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Imaginary Cities, Embarking on a US Tour

Readers of this blog may recall how partial I am to Imaginary Cities, a great band from Winnipeg, Canada. They are a five-piece outfit with Marti Sabit providing soaring lead vocals, Rusty Matyas on tasty lead guitar and trumpet, David Landreth on a great thumping bass, Ryan Voth connecting on drums, and Alex Campbell sweetening things up on keyboard. In April I had gone to the release party for their album “Temporary Resident” and had a great talk that night with Marti and Rusty. They were back in town this week, at Mercury Lounge, and I went out to hear them. Again, they played a great show and seemed to really connect with the good-sized Tuesday night crowd. For a full review of their performance style and striving songs, you may read the post I put up after the release party, at this link. For today, here are details on their current US tour, which tonight, May 17, will have them in Washington, D.C. at a club called Black Cat, continuing to such venues as Maxwell’s in  Hoboken, near NYC on June 15, capping off at Lollapalooza in Chicago in August.  Info on the tour is at this link, and below is a chart showing the cities where they’re playing on this tour and photos from this week’s show. // click through to full post for full tour schedule and photos


Imaginary Cities’ Album Release Party

Last June I attended the North by Northeast Festival (NxNE) in Toronto for four days of great music and some terrific panels on digital publishing and the future of books. I’m hoping to return to Toronto for the festival again this June. One of the many musical revelations I experienced last year was Imaginary Cities, a band from Winnipeg that features one of the most exciting lead vocalists I can ever remember hearing. Her name is Marti Sabit, and with songwriting bandmate Rusty Matyas they are the heart of this fabulous quintet that takes onboard many musical influences and then creates their own memorable and original sound. A bit of Dusty Springfield and a dose of the early Phil Spector sound seem two parts of the formula. In addition, they are absolutely great on stage with Marti sporting a great look and an electric personality that infuses sex appeal with the fun she has singing all these songs with her fellow musicians. It is impossible not to come away smitten by her and the whole band.

I’ve followed Imaginary Cities closely over the past year, listening regularly to their debut album “Temporary Resident,” noting with satisfaction their successful tours of Europe and Australia, and the frequent posting of live performance videos on such websites as this one. I was excited when I learned a few weeks ago that “Temporary Resident” would be getting a US release, with an album release party on April 10 at the Lower East Side music venue Rockwood Hall. Last Tuesday night I walked into the club about ten minutes early and stepped right in to a conversation with Marti and Rusty. I reintroduced myself and quickly told them how much I’d enjoyed their performance at NxNE. They seemed happy to meet this CBCRadio 3-loving NY-based fan. I was happy to see their manager in the house, Stephen Carroll, a member of The Weakerthans, who I heard live last December in a show I wrote about here.

When Imaginary Cities began their set I was thrilled to hear how good these familiar songs sounded live and up close. Rusty Matyas is a really talented guitarist and solid on other instruments such as the trumpet he played on one song. There’s a lot of power and restraint in his playing. He sneaked in a lot of tasty licks, but the songs aren’t really vehicles for lead-playing or instrumental solos. Instead, they’re showcases for Marti’s soaring voice and striving lyrics with their great choruses, such as the one on “Hummingbird.” The rest of their line-up is David Landreth on bass, Alex Campbell on keyboard, Ryan Voth, on drums. It was a quick, efficient set at this tightly scheduled club but really dynamic and satisfying, as they worked through most of the songs on their album, plus a couple of new tunes. Even though it looked as if most of the audience had not heard their music before, it was clear they won folks over with the powerful songs, inspired musicianship, and winning stage presence. It’s hard not to love Marti the first time you listen to her sing and watch her move to their music.

hummingbird is singin
I can hear her through the trees,
singing of her days gone by
in perfect melody
do I take the task
of telling her the truth
or do I let the world around her
be the window she sees through

tell me that you’ll break away
say that its all gone
go ahead and count the days come on come on come on

After the show, I congratulated the band and had a few more words with Marti. She was fun to talk with and I enjoyed telling her again how much I enjoy their music, and how their lyrics inspire me. She seemed surprised and thanked me, saying she’s written many of the lyrics herself. We stood for a photo that a server took of us, and I left the club to head around the corner to another show later in the evening, this one featuring Yukon Blonde and my friends in Library Voices, to be covered in another post.

Coming Back to NYC May 15

I’m happy to say that on May 15 Imaginary Cities will be back in New York City as a headliner at the Mercury Lounge on E. Houston Street. If you like what you hear on the video above and love hearing live music like I do, I suggest you make plans to come hear Imaginary Cities. I believe you’ll be glad you did. And if you have any questions, check out the amazing reviews they’ve been receiving back home. Glowing US reviews are sure to follow, with the album just released here last week.

“A Motown-treated Nina Simone.”-
-The Globe and Mail
“Anthemic and Psalmic”
–Paste Magazine, Best of What’s Next
“I f%@king love this band”
–Grant Lawrence, CBC Radio3
“Now this is my kind of music. Haunting, sweet, uplifting, soulful and emotive.”
–Discorder Magazine
“The album leaves one wanting more of this infectious and completely unique pop music; it’s almost impossible not to become an instant fan.”
– Performer Magazine
“This duo deliver(s) a rich sounding record that’s solid from first to last tracks.”
“The duo’s clear, melodic pop instrumentation has a certain lightness of being that is gently anchored by Sarbit’s smoky alto.”
–Sound on the Sound / / more, with pictures . . .


Elephant Stone, Making Mind-bending Music at Mercury Lounge

Rishi sitarI had a great time at the Elephant Stone show at Mercury Lounge Tuesday night. It was the third time I’ve heard the Montreal band (I earlier wrote about them here), and they were in great form, with frontman Rishi Dhir and his crew really getting down on several psychedelic and funk jams. As cool as Rishi’s sitar playing is, he’s also a really great bassist, and plays it like a solo instrument. Meantime, bandmate Gabriel Lambert is a wizard on 12-string electric guitar. The result is the band’s signature blend of soaring psychedelia, bright pop harmonies, thumping funk, and chiming guitar. If you’d like rock n’ roll that sounds like the Byrds crossed with Indian influences check them out. Frontman Dhir (shown at right) has playfully dubbed their sound ‘Hindi rock.’ I hear echoes of the Byrds and the Beatles, though more psychedelic-ized than either of those giant groups. I got a copy of their new album The Three Poisons after the show. Also in the house was Mike Renaud, aka “Parkside,” of Hidden Pony Records, which handles several of my favorite acts (like Rah Rah, Jeremy Fisher, Said the Whale, and Imaginary Cities) and Tyler Bancroft of the aforementioned Said the Whale, who was in NYC for a few days, then leaving to meet his bandmates for a StW show in Calgary. Parkside, Tyler, myself, and some new friends, Jillian Bordeaux and Michael, a colleague of hers from Caroline—a company that works with many indie music labels—went out for beers afterward.

Elephant Stone’s current US tour continues tonight in Philadelphia, and tomorrow in Asbury Park, NJ, Sept 12 and 13. Details here.

Here are more pictures from the fun night.


NXNE Day III–Six More Great Bands w/a “Best Live Show” as the Topper

Counting up the acts I heard and the venues I visited last week NXNE in Toronto I see that over the four days of live music, I heard thirty acts at sixteen different venues, including outdoor events in Trinity-Bellwoods Park; in-store shows; and nightclubs. Even so, there were at least a dozen or two more acts I really wanted to hear, but whose shows I just couldn’t get to. I’ll be making an effort to listen to their recorded music over the coming weeks and months, and before I’m done covering this year’s NXNE I’ll mention the bands I couldn’t get to hear. Much as I’d like to say I found time this year for a film or a comedy club, I limited my recreation to live music. Even at that, I missed lots of acts I would like to have heard. I  hope one of these years to catch a documentary or some comedians. While still in Toronto I posted about Day I (Wednesday) and Day II (Thursday) and about the CBC Radio 3 picnic, on the Saturday afternoon. Now that I’m back in NYC, caught up on other work, and with all my pictures downloaded and cropped, I’ll write here about the the live shows I heard on the Friday of NXNE.

The Urban Outfitters store on Queen Street West has a second level that is actually not a bad performance space. Late Friday afternoon I went to hear the duo Dusted, with exciting electric guitarist Brian Borcherdt, formerly of the band Holy Fuck. During NXNE 2011 I heard Borcherdt play solo, so it was nice to hear him working with a drummer, who also had a keyboard nearby. Dusted plays a raw, basic sound that was easy to like, and quite melodic. In Spin magazine, the single from their album “Total Dust,” got this praise:  “'(Into The) Atmosphere,’ is ‘a dewy lo-fi pop ramble, with sweetly multi-tracked vocals, cavernous layers of melancholy guitar strums, and galloping, off-kilter percussion.’”28 Brian Borcherdt

A party for the end of the CBC Beetle Road Trip was the next item on the Friday afternoon/early evening schedule, the culmination of the 7000KM drive taken in a Fender guitar-branded VW. CBC Radio 3 host Grant Lawrence helmed the drive, with CBC staffers Brian Cauley and Brent Hodge producing audio and video content for CBC Music. The caravan (they actually had two cars) stopped in different cities along the way and taped live sessions with more than a half-dozen Canadian indie groups. The arrival party was a blast, with The Darcys playing. They gave Grant a Blue Jays cap. I’m going to write about it separate from this post. Meantime, here’s a picture of Grant’s arrival:28b Beetle

From CBC HQs I walked north and east to the Cameron House on Queen St. West where was holding a showcase, with country singer Kayla Luky and her band up first. I had not heard her before, and was pleasantly taken with her clear voice, original songs, and her excellent lead guitarist, who looked like he just got down off a hot tractor, in overalls and sleeveless flannel shirt. 31 Kayla Luky

I’m a big fan of Winnipeg band Imaginary Cities, and though I’ve seen them several times before, I made a point of catching their set this night at the Mod Club. This was a much larger venue than I’d ever heard them play before, and their power pop sound, with Marti Sarbit’s intensely likable voice, was well up to the task of filling the big space and capturing the interest and attention of a couple hundred listeners, many of whom it seemed hadn’t known this great band or their songs at all. Their second album, “The Fall of Romance,” has been about a month, and by now, I like all the songs from it as well as their great debut, “Temporary Resident.”32a Imaginary Cities

After leaving the Mod Club I remembered I hadn’t had dinner, so I stopped at a vendor’s stand on College Street, where a street festival was in full swing. I bought a pulled pork sandwich and munching away, walked down Ossington Street to the Dakota Tavern to hear Paul Langlois, a veteran member of one of Canada’s long-lived and most popular bands, The Tragically Hip. The Dakota is a great venue with a relaxed vibe where acoustic players and pickers are often showcased–on weekend mornings they even serve a bluegrass bunch. But the band Langlois assembled for this show–a high-revving 4-piece–was no stripped-down outfit, including as it did the Hip’s shredding lead guitarist Rob Baker. This was meant to be a showcase for Langois’ own material, and though I’d never heard these dark excursions in minor keys, my ear took right to them.34 Paul Langois

Another act soon took the stage at the Dakota, a band called Tin Star Orphans. I had time to listen to only two of their country rock songs, but I liked what I heard.  34a Tin Star Orphans

I now had about twenty minutes to get to my next show with The Matinee, a great live band from Vancouver, British Columbia, who were scheduled to play a 1:00 AM show at the Supermarket, near my hotel in the Kensington Market neighborhood, where Shred Kelly had killed it the night before. I didn’t want to be late so took a cab down Dundas Street and walked the rest of the way up Augusta Street to the club. When I arrived I saw lots of friends from the CBC Radio 3 fan community. The Matinee had played on 2012’s Track on Tracks rock n’ roll extravaganza which traveled with ten bands and lots of fans from Vancouver to Toronto, a railroad excursion that made The Matinee fan favorites of many folks. I had heard and enjoyed them last year, but the set they played this night was leaps beyond anything I’d heard from them before. The songs on their one album, “We Swore We’d See the Sunrise,” are bright and country-tinged with sweet harmonies (listen to “Sweetwater” for latter-day Everly Brothers harmonies). They also blessed to have as their lead guitarist Matt Rose, a true guitar god sort of player. He’s tall and athletic in his movements, with long arms and legs, long black hair, and just a stunning riff-ripper. He clearly relished and fed richly off of the audience’s boisterous enjoyment of his cutting lines. During their encore he jumped down from the stage in to the audience, playing right among us. At the end, he heaved his acoustic back on the stage as a kind of declamation of satisfaction, not worrying about the instrument. Here are a couple pictures from The Matinee’s great show, one of the very best shows of my NXNE. In the first pic, that’s Matt Rose on the right, playing a Fender Telecaster and moving so quickly I couldn’t capture him in focus, flanked by lead singer Matt Layzell. The second picture shows Matt Rose and bandmate Geoff Petrie amid the crowd during that wild encore.

36 Matinee37 Matinee
Before going to bed that night I tweeted this:

After I got back to NYC from Toronto, CBC Radio 3 Fan of the Year Christine McAvoy, a professional photographer, shared many of her NXNE pictures, including this one (on the right). In it I am surrounded by R3 friends, listening to The Matinee at a quieter moment of their show, holding my IPad, and tweeting about it in real time. Since I started writing this blog it’s the first “action shot” of me, so to speak, at work. I thank Christine for quickly giving permission for me use it here.
PT at The MatineeTo return the favor, the next photo (on the left) shows Christine (holding her camera high, in straw hat) at The Matinee show during the encore. 38 Matinee

My friends were moving on to a 2:00 AM show with We Are the City, but I declined to join them, feeling satisfied to end the night with The Matinee’s show. I headed back to my room so I could get some sleep before a Saturday morning breakfast with book business friends Michael Martin and Margot Stokreef.


3 Great Canadian Bands Coming to NYC, July 30-Aug.3

Three great Canadian indie rock n’ roll bands are scheduled to play in New York City in the next week. I am out of town right now and will be unable to make these shows, but if you, dear reader, are in the city next week, I urge you to check out one, two or all three of these shows. Here’s the concert rundown:

Monday, July 30 at Mercury Lounge, Deep Dark Woods from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. DDW is a terrific roots band that features soulful vocals, sweet pedal steel guitar, and soothing organ amid a strong ensemble sound. I am sorry to miss this show, as I haven’t yet heard them live, but they are great on record. You can sample the music on their latest album, “The Places I Left Behind,” via this link.

Tuesday, July 31 at Bowery Ballroom, Plants and Animals from Montreal. I heard Plants and Animals at the Mercury Lounge last April, a tremendous show I wrote up on this blog at the time, readable at this link. Their latest album is called “The End of That” and it is a great record with many memorable songs. You can listen to tunes from it here.

Friday, August 3, Rockwood Music Hall, Imaginary Cities from Winnipeg. I’ve heard Imaginary Cities several times, and loved them each time. They are anchored by the amazing female vocalist Marti Sabit, who writes great songs with bandmate, guitarist Rusty Matyas. I wrote about the launch party they played for their album “Temporary Resident” at the Rockwood last April, a post that also includes video of them performing their song “Hummingbird.” You can read more about them and listen to their music at their website.


Toronto’s NXNE Festival & Speakerfile, June 13-18

In addition to covering Book Expo America (BEA) next week as a member of the press I will also be attending the North by Northeast Festival, aka NXNE, in official capacity as a blogger. This annual extravaganza–held in in Toronto each June since 1994–features music, film, and interactive/digital/publishing elements. Their website trumpets “650 bands and 40 films” over the week of activities. I attended last year and had a great time, discovering such bands and artists as Imaginary Cities, Gramercy Riffs, Harlan Pepper, Zeus, Mohawk Lodge, Carolyn Mark, Graham Wright, Wayne Petti of Cuff the Duke, Matthew Barber, and Brian Borcherdt. I also participated in a grand meet-up of many friends from the informal community that congregates on the CBC Radio 3 blog organized by host, friend, and author Grant Lawrence. So it’s a real treat to be going back this year, and this time as a blogger with full access to all festival events. Among the artists on this year’s NXNE schedule I most look forward to hearing live are Matt Mays (#1 on my personal bucket list of Canadian indie rockers I’m eager to see play), Andre Williams and The Sadies, Plants & Animals, and The Flaming Lips. And of course then there will be the serendipitous performances I can’t predict–new musical discoveries–the very thing that makes festival-going such a rich and exciting experience. I hope to be live-blogging and reporting from on the spot as much as possible.

While in Toronto I will also meet with book biz friends and contacts and a new company called Speakerfile that I’m representing to literary agents, authors, publicists, and publishers, in New York City, and elsewhere in North America. They’re building a great platform–think eHarmony®–for conference organizers and meeting planners on one side and experts and authors on the other. I will also be working with them at Book Expo America (BEA) next week, and again when I’m in Toronto the following week. If you are one of my friends in publishing or the media and are intrigued by Speakerfile’s model, please ask me to brief you on them. We also have meeting times still available for next week at the Javits Center, and I would be happy to introduce you to their CEO, Peter Evans. They have a great product and services that will be helpful to many in the publishing community who are eager to surmount the discoverability challenges that face us all nowadays. I’m really excited to be working with them.

It’s sure to be a great week, attending and covering NXNE, and working with Speakerfile.


Songs about Speeding Arrows & a Disgruntled Cat

The show at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom last Friday featuring The Weakerthans with Rah Rah was special in many ways. Before anything is even said about the music and the performances, consider that it was the seventh night of what by any measure must be considered an extraordinary bi-coastal residency that The Weakerthans had undertaken over the previous two weeks. Talk about ambitious! / / more . . .