CMW 08: Dub Trio et al @ the el Mocambo
I just can't get to the el Mo early enough anymore. Case in point: I tried checking out an act there a couple of weeks ago that was scheduled for 10:00pm. I showed up just a couple of minutes late only to find out the act had started at 9:20 and I had just missed the whole thing.
It happened again last night. All the CMW literature said that Toronto's Automatic Dub Riot were kicking things off at 10, so I showed up at a quarter to only to see they were already playing. Oh well, the singer was still wearing his leather jacket, so I guess I couldn't have missed much.
ADR rocked in earnest although the vocals didn't cut through the bass-heavy mix very well. They reminded me of an old school punk band experimenting with elements of dub reggae without sounding the least bit like the Clash.
Next up were Brooklyn's Foreign Islands. I'm not sure if the drummer is the "leader" of the band, but he sure managed to grab my attention. Rocking out to backing tracks he called up on an iPod in a case behind his drum kit and pounding the skins harder than f*ck, he got the band off to a propulsive start even though one of their guitarists blew an amp head on the first tune and sat out the second tune getting a replacement in order (it appeared as though one of the guys in ADR was very helpful getting him back up and running). If Fugazi had that NYC edge to them and a healthy interest in vintage monosynths, they might have sounded a lot like this. The band was totally tight and had presence and energy to spare, even though I still couldn't hear the vocals that well. I had no idea what to expect from them before last night, but by the end of their set I can proudly say I'm a big fan.
As impressed as I was with FI's rock solid drumming, I have to admit that Dub Trio's Joe Tomino was the hands-down winner on the skins last night. I have never seen such dynamic control in a "heavy" drummer before. The band's basic concept is mixing up the bone crushing sounds of metal and with the spacier sounds of dub reggae with all the requisite noodling with delay and reverb effects that that genre entails, and Tomino is likely one of the few technically proficient drummers on the planet capable of going back and forth between the two styles on the same kit without missing a beat.
DT's guitarist DP Holmes had an interesting setup that let him take advantage of the sudden paradigm shifts the band is known for. He basically had two amps, a Marshall for the heavy stuff and a Fender for the cleaner stuff, and a handy dandy footswith that allowed him to go from metal chunk to reggae chank seamlessly.
If I had to pick a winner, though, I personally enjoyed the solidness of Foreign Islands more than the wow factor of Dub Trio. While DT had the drummer from hell and sounds to make your head spin, FI had a bunch of cool songs that were tighter than a mofo, and I'll take awesome music over awesome musicianship anyday.
Tonight, I'm off to Lee's Palace to take in an all Canadian lineup featuring Rebekah Higgs, the 6ixty 8ights, Jason Collett, and Birds of Wales. Tell you all about it tomorrow if you can't make it out tonight.
Photos by Jerrold Litwinenko