Fresh from their daylight savings time celebrations, a more than reasonable crowd filled the three floors of the Drake Hotel Monday night. Whether enjoying the warm spring night on the upstairs patio, or dancing to the nostalga beats of Johnny Styrchnine’s Super Ultra Spectrate Sounds in the main floor lounge. Then downstairs of course, it was yet another Elvis Monday, this week featuring a spicy line-up guaranteed to knock everyone’s socks off. Much like the Italian sausages in the buffet.
Batting leadoff was the one man act of The People of Canada, a regular performer at the Monday underground Drake showcase. Armed with only a ukulele and a singing voice out of a high school science club, he played his usual set of short tunes about everyday observations. Ranging from the nuance of garbage day “today’s the day, they take my garbage away…” all the way to planet Earth itself “What’s the world? What’s made of? Rocks? Oh yeah rocks. Rocks.” One would think that such a gimmick would get old quickly, or at least after a couple songs. After all, how much can anybody really do with a ukulele? But the song lyrics are so touchingly clever, so sweet and yet fiendish in their simplicity, that the shtick never gets tiresome. In fact, it remains endearing and laugh-out-loud-funny throughout. It really isn’t an Elvis Monday without The People of Canada. Any regular dude with half a heart surely will tell you.
The next act was sixteen year-old Loryn Taggart of Calgary, playing her first ever show in Toronto. Unfortunately this came along with the rotten feeling of the night being hijacked, which was absolutely no fault of her’s. The people who had come to see her and only her showed absolutely no regard or respect for the rest of the Elvis Monday faithful, unleashing a barrage of merciless shushes any time somebody dared to cough. This was not nearly as cringe-worthy as when right after the performance, a middle aged woman grabbed the microphone and went on an awkward tirade of how she was a former Juno winner, how we’d all remember this show for the rest of our lives, and how this teenaged singer from Calgary was more talented than everybody else in this room combined. Yeah, whatever lady. As for young Loryn herself, she displayed a preference for simple expressive piano songs, sung with a voice dipped in honey under a summer tree. Indeed she is quite talented, but her radio-friendly brand of music is the kind that’s been done many, many times before. Still, it will be no surprise if in the next few years we hear from her again on a broader scale.
From Greenland to Egypt. From vanilla to chocolate. From slow ballads to absolute destruction. That was the transition from gentle Loryn Taggart to the vicious My Drunk Hussy, playing their first ever show. ‘For all of you that came to see her, she was great. Give it up for her. But you guys are not going to dig what’s about to happen.‘ said lead singer Josh “The Exploder.” He was not kidding. Combining the raw guitar power of a Slayer with the sheer violence of a Sex Pistols, My Drunk Hussy came out not to play music but to destroy everybody as loudly as possible. This incredible energy of the band was contagious, and had the crowd either rocking out or terrified for their lives. Mostly the former. Josh “The Devastator” was particularly memorable, running into the crowd during songs on several occasions to scream at faces, search the floor for spare change, or climb people. The lyrics were barely comprehendible but that meant nothing. These guys were about the sound, the experience, and rocking you like grandma’s chair.
Up next was the girl threesome (sorta) of Ah! La Lettre. Sadly, their set failed to capture any of the crowd’s attention, and by halfway through the murmurs of the audience filled the room much more than the songs. While they were a threesome in numbers, only one actually sang or played an instrument, which was an acoustic guitar. The other two girls stood onstage holding up a large homemade mural for the entire performance, rotating it back and forth whenever. This mural, while a nice bit of art, felt a bit gimmicky and overshadowed the songs themselves, which weren’t particularly engaging anyway. A couple were well crafted, sweetly sung tunes, but others were broken and rag-rag, giving off the impression that they were being made up on the spot.
Next to the plate was In Plain View. On a night that been throwing nothing but curveballs, In Plain View was the fastball right down the middle of the plate that was crushed for a home run. With their effect-heavy echoing guitar, frantic pounding bass lines and fabulously unpredictable drum beats, they gave this strange Monday a much needed sense of reality. Ironic, considering their incredibly dreamlike sound. Towards the end of their set they tried out a couple of newer songs that they never played live before. While these new numbers were still quite good, they lacked the wonderful cohesion and tightness of their tested songs, particularly the controlled frenzy of ‘Run Run Run’ or the off-time funkiness of their closer, ‘Heartburn City.’ Of course, all good songs need time to be developed, and these guys are up to that task and then some.
Finishing the night was Matt Holtby. Considering the unpredictability of this night, the writer of this article expected this final act to consist of a Bongo, a Trumpet and an Ondes Martenot. One out of three isn’t bad, as Mr. Holtby’s band consisted of himself on acoustic guitar, and a friend playing the aforementioned Bongo. It was unfortunate that his set had to come so late in the night however, as his songs and voice were quite excellent. Sadly, only a smattering of people, twenty at the most, had stuck around to see his performance. His sound was may not have been purely unique, but his songs were good enough to evoke images of a carefree summer night, sitting around a campfire with your closest friends in the world. These were easily songs you imagine yourself witnessing live in a large concert venue, or on the back of a bus in Smalltown Nowhere Canada.
Overall, it was probably the strangest and yet one of the best Elvis Mondays this writer has been fortunate enough to witness. Not counting the one where a certain “Mellow Odelay Gold” singer made an unexpected appearance.
Check out People of Canada here: http://www.myspace.com/thepeopleofcanada
Loryn Taggart here: http://www.myspace.com/lorynmusic
Ah! La Lettre here: http://www.myspace.com/ahlalettre
In Plain View here: http://www.myspace.com/inplainviewmusic
and Matt Holtby here: http://www.myspace.com/matthewholtby