by carl wilson

T-Dot Thrillz: Sunday
Tomboyfriends in uT.O.pia

Tomboyfriend as portrayed by Margaux Williamson and Photoshop. See 2nd half of this entry.

This blog has been having SlowMovingBlood Syndrome (known to laypersons as "November"), but until its mojo regenerates, there are still events to tout. And this Sunday: No day of rest!

I'm part of the all-day launch at the Gladstone for The State of the Arts: Culture in Toronto, the second volume in Coach House Books' uTOpia series. I'll be on a panel on "Unofficial Culture" with moderator Misha Glouberman presiding. Last year's party for Vol. 1 was a highlight of '05, so don't come to please me. Come to please yerself. Talking is followed by tuneage, see sidebar for deets.

(My essay in the book, "The Party Line," jams on "the participatory turn" in local and global culture in recent years - from raves to flash mobs to Trampoline Hall to Haircuts by Children to Bad Bands - trying to scout out a critical perspective and vocabulary for art whose raw material is social relationships, stuff decidedly under the sway of the 'Net, but back in physical space.)

However, I urge you, urgently, not to loiter too long at the Gladstone, because the regular Wavelength program that night, at 11 pm sharp (pwyc), features the debut of Tomboyfriend, the band whose existence I teased you with back in July, with that post asking how many rock groups there'd ever been with a male frontman and all-female band. (Answer: Some, not many, and Robert Palmer doesn't count.) Let me let them elaborate:

"We are one poet (ryan 'scratch' kamstra), one illustrator and map-making social activist (Marlena Zuber), one gtarist and jackass inspired performance artist (Karilynn Ming Ho), one robot and visual artist of the freak show (Lindsay Fisher) and one bassist and scientist for the peoples (Susan Bustos). [We] play songs about androgyny, promiscuity, the economic opinion of Jeffrey Sachs, bisexuality,ultra-violence, high fashion, the plight of heterosexuality, cheerleaders, the wealth divide and what to do about romantic love. There is sprayed blood, costume changes and camp. There are participatory dance moves. You may wish to move back. The blood washes off. "

Check out their MySpace to hear The End of Poverty, one of Zoilus's top singles of 2006. (Any song posted at MySpace is a single now, right?) Or at least one of my top songs of the year, as it hits better live than in the rough demo recording. Like all Ryan's songs, it's romantic post-Marxism in an polymorphic-bestiality-blues ballet, obsessed with global capital and melancholy sex, as if Xiu Xiu were making out with Lou Reed in a hotel bar in north Ontario. For further tunes, including the possibly even better, due to more falsetto, but even worse recorded, Swan, see Ryan's site. To view lead singers Ryan and Marlena perform End of Poverty with an army of pigeon dancers outdoors at Nuit Blanche, check that there YouTube. Ryan attempts to explain in the Wavelength online zine and in their bandifesto.

I've been looking forward to this gig for months. Come along. Bring a smock. And word has just broken that the other band on the bill will be The Yah Mos Def, "hardcore-inspired hip-hop" from Philly. (Making two hip-hop acts in one night, if you count the earlier Gladstone bill, at Wavelength: Programmer Trevor says "we're trying to repair the damage caused by Michael Richards." Granted, Yah Mos Def are crackers, but doesn't that make it even better?)

Meanwhile, the other days your weekend are your last chance to catch /Dance/Songs/ - see previous post.

| Posted by zoilus on Friday, November 24 at 2:37 AM | Linking Posts | Comments (9)



Not to spiral this into another Bad Bands discussion, but I actually do find most shows by so-called "Bad Bands" to be entirely cliquish and self-referential, and lose a lot of the the talked about revelance in the process. I feel the same way about punk.

But you're point about social, as oppposed to artistic, criticism is valid. It's very difficult for those at the front to understand what the people at the back are feeling, and it's difficult for people at the back to understand the motivation of the people at the front.

For me, perhaps it comes down to liking The Barcelona Pavilion's songs and not Tomboyfriend's. But I'm interested to see what happens next.

Posted by Ryan M on November 30, 2006 11:27 PM



I'm finding it interesting - and I don't mean that sarcastically - to hear a lot of the same criticisms being directed at Tmbf by indie-scene participants that have previously been lobbed at that scene itself: Self-importance, insiderness, cliquishness, etc. The way perceptions are shaped by position (including mine, being socially connected to both sides of this debate). The inside/outside effect is complicated and fraught. For example, the volunteer dancers were put together separately from the band rehearsals, so I doubt they knew much more than the audience about a lot of the elements and their enthusiasm didn't seem any more feigned to me than the audience at the first Barcelona Pavilion reunion show's was - both have to do with familiarity, and yet that familiarity is not as complete or conspiratorial as a third party might leap to assuming.

All the criticisms are fair on one level, and yet I react against how they're personalized into social traits rather than artistic ones - the very thing that the Bad Bands, for instance, have (rightly) been pissed off by when others criticize them.

For the record, I don't think cockiness is at all a bad thing in a rock band.

I'm curious to see how this all plays out in the long run.

Posted by zoilus on November 29, 2006 1:27 PM



I sensed a certain degree of trying to create self-importance. Most of the people chanting for an encore were previously dancing in the band. I assume they know that the band didn't have any more songs. It seemed a little too put on. Add that to the lengthy theatric changeovers and what I considered cockiness -- although Carl could be right in saying it was just nervousness -- and there was something a little distasteful about. Overall, it was definitely one of the more interesting first-performances I've seen in a while, but I doubt I'd check them out again.

(Also, I didn't think the songs were that great, though maybe the stage act overshadowed them.)

Posted by Ryan M on November 28, 2006 8:17 PM



I loved the announcing of the blood, but I definitely agree they should be less shy about it in future!

Posted by Kat C on November 27, 2006 6:38 PM



I'm pretty sure they've never heard of Hank. The dance element is kinda like the Cameras, I agree - although Ryan Kamstra and Margaux Williamson were actually putting similar performances together for several years pre-Tomboyfriend, which rock people never saw. I think you often get some surface similarities when you have visual artists heavily involved in a band, which of course is also true of the Cameras (or at least used to be). I would disagree that there's much in common in the actual music, though - the Hidden Cameras have next to zero blues influence, which is the whole foundation of the Tomboyfriend songs, and Tomboyfriend doesn't have the happy-clappy choir thing. (They've both got a camp aspect, and a just-below-the-surface goth aspect, though.) But I completely agree they've got a lot of growing-into-their-sound to do. Also they didn't have to be so gingerly with the blood.

Posted by zoilus on November 27, 2006 6:19 PM



Specifically, I was thinking they came off like the Hidden Cameras (feel-good melodies that can/will make easy anthems, interesting and at times surprising/shocking lyrics, dance-y theatrics, lots of non-musical members, instrument changes and role switching, etc) with a HANK-ish charismatic-dude-backed-up-by-many-girls vibe, but all of it put through a "rock" filter (which had more to do with Ryan's vocal delivery than the actual content of the songs).

I'm definitely not suggesting that the influence is direct or that these approaches are being deliberately or intentionally mimicked - though the HCs are surely familiar to the other band members if not Ryan?

I just think it'll take a bit of time for Tomboyfriend to grow into their sound, that's all. Like I said in my first post - I think they have a lot of potential.

Posted by Kat C on November 27, 2006 4:56 PM



I think what you might be picking up on, Peli, is a little bit of trying too hard to win people over, on the band's part. They're outsiders to the music scene, so their publicity kinda throws everything they think people might find interesting into the description, in hopes that something will catch your eye. They're coming quite a bit more from the art world than the rock world. It's very funny what gets interpreted as "coolness" - the band doesn't think they're very cool, but maybe their nervousness about that then goes through the looking glass and comes out appearing like its opposite.

The important thing to me is that the songs and the singing are really, really good, all distractions apart.

Kat's criticisms about the overloadedness of the stage show are well-taken, and definitely a lot of it is a matter of the band getting some experience. I'm curious what "local luminaries" you think they're so influenced by, though, Kat? Because the lead singer/writer, Ryan, has barely seen or heard any of those acts. Although it would be fair to say that the band is deliberately joining in the spirit of the more performative art-rock that's developed here in the past half-decade, the connection is more abstract than direct.

Posted by zoilus on November 27, 2006 3:20 PM



I think this is a band with a lot of potential. I found their set to be too unfocused (there was so much going on, with so many instrument and costume and line-up changes, that it was hard to get into any kind of "vibe" and stay there) and at times they sounded a bit too directly influenced by other local musical luminaries.

But y'know what? It was their first show. I look forward to five or ten shows from now when they really find their groove.

Posted by Kat C on November 27, 2006 1:19 PM



Are they definitely good? They seem so desperately in love with their own coolness I'm a little scared to give them a chance.

Posted by Peli Grietzer on November 25, 2006 5:28 PM




Zoilus by Carl Wilson