by carl wilson

Getting It On With the Hangman's Daughter

destroyerlees.jpg
Destroyer at Lee's Palace, March 25: Daniel Bejar, left, and Nicholas Bragg, right.
Photo swiped from Suckingalemon with guilt and gratitude, because my camera-phone pictures,
uh, sucked lemons.

In brief on last night's Destroyer set at Lee's Palace (opening for Magnolia Electric Co.): If you get a chance to see this tour, go. Dan's performance with this band - the same that recorded Destroyer's Rubies and with any luck a grouping that's going to last - was light-years beyond anything I've seen him carry off in a live setting before: Self-assured, musically commanding, so far from his usual (endearing but patience-trying) skittishness as to render those memories obsolete. What you're getting here is the man you hear on the recordings, and that's just never been true in any other show I've seen. Clearly these are players with whom he's fully at ease, and the usual vinegar of his live persona was honeyed by a comradely sense of humour that brought out the warmth people tend to miss. I'm sure it would be less of a surprise to audiences in Vancouver, but for anyone who's been disappointed by previous tour visits (such as the writers at NOW, who said in their shows-of-the-week listings that Magnolia would undoubtedly blow Destroyer off the stage) prepare to have your preconceptions realigned. Where Dan's tended before either to mumble or to spit out his lines live with little reference to their original melodies, in a style part late-Dylan and part Mark E. Smith, this time around those mannerisms was deployed only where they were the right gauge of ammunition to hit the mark; as a result, words and melodies were all recognizable - which may seem a conservative criterion to use, but it's simply a matter of not selling short the songs themselves, which deserve to be the star attraction. Fine work from the band all round, especially Ted Bois on the keyboards, picking just the right moments for a tickle or a punch. Unfortunately Nick Bragg's lead guitar was subordinated to Dan's in the mix, a mistaken call from the sound engineer, but his parts were audible enough, unlike the occasional background vocals. High spots included a version of Rubies that made its mock-epic narrative fly by like a particoloured parrot with a jet pack; a thunderous retake on Streethawk II; a snowball fight of a romp through Your Blues; and most of all a rendition of Looter's Follies that showed all the deep indigo and fluttering pink shades of the tune to unforgettable advantage. "Win or lose, what's the difference?" Sometimes it's all the difference in the world. (For the Records points to this review of Rubies from the Washington City Paper, one of the more intelligible, least convoluted accounts it's gotten so far.)

After that it was a quick cab over to the Oasis to see The Magik Markers in a surprisingly packed, and sweltering, back room. I was sorry to miss the several other noisemakers on the bill, GHQ, Flynns and Gastric Female Reflex, and heard mixed reports. The Markers themselves didn't seem to be having their best night - whenever frontwoman Elisa Ambrogio was delivering her rants to go with the noise, there was a firewater magic to the madness that suggested worlds of possibility, but she didn't keep that up. Much of the rest of the set was improvisation in search of a resonant response from the audience to fuel the bonfire up - and it didn't quite come together. There was a hilarious rolling-on-the-floor moshpit going on down front that took the scene partway there, but it wasn't enough. Intriguingly the Markers are more reminiscent of Toronto's local "bad band" sensibility than of the free-improv, Japanese-sonics or even new-American-noise-rock modes, but it seemed to me they didn't have the provocateur part down - like some of this city's "bad bands," they were a little too slack about creating the sense of tension and event it takes to make that barrierless Happening happen. The most memorable moment was a confrontation between Elisa and an audience member that had a bite of threat, but because the man involved was twice her size it was a bit too much threat to accept as a unit within the performance rather than something that needed to be stopped. (Reportedly it was Alan Bloor of Knurl, though I thought this guy looked younger.) Instead it was Leah Quimby who actually held the stage most impressively, flailing away at sporadic bass notes and chords but making each blurt count, while Elisa and drummer Pete Nolan were busier but less incisive. Still, I'd definitely see Magik Markers again, ideally in a space with more character, which might offer some of the boost in focus they needed.

| Posted by zoilus on Sunday, March 26 at 7:01 PM | Linking Posts | Comments (10)

 

COMMENTS

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Posted by italy-vacation on April 13, 2006 2:28 PM

 

 

http://cake-toicing.blogspot.com/

Posted by cake-toicing on April 9, 2006 12:51 PM

 

 

i am very curious about a list of torontos "Bab bands" hilarious!

keep it, up thanks for reviewing the show!

Posted by Jacob Horwood on March 29, 2006 3:43 PM

 

 

Mike - Your Blues takes a little getting used to but don't let it scare you off entirely. Probably not a first purchase, but if you find yourself getting into Destroyer's Rubies, the fake-orchestral clouds and marshmallow swamps of Your Blues could be a fantastic second excursion. It's a landscape that I love, and the songs are some of the most beautiful in Dan's repertoire.

Chrystal - That was a really lovely account of the spatial potentialities of the Markers' set. It was no doubt partly that I walked into the room just as they were starting and didn't have time to acclimatize - the space seemed flat to me because it was a blank wall whose pockmarks and fissures hadn't had time to register, which made the challenge of tuning in to the imaginative frequencies on which the band was working more difficult. I admire your level of engagement. And it's a reminder of what can be lost in dashing from one show to another, which can be a small thrill but is generally not the way I prefer to take in music.

Posted by zoilus on March 27, 2006 11:35 PM

 

 

The newbie that I am to Destroyer's music, only previously knowing Mr. Bejar for his work with The New Pornographers, I appreciated guitarist Nic Bragg's opinions at the merch table after the set. He was helpful enough to give me a sort of 'oral history' of the evolution of Destroyer's music from "Streethawk" to "Destroyer's Rubies"; he was quite honest actually(maybe too honest), saying how "Your Blues" and "This Night" were more difficult or darker albums, and that "Destroyer's Rubies" was the most accessible to date. You'd figure that someone at a merch table would actually TRY to sell you merch rather than steer you away from certain items. I'd have probably picked up "Your Blues"(if only for "It's Gonna Take An Airplane) had Nic been a little less forthcoming about that album being all these weird synth tunes. In the end I think Nic was just looking out for my best interests, hoping I'd be happy enough with "Destroyer's Rubies" that'd I decide to wade through the more peculiar back catalogue.

Posted by mike on March 27, 2006 10:47 PM

 

 

The venue sets the stage (literally) for the atmosphere, paints the scape. I was thinking about this at the show too, Carl. How the scenery would impact the performance like if we removed the background and saw them in say, The Music Gallery.

While I much like the back room secrecy of the Oasis, to me it feels very Otto Dix, with its red walls and black leather Chanel style, Mafioso front desk. It would have been nice to see these bands somewhere like Brickworks.

Now for example, we revision the environment set against the backdrop of Roy Thompson Hall. I can hear the orchestral acoustics carrying that violin and sweeping it up, to a most intensely beautiful effect, deflecting as a microscope upon its distortion, (a refined distortion) which is, what he was most essentially playing anyways.

But take Magik’s set and vision it in that context. I think the contrast of their ‘falling apart’ set against the majestic Roy Thompson Hall would likely demonstrate the very thing I found myself most taken with by their set.

That being, there is something poetic to be found in the falling apart-ness and the abrasiveness. One moment that really got me was when she was singing/screaming while holding the mic but flailing it in her left hand drowning out any pick up, so we couldn’t hear her. She looked as though she had tears in her eyes and was screaming at us.

Perhaps a space like Sneaky Dee’s (which cannot help but inflict it’s presence upon the reception) would have accelerated the almost L7 trashy rockness Markers plowed thru that night. The claustrophobic nature of the Oasis is perhaps what cast the neurotic dissonance throughout that evening. For better or for worse, it just was. Like a lens we see the bands thru, I found the sweatbox disturbingly suiting for the music, all bands included. Crying crowd and tension in the air included.

Anyways, the space really engulfs the evening.

Posted by chrystal on March 27, 2006 8:16 PM

 

 

hey Chrystal - I recognize your name from Stillepost; nice to see you here. I just meant that the back room of Oasis felt a lot like a blank box or a rec room or something, and a windowless, stuffy one at that. It seemed like the audience response Sat. night was dampened down by the fact that by then they'd been sitting in a sweatbox for a few hours. I can imagine Magik Markers having more spark in other settings - whether a house show, a site-specific space, a church, or just a club with personality such as the Boat. When that's not possible, organizers can do some decorating to create a visual atmosphere or distinct shape to the space. The effect of physical ambience on performances, especially improvised and/or interactive ones, is easy to underestimate. It's all an instinctual alchemy.

Posted by zoilus on March 27, 2006 1:26 PM

 

 

what do you mean by saying you would rather have seen them, "...in a space with more character."

this is interesting.

Posted by chrystal on March 27, 2006 2:30 AM

 

 

Yeah, sorry, corrected - I still get the names scrambled, but was fact-checking just as your quickdraw comment was posted.

Posted by zoilus on March 26, 2006 7:39 PM

 

 

that would be nic bragg in the photo....fisher isn't in the pic!

Posted by knitgirl on March 26, 2006 7:36 PM

 

 

 

Zoilus by Carl Wilson