Okay, okay. As much as I like to imagine myself still 25, the fact is a decade has passed since I last saw that number on my (no doubt Santa-inspired) birthday cake. I can handle being 35 today. I just like to consider myself… more experienced.
As it is with a birthday so close to Christmas, I often lament the onslaught of Merry Birthday. For you other Decemberist birthday people, you know what I mean. Your presents are wrapped in the merriest of Christmas paper, your cakes often resemble a fat man in a red suit and, worse, you get the dreaded “combo” gift. Does this sound familiar: “Oh, this is your birthday-Christmas gift!”?
So this year, I gave myself the gift of music. I invited a couple of my favourite musical cohorts along for the ride, battled Toronto traffic (thankful for those with better GPS’ in their blackberries than I have), managed to find elusive Toronto parking after navigating a myriad of one-way streets, hit a nifty little bar near Lee’s Palace (Hey Lucy on Bloor – featured above, my Lucy martini – perfect nod to my littlest beat.. and try the pizza at this place!!) for pre-show drinks and nosh and then spent my night having my eardrums damaged just a little bit more.
It was loud. It rocked. It was a Monster of a birthday.
Monster Truck and Special Guests (more on that later). Edge Jingle Bell Concert Series ~ Lee’s Palace.
Let’s start with a bit of venue gushing. I love Lee’s Palace. The place is dark, a bit dank, small enough to see everything, big enough to withstand the rock that poured off the stage. This is how you are supposed to see a band. No huge stadium, no $50 rounds of giant beers, no giant light show and theatrics. It is simply great music, played loud, where you can see the nuances of the band on the stage in front of you. Where you buy merchandise from pals of the band (and who show great appreciation when you do). Where you can be standing and waiting for the headliner only to turn and see the opening act having a beer behind you as you smile and nod to acknowledge the great set they had just performed.
In between opening acts and the main attraction, the game of “spot the hipster” was once again played. Only this time we had a literal smorgasbord of bearded goodness to take in. An eclectic mixed crowd – it was difficult to discern between vapid hipster and the real deal. It soon became a ranking of the best beard (I’m not even sure who won this) and the best look alike (Jerry Garcia and his inner-jacket-porn took this, but the aged Dee Snider-bad-perm guy was a definite contender).
But let’s get to the real reason we were there: music.
Usually opening acts at Lee’s are insights to upcoming music that is hit and miss with greatness. Sometimes you score, sometimes you just shake your head and use the time to wrestle your way upstairs to the washrooms (note: avoid at all costs). Seeing as this was a combined birthday night out (ahem, Pete, this one is for you), it seemed only appropriate that the opening act was a band that my birthday-buddy wanted to see live. Indian Handcrafts. You likely haven’t heard of them. I suspect you will. Soon.
Two guys walk on to a stage. Sounds like the start of a joke, right? And then they proceed to blow your eardrums out. Just two guys and a lot of beautiful, loud sounds. One guitar, half a drum set, both vocalists (a drummer and he can sing??) and I stood agape. Who are these guys? I suspect I received something of a “I know, right?!” kind of look from the one who already knew this band. Which means that the rest shared grins. You know – those smiles given with the people you’re with when you know you are hearing something that just may end up being huge. That moment when it occurs to you that you will soon be saying, “Yeah, I saw these guys ages ago” when everyone else starts freaking out about them.
Indian Handcrafts (http://indianhandcrafts.net/) sound bigger than they are – a true Festivus-worthy feat of strength. A duo, comprised of Brandyn James Aiken (drums, vocals) and Daniel Brandon Allen (guitars, vocals) out of Barrie (so I’ve read…). It is loud, but it’s not sloppy-loud. The music is filled with stellar riffs, some seriously sick drum action, fun, frivolity and is so reminiscent of a grinding grunge sound that I almost got nostalgic. This is how music is fun – it’s loud, it’s humourous, it is compelling to watch and it makes you grin so big while your head nods along and you want more. Needless to say, I have now dowloaded their recent album, “Disobedience for Losers” and spent the better part of my weekend recommending that friends give them a listen. I want to know more. Apparently this band will be touring in 2013 with the likes of Billy Talent (ugh, sorry guys, but everyone here knows my innate hatred of Billy Talent) and Sum41. Well played, guys.
The Main Event: When I heard that 102.1 The Edge was doing a Jingle Bell concert series, I was intrigued to see Monster Truck on the list. Even better was that they were at Lee’s. The thing is, this is a concert I knew I had to attend. Growing up, rock like this was what I was first a part of. Banging heads, ringing ears, in your face, long-haired kind of rock. What I have discovered about this band is that you either know them, or you don’t. So the response to finding out that I was going to the show was varied. From the bubble-gum-pop crowd (and my Mom), I got looks of confusion. “You’re going to see monster trucks??”. From those that know local rock, I got looks of “What? Really? How?” Small venue, big sounds. My birthday doesn’t get much better than this.
Jon Harvey (Bass & Lead vocals), Jeremy Widerman (Guitar & Vocals), Brandon Bliss (Organ & Vocals) and Steve Kiely (Drums & Vocals): what they provide is just what the band name implies: a monster rock sound. The music is tight, featuring favourites from their EPs and new stuff they are currently putting together in the studio. Monster Truck has a classic rock sound mixed with some 90s grungy influence. It’s loud, your head dips lower on each nod and ending their encore with Righteous Smoke was the best set decision I’ve seen (er.. heard?). Actually, starting out with Seven Seas Blues, moving into a mix of newer and older songs and finishing out with their current hit all seemed highly appropriate. Most of all, it made me anxious to see what they pull out on their album when it’s released.
And can I mention that Jon Harvey is waaay taller than I ever suspected?! Although, I will give Jeremy (guitar/vocals) huge kudos for stage presence. The entire group meshes well together. Their sound is tight (when music sounds exactly as it does recorded, it’s always a great thing) and you lose yourself in a solid set. There are no bells and whistles. No stage theatrics. It is just really great rock music. And it rocked.
There it is. I’m 35. And I got rocked for my birthday. Perfection.
As always, many thanks to those that joined me for our birthday night out. In overview, this has been a stellar concert year for me, which has been shared with excellent company and great memories. I could not have asked for better musical cohorts. Or a better night. Even the guy peeing on the wall of the alley back to the truck (p.s. Don’t Fuck With the Truck!) did little to dampen the spirits. Such incredibly loud fun! Thanks guys!!
As for our readers, since gifts are a given on birthdays, consider this mine for you. Go check out Indian Handcrafts. Right now. And if you have a chance, go see either them or Monster Truck live in 2013. Put on something tight and black, let your hair down and rock a show. For now, I’ll leave you with something to listen to. Turn it up. Loud.
Indian Handcrafts – Bruce Lee
Monster Truck – Righteous Smoke (an obvious choice, I know, but a fucking good one nonetheless)