What NOT To See: Here And There
I don't necessarily enjoy picking apart a band like Thanksgiving leftovers. However, as your trustworthy local journalist, I feel the need to help you sort the meat from the fat within a richly saturated scene. Tonight's performance by Here And There was so foul I couldn't resist a lengthy criticism. It's not that they were so bad I had to run from the room and give myself a mental douche of Billy Talent to save my sanity. Moreover, it's that they were very visibly a basement band that should have never made it to the surface, playing with more established bands like Zeroscape and Rehab For Quitters. I revel in their amaturity and felt the need to share these findings.
Let's face it, if you want to gain respect and possibly move up in the world, stage presence can make or break your band. Immediately I was irritated that the bass and rhythm guitarist cluttered the right side of the stage, facing the vocalist the entire time. It was almost as if they didn't want us to see that they never changed chords and rarely even changed frets. The vocalist didn't address the crowd until half-way through their set when he mumbled some sort of "thanks for sticking around". I was surprised and relieved when he mentioned his affinity for swearing at the second-last song. "Too little, too late," I thought. If you sense a band feels awkward then the audience feels awkward by default... it's a rather nasty infection that spreads quickly, suddenly giving everyone the urge to go home and perhaps vomit.
I felt the awkwardness of their restrain all the way in the audience. At several key points it looked like one of the members was ready to visibly rock out to the beat, each time resulting in disaster. The guitarist, wielding an acoustic piece of crap, started taking baby steps towards the drums, then rocking back n forth, hunched over his instrument, bobbing his head like a turkey. I laughed a nervous chuckle and smiled uncomfortably. Once the lead guitarist/vocalist looked up at his band mates with a smile and looked like he was going to jump around but quickly subdued himself when he noticed the others weren't about to move their staunch feet-perpetually-glued-to-the-floor stance. Just keep practicing in front of your bedroom mirrors, guys. You'll get it.
Sometimes you can gather some additional conclusions about the band members from what they're wearing. In this case, based on their sweatshirts, solid-colored shirts, Euro backpacker shoes and khaki cargo pants, I'd guess they could be found after the show, sitting idly on bar stools looking slightly bored and forlorn.
I guessed the bassist had just completed his first year at Humber Music School as he plunked away no-brainer notes looking noticeably bored most of the time. In a fit of feverish strumming, the rhythm guitarist's instrument sounded much like one of those Fisher-Price banjos, spitting out a furious series of "plinkplinkplinkplinkplinks". They played sloppy versions of U2's "Bullet The Blue Sky" and a Zeppelin song but any idiot with tablature and ten fingers could pull it off.
I really can't hack away at the drummer and if I did, it would be grossly unfair, since he did a fine job of low-profile beat keeping. The vocalist showed a lot of heart and while I'm sure he's responsible for some of the dull direction their music takes, he does display obvious knowledge of guitar soloing. I'd go so far as to assume their music is built around creating voids for the singer/lead guitarist to fill.
Creativity & Sound
If there's one good thing to be said about this band it's that Here And There isn't trying to be Alexisonfire. They couldn't be bothered to concern themselves with what's going on in the rest of Toronto's music scene. However, there's little room within the engorged belly of the Toronto scene to fit a Hootie And The Blowfish / Dave Matthews Band hybrid. I looked at my watch and wondered if they had even changed songs in the last 20 minutes, which is fine if you're George Clinton I suppose... but Here And There is no Parliament Funkadelic. In the recesses of my imagination, I could see a room full of mid-life crisis enduring accountants and boot-shuffling cougars slow-dancing to the melancholy
If I were to try to salvage something from the wreck, I'd probably snag the vocalist/guitarist and convince him to join some Zeppelin-inspired rock band where he would make guitar his sole priority. I'd pick through the rubble and send the drummer on his merry way to find a worthwhile band. The other two would be sent off to guitarist boot camp where they would learn the fundamentals of writing a creative riff, becoming one with the guitar and how to be more than just background noise. Then at least there might be some inkling of hope.
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