Archive for the ‘Rock duo’ Category

[ATTENDED: January 27, 2020] Illiterate Light

S. and I saw Illiterate Light open for The Head and the Heart back in October.  We were really impressed by them–their power (especially for just two people), their intensity, and their overall sense of fun.  In fact, because of annoying crowd people around me, I enjoyed Illiterate Light more than TH&TH.

I knew that they would be really great to see when they were the headline act, so when they announced a show at Johnny Brenda’s, I quickly got us both a ticket.

The band is a duo with Jeff Gorman on guitar and bass pedals (and what a huge difference those bass pedals make) and Jake Cochran on drums (and dancing).  The dancing is important because unlike most drummers, Cochran plays his drum kit standing up.  This allows him a lot of mobility–he wanders the stage, hangs out with Gorman and hits cymbals from all angles.

We couldn’t help but notice that there were several camera dudes all around the stage.  They told us that they’d be filming this show for some kind of upcoming something or other.  I’m looking forward to seeing it (we’re bound to be in it).  Although there was SO MUCH FOG (which is why my pictures are so hazy) that I have to wonder how good their video will be.

The guys came out and set up their gear (I was amused at how much more stuff Cochran had–I guess since his floor tom is removable?).  Although when Gorman brought in his foot pedals (a cool Moog device) he raised it over his head to much applause. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BEST COAST-“Little Saint Nick” (2019).

It was only a few years ago that I realized that this song is about a car.  For years you can sing words to a song and not realize what you’re actually saying.

The song is a fun upbeat Christmas song that I rather like.

Best Coast is a rock duo: Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno.  They sing California indie pop with a rocking edge.

This version of “Little Saint Nick” is not radically different from the original.  The biggest musical difference is how fuzzy and distorted the main guitar is.  But her deliver of the lyrics is pretty clean (with some very nice backing vocals).

I appreciate this version because it finally taught me what the deep-voiced part is in the song “he don’t miss no one.”  I could never tell form the Beach Boys version.

This is a delightful poppy version that with just enough edge to get you moving for the holiday.

[READ: December 23, 2019] “The Adventists”

This year, S. ordered me The Short Story Advent Calendar.  This is my fourth time reading the Calendar.  I didn’t know about the first one until it was long out of print (sigh), but each year since has been very enjoyable.  Here’s what they say this year

The Short Story Advent Calendar is back! And to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’ve decided to make the festivities even more festive, with five different coloured editions to help you ring in the holiday season.

No matter which colour you choose, the insides are the same: it’s another collection of expertly curated, individually bound short stories from some of the best writers in North America and beyond.

(This is a collection of literary, non-religious short stories for adults. For more information, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page.)

As always, each story is a surprise, so you won’t know what you’re getting until you crack the seal every morning starting December 1. Once you’ve read that day’s story, check back here to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Want a copy?  Order one here.

I’m pairing music this year with some Christmas songs that I have come across this year.

Ian Williams has my favorite answer to one of the Q&A questions:

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

IW: I wrote “The Adventists” because Michael Hingston asked me for a story for the Short Story Advent Calendar project. I pretty much already had a title from the invitation. He said that the story didn’t have to be religious or about Christmas, so, good lawkeeper that I am, I wrote a story that was religious and about Christmas.

Indeed, this story is about Adventists.  Seventh-Day Adventists.  The narrator is the father of a family of Adventists and his daughter has just come back from college in Leeds for Christmas.

The story begins, “Our daughter is trying to persuade us that the world is more  than 6,000 years old.” She’s also got quite the posh British accent (after being away for a semester).

She doesn’t dismiss the Bible out of hand–it gives comfort to many people.  But not you? her father wonders.  She says you can’t deny science.  He retorts, “You’re going to trust some rocks above the Word of God?”

Soon enough, his daughter took out her phone and started “texting or tweeting or whatever she does when she has no retort for the real world.”

The Monday before Christmas [that’s today!] they went to Walmart.

I love this aside:

For a significant period our family refused to celebrate Christmas in protest against its pagan origins.  Made no dent on the economy.  Now we were back, somewhat grudgingly to being standard Protestants.


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[ATTENDED: November 18, 2019] Lovelorn

Just after the Blushing set ended, a woman squeezed past me and put some stuff on the stage.  Turns out she was Anna Troxell, bassist and vocalist for Lovelorn.  A few moments later a guy with an enormous table full of gear climbed up on stage.  That was Patrick Troxell, knob twiddler and drummer for Loverlorn.

And yes, this was the second band of the night where the band members were married.

Lovelorn formed out of the dissolution of Creepoid, a Philly punk band with a legendary history.  When Lovelorn first assembled, it was with three of the members of Creepoid (singer guitarist Sean Miller did not join them).  I was unfamiliar with Creepoid, but when I listened to them recently I rather liked them–shame they broke up.

they were a trio with guitarist Pete Joe Urban joining them.  They played slow dreamy noisy pop like latter Jesus and Mary Chain.  Somewhere between early 2018 and late 2019. Lovelorn became a duo and switched their emphasis to darkwave music.

There’s no guitar.  Patrick makes all of the sounds on his table of gear.  He also had a cymbal and possibly a snare drum–I couldn’t tell.  Anna played bass on most of the songs, putting it down for one or two tracks.  They both sang lead. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: November 13, 2019] Crown Lands

Crown Lands are a duo from Canada.  As with a lot of rocking duos, they play riff-heavy rock.  But they change things around a bit.  In their bio they say they are huge fans of Rush, and while they don’t do anything as complex as Rush, you can hear the Rush influence all over their songs.  The size of Cody Bowles’ drum set, the little high hat fills, and some of the percussion.  And Guitarist Kevin Comeau plays a doubleneck Rickenbacker and some of the chord progressions are distinctly Rush-ian.  And yet you would never hear them and think you were listening to Rush.

Comeau plays guitar and bass pedals which add a really full sound to their live show.  Bowles has a really powerful voice with a truly remarkable range.  He can do Robert Plant/Geddy Lee high screams, he also has a lower register for the body of most songs.  And their stage presence is pretty great too.

The have two EPS out and are planning a finishing up a full length now.  Most of the songs from this set came from their unreleased record, and these songs are great. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 8, 2019] Illiterate Light

I had heard of Illiterate Light from NPR, but didn’t really know them.  They played at Newport Folk Festival but were early on Saturday and we arrived after them.

Traffic getting to this show was terrible and I was annoyed that we’d miss Illiterate Light (or part of their set anyhow).  S. said she didn’t mind missing the opening act as long as we made it for The Head and the Heart.

We walked in just as Illiterate Light took the stage and we got seated around the middle of the first song.  And I couldn’t get over how loud they were (particularly opening for a not-especially-loud band like The Head and the Heart).  They had big rocking guitar and crashing drums.

Then I looked up and realized that there were only two of them on stage. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: February 25, 2017] Japandroids

I saw Japandroids in February of last year.  It was a wild show in which two guys made a ton of noise and sounded great doing it.  The crowd was huge, there was much slam dancing and crowd surfing.  It was intense and exhausting.

So I was pretty excited to see that they’d be playing Boot & Saddle for two nights in a row.  I can remember standing outside on a cold day trying to refresh my page while the wifi tried to connect to something, anything.  But I was sold out.  And then they announced a third show, just as I refreshed my email.  I was able to score a ticket for that third night.  They later announced a fourth night.

I assumed it would be really packed so I got  there plenty early,

I was right up front and, in a club this size, there’s no slam dancing or crowd surfing (just lots of yelling).

As with most Boot & Saddle shows, it felt like this show was just for me and the girls in front of me.  Just like at Union Transfer, Brian King stood with his guitar on my left and David Prowse was behind the kit (facing King) on my right.

I didn’t realize that the band was still touring their last album, Near To The Wild Heart Of Life.  This wasn’t a new showcase or anything.  They told us that they had opened this tour in Philly at Union Transfer (I didn’t know that) and they wanted to finish it up here as well.  (Although they did add an extra night to their tour when they played Asbury park when they opened for Hold Steady.

Like last time, they opened with the roaring title track.  And how much fun is it when a whole room screams that hey are “fired up.”

The setlist was surprisingly similar for all four nights, with the different songs being one old song and two brand new ones.  Japandroids have 3 albums out (and a B-sides collection).  They played 4 of 8 songs from their new album and 5 from the previous album and 4 of 8 from their debut.  This surprises me given that it’s just the two of them and they don;t have to worry about stage effects or lights or anything.

In fact the lights were giving them a hard time on our night.  The lights went out for a second.  They got stuck on red for a bunch of songs (Brian: can you please change the lights to anything but red)  I also happened to get this weird lighting effect on camera.

But Japandroids are all about fun and they came to have fun, to sweat and to stretch out their songs to pretty lengthy jams.  And, heck it was great hearing those songs up close.  “Fire’s Highway” and “Heart Sweats” sounded fantastic and it was great watching King play these surprisingly complex chords.

It was also fun having Prowse so close–watching him lean back between songs to stretch out.

Prowse pounds the drums.  At one point his snare drum even fell over–someone in front of me righted it–that would have been a cool stage story, if I had been closer.

During one of the pauses, Prowse was chatting with the audience.  The guy who replaced the snare seemed to have been at the previous two shows and they started talking about Vancouver.

King sings most of the songs, but Prowse does get lead on a couple, like Rockers East Vancouver and of course he does all of the backing vocals like on North East South West.

The whole show was great–an excellent, if brief set list and the five last songs were stellar: No Known Drink or Drug, Young Hearts Spark Fire, Continuous Thunder (one of my favorites) and the supremely crowd pleasing The Nights of Wine and Roses.

I was really happy to be able to get so close for these songs (again, seeing King play thsese cool chords), because for the last song (which they announced as the last song–11PM curfew and all).

Especially since for the final song, a football team’s worth of very tall guys pushed their way to the front to slam dance and pogo everyone around them.

I wound up surprisingly far back for the last song. It was even more surprising when the lights went out for about a minute of the song (the sound stayed on though).  I think this led to a bit rougher slam dancing, so I was glad to be out of it.

This was all fine, except that after the show, their roadie handed out drumsticks to the meatheads who forced their way up front for the end.

Regardless of where you stand and what or how any songs Japandroids play, they put on a hell of a set.  It is fun, it is sweaty and it demands that you scream.

I’m glad I saw them in a bigger venue, but this was a great, intimate performance.


Boot and Saddle (Night 3 of 4) July 26, 2018  Union Transfer February 25, 2017
Near to the Wild Heart of Life * Near to the Wild Heart of Life *
International [new song] Adrenaline Nightshift !
Fire’s Highway ! Fire’s Highway !
Heart Sweats ∅ True Love and a Free Life of Free Will *
True Love and a Free Life of Free Will * North East South West *
Rockers East Vancouver ∅ Younger Us !
Younger Us ! In a Body Like a Grave *
Alice [new song] Wet Hair ∅
North East South West * Arc of Bar *
Wet Hair ∅ The Nights of Wine and Roses !
No Known Drink or Drug * Evil’s Sway !
Young Hearts Spark Fire ∅ Midnight to Morning *
Continuous Thunder ! Continuous Thunder !
The Nights of Wine and Roses ! No Known Drink or Drug *
The House That Heaven Built ! Heart Sweats ∅
Young Hearts Spark Fire ∅
The House That Heaven Built !
(I’m) Stranded (The Saints cover) (with Craig Finn)
  • * = Near To The Wild Heart Of Life (2017)
  • ! = Celebration Rock (2012)
  •  ∅ = Post-Nothing (2009)

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[ATTENDED: April 5, 2018] +HIRS+

+HIRS+ (pronounced “heers”) is a collective. According to their website: “We are infinite and never ending. A collective of freaks and faggots that will never stop existing.” But mainly the band is made up of two semi-anonymous individuals, best friends JP on vocals and beats and Esem on guitar.


Incidentally, the band just released their first full length, which is currently streaming on NPR.  It is 14 minutes long–20 songs–and features guest contributions from Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Shirley Manson (Garbage), Marissa Paternoster (Screaming Females), Alice Bag and more.

Vice describes their set so aptly:

A quick listen to one of their songs – and it will be quick, as most of their tracks don’t stretch for longer than 30 seconds – will definitely do the trick: Sample from a movie. Heavy blastbeats. Fast and pounding guitar riffs. Screamed, mostly unintelligible vocals. Repeat. If you’re seeing them live, the typical +HIRS+ set will last maybe ten intensely chaotic, fun minutes.

That’s a lot of talk for a set that lasted no more than 15 minutes.  But their set was one of the most incredible things I’ve seen. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 5, 2017] Pierce Brothers

This new construction on the way to Philly is really cramping my style.

I got to Union Transfer about 15 minutes late (unavoidable this time).  And that delay meant I missed some of the best supporting act that I’d never heard of before.

Pierce Brothers are Australian twins Jack and Patrick Pierce (that’s Jack on the left).  I saw three or four songs–walking in during a rollicking “Genevieve” that had the crowd going utterly nuts.

I don’t know what the crowd (which was quite large when I arrived) was like when the guys first started, but we were eating out of their hands by the time of this song.

During “Genevieve,” Jack was on electric guitar while Patrick played acoustic and sang lead.  Jack was jumping around and inciting us all to sing along and have a great time. (more…)

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2017-02-25-23-47-33[ATTENDED: February 25, 2017] Japandroids

I was mostly excited to see Japandroids because in addition to liking their music, I wanted to see how two guys could be so powerful live.  I’d also heard that their live shows were a ton of fun.  And was it ever.

Interestingly, I had tickets for the Friday night show, which sold out.  But then something more important came up–a father daughter dance.  I was able to get my ticket to someone I work with and he enjoyed Friday night and I was still able to get a ticket for Saturday night.  So everybody won.  There was also some joking from Brian King the guitarist/singer that Friday night was a better crowd–until the Saturday night crowd decided to prove him wrong.  They were also filming on our night, so I wonder if anything will ever come of that.

But back to the show.  When the crew set up their gear, I was surprised to see them putting the drum set literally right in front of me, sideways–facing the guitar.  I knew that he faced that way but didn’t think they put him right a the front of the stage. (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 18, 2013] Whitehorse

Whitehorse opened for Barenaked Ladies at the Bethlehem Sands (our new favorite slightly larger venue–even if the acoustics aren’t great, the seating is good and the prices reasonable–we were in the 20th row for this set, which was really perfect).

I had never heard of Whitehorse, so when I saw that they were opening for Barenaked Ladies, I wanted to see what they were all about.  I found a concert from Mountain Stage which was enjoyable but which I felt pigeonholed the band as a kind of country folk duo.  They weren’t exactly what I imagined when I thought of an opening band for BNL.  I actually wondered if BNL’s show would be more mellow in general, too.

Well, Whitehorse absolutely blew me away on stage.

They opened as I expected, with Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland (who were solo performers and recently got married) playing guitars and singing into one microphone (that last part I didn’t expect).  They sounded great together.  And the song (“No Glamour in the Hammer”) was very nice—mellow folk with a hint of country.  And then things got really interesting.  They each moved to a different microphone.  McClelland switched to a bass, Doucet switched to an electric guitar.  And then they started playing some percussion—Doucet played a bass drum with his foot while playing the guitar.  Then he picked up some random percussion objects—small drums, maracas, even pots and pans—and hit them a few times.  And that’s when I realized they were looping the percussion and building the rest of the song from that.  McClelland played some keyboard and, at one point, she began singing into a distorted microphone to create some cool vocals which she also looped.  A video camera closeup revealed that the “microphone” was actually an old-fashioned telephone.  The first song went on for a pretty long time, building and growing and expanding  And by the end of the song the crowd was hooked.

What was completely evident was just how much fun they were having.  Both of them were smiling all the way through the set, in between singing of course.  They looked at each other and shared moments, thanked us and BNL and told good stories to lead up to the songs.  (more…)

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