North by Northeast: Day 4 (June 18)

Sorry for the lateness today folks; Father’s Day lunches were afoot!

Alright, so last night presented a new wave theme, with Men Without Hats opening up for Devo.  Also, it being the first (and only) weekend night I could actually stay out for, I managed to finally check out one non-headliner show afterwards.

After picking up a burrito from Big Fat Burrito, my downtown food of choice pretty much all the time, I made my way to the main stage just in time to catch Men Without Hats, who have returned from a 5-year-plus hiatus.  The first thing I noticed was how packed the “venue” was; people spilled out from the main square into the streets and sidewalks surrounding it, and the crowd in general seemed to have more older people than the Day 2 did – unsurprising really, but I certainly wasn’t expecting such a big crowd.  Anyways, the band was fine; typical new wave stuff, nothing particularly special.  We all know that “Safety Dance” is pretty much the only reason anyone’s going to see these guys, right?  They’re not bad, but not great.

Luckily, Devo was absolutely incredible; definitely my favourite set of the festival.  With a full hour and a half to play, they went through their entire career minus all of their bad albums in backwards order, starting with material from their latest, surprisingly awesome record Something for Everybody and going back progressively earlier until their debut Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo, and then mixing it up a little bit towards the end, finishing with a song from their second, darker album Duty Now For the Future.  It was a really neat little idea, with them changing their costumes to reflect the album they were on, and using their whole concept of “de-evolution” that the band was originally based on within their own stage show.  There are a few things that made the set work really well: 1) the band still play extremely energetically, sounding way younger than they actually are; 2) their new material is some of their best work in 20 years, translates fantastically to a live setting, and gels marvellously with their older material; and 3) the setlist felt extremely complete, with representatives from all of their good albums and zero bad songs.  The only bad part of the set was that there wasn’t an encore.  Also, I was hoping they would play “Space Junk” and they didn’t, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers.

So after this, my friends and I wanted to take advantage of the weekend and go see another band.  We were thinking about going to see Shad, but that was sold out; I really wanted to check out superhero-punk band Peelander-Z, but my friends weren’t really feeling it.  We ended up checking out a band at the Bread and Circus from Montreal called Bent By Elephants; this was a very good choice.  The band is really unique, running the gamut from more basic but beautiful indie stuff to restrained folk jams.  I’d strongly suggest our readers to check them out.

Tonight ends the festival with a hip-hop theme, with Digable Planets opening up for the The Pharcyde.  Check back tomorrow night for a full report.

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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