Lofty Cries with Trembling Thighs.

4 02 2013

Purity-Ring-Toronto-Feb-2013-2Despite the looming threat of a weighty snowstorm descending on Buffalo later in the evening, I made the trek up north to see Purity Ring take the stage at Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre this past Friday (February 1st, 2013). I had already accepted the fact that I would commute at a snail’s pace on the QEW should the weather turn unfavorable. I refused to miss the chance to see this band play as their debut record has rarely left my turntable since its release in June of last year.

Dream pop. Synthpop. Minimalist electronica. It’s kind of unfair to label Purity Ring with any specific category. Listening to their music is like sinking into a haunting fairy tale that is both beautiful and macabre.

The appropriate use of atmospheric light is obviously an imperitive element for the band’s live performances. Illuminated cocoons like the chrysalides of some futuristic, alien butterflies hung from the ceiling above the stage. Megan James would float around with what appeared to be a portable type of lamp one would often see at a construction site. A free-standing bass drum radiated a yellow glow each time it was struck during key moments of the set and Colin Roddick’s synthesizer/xylophone/musical Lite-Brite hybrid was something like I’ve never seen before; a post-apocalyptic instrument to bring gleaming melodies to the denizens of some dystopian, industrial city.

Luminous stage presence, angelic vocals, and an indescribable aural aesthetic all combined to make for a memorable evening. Afterwards, I was able to emerge from this dreamy ghost story about a mile away from home… just as the snow started falling.

A Perfect Fitting Blouse.

9 05 2012

Blouse performs at Sonic Boom Records in Toronto.

There is something to be said about having the opportunity for “face-time” with a musician/band that you admire and respect on an artistic level. There’s even more to be said about such “face-time” when the musician/band in question has genuine affection for their fans and is humbly grateful for the support they receive.

Shooting the breeze with Alexis Krauss of Sleigh Bells. Doing shots of whiskey with Cults’ Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion. Debating CDs vs. vinyl records with the members of Exitmusic. There was no ego. No pretention. Just a mellow interaction with some very talented and down-to-earth artists.

During this past weekend’s visit from Will during which we had planned to see both St. Vincent and M83 play Town Ballroom, we decided to make a trek up to Sonic Boom Records in Toronto for an in-store performance by Blouse, a dreamy indie-pop band from Portland. I heard of Blouse after reading a blog entry on BrooklynVegan which compared the band to several other acts receiving heavy rotation on my turntable. After a quick visit to the iTunes store, I was completely enamored. Spin likened their beautiful and haunting synth-oriented music to that which would have been heard by the denizens of Twin Peaks on an evening at The Roadhouse. In my humble opinion, Blouse as the opening act for Julee Cruise on the night Maddy Ferguson was murdered would have been perfection.

When taking possible weekend traffic on the QEW and border crossing delays into account, I had concerns about making it back in time for the St. Vincent show later that evening… especially since I missed her back in December due to the event being cancelled (allegedly so Annie Clark could film her cameo on Gossip Girl). Needless to say, it all worked out in the end and we made it back to Buffalo with plenty of time to spare.

Sonic Boom Records is located amongst the narrow streets of the pedestrian mall known as the Kensington Market; a multicultural neighborhood lined with sidewalk stands of fresh produce, outdoor cafes, and eclectic shops. I immediately made a mental note to return at another time to explore the area a bit more.

Upon entering the store, we encountered a handful of artsy hipster types pawing through racks of vinyl LPs along with an upbeat and friendly staff. The drums and speakers were already set up so I took a prime spot right in front of where the band would be playing.

Within about 10 minutes of our arrival at Sonic Boom, Blouse showed up. I was instantly smitten with drummer Jacob Portrait’s vintage Dick Tracy t-shirt. How could any child of the early 90s not be smitten with a vintage Dick Tracy t-shirt donned by someone in 2012?

I was still standing by myself near the band’s equipment at this point and was able to partake in some small talk with singer Charlie Hilton who is a perfectly delicate blend of Nico and Beach House’s Victoria Legrand. I asked how the tour was going and mentioned how we came up from Buffalo on a whim to see them prior to the aforementioned St. Vincent show back home. Charlie was genuinely surprised and flattered that we would drive all that way just to see them.

The very intimate show started shortly thereafter. Roughly 15-20 people filed in to the store to hear Blouse play most of their debut record and the single “Shadow” (previously released through SubPop Records). The sound was surprisingly good given that we were all crowded into a small retail space. It was actually the clearest that I’ve heard a band sound live in a while.

Following the close of the set (side note: “Into Black” is one of my favorite tracks on the record), Will and I chatted up the band members a bit more. Charlie thanked us again for coming all that way and wished us a good evening at the St. Vincent show. They were all also gracious enough to sign my LP and numbered print advertising the in-store show. We said out goodbyes and hit the road back to the States.

It wasn’t until we were well on our way that Will put into words exactly what I was thinking, “I love that she remembered that we were going to St. Vincent tonight.” Something as simple as remembering our brief exchange prior to the beginning of the set was enough to make my day.

 True, it was probably only an hour between conversations with Charlie Hilton about our plans later that evening but it’s simple moments like those that can give a fan a lifelong memory.