Indie Week is Toronto's newest music festival, owned and operated by Darryl Hurs and the fine-feathered folks over at Gen-Sub Records. Having been asked to judge their Friday night showcase at the B-Side, the gig took on a sense of realism that could never be conveyed by mere ballpoint and binary code. Heady stuff to be certain but I knew my snide remarks would be all the more biting on this evening. Boffo!
Codex kicked things off to a pretty scant crowd and their weirdo sub-industrial slop hit the crowd with the impact of a pillow case. The duo combined some serious effects-ladden guitar with a massive synth and sample goulash, and while the music wasn't unbearable, Codex need to work on their stage show. Justifying all the gear stage left was sorta bizarre and their presentation overall was proportionately a bit tedious. While Codex mine similar territory to local space rockers Wintary, they lack the band's visual sensibility and sense of drama. Also, the instrumental tracks were far better than those with vocals÷ oh, the vocals. There's potential in the laboured thump of Codex's Front Line Assembly/Delerium/Human League hum but they've got a ways to go. Oh yeah, and they should loose the acoustic guitar/harmonica song they closed the set with. A change-up to be sure but this was more of the Darren Oliver variety rather than the Mariano Rivera. Y'here? Whatever÷ next.
The singer from Chlorine Dream looked pretty boss, kinda like a less-emaciated version of Nash Kato from Urge Overkill. I think he might've had arthritis or something because there was a huge black band covering one of his forearms, similar to the one that "Iron" Mike Sharpe used to bash people over the head with. Oh, my bad÷ it was a wristband. The music? Well, it started off all spacey-like, Meddle-era Floyd but once of bough broke, it gushed into some pretty straight-forward R'n'R. The songs were pretty decent but the Dreamers seemed to lack some continuity in their compositions, like two different songs were being playing at once. Really, it's hard to explain but it was just weird. Nonetheless, the set was solid enough and the Kato lookalike had a pretty decent stage presence. Once they decent whether they want to go all Emo or stick to the Allmans twaddle, they'll be on their way.
Radius + Helena were a late addition to the bill, replacing the Costeau-core ramblings of Mind of a Squid. Now, I'm a huge mark for inter-gender bands but aside from that, R+H get brownie points for putting in the most original set of the evening. Within the traditional guitar/bass/drums contingent, they packed in lots of dissonance and atmospherics, growling and grinding but without losing sight of the hooks. Their singer was especially entertaining, falling to his knees and rolling around on the floor some. Nice! He also took to the crowd, distributing finger sandwiches while the R+H players went off on some dirge-y tangent. The building blocks are there. Radius + Helena are definitely a band to watch. OK, I made up the part about finger sandwiches.
The League Champs have been gigging around Toronto quite a bit lately and it shows. Musically, they were very competent and didn't miss as much as a beat. Their singer is a tall lanky fellow in a short-sleeved dress shirt and tie. They play a unique brand of modern rock that sounds like the Foo Fighters buying a Joy Division song book online, breaking into Ian Curtis' coffin via crowbar and through the use of a defibrillator and some "magic", rousing ole Ian to dance around the maypole one more time. They are nice boys. If I had to slap a label on their puds, I'd go with emo/goth÷ goth-O, I suppose. The singer sounded a tad like Robert Smith with his bits in a clamp but luckily, he was pretty much in control for the entire set. Some (Peter) Hook-y basslines, anthemic choruses and the odd rabbit punch for good measure. I'm not sure they're quite the League Champs yet but with a bit more practice, they might become the 2001 Seattle Mariners. And that ain't a bad thing.
The most appropriately named band of the evening was Bullmoose. Their chunky strand of classic rock was a good approximation of what it would sound like if three large moose did form an indie band. Attempting to finger the chords using antlers, the pitter patter of hooves on the skins, etc. I was just waiting for them to break into "Smoke on the Water" but no, this Montreal-based power trio had other ideas, milking every last dribble of moo juice from that big udder in the sky. They were unapolegetic, brash and powerful, using the wah-wah pedal to great effect. The bassist's shirt came off mid-set and while his torso wasn't quite on par with Sylvester Stallone or even former Watergate conspirator G. Gordon Liddy, it was still quite lovely.
Toronto stadium rockers The Ashgrove tied a smuggler's knot on the night and did so with several pages ripped from the U2 playbook. Having heard their album in advance, this wasn't all that surprising and while it wasn't exactly my cup of pee, The Ashgrove were pretty tight musically and managed to maintain a heady sense of pomp and circumstance. Personally, I'd cut back on the wank and tighten up those structures because the songs tended to drag after a while. Of course, being the sixth band on a six band bill is a pretty tough pill to swallow and considering the amount of pro bono suds flowing down my esophagus, The Ashgrove were÷ just OK.
The winner: Radius + Helena
Writer: Cameron Gordon