Tag Archives: Horseshoe Tavern

CMW reviews: Brody Dalle @ the Horseshoe Tavern – May 7, 2014

Brody Dalle performing at The Horseshoe Tavern on May 7, 2014 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

Brody Dalle performing at The Horseshoe Tavern on May 7, 2014 for Canadian Music Week. Photo: Tom Beedham

It’s always been The Brody Dalle Show
By Tom Beedham

“Another year has passed and I’m alright/ I lick the salt from my wounds and run into the night.” As they appeared on their 2002 album Sing Sing Death House, these were the words that opened the Distillers’ “I Am A Revenant.” But when the Los Angeles punk band performed that song at the gigs leading up to its dissolution in 2006, its message never could have carried the import it has resonated with at the performances lead singer Brody Dalle has given in support of her April 28 solo album, Diploid Love.

For sure, Dalle has long played the title part of that 2002 song. In 2004, the same year in which the Distillers’ Coral Fang exploded and the band embarked on a two-year tour, Dalle was dealing with the fallout of her divorce from Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong. All throughout, Dalle was addicted to crystal meth – something she wouldn’t kick until learning she was pregnant with the first of two children with now-husband Josh Homme. Then Dalle started, fronted, and released an album through new band Spinnerette. But that group never really found the traction it needed.

Still, Dalle marches on, and now the defiant zeal of “I Am A Revenant” has entirely new connotations.

With a voice famous for a rasp that seems as though cultivated on a steady intake of cigarettes and liquor, you’d expect it to have degraded over time, but that was far from the case. Swaying and spitting across the stage, Dalle was at the top of her form.

Her newest album labeled a solo undertaking, it’s encouraging to see that Dalle is now comfortable performing without the posturing of a more democratic body. The truth is, it’s always been The Brody Dalle Show.

Everybody at her Canadian Music Week gig at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern embraced that as they packed into the sold out performance.

Dalle seemed to acknowledge it, too.

Backed by a touring band including Spinnerette and Coral Fang-era Distillers guitarist Tony Bevoilacqua, Geddy Lee-endorsed bassist Cosmo Sylvan, and Diploid Love drummer Hayden Scott, after just two songs from her new album, Dalle & co. dove unannounced into a three-song block of Distillers tunes (“I Am A Revenant,” “Die on a Rope,” and “Dismantle Me”) and carried on with an hour-long set that balanced Distillers songs equally against new material mixed with Spinnerette’s “Ghetto Love” (dedicated to Rob Ford) and a Misfits cover (“Hybrid Moments”) for good measure.

“Rat Race”
“Don’t Mess with Me”
“I Am a Revanant” (The Distillers)
“Die on a Rope” (The Distillers)
“Dismantle Me” (The Distillers)
“Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy”
“Sick of it All” (The Distillers)
“Sing Sing Death House” (The Distillers)
“Ghetto Love” (Spinnerette)
“Hybrid Moments” (Misfits)
“Parties For Prostitutes”
“Coral Fang” (The Distillers)
“Blackest Years” (The Distillers)


Concert review: Chelsea Light Moving and Speedy Ortiz @Horseshoe Tavern | Sept. 15, 2013

Angular, avant-aggro guitar explorations take centre stage as Thurston Moore showcases new material and reimagines older songs at the Horseshoe

Thurston Moore breaking out text from John Donne for Chelsea Light Moving's reworking of the 16th-century poet's "The Ecstasy." Photo: Tom Beedham

Thurston Moore breaking out text from John Donne for Chelsea Light Moving’s reworking of the 16th-century poet’s “The Ecstasy.” Photo: Tom Beedham

“We’re the Ghetto Priests from Nova Scotia. It’s nice to be back,” quipped Thurston Moore about 25 minutes through Chelsea Light Moving’s set. Towering over the crowd from atop just the modest stage at the back of the Horseshoe, it was the first time the Sonic Youth founder had acknowledged the Toronto audience directly that night. But with a strap reading “THURSTON” cradling the forest green Jazzmaster that Fender hot-rodded out in its wearer’s name – as if appearance was the only thing fans could go on – there was no question as to who was standing before them. The guitarist’s presence is not the kind to escape recognition; even when he hung back at stage left to concentrate on assaulting his amp with a load of feedback, Moore’s situation at the Horseshoe was undeniable, especially with his new band.

Whereas Sonic Youth offered listeners a dialogical sound democracy of which Thurston Moore was just one of four loud voices, Chelsea Light Moving is a puppet (albeit a dynamic, multi-brained one) under Moore’s guitar testing hand, and the live show made that resonate with a roaring ferocity.

Chugging through a set filled with songs culled from the group’s eponymous debut, as well as new tracks “Sunday Stage,” “No Go” – apparently the “theme song” to a new board game to “be made from wood, plastic, and meat” that the band is working on “since nobody buys records anymore,” if you take Moore’s word for it – and an interpretation of 16th-century poet John Donne’s “The Ecstasy,” (full setlist below) the band’s set was heavy on noise improv, but all under the directive gaze of its most famous member. Even when guitarist Keith Wood was slashing away with picks that struck below the bridge, above the nut, and anywhere else that could render sounds from his own Jazzmaster, it was while awaiting nods and “1, 2, 3”s from Moore.

When the time came and the crowd collectively clapped for an encore, whether intentionally or not, one fan articulated their leader’s surname into a double-entendre, incessantly screaming “Moore!” (or “More!”). This continued until the icon ducked through the steps and back up to the stage to answer the supporter with, well, more Moore – and not exactly the Chelsea Light Moving kind; with CLM bassist Samara Lubelski switching to her violin (an instrument she was called to play on Moore’s Demolished Thoughts), the band’s encore performance was focused exclusively on churning out extended jams of “Staring Statues” and “Ono Soul” from their leader’s ’95 solo effort, Psychic Hearts.

Moore fans who arrived early for Speedy Ortiz (if unaware of the 2013 alt-rock breakout act) got a surprise double dose of noisy, angular guitar exploration, and one that was notably disparate to the Northampton, Mass. band’s debut LP, Major Arcana in terms of the mix, with guitarist Matt Robidoux seemingly turned up to 11 and getting as much attention as Speedy Ortiz founder and frontwoman Sadie Dupuis. Sourcing a stack of cassettes gifted to him at the venue, the guitarist found a toy to slide across his strings when he wasn’t shaking his guitar in front of an amp or plowing away at it for the noise pop outfit’s signature rhythms. After his strap failed multiple times throughout the set, Robidoux said something to Dupuis and it was time to announce the last song after just 20 minutes of set, but at least the crowd got a chance to hear Speedy Ortiz’s sludgy slacker anthem “Tiger Tank.”

Chelsea Light Moving setlist
“Groovy & Linda”
“Empires Of Time”
“Sleeping Where I Fall”
“Frank O’Hara Hit”
“Sunday Stage”
“The Ecstasy” (John Donne)
“No Go”
“Staring Statues” and “Ono Soul” from Thurston’s Psychic Hearts

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Sex, drugs, and Dwarves

Bay Area shock rockers The Dwarves talk about their 30-year habits

Album artwork from The Dwarves's 1997 LP 'The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking,' set to be reissued by Recess Records this September as 'The Dwarves Are Younger and Even Better Looking.' The Dwarves are performing material from the album, as well as others from its catalogue and yet-to-be-recorded material at stops along its current North American tour, which stops at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern tonight.

Album artwork from The Dwarves’s 1997 LP ‘The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking,’ set to be reissued by Recess Records this September as ‘The Dwarves Are Younger and Even Better Looking.’ The Dwarves are performing material from the album, as well as others from its catalogue and yet-to-be-recorded material at stops along its current North American tour, which stops at Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern tonight.

With a back catalogue consisting of 14 albums, two DVDs, a number of both EPs and seven-inch records, San Francisco Bay Area punks The Dwarves exhibit a career that is anything but dwarfish. And over thirty years as a band, the group has racked up quite some habits. They’re currently in the middle of quenching one of their less illicit ones.

Touring across Canada and the United States’s Midwest and Northeastern states, The Dwarves make a stop at Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern tonight, but fans that only know the mythology around the Dwarves shouldn’t let those impressions inform their decisions to catch the band on its current tour, Dwarves vocalist Paul Cafaro (a.k.a. Blag Dahlia) says.

In their salad days, onstage antics involving self-mutilation and live sex acts often turned Dwarves sets into abbreviated 15-minute performances, earning the band enemies among their earlier audiences and concert promoters. But as his band’s van rolled into Lincoln en route to a Chicago, Ill. gig, Cafaro – who has been one of The Dwarves’s two solely consistent members since its formation – explained over the phone Aug. 23 that fans who come out to Dwarves concerts these days will get more show for their buck.

“It’s generally like 45 minutes – the usual kind of thing,” Cafaro said.

Without any new material recorded since their 2011 10-inch record Fake ID, Bitch, the band is using its more lengthy sets to showcase material spanning its entire career.

“There’s songs from everything – from the Blood, Guts, & Pussy stuff and Sugarfix, [The Dwarves] Come Clean… then stuff from the last couple of records – [The Dwarves] Must Die, [The Dwarves Are] Born Again, even some brand new stuff – so new it hasn’t even been named yet,” said Cafaro.

The singer didn’t divulge much about the new material, but framed it and its contribution to the band’s sizeable (and ever-growing) discography as something that displays the band’s virtue when held up in comparison to those of other bands.

“Most bands suck. They make one good record and then they just flog it to death after that,” said Cafaro. “The Dwarves is just an embarrassment of amazing records. 30 years now. Mayhem.”

Also in celebration of The Dwarves’s career, the band recently announced a Recess Records reissue of its 1997 Epitaph LP The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking, from which fans can also expect to hear songs at the band’s upcoming shows. Rebranded as The Dwarves Are Younger and Even Better Looking, Cafaro explained the Recess reissue will come complete with 40 minutes – or 22 tracks – of bonus material, all recorded during the “same time period” as the album proper:

Ten of them are from the solo EP that I did and the outtakes from that, which came right before Young and Good Looking, and then a bunch of it is a radio show that was never released. It’s The Dwarves live on the radio, Stanford. And then there’s like b-sides and stuff from the Young and Good Looking period.

Marking the band’s exit from Seattle, Wash. independent record label Sub Pop following a hoax the band propagated claiming the band’s guitarist (and only other consistent member) HeWhoCannotBeNamed (a.k.a. Pete Vietnamcheque) had been stabbed to death in a Philadelphia, Penn. bar fight, the original Young and Good Looking served as somewhat of a vehicle for a kiss-off to The Dwarves’s former label, containing a “modified” version of Sub Pop’s press release detailing the band’s departure in the liner notes. No word on whether that will also be collected in the reissue, but if Cafaro’s dismissal of even the mention of the group’s former label is any indication, don’t count on it:

I don’t get the fascination with those guys. No one’s cared about them since the ’90s. They’ve got nothing to do with me or anything. So I don’t know about them. Whatever they do is what they do. I have this band called The Dwarves. Not affiliated with whoever those guys are or whatever they’re doing.

The group’s website does promise the collection will come with “more classic photos of the naked skater chicks,” though: images consistent with the cover art for albums like Blood, Guts, & Pussy, The Dwarves Must Die, and The Dwarves Are Young And Good Looking itself, which all feature naked women covered in blood, wearing ski masks, or surrounding a dwarf pinned to a cross.

Such artwork has been known to bring The Dwarves condemnation from feminists and other critics in the past, but when asked about such controversy, Cafaro didn’t address how the band has been identified as exploitive and objectifying in its promotion of its material, but instead insisted, “these are classic shots,” and identified himself and his band as sex-positive, feminist crusaders, going on to discuss the reflections his artwork has received as “slut-shaming” type arguments that fail to see the album covers as glorifications of the female form.

“I consider myself to be a feminist, you know?” Cafaro said. “And I think one of the best things about femininity is nudity, so you know, we’re a great feminist band with all our naked album covers.”

“Lots of wonderful naked women. Lots of drug abuse and sex from The Dwarves. That’s what we’re about,” said Cafaro. “We’re very socially conscious and we’re on dope.”

Ah, yes. Dope.

That’s another thing The Dwarves have a thing for, and Cafaro says it’s something that excites him for the band’s Toronto visit.

“There’s nothing like Toronto drugs,” Cafaro meditated. “By the time cocaine gets to Toronto it’s been stepped on many, many times.”

Specifically Cafaro favours the idea of being in the same town as embattled Mayor Rob Ford, who admitted today that he has “smoked a lot of” marijuana and whom news media such as the Toronto Star alleged smoked crack earlier in the year.

“Don’t you guys have that mayor that smokes crack? That excites me. The idea of going to Toronto and smoking crack with a public official,” Cafaro said. “If he wants to come to the show, we’ll get him in free, and if he brings a prostitute, she can get in half price.”

The Dwarves play The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto tonight with The Queers.

TURF reviews: Skydiggers at Fort York – July 6, 2013

Celebrating 25 years as a band, Skydiggers performed at Fort York for TURF July 6. Photo: Tom Beedham

Celebrating 25 years as a band, Skydiggers performed at Fort York for TURF July 6. Photo: Tom Beedham

Celebrating 25 years as a band, with a sound and charisma falling somewhere between that of The Tragically Hip and Blue Rodeo, and having once shared a label with incendiary noise rock group Sonic Youth, when Toronto roots rock band Skydiggers played TURF it raised the question as to why the group never took off at quite the same rate as their contemporaries.

But the band’s foundation was disturbed early on; their eponymous debut released on Enigma in 1990, the label soon after filed for bankruptcy and the band was denied the opportunity to properly tour the LP. It was also forced to endure the bankruptcy of FRE Records (subsidiary of Capitol Records), subsequently denying the band the possibility to distribute its records as widely as, say, the more commercially successful Hip.

Still, the Skydiggers have managed to keep themselves busy: the group has released 13 full lengths (their most recent, No. 1 Covers, a cover album of Canadian tracks by the likes of Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, and Jason Collett, was released earlier this month); Toronto’s Legendary Horseshoe Tavern has built a tradition on hosting an annual Skydiggers Christmas show, as festival founder and Horseshoe owner Jeff Cohen mentioned before their set; frontman Andy Maize launched independent record label MapleMusic Recordings in 2002; and Maize also has a side project with Skydiggers guitarist Josh Finlayson, Finlayson/Maize, which released an LP, Dark Hollow in 2006. It only seemed fit that, with a bit of new blood in the lineup, Skydiggers performed their 1990 single, “I Will Give You Everything” to a captured audience at Fort York in the middle of the afternoon on July 6.

Originally published by The Ontarion.

TURF war

Four-day music festival supports city as facility for live music

Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) is attempting to act as harbinger for a new time in Toronto's history of live music. (Photo courtesy of TURF)

Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF) is attempting to act as harbinger for a new time in Toronto’s history of live music. (Photo courtesy of TURF)

That Toronto Urban Roots Fest is being marketed under the abbreviated “TURF” title is probably no coincidence.

The premiere of the multi-day outdoor music festival comes to the city July 4 through 7, and features headlining acts like Belle and Sebastian, She & Him, Neko Case, Joel Plaskett, and The Arkells. But beyond a concert event, in words that forgo exaggeration, TURF is a political battle cry championing the city’s place in North America’s music scene.

According to Jeff Cohen, the festival’s founder, TURF and multi-day festivals like it coming to the city mark a victory for the city’s music scene.

And Cohen should know. He was appointed Chair of the City of Toronto Music Advisory Council after consultee work he did with music lobbying organization Music Canada on a report comparing the music scene in Austin, Tex. to that of Toronto.

“Toronto City Council has some policies in place and some rules in the city books that are not conducive to people wanting to do outdoor summer events in downtown Toronto,” Cohen says he told Nikki Rowling, the author of the report, in 2012. “They have allowed the residents’ associations to rule the roost, and it’s time for politicians to rethink this and start having the business associations get in there with the residents’ associations and explain to the residents that one of the wonderful things about living in downtown Toronto is summer events.”

“Toronto is the third-largest music market in North America, yet it has very few outdoor concerts, and it does not have a multi-day festival. There’s something wrong there,” Cohen said. Before TURF, he saw a need for someone to step up and create a business environment that would allow private enterprise entrepreneurs to feel that they could back festivals without the anxiety that they would be entering money pits and logistical nightmares. TURF is his way of putting money where his mouth is.

But even with someone to act as harbinger for the festival scene in downtown Toronto, what if the residents’ associations still oppose the prospect of having more live music?

“Why don’t they move to Barrie or Dundas?” Cohen said over the phone on July 2, just as setup for festivities were getting underway to set up two stages at Fort York, the centre of TURF’s action. It’s tough love, but Cohen insists the tax base generated from the newly created jobs and ticket sales revenues, as well as the more simple appeal of easy access to live entertainment, are benefits reciprocated to area residents that outweigh things like noise complaints and other negative concert fallout.

In the same spirit, Cohen said that after some initial hesitation, Fort York saw hosting concerts as an opportunity to improve their revenues otherwise left dependent on the City of Toronto, as well as a promotional strategy that would bring approximately 15,000 people on site that had potentially never visited before, encouraging new repeat visitors in between concert dates. It also hosted Field Trip – the celebration of Toronto label Arts & Crafts’ 10-year anniversary – in June this year, and in August it will open its gates to a two-day presentation of touring punk festival Riot Fest.

The two stages at Fort York will allow for staggered performances and a seamless concert experience. Also on site will be local independent food vendors and a children’s area (access to the festival is free for children 10 and under).

After things wrap up at the fort, other TURF events will take place at Cohen’s bars, popular Toronto concert venues The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace.

As TURF approaches and more outdoor venues and music events are finding their place in the city (Cohen is quick to namedrop Live Nation’s new Echo Beach venue and festivals such as Field Trip), Cohen’s attitude – although already passionate – is markedly more electrified speaking on the present state of music in the city, saying that the atmosphere of communication between the music industry and City Council has undergone “a total change,” something he credits to new councillors Gary Crawford, Josh Colle, who – informed by the report Cohen was involved with – travelled to Austin during South by Southwest this past March to propose a musical alliance with Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, as well as Mike Layton.

“Instead of finding reasons not to have outdoor shows at Fort York, they’re finding reasons financially and spiritually and emotionally why we need those shows.”

Meanwhile, Austin evinced its support of Toronto on June 27 when its city council passed a resolution to begin a “Music City Alliance” to encourage tourism and general, cross-cultural exchange between itself and the City of Toronto once the latter passes similar legislation.

Originally published by The Ontarion on July 4, 2013.