Tag Archives: Elsa

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.”

Concert review: Lee Ranaldo & The Dust and Elsa @Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, ON | Oct. 11, 2013

There’s plenty of noise, but Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley’s new band doesn’t play Sonic Youth
Tom Beedham

Lee Ranaldo takes a cello bow to one of his infamously hot-rodded Fender

Lee Ranaldo takes a cello bow to one of his infamously hot-rodded Fender “Jazzblaster” Jazzmasters during one of his mid-song noise jams with The Dust at Horseshoe Tavern on Oct. 11, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham

Blame it all on the Thanksgiving gravy spilled this long weekend, but for a pair of acts sharing the Horseshoe’s stage Oct. 11 as a platform for the albums they’re each in the throes of sending off as their first official releases, it was easy to see Elsa and Lee Ranaldo & The Dust were pretty appreciative of the situations that brought them there.

Concert photos: Lee Ranaldo & The Dust and Elsa at Horseshoe Tavern

Sure to get some attention on “Local Bands to Watch” lists yet to come, it’s little surprise Elsa was called on by Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo to deliver some unbuttoned dreamgaze at the start of his show. And Elsa couldn’t have been more grateful for the opening set blessing imparted on them for the night; they made it known – both literally and figuratively – with some earnest stage thanks and a set fit for gifting.

Having evolved and quadrupled in size since songwriter and guitarist Jonathan Rogers brought the project into realization as a bedroom demo some time ago, Elsa now features second guitarist Matthew Goldman, bassist Jesse Mirsky, and drummer Angie Wong.

The band seized the exposure of their supporting slot and used the event to soft release their premiere 12” single, I Do (officially due Oct. 22 via Fucked Up guitarist Mike Haliechuck’s 12” singles boutique One Big Silence), but their set went well beyond the four-track listing on that EP, hinting it shoudn’t be long until Toronto hears a proper album from these folks.

If that follows, so might a sound that is markedly different from their EP preference.

While Jesse Mirsky’s bass has a subtle presence on most of I Do’s mix, emerging only at times from the lapping wash of hazy guitars provided by Rogers and Goldman – Rogers strums chords while singing, and Goldman demonstrates a strong right hand by plucking through whirling arpeggios on his Rickenbacker – at the Horseshoe, Mirsky was distinct and pervasive, his propulsive finger picking often evocative of a laid-back Peter Hook with a thing for disseminating Quaaludes.

They closed their set with a smoggy cover of lo-fi indie pioneers Guided By Voices track “Game of Pricks.”

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust didn’t forgo paying respects to their influences, either, cranking out covers of The Modern Lovers’s “She Cracked” and Neil Young’s “Revolution Blues” throughout the night.

The bulk of their hour-and-a-half-long set was otherwise a pretty even jumble of cuts from The Dust’s premiere, Oct. 8-released Last Night On Earth and Ranaldo’s last solo release, Between the Times and the Tides (full setlist below). That shouldn’t have come as a surprise, however. Although Ranaldo’s new group features bandmates from Sonic Youth and Text of Light – Steve Shelley on drums and Alan Licht on guitar, respectively – as well as jazz bassist Tim Lüntzel (Bright Eyes), The Dust is largely personelled by musicians that put in studio time on his last solo release, which distances itself from the guitarist’s previous noise-rock exploits with more conventional song-led structures in its sights.

Even when The Dust returned for an encore and a fan shouted a request for “Mote,” a Ranaldo-led cut from his and Shelley’s more avant-garde pinioned band’s 1990 album Goo, Ranaldo chuckled and dismissed it, citing its absence from the setlist for the night. But songs relying on such perpetual barbed clangour for escort don’t really come up in the guitarist’s new work, and as a result don’t find easy segues in the new material; it is a band more vocal about influences found in the contemplative folk rock ventures of songwriters like Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young (hence the covers). Besides, Ranaldo doesn’t need validation for work that’s already proven successful.

Still, The Dust sated Sonic Youth-bred noise fans’ thirsts for Ranaldo-brand pandemonium when it wandered into some spontaneous and resourceful noise jams during the heavier sections of a few of the new songs; Ranaldo took a bow to his guitars during “Xtina” and “Hammer Blows,” and even smashed a jumble of Tibetan bells against his axe during “Lecce, Leaving”; Licht spent the night reigning over the eleven pedals he had surrounding his space on the right side of the stage and even tested the stage’s light rigging and bulkhead as neck slide devices during “Key/Hole.”

Fans even glimpsed some classic Sonic Youth nostalgia onstage. In addition to a more recently acquired (remarkably pristine – for Ranaldo) purple Deimel Firestar (not to be confused with the green 12-string Deimel seen on the cover of the Corporate Ghost DVD) and Jarell JZH-1x, the guitarist’s artillery included the signature Jazzmaster model Fender consulted Ranaldo on and manufactured in his name, the Saul Koll custom-built cherry F-Hole Jazzblaster Ranaldo’s used since tours in 2000, the Telecaster Deluxe that Kurt Cobain once borrowed (even though he played right-handed) to perform a cover of Fang’s “The Money Will Roll Right In” live with Mudhoney (!), and a motley herd of “Jazzblaster” hot-rodded Jazzmasters – almost all slapped with labels for unconventional tunings – among the ranks.

While the press concerned with Ranaldo and the rest of his Sonic Youth bandmates’ various solo endeavours continues to flog the jilted relationship of former partners Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore and the resulting hiatus of their band, the new groups have so far proven to mean cities are seeing its  members more often and, for longer combined periods of time. And with each of the members putting on different hats to explore and expand their separate careers, it’s worth noting that the time off to pursue other interests could result in stronger interests in Sonic Youth – so we can’t really complain, can we?

Sure, we’ll continue longing for a day when all members grace the same stage at the same time again, but until then, at the risk of sounding groaningly topical following Canadian Thanksgiving, we’re getting plenty to be happy about.

Ranaldo, at least, seemed content simply to air his satisfaction with hitting the Horseshoe’s long-lived stage at the end of his show.

“It’s nice to finally play this place.”

It was nice to have you, Lee.

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust setlist
“Tomorrow Never Comes”
“Ambulancer”
“Off The Wall”
“Angles”
“Last Night On Earth”
“Xtina”
“Key/Hole”
“Hammer Blows”
“Home Chds”
“The Rising Tide”
“Revolution Blues” (Neil Young)
“Lecce, Leaving”
Encore
“She Cracked” (The Modern Lovers)
“Fire Island (Phases)”
“Waiting On A Dream”

RELATED:

 

Concert photos: Lee Ranaldo & The Dust w/ Elsa @Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, ON – Oct. 11, 2013

Lee Ranaldo at Horseshoe Tavern during one of the quieter parts of his set, which also saw him bow his guitar and smash it with Tibetan bells – also pictured in the photo gallery. Photos: Tom Beedham

Lee Ranaldo at Horseshoe Tavern during one of the quieter parts of his set, which also saw him bow his guitar and smash it with Tibetan bells – also pictured in the photo gallery below. Photos: Tom Beedham

While Lee Ranaldo & The Dust (featuring Ranaldo’s previous Sonic Youth and Text of Light bandmates Steve Shelley and Alan Licht, respectively, as well as Tim Lüntzel) released their first official album as a band, Last Night On Earth, on Oct. 11 via Matador, local dream pop outfit Elsa used the opportunity to soft release their debut One Big Silence 12″ single, I Do (FULL CONCERT REVIEW AND LEE RANALDO & THE DUST SETLIST HERE). Below are links to images from the gig, which saw Ranaldo abuse his guitars in the ways Sonic Youth fans know him best for. Do the click thing.

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust

Lee Ranaldo & The Dust_Horseshoe Tavern_Tom Beedham_1 Lee Ranaldo & The Dust_Alan Licht_Horseshoe Tavern_Tom Beedham_6 Lee Ranaldo & The Dust_Horseshoe Tavern_Tom Beedham_7 Lee Ranaldo & The Dust_Horseshoe Tavern_Tom Beedham_5 Lee Ranaldo & The Dust_Horseshoe Tavern_Tom Beedham_4 Lee Ranaldo & The Dust_Horseshoe Tavern_Tom Beedham_3 Lee Ranaldo & The Dust_Horseshoe Tavern_Tom Beedham_2

Elsa
Elsa opening for Lee Ranaldo & The Dust at Horseshoe Tavern - October 11, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa's Matthew Goldman (left) and Jesse Mirsky (right) at Horseshoe Tavern - October 11, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa's Matthew Goldman at Horseshoe Tavern - October 11, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa's Jonathan Rogers (left), Angie Wong (back), and Matthew Goldman (right) at Horseshoe Tavern - October 11, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa's Jonathan Rogers at Horseshoe Tavern - October 11, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham Elsa's Jesse Mirsky at Horseshoe Tavern - October 11, 2013. Photo: Tom Beedham

RELATED: