Monday, November 16, 2009

Review: The Wooden Sky, Hooded Fang, Brian Borcherdt / Field of Fur @ Lee's Palace.

The Wooden Sky sold out Lee's Palace on Friday night!

Although I've seen them in much smaller (but always full) rooms, I shouldn't have been surprised. These guys have been at it a long time---the better part of a decade---and they've been getting good press in recent months. Their 2006 album, When Lost At Sea, was (and still is) fantastic, and their new If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone solidifies their place as one of the country's top folk-rock bands. The word has clearly gotten out.

The night started with Brian Borcherdt, of Holy Fuck fame, whose solo output---quiet, contemplative, almost fragile---is rather different from the dance tracks put out by that other band. He was accompanied for a few songs by the talented (and very busy) Julie Fader, and then she left the stage and a drummer came on. The last few songs were from the two men's new project, Field of Fur, which had debuted the week before at the Boat. Nothing made a particular impression on me, though I'm keen to see Brian perform his solo work in a less cavernous venue.

Next up, Hooded Fang. This is a great band who came out of nowhere in 2008 to blow away the local indie pop scene. Its members have since entrenched themselves in the arts community here in Toronto, and . . . but that's not relevant to their set. What is relevant is that the 7-piece performed songs we know and love and some new ones, to be released sometime in 2010. And they sounded great, and the band seemed to be having an appropriate amount of fun up there. A small but enthusiastic bunch of us were dancing at the front, and I can only imagine that many of the more restrained audience members were happy they'd come out to see them.

And then, the headliners. By now the venue had really filled up, and it was getting pretty hot up at the front. (I admit to having a part in moving a some of the truly awesome set decorations so that, squished up against the very high stage as I was, I could see the band. I wasn't alone in this.) The four main players---Gavin Gardiner (lead vocals, guitar), Andrew Wyatt (bass, vocals), Simon Walker (guitar, keyboard, vocals), and Andrew Kekewich (percussion)---were joined by violinists Edward Huizinga and Mika Posen, as well as Jonas Bonnetta (guitar, vocals) and Sylvie Smith (vocals) for a couple songs. The extra players really added a nice touch, especially the violin parts.

Including a three-song encore, the band played for over an hour. The Wooden Sky can move from serious rocking-out to a more pensive attitude like few bands I know, and this comes out live even more than on their recordings. We were treated to most of the songs on the new album as well as a smattering from When Lost At Sea. Not every tune is a smash-hit, to my mind, but there were no throw-away tracks. I really appreciated the rockier songs on Friday night; they really showcase the strength of Gavin's voice. (blogTO has the full set-list at the end of their review.)

It's always nice to see good bands start to get the attention they deserve, and to have them fulfill their promise. Friday night's set was pretty awesome. I can't wait to see the Wooden Sky again . . . though I might not like that I'll have to put up with a larger venue and hundreds more people to do so.

Download: The Wooden Sky, "Oh My God (It Still Means A Lot To Me)" (If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone, 2009).
Download: The Wooden Sky, "Oslo" (If I Don't Come Home You'll Know I'm Gone, 2009).
Download: The Wooden Sky, "North Dakota" (When Lost At Sea, 2006).
Download: Hooded Fang, "Fall Leaves" (Hooded Fang, 2008).
Download: Brian Borcherdt, "Scout Leader" (Coyotes, 2008).

Photo credit: Frank Yang. He's got really beautiful shots of all the performers.

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