by Michael Thomas
Whenever I write on a day of music-festival-going, I try to find some narrative throughline connecting all the acts. Wednesday night was too brief to draw such conclusions, so what I can say is the three bands I witnessed were vastly, vastly different.
The night began at the Cameron House back room for BC’s T. Nile, who couldn’t have packed more gear onto the small stage if she tried. She truly exemplified the “one-man band” ethos, at the beginning playing banjo, electronics and a pipe while tapping wood for percussion with one foot and rattling a tambourine on her other foot.
Nile admitted she was nervous about performing, but besides accidentally knocking some stuff around, her playing was wonderful. Categorizing her music is tricky, but she writes lyrics like a troubadour while using thoroughly modern things like backing tracks and vocal modification. She started her set with a song about her home before going into some songs about love. Her two-week-old song “Easy as a Friend” was heartfelt despite her modded vocals, and “Ryder” managed to be a catchy song about finding true love that wasn’t a complete cliche. Her storytelling unfortunately took up too much time between songs, as she was cut off before she could play her last few intended numbers.
The Silver Dollar always has something good going on during festivals, so that was the next order of the night. No one in Toronto—and probably even CMW—is doing anything remotely like the Holy Gasp is doing, and they electrified the room during their 10 p.m. slot. Fronted by Benjamin Hackman on congas, the band would have been a bit too radical for the beatniks in their prime. In 2015 however, they’re a breath of fresh air.
All manic energy, the band got fast and loose early with “The Man Ain’t Groovy,” “The Last Generation of Love” and “Bedbugs.” Their next song Hackman described as “the mating song” and was punctuated by loud, animalistic grunts and some very sexually suggestive moves. “A Daily Affirmation” kept the energy up and “Stomp Out the Man” followed suit, before the band bowed out with “All the Animals,” whose last audible lyrics are “shut the fuck up.” They couldn’t have ended on a better note.
Hue had a much emptier room to play to, but that didn’t stop them from being super enthusiastic to be there. The Toronto five-piece has been rather quiet of late, but that’s because they’ve been recording an album, and that new album comprised most of the setlist. Their infectiously cheery pop was hard not to groove along to, and they got the crowd pretty excited when they played a wonderful older number, “The Bump.” After many remarks about how excited they were to play, they ended with a new song called “Match Made.”