Day II of NXNE 2015, Celebrating Paper Bag Records

Because I couldn’t be in Toronto for this year’s NXNE, the city’s great music festival, Honourary Canadian is publishing guest posts by Regina Sienra, aka Reginula, a music journalist who hails from Mexico City. She’s a stalwart fan of Canadian indie music, recognized by the CBC Radio 3 community as our Fan of the Year. You can follow Regina on Twitter and Instagram where her handle is @Reginula. From one honourary Canadian to another, I’m delighted to be publishing her work here! Philip Turner, Publisher, The Great Gray Bridge and Honourary Canadian.

Day 2 of NXNE 2015 kicked off with a brief but fulfilling set by Calgary-bred, Toronto-based band Fast Romantics, who were playing a Black Box Session for Indie88, a radio station that in less than two years has become an institution on the local scene. The set list consisted of “Julia,” their latest single, “Funeral Song,” and a cover of Pulp’s “Common People.” The second song had to be played twice, but the crowd didn’t mind and stuck around for everything offered to their ears.

Paper Bag Records and the entire #Paper100 party ruled the day from fairly early on, kicking off activities with acoustic shows at the Tiny Record Shop (and the adjacent vintage clothing store), on Queen St in Toronto’s east end. Headliner Sam Roberts played new versions of classic songs for a few dozen people and even stuck around until every fan waiting for him had an autograph or a picture with him.

Hosted by CBC Radio 3’s Lana Gay, the main party kicked off at 8pm at Lee’s Palace, legendary music venue on Bloor Street. Over the next seven hours, some seventeen acts took to the stage, playing brief sets w/revolving mixes & matches of lineups. The extravaganza—celebrating the label’s 100th release over the past thirteen years—showcased venerable members of their catalog, such as Rural Alberta Advantage lead singer Nils Edenloff, who told the audience he was playing without his “blanket of confidence,” bandmates Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt, to acts newly signed by Paperbag like Alana Yorke from Halifax and Hey Mother Death from Cape Breton Island.

DIANA, Frog Eyes, YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN, aka YT/ST, The Acorn, Mozart’s Sister, PS I Love You: Paper Bag Records’ history and diversity played, comprising the soul of the party, that went from rootsy singer/songwriters, to electronic acts and heavy indie rock.

The night had promised a lot of surprises, and didn’t disappoint: One of the surprises was the appearance of Born Ruffians, who played a cover of Tokyo Police Club’s “Nature of the Experiment,” but the biggest jaw dropper was a hush-hush appearance by Broken Social Scene stalwarts Brendan Canning and Kevin Drew to celebrate Paper Bag Records involvement with the release and success of their groundbreaking album “You Forgot it in People.” Kevin Drew credits PBR’s Trevor Larocque with sending the album to Pitchfork, who posted the superb 9.2 review that launched the album and made the band’s reputation.

The heroes of the evening? Cuff the Duke, whose frotnman Wayne Petti played last night with Grey Lands. CtD members appeared as the house band throughout the long enjoyable day, jamming with every act that needed support, including this BSS roster presentation that included “Lovers Spit” (sang by a singer from The Luyas), “KC Accidental” and “Almost Crimes.”

Here’s to another 100, Paper Bag Records!

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Sam Roberts Band Launches New Album, “Lo-Fantasy,” at Mercury Lounge

Sam Roberts Band

SATURDAY MORNING TV UPDATE: On Feb 15 the Sam Roberts Band will appear on CBS This Morning as part of their ‘Saturday Sessions’ series. According to press materials, they should go on at 8:45AM.
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Had a blast Tuesday night as the Sam Roberts Band of Montreal blew into town for one night to launch their terrific new album “Lo-Fantasy,” drawing a boisterous crowd to a sold-out Mercury Lounge. It was my first time hearing them live, after years of enjoying their music on CBC Radio 3. They are a tight rock n’ roll machine, starting with a tremendous rhythm section of of bassist James Hall and drummer Josh Trager, who played on a clear see-through kit allowing the audience to peer through the armature and really see him bashing away on the skins. I stood directly in front of Hall and Trager, and for the first half of the show I thought maybe that was why they sounded so good, then I decided, nah, they’re just great players. At center-stage was frontman Roberts, a small guy and a powerful rock n’ roll package–a handsome man and a lithe performer who bursts with vocal energy while striking insistent guitar chords, and moving around a lot on stage. On the far side of him from me were a keyboard player, lead guitarist, and saxophonist. The 6-piece outfit ripped through the 11 songs on the new album. Several I had heard already, like “We’re All In This Together”–with good lyrics expressive to me of a communitarian ethic. There’s an extended video of it below, and the process of making the new album. Once they worked through the new record, they took a bow and left the stage. It was clear though they’d be back for more. When they came back out for encores, they really gave the crowd full value, by playing another four songs, all from earlier albums. The sound was a mix of pure pop propulsion–most songs were uptempo, driven by the bass and drums–with Roberts’ vocals and strong riffs and tasty licks from the other three instrumentalists.

Lo-Fantasy Sam Roberts BandYesterday was Paperbag Records‘ official release date of “Lo-Fantasy.” They put out many of my fave Canadian bands, like Elliott Brood, Cuff the Duke and Rural Alberta Advantage. Sam Roberts is well known beyond Montreal and Canada, with the current tour taking him and his band to many US cities between now and March 28: Chicago; Grand Rapids, MI; St. Paul; San Francisco; San Diego; Seattle; Portland; Boston area; Washington, DC; and Philadelphia, where they’ll be playing World Cafe Live, a show that I’d bet will end up on public radio here in the States.


As good as Sam Roberts Band turned out to be, I also liked the opening act, Heaven’s Jail. I walked in as they started and was glad I had arrived on time. Love when that happens at a live show, walking in on the first notes to a new sound that’s immediately likable. Going to hear live music ought to be as much about discovering new bands as hearing longtime faves. Mercury Lounge did a smart thing booking them as the stage-setter for the evening. Based here in NYC, they’re a basic drums/bass/lead guitar trio, and so offered a clean sonic appetizer that went down real easy. For reference, their sound reminded me in the vocals of Warren Zevon, and in their bright jangling guitar-driven riffs they made think of the Felice Brothers from upstate New York who I heard open for Josh Ritter last year. Heaven’s Jail also have a current album, “Angelmakers,” which you can hear at their bandcamp page. I look forward to hearing them again.

After the Sam Roberts Band left the stage for the last time, a lot of the crowd melted away in to the cold NY night. I had already met some great people during the course of the long evening–like Emily Curran, a NYC schoolteacher who had seen Sam Roberts several times–so I stuck around, eager to meet other folks who’d enjoyed the evening, either from among the audience or the musicians. It being a release party it’s no surprise there were lots of music industry people on hand, like Ben Liemer of music distributor The Orchard who I really enjoyed talking with. Next I recognized two of the three members of Heaven’s Jail, and so chatted with them–Francesco and Ethan, guitarist and drummer. I complimented them on their set and we launched in to a spirited discussion of our rock n’ roll upbringings. I mentioned mine in Cleveland, and the great shows I was able to see in my early days as a live music fan, beginning with a Canned Heat and Cream bill back in the day. These conversations–plus one in a group with Sam Roberts’ brother Tom, who I learned lives in NY, and with his friend Jim, a bass player, capped off a fun night.

Below are more pictures from last night’s show, two black & white publicity shots, and two videos of the Sam Roberts Band.

“We’re All in This Together” from Sam Roberts Band website:

“Shapeshifters,” first song on “Lo-Fantasy”:

Cross-posted at The Great Gray Bridge.

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI