Chronicles of a Budding Rock Star

Hello, dear readers!  My name is Daniel Korn; you probably don’t really know who I am, but trust me, you will one day.  You may have noticed a few of my articles popping up on the site over the past few months, but I’m not just a loudmouth critic; I’m a loudmouth musician too!  I’ve played drums for around 10 years, and I also play guitar, bass and piano extremely poorly.  If everything pans out, within the next five years I’ll be a super-famous combination of Chuck Klosterman and Keith Moon, and then MVRemix will make a ton of money by being the first publication to feature the writings of the youngest person to have 18 triple-platinum selling albums and three Pulitzer Prizes.  Ha ha ha.

Anyways, I played a show on Friday, and in a shameless bit of self-promotion, I’ve been asked to write a diary review of sorts about how the night went.  The band I’m in is called New Stems.  I always feel like an asshole when I describe how we sound because it usually comes out as a string of tangentially related adjectives, so I’ll just say that we’re a noisy 4-piece rock band and if you want to hear us, you can check us out at here and here.  We’re made up of me on drums, Jordan Nusbaum on rhythm guitar and vocals, Tal Davidson on lead guitar, and Ben Wood on bass.  Most of us, other than Ben, live in Thornhill, a suburb just north of Toronto, and we’re all doing our undergrads right now.  We’ve reached a good point in our playing; we’ve gotten pretty tight, and we have enough originals that we can’t play all of them in a single set.  We’re going to be recording an album this summer.  A couple weeks ago we discovered that we’d obtained our first fan that wasn’t already a friend of ours; it was a monumental moment for everyone involved.

Over the past few months we’ve been gigging quite a lot, minus a month or two where we all had too much schoolwork to practice.  The show on Friday was put on by a promotion company called Jamtastic (more info here) which is run by two friends of ours, Daniel Mager and Ben Wood.  They’ve been building up a bit of steam around downtown Toronto these days and we’ve been on their “roster” basically since they started up, which means we do a fair amount of shows with them.  The gigs we get with them are typically at a place called The Tiger Bar, which is actually the basement of another, nicer bar called Crown and Tiger at Bathurst and College.  It’s a small, cold, dingy little basement, with sickly green walls, dim lighting, and dirty chairs.  The “stage” is probably about a foot higher than the regular floor. PA speakers are set down on wobbly tables for support.  The drum set always needs to be pushed into the corner, lest it takes up a full half of the stage itself.  It’s the kind of place that seems really full when you have something like 25 people in it.  In short, it’s the kind of place that can only be affectionately called a Shithole, but we’ve grown somewhat attached to it; it’s OUR Shithole.

A lot of the time, the pre-show can be pretty stressful; soundchecks, getting there late, having to unload our gear, setting up our equipment, etc.  But last night’s show was put on by a new promoter with Jamtastic, a fellow drummer and good friend of ours named Jamie Rosenberg, and it wasn’t starting until 9:30, so we had lots of time and everything was pretty chilled out.  Daniel Mager kicked off the show at 9:30.  He played alone with just an electric guitar, playing songs from his old and current bands, as well as a few covers.  It was a fun set, even though the only people who were watching him were the other bands of the night.

At 10, it was our turn to go on-stage, and we were really, for all intents and purposes, the opening band.  This is a problem; no matter how late the opening band starts, it seems that no one wants to come see them.  Our audience was exactly the same as Mager’s, with the addition of maybe two more people.  Huzzah!

I was a little bit worried at the time; minus the lack of attendance, the show was going rather smoothly, which would have made for a pretty dull piece of writing.  Luckily, ten minutes into the show, disaster struck.  For the past few weeks, we’ve been working on segueing our songs into each other so that we don’t upset the flow of music as much with stage noodling and embarrassing chatter.  Well, this didn’t work out, because halfway through our second song, the vocals and bass completely cut out.  The problem was further compounded because Ben, our bass player, was also the sound guy for the show, and there was no one manning the soundboard.  As they say, the show must go on, so Jordan, Tal and I continued to play the song as Ben jumped off stage, searching for the problem.  We got through the song and stalled as he tried to discover the problem, fumbling through some The Band tunes that we hadn’t played in a while, but smiling all the way through.  We’re good like that.  Eventually, the culprit was found – a power bar had come unplugged, possibly by my own doing as it was right near my hi-hat foot.  Whoopsie.

After this happened, we played through our set with no problems really.  In fact, we played really well; we were tight, the segues were working out smoothly, and our Flaming Lips cover was nice and raucous as it should have been (“Kim’s Watermelon Gun”, off of Clouds Taste Metallic, if anyone’s wondering).  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a recording of the set because someone forgot to press the record button before we started playing.  So it goes.

Next up was a cover band from Hamilton called Get Up and the Giddy Ups.  These guys were a typical Hot Shit band; two good-looking brothers on guitar and vocals, two slightly less overtly dreamy but still attractive brothers on bass and drums.  Apparently, the guys’ other (presumably more “real”) band is sponsored by Yamaha, which explains why the guitarists’ hugely imposing stack of amps, and the drummer brought his own, considerably larger, beautifully-finished kit.  Most of their cover picks were solid; well-known songs, but nothing particularly overplayed or by-the-numbers, aside from the obligatory Say It Ain’t So cover.  I find it odd that no one seems to cover any of Weezer’s other hits; I’ve heard at least 5 bands play Say It Ain’t So over just the past few months, but I’ve never seen so much as a single cover of Buddy Holly.  Five bucks to the first band I see that plays Surf Wax America; it’s not even obscure!  But I digress; the band was really talented, very energetic, and played a ripping cover of Back in the USSR, which makes them alright in my books.  Even if their spiffy equipment was simply too damn loud for the tiny venue.

Finally, the headliners, After Funk, went on.  This is the promoter, Jamie’s band, originating in London, Ontario.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay for most of the set, but we saw the first two songs they played and it was absolutely killer.  Really professional sound, well-written tunes, incredibly skilled musicians, fun to dance to, and most importantly, fun to listen to.  I honestly can’t comment too much on them, because we had to leave early, but I implore you to check them out, which you can do here.

And that’s the night!  I hope you enjoyed my rambling, and if you’re so inclined, you can check out my band at and; we’re really good, I swear!  Also, you can catch us this Monday, April 4th, at Lola’s in Kensington Market!

By Daniel Korn

Daniel wants to be a rock star when he grows up. He is currently pursuing a career in music by studying at York University, where he hits things loudly with sticks. He is in two gigging bands - New Stems and The Formalists. He writes for MVRemix and Cadence Canada. He also has a weekly podcast called Two Loud Guys. Aside from music, he likes video games, comic books, puppies, and food. You can follow him on twitter @AmateurDan.

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