Godspeed You! Black Emperor © 2011 . All rights reserved.

A Weekend In The City

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here, and that is mostly because I’ve been busy with university. That’s not to say I haven’t been up to anything though, I’ve mostly been going to a bunch of shows in my spare time. The best was easily Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whom I had the privalge of seeing in New York City last weekend. GY!BE have been one of my favourite bands for the last 6 or so years, but unfortunately I didn’t stumble across them until they were already on their indefinite hiatus. Imagine my excitement when I heard that they had reformed to tour in 2011, and then disappointment when I found out all their shows in Toronto were already sold out. Luckily there were still tickets available in NYC (this being back in December 2010) so I bought one for myself as a christmas present, and as a good excuse to go visit the city in March.

Before I left for NY I spent a night in Toronto and caught the end of Canadian Music Week at The Horseshoe Tavern with my friend Kim. I also reunited with Doug whom I met in Vietnam late last year. We went and got some tasty Thai food to reminisce, and be slightly saddened that it no longer cost $1 for a hearty meal. The place we went to was called Salad King and was an interesting affair. The place was definitely popular and you just got sandwiched in on long metal tables between everyone else. But you don’t come here for fine dining ambience, you come for tasty food, and at that it didn’t disappoint. The whole atmosphere was actually a nice throwback to street food eating in Thailand. The claim to fame of this place is that you can choose how many chilis you want in your dish. I ordered up a Panang Curry with 5 chilis, and it was hot. Doug got his dish with 10 chilies, and by the end he was sweating like he had run a marathon. Kim tried to order a Pad Thai but Doug and I turned on her and forced her to be more adventurous.

Torquil / Memphis @ Horseshoe Tavern

With a belly full of rice we stumped along to Queen St and arrived at the Horseshoe in time to see Torquil Campbell, the singer from Stars, stake the stage with his other band Memphis. Torquil is a very strange guy with an unusual stage presence, but he is a great singer. We didn’t know Memphis was on the bill so it was a nice surprise to start the night. After Memphis were Toronto locals Still Life Still, who I had been looking forward to finally seeing, but ended up being a little disappointed with their performance. I was amused that they played T-Shirts, with its lyrics just as cringe inducing in real life as on their record. The last band I stayed around for was Zeus who were awesome. I had first seen them play last year when they toured with Jason Collett, and they were even better now that I knew a little more of their music. These guys know how to entertain.

Zeus @ The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto

I left the show early because I had to get up at 6am the next morning to get my bus to New York. So after a bare handful of hours sleep, and a miserable 13 hour bus ride, I finally made it to The City and enjoyed a great glutenous weekend. I spent most of my time wandering around the lower half of Manhattan eating, drinking, listening to bands, and catching up with friends. An unexpected surprise was finding that on Sunday night there was a gig on at the Bowery Ballroom called The Aussie BBQ, but I’ll save that for another post. The real reason for the trip was the following evening; the post-rock-orchestral-drone monolith Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But before they took the stage we were treated to an inspired performance by saxophonist Colin Stetson. This guy did this bizarre noise/drone/loop thing making his saxophone sound like a stampede of extremely irate robot elephants. I was duly impressed.

Colin Stetson @ Terminal 5, NYC

Godspeed followed and blew my mind into tiny fractals. The only criticism I could level at them is that they don’t have much stage presence; they are eight musicians sitting in chairs on a dimly lit stage focusing intensely on their craft. They make up for this though with looped video projections behind the stage and the shear epicness of their sound. I was on the second floor balcony directly behind the four projectors which were studiosly manned by one guy continuously changing out old rolls of film to keep the show on the road. The ticker-tacker of the spinning tapes added a nice touch to the quiet moments of their songs. They played nearly everything I could have hoped for: They opened with what the internet has been calling “Hope Drone”, likely because of the scratchy word “Hope” projected on the screen for the duration of the song. They then launched into the inspiring “Gathering Storm” followed by a couple of other movements from Sleep and Static (essentially all the highlights of Lift Your Skinny Fists…). Next came Dead Menethey from Providence (F#A# Infinity), and finally closing with a complete rendition of my favourite release of theirs, the apocalyptic “Moya” and “BBF3” (Slow Riot For New Zero Kanada). To borrow a phrase from Scott Pilgrim; It was an epic of epic epicness.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Terminal 5, NYC

Here is a clip from the show:

All in all, it was a good weekend.