The top 30 concerts in Toronto from 2013
The top 30 concerts in Toronto for 2013 took us from the ACC to someone's apartment. Year end music lists are already getting on your nerves, but here we just want to get posi and remember our favourite concerts of the year. There's a lot to celebrate - Toronto saw so many good shows in 2013, from roaring multi day fests to secreted-away back alley whispers. We're still looking over our shoulders waiting for someone to grab us and say "hey - you don't have the right to be this lucky. Give those loud / touching / awe-inspiring / body-pounding memories back right now."
That awful paranoia induced noise-police spectre (who might actually be from the jealous prairies?) hasn't crept up on us for real as of yet, so for the record's sake here are the concerts from the past twelve months that we'll look back on with the biggest and most maniacal grins. Add yours in the comments.
Metz, Odonis Odonis, the Soupcans / Lee's Palace
The reason why this show was so good is pretty simple: all three bands brought zero filler. If you enjoy music of the rock persuasion, it's tough to argue against this night's lineup constituting some of the best (and noisiest) Toronto bands working in the city today. It felt like a bonafide Toronto moment selling out Lee's, and one that won't be forgotten anytime soon regardless of the bigger venues each band is clearly progressing to.
Sean Nicholas Savage / Handlebar
Sean Nicholas Savage is one crazy dude, but he's also a damn fine songwriter. As fun as it is to see him equipped with little more than an iPod and a voice that goes straight for the rafters, on this night he was joined by a lanky guitarist who fleshed out his compositions to highlight the myriad hooks floating through each. Concluding the set with an impromptu poetry recital would normally seem like a bum note to end on, but Savage making it work is testament to him working at the top of his game, whatever that may be.
OVO (Drake ft. the fam) / Molson Amphitheatre
Yeezy and Weezy. Says it all, really. I waxed poetic enough in my review so read that instead to know why this was awesome.
The Replacements / Fort York Garrison Common (Riot Fest)
Regardless of any comments on the authenticity of the Replacements that played Fort York this summer (and also performed at the two subsequent Riot Fests in Chicago and Denver), one can't deny that songwriter/singer/guitarist Paul Westerberg and main sideman Tommy Stinson brought the goods for these shows - their first in 22 years. Folks flew in from all over the globe for this in disbelief that Toronto of all places would be the iconic Minneapolis punks' first stop, and the showing was everything a Replacements fan could hope for and more. From the first notes of the opening "Takin' a Ride," the first song from their debut album, the reunited 'Mats blasted through the first 10 years of Westerberg's songbook with just the right balance of shitkicking spontaneity and instrumental prowess. One for the ages.
Four Tet / the Great Hall
In Toronto for a one-off before heading to Europe to do pre-release promotion for Beautiful Rewind, Kieran Hebden - better known as Four Tet - brought 90 minutes of his best material for a packed Great Hall crowd. Performing in the round, he entranced as he wove dizzying rhythms and loops over an audience not sure if it was supposed to space out or dance. Many did both to humourous results, but it was hard not to. Hebden's built up one of the best contemporary catalouges in electronic music over the past decade, and his live show emphasizes the ridiculous amount of skill behind his dense approach.
The National / Yonge Dundas Square
The National seem to make this list every year they play in the Big Smoke. This show was an after-work Friday night special, starting around 7:30 pm if memory serves. Diving right into the lead track, "I Should Live in Salt" off their recently released Trouble Will Find Me, a completely packed Yonge Dundas crowd was taken from the start. Mixing up new and time-tested tracks, it was quickly apparent of the solid catalogue Matt Berninger and co. have built over six albums. After a 20 song set list, The National closed with their a capella rendition of "Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks" with the massive audience lending back-up vocals. Perfect start to a Friday night in June.
The Hives / The Phoenix
If you want to see one of the best live bands in the world, see Sweden's The Hives. No hyperbole, seeing a band of this unmatched stage presence in a venue like the Phoenix is nothing short of amazing. Seriously, mark your calendars for the next time they roll through town. Thank us later.
Trust / Lee's Palace
This was back in February, and the night still stands out viscerally in my memory. With psychedelic, multi-coloured strobe lighting and stoned electronic synths ringing out, the show put the audience into a seductive trance. And that Robert Alfons is a natural entertainer with his spastic body movements and baritone growl. Trust is set to release a new album, Joyland, in March. Stay tuned.
Arts & Crafts Field Trip / Fort York Garrison Common
While not technically a singular concert, this festival gets a nod for being such a well-run day. The inaugural festival run by Toronto's Arts & Crafts clan was an overall chill environment with a solid roster of musicians signed to the indie label that would play on two stages. Although they did run out of beer at one point(!), the lines were reasonable, the food delicious, the sound great, and Broken Social Scene reunited. More festivals like this in 2014, please and thanks.
Macklemore & Shad / Echo Beach
The rain couldn't stop this show or the frenzied crowd at Echo Beach. With the sun setting, Shad got the crowd warmed up with his charismatic stage presence and untouchable wordplay. As the sun dropped and the rain unleashed itself on the crowd, a high energy Macklemore hit the stage. With producer Ryan Lewis on the keys, Macklemore would run about the stage like a kid that skipped his Ritalin, yet never missing a rapid-fire lyric. And with his token Ireland flag waving and crowd surfing during "Can't Hold Us," the rain went largely unnoticed.
Oxbow / The Garrison
Genre-less American noise band Oxbow basically tore me up in my interview with them, but somehow we worked it out, then in person they were super nice guys, though I think Eugene Robinson was put off by my friend not gifting him the shirt off his back (Robinson dug the shirt). Naturally my friend was in the wrong. This show was insane. Imagine a wrestler leading an avant garde jazz/noise band - now make him like, one of the smartest, most real people alive. The gentleness was brutal. If you were there and want to take part in a sharing circle, let me know. The opening bands were good stuff too, especially Toronto's THIGHS.
Bjork / Echo Beach
Bjork's pop explosion at Echo Beach could be seen from space - where her people live. She had to let them know she was okay, and still had hope for us. Her voice is now contained within every grain of sand on the beach and always will be. The last song was dedicated to Trayvon Martin. Death Grips were a score too, though their set at 7pm on a beach in the summertime was about as jarring as it sounds.
CocoRosie / The Phoenix
Their voices were flawless. The harp playing was divine. Tales of a GrassWidow, CocoRosie's 2013 album, turns out to be the makings of a perfect collection of live songs. Seamless (this is a pun!) costume changes and the elaborate girlhaus bedroom set up didn't hurt either (we didn't send a photographer to Cocorosie and I apologize for that), but it was really the sparkly avant pop that made this concert so unbelievable and left me seeing pink for days.
Gate aka Michael Morley / Double Double Land
I feel the effects of New Zealand noise artist Gate/Michael Morley's September Double Double Land set every day - my bod is way into involuntary bruxism, and I was grinding my teeth so hard along to Gate's phenomenal (loud) set that I chipped a tooth. Now I can't chew with the right side of my face and I'm addicted to Tylenol 1s. It was worth it.
Induced Labour / Double Double Land (NXNE)
Noisy, weirdo Toronto supergroup Induced Labour reunited for one night only at NXNE. Leslie Predy (Doom Tickler) roared around the room and everyone I love was there, I swear it (if you were there let's hug), and smiling - I don't mean awkward-wtf-is-this smiles, either. We're talking big childlike grins the likes of which are never seen in Toronto. Apparently the volunteer at the door wasn't feeling it. Pfft.
Autre Ne Veut / Wrongbar
Autre Ne Veut's 2013 album Anxiety got into me deep - and apparently I'm not alone. The bros (hi bros) at Wrongbar singing along to lines like "I know sometimes I could get rough" with their hands in the air/around each others' backs was fucking terrifying. I spent most of this show in the corner on my phone. But though Arthur Ashin's voice was raspy as hell, the emotion was real. The show was real. He got rough. I think about it all the time.
Blonde Redhead / Adelaide Hall
Blonde Redhead have the fireworks, and the brand spanking new Adelaide Hall was a pretty perfect launchpad for them (two floors, you know). I don't have much to say beyond this is a genuine, great band, and seeing them play is a wonderful way to spend time.
CHVRCHES / MOD Club (CMW)
This was my introduction to CHVRCHES, and they totally won me over. I went with a friend who grew up in the same area of Scotland as the band. So, in between their infectious dance anthems, I was told childhood stories about each band member. They gave a flawless performance. It was a huge highlight of my CMW.
Blitzen Trapper / Lee's Palace
My mind was totally blown at this show. Ridiculously talented musicians, performing at the top of their game. There were too many jaw-dropping solos to even count. I don't use the word 'epic' very often, but it's the only way I can describe the awesomeness that was this show.
The Cliks CD Release Show / The Drake Underground
I had listened to The Cliks "Black Tie Elevator" like a thousand times before the night of their CD release. At the show, I stood right up front and sang my heart out to every tune. The band were so engaged with one another, you could see the shared feelings of pride and accomplishment between them. I felt like I was part of a very special moment.
Ohbijou Farewell Show / The Great Hall
This show, without a doubt, is one I will never forget. It was an entire music community coming together to celebrate Ohbijou, and all that they've accomplished in the last decade. Members from The Wooden Sky, Evening Hymns, Diamond Rings, Gentleman Reg, and Forest City Lovers took the stage to speak about their personal connections with the band, as well as play a Ohbbijou covers in their own style. Throughout the night, Ohbijou played three sets, performing all of their songs one last time. It was an emotional night for everyone, and I'm glad I was there to witness it.
DIANA / The Horseshoe (NXNE)
I'm obsessed with this band. Lead-singer Carmen Elle was of course wearing the most stylish outfit, and working her dream-like stage persona throughout their entire set. They were one of the hot tickets for NXNE, and it seemed like every industry professional in Toronto was there to judge the hell out of them. Despite the pressure, the band didn't falter in keeping their cool calmness on point, which is such a distinctive part of their music.
Daughter / The Phoenix
This show was pretty adorable to be honest. Daughter's lead singer was so shy that she could barely address the audience. Every time she spoke you could hear a collective "aww" from rows upon rows of Daughter fans. Their music really shone with in the mid-sized venue, with a light show and full sound system adding to the emotional quality of their music. I counted more than one person singing/sobbing along.
PUP CD Release Show / Sneaky Dee's
If you follow PUP on any social media, they mostly talk about drinking beer and raising lots of hell. It all came to fruition in one giant sweaty mosh pit at Sneaky Dee's. Everyone was flailing around, singing loudly, with fists in the air. Even their lead-singer Stefan got in on the crowd surfing. It was hella fun.
Maylee Todd record release / BlkBox
This concert was totally the funnest. How funnest? So funnest that I brought a backpack and I didn't even notice. That's a big deal. I have big bones and despite a seasonal spring jacket the addition of a backpack really added a lot of dimension to my girth. Not to mention the fact that it was a packed show. Yet, yet yet, Maylee Todd and her band were so tight and fun, that my backpack was not a nuisance... to me. My apologies to the dozens of people I knocked over with my backpack.
The Killers / ACC
Everything that could have possibly been said about this show has already been said by me already. But they want a paragraph so here goes: sometimes a concert at the ACC is completely necessary to reconfirm that the power of music is such that it can combine people of all different ilks, socio-economic backgrounds (entry point obviously being a ticket price) and even gender identity into one massive crowd singularly singing along to Mr. Brightside like a highschool end of year bus trip circa late 2003. Too cool!
The Holy Gasp / Coffin Factory
I walked into the Holy Gasp blind save the recommendation of a friend of a friend ( Seb, can I call you a friend yet?). But I was in the mood for a concert in an apartment (2 parts buzzed, 1 part broke, 1 part having spent the past week playing Prison Architect), particularly in one dubbed "The Coffin Factory." Long story short, Holy Gasp blew my fucking head off (not literally, but a non-hyperbolic metaphor (MUST SEE 2014!!!!)).
Postal Service / ACC
I went to this for the sole reason that I'm a Jenny Lewis fangirl, but somehow I was transported back to my 20-something days, earnestly belting out the lyrics to "Such Great Heights" with Ben Gibbard. You could kind of tell that Gibbard et al were genuinely having fun on stage, knowing this tour was a one-off deal (Gibbard and Tamborello re-formed and toured for the 10th anniversary for Postal Service's one and only album, Give Up). Their camaraderie helped make the show feel intimate, despite the cavernous venue. Hearing songs from the 10-year old album performed live produced some very real nostalgia.
Belle & Sebastian / Fort York Garrison Common (TURF Fest)
After hours of torrential rain, I couldn't have been more excited to see one of my favourite bands for the first time, despite my soggy Keds and mud-splattered legs. When frontman Stuart Murdoch waltzed on stage holding an umbrella, it may have been the twee-est thing Toronto's ever seen. He invited a fan to play Scrabble on stage with him, had another apply mascara to his lashes during "Lord Anthony," and got muddy fans to come on stage to dance. I can't imagine many other bands doing this and still coming across as endearing. Song after song had me smiling and my new life goal became to dance on stage someday with them during "The Boy With the Arab Strap."
Father John Misty + The Walkmen / Danforth Music Hall
Two fave bands playing back to back? Yes, please. After seeing Father John Misty previously at Lee's, I knew what I came to see again: sassy, ass-shaking goofy dancing from frontman Josh Tillman paired with spot-on vocals and sardonic wit. The Walkmen brought their intricate ensemble rock and like I do every time I hear it, I melted when they played "Canadian Girl." Sad to think that this might be the last time I ever see them, if the band has indeed called it quits forever.
PHOTOGRAPHER FAVES (we'll let the photos tell the stories)
NO ONE'S FAVOURITE BUT IT SURE WAS FUN