off of their third album that the Arctic Monkeys have not played live since 2010. This was a special moment for everyone in the crowd, seeing as it is a rare occasion for the Monkeys to break this song out of its box, blow the dust off of it, and play it again after four years of silence. 
 

"I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor" came next, meaning that it was time for Alex Turner to break out his signature "laaadies!" before starting the debut album favourite. Whether Turner yelled "ladies" this time around or not before the song is a mystery to me. He yelled something, but no one was quite sure what it was. That slight confusion aside, the band executed the nostalgic tune flawlessly.
 

 According to the Arctic Monkeys, it was time to slow the show down for three tracks. The slowdown started with AM's passionate tune, titled "Fireside", which gave a lot of fans a little bit of time to breathe and relax. Next came "No. 1 Party Anthem", a tearjerker off of AM, so this is the moment where people broke out their phones and their lighters, swaying in time as Turner, now playing an acoustic guitar, crooned the beautiful tune in front of us. This moment was truly stunning as thousands of little white lights appeared from all sides of the venue, mimicking the stars in the sky that many crowd members could not see because of the huge roof of the Amphitheatre. 



After that gorgeous spectacle came "Suck it and See", a "love song for the ladies", according to Alex Turner. This statement was met by a magnitude of girls screaming. The Arctic Monkeys followed that single off of Suck it and See with another single off of AM, playing the slightly humorous fan favourite "Why'd you Only Call me When You're High?". Each member in the audience sang the words to this one, and it was without a doubt one of the many highlights of the night.
 

 To end the show, the Monkeys played two popular tracks off of their second album, starting with the cheeky "Fluorescent Adolescent", largely pleasing the crowd. They ended with the much slower "505", which only made the crowd crave more. When the foursome exited the stage, they already knew that they would be called back for the encore within a manner of seconds. They made the crowd wait for a couple of minutes though, just to drive everyone slightly crazier.
 

By the time the band re-entered for an AM-centred encore, Turner looked as if he wanted to say something, but he would have been drowned out by the manic cheers and screams. So, he told the crowd to just "get it all out of your system", which we did, just in time for the Monkeys to start "One for the Road", another crowd favourite that the majority of the audience sang along to. The boys decided to slow down the show one more time with "I Wanna be Yours", setting a dreamlike mood with the help of a disco ball that scattered bits of shattered light throughout the venue. They ended the entire show with "R U Mine?", driving the crowd into a wild, dancing frenzy full of waving arms and head-banging. They extended the ending just a bit, not wanting to leave all of us 'Ontarionians' high and dry. It was a very sad moment when fans realized that the show was over, and as Alex Turner walked off and out of our lives forever, he blew kisses that were returned by a huge portion of the audience.
 




The Arctic Monkeys have been around for years now, but they are still improving as a band and steadily becoming more popular. They can work the stage like no other band I have ever seen, resulting in the best concert I have ever witnessed in my entire life. I can hardly wait to see what these four talented men will do next, because I just know that they have some aces up their sleeves. 
 

Personal Highlight: Definitely Alex Turner's dance moves and relevant hand gestures. He is such a cool guy, so it is simply amazing to watch him dance like a dork; it just makes him more lovable.