The Brain 199 James Street North
This was a night of several discoveries – new music and a new venue. For my first live music feature of the year, I ventured out to The Brain, a hot spot for artists and musicians on James North. I had only popped in briefly before during Art Crawls and this was my first time seeing live music in the space.
The venue is very small and intimate. There is art everywhere you look, from the painted walls to unique fixtures hanging here and there. The installations change with every Art Crawl (this month’s display in the front window is by Phillip Grant – a unique piece that looks like part of an organ. It kept moving and lightly jangling and drew my attention every time someone came and in out of the doorway.)
It felt like being in someone’s house, in their basement with mismatched furniture, stacks of board games, and odds and ends. But good luck finding the vast selection of craft beer in your friend’s basement. There’s a lot to choose from, and even a variety of tasty sounding foods, which I did not expect. I can see why it’s a popular hangout.
I was there to meet up with The Box Tiger, from Toronto, to see them play again (my first time was during Hamilton Music Awards weekend) and interview them for a Rendezvous (stay tuned for that post). As a bonus, I was introduced to two new Hamilton bands – Quails In The Nest and Gdansk, who can now count me among their fanbases (and perhaps future Rendezvous will be had).
Duo Quails In The Nest opened the show. They’re a folk-pop acoustic band, comprised of Mikey Molnar on guitar and vocals and Nicholas Valerio on percussion. They have a really laid back vibe, very chill to listen to. It caught my attention that they cite Donovan Woods as an influence; the singer-songwriter is a favourite of mine too. Another thing I have in common with the band – they span across many social media sites to get themselves out there. I didn’t get the chance to chat with them but will be keeping an eye out for them.
The Box Tiger were up next. I had fun chatting with Sonia (vocals), Jordan (guitar), and Ben (bass) beforehand as they set up (the band is rounded out by Marcus on drums) and heading over to Mulberry to interview them before the show. They are super friendly and it felt like I had already known them for a while.
They played a solid set and I got to hear some of the new material they’ve been working on. So far they’ve only released one EP back in 2010 (the only current member on that album is Sonia) and released the single “Set Fire To Your Friends” late last year. It’s a great new direction for them and sets them up to continue with the next phase of the band.
Like the last time I caught them live, I was struck by Sonia’s vocals (I hear qualities of Karen O and Florence Welch in there). They stand out not only for being very unique but she brings so much emotion to her lyrics. It’s always inspiring to see strong frontwomen take the stage.
A highlight of their set for me was “Knives,” which they had just finished shooting a video for the week before. It’s one of their harder-hitting songs and they really rocked out with that one. Another favourite of mine is “Taller Than Trees.” The band shot a live video of the song for local music site Southern Souls.
Gdansk’s set finished off the night. I went into the show unsure how to pronounce the band name (I was getting fancy and saying “guh-dahnsk”) so we had to ask (it’s more like “ga-dance-k”). A little Wikipedia action on my part learned that it is in fact a city in Poland. A little mystery behind a band name is always good and it turns out it’s quite fun to say in different accents. Joking around with The Box Tiger, I think we exhausted all possibilities of saying it.
Dutifully doing my research beforehand, I previewed Gdansk’s self-titled EP and took to it right away. They have a special quality to their music that doesn’t appear that often (a quality reminiscent to Illitry, for me). My favourite song of theirs is “Outside Your Window,” which I was particularly excited to her live. They even bravely tackled a U2 cover, “Where The Streets Have No Name,” my favourite of the classic band. It worked well with Timothy’s soft yet powerful vocals. I really enjoyed their set.
As a bonus, I even left the show with a CD – the compilation Adopted Friends Vol.03 by Indoors Shoes. It features Gdansk, along with fellow local bands The Rest and The Dirty Nil. You can download it online for free.
What a terrific show to kick off 2013! Unfortunately, my footage from the show didn’t turn out (the space could have used a notch more light) but I suspect I’ll be back at The Brain very soon.