Horseshoe Tavern 370 Queen Street West, Toronto
I took a Detour to Toronto to see one of my favourite artists ever, Kate Nash, at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. I’ve heard so much about the venue and many of my friends have played there, so it was about time I made my inaugural visit to the classic dive.
Along with friends Luisa and Matt, we arrived in plenty of time to walk the streets of Toronto and check out the sights. As a sidenote, I totally breezed past actor David Sutcliffe near Eaton Centre and kicked myself for not stopping to say hello. As a consolation, he tweeted me back minutes later, so I was happy. But my fellow Gilmore Girls fans, you understand the missed opportunity! (Part of the pilot for his new series, Cracked on CBC, was filmed here in Hamilton!)
On with the show. I last saw Kate Nash live back in November 2010 at Phoenix and it was one of my favourite concerts. I was surprised and excited to see she would be playing a smaller venue. It was like getting to see her at The Casbah or This Ain’t Hollywood – I couldn’t believe it. Horseshoe is a real rough-and-tumble rock’n’roll bar, really dark inside, but I was won over right away by the sparkly accents on the stage. It’s fun being at a small show when you know the people there are true fans of the artist. The space filled in quickly (it was a sold out show) and you could feel the excitement amongst the fans who were ready to party with Kate.
NYC’s indie/bubblegum/psychedelic all-girl band Supercute! opened the night. I’m impressed with how young they are and how long they’ve been making music (co-founder Rachel Trachtenburg was drumming in her family’s band at age 6). It makes sense that Kate would be a fan of the fiesty girls – they’ve opened for her before and Kate even produced their debut full-length album, DON’T PoP MY BUBBLE, out in June. Supercute! took charge of the stage and even bravely covered the classic “Paint It Black,” making it their own with their sweet, dreamy, ukulele sound. Check out their current single “Love Love Leave Love.”
There was quite a mix of songs being played in the venue before each set and I suspected right away that Kate must have curated the tunes. Music included Beyonce, Destiny’s Child, Nirvana, The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb,” Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me,” and the epic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I was delighted by each new song that played – Kate’s my kinda girl. The playlist helped to build the excitement as we crammed in as close as we could get to the stage.
You know when you’re seeing someone you really love, and you don’t know what to do with yourself, you just want to take it all in as much as you can? You want to capture it with photos and videos, but not too much, because you don’t want it to distract you from enjoying the moment? It was one of those overwhelming feelings seeing Kate, and I wasn’t alone. The girls behind me kept squealing with glee and having random bursts of “OMG!” and raving over Kate, and the girls in front of me where dancing up a storm. Everyone was so engaged the whole time, singing and dancing along to all her songs.
Kate was so energetic and fun, engaging with the crowd and pausing to say a few words in between songs. She has an adorable personality and makes you feel like you know her. That comes through in her songs too; her lyrics are so relatable, you feel like you could sit down with her for a chat and be instant besties.
I’ve been blasting Kate’s third album Girl Talk since its release in March and was pumped to hear the new material live. Most of the set came from the new album, with a few off My Best Friend Is You, a couple covers, and an encore of two classics off her debut Made of Bricks. Backed by an all-female band, it was the perfect set list for where Kate is at right now:
Kiss That Grrrl
I Just Love You More
Are You There, Sweetheart?
I’m a Feminist, You’re Still a Whore
My Chinchilla (Cub cover)
Girl Gang (Cover of “Cocaine” by Fidlar)
Under-estimate the Girl
You’re So Cool, I’m So Freaky
We Get On
(Click the links for my video footage!)
About halfway through, Kate paused, and in her soft spoken accent (a swift change from the energy we just saw) politely asked if the bar could send over a Jägerbomb. Fans in the front row were on it, and dutifully scrambled to get the shot. Three different fans returned, and Kate, total pro, downed all three one after the other while the crowd cheered her on. A couple songs later, someone passed her up a fourth. Champ!
After that, there was a noticeable increase in energy as Kate launched into her 60’s girl group-style diddy, Do-Wah-Doo. She dropped the guitar and performed, just mic in hand. Then energy continued through to “OMG” which the band sped up at the end, with Kate jumping around the stage.
I really enjoyed her cover of “My Chinchilla” (by all-female Canadian punk band Cub). I didn’t even realize she had recorded the song for a compilation album – Nardwuar the Human Serviette’s Busy Doing Nothing!, released last year. Nardwuar interviewed Kate about her discovery and love of punk music back in 2008.
Toward the end of the show, Kate launched into a really well-articulated rant about where we are in society and our celebrity-worshipping culture and the effects it’s having on us and on young girls in particular. She added that we’re contributing to the negativity every time we buy into it. Kate is a supporter of Because I Am A Girl and also started up after school music programs for young girls back in England. She’s a strong advocator for female empowerment and self-esteem, proudly calling herself a feminist. She said that music is the best therapy for sorting through your issues, whether listening to it, or, even better, making it. When she talked about starting a band, saying stop talking about it and just do it, Luisa and I looked at each other in wide-eyed approval. Kate invited us all to join her girl gang, or, if you don’t like her gang, “Start your own gang!”
Some people kept shouting “Foundations!!!” in between songs, but relax, guys, you knew it was coming! Kate left the stage after mellowing down with “You’re So Cool, I’m So Freaky” and returned to play her debut single. I sang along with everyone but also couldn’t resist filming it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to Made of Bricks and that song in particular. I still love it so much and it made me happy to hear it live again.
We were treated to another tune from her first album – I was pleasantly surprised when Kate ended the show with “We Get On.” That turned into a big sing-a-long, with everyone belting out the story with her.
Unfortunately we didn’t stick around long enough to meet Kate, but hopefully next time. Until then, I will be proudly reppin’ the girl gang!