The Barr Brothers are back in Montreal to perform a full show after months of touring that brought them to Canadian Music Week, Japan, SXSW, and a few American cities.

After seeing The Barr Brothers for the first time in Toronto for Canadian Music Week, I have to say I was seriously impressed with their work.

It was invigorating, especially when I was feeling extreme burnout from attending a bunch of shows in such a short period of time; The Barr Brothers raised my spirits with their cerebral, harp influenced bluesy rock.

The Barr brothers have a story to tell: Whether it’s a story about having epic battle in front of the living-room television while growing up in Toronto, or the story about how the modern day version of the band formed in Montreal. For the Brothers, there is always a story to tell.

The Brothers had spent most of their early musical carrier in The Slip, a band that would eventually disbanded to form The Barr Brothers. That Spring the band played in a venue in the Plateau, which happened to catch that fire. After that incident, seeing it as a good omen, only one year later, Brad and Andrew Barr moved to Montreal.

Brad lived in the same apartment with Sarah Page, a classically trained harpist from Montreal, who had an itch for experimentation. Her music seep through Brad’s wall and eventually he would ask her to join the group.

The group now consists of   Brad Barr (guitar, vocals), Sarah Page (harp, voice), Andrew Barr (drums, voice), Andres Vial (bass, keys, voice).

And boy! do they have their sound down; the way they perform together creates incredibly ominous ambience-especially with the amazing sound coming from ethereal harp. What can I say? I have a soft spot for harps and violins.

The variance fo their music is also very intriguing; as it can sway between Buddhist position on a top of a mountain with songs like Beggar in the morning, to an ally way blues cover of Lord I Just Keep From Cryin’.

Barr Brothers – “Beggar In The Morning” by indiemusicfilter

Their last album recorded in their makeshift studio in an old boiler room was written over the course of adopting their new city, Montreal. Along with Sarah (Lhasa DeSela/Amon Tobin), the record also features Miles Perkin (Lhasa DeSela), Elizabeth Powell (Land of Talk), Nathan Moore, Jocie Adams (The Low Anthem), Elvis Perkins and Emma Baxter, and is beyond excellent.

Elfin Saddle

What did you expect an army of elves on horseback?

With influences in experimental, folk and Japanese classical music, they bring exotic and wonder of new sounds in your ear.     After listening to a few tracks how can you not want to see them live in concert?


Check out The Barr Brothers and Elfin Saddle on Thrusday, June 2 @ Cabaret Mile End

5240, Avenue du parc
doors / show: 8:30pm / 9:30pm
Tickets: $12.00 or   $15.00 at the door


Photo Courtesy of Chris Zacchia

Remember your earplugs kids!

As I age I notice my diminished hearing–and the sacrifice I make to my auditory system every time I go to shows. There are plenty of items I have brought to shows in the past which I didn’t need, like a jar of honey (don’t ask) or window wipers I had just stolen off a car. But I have never, ever once, thought to bring the most appropriate item: ear plugs.

According to Health Canada the average decibel level for live indoor music is 90 to 110 dBA. Listening to music at that level over time is enough  to damage hearing permanently. Usually we don’t think about the effects on our auditory system. I am telling you because I want you to keep your hearing. But eventually hearing goes the way of sight, smell and every other important bodily functions — I am pretty certain of this. Well, at least my appetite hasn’t diminished!

When someone asks me about my favorite thing I discovered while at Canadian Music Week I’ll have to say “street meat”. Sure, the shows were great, but man, the snack vendors of Toronto are legendary. I guess there are several possible reasons why Montreal doesn’t have street meat: one is that the restaurant bloc of businesses probably prevented it, not wanting late night competition. Second, Montreal might be a little sketchier than Toronto when it comes to food–you might never know if that pogo is actually a rat on a stick!   And last, Montreal’s awkward narrow sidewalks may not allow for the necessary space needed by a 3 am hot-dog vendor. Alas. We still have cheap pizza.

Okay time to get food off my mind. Let’s talk about music! Here are some of the shows I saw at Canadian Music Week …

Kurt Vile and the Violators

Kurt Vile and the Violators@ the Great Hall

The Great Hall is one of the most impressive looking venues in Toronto. When you walk inside you feel like you are in some kind of living shrine for music. The sparkle from Kurt Vile’s guitar adds to an already poetic vaudevillian backdrop on stage. When I walk in Kurt Vile is playing a song off his latest record. The songs he plays from his new album Smoke Ring For My Halo are spectacular.

The music reverberates off the walls and travels far down the long hall of this temple of music.   Vile stands with his band, arching his head down as he speaks. He hardly lifts his head, and when he does, it is only to sing towards the mike. Once in a while he talks, but does not banter. His manner of his character really reflects the trippy and low-fi quality of his music. It is humble but spiritual: I always thought that his music that makes you feel like you are taking one long celestial road trip into the desert.

By the end of the show the audience stays mostly quiet (hopefully due to being exalted by his  awe-inspiring performance!).

The show went on without a hitch except for one technical misstep when they played In My Time. I had never been to The Great Hall, but the ambiance is very memorable. And the sound quality is spectacular. Kurt Vile’s performance is like an enriching spiritual experience. Definitely want to see him again at a live show again.

Rocking out with Cuff the Duke

Cuff the Duke @ The horseshoe Tavern

Cuff the Duke’s audience reaction is legendary. If you like to dance, or hoe down, then I recommend hanging out with these people. Their fans, not only dance the night away, but are terrific screamers! Probably a good time to have ear plugs.

Many of the songs are from their most recent album Way Down Here; They also play a really awesome rendition of one of my favorite tracks Another Day In Purgatory. But the crowd went really crazy when they broke out into their anthem Take My Money and Run.

Queen street’s Horseshoe Tavern is the perfect venue for Cuff The Duke‘s style of dark country music. The derelict condition of the stage really set good ambiance for their performance.

My only complaint is the unclean state of bathrooms. Now I know this is a little off topic, but I think it is important: Bathrooms must be cleaned folks! After all, cleanliness is next to godliness (So says the scribble on a bathroom stall). Still, later on in the evening, it was impressive to hear a couple have sex in a bathroom stall that was drenched in urine. But that’s another story altogether!

Overall, I must laud Cuff The Duke on being one of the highlights of Canadian Music Week!

Gentlemen Husbands had the girls going

Gentlemen Husbands @ Horseshoe Tavern

What can you say when you are surrounded by women ready to throw their panties up on stage. Well, a little jealously goes a long way when listening to this very handsome band of young men. Gentlemen husbands have that pure rock sound that’s missing in a lot of rock bands these days. Most bands are all too willing to sacrifice their rock edge for a little experimentation. Check them out when you have the chance. If you like crude rock of the seventies then you will definitely enjoy this band’s raw power!

Photos by Chris Zacchia

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Canadian Music Week on Friday night led to many unexpected twists, turns, and surprise special guests.

With my photographer Chris Zacchia by my side, anything and everything was possible, which included accidentally attending performances by The Sadies with Ron Sexsmith, and Bachman and Turner with Sammy Hagar.

It was a strange kind of dreamy night where wandering around could lead to anything. Many of the new “independent” bands   and performers we saw were also having the time of their life and were really fun to watch. This is what happened:

The Sadies @ The Mod Club

The Mod Club is brought to you by Sirius satellite radio (they pay me every time I write that- just kidding!). The Mod Club is a warehouse of music with a table to one side. The place was fully packed with an older, industry and media related crowd. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sit there and enjoy music with them; especially if it’s the country twang rock of The Sadies.

Switching guitars: The Sadies in concert

Even though the venue wasn’t my scene, it was great to see the very talented work of The Sadies. They played many of their songs their full length Darker Circle. The new material sounded great. The also played some of their older tracks towards the end of the set such as, Another Year Again.

I have to say, the highlight of my evening was when they did their famous hand switch trick; doing it while playing complex country riffs was jaw dropping. Toward the end of the concert the surprise appearance by Canadian icon Ron Sexsmith only added to an already masterful experience. Being in a room with this much talent – it was getting difficult to breathe. What more could have happen? Well…

Bachman, Turner and Sammy Hagar @ The Mod Club

How about special guests Bachman and Turner. I told Chris, if we were going to go see the band formally known as BTO, the only song I wanted to hear was Taking Care of Business. In between this, we went to check out a few shows at the Revival Space and as we re-approached the Mod Club, I though I heard that famous Turner bassline. Could it be? Did we catch the end of the show and were they playing my song?

When we got inside, Bachman, Turner and – to my surprise – special guest Sammy Hagar (former lead singer of Van Halen) were playing my song. Yes! Sammy on stage with two other icons was just exulting. Lets just say I didn’t stop smiling all evening.

Gabby Young @ Revival

The only real way I can describe the musical style of Gabby Young is to say her music sounds like the way she dresses: folksy and surreal. I didn’t know the names of the songs she played on Friday night, although, they were really good. I had never seen her before but I wanted to hear more. Accompanied by three trumpet players and drums it was her sweet British accent that charmed the crowd. Her style is kind of like gypsy folk music with a dash of oompah. When the trumpets come to reign on judgment day, I hope she welcomes me in – because damn! She is one snappy dresser.

Maylee Todd & Pegwee Power @ Revival

Following Gabby Young’s performance I accidentally ran into Maylee Todd & Pegwee Power at the Revival venue. Their music is quite enjoyable when they bring out the funk. They’re definitely one of those bands I could find myself breaking down to at 1 am, although I found their slower stuff slightly droning and repetitive. But it’s Maylee’s excellent voice and ability to carry a tune that makes me hope to see and hear more of them in the future!

Photo & Videos by Chris Zacchia

When bands from the west like Rah Rah (Regina) and We Are The City (Kelowna) come to town, they leave the crowd crying for more. On Tuesday night at Casa del Popolo that’s just what they did; they entertained the hell out of a packed house. If it weren’t for the geographical obstacles, I would see bands like these much more often.

Rah Rah puts on an impressive live performance. Although exhausted, I found I had no choice but to dance! The fun possessed me… I didn’t want to get my toes stepped on, but before I knew it I was dancing. You can tell that the years have been good for Rah Rah since their sophomore album. It might be have something to do with them being on tour for three straight years -it’s really built up the band’s character.

I don’t know if “band” is the right classification for Rah Rah. As I mentioned in my preview article, Rah Rah really resembles a commune or an artistic community more then a band. Rah Rah are a rare a group of musicians that have the capability to pick up any instrument and compose a great sing along song. Trust me- you’ll want to join in the fun!

You can actually say that this incarnation of the band not only has musical talent, but their ability to switch instruments on a whim, shows that they can still be masterful musicians and have a good time (like the excellent live-version of the catchy pop song Tentacles). The eclectic and electric sound: bass, drum, violin, accordion, and keyboards, really give them a full live sound.

They also played a great rendition of Arrows and Henry, both songs off there latest album Breaking Hearts. I wish Rah Rah the best of luck as they head out to Canadian Music Week in Toronto and South by Southwest in Austin.

Aiden Knight’s (Victoria) opening set was pretty good as well, with light country style songs. Usually he has back-up players, but this night, he put on great set as a one man show. His songs were well composed, and made me want to get in touch with lost feelings and memories of places that I had long forgotten.

Aiden’s songs warmed the heart and evoked great feeling from his acoustic guitar playing. I really liked his song North-east South-west which made the crowd very nostalgic and silent. His whole set was composed of songs about traveling, they focused on moving different places, from west to east, east to west. His banter between songs was memorable and whimsical, especially when speaking with the audience.

The last band I saw that night was We Are The City. They played their powerfully temporal displaced piano song Astronomers, which was by far my favorite song of the night. The greatest feature of the band is their ear for great notes. We Are The City can make songs come alive!

It was a great Tuesday night and after all, spring is on its way. I went to work the next day feeling that joyous feeling you get from great music and having a good time. Now it’s my turn to head west.

Photography by Cindy Lopez

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Jeremy McLaughlin and Kyle Albright - Photo: Ethan Cox

On Thursday night the NDP held their Youth Campaign launch at Cabaret Playhouse. The show was held to prep for the upcoming election and to galvanize the youth vote,   especially towards getting the NDP re-elected in Outremont and perhaps winning a few more seats in Quebec during the next Federal election. The youth wing put on a excellent show. The music was great, the people there were   interesting, and actually talked about issues, and not just about getting elected (like some other parties out there. You know who you are! Now bow your head in shame).

It was definitely good to be there with people that share the same commitment to social justice and progressive politics. Even if you weren’t a member of the NDP before you arrived, you might have left a commie socialist tree-hugger; It was that good!

The night kicked off with a spirited round of acoustic sets by locals Eleanor Altman and Elgin Skye, and New Brunswick’s Jeremy McLaughlin and Kyle Albright.

Altman kicked the night off with a short set of almost operatic songs that gave her strong, beautiful voice a chance to soar. While some were comparing her to an early Sarah McLachlan, the music that accompanied her voice left something to be desired.

Elgin Skye is an angelic cutie with a striking voice and great range who accompanied herself on both the guitar and ukelele. Her songs were quite well received by the crowd, which was in the area of 60 or more for most of the night.

The duo of McLaughlin and Albright, who form two-fifths of Fredericton’s acclaimed folk-rock band, Oh No, Theodore!, were loud and proud and ramped up the crowd with their foot stomping melodies and sing-along choruses.

Lead singer Chelsey Walsh from The F in Fresh was fun to watch. They put on an intense, lively and energetic performance that was as fun to listen to as gulping down cheap beer. The drumming really stood out in a tight and crowd pleasing set that got the second half of the night off to a good start.

I will eat your children! Darling Ghost performing – Photo: Ethan Cox

Darling Ghost played their always enigmatic set, including some beautifully inspired singing from Sheena Bernett and some fantastic cello. Their tunes really reach out and you could tell the audience was under a deeply captivating spell. Definitely a band to look out for, if you’re into drinking whiskey by the bar. They even played their chilling song Black & White. The cello and upright bass are power tools for this awesome funeral procession.

Dapinknoise are always fun. they got the crowd moving with their fat electronic sound that mixes well with the crooning style of the singer, who reminds me of David Bowie getting funky with his bad-self. It was one   euphoniously trippy experience.

The evening was closed off with a performance by Jef Barbara, who played some crazy electronic synth-funk-pop that was as great as waking up to a steaming cup of coffee. You can say, the man’s got talent. You can tell why he is getting quite a following   locally and in Europe. Check out the song Wild Boys if you get the chance.

He really capped off a surprisingly good night for music, even though I was tired and not particularly politically motivated. On the whole, it was a great night for the NDP, and for those of us lucky enough to be there. The NDP got some cards signed and engaged a great crowd with a variety of excellent music. If an election comes soon, the NDP is looking stronger than ever in Quebec.

With contributions from Ethan Cox. Hate-mail regarding the poor quality of photos can also be addressed to him.

We Are The City, Rah Rah and Aiden Knight
Casa Del Poplo
March 8, 2011
Doors open at 8:30pm and show starts @ 9:30pm
Tickets available @ or $8 @ the door (if not sold out)

Tomorrow at Casa Del Popolo Kelowna space rockers We Are The City, Rah Rah and Aidan Knight will bring together the forces of magic, enchantment and rock for Montreal music goers. Tuesday night will be another great night for live indie music at Casa, which has always been a focal point for great bands and great music. Come see the latest on the Canadian music scene before you head to Candadian Music Week on Thursday.

We Are The City, a trio based out of Kelowna, BC, is composed of Cayne McKenzie (vocals/keyboard), Blake Enemark (guitar), and Andrew Huculiak (drums). Known for their atmospheric progressive-pop sound, We Are The City is sure to please your ears. Their latest album High School lays bare to shameful memories from secondary school; I think we can all relate to that kind of shame.

In addition Rah Rah will be there. Rah Rah just released their first album Breaking Hearts, which was recorded in Montreal by Kees Dekker (Plants and Animals) and has received great reviews and praise from critics. One impressive thing about Rah Rah’s music that you can really appreciate is their interchangeability as a group, making them sound and feel more like an artistic community and less like a “typical” lethargic band. Rah Rah does this by sharing a collective mentality, taking turns singing lead vocals and songwriting. They’re also known for constantly switching instruments amongst themselves on record and on stage. With their diversity of instrumentation guitars Rah Rah‘s electric sound does not disappoint!

Aidan Knight rounds up the evening with his beautiful voice and acoustic guitar playing. Aidan is well known in the Canadian music community and has performed with many talented artists. Now, he takes the spotlight with his own solo career. His amazing innate ability to compose unique songs with genuine emotion will have you downloading his music right after the show.

Photos: 1. and 2.