Concert review: Elsa, Smartboys, and Wish @ The Piston | Nov. 21, 2013

Elsa and Smartboys give four long-incubated records a hometown release
Tom Beedham

Elsa's Jonathan Rogers (left) and Matthew Goldman (right) playing their band's Toronto EP release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Smartboys also released three seven-inch records at the concert. Photo: Tom Beedham

Elsa’s Jonathan Rogers (left) and Matthew Goldman (right) playing their band’s Toronto EP release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Smartboys also released three seven-inch records at the concert. Photo: Tom Beedham

Although it soft released at a support appearance for Lee Ranaldo & The Dust at the beginning of October, Toronto dream-pop quartet Elsa slept on giving their debut EP I Do a proper hometown release until it could play the intimate stage at the back of The Piston on Nov. 21 – a month after it dropped officially on Oct. 22.

In the same spirit, glam-punk revival act Smartboys brought three long-uncelebrated seven-inches that helped earn the concert the title of a “quadruple record release show.” A project from Fucked Up’s Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk that began writing amid recording sessions for Hidden World (2006), Smartboys never really found the personnel it needed to reify what was on paper until it acquired vocalist Tim Westberg (U.S. Girls), Molested Youth’s Warren Calbeck on guitar, and Steven Foster (Omhouse, Snowblink, Moon King, Donlands and Mortimer) on bass. That happened in Spring 2012, and their “RSVP b/w Cutting Through Life,” “Receiving the Bribe b/w The Wrench of Recollection,” and “A Different World Now b/w Stacked” seven-inches followed this year in May, July, and September, respectively, but between its members fulfilling various commitments to other bands and projects, Nov. 21 was the first concert they had to vend their records to a public it could interact with.

So when the two bands finally brought their multi-release gig to The Piston, it seemed appropriate that their records were given a show that upheld the casual promoting they received.

(review continues after photo thumbnails)
Elsa's Jonathan Rogers (left) and Matthew Goldman (right) playing their Toronto EP release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa bassist Jesse Mirsky at the band's Toronto EP release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa guitarist Matthew Goldman at the band's Toronto EP release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa singer/guitarist Jonathan Rogers playing the band's Toronto EP release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Smartboys singer Tim Westberg at the band's triple 7" Toronto release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Smartboys bassist Steven Foster providing backing vocals at the band's triple 7" Toronto release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013 (Warren Calbeck playing guitar in background). Photo: Tom Beedham
Smartboys guitarist Warren Calbeck at the band's triple 7" Toronto release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Smartboys singer Tim Westberg at the band's triple 7" Toronto release show at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Smartboys at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Kyle Connolly of Wish at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Wish live at The Piston on November 21, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham

Opening things up was Toronto dream-pop outfit Wish, who – after all is said and done – deserved a bigger audience. A foursome featuring Kyle Connolly and Josh Korody of Toronto shoegaze contingent Beliefs on guitars (Connolly also provides lead vocals), Emily Frances of Milk Lines on bass and backing vocals, and Peter Gosling of Decades on drums, Wish is a Toronto supergroup, and one that resists domination by any of its already respectable parts. While Connolly and Korody and their offset-body Fenders are at the front of it, the noise collages of their other project are kept to a minimum here and instead the band focuses on crafting a neo-psychedelia with a softer touch.

Then Smartboys took the stage. Driven by Falco’s kit, textured with Haliechuk’s angular guitar melodies, and finding a theatrical voice in frontman Westberg (aided by some often-present gang vocals), the group pounded through a set that made rousing pop-punk anthems of slice of life proletariat defenses. And while it was curious seeing this group wedged between a couple of dream-pop acts, the still growing audience didn’t seem to mind.

The band’s set went well beyond the offerings of the six songs spread across the 45s  it released that night, so perhaps we can expect a full album (or at least some more 45s) soon.

By the end of the night, the small venue at the back of The Piston was filled up mostly by acknowledged friends and family that came out to support Elsa, and for songwriter Jonathan Rogers, the familiar faces solicited a candour that couldn’t have been found (or called for, really) at the band’s Ranaldo gig.

“Let’s get this done so I can get more drunk,” Rogers exclaimed.

But the celebratory cheek wasn’t without an acknowledgement of the significance of the night through some humour: “Hey this is the first time I’ve said this, but now I can, so – buy a record?”

And I’m sure many did.

Although the band played through the entirety of its four-track debut as well as some newer, yet-to-be-released material, the audience made it audible that it wanted more, only to hear that the fuzzy cover they were given of Guided By Voices’ “Game of Pricks” at the end of the set “was the encore.”

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About Tom Beedham

Tom Beedham is a Canadian writer and photographer based in Toronto, Ontario. His work focuses on independent culture, DIY communities, and their relationship to the mainstream, reporting on a spectrum of creatives that has ranged from emerging acts to the definitive voices of cultural movements. In addition to contributing regular features to AUX, Chart Attack, and VICE publications Noisey and THUMP, he has appeared on Daily VICE, and frequently reviews concerts, festivals, and new album releases for Canadian arts and culture monthly Exclaim!. He is also a co-organizer and curator of the seasonal inter-arts series Long Winter, for which he oversees an online blog and print newspaper-style publication, printed for distribution at each instalment of the event. He was also a DIY concert organizer in his hometown Georgetown, Ontario in the mid-2000s.

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