Monday, April 20, 2009

Review: Woodhands @ The Phoenix; new Dancer EP.

Friday night I biked over to the Phoenix to see one of my favourite bands, Woodhands. As I told you last week, it had been a while since this duo played Toronto. That vocalist/keytarist/synth-ist Dan Werb and drummer/vocalist Paul Banwatt were playing the Phoenix this time around, a club with a capacity of over 1,000, was impressive, and I hoped they'd get a good crowd out. Well, they did, and I'm told there was lots of dancing, not just at the front (where I was) but in the middle and toward the back, too. I'm sure the band earned a whole lot of new fans that night. Lots of existing fans were out too. Everyone around me was singing along to "Dancer," "I Wasn't Made For Fighting," and other songs. (You can't see me in the above photo: Paul drumstick is blocking my face.)


(Sorry, I get excited when I think about this band.)

I missed the first performer-- solo act Golden Girls, who does 80s-inspired synth pop---but got there for for the start of Creature's set. This Montreal party band (for lack of a better description) played to an already-healthy crowd, and their kinda-funky, kinda-pop, kinda-rock set was filled with antics that the youngsters at the front ate up. It wasn't totally my thing, but the foursome certainly created a positive party atmosphere. Next up, after a long wait, was The Carps, a duo originally from Scarborough (so they said) consisting of a drummer/vocalist and a bassist/synth-ist. I was told later that they sounded a bit off their game, and man I hope so because I did not get it at all. It was just weird, and not in a good way. Ah well. They seemed to have a good following, though, so ... well, I guess it's just not for me.

Woodhands took the stage at around ten to 1am. It was worth the wait. They played extended versions of many of the tracks of their full-length, the awesome Heart Attack (Paperbag, 2008), one new songs, plus their cover of "Electric Avenue." Brilliant! It took a few minutes for me to really get in the mood, but once I was warmed up, the band had me jumping up and down like a fool like most people around me. No crowd surfing (that I noticed) this time. Just a sweat-soaked dance party like only Woodhands knows how to host. After closing out with "Dancer," featuring vocalist Maylee Todd, who sang the song on the record, but who rarely joins the band on stage these days, there was a two-song encore. Gentleman Reg sang a great version of "Sailboats," my favourite track off the album. The show's promoter, the night's DJs, Maylee, and some of the band's friends---as well as a couple photographers who put down their cameras---were doing the same crazy dancing at the back and sides of the stage that those of us in the audience were doing. Wow. What a great set.

[Photo Credit: Garry Tsaconas. Click on the photo to see the original and Garry's other shots from that night.]


I've got one more bit of Woodhands news to tell you about: their Dancer EP, released back in February. It's a collection of reworkings by other artists of "Dancer," plus a couple different Woodhands's versions of that song. Available in digital form only, there are 7 tracks:

1. "Dancer (Extended Mix)"
2. "Dancer (Bit Funk Remix)"
3. "Dancer (DJ Rexford Mix)"
4. "Dancer (Feat. Reeseman Kackalak)"
5. "Dancer (Soundsmith Remix)"
6. "Dancer (CFCF Remix)"
7. "Dancer (Instrumental)"

The vibes represented are pretty diverse here. The extended version of "Dancer" gives you a much better sense of Woodhands's live show than the record. This is the song that the duo tends to end with, and I've seen they play it for 20 minutes. Extended jams are one of the best elements of Woodhands in concert. The Bit Funk remix is my favourite of re-done track. It takes an already great dance song and changes it up a bit, replacing the freneticism of the original with a solid dance track that could be a staple of the club scene. Hip hop fans will dig Philly MC Reeseman Kackalak's take on the song's subject. The Soundsmith remix struck me a bit odd at first, but after a few listens I think it's an interesting dance track with a couple different moods that showcases how good the original song really is. Woodhands's labelmates CFCF offer up a happier tone, like a more peppy, chill Woodhands, but still eminently danceable. Woodhands's fans and DJs/dance party hosts will want these reworkings.


The R.O.B. said...

Great that things are going so well for those guys... I saw them in London about a year ago with (maybe) 50 people at the (now defunked) Alex P. Keaton...

Anonymous said...

YOU are a very good dancer