Some quick news first: it’s Word on the Street this weekend in Toronto, at Queen’s Park. I’ll be hanging out at the ECW table at 2pm on Saturday if you want to drop by and say hello: the table is on the east side of Queen’s Park, near Grosvenor Street (between College and Wellesley). Catherine “Scarborough” Hernandez is one of the main draws that day. I’m also excited to see Jennifer Hillier, whose twisty thriller Things We Do in the Dark I just finished and loved. Sunday features Kenneth Oppel (being interviewed by a middle grader!), Zoe Whittall, Cherie Dimaline and more. Full info here.
Rich Aucoin – Synthetic Season 1 & 2
“I wanted to go back to the things that got me really excited about listening to electronic music in the first place,” Rich Aucoin told Bandcamp Daily recently. “Whenever vocals would come in, I would think ‘Oh, that’s too bad.’ ”
Funny, because that’s how I felt about the Halifax musician’s work until now: these two albums— released six months apart, half of a four-album project—are all-instrumental. And I think they’re the best thing he’s ever done.
Important caveat: Not that I’ve been paying super close attention. Aucoin launched his career around the same time I became a parent, and I have still yet to see one of his legendary live shows, which had many friends of mine raving (in both senses of that word). His records, meanwhile, were the kind of Flaming Lips / Daft Punk mash-up I didn’t think I needed at that point in my life. But whatever. That’s my hang-up.
The National Music Centre in Calgary—one of the only Canadian museums not located in Ottawa—boasts an arsenal of vintage synths among its holdings. Several artists have been invited in to muck about, including Robin Hatch, who made her T.O.N.T.O. album on, yes, you guessed it, a TONTO (The Original New Timbral Orchestra), a synth that fills almost an entire room and is most famous for being in Phantom of the Paradise. (It was also a favourite of Stevie Wonder’s during his most productive period.)
Shameless vanity: Here’s a pic of me with the TONTO on my 2018 book tour for Never-Ending Present:
Aucoin’s work is, to my ears, the most productive use of the NMC’s equipment to date.
Synthetic Seasons could easily have been gimmicky records featuring a bunch of synth farts pushing back against the presets. But Aucoin is a very careful composer, his songs rich with dynamics and movements and textures, whether they’re meant for the dance floor or not. They’re always dramatic, conjuring cinematic scenes at almost every turn. These albums should land him a lot of side gigs scoring films or games, if he wants to.
These are not novelty records. They’re the work of a pop songwriter and renowned performer who is coming into his own as a writer, and just happened to have access to incredible tools.
FWIW I think the second installment, which came out last week, is better than the first. Which makes me look forward to the third and fourth even more.
Rich Aucoin plays the Velvet Underground tonight. I think it’s safe to say he will not be touring with the TONTO.
All news, no snooze
Have Not Been the Same readers: Sloan is having a garage sale on Saturday, noon to 3pm, featuring their own merch and recently unearthed gems from Murderecords history, plus some new things made just for this event. It’s the second year they’ve done this out of Chris Murphy’s garage: in the first laneway off Margueretta Street, north of College. There will be signage to help you find it. Cash and cards accepted. “No early birds/nerds!” they ask. Good luck with that last part, guys. They play History on July 7 with Kiwi Jr.
In case you weren’t worried enough about AI’s effect on the future of humanity, there is also the issue of AI-generated music being pushed by streaming bots—which are another problem altogether, even with real artists. As this excellent story puts it: “Robots creating music, streamed by other robots, as criminals bank the profits,” and chastizes the model used by every streaming service (except Bandcamp, obviously, and one tier of Tidal): “The downright dumbness of the dominant ‘pro rata’ streaming royalty model, under which a share of the money you pay to play music every month is, inevitably, being sucked away by fraudsters.” Wired magazine also gets into it here. And Complex magazine explains how the fake streams work—kind of like buying followers on Instagram—how to spot them, why they make modern metrics almost useless, and why it hurts artists. Last week I interviewed a mega-million-streaming pop producer about a bunch of topics, and this was the one thing he was most worried about.
I wrote a lot about U2 earlier this year, even before their Songs of Surrender came out. You know who else has been favourably reconsidering U2’s legacy? Jeff Tweedy:
When an elderly legend dies, like 83-year-old Tina Turner this week, any serious news organization will have a pre-written obituary ready to go—that’s just common news sense (I wrote a Joni Mitchell one eight years ago—just throwing that out there if anyone needs one). But often some of the best, most considered and thoughtful pieces come a few weeks after a death, like this one that walks through Gordon Lightfoot’s work:
Speaking of Tina Turner, I was 12 years old when Private Dancer came out. It showed me that rock’n’roll was not just a young person’s game, and what the true meaning of “comeback” is. I heard her version of “Let’s Stay Together” before Al Green’s. “Better Be Good to Me” is one of my all-time favourite songs—I especially love hearing it during an election. (I’ve also done it at karaoke.) She duets on the only Bryan Adams song I can bear to listen to now (also a great song to learn and cover live, provided you know a singer who can pull that off). One of the most underrated Bowie songs is his duet with her, “Tonight” (co-written with Iggy Pop). She did one of the best latter-day Bond themes. And only recently did I go back and listen to a lot of the Ike & Tina stuff, not just the hits: have you ever heard her do Nina Simone’s “Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter”? Holy shit. Same with Led Zeppelin/Willie Dixon’s “Whole Lotta Love.” (Both can be found on a great compilation titled after the Simone song.) I totally get why we all want to write Ike Turner out of history, but don’t throw away the stuff Tina did during that time. Among the many great stories about her career is that she outlived—and outdid—both Ike and Phil Spector.
Brian D. Johnson wrote this piece a couple of years ago, which doubles as a fine obit now. I did not know that she kicked off the Private Dancer tour in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
SHOWS IN THE TOWN OF T.O. ABOUT WHICH ALL OF YOU SHOULD KNOW
An entirely subjective and by no means comprehensive look at Toronto’s concert calendar. My strong recommendations in bold.
Suggestions welcome. So are advertisers!
If you’re selling tickets for face value or less, feel free to post in the comments.
Don’t live in Toronto? Most of these artists are on tour, so check your local listings. Just kidding! There are no local listings anymore. Check the artists’ websites.
JUST ANNOUNCED (mark your calendars):
Jairus Sharif: June 14 at Music Gallery. I love this Calgarian’s sax-and-synth record so much. Wrote about it here.
Alabaster De Plume: Sept 17 at Rivoli
Danko Jones: Oct 13 at Axis (former Mod Club) #HeartsOnFire
Karkwa: Dec 7 at Garrison
Jeremy Dutcher: Dec 9 at Massey Hall
Coming this week:
West End Phoenix fundraisers feat. John Southworth, Queer Songbook Orchestra: May 25, 27 at Tranzac. Info here.
Rich Aucoin: May 25 at Velvet Underground. See above.
Motherhood: May 25 at Baby G. Very good, slightly proggish indie rockers from New Brunswick. Deerhoof fans take note.
Kara-Lis Coverdale, L Con, Liis Ring: May 25 at St. Anne’s Parish Hall, presented by Wavelength & Estonian Music Week
Strange Advance, Rough Trade, Chalk Circle: May 25 at Classic Bowl Mississauga. The version of me that still lives in 1985 feels like he has to be at this show.
Honeymoon Suite, Chilliwack, Toronto: May 26 at Classic Bowl Mississauga. I’m told that there are no original members of Toronto in this version of Toronto, and old Toronto is suing new Toronto. Hope someone starts tellin’ the truth.
Exco Levi: May 26 at Garrison. Tribute night to the late Denise Jones, a veteran promoter of Caribbean music in Toronto.
Octoberman: May 26 at Dakota Tavern
Sunset Rubdown: May 26 at Lee’s Palace. #HeartsOnFire
Choir! Choir! Choir!: May 26 at Massey Hall
Westelaken: May 26 at Tranzac. Adam White at Some Party describes this Toronto roots band as being in the same category as Three Gut’s Royal City and Cuff the Duke. So colour me intrigued.
Hayden, Ada Lea: May 27 at Massey Hall #HaveNotBeentheSame. Get there early for Ada Lea! She made one of my favourite records of 2021.
Crowded House: May 27 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre. I had a dream this was over, but guess not.
Eamon McGrath: May 27 at Bovine Sex Club. See earlier cross-post from Ian Gormely. Again, I didn’t do that interview, just to be clear.
Adria Kain: May 27 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall)
Christian Lee Hutson, Fenne Lilly: May 27 at Horseshoe. Hutson is best known for being a Phoebe Bridgers collaborator, but I like him because he wrote this incredible song:
Dilly Dally: May 27-28 at Lee’s Palace (final shows)
Ron Hawkins, Hugh Christopher Brown, Stephen Stanley: May 28 at Longboat Hall. #HaveNotBeentheSame
Baby Rose: May 28 at Velvet Underground. Sold out! But you should definitely hear this great new R&B record by an astounding vocalist:
Buffalo Daughter: May 28 at the Garrison. I hadn’t thought about this Japanese band in more than 20 years. Was a big fan of their 1998 album New Rock, on Grand Royal.
Grievous Angels: May 28 at the Horseshoe 1 p.m. #HaveNotBeentheSame. Charlie Angus takes some time out from his day job, which is literally running the country.
Friendly Rich: May 28 at the Cameron House. CD release for Man Out of Time.
Hot Chip, Cadence Weapon: May 29 at History
Meredith Moon: May 29 at the Cameron 6 p.m.
Braids: May 30 at Paradise Theatre
Big Joanie: May 30 at the Garrison
Nyssa: May 31 at the Dakota. HOLY SHIT YOU CANNOT MISS THIS ARTIST AND HER KICK-ASS BAND DURING THEIR DAKOTA RESIDENCY CANNOT RECOMMEND HIGHLY ENOUGH GO GO GO SO YOU CAN SAY YOU WERE THERE.
Coming sooner than later:
Tami Neilson: June 1 at Longboat Hall (Great Hall). DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW BECAUSE UNLIKE NYSSA SHE RARELY EVER PLAYS TORONTO.
Martin Rev (Suicide): June 1 at the Garrison
Fucked Up, Halluci Nation: June 2 at History. #HeartsOnFire
Death Cab For Cutie: June 2-3 at Massey Hall
Kyp Harness: June 3 at Tranzac
Roots Music Canada showcase: June 5 at Tranzac featuring Tannis Slimmon, Meredith Moon, David Newland, Tragedy Ann, So Long Seven and more. Info here.
Frankie Rose: June 5 at Monarch Tavern
Gord Sinclair (of the Tragically Hip): June 6 at TD Music Hall (inside Massey Hall) #NeverEndingPresent (OBVIOUSLY)
Marc Ribot’s Ceramic Dog, Andy Moor (The Ex): June 7 at the Great Hall
Nyssa: June 7 at the Dakota
Nabihah Iqbal: June 8 at Baby G. New wave dream pop on Ninja Tune, by one of my favourite NTS DJs.
Jamieson McKay: June 8 at Monarch. Album release. I saw McKay bring his new project to Toronto a couple of months ago at this same venue, and it was spellbinding.
Charlotte Cardin: June 8 at History. Full-length set as part of the Indies awards for CMW.
Badge Époque Ensemble, Ben Lamar Gay: June 9 at 1978 Dundas St. W.
Classic Albums Live do Purple Rain: June 9 at Massey Hall
The Killjoys, Pkew Pkew Pkew: June 10 at Lee’s Palace (CMW)
The Sadies, Terra Lightfoot, Aysanabee: June 10 at Springtide Festival in Uxbridge. This is a great small-town festival running all weekend just slightly north of Toronto. More info here.
Liturgy, Big Brave: June 11 at Garrison
Sampa the Great: June 12 at Axis
Temples, Post-Animal: June 13 at Lee’s Palace
New York Review of Cocksucking, Laura Swankey, Del Stephen: June 13 at Bar Orwell. I know nothing about the headliner, but a former neighbour is opening for the best band name of the year (runners-up: Crywank, Jazz Dads).
Nyssa: June 14 at the Dakota
The Cure, the Twilight Sad: June 14 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Whitehorse: June 14-16 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall)
Tegan and Sara: June 15 at the Danforth. #HeartsOnFire
TLC, Shaggy, En Vogue and Sean Kingston: June 15 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Yo La Tengo: June 16 at the Phoenix
Alexisonfire, Pup, Metz: June 16 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre. #HeartsOnFire
The Garrys: June 16 at the Monarch (NXNE). Saskatoon sister band produced by the Sadies’ Dallas Good.
Amanda Marshall: June 16-17 at Massey Hall
John Mellencamp: June 19 at Massey Hall
Stevie Nicks: June 20 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Toronto Klezmer Society Epic Jam: June 21 at Tranzac. More info here.
Zoh Ama & Chris Corsano, Farida Amadou, Ways (Brodie West & Evan Cartwright): June 21 at Tranzac
Nyssa: June 21 at the Dakota
Boygenius, Broken Social Scene: June 21 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre. Intergenerational supergroup summit! #HeartsOnFire
Kelly McMichael: June 22 at the Dakota 6.30 p.m.
Justin Rutledge: June 22 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall)
Brad Mehldau Trio, Avishai Cohen Trio: June 23 at Koerner Hall
Jully Black: June 23 at Toronto Jazz Festival. Free show at TD Grove Stage, 9 p.m.
BadBadNotGood: June 24 at Toronto Jazz Festival. Free show at TD Avenue Stage, 9 p.m.
Jenn Grant: June 24 at the Danforth
Haviah Mighty: June 25 at Toronto Jazz Festival. Free show at TD Avenue Stage, 7.30 p.m.
Colin Stetson: June 27 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall)
Sun Ra Arkestra: June 28 at Great Hall
Snarky Puppy: June 28 at History
Kokoroko: June 28 at Toronto Jazz Festival. Free show at TD Grove Stage, 8.45 p.m.
Tanika Charles: June 28 at Toronto Jazz Festival. Free show at TD Grove Stage, 8.45 p.m.
Herbie Hancock: June 29 at Meridian Hall
Tears For Fears, Cold War Kids: June 29 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre. If you haven’t listened to a new TFF record since 1986—and I don’t blame you—be sure to check out their 2022 album The Tipping Point, a favourite of mine from that year.
LL Cool J, The Roots, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Rakim, Queen Latifah: June 29 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Pantayo: June 30 at Sari Not Sari (formerly Parts + Labour). Album release from previous Polaris shortlisters.
Rodrigo Y Gabriela: July 2 at Fallsview Casino (Niagara Falls)
The Bad Plus: July 2 at Horseshoe
Noel Gallagher, Garbage: July 3 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Sparks: July 3 at Danforth
Weezer, Future Islands: July 4 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Robert Plant & Alison Krauss: July 5 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Sloan, Kiwi Jr.: July 7 at History #HaveNotBeentheSame
Ann Wilson of Heart: July 7 at Danforth
Mariposa Festival feat. Tegan and Sara, Feist, Rufus Wainwright & more: July 7-9 at Tudhope Park, Orillia. #HeartsOnFire
Beyoncé: July 8-9 at Skydome
Billy Talent, Cypress Hill, Cancer Bats, the OBGMs: July 8 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre. #HeartsOnFire
Jupiter & Okwess: July 8 at Lee’s Palace. Congolese Afrofusion from Kinshasa.
Black Joe Lewis: July 11 at Horseshoe
G. Love and Special Sauce: July 12 at Horseshoe
Tedeschi Trucks Band: July 13 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
MixTO Festival: July 15-16 at Lynx Music (Lansdowne/Dupont). Artists TBA.
Louise Post (of Veruca Salt): July 18 at the Garrison
Nickel Creek: July 19 at the Danforth
Amyl & the Sniffers: July 20 at the Danforth
First Aid Kit, The Weather Station: July 20 at History
Melissa Etheridge: July 20 at Casino Rama
River & Sky Festival (in Field, Ont., b/w North Bay and Sudbury): July 20-23. Info here. Artists include the Sadies, Dominique Fils-Aimé, Aysanabee, Julie Doiron, Daniel Romano’s Outfit, Zoon, Julianna Riolino.
Le Tigre: July 21 at History
Social Distortion, the Bell Rays: July 22 at History
Mdou Moctar: July 25 at the Phoenix
Hillside Festival: July 28-30 at Guelph Lake. Tami Neilson, U.S. Girls, Owen Pallett, Debby Friday, DakhaBrakha, Hayden, Daniel Romano’s Outfit, Ibeyi, Leyla McCalla, Luna Li, Martha Wainwright, Zoon, Witch Prophet, Will Butler, Willie Nile, Wax Mannequin and much more. Tickets here.
Ice Cube, Big Boi, T-Pain: July 28-30 at International Festival of Beer, Exhibition Place
Gogol Bordello: July 31 at History
Culture Club, Howard Jones, Berlin: Aug 1 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre.
Altin Gün: Aug 2 at Danforth
Maggie Rogers, Soccer Mommy: Aug 3 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Jason Isbell & 400 Unit, S.G. Goodman: Aug 4 at Massey Hall
Sylvan Esso, Dehd: Aug 8 at History
Saga: Aug 10 at El Mocambo. About five years ago I went to see this band’s “final show” at the Phoenix and previewed it in the Globe and Mail. Huh.
Madonna: Aug 13-14 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Sigur Ros (w/ orchestra): Aug 14 at Roy Thomson Hall
Honey Jam: Aug 17 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall). Annual revue of new voices in Toronto R&B.
Riverfest Elora: Aug 18-20 featuring Metric, Feist, Charlotte Cardin, Matt Mays, Spoons, more.
The Teskey Brothers: Aug 18-19 at History
The National, Patti Smith, U.S. Girls: Aug 20 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
City and Colour, Ben Harper: Aug 25 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre. #HeartsOnFire
Blue Rodeo: Aug 26 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre #HaveNotBeentheSame
ZZ Top: Aug 27 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Alvvays, Alex G: Aug 28 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Arctic Monkeys: Aug 30, Sept 1 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
The 5,6,7,8’s: Aug 31 at the Horseshoe
Smashing Pumpkins, Interpol: Sept 2 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Beck, Phoenix, Weyes Blood: Sept 3 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Guns N Roses: Sept 3 at Skydome
John Cooper Clarke: Sept 3 at Lee’s Palace
Sting: Sept 5 at Ontario Place Ampitheatre
Roni Size: Sept 9 at Opera House
Peter Gabriel: Sept 11 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Aerosmith, Black Crowes: Sept 12 at Raptors/Leafs Arena. Farewell tour
Mr. Bungle, Battles: Sept 13 at History
Black Country, New Road: Sept 15 at the Opera House
The Chicks, Maren Morris: Sept 18 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Death Grips: Sept 18 at Danforth
Polaris Music Prize gala, featuring only people I vote for: Sept 19 at Massey Hall
Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers & Chic: Sept 19 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Bully: Sept 19 at Lee’s Palace
Nightmares on Wax (DJ set): Sept 22 at Velvet Underground
Ray Lamontagne: Sept 24 at Massey Hall
Swans: Sept 26 at Phoenix
Clannad (farewell tour): Sept 27 at Danforth
Joy Oladokun: Sept 28 at the Phoenix
Wu-Tang Clan, Nas: Oct 1 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Cowboy Junkies: October 3 at Danforth Music Hall. #HaveNotBeentheSame
Tangerine Dream: Oct 3 at Opera House
SZA: October 4 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
Men I Trust: Oct 5-6 at History
Drake: Oct 5 & 7 at Raptors/Leafs Arena. Deepfakes will be checked at the door
Lowest of the Low, By Divine Right: Oct 6 at the Danforth #HaveNotBeentheSame
Little Simz: October 8 at History
Queen w/ Adam Lambert: October 8 at Raptors/Leafs Arena. Perhaps they will rock you?
The Walkmen: Oct 11 at History
Young Fathers: Oct 12 at the Phoenix
Nick Cave w/ Jonny Greenwood: Oct 14 at Massey Hall
My Morning Jacket: Oct 17 at Massey Hall
Chilly Gonzales: Oct 18 at Massey Hall. #HeartsOnFire
Madison McFerrin: Oct 18 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall)
Chromeo: Oct 20-21 at the Danforth
Jessie Ware: Oct 23 at Rebel
Michael Peter Olsen: Oct 27 venue TBA, presented by Wavelength. CD release for Narrative of a Nervous System. #HeartsOnFire
Dan Mangan, Aysanabee: October 28 at Queen Elizabeth Theatre
The Beaches: Nov 1-2 at Massey Hall
Gowan: Nov 3 at Massey Hall
The Hives: Nov 3 at Lee’s Palace
Christian McBride: Nov 4 at Koerner Hall
Depeche Mode: Nov 5 at Raptors/Leafs Arena
The Music Box performs Selling England By the Pound: Nov 10 at the Danforth
Deer Tick: Nov 11 at the Opera House
Bruce Springsteen and E-Street Band: Nov 14 & 16 at the Horseshoe—no wait, just kidding, at the Raptors/Leafs Arena
Great Lake Swimmers: Nov 15 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall) #HeartsOnFire
The Watchmen, Gary Louris: November 18 at Danforth #HaveNotBeentheSame
Hania Rani: November 22 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall). Presented by Wavelength
Half Moon Run: Nov 23 at History
Brad Mehldau (solo): Jan 27, 2024 at Koerner Hall
Elisapie: March 28, 2024 at Allied Music Centre (inside Massey Hall)
Kronos Quartet: May 9, 2024 at Koerner Hall. 50th anniversary farewell tour.
Or just go and hang out any night of the week at the Tranzac or Drom Taberna, the two venues closest to my heart and with the most eclectic lineups. Or the Cameron House for mostly folkie vibes or the Rex Hotel for jazz. Check jazzintoronto.ca’s Instagram page for daily jazz listings at various venues. For the best in Toronto’s Latin scene, check Lula Lounge.
Be kind to each other.
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Thank you for sharing my essay on Gordon Lightfoot, and the very kind words about it. I appreciate it!