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If You Could Open For Any Band, Who Would It Be?

Hey guys! Here’s my latest guest post for AUX for the Whisky Rocks competition (bands – enter your song to win a spot opening for The Trews and gear from Gibson and Yamaha!), in which the guest bloggers were asked which band we would want to open for if we were in a band.

I’m sure if I looked hard enough I could find a quote from a music journalist about how all music writers are just wannabe musicians without any real musical talent. That would definitely be a fair representation of me.

I was the dork singing with her hairbrush in front of the mirror when I was a tween, sure that I would be like Britney Spears one day (this was before I had taste, don’t judge). Eventually, (after my sister laughed at me enough) I realized that, no, I couldn’t sing to save my life, and I changed directions – but I still rue the day I chose the flute in grade 9 music class instead of the guitar or the drums (after being told we had to bring our instrument home to practice each night I went with the only one I could fit in my backpack). By the time I finally took a guitar class in college, I felt annoyed by the fact that I had to cut all my nails off on my left hand in order to play it, and my baby sized hands made it literally impossible to play an F chord, so as it stands my musical repertoire goes as far as covering three chord Cat Power songs.

That is my long winded way of saying there is no way in hell I could open for anyone, but that doesn’t stop a girl from dreaming.

Now, when I first read the question my immediate thought was – this question needs to be more specific, because I could give a variety of different answers.

Since the question is about bands, not solo artists, opening for Bob Dylan circa 1967 is off the table, but I could still open for The Velvet Underground in that year, and I could still open for The Patti Smith Group at CBGBs because the addition of the word ‘group’ makes her a band, so it counts. I wouldn’t go with anyone like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones as cool as that would be, because oh my god that would be intimidating, and any band I would be in wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to that and we’d get booed off the stage. With Bob, Patti or Lou Reed, my weirdo band would probably fit in.

But, the 60’s and 70’s are long over, so I decided I should probably stick to the band I would open for TODAY, if I could. A band I’ve actually seen live and can without a doubt say they provide the best live experience of any band I’ve ever seen.

And that brings me to Toronto’s own Broken Social Scene. Sure, they broke up, but they come back when we want them to.

The first time I saw BSS was the first time I truly understood the power of live music. I described it to my friend as a “musical orgasm.” It was unlike anything I had ever experienced in my life, and even though I went in not entirely in love with You Forgot It In People, I left absolutely obsessed with it. I’ve convinced friends in the States to come here just to see their Toronto show, because there is nothing like seeing them here in their hometown, with all their friends joining the party.

And that is a big reason why they would be the ultimate choice. When you open for BSS, they inevitably welcome you into their insane, wonderful extended family and you probably get to join them onstage at some point during the gig. I don’t want to open for them – I want to be a member – and opening would be a step closer to that. Every time I’ve seen them (I’ve more than lost count at this point) I spend most of the time wishing I was onstage singing along, hitting a tambourine with Feist and Amy while four brass instruments play next to five guitars and two drummers. It wouldn’t even matter that I have no musical talent, because my pathetic vocals would get drowned out by the cornucopia of awesome sounds.

They were the reason I started paying attention to indie and local music in the first place, and they’ve been the soundtrack to my entire Toronto existence since I moved here nine years ago. There really is no one else I’d rather share a stage with.


How To Impress Bloggers With Your Live Show

jack white's bloody guitar the white stripes jack white the raconteurs live music how to impress bloggers with your live show

Hey guys! As you know, I’m guest posting for AUX during their partnership with LCBO for the Whisky Rocks competition (there’s only 5 days left to enter, btw!). For the duration of the competition, I’ll be cross-posting my thoughts here as well. Here’s my third post, in which the guest bloggers were asked how a band impresses us at a live show:

When it comes to music, I value the live experience above all else. I prefer to review live shows rather than albums because I know that an album can be deceiving – perfected and shaped by producers, engineers, auto-tune and so on to make an artist sound better (or just different) than they actually are. A great album is a beautiful thing, but if you can’t recreate it live, that tells me enough about your skills as a musician and I’m ready to find someone more authentic to my ears.

Of course, this sounds like I demand perfection, which isn’t the case at all. Things like flubbing the lyrics or just being bored with having played the song for so many years and wanting to change it up are both forgivable and memorable when done right. What I’m talking about really comes down to energy and raw talent.

Auto-tune can’t save you onstage

I remember the first time I became acutely aware of the power of auto-tune to make any hack sound good – it was back in 2004 when I saw The Killers live for the first time. I had been obsessed with their debut album Hot Fuss, playing it all summer long, and was so incredibly excited to see them. When the show came, I elbowed my way to the front at all costs (at 5′ 1 I really can’t see anything if I’m not in the front row) and although I loved hearing those songs live and was such a lame teenage fangirl back then that I stayed after to get them to sign my ticket, all I remember thinking throughout the whole show was “Wow, Brandon really can’t sing.” It was so disappointing. I completely lost interest in them after that night.

As a new kid in the city, I hadn’t seen many concerts at the time, (bands don’t play small-town Ontario) so the phenomenon of auto-tune really came as a shock to me. From that show on, I approached recorded albums with caution, expecting that the songs wouldn’t sound so great live. This caution means that when I do have a great time at a show, and the performance exceeds the solo experience of the album (as it should), I am in heaven.

Nothing compares to a passionate performer 

Having just come from such a show – Jack White at Sony Centre – it’s very clear why he will go down in history as one of the best of his generation of musicians, while bands like The Killers will be less than a footnote in future music books. Watching Jack play is the definition of captivating. All eyes are on him at all times, because he is as electric as his music. He plays so hard his fingers bleed (as evidenced by the above guitar).

You can also feel his hand on every detail of the show, from the backing band, to the lighting design, the way the colour tones match the cover of his album, the outfits his band and roadies wear – he cares about every little thing – he gets that the live experience should be more than just coming to hear the songs and he has understood that since the day he started playing music. He cares so much, he will walk off stage 45 minutes in if the audience isn’t reciprocating, because he has enough self respect to demand an audience that gives back as much as they take. He is incapable of phoning it in, the way so many musicians do.

Make your audience engage 

The live show is everything. The live show is where you prove your worth as an artist. If you can really sing, I’ll know. If you can’t, I’ll know. If you’re all standing around disengaged on stage, just getting the words out but expressing nothing, I will disengage just as fast. Genuine interaction with your audience is vital, we should be participating just as much as you are.

I don’t ever champion a band until I see them live, because it is the most reliable way to know if they actually deserve the praise. Many musicians can write a pretty song, but few can write a pretty song and elevate it on stage.  The best shows aren’t sonically perfect, but they exist on a higher level than any other collective experience I could ever have.

If I don’t leave your show feeling buzzed and high off the music, you’ve failed.


To distill my answer down to one simple point, I’ll refer you to some wise words from my favorite comedian, Bill Hicks: “Play from your fucking heart!”



How Do You Discover New Music?

Hey guys! If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you’re already aware that I’ve been guest posting for what happens to be my favorite music website, AUX, during their partnership with LCBO for the Whisky Rocks competition. Musicians can enter their songs to win a spot opening for The Trews, along with a bunch of gear from Gibson and Yamaha. For the duration of the competition, I’ll be cross-posting my thoughts here as well. Here’s the second post, in which the guest bloggers were asked how exactly we discover new music:

Growing up with the internet has made finding new music easier than ever for our generation. Since the dawn of Napster, we’ve had constant access to it at literally no cost.

These days, I am lucky enough to have songs and albums sent to me every day, so that tends to be a significant part of how I find something new to love – but that is still only one of the many ways I connect with new artists.

I tend to take word of mouth recommendations from friends, and especially from the mouths of musicians who are already in bands I love, above all else. When a band plays music I adore, I know their taste in music is probably similar enough to mine that I will enjoy their recommendations. Because they are the ones constantly in the bars, playing shows with all the other musicians trying to get attention, I know that when they champion a new artist it is because they are genuinely good. I’ve came across most of my absolute favorite Toronto bands this way.

That said, going to see the opener at shows is vital. This is something I didn’t do much during my early years in the city, and I’ve since come to regret that in a big way. Most of the time, the opener will be as good as the musician they are warming the house for.

More recently, I have become obsessed with discovering new music through Songza, the mixtape app that essentially means I will never have to add music to my Android again. I choose a playlist that sounds like something I’d dig, turn it on, and without fail a song comes up from a band I’ve never heard of (or heard of but never listened to), and I’m asking myself why I haven’t listened to them yet. There is so much great music out there, it’s overwhelming.

The worst part about this though, is that Songza is still so new that it has some major flaws. For all the incredible artists it has played me that were new and brilliant to my ears, I’ve mostly forgot about them. I listen while I’m walking around the city – and unfortunately, once a song has played, you can’t go back to hear it again – it is just gone. You can’t even access the playlist information to look up all the songs on it and try to find the name of that one song that really blew your mind. I find myself obsessively holding my phone in my hand, trying to memorize the name of the artist and the song before it disappears from the screen (and my mind), but without fail, I’ve forgot the name by the time I get home and try to Google them. I’m praying they will make the thumbs up and down option more useful by letting us see a list of all the songs we’ve given a thumbs up to.

So, that’s it really. The internet, my email/mailbox, friends, bands, friends in bands, openers, music apps. How don’t I discover new music would be an easier question. It is a constant during the majority of my waking hours.

So how do you find new music? Are there any other apps I’m missing out on? Give me your insight.