Tag Archives: Levon Helm

Reasons to Pay Attention to Canada Besides the Olymipcs

Most of the time, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what our northern neighbor is up to…. until the Olympics, that is. Suddenly I’m seeing more advertisements for whale-watching in the Canadian outback than commercials featuring creepily mature babies talking about their stock options. And for me, that’s a problem. That, and getting whooped by both the British and the Canadians in curling. (Full disclosure: I’m watching curling right now, and the match is not going so well.)

The point I’m trying to slowly meandering towards is that Canada has great music, and the Canadian music scene is something definitely worth paying attention to.

The Band, on a beach near Robertson's house in Malibu in 1975

There are the big names in Canadian music. Perhaps the biggest being The Band, from Toronto, which was four-fifths Canadian, with legends Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel, Rick Danko and Robbie Robertson (fun fact: Roberstson just masterminded the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese psychological thriller Shutter Island). The one non-Canadian in the band was “the only drummer that could make you cry” – America’s own Levon Helm.

Also from Toronto was a band I talked about last week, the prog rock gods, Rush. Their last album, Snakes and Arrows, came out in 2007 but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy. The Sports Network (TSN), Canada’s ESPN, was looking for a way to add some pizazz to their outdated “The Hockey Theme”, originally composed in 1968. The solution? The theme, which plays before all NHL games on the network, would be re-recorded by Mr. Peart which means many, many drum fills. Oh, so many drum fills. Check it out:

The new theme is set to play for the rest of the season, and hopefully will last longer than a previous tongue in cheek version recorded by the Barenaked Ladies, who also happen to be from Toronto.

Back to music that is actually written by the artists themselves: From Midland, Ontario comes one of my favorite bands, The Born Ruffians. Formed by Luke Lalonde, Mitch Derosier and Steven Hamelin, the band makes some great music that is sparse and erratic yet wonderfully rich. Take a listen to this song, and be warned that it gets a little gory towards the end:

Luke’s unique voice is what sets the band apart from other small-time indie bands, and in terms of classic vocalists he can doo wop with the best of them. In preparation for the release of their upcoming album, Say It, the band will be playing in March at the SXSW music festival but they’ll be stopping by New York before then for two private shows, one at Colgate University and the other at NYU, for the lucky students who attend those schools.

We head back to Montreal for the so-called “trip rock” band, Beast, consisting of just two members: Betty Bonifassi, and Jean-Phi Goncalves. They’ve been growing in popularity because in addition to their main single “Mr. Hurricane” being a free download on iTunes, it was nominated at the Grammys for Best Short Form Video. Despite Bonifassi’s annoying tendency to add unnecessary syllables to words (“me-a”, “safety-a”, “sea-a” etc.), the song’s really fun to listen to thanks to a fantastic drum and bass section and some spiffy production courtesy of Goncalves. And the video has some pretty cool special effects, done at a discount by Joshua Sherrett who worked on 300. But the song is the best part, and if you don’t like bees, don’t watch this:

But no Canadian group has been so prominent in recent years as The Arcade Fire, indie-rock superstars. Husband and wife duo Win Bulter and Régine Chassange have led the band to incredible fame. They have been all over the place: possibly working with Owen Pallett (the indie-violinist who formerly released solo works under the name Final Fantasy) on the soundtrack for Richard Kelley’s (who directed Donnie Darko) upcoming film The Box (incidentally, The Box is also a Canadian new-wave band from the eighties); re-recording their song “Wake Up” for the Where the Wild Things Are trailer; and licensing that same song for this past Superbowl – all the while coming in and out of the studios so they can release their third LP sometime later this year. Wow that was a mouthful.

Some of the members of The Arcade Fire, with Butler and Chassange and their duplicates in the center

For the ardent Arcade Fire fans, here’s something at least I hadn’t heard about until this week: Three other members of The Arcade Fire, Sarah Neufeld, Kelly Pratt and Pietro Amato, play in the six person instrumental band Bell Orchestre. Here’s a sample of what their hauntingly beautiful music sounds like:

I’ll come back to Bell Orchestre and Owen Pallett  as well as the progressive bluegrass band, Nickel Creek, and others next Monday as I take a look at some bands that have been pushing the boundaries of rock and roll.

Well, we lost our match against Britain, effectively dashing our (my – and his) hopes at a curling medal. Canada is 6-0 at the time of this post… I guess they know what the sport is all aboot.

Shoot. I promised myself that I would contain my Canadian accent… but no one’s gonna take it to heart, eh? OKAY, I’ll stop. As long as Canada keeps turning out great tunes, I’ll leave them alone. I can take solace in good music. That, and the fact that we beat them in hockey. USA!

Happy listening,

~Josh

[If I missed your favorite Canadian band, please feel free to let me and the rest of the readers know by leaving a comment down below!]

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PEAK KEYWORD: JINGOISM

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Concert Watch September 2009

Okay, to kick things off here at the Blog – we’ve got a whole slew of great concerts in New York’s Backyard this month.

The Black Crowes in 2009

The Black Crowes in 2009

Tonight The Black Crowes are playing a full park at Summerstage with Levon Helm. We’re sending some lucky listeners out to see the show and we hope they enjoy it! You may have heard that Levon has been easing up on his voice lately. At Gathering of the Vibes in Bridgeport, CT in July he was completely forbidden from singing by his doctor. But apparently he will grace the crowd at Central Park with a few songs this evening. And speaking of voices, David Holt, one of the listeners who will be at the show, told us that Westchester Medical Center is going to be featuring his voice in an upcoming spot for the air. If you miss the show tonight, don’t worry. The Crowes will be playing again tomorrow night at the Capitol One Bank Theatre in Westbury.

We also have some listeners going to see the Killers play this evening at the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. They just came off of a great show last night at the Nikon Theatre at Jones Beach and are sure to wow the crowd again tonight.

YPB t-shirt designed by Elvis Perkins
YBP t-shirt designed by
Elvis Perkins

Also tonight, one of my favorite artists, Elvis Perkins, will be playing with Ra Ra Riot at The Housing Works Bookstore in New York City. Ra Ra Riot, as you know, played the first night of All Points West, smack dab between The Fleet Foxes and The National. In any case, the tickets are $15 but I highly suggest you check it out because all proceeds are going to support the Yellow Bird Project (YBP), and their release of the Indie Rock Coloring Book. If you haven’t heard of YBP, they “harness [bands’] magical indie powers to help out those in need” by letting bands have a hand at designing t-shirts which they sell on their website. Check them out!

Red Molly, a hidden gem at The Pleasantville Music Festival, will be playing on September 7th at another festival, the American Roots Outdoor Festival in Piermont, NY. They’re an acoustic folk trio featuring three women, and they’ve got a great sense of humor and a very acute sensibility to their music.

And the Kings of Leon are coming to town! Catch them first at the IZOD center on September 12th, and then at Nassau Colisseum on September 14th. You’ve heard “Use Somebody” and “Sex On Fire” recently on The Peak, but if you take a trip back a few albums you’ll find the hilariously dirty “Soft” on Aha Shake Heartbreak. And if you’re thinking about going, don’t forget to brush up on “Molly’s Chambers,” their first single off of their very first studio album Youth and Young Manhood.

Mike Gordon

Mike Gordon

And there’s plenty more: Mike Gordon of PHISH will be performing on Tuesday the 8th at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Mike will be sure to play some cuts off of his latest 2008 record The Green Sparrow, as well as some other great hits.

For all Beatles fans out there the Fab Faux will be headlining a show at the Beacon Theatre on September 12th. Hailed by Rolling Stone as “cerebral,” and appearing on David Letterman at the beginning of the year, the Fab Faux are a great way to re-hear the music of the Beatles.

And it continues! The Decemberists will be playing two shows: one on the 19th at the Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza with a special set chosen by lottery, and the other on the 22nd at the Wellmont Theatre in New Jersey. Snow Patrol will be working their way through their U.S. tour (with a minor detour to Canada) by playing two shows at the Beacon Theatre on the 22nd and 23rd.

Pheonix

Pheonix

Also, be sure not to miss the fantastic French newcomers Pheonix at Rumsey Playfield on the 25th, as well Mat Kearney also coming to Irving Plaza on the 29th. (Note: Mat  Kearney is not to be confused with Pat Carney, the drummer for the Black Keys who recently formed his own solo project, Drummer, in which he plays bass. Talk about confusing.)

Loudon and Lucy
Loudon and Lucy

And that’s not even the half of it! Get the full concert listing on the Peak’s website. For example, Rodrigo y Gabriela, the Latin influenced guitar duo are coming to town, as well as Loudon Wainwright III, who will be playing a show the HighLine ballroom on the 15th with son and daughter Rufus and Martha Wainwright. And if that wasn’t already enough of a family affair, The Roches will be playing with them. The Roches are formed by Loudon’s third child, Lucy, plus his wife Suzzy, and sisters-in-law Terre and Maggie. If you’re confused at this point, don’t worry, I am too. I promise I will draw a family tree and post it ASAP.

U2

U2

And how could this concert watch be complete without mention of U2 playing at Giants Stadium? The shows will be on the 24th and 25th. To make their apprearances even sweeter, The Peak will be sending some listeners to the shows. Stop by the Listener Advisory Board from September 8th through the 18th to sign up.

All of this and more to come throughout September. Again, check out our full concert listing on the Peak’s website by clicking here.

And if you’re not concert-going enjoy the last weeks of summer, which I guess means more rain.

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