Live music galleries

Live music galleries: The New Pornographers [2022]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts page.)

The New Pornographers live at Ottawa Bluesfest 2022

Artist: The New Pornographers
When: July 8th, 2022
Where: River stage, Ottawa Bluesfest, Lebreton Flats Park
Context: The second night of Ottawa Bluesfest 2022 offered me a second opportunity to see Canadian indie rock collective, The New Pornographers. I had previously seen them in October 2017 at the Bronson Music Theatre on their Ottawa stop in support of their seventh album, “Whiteout conditions”. What with the nature of the group and the various members’ busy schedules, you never know which version of the band* you’ll get to see on any given night. As it turned out, the lineup this time was very much similar to the previous show, except of course, with the subtraction of founding member/keyboard player Blaine Thurier, who had departed the band the previous year, and the addition of touring vocalist/percussionist, Nora O’Connor. They started off with “Falling down the stairs of your smile” (below) off their most recent record and roared through the rest of the one-hour set touching all of their eight albums at least once. Crowd pleasing and fun, this group really does do their shows right. I would never hesitate to the see them again given the chance.
Point of reference song: Falling down the stairs of your smile

Cool Kathryn Calder
Joe Seiders on the drums
John Collins, full of smiles
Todd Fancey
Nora O’Connor, current touring member
Carl Newman in the bright lights
Nora O’Connor and Todd Fancey
Carl, Joe, and John in duplicate
Joe Seiders
Carl, John, and Kathryn
Kathryn Calder close up
Carl Newman at the mike

*I still have yet to see a show by them with Neko Case or Dan Bejar performing… maybe someday…


Best tunes of 2003: #28 The Concretes “You can’t hurry love”

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The Concretes were originally formed in Stockholm, Sweden, way back in 1995. They started out as just a trio – Victoria Bergsman (vocalist), Maria Ericsson (guitars), and Lisa Milberg (drums) – but within three more years, their ranks had blossomed to eight full-time members. They released a handful of EPs in their early years, and released a compilation that collected the first two of these for easier consumption, but their full-length debut didn’t come about until eight years into their existence on the scene.

“The Concretes”, however, wasn’t my introduction to this Swedish indie pop collective. I didn’t actually hear their music until they released their sophomore album, “In colour”, in North America in 2006 and by that time, Bergsman, the group’s principal lyricist, was already on her way out. I loved the album and for me, her frail and precious delivery and how it felt just this side out of step with the band’s technicolour sound, was what really sold me on the group. So I didn’t really pay that much attention when they resurfaced the following year with a new album with Milberg stepping out from behind the drum kit to take up the mic. I did, however, go back and pick up the debut and found much to love there as well.

The first single to be released off the debut record was “You can’t hurry love”, a two minute wonder that is definitely not a Supremes cover. Instead, it calls to mind the girl groups from the Phil Spector school: JAMC guitars, horns, handclaps, shuffling drums, and woo woo woo woo backing vocals. It’s a party turned up to eleven, a howling at the sun, a whole fireworks show set off at once, and a running of the bulls at rush hour. And at the head of it all, Bergsman is ‘racing’ to the finish line at her own pace.

Do you hear me say
Do you hear me say now
Ain’t far
Well I didn’t mind
I didn’t mind
I didn’t mind
You can’t hurry love
You can’t hurry love”

Those are the words, repeated twice through, and the refrain comes again, just in case you didn’t get it the first time. Pop perfection.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2003 list, click here.


Best tunes of 2002: #8 Broken Social Scene “Cause = time”

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My good friend and infrequent contributor to this blog, Andrew Rodriguez, once quipped that I wasn’t able to be a fan of a band unless they had at least six members. And while he exaggerated some, it’s true that a lot of the new bands that I discovered and fell for in the 2000s had a lot of personnel. This singular characteristic, however, wasn’t one that automatically made me a fan of the act in question. As a case in point, Broken Social Scene is a band who is quite famous for having a large contingent, filling stages both large and small, whenever and wherever they played live, and try as I might, I was never able to get into them in their early days.

The Toronto-based indie collective actually started out as duo back in 1999. Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning recorded their mostly instrumental, ambient debut album, 2001’s “Feel good lost”, by themselves, for the most part. When it came to performing it live, however, Drew and Canning would enlist the help of their friends, many of them fixtures of the Toronto indie rock scene, members of bands already established or soon to be established, like Metric, Stars, Apostles of Hustle, and Feist. The duo then brought a lot of these same friends into the studio with them when they recorded their sophomore album, the now iconic “You forgot it in people”, and the rest, as they are wont to say, is history. The album was critically acclaimed, did quite well commercially for a Canadian indie band, and was cited in many conversations as one of the centrepieces around which the Canadian indie explosion of the 2000s revolved. And I remember telling people in similar conversations that I appreciated all that, but for me, they were a band of whose parts I enjoyed more than their sum.

Of course, that was back then. These days, I love Broken Social Scene. Somewhere along the line, I came to my senses and became a fan, allowing me to reclaim my Canadian citizenship. I’ve seen them live twice, experiencing the magic that made me question whether or not I was on bad drugs when I listened to them early on. Their show is so much fun, seeing so many talented musicians playing together on the same stage, all contributing to creating that perfect sound and obviously, having fun doing it. Yeah and each time I saw them, the show was completely different because it was a different combination of musicians on stage. It seems that it’s like – whoever’s available, come on out and play. And play and rock, they do.

“Cause = time” is the perfect way to illustrate how they bring the rock. It was an exceptional tune for me because it was one of the few that I liked even before I became a full-fledged fan. The atmospherics of their early work still laid the groundwork but the driving drum beat, rumbling bass line, and screeching, screaming, and scratching guitars all get the heart racing. Indeed, it is a noisy cacophony and could’ve been in danger of becoming unlistenable if it weren’t for the counterpoint put forward by Kevin Drew. He settles things down to a mellow and cool vibe with his vocals and it’s like losing yourself in the beauty of the moment while the chaos of the world flashes violently around you.

Chaos and calm. That says it right there.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.