On Friday January 24th 2014, I had the pleasure of attending Tallboys’ Big Smoke Festival at Toronto’s Garrison, an event where one gets to sample various beers and listen to some live music. Sounds like a wicked good time, hence why I jumped on the occasion for a night out. Plus, Cai.ro played that night, and if you’ve been reading my blog since March last year, you’ll remember how I got hooked to their music instantly.
The event was constructed in the following manner:
- Beer tasting in the front room starting at 5pm.
- Beer tasting ends at 9pm when the music starts.
- Live music in another room (stage area) as of 9pm. Beer samples can be brought over. Concert runs until 1am.
There were some very positive sides to the event, as well as some more negative ones.
- By seperating the times for the beer tasting and the live music, people didn’t have to divide their attention or pick and choose what they wanted to do. The event was well planned to experience both without conflict.
- Planning the beer tasting before the live music forces your audience to show up for all of the performances, which gives the opening acts a worthwhile audience of new people instead of playing for their friends. This is a big bonus to new and upcoming bands.
- Many of the beers at the tasting were sold at the bar, thus allowing people to buy the beers they tried and enjoyed. Hopefully, this also helped with sales made at the Garrison.
- The beer tasting room was TOO SMALL. When I say too small, I don’t mean uncomfortable for anyone who gets claustrophobic in crowds, but so small that you couldn’t even nagivate your way through the crowd to get to some beer stands. The entire room was a cluster of imovable bodies. Even if you wanted to be polite and let someone pass, you couldn’t, because you yourself were stuck in place. As a result, I didn’t even get to see all of the different types of beers being offered on one side of the room. I physically couldn’t get there.
- Some of those who were interested in the beers and not in the music spent a lot of the live performance time chatting loudly. It was unfortunately distracting for those who wanted to listen to the music, as well as potentially for the performers on stage. It’s difficult enough playing in front of a crowd, but even more so in front of a crowd that doesn’t even seem to care.
- With everyone having sampled many beers before the show, the music started with already many people in the crowd intoxicated or nearing that point. Thus, the ratio of very drunk audience members escalated faster than most concerts, which also means the ratio of stupid/angry/disrespectful drunks. Luckily, the crowd at the Garrison was fairly respectful. I can only imagine how much worse it could be at other venues. So thank you to many of those who there that night! Your drunken state could have ruined things, but it didn’t. You were lovely people!
Would I recommend this event to others? DEFINITELY! I had a very good time. However, don’t invite friends of yours who have no concert stamina. I’m talking about those who can’t do more than 2 acts in a night. Be ready to stay through 4-5, because you want to get to the main act, which was Cai.ro that night (a band well worth it).
For anyone else who may be a fan of Cai.ro and reading this, I have good news to announce! As of February 9th, they were in British-Columbia for approximately ten days recording their first full length album with one of the producers of Half Moon Run‘s last cd Dark Eyes, Nygel Asselin. Cai.ro will be dropping the new album in the summer, so keep your eyes, and most importantly your ears, open for that upcoming musical gem.
Finally, there was one more thing I wanted to touch on in this post, and that is the discovery of a new Toronto based band: HIGHS.
HIGHS are an indie-new-wave-pop quartet that have accomplished a lot since their creation in 2013. In just one year, they have managed to harness their skills to find their place in indie-pop, create a richly layered sound with harmonizing vocals and multiple percussions, gather a good fanbase, as well as record and release an EP.
The quartet is made up of Doug Haynes (rhythm guitar and vocals), Karrie Douglas (keys and vocals), Kevin Ledlow (drums), and Joel Harrower (lead guitar and back vocals). HIGHS have multiple layers to their music without ever sounding overly complicated. In fact, when you listen to their EP, you wouldn’t think it took so many people and instruments to create the sound they make. It’s only when you see them live that you understand the multiple layers of their music. There isn’t a single moment where someone is twiddling their thumbs on stage.
With so much happening, there are two aspects of their sound that stand out for me. The first is that there is no lead vocalist. Haynes and Douglas almost always sing together with Haynes taking the melody and Douglas harmonizing. The layering in the vocals adds a richness to the sound that helps to separate HIGHS from other indie-pop-new-wave bands. However, what stood out the most for me were the drums. Ledlow plays in a 4/4 time signature (most pop-rock music), but with something different from what we hear in almost every pop song. He is both original and unpredictable in his drumming while always maintaining a beat that the audience can follow. It’s easy for pop-rock drummers to fall in the typical snare kick drum and high hat pattern, but Ledlow chooses to take a route that is less safe, but far more interesting. I liked the band when they took the stage, but Ledlow’s drumming is what really did it for me.
They presently have a 5 track self-titled EP out that you can buy at a live show or online.
1) Summer Dress
4) Fleshy Bones
5) Cannibal Coast
As much as I enjoy this band, they still have a newness to their sound. With time, it will mature and clean up. After all, they have only been a unit for a year. Luckily, with such a strong foundation already under their feet, I can only imagine that they will improve with time, practice, and writing. I look forward to seeing where their musical careers will lead them. So check them out, because I am putting them on the list of independent bands to look out for in the very near future.