By Jeremy Brooks
With songs sharing stories of break-ups, boxes (and the far too many moves in one year they symbolized) as well as a cover-cum-homage of Bonnie Raitt’s Too Long at the Fair, from an album Alexa Dirks says “changed my life,” she and bandmates The New Lightweights served up a smooth seven-tune set to kick off the CD release party for friend and fellow Winnipeg musician: JP Hoe.
With her fire red hair, cowboy boots and black dress, Dirks shaped her vocals to the rhythms being served up on guitar, bass and drum. Guitarist Ariel Posen picked his moments throughout the song cycle to provide bluesy riffs, while drummer Ryan Voth lent each tune a percussive punch that never overwhelmed. But the greatest shifts in song texture came from bassist Julian Bradford, who alternated between plucking his stand-up bass, and playing it with a bow; the latter, in particular, adding to the depth of Dirks’ vocals. In between songs, Dirks provided levity to the crowd at the WECC with a unique sung-spoken patter that garnered laughs and implied she was having fun. Not one to take herself too seriously, Dirks prefaced their closing song about a break-up by telling the crowd the band was going to “leave you in a really happy way with a song about a failed relationship.” In anticipation of JP Hoe’s arrival at the mic, a five-piece string section took their seats. They were joined by vocalist Darcie Pankratz Meighen and by the time Hoe introduced the first “little song about being a dumb-dumb” the stage had swelled to 10 musicians. The second tune of Hoe’s 20-plus song set, I Only Did it For Love, offered the first of many lyrics inspired by the tribulations of his friends (he later remarked, “I may start losing friends soon; I keep taking their tragedies and making them mine.”) This one was about a buddy who got the wedding jitters and whom Hoe, through the combination of some Samuel Adams and a heart-to-heart, helped usher back to the altar.
Working his way through tracks from his new album Mannequin as well as older material, Hoe continuously mixed up the sound by adding vocalists or instruments—a horn duet, an accordion cameo—and the performance never lost steam. The sound was lush, but the secondary vocals were too often drowned out, regrettable given the strength they lend to the album. And if there was one weakness to the show, it was the background looping images. They added little to the performance and at one point, put the crowd in the front seat of a car cruising through twisting, turning roads, which almost became nauseating. One, fly-shit-in-the-pepper critique aside, strong vocals ruled the night and, often the case with Hoe and certainly with Dirks as well, comparisons inevitably sprang to mind: Ryan Adams, David Gray for Hoe; Leslie Feist for Dirks. But each singer rose above derivative sound to claim their note-bending abilities as theirs and theirs alone. This was especially apparent when Hoe stretched his elastic voice to tackle Radiohead’s iconic Karma Police without simply trying to emulate Thom Yorke. Lions and Tigers closed Hoe’s set, a powerful pop song he described as being “all about shenanigans”, and fired up the audience for an encore. Hoe obliged, with two songs and one last confession, “This has been a stressful, wonderful show. I’m glad it worked out.” -30-
Scott Nolan took third prize in the Americana category for his song, “You Rock, We Roll” off his 2011 release on Transistor 66 Record Co., Montgomery Eldorado.
The competition received over 16,000 entries from 112 countries, making 2011 the most competitive year ever. The winners were chosen by a prestigious panel of celebrity and industry judges including Tom Waits, Robert Smith (The Cure), Tori Amos, Kelly Clarkson, and Monte Lipman (President, Universal Republic Records). More than $150,000 US in cash and prizes will be shared by the winners.
The International Songwriting Competition (ISC) is an annual song contest whose mission is to provide the opportunity for both aspiring and established songwriters to have their songs heard in a professional, international arena. ISC is designed to nurture the musical talent of songwriters on all levels and promote excellence in the art of songwriting. Amateur and professional songwriters and musicians are invited to participate. ISC has the most prestigious panel of judges of all the songwriting and music contests in the world, offering exposure and the opportunity to have your songs heard by the most influential decision-makers in the music industry.
Friday April 27 – Park Theatre
Bloodshot Bill, The Angry Dragons, The Thrashers, The Gunness
Saturday April 28 – Park Theatre
Miesha and the Spanks, This Hisses, Les Sexy, Microdot
It’s been a decade since Art MacIntyre registered the name and set up a website devoted to bringing music to the people. Transistor 66 was originally supposed to be an online magazine but he shifted focus after deciding to release the Rubberneckin’ album by his friends the Rowdymen in 2003.
“We were just winging it in the beginning. We shifted gears so many times; we’ve gone through a lot of clutches. In the beginning we thought we were going to be a rockabilly label: we were trying to sign Bloodshot Bill and the Farrell Brothers, then through the Guess Who project we got to know the whole High and Lonesome Club crew and got turned onto the roots scene and Scott Nolan,” MacIntyre says.
- Rob Williams
The Angry Dragons came together in early 2007 to bring their signature brand of searing garage rock to Winnipeg. Influenced by The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, and Link Wray, they feature both bubblegum-chewing ballads and trashy rock ‘n roll. Equal parts attitude, hairspray, and leopard print, their howling vocals, growling rythym and soaring power-surf solos will leave you shakin’.
Craving some meat-and-potatoes punk rock? Pig out here. The self-titled debut from the raucous St. Boniface franco-punk outfit Les Sexy bursts with the energy and exuberance of late-’70s heyday punk. (I’ve written it before but I’ll write it again: this seriously listens like some forgotten French LP from 1978.) At a breathless 10 tracks and 25 minutes, this is easily one of the most fast, fun and furious releases in this round of Local Heroes. The pièce de résistance? A cover of Plastic Bertrand’s 1977 novelty hit Ca Plane Pour Moi. And yes, all the songs are en français — but being able to speak French isn’t a requirement for rocking out.
BY: JEN ZORATTI
In these days when the majority of bands are all taking a drag from the same hypothetical cigarette, noise-pop outfit Microdot is smoking something else entirely – and for the better, I might add. Made up of members who’ve played with the likes of the Angry Dragons, Atomic Don and the Black Sunrise, F.P. Tranquilizer, The Gorgon and Pop Crimes, Microdot successfully blends the recorded-live-off-the-floor-in-your-basement-type music with catchy vocal melodies into a record that’s distinctly all its own. This is showcased best on the standout Teepee in a Forest and the head bopping Electrical Currents. My only complaint is that on some tracks I wish the vocals were at the forefront a little more as they can get lost amongst the noise. Regardless, if you’re seeking unpretentious, raw and organic music you should most definitely check these guys (and gal) out – they’re the real deal.
Fronted by a chilling femme fatale who holds command over the stage, THIS HISSES casts dirty spells with their blistering yet hauntingly pretty live show.
THIS HISSES is JULIA RYCKMAN, opera singer turned rock crooner on fuzz bass, PATRICK SHORT with his distinctive guitar twang & swagger, and JP PERRON, acrobatic bludgeoner of drums.
Faced with the demise of her all-girl rock band The Gorgon, Julia enlisted Patrick and JP to help her rework and record 4 of her songs that she didn’t want to lose. From the first rehearsal in early 2010, they realized they had incredible chemistry and those 4 songs turned into 8. Two months after that first rehearsal, the new trio had become THIS HISSES and they had just tracked their debut album “Surf Noir”. What had originally started as a one-off recording project became a serious band.
“Surf Noir” was released on Transistor 66 Recording Co in Summer 2011, a little over a year after it was tracked. The album took This Hisses on cross Canada tours that included the Manitoba Showcase at NXNE 2011. THIS HISSES, “one of Winnipeg’s most thrilling live acts” (Stylus) was also selected to perform at 2011′s TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival as well as the Gimli Icelandic Festival. “Surf Noir” met rave reviews in EXCLAIM and beyond and charted in the top 20 on campus and community stations across the country, reaching number 14 on Earshot’s top 50 chart for the week of August 30th, 2011.
The Thrashers, comprised of Jesse Bercier (Guitar/Vocals), Sean G (Drums) and Iaian Loeppky (Bass/Vocals) have one goal above all else: Create the aural equivalent to an outta-control, outta-this-world, teen-age beach party! A goal theWinnipegtrio has seen realized night after night since April 2008 when they first debuted their unique blend of 1950’s Rock & Roll, 1960’s Surf and 1970’s Punk. Fast, aggressive and most importantly fun music you can dance to centering around far-out topics like sea monsters, zombies, mutant frog-men, robots, shark attacks and skateboarding. In January of 2010 The Thrashers independently released their first recording, a five track EP titled “ManRe-EntersSea” which sold hundreds of copies through only word of mouth promotion. Since then they have signed with Winnipeg based Rock & Roll label Transistor 66 Record Company and released a full length album called “Make a Splash” which charted nationally across Canada and became a summer favourite for many DJs. Currently The Thrashers are preparing to release their first 7″ in the summer of 2012. Give in to irresistible Rock & Roll damnation! The Thrashers are playing in your bars, shredding in your skate parks. Dance or Die! E-mail: thrashersrocknroll at gmail dot com
“The Gunness is a solo performance by Alana Mercer that was inspired by nightly “quiet” practices in her apartment with an unplugged electric and her foot hitting a kick pedal to a suitcase as a way to keep beat but not make too much noise. After over a decade of performing as both a drummer and guitar player in such Winnipeg bands as The Quiffs, The High Thunderers, and The Blowholes, performing solo has given Alana a whole new direction in which to tear her favourite music apart and make it her own. As a kid, she was fortunate enough to have a music teacher that believed in everything magical about the energy behind rock and roll and taught her the importance of the song and not mysticism of the performer. From her own material, you get a sense of an innocence that can only be described by an adult who has done everything they could to keep up with what is expected of them, but try as they might, cannot reconcile their grown-up self with the one impatiently figdeting on the inside. By taking the nature of the music, both original and covered, and combining it with the nature of how she performs, which is notorious for its minimalism and vicious passion, this new act is something to be seen to be believed. Look for a recording this spring!”
One of the more standout presences in the obscure music world today is the Montreal-based one-man band Bloodshot Bill. When it comes to this rockabilly wild man, it is pretty safe to say that he is an exception to what many have come to expect from modern one-man bands.
- James G. Carlson
“Miesha Louie: singer-songwriter, have guitar will travel. She’ll pack up her gear, gather her drummer, hop in the van and play almost any show, anywhere. The mountain girl from Invermere, BC, is one of the hardest working girls in show business. I can see the headline splashed across the cover now.” Brad Simm, Beatroute Magazine