Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Jun 18th 2009 5:15PM by Tabassum Siddiqui
One of the hottest tickets at North by Northeast was last night's book launch-slash-label showcase hosted by Toronto indie stalwart Arts & Crafts, celebrating local music scribe Stuart Berman's recently released 'This Book Is Broken,' a history of Broken Social Scene.
The event's already palpable buzz was magnified by the promise of a "Special Guest Headliner." Since the line-up featured several members of BSS playing in their solo guises, it wasn't much of a stretch to guess who that might be.
Anticipation was running high as the crowd streamed into the upscale-yet-intimate Courthouse venue to hear strong sets of new material by Arts & Craft-ers Jason Collett, Years, Apostle of Hustle and Happiness Project (BSS guitarist Charles Spearin's sideproject, recently longlisted for the Polaris Prize).
Taking the stage just after midnight, they delivered a 90-minute set of fiery new numbers with enough hits thrown in to keep the kids satisfied. All that, and Feist to boot! That's right -- as if seeing a "secret" BSS show in a small venue wasn't enough, watching the indie-scene queen rejoin her BSS brethren after a lengthy hiatus was a real treat, as she tore through now-classics like '7/4 (Shoreline)' and pogoed all over the stage in tandem with BSS frontman Kevin Drew. The pair share a chemistry that lit up the stage whenever they were behind the mic together.
Over the course of the typically energetic set, other guests came and went, as per the BSS 'revolving door' ethos. Stars' Evan Cranley held down the horns. Jason Collett turned up to play guitar. Even Feist got behind the secondary drumkit to bash out a rhythm in tandem with BSS timekeeper Justin Peroff's monster beats.
Highlights included several blistering new numbers (BSS is currently recording a new album with Tortoise's John McEntire) that indicated that the band isn't simply resting on its laurels. Many of the songs, while still retaining BSS's penchant for jamming and Drew's nebulous-yet-oddly-profound lyrics, drew on band influences like Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. in a more overt way than ever before. 'Force of Love,' in particular, boasted a heavy beat and almost punk-rock approach, with Drew and Feist shouting out the killer choruses.
BSS co-founder and bassist Brendan Canning funked things up with the groove-laden vibe of 'Love Is New' from his underappreciated solo record before the stage filled up with members for a spirited rendition of 'New Country,' which Drew mentioned the band hadn't played live in years. By the time the background instrumentation cut out to let Drew, Feist, and backup singer Lisa Lobsinger's note-perfect "ba-dum-pah" harmonies ring out a capella, the entire room was grinning ear to ear, knowing this was one of those shows that would be talked about for years.
Fittingly, Drew capped the festivities by inviting Berman's band, post-punkers Two Koreas, to perform one of their own tunes. "I'd like to thank BSS for opening for us," Berman quipped. "You did good ... I could really see this going somewhere." After the Koreas' wiry number, BSS returned to wrap up with a rousing instrumental jam.
The main thing 'This Book Is Broken' highlights is that Broken Social Scene's success rests on two key tenets: good friends, great music. Last night, it was clear they couldn't have one without the other.