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To Live and Shave in LA at Sneaky Dees

Even though noise legends To Live and Shave in LA were the headliners Saturday night at Sneaky Dees, they felt like strangers intruding into a celebration of the best in Toronto's experimental noise scene.

The first band of the night started with local Bad Bands Revolution stalwarts Dollarama, who if you haven't heard, perform exclusively with instruments purchased for a dollar or less. At first, it felt a little silly, with one of the band members seemingly really smug in their self-aware cleverness, but after a few songs set in and Eric Warner's natural charisma took over, making the performance more joyous, like kids banging on pots and pans.

Following Dollarama was Polmo Polpo, a solo project by Sandro Perri, who is all over the Toronto music scene, between collaborating with Great Lake Swimmers and Glissandro 70. Perri's 45 long set, which was one long continuous drone was a standout performance of the night... there was no "banter" or jokes, just the start of the sound with lots of manipulation and bone shaking bass. I didn't pick up a CD that night, but I plan on searching for it at local record stores, and would definitely check out another Polmo Polpo show in the future. A definite do not miss artist.

Next up was the somewhat homecoming of Gastric Female Reflex, returning from a European tour and making a triumphant return home. Last time I was able to catch GFR was last winter at the Horseshoe opening for Wolf Eyes, which really sparked my enthusiasm for their brand of distorted crackle and burn. The band apparently now only features two members, Andrew and Jacob, and now have a stripped now approach, leaving behind the clutter and relying on samplers and tape machines. But judging from the band's performance, they possess more bombast and out-of-control firepower than ever before... it seems their time overseas has purified the band's sound and turned it into a dark and twisted treasure. The way these guys rock out, it's only a matter of time before they break out in a big way.

By the time To Live and Shave and LA went on stage around one am, most of the crowd had been enduring noise for over 4 hours, thanks to the amazing DJ work of Andrew from GFR. You could say that some enthusiasm had waned, and mine certainly waned. It was cool to see Andrew W-K dress like my uncle, incognito with ball cap, sunglasses and shorn (yes!), shaved face. Unfortunately, while the audience seemed to crave more noise, TLASILA only really presented a passionate form of industrial alternative music, that was way more melodic than anyone expected. While it was awesome to watch Andrew WK rock out the keyboard, hypnotically thrusting back in forth, his instrument and the lead vocals from a very impassioned front man were just way too high in the mix for my taste. It was just too.... musical. Mind you, I picked up Wigmakers anyway, their ten years in the making epic, and that album is simply amazing.... unlike what I heard on Saturday night.

I suppose if I was a bigger fan, or a TLASILA nostalgia craver, then I'm sure I would have been into it more as well. But the opening bands came through and made the night really special.

Check out pictures from the show at my Flickr account

Follow the action at the Stillepost thread

Carcass Grinder was there just for Andrew WK


Carey Darnell (Hamilton) said...

Interesting thesis, but missing the larger point. It's perhaps true that the Sneaky Dees audience would have preferred TLASILA to have unleashed a "Wigmaker"-style noise holocaust, but people in the know understand that the band have very little interest in the scene. I overheard Tom Smith talking with Rat Bastard, and they were laughing about one of the opening groups. Mr. Bastard (of the still very noisy Laundry Room Squelchers) remarked "Those fuckers sounded like Ohne" (Smith's European based "actionist" group with Schimpfluch Gruppe's Dave Phillips), to which Smith laughed and replied "Yeah, Year 2000 style, on the money!" Arrogance, or the words of artists who refuse to remain rooted to a sound they've already explored? I'm sure everyone is aware by now that Andrew has been recording with Smith off and on since the mid-1990s. His appearance then as a member of the band should be no surprise.

I love noise, but I loved the Shave's set even more. I agree with their perhaps unpopular position that noise is now acceptable, "safe." That they have moved into - God forbid - songwriting, melody, and harmony is as much a raised middle finger to conformity as was the first blast of Luigi Russolo back in the 1910s.

Anonymous said...

"I suppose if I was a bigger fan, or a TLASILA nostalgia craver, then I'm sure I would have been into it more as well."

TLASILA nostalgia would have been TLASILA playing "The Wigmaker ..." or something akin to it.

Carey Darnell gets it: "Noise" is, indeed, safe (Read: Not very trangressive, or interesting, or -- let's be frank -- creative) and interesting bands tend not to do the same old shite they were doing six years prior.

TW said...

Well, theoretically I agree... sure TLASILA "thumbed their nose" at the kids approx. 20 years younger they are by "blowing their minds" doing something that people did not expect.

But on the other hand, it was pretty bad... Carey, they did move into melody, songwriting, etc, and thats cool, they've always had an element of that too their band, but I think by doing something new or different, they sacrificed their talent.

Remember that scene from Spinal Tap, where they lose a member and start playing a "free jazz" set... you could say good for Spinal Tap for branching out and doing something that fans didn't expect, but realistically, it sucked and the band failed. Kind of like what TLASILA did.

As for their arrogant attitude about what our locals were doing, fuck TLASILA. I'm sure they were just jealous of the amount of fun, energy and ethusiasm the opening bands put into their music...

And as for anonymous, yeah TLASILA aren't repeating themselves, they've obviously run out of interesting, creative or relevant ideas themselves.

Josh E said...

Hello... I was excited and enthused enough about TLASILA touring the provinces that I attended three of their four performances. They were, in my opinion, superb at every stop, Toronto included. The new material, apparently written in response to Tom Smith's son being sent to Iraq (their blog contains almost daily updates on the saga), was very emotional, and the minor chord harmonics and keyboard atmospherics seem to have sent many heads reeling at Sneaky Dees. It's obviously not what anyone was expecting, or wanted to hear. C'est la vie.

The audiences at La Sala Rossa in Montreal and Underground in Hamilton reacted in an almost 180-degree fashion, however. I was absolutely blown away by their Hamilton gig - simply, they were brilliant. About 20 audience members (me included) rushed into their backstage area after the show and they graciously talked with us for what seemed hours. The Quebec mob at the Meg Festival were more restrained, but seemed equally enthused.

I've never met M. Darnell, and I wouldn't wish to challenge his account, but I wonder if he perhaps mistook "laughing about" for enjoying? TLASILA were sitting front and center for the opening groups' sets at each gig I saw. Did anyone else not notice ths?

Claims of their arrogance, "jealousy," and a supposed lack of ideas are questionable at best, and could only really be substantiated by speaking with the group themselves. No one seems to have made that effort, and given the negative response to their Toronto performance by many local bloggers, it's not likely to occur.

I can only speak for myself - they were very pleasant to me and my girlfriend, and were badmouthing no one. Really, what gossipy rubbish these posters have written! It matters not if many of this blog's readers hated them - that's their perogative. But don't shove words down their throats, and don't ascribe attitudes that they've not explicitly expressed.

They've released some of the most important avant/noise albums in the last 15 years - their latest, "Horoscopo," is excellent. It's my opinion, and I stand by it. I seem to be one of the few people who saw them in Toronto who loved them, but I did. I didn't feel they were intruding on our celebration - I felt they honoured us with their presence. If "Noon and Eternity" is a bomb, then perhaps the people who disliked their Sneaky Dees set will have been on to something. The snippets I've downloaded from their site - again, yes, in my opinion, are terrific. I can't wait for them to return to Canada in 2007. I wonder if they will return to Toronto!

TW said...

Josh, I really like your perspective on the issue... I've been thinking alot about expectations, and I'm sure I misplaced my own for this show.. and as for gossiping about what the band may or may not have said, you are completely right. All in all, I do respect TLASILA for their body of work, what they have accomplished, and perhaps I need to open my ears up more to what they are doing... unfortunately for now my ears are closed and I'm just not feeling it.

On the other hand, if TLASILA didn't come back to Toronto, I don't think they'd be missed badly... after all I'm sure a large part of the crowd only really showed up for Andrew WK in the first place.