January is always depressing. Let’s move on.
I went to see The Magnetic Fields in February. We sat in the very last row of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre at the Exhibition. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre is just like your high school auditorium. One of the female singers sat on the floor pretty much the whole night. Stephin Merritt has a hearing condition that makes sounds much louder than they are so he asks you not to applaud. It feels unnatural. When I went to see Rufus Wainwright this year he also asked us not to applaud during the first half of the show, but that was more to do with him being Rufus Wainwright if you catch my drift and nothing at all to do with a hearing condition. Stephin Merritt also was not wearing a long black cape with a feathered collar like Rufus was, just in case you didn’t catch my drift. The Magnetic Fields are tied with The Smiths for most dejected subject matter. Sometimes I genuinely wonder if it’s healthy for me to listen to this stuff. After the show we caught the Dufferin bus through the Dufferin gates. The Dufferin gates make me feel like a child every single time.
I went to see Spoon at the Sound Academy in March. I hate the Sound Academy. You can’t just give it a paint job and take away the bean bag chairs and tell me it’s not the Docks. It’s still the Docks. It’s far away from anywhere you ever are in the city and when you finally arrive, you’re the last person there and you have to stand at the back of the longest, narrowest venue in existence. Spoon is one of those bands that I’m supposed to like way more than I actually do. Definitely not worth the trip to the Sound Academy for me, yet there I was. My friend and I walked through what we like to call Rape Alley on the way to the show. It’s the area under the highway overpasses. We came up with the opening scene for a Law and Order episode. After I gave the cheesy one-liner one of the detectives delivers after seeing the body (Detective one: They said she was coming back from a concert. Detective two: I sure hope they played an encore), my friend jumped right into the theme song. Asking a taxi driver to take you a short distance after a show at the Sound Academy lets out is akin to asking a complete stranger to give you a kidney. Not to mention they’ve already donated one to an actual loved one.
I went to see Vampire Weekend the day after I saw Spoon and it was also at the Sound Academy. Lucky! It was a better show but that’s probably more to do with the fact that I actually like Vampire Weekend. Not that I’m sure they were even in the room because, like I said, it was at the Sound Academy and I was the last person there. My cousin and I were heavily patted down before entering like we were on the no-fly list and right after we both said to each other, “That’s the most action I’ve gotten in a long time” as we laughed. When we finally convinced a taxi driver to pick us up afterward, (along with two other strangers), it turned out the driver was insane in a great way. He told us that car horns were the car’s way of saying wtf. The two other strangers also turned out to be cousins and the driver said ‘This is the cousin cab. I’m your cousin too!’ Then he played us Jai Ho and told us that he also had the Pussycat Dolls version. When I laughed he said, ‘What, you don’t believe me?’ but I did. I really really did.
A few days later it was Good Friday and my cousin and I spent it with Julian Casablancas at the Kool Haus. Why they took a warehouse called the Warehouse and renamed it the Kool Haus, I will never know. I like the venue, actually, but that’s probably because I spent every other day there in my teenage years seeing the same 4 or 5 bands play over and over again. I almost didn’t go see Julian Casablancas but I’m glad I did because it ended up being one of my favourite shows of the year. I can’t lie, I kind of missed the boat on The Strokes. Never really got into them beyond the obvious songs. How did that happen? The situation has since been rectified. I was sick with a bad cold that day and dreaded being in a crowd but you know what? I could breathe perfectly the whole night. Then I realized I was essentially in a giant humidifier so that made sense. Why do I always stand next to the two people who do not want to dance at all.? I’m sorry but there are two drums sets and a synthesizer happening up there, how exactly are you not dancing? Julian Casablancas’ middle name is Fernando and he played a Christmas song. I guess one Jesus-themed holiday is just as Good as the next.
I went to see Girls in April at the Phoenix. I was pretty floored that the place was only about 2/5 full. I thought Girls were indie darlings? Or something? All I know I listened to Lust for Life on repeat for about two weeks when I first heard it. The singer’s hair was so greasy and matted that it actually made me feel dirty, but I didn’t hold it against him because he sings so sweetly and he grew up in a cult of sorts. Cut the guy some slack! I think if I escaped a cult of sorts I would use that as an excuse for every shitty or stupid thing I did until the end of my life. I can’t remember what song it was but it was a slow one and while they played it the disco ball was turned on and a few people slow danced. I felt happy and sad in the same moment. I put my head on my friend’s shoulder.
Two days later at the Phoenix, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club played a real straightforward no bullshit rock ‘n’ roll show for 2.5 hours. The singer got so drunk that he had to sit down at one point. This was another spur of the moment concert going decision that I was glad I made as it also ended up being one of my favourite shows of the year. It ended with a laser light show criss-crossing the audience. Who wouldn’t like that?
I went to see Hawksley Workman in April at Massey Hall. My friend and I sat in the front row because I scammed the Hawksley Workman presale system. The Hawksley Workman presale system said that the Hawksley Workman presale started at 10am but I said whatever to that (read: I misread the time) and logged on to buy tickets at 9am. It wasn’t my fault it worked. Hawksley Workman keeps getting a little bit older and a little bit balder and a little bit fatter each time I see him in concert and yet somehow he also keeps getting a little bit sexier. I like how he tells stories equally as much as he plays songs at his concerts. His stories always blur and then cross the line between fact and fiction and by the time you realize you are firmly in fiction land, you’re not sure where exactly it stopped being true.
I went to see The Virgins in May at the Phoenix and it was the saddest show I have ever been to. I don’t know why The Virgins were playing a Smirnoff presents event in which they turned the Phoenix into a Carnivale. Except a Carnivale that no one came to, or when they finally did they were the kinds of people who go to clubs that I steer clear of. We drank our free (small and not mixed particularly well) drinks and wore our masks while we took sad photos of ourselves to remember to never do this again. I said ‘Who did this to us?!’ and my cousin said ‘You! You did this to us!’ When the Virgins came on it was clear they were just going through the motions and we couldn’t blame them. Maybe 10 people there knew who they were. When they were done, we got our free popcorn and got the shit out of there vowing never to speak about it again.
I went to see Broken Bells in June at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. We realized that The Queen Elizabeth theatre is now the cool, hip place to play for bands people don’t want to stand at whilst listening to. But we stood because I like standing, damnit. It was raining and I stepped in a puddle right before getting into my friend’s car. My foot was wet all night. We had Rolo’s for dinner and each of us remarked at how we hadn’t had Rolo’s since childhood. Broken Bells were pretty good, what else can I say?
I went to see French Horn Rebellion at Wrongbar in June. I hate Wrongbar. Apparently so does everyone else because the place was empty. French Horn Rebellion were fun and come complete with a french horn. My friend and I instantly loved them. Afterwards we went to tell them they were great. One of the guys asked if we came to Wrongbar often. We made a face and said we never come to Wrongbar. His face showed relief. “Okay, why are we playing here?” he asked. “No clue, dude.” we told him. We gave him a list of better venues for next time.
I saw She & Him in June. It was supposed to be at the Phoenix but was moved to the Sound Academy because God has a sense of humour. I went alone because my friends are losers. It was raining that night and I was in a bad mood for the aforementioned reasons. Zooey Deschanel said something a little annoying at one point (something about camera flashes, I think?) and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I kind of get that bad taste in my mouth whenever I listen to them now. Probably wouldn’t go see them again.
I went to see Jamie Lidell the next week at the Mod Club. The Mod Club is one of my favourite venues because I don’t like leaving College Street and because of its close proximity to many ice cream parlours. Jamie Lidell’s setup hurt my brain and is probably a fire hazard but God, is he a great performer. There was much dancing and sweating (though of course some people were able to resist movement because this is Toronto after all). Jamie Lidell was wearing a coat that seemed to come from a gypsy family even though you’re not supposed to say gypsy these days. One of his band members played an instrument I’ve never seen before. I’m still not sure what it was. After the show, my friend and I were instantly depressed that it was over and we went and ate ice cream and then bought tickets for the Osheaga Festival that July to appease ourselves in knowing that we’d be seeing Jamie Lidell again soon.
I went to see Rufus Wainwright in June at the Elgin Theatre where his opera Prima Donna was also playing which I saw earlier that week and where after we left the opera in our opera clothes and went to catch the last bit of Iggy and the Stooges in Yonge Dundas Square. Rufus’ concert was interesting. He played the entire album he was touring which is only so-so if you ask me, though there are a couple of standout tracks. We weren’t allowed to clap while he played it. We were encouraged to clap during the second half where he played older things and bantered like Rufus does. It was infinitely more enjoyable. He played one of his late mother’s songs and wow it was fantastic.
The next week I went to see Rufus’s sister Martha Wainwright play at The Great Hall, where, incidentally, I want to get married if ever I decide to do such a thing or if ever someone decides they would like to do such a thing with me. Martha played Edith Piaf songs and it was so incredibly hot that night that everyone was dripping with sweat. Martha was fantastic. Then she played Stormy Weather and I closed my eyes and tried to make sure I’d be able to remember it later. I’m not sure it worked. She also played one of her late mother’s songs and it was equally fantastic.
July + August
At the end of July my friend and I drove to Montreal for Osheaga. We ate breakfast at Cora’s every day we were there (Rosemary’s Sunday is the thing on the menu to order on festival days because it is a shitload of food ensuring that you will only have to eat one more time that day). While we were there, we saw Owen Pallett who I described as ‘beautifully boring’ but I’ve since come around to think that maybe he was having an off day or maybe he’s not a festival kind of act or maybe the sound guys really did fuck him up like he kept saying or maybe it was just too fucking hot (it was really fucking hot!). We saw Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros who had just a week previously become my new obsession so I was quite happy about that. Joyous! Then we watched Jimmy Cliff and half-listened to Japandroids while eating the hippie lunch (tofu ‘pulled pork’ sandwiches and $4 smoothies). We stood at the very front like teenagers for Jamie Lidell. He wore his gypsy coat again and members of Edward Sharpe and Fran Healy watched him from the side of the stage. Caught a bit of Pavement and sat on the hill while The National bored the shit out of us. Why are The National so popular? The dude sings monotone until he screams like he’s tone deaf. At one point my friend pointed to a guy sitting near us on the hill reading and said, ‘That guy’s so bored he’s reading A Million Little Pieces’. ‘That’s not even a real memoir!’ I exclaimed. We missed Fran Healy AND Robyn while watching The National. Bad move. Arcade Fire was excellent but of course everyone knew they would be. There were fireworks going on somewhere near the park that night during their set and it was hard not to believe that it was for them. Then confetti fell on the crowd and basically when you drop confetti on me I’m good. On day two Seu Jorge sang us David Bowie songs in Portugese, The Gaslight Anthem did their best Bruce Springsteen, The Black Keys were perfect to listen to in the sun, Snoop Dogg was exactly what you wanted in Snoop Dogg and Sonic Youth were exactly what you wanted in Sonic Youth. Somewhere after another hippie lunch we stumbled upon Rich Aucoin who was ‘busking for change’ at the Warchild tent and thank God we did because the 2 minutes or so I saw of him was one of the weekend’s highlights for me. Kicked ourselves finding out we missed him while watching Owen bad-mood Pallett the day previous. I’ve seen him 3 or 4 times since in Toronto because I can’t say no to playing the parachute game and he keeps bringing the parachute so what do you want from me? We skipped the headliners for that day – Metric (‘I don’t even go see Metric for free in Toronto.’ I said) and Weezer (‘I liked Rivers Cuomo a lot better when he was depressed.’ I said) and went to Montreal’s gay pride. On day one I peed twice and on day two just once and I’m proud of that.
I won tickets to see Stone Temple Pilots in August at the Air Canada Centre. I’d seen them before in Hamilton where everyone wore Canadian Tuxedos. I was hoping that Scott Weiland would take off his shirt because he didn’t in Hamilton. He didn’t. When did he stop doing that?
Scissor Sisters came to the Sound Academy in August and it was there that I realized the right circumstances needed for an enjoyable time at the Sound Academy. 1. It’s summer so the Pape bus runs late and you don’t have to take a cab. 2. It’s the Scissor Sisters and the crowd is a bunch of gay men who just want to dance! Perfection!
I went to see Vampire Weekend again at the Molson Amphitheatre in September. There was a nice breeze. I always equate the Molson Amphitheatre with being breezy for some reason. We suffered through the boringness (second only to The National) of Beach House. Why does everyone like them too? I feel so confused! Vampire Weekend’s stage setup involves chandeliers but they didn’t make it across the border so we waved our fingers like twinkling lights until our arms got tired.
I went to see Jamie Lidell (yes, again) at Lee’s Palace in September. He didn’t wear his gypsy coat. Instead he wore a blazer that was ripped (literally) to shreds. Jamie Lidell was Jamie Lidell in that he was awesome as usual.
I went to see M.I.A. in September at, you guessed it, the Sound Academy. M.I.A. is crazy in such an entertaining way. A good, if short, show. She kept going on about how she doesn’t give a fuck about the money. I wish I could afford to not give a fuck about the money.
I went to see The Walkmen at the Phoenix in October. I mostly went because I had nothing to do and was going to hang out with my friends who were going. They ended up being so late that they only saw the last 20 minutes of the show so I hung out with myself. I stood by the sound booth. When in doubt, I stand by the sound board because I am strangely intrigued by the sound board and wish I knew how to work it. Lights too.
I went to see Belle and Sebastian in October at Massey Hall. Somehow I managed to keep missing them whenever they played Toronto so this was my first time. I was excited like a teenager. We were sitting in the very last row in the upper balcony of the hall. It didn’t matter. In fact, it was a bit of a plus because while everyone sat for the entire show (god damn you, Toronto!) we stood and danced. Lovely.
The next day I went back to Massey Hall to see Sufjan Stevens. The fist time I heard Come on! Feel the Illinoise! I was listening to my then-boyfriend’s ipod on a bus ride to Guelph to visit his family. I felt irritated that he regularly tortured me with crap like The Mountain Goats and yet had kept Sufjan all to himself. Unacceptable. When we got off the bus, I couldn’t wait to get back on so I could listen to it again. It was raining the night of the show and I was alone and my seat was broken (is every seat on the main floor of Massey broken or do I just have a special kind of luck?). Sufjan Stevens’ newest album had just come out a couple days before this show and I hadn’t listened to it yet. Bad move because he played it almost in its entirety. I thought this was a bit self indulgent at first, but it really really wasn’t. God, what an artist. I only wish I could see that show again after listening to the album about 1 million times since. I also wish it wasn’t at Massey because it was almost impossible to sit still while he and his back-up singers danced in unison. Maybe I should only aim to sit in the very last row of Massey from now on. As Sufan sang, “All delighted people raise their hands…”, we all did.
I went to see The Drums in October at The Mod Club. We stood at the very front because, well, why not? They pulled animated rock star poses all night, holding them long enough for the fan in the front row with the Polaroid camera to snap photos. I looked at my friend and said, “They’re still new enough to care.” An extremely tall guy with a camera came and stood in front of me at one point and I let him because I thought he just wanted to take a few photos and then would get out of the way. He didn’t. I tapped him on the shoulder. “You done yet?” I asked. He smiled sheepishly and let me back in front. “Do you think they’ll play Saddest Summer?” he asked me. “Of course they will!” I said. “If not, I’ll have a sad autumn.” He told me. They didn’t play it. I told my friend of our exchange and as we were leaving we ran into him again. “Oh no,” She said to him. “You’re going to have a sad autumn now.” “Huh?” he said. “You told my friend that if they didn’t play Saddest Summer, you’d have a sad autumn.” “I didn’t say shit.” Okay. That was us told. We chose to have a burrito instead of ice cream and we ran into a guy my friend had met on her way to the venue that night. We all went dancing and then the stranger drove me home to Mississauga. “Don’t worry,” he told my friend. “I won’t kill her.” He was gay so we believed him. Because gay people don’t have guns, obviously.
Did I really not see anyone in November?
I went to see Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros in December at The Mod Club. My friend and I bought tickets right away because we knew it would sell out. My two other friends waited and guess what? It sold out. Fiiiiiine, I said. I’ll just win them some tickets. And guess what? I did. Hippies were everywhere. One kept trying to get in front of me (why does everyone want to get in front of me all the time?) and his tactics included putting his arm around me and patting me on the head. Another one asked my friend if she had BO and told her to be honest because she had recently stopped wearing deodorant. Another still, spilled beer on my head. When the singer came into the audience and had us all sit on the floor (ugh) they all wanted to touch him and tell him how his music had changed their lives. One girl whom he had his back towards while he was singing kept chanting, ‘look at me, look at me, look at me.’ It was…creepy. I can’t lie though, I found the trumpet player very sexy. Dark curly hair and a well placed trumpet do it for me every time. When it was over, we went for ice cream. Obviously.