Toronto Music Reviews has an exciting new development you may have noticed. A music player, well, prepare to experience TMR with live music on your mobile phone! To celebrate, I have written an appropriately active article for our first mobile playlist: ‘Canadian Bands to listen to While Biking’. Whether it is global warming or El Nino, Spring has come early this year and I could not wait to bust out my bike.
Biking is a huge part of Toronto culture. It really is the fastest way to get around downtown and the most beautiful way to see the sites of our fair city at, quite literally, your own pace.
Pretend your life is a music video and rock out to some of our personal favorite Canadian musicians. Of course only use one ear and look out for doors!
Five Alarm Funk – Wash Your Face
The Stanfields – The Dirtiest Drunk
Monster Truck – Sweet Mountain River
The Pack AD – Sirens
Little Foot Long Foot – Bridge Concerns
Hollerado - Firefly
PUP - Lionheart
My Son The Hurricane – Poison in the Water
Tiny Danza – Killin It
The Balconies – Kill Count
Mother Mother - Hayloft
The Strumbellas – Did I Die?
The Commoners - Alright Now (Live)
We do try to extend our coverage to those who really need it, but sometimes things are just too much fun to ignore … ‘while biking’. I think that could be a new thing like saying ‘in bed’ after every fortune cookie statement. I hope you enjoy riding or skating or doing whatever fun things you want while listening to this playlist. Enjoy!
Article by: Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder
Edited by: Jesse Kline
Many of our articles will now feature a music player so that you can listen to the music you are reading about.
When an artist gains a certain level of fame and respect, they have the opportunity to act as a gateway band for bands with less infrastructure. How many punk rockers first band was Green Day in grade school? This gives us music lovers the excuse to listen to more new and amazing Canadian music. Every act we love can lead us to new amazing artists. That is, I know that new things can be scary, but there are a few parallels between some of your old favorites and new Canadian music. In no way am I trying to take away from the amazing originality of these talented artists by saying that they stole their style. In fact, through the process of interviewing hundreds of artists I have realized that many musicians do not even realize whom they sound like until someone brings it up. Please feel free to add other relevant pairings or disagree with me in the comment section.
Ben Caplan – Tom Waits
Probably my favorite current Canadian Musician. Caplan is very close to Tom Waits in many ways. He is relaxed and very comedic on stage. Waits was also a grinder, he never stopped working and although he is a living legend, he deserves a far wider audience. Their most obvious parallel is their musical composition and a voice that makes a rock slide seem smooth. Both Waits and Caplan tend towards a combination of Jazz and Eastern European phrasing.
The Pack AD – The White Stripes
The first time I heard The Pack AD I actually thought it was a new White Stripes single. Unbeknownst to me it was actually two insanely talented women from Vancouver. Paired down Blues-Rock is hard to do well. They actually recorded one of their albums with one of Jack White’s producers in an abandoned chicken factory in Detroit. Both bands also have certain air of mystery and drama to them, which somehow makes their music all the more enjoyable.
Little Foot Long Foot – Joan Jett
Put simply, both these bands make simple punch you in the face rock and roll. There are, unfortunately, not many women in Rock and Roll who can really make your jaw drop. These are two bands that contain this mythical element. Also both of the amazing front women of these bands are named Joan. These groups both draw from a very specific area of Classic Rock.
Revival – Led Zeppelin
A high-powered heavy group out of Manitoba, Revival is pure stadium Rock. The first time I saw Revival I actually remarked on how their sound reminded me of a modern version of Zepplin, as the bassist kept switching over to a synth. Just after which, seemingly on queue, they played an amazing cover of ‘The Ocean’. On a sad note their drummer actually died several years ago. Their lead singer Galen Hogg also has a hell of a range and long blond hair. Let’s just hope he doesn’t leave the group to start a country career.
Jumple – Gogol Bordello
Jumple actually refers to them selves as Toronto’s Gogol Bordello. Of course, even if they had not proclaimed themselves as such, how often do you encounter a gypsy punk band. These guys are also Serbian with a slight American influence. They also dress up in garish costumes and perform in the classic over the top absurdist manner. Another hilarious parallel is that both bands lead singers are mustachioed named Eugene.
SC Mira - Enya
Give her a listen, you will instantly understand. A songstress from Winnipeg, SC Mira’s voice is angelic yet jagged. Her vocal control is intensely awe-inspiring.
Earth’s Yellow Sun – Dream Theatre
Only a combination of the finest musicians and the biggest nerds ever EYS are Toronto’s best purveyors of Progressive Rock.
Steve Marriner – Muddy Waters
Old school Electric Blues from Ottawa. Steve may very well be the best harp player to come out of the Canadian blues scene in years. Muddy is a huge influence of his.
The Stanfields – Flogging Molly
When it comes to Celtic Rock both of these bands are simply of the finest caliber.
Tia Brazda – Billy Holliday
Tia will make you believe that she is a time traveller from the 1930’s, come to make hot jazz cool again.
The Dead South – Trampled By Turtles
Both of these bands play high energy, up-tempo New Grass. The Dead South put a similar form of flare and dramatic composition into their songs.
Article by: Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder
Edited by Jesse Kline
I’ve played on bills with hundreds of bands in my career, but some of the very best have been with Lead Sled Rocket. Those guys sure knew how to throw a party. Playing with King Beez, we would look forward to going back to Oshawa, or Whitby, each time because we KNEW everything was going to be taken care of by LSR.
The Hot Rod Club was always in full effect, and Joe Lawrence always had some really cool poster art done up for the events, plus there were always cool bands on the bill, like The Lohrwoods or Baker Muck Rattlers, just to name a couple.
There is a lot that goes into a band and those guys had a family around them. If you were to talk to ANYONE involved with the band including the other members, their guitarist, singer, co-writer and manager, Mark Sytnyk was undoubtedly the spark that pushed them in a lot of ways. I spent a lot of time with Mark at our gigs, and we’d chat for hours there and on the phone, figuring out ways to promote the bands and work together on whatever we could. He was a great guy.
When I first heard the news Saturday that Mark had lost his battle with Cancer, I think Mike Liscombe (bassist and singer of LSR) put it best when he said: “He always tried to make everyone feel good and happy.” In my opinion, that couldn’t have been more truthful. He was a small guy, but his passion and talent made him much larger. He was a smart, charismatic person with a heart of gold. He pushed hard and believed in what he did musically. Always smiling, laughing and making sure everyone else was happy. Writing this right now seems absolutely surreal.
You never expect that people are going to go so young. Taking a moment’s pause to reflect makes you appreciate the times and experiences you’ve had together. I will miss my friend, and I know everyone who ever had the privilege of knowing or even just meeting Mark would feel that, in one way or another. He brought a smile to their faces. I’m lucky to have known Mark, and I will miss knowing that he’s out there. He was one-of-a-kind and the world definitely needs more people like him. RIP Brother.
By: Matt Groopie
Edited by: Jesse Kline
“Music, Rock and Roll music especially, is such a generational thing. Each generation must have their own music…”
-Ronnie James Dio
Simply put, this article is an appeal to reason. I know we all love the word 'Rock and Roll', but it must eventually become a term of historical reference, lest it become an indefinable ocean of a genre. I am sorry to type these words, but we might be coming up on the time when we have to let go of Rock and Roll, as a current term. I’m not putting forth a solution, just a conversation. Even if we look at it from a simply clerical perspective, the genre occupies too much space without really adding any definition. In fact, the term ‘Rock and Roll’ conjures a near infinite number of sonic palates if it is not directly followed up with specific details of an artist’s sound. Sometimes this is thrown by the wayside and a style is proclaimed with a simple rock suffix, perhaps out of laziness, perhaps a real lack of vocabulary. This is usually phrased as ‘Folk-Rock’, ‘Blues-Rock’ or ‘Any Other Genre-Rock’.
If I may be so blunt, Folk, Blues, Jazz, Metal, Country, Hip-hop and indeed every conceivable singular genre has at one time or another been sucked into the ever growing mass of Rock and Roll. I think that this stems from a bad habit of journalists and reviewers, one of which I realized I was guilty, and the spark for this article. We journalists tend to rely on genres, especially Rock and Roll, to quickly fill descriptive voids with minimal effort. What I mean is, it is much easier to come out of a show and say, “That was some awesome rock,” than give a detailed description of their musicality, chemistry, lyrics, showmanship, production and then describe how all of that results in a band’s microcosmic niche genre. Let’s not be so lazy as reviewers. What are we contributing unless we dig deeper with our discourse and definitions?
Yes, the original Rock and Roll was a combination of Blues, Country, R&B and western teen culture all simmering together in 1950s. This was also during the early breakdown of racial segregation in America and there were a lot of white kids trying to play Chuck Berry. Yes, Rock and Roll is the original fusion and it is fitting that it should have so many offshoots, but there has to be a line. I cannot abide the fact that Buddy Holly, Kurt Cobain and Kid Rock can all be referred to as Rock and Roll. I am not saying there is a better term, but the first step is discussing it.
“I don’t know which will go first – Rock and Roll or Christianity”
- John Lennon
Although Lennon was referencing The Beatles epic popularity I think there is hidden wisdom in his statement. This is not an argument against creativity or genre mixing. I love that stuff. Nor am I suggesting that every new band needs to create its own completely new genre. I am simply saying that we don’t like change, and this is verging on a generational psychosis. It feels like we are clinging to the term Rock and Roll like a safety blanket or the memory of a home cooked meal. We simply need a better way to talk about current music.
Believe me when I say that none of this is coming from a place of malice, if you have read any of my other posts on this site, you know I love Rock and Roll. It is awe inspiring to think about Rock being so prolific. I cannot count the number of times someone has told me, ”I love Rock and Roll! I grew up on all the same music that my mom and dad did, but then I started listening to Punk and Metal, you know, other good Rock.” It is true that, categorically, Rock and Roll defines much of what music meant in the 20th century, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, but the term ‘Rock and Roll’ describes so many genres that it is in danger of becoming meaningless. It is nice to think of Rock as one big family, but the fact is, music is one big family. So there is no need for us to hide under the epic immortal guise of Rock and Roll, because we have music and we always will. As we move farther from the inception of Rock and Roll, we can better realize its effect on current music and thus separate it as a genre. By improving our musical lexicon will better understand what Rock and Roll means to us. Either way, Rock and Roll will always be a mindset, and this much is clear, “Rock and Roll is here to stay” –Neil Young. We will save the rants on ‘indie’ and ‘alternative’ for another day.
Review and Pictures by: Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder
Edited by: Jesse Kline
There are so many amazing places in Toronto to see live music and have a drink that I could not possibly mention them all without turning this into a venue phonebook. These are simply the bars where in my years of concert going and media coverage I have had my most exciting musical experiences. Please feel free to mention any bar that you feel I might have neglected in the comments. Enjoy!
The Dakota Tavern –
Highlight: An absolute gem. The Dakota is ranked number one because of its sheer reliability. I have lived in Toronto for 11 years and I spent three of them living a block away at Shaw and Dundas, yet, I have never seen a bad show there.
Décor: The Dakota is a Cowboy bar to the naked eye. Nestled in a basement just north of Dundas and Ossington, The Dakota Tavern is mostly recognizable by the huge lines and the sign advertising Whiskey, Beer and Music. The bar's focal point is the stage, adorned with a cow skull, old posters and big white Christmas lights.
Music: The music ranges widely from country, roots, rockabilly, jazz, pop and bluesy rock to a consistently excellent bluegrass brunch. Clientele: This is a place where people care more about music than their phones working. You don’t go to the Dakota to talk. Late nights at the Dakota are for rock outs and make outs. Aside from their amazing roster of regular musicians, it is also a bar where you might just see a secret performance from Feist or a member of Broken Social Scene. I’ve also spotted many random Toronto celebrities, and left them alone, anyone from George Stroumboulopoulos to Margaret Atwood.
Lee’s Palace -
Highlight: Lee’s Palace is my favorite medium sized venue in Toronto. Almost anyone can play there. What I mean by that is, to a large band it is a perfect place for a small show and for a small band it's the perfect place for a large show. The venue also has an amazing history. Bands ranging from The Rolling Stones to The Gang of Four have graced the stage of Lee’s Palace. Décor: Lee’s is black. It has a club feel to it, but that association is voided once you notice the lowered pit and the raised stage. For this reason every artist you see there receives subconscious respect, simply because you have to look up at them. Think about it, picture a celebrity you respect, are you looking up at them or looking down at them?
Music: The music at Lee’s does not conform to any one mold, it's a great place to go if you want to be surprised. They feature every variety of Rock and Roll, Punk, Gypsy, Country and Metal. I could keep naming genres, but you get the idea. They recently hosted a secret show from Mumford and Sons. No big deal.
The Horseshoe Tavern -
Highlight: A legendary Venue in Toronto. A place every self respecting music fan in Toronto knows well. I have personally seen Black Joe Lewis, The Pack AD, Monster Truck and Terra Lightfoot there in the past year.
Décor: The front is a long stretch of bar, the back is a big stage, that is all.
Music: Quite frankly, read the music description for Lee’s Palace again. I am not being lazy; both venues are booked by Collective Concerts, a fantastic agency that brings talent to small venues in Toronto.
The Cameron House -
Highlight: This place is always a good stop for a pint and the discovery of a new band. They also have two rooms in the venue so there are often two shows going on at the same time.
Décor: The stage in the front is best described as a sea of burgundy and velvet. There is a gorgeous wood bar, there is always amazing art on the walls and there is a ridiculously beautiful old ceiling that nobody notices because of the constant music. The back is more of a classic black box.
Music: The Cameron House is home to Cameron House Records. That’s right, there, where so many amazing roots musicians are playing constantly, they created a record label. The Cameron House specializes in roots rock, country and folk. They have hosted bands from Holly Cole to The Barenaked Ladies.
The Rex -
Highlight: A Family owned business, The Rex is one of those place that your Dad cannot believe is still open and is still cool.
Décor: The Rex has a 70’s dive feel to it, although it was opened in the 1980s. The stage is nestled in the south wall.
Music: The Rex is Toronto's preeminent Jazz bar; It has live music not just every day of the year, but 19 times a week. You may also see some blues or big band music on occasion. Artists from Ani Difranco to Harry Connick Jr. have graced their stage.
Hugh’s Room -
Highlight: Hidden away at the north of Roncesvalles, Hugh’s Room has a magnetic pull. Not only is it a great place to sit down for a great meal, but also the music is without reproach.
Décor: It has the look of a classic New York jazz club, dark lighting, small round tables, table cloths and well dressed staff.
Music: Folk, Roots and Jazz dominate this classy little venue. In fact, they have hosted a tribute night to the music of Gordon Lightfoot for the last 13 years and the last time the man himself showed up. I also saw Canadian World-Blues legend Harry Manx there last year.
Cherry Colas Rock and Roll Cabaret Lounge -
Highlight: As with the entirety of hipster bars, Cherry Cola's does not have a sign, it is marked only by its huge lines, throbbing music and countless burlesque nights. It also happens to be Jack White’s favorite hangout in town and the last time I was there I got to meet Serena Ryder.
Décor: “The crimson walls and leopard furniture of the venue gives you the feeling of being in a Mae West character’s den of iniquity.” A quote from one of our reviewers Andrea Holz, from a review of The Anti Queens is the best way to describe the venue.
Music: a mix of funk, rock and punk usually, of course I have seen lots of rockabilly, pop and hip-hop there. They have trouble conforming to one genre, like most excellent venues. Of course you have to check out hard rocking Wednesday nights hosted by Matt Groopie.
The Rivoli -
Highlight: There are not many venues that create an illusion, but every time I walk into the Rivoli’s back room I forget how small it is. This is because the experiences I have in there are always so big that I only ever remember looking back on the memories of a seemingly endless crowd mobbing the stage.
Décor: Upscale bar with a huge pool hall on top of it. The music venue is hidden away at the back and is an all purpose black box jam room with a big raised stage at the back.
Music: Rock, Hip-Hop, Funk and everything in between.
The Silver Dollar -
Highlight: My favorite dive bar in Toronto. A wonderful dank situated in between the brothel that is the hotel Waiverly and the mission on Spadina just north of College.
Décor: It is dark, so I do not really know. The stage is the focus of this bar.
Music: It is home to excellent current rock, punk and grungy music shows of all varieties. The silver dollar is also a historic Toronto landmark. Members of The Band played weekly in the early sixties as The Hawks, Ronnie Hawkins back up band. They also have amazing bluegrass from The Crazy Strings every Wednesday, and have for years.
The Bovine Sex Club -
Highlight: The name and the décor. Also, some people actually avoid this awesome little queen west venue because they think it is a sex club. It is not.
Décor: The Bovine Sex Club looks like a packrat hobo’s dream apartment. It is strewn with old Christmas lights, bike tires, and what looks to be the random fruition of dumpster diving.
Music: The Bovine is all about the heavy tunes, anything from Motown, Hard Rock or Punk to Hip-Hop or Metal.
Honorable Mentions: These are all still amazing bars to see music in Toronto. Some of these did not make the top ten because they are not really bars. Others just didn’t make the list, but I still love them. Deal with it, I’m complicated.
Massey Hall - An absolutely gorgeous seated auditorium. It is a classic place for an intimate show from an artist who usually plays stadiums. Thank goodness they're licensed to serve during intermission.
The Danforth Music Hall – A converted theatre with no seating, the best part is that they kept the gradient in the floor, so there is not a bad spot in the house.
The Phoenix Concert Hall – Lee’s Palace’s big brother in the east end. The only reason it did not make the list is that it is more of a club then a bar.
The Great Hall – Its name is pretty self explanatory, it is also a photographers dream, because of a second level to the auditorium, making it ideal for topographical musical photographs.
The El Mocombo – I honestly do not have to much current attachment to this venue, but it gets an honourable mention for history. Having hosted every blues man this side of the Mississippi over the last 40 years. The venue is constantly going out of business and then being saved by one well to do philanthropist or another with nostalgia.
The Painted Lady – An eclectic, tiny, little venue. This is actually where I go after the Dakota Tavern (it is across the street). They often have an amazing range of live music such as hip-hop, rock, blues or electronica. Also, they generally have a burlesque dancer atop the bar.
The Drake – A Toronto institution, The Drake is a great place to take a date and see some talented musicians, which may or may not match the classy décor.
Not My Dog – This tiny little Queen West venue is off of most people's radar, but they have amazing acoustic music almost every night of the week and amazingly friendly staff.
The Central - A classy little venue covered in wood, ten people would fill it, but that doesn’t stop them from booking amazing musicians. The Central is actually where I first saw The Dead South.
The Garrison – Another fabulous place to see music around Dundas and Ossington, they host anything from funk to punk. It is not a great place to take pictures; I call it Toronto’s darkest venue.
I Hope You enjoyed exploring TMR's Best Bars for Live Music in Toronto.
Article and Pictures (except The Rex pic) by: Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder
Edited by: Jesse Kline
Many people have asked me to do this, so here it is.
For some reason concert photography is considered one of the most technically frustrating areas for a shutterbug to master. I will not lie, it is a specific process and gear is a factor, but the only real hurdle for most is patience, both while shooting and building your skills. A huge percentage of concert photographers are in their first year of shooting. Seems odd right? This is because so many people find it theoretically alluring and then give up when they find they are not amazing right away. It’s like someone picking up a guitar and being instantly disappointed that they are not as good as Steve Vai. Photography is a science and an art, like so many things. Concert photography is a fine balance of the two, after all, you are shooting a subject that is moving in the dark.
In terms of gear I will suggest my ideal setup. A full frame DSLR with a lens that goes down to at least 2.8 AP (aperture), but we will get into that in a second. There are really only three main factors to consider once you have done the research and gotten the right gear; specifically, the aperture on your lens, your shutter speed and your ISO. These basic functions are applicable to basically any modern camera, digital or not.
I will start with some definitions. Your Aperture might be the most significant potential factor when shooting in darkness. Aperture is the size of the metal eye in your lens; the bigger it is, the more light gets in and the shorter the depth of field. Aperture is one of the main reasons a good lens is so important and sometimes so expensive. Shutter speed is quite literally the length of time during which your camera exposes the sensor to its surroundings. The more time, the more light gets in, and the harder it is to capture moving targets. ISO has to do with the International Organization for Standardization, weird right? ISO is quite simply a way to describe the light meter inside your camera, it’s a way of measuring and or artificially boosting the exposure. Most cameras can go up to 3200 ISO, some higher end cameras can go as high as 100,000 ISO, the danger here is that the higher you boost the ISO, the more grain in your picture. In fact, some people do not like to ever boost the ISO past 1000 because of the grain it creates, but that is no longer the case with modern C-MOS sensors. I have myself gotten usable pictures with my ISO set as high as 12800; it is frowned on by most photographers but the end result is all that matters and post-production can be a very useful factor. ISO can be classified as 'film speed'. It is hard to explain beyond the basic level of 'light sensitivity versus censor exposure' without getting into quantum efficiency. A side note for our nerd readers, ISO is often misinterpreted as an acronym, it is not, and is actually pronounced 'iso'. It became the standard in 1978, combining the previous two standards, ASA and DIV.
I know this seems like techno babble, but once you learn how these three elements work and then learn to balance them, simply nothing can stop you. As promised, here are a few secret recipes, which are really just a good jumping off point. The settings described on these photos are not applicable to every situation, but it will be an easy place from which to make adjustments. I know this sounds about as obvious as a pig in pajamas, but photography is about looking at your surroundings and appraising them, developing one’s eye is actually far more important than your gear. Your angle and your choice of composition is the most important thing there is. Not only is it useful to be able to look at a situation and know what settings it calls for, but you will also understand why you are getting the results you are and be able to control them. This is why I recommend shooting in manual while you are developing your skills.
These recipes are obviously from my own perspective and thus I will use my own gear to describe them. If your camera does not accommodate these settings, approximate them as best you can. I am going to show you several of my photos as examples for the settings of my camera used at the time, I will also give a brief description of the surroundings in which the photo was taken. Additionally, one factor that should be noted in these photos is the use of Adobe Lightroom for post production, software that acts as an amazing modern day darkroom. I highly recommend it.
You will notice a fourth factor displayed with the pictures, the millimeter of the lens, this is a compositional choice (although it can affect the aperture), but being a little beyond the basics and I will not direct you on its use beyond saying that one should match their shutter speed to the length of their lens (1/200 sec = 200mm), although I often do not adhere to this particular baseline. The settings or ‘recipes’ in these 15 pictures vary from a shutter speed of 1/40 of a second to 1/2000 of a second and the ISO settings range from 12800 to 100. In other words, there is no one perfect recipe, you have to play with it and find out what is right for your gear, for your surroundings and most importantly for you.
Below legend represents my format for indicating the camera settings when each photo was taken.
1 - ISO, 2 - MM of the lens, 3 - The Aperture or F stop, 4 - Shutter Speed
Two more final, and very basic points, always avoid camera movement while shooting and make sure your photos are in focus, you would be surprised how often this is not the case. These photographs I have mostly organized in order to demonstrate both the useful variance of the settings on a modern camera and the significance or the light or darkness in your surroundings and their affect on those settings. One should also take care to arrange a collection of photos with purpose (even a bunch of photos that are just examples), according to theme, composition, color and light, but that is for a different post as well.
Happy Shooting! Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comment section.
Article By: Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder
Welcome to the TMR blog. It is no coincidence that all of these artists are also reviewed on Toronto Music Reviews. CMW is always an amazing wonderland for a music journalist and CMW 2015 was no different. Toronto Music Reviews will be covering many upcoming music festivals this summer, providing the same high quality concert photography and live reviews of music in Toronto and the surrounding area. Click on the pictures and the links to get to the reviews.
Have fun Exploring some of our CMW coverage.
Review by: Gideon Greenbaum-Shinder
Here we have lists, ramblings, musings and general coverage of the Canadian Music Scene.