Tag Archives: Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Another Long Winter

Inauguration of Long Winter’s second year hints at a less Fucked Up forecast
Words and photos by Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant on the main floor of The Great Hall on Nov. 8. November 8 marked the first time Long Winter used the restaurant as a venue for its programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant on the main floor of The Great Hall on Nov. 8. November 8 marked the first time Long Winter used the restaurant as a venue for its programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

When Long Winter returned to The Great Hall on Nov. 8, it came too with the suggestion that audiences would receive a different version of the monthly melting pot-facilitating evenings than they might have come to expect from it last year.

To wit, the one reliable feature Long Winter regulars have become familiar with is the dependable lack of predictability tied to each night of the season spanning (and extending) arts and culture community event, but the first night of this season came with a significant rebranding.

The cover of Long Winter's program for Nov. 8. Noticeably absent is mention of Fucked Up, the band slated as the presenters of last year's Long Winter events. Photo: Tom Beedham

The cover of Long Winter’s program for Nov. 8. Noticeably absent is mention of Fucked Up, the band slated as the presenters of last year’s Long Winter events. Photo: Tom Beedham

Ushered into fruition just one year ago by Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker of ever-enterprising Toronto punk outfit Fucked Up, the monthly night of music, art, food, film, poetry, photography, dance, speakers, and (eventually) video games began as something that would allow Haliechuk and Zucker to program a local event. Throwing each of the nights to impressively broadened masses as all-ages, pay-what-you-can affairs, Long Winter established itself as a beacon for fairly accessible multi-media entertainment programming (unfortunately the Great Hall is only accessible by stairs; there is no elevator service), and as the events snowballed in scope as well as popularity, its varied offerings came to tessellate more and more of the rooms and hallways that make up the building accordingly.

The events relied on the somewhat small community of connections their band had both established and immersed itself in, and Fucked Up headlined most of the five shows, appropriately cited on Long Winter programs, posters, and online event pages as the force that “presented” each of the series’ instalments.

But as it returned this year with the support of the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council, although Haliechuk and Zucker continue to run the show, Fucked Up’s name was nowhere to be found.

Speculation could go on forever as to why the band’s pedigree has been removed from the ephemera surrounding the series, but in terms of the void they left to be filled by another headliner – this time a slot arguably shared by psychedelic Guelph rock veterans King Cobb Steelie in the main hall and siblinged Toronto/Montréal darkwave trio Doomsquad in the newly Long Winter-dominated Samuel J. Moore restaurant on The Great Hall’s ground level – it’s worth noting that the series’ website includes a statement from Haliechuk boasting a commitment to diverse programming and calling for outside submissions.

“Everyone is welcome, and everyone who attended last year should feel as much a part of this event as we do. We aim to be a reflection of all the great things that people do in Toronto,” Haliechuk says – emphasis on the “all,” no doubt. It would be no great surprise if Fucked Up’s reduced identity were implemented in favour of that virtue.

The first of a series of split seven-inch records Scion Sessions is giving Long Winter audiences for free upon entry to the monthly event this season. Photo: Tom Beedham

The first of a series of split seven-inch records Scion Sessions is giving Long Winter audiences for free upon entry to the monthly event this season. Photo: Tom Beedham

The first 350 patrons entering November 8’s Long Winter would have immediately noticed one other big change as they passed through the doors, each of them granted a free split seven-inch featuring Doomsquad and Lido Pimienta, whom also performed that night. Contributed by the Hand Drawn Dracula-courting Scion Sessions, the record was the first of a series of Long Winter artist-featuring splits slated to be offered to guests for each of this year’s instalments.

From there on, though, it was mostly business as usual for one of Toronto’s most immersive entertainment programming series: there was music, there was art, there was food, there was theatre, there was comedy, there were video games, and there was music. Did I say there was music?

If guests ventured further upstairs to the hall’s balcony level and coat check, they would have approached and become a part of Steve Reaume’s art/light installation projecting some truly debilitating algorithmic patterns into a corner, and once they’d recovered from the dizzying effects of that, there was William Andrew Finlay Stewart’s “Fall” – a looping video project – waiting for them on the ground.

If you skipped dinner to get there early or just wanted some late night munchies, the main hall hosted all-vegan food offerings from Windowshade Delicatessen, who’s reuben sandwich variant will certainly earn their west College street location a personal visit from myself and everyone else I successfully peddle it on.

At any given point throughout the night you could also fill your time by drawing on (and having your picture taken with) one of 1078 disposed coffee cups with “Disposable,” a consumption-considering interactive installation from Anrea Wrobel and Brian Cauley.

Wake Island's Philippe M at Long Winter in The Great Hall's main hall on Nov. 8. PhotoL Tom Beedham

Wake Island’s Philippe M at Long Winter in The Great Hall’s main hall on Nov. 8. PhotoL Tom Beedham

Things really got rolling with Wake Island, though. Opening up the multi-stationed concert portion of the night in the main hall, the Montreal rock foursome hammered things home with some expert delivery, cementing its set as something other performers should have worried about following with guitarist Nadim M’s final tooth-picked solo.

Nevertheless, performer Ben Kamino took the stage once they’d finished, instructing the main hall to slow-dance eyes shut in a herd, urging participants to touch each other – not just with their hands but with all parts of their bodies – and by extension, “everyone in the universe.” You can imagine how that went. It was awkward. Kamino repeated this experiment twice more following bands in the main hall.

 Esther Grey at Long Winter in The Great Hall's Conversation Room on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Esther Grey at Long Winter in The Great Hall’s Conversation Room on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 1 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 2 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 3 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 4 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 5 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 6 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 7 Esther Grey. Long Winter. Tom Beedham. 8
Next was Guelph garage rock act Esther Grey, warming up the Conversation Room. Bringing sometimes-member and saxophonist Dan Paille in tow, guitarist Steph Yates and bassist Nathan Campagnero’s plodding progressions were juxtaposed with some extra texture that I didn’t get to hear when I last reviewed them for their Kazoo! Fest show back in April. Paille’s sax is presented pretty sparingly in comparison to the core group’s output, so it works with the group’s minimalist explorations of instrumental spacing.

From Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly's

From Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly’s “Conflict. Resolution. Conflict,” an absurdist Beckettian skit performed in front of the crowd dissipating after Esther Grey’s set in the Conversation Room at The Great Hall for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Fixed with elongated cardboard masks, Ben Kamino and Matt Kelly ambushed the crowd remaining in the room at the end of Esther Grey’s set with a guerilla theatre performance called “Conflict. Resolution. Conflict.” Their characters mostly just argued over an onion, but eventually they made up with a sweet(?) embrace that saw them sharing bites out of the very real, very potent vegetable and then scuttled out of the room.

Recovering from Kamino and Kelly’s adventure in Beckettian theatre and wandering back into the main hall, Rheostatics founder Dave Bidini’s new group Bidiniband guided audience through a literary-minded tour of rock history, only playing four stream-of-conscience-y “long ones” to negotiate the restraints of their set time.

If you rushed from Bidini’s set to the conversation hall, you would have caught a very confrontational Abyss, whose frontman spent the majority of the group’s grindcore assaults sharing the mic with one listener’s face, whether he liked it or not.

Lido Pimienta performing in The Great Hall's main hall on Nov. 8 for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Lido Pimienta performing in The Great Hall’s main hall on Nov. 8 for Long Winter. Photo: Tom Beedham

Next up in the main hall was Lido Pimienta, who should really get props for exacting some very hands-on parenting all while singing and dancing onstage.

“Single mothers in this city are gangster, y’all,” Pimienta said. She proved she wasn’t wrong with her highly danceable genre-benders.

Vish Khanna (right) interviews 2013 Polaris Music Prize nominee Zaki Ibrahim as Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast (left) sits in for additional perspective during 'Late Night with Vish Khanna,' a new talk show-style addition to Long Winter's  monthly programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Vish Khanna (right) interviews 2013 Polaris Music Prize nominee Zaki Ibrahim as Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast (left) sits in for additional perspective during ‘Late Night with Vish Khanna,’ a new talk show addition to Long Winter’s monthly programming. Photo: Tom Beedham

Meanwhile in the basement, the last really big new thing for Long Winter was in full sway with former Long Winter MC Vish Khanna hosting his own late night talk show Long Night with Vish Khanna in the BLK BOX theatre. Complete with the house band stylings of The Bicycles and Light Fires’ Regina Thegentlelady wandering onstage to the show featured talk show style interviews with guests including musicians Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh) and 2013 Polaris Music Prize-nominated Zaki Abraham, as well as author and The Grid Senior Editor Edward Keenan, and Exclaim! Editor-in-Chief James Keast. While I missed Barlow entirely and only just made it downstairs in time for the tail end of Keenan’s portion of the show discussing his new Toronto political history Some Great Idea and recent developments involving Mayor Rob Ford, I did get to sit through Zaki Ibrahim, who also offered insight on the mayor, but more interestingly, her take on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s treatment of its Polaris prize win. (“I felt like I had egg on my face,” Ibrahim said, after commenting that GYBE’s treatment of the prize and the gala was “cool.” Ibrahim also related GYBE to the Grateful Dead, provoking some (not very successfully) suppressed laughter from Keast.)

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant as part of Long Winter on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

Doomsquad performing in the Samuel J. Moore restaurant as part of Long Winter on Nov. 8. Photo: Tom Beedham

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Last for me were Doomsquad – giving the Samuel J. Moore restaurant its first Long Winter performance – playing their new age-evocative electronic music in some cavernous darkness (save for a salt lamp affixed to guitarist Trevor Blumas’ sampling table). The Blumas siblings challenged the physical resilience of the restaurant’s wall-to-wall window with crippling bass, offering only the soft textures of a pan flutes as a possible remedy.

From everything I was able to take in before calling it a night, The Great Hall seems properly primed for another season of Long Winter, even with the SJM restaurant added into the chaos (despite the potential for sonic disaster in the new venue, only some quickly resolved mixing issues that initially placed Trevor Blumas’ sampler way too low in the mix presented themselves over the course of the set). And from what I could make of the faces I saw on Friday, I think audiences are ready, too.

Concert review: Esmerine at The Great Hall with Matana Roberts, Saltland, Jerusalem In My Heart, and Dundasa 80 (Constellation Records showcase) at The Great Hall

Montréal label presents less exposed offerings to rapt audience

Esmerine performed at Constellation Records showcase at The Great Hall with four visiting members from Turkey, who helped them record their new album, 'Dalmak,' in Istanbul. Photo: Tom Beedham

Esmerine performed at Constellation Records’ label showcase Sept. 5 at The Great Hall, bringing in tow  four visiting musicians from Turkey, who helped them record their new album, ‘Dalmak,’ in Istanbul. Photo: Tom Beedham

“If all these things don’t make sense then just listen to the singing, alright?” Esmerine collaborator and current touring member Hakan Vreskala said after explaining the lyrics to “Yavri Yavri” as an articulation of a Hebrew relation regarding a bird that takes on the burden of crying others’ tears for them so that its own heart can become calm.

The disclaimer might not have demystified much for the audience gathered at The Great Hall for the headliner of the Toronto Constellation (CST) Records showcase, but Vreskala’s closing statement did convey a sentiment that seems to have been instrumental to the accomplishments of the label’s many experimental bands: who cares about satisfying what we think we know about music or instruments – let’s see what the stuff can do!

What began as Godspeed You! Black Emperor percussionist Bruce Cawdron and Set Fire To Flames cellist Beckie Foon’s cello-marimba duo, Montréal-based Esmerine pulled into Toronto Sept. 5 eight times the size of what it began as, having recruited Turkish collaborators Baran Asik, Ali Kazim Akdağ, James Hakan Dedeoğlu, and Vreskala himself after recording their recently released album, Dalmak, in Istanbul with the musicians, also having counted Jamie Thompson (Unicorns, Islands) and Brian Sanderson as members since early this decade.

The larger stage band helped the group deliver the sounds provided by the more exotic and numbered instruments heard on the new Esmerine album (they brought out a darbuka, an erbane, and a saz, among other things you’ll have to type into Google), but it also granted Esmerine the ability to perform some of its older material – they presented “A Dog River,” “Walking Through Mist,” and “Little Streams Make Big Rivers” from 2011’s La Lechuza (full setlist at bottom of review) – as new, fuller-sounding renditions.

With their set proper clocking in at less than an hour, the band did an admirable job adopting the headlining slot formerly granted to CST’s Colin Stetson, who had been forced to drop off of the bill some weeks beforehand following the announcement of a broken finger. The crowd response that led to the band (including its Turkish contingent) returning for an encore presentation of an abbreviated, higher-personnel version of Aurora’s (2005) epic “Histories Repeating As One Thousand Hearts Mend” seemed to completely dismiss the fact that the show’s original draw had dropped off of the bill; the crowd at The Great Hall was recognizably thinner in comparison to that in attendance at Stetson’s May concert at the same venue, but all in company appeared to arrive with a genuine interest in exploring more of the label’s diverse roster of experimental musicians – ambassadors the original headliner’s absence arguably gave the label the better opportunity to showcase.

While the acts onstage at the CST showcase might have been lesser known, with more formal ambassador and CST label founder Ian Ilavsky (Thee Silver Mt. Zion) on hand, the night didn’t pass without audiences getting their introductions: when he wasn’t manning the merch table displaying albums from CST bands present and absent or advising fans on their purchases, Ilavsky was before the crowd giving introductions to the evening’s performers – which included Chicago-born and New York City-based sound experimentalist Matana Roberts, Beckie Foon’s solo project Saltland, and Jerusalem In My Heart – or airing thanks to all involved, illustrating that CST’s resourcefulness goes well beyond that of its rule-breaking musicians.

Matana Roberts used her time on the stage to preview what Ilavsky later confirmed as new material the artist has been preparing for inclusion on the follow-up to 2011’s Gens de couleur libres, the first chapter of her multi-media conceptual composition and narration project, COIN COIN. Spanning at least half an hour, the single track saw Roberts channeling jazz and beat poetry to deliver sourced fragments of American ideological state apparatuses like “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” the Pledge of Allegiance, and folk songs like “This Land Is Your Land,” juxtaposing them amongst scattered, gnashing renderings of sound bites from antebellum slave auctions – a context that certainly engages COIN COIN Chapter One’s commerce and consumption foci.

Playing in darkness as projections rolled behind her, Matana Roberts previewed work from the next chapter of her multi-media conceptual project 'COIN COIN' at The Great Hall as part of the Constellation Records showcase. Photo: Tom Beedham

Playing in darkness as projections rolled behind her, Matana Roberts previewed work from the next chapter of her multi-media conceptual project ‘COIN COIN’ at The Great Hall on Sept. 5 as part of Constellation Records’ label showcase. Photo: Tom Beedham

All throughout Roberts’s new number were her signature gloomy saxophone riffs, looped, layered, distorted, and eventually compressed into a doomy, overwhelming groan.  The deconstruction of her country’s narratives, memories, and self-perceptions made for an unforgiving post-America pastiche that was made all the more uncomfortable through ad nauseam repetitions and a time code that echoed the long histories of the piece’s disgraceful subject matter.

After the crowd responded to Roberts’s time travelling maxim mélange with a sea of applause, she gleefully asked the crowd, “Can I take you home?”

In a sense, she already had.

Prior to her own set, Roberts performed a workshop with Esmerine’s Beckie Foon and Jamie Thompson, which served as a segue after Foon’s own (brief) solo set as Saltland (which featured a cello-only rendition of Esmerine’s “Quelques mots pleins d’ombre” from Aurora). For the rest of the night, the live debut of Sandro Perri and Craig Dunsmuir’s DJ project Dundasa 80 was tasked with filling the void between stage sets, occupying a mixing booth at the front of the venue.

Fans that arrived early were forced to wait a little longer for their music as the night got underway about half an hour behind schedule, but they were soon treated to an enchanting performance from Jerusalem In My Heart.

Radwan Ghazi Moumneh sings while tweaking delay speeds as Malena Szlam Salazar uses three 16mm projectors to send visuals onto screens behind him on the stage. Photo: Tom Beedham

Radwan Ghazi Moumneh sings while tweaking delay speeds as Malena Szlam Salazar uses three 16mm projectors to send visuals onto screens behind him on the stage Sept. 5 at The Great Hall for Constellation Records’ label showcase. Photo: Tom Beedham

A contemporary Arab multi-media project, JIMH opened the night with Lebanese national and experimental musician Radwan Ghazi Moumneh onstage and Chilean visual artist and filmmaker Malena Szlam Salazar jockeying a series of 16mm projectors from the crowd, looping strips of film featuring images of flickering flames, moons crossing across the night sky, or deer running through a brush as Moumneh used dual microphones to provide and loop vocals, also playing a saz and even performing vocals for an entire song through a talk box. It had the audience so spellbound it seemed to resist clapping between some songs for fear it might interrupt the performance.

Forget the caricature of the smartphone generation texting away as it waits for its headliner. Here, the audience was entirely present.

Clocking in around three hours, the Constellation Records showcase was a night that made for a transcendent and entirely immersive experience that demonstrated how it is still possible to stray far from the beaten path in pursuit of art and find an institution that will throw its weight behind you, at least in the arms of a certain Montréal facility. Other labels could learn from Constellation.

Esmerine Setlist:
“A Dog River”
“Walking Through Mist”/”Little Streams Make Big Rivers” medley
“Barn Board Fire”
“Translator’s Clos I”
“Translator’s Clos II”
“Lost River Blues I”
“Lost River Blues II”
“Yavri Yavri”

Encore:
“Histories Repeating As One Thousand Hearts Mend”

Related:
Colin Stetson, Sarah Neufeld, Richard Reed Parry workshop material with Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley
Review: Colin Stetson at Hillside Festival
Review: Sarah Neufeld at Hillside Festival

2012 in Concert Stubs

Alexisonfire at Sound Academy Dec. 29, 2012 (their second-last show ever).

Alexisonfire at Sound Academy Dec. 29, 2012 (their second-last show ever).

It’s that time of the year when everyone tries to take stock of the chaos of the past 12 months, so for the sake of documentation, I’ve made a list of all the bands I managed to catch in 2012. I was only offered a short sample of some of these acts at festivals, but a lot were at shows of their own. There were also a lot of really stand-out performances in this mix and it’s coincidentally the great time of annual top 10/20/25/50/whatever lists, so maybe I’ll get around to picking out some of my favourites as well.
Here’s who I checked out in concert this year, through work or out of my own volition:
  • Action Bronson
  • Alexisonfire (twice)
  • Arctic Monkeys
  • AWOLNATION
  • Bad Religion
  • Ben Caplan
  • Black Label Society
  • Black Lips
  • The Buzzcocks
  • Cancer Bats (twice)
  • Ceremony (twice)
  • Dan Mangan
  • Death Grips
  • Deftones
  • Descendents
  • DIANA
  • Dillinger Escape Plan
  • Explosions in the Sky
  • The Flaming Lips
  • Feist
  • Florence + the Machine
  • Fucked Up (thrice)
  • Girl Talk
  • Goatwhore
  • Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  • Gogol Bordello
  • Greg Ginn and the Royal We
  • GWAR
  • The Hives
  • Hollerado (twice)
  • In Flames
  • Jimmy Cliff & Tim Armstrong
  • Justice
  • Kids & Explosions
  • Killer Mike (twice)
  • Less Than Jake
  • Lowlands
  • Madness
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Mazzy Star
  • MellowHype
  • METZ
  • Moneen
  • Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
  • NOFX
  • OFF!
  • Protest the Hero (twice)
  • Pulp
  • Radiohead
  • Raekwon and Ghostface Killah
  • Refused (twice)
  • Rival Schools
  • Slipknot
  • Snoop Dogg & Dr. Dre (feat. the Tupac hologram, Eminem, 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa)
  • Shotgun Jimmie
  • Squeeze
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • System of a Down
  • Teenage Head
  • Tool
  • Trash Talk
  • USS
  • The Wooden Sky