Disclaimer: We know, we know – we’re late to the show. There have been eight showcases in the Home and Native Sound Series so far. There have been a bunch of great acts, we’re sure, and you can find out who they were here.
This showcase, the one at Toronto’s Clinton’s Tavern on Sunday, July 24, was the second-to-last showcase in the Home and Native Sound Series.
Now in its third season, the Series spans the two year period between TIMA shows (Toronto Independent Music Awards), a bi-annual battle-of-the-bands-type awards show, acting as the “Best Live” category of the awards. Every other Sunday, artists gather, perform, and are judged. The winners are filtered into three “Best Live” categories: Acoustic, Electric, and Urban.
This showcase, a few Sundays ago, billed as Metal / Alt. Rock, will likely fall under “Best Live – Electric”. Three acts gathered at Clinton’s Tavern, playing to a modest grows in the bar’s back room.
And just as Clinton’s straddles the border of the city’s Korea Town and Little Italy, so did the acts on Sunday pace the margins of a few musical genres, too.
First of the three to perform was solo artist, Nick Vescio.
Vescio took the small stage quietly. Quietly, he plugged in his semi-acoustic guitar and steped up to the mic.
Without speaking, he began his first song. The sounds from his guitar filled the room.
At times, it is slow and twangy, while at others, it is soft and resonating.
His voice is strong, but not overbearing. It is deep, full bodied, and, at times, throaty. Sometimes, he sounds like Barenaked Ladies’ frontman and vocalist, Steven Page.
In one word, Vescio’s performance was lovely. But, what drew me in to his performance more than his strong, tender, and heart-felt lyrics, and his melodic and often bluesy guitar, was his tendency to sing to the audience. He frequently made eye contact with various onlookers, proving his earnestness and passion.
On passionate performances, New Design, the second group of the evening, is a four-piece band out of Brampton, Ontario.
They are creative and talented, to say the least. The heaviest bunch of the night, New Design lies in the same vein as acts like fellow Canadians, Silverstein. They’re not quite screamo or emo, and not really metal. You’d certainly never call them pop.
They’re a band that fits a niche genre (perhaps one with a mosh pit), but with a little refinement, they could satisfy a a wide range of musical tastes.
On stage, they’re confident and cohesive. Their flamboyant passion shows through during their most powerful riffs and bridges – heads bop, feet stomp, and the body generally sways.
Our favourite of their set was New Design’s lively, dramatic, and solemn instrumental song. Invigorates the senses, it did no less than prove the band’s versatility, musical knowledge, and talent.
These things – talent and invigorating senses – were also not lacking from the night’s headlining performance. Hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan, The White Ravens are interesting, to say the least. Their quirky vocals and lack of a guitar made them stand out from others sharing their genre – whatever that may be.
When harmonized, the band’s live show was full of jump-up-and-dance energy, ska-infused and almost jazzy. Though energy alone is (nearly) enough to carry The White Ravens, it needs refining.
The vocalist’s eyes remained closed for a majority of the set and the keyboardist, though obviously talented and passionate, kept his chin to the ceiling (a la Schroeder, from the Peanuts cartoons) for most songs.
Still, their set improved as the night carried on, and their chatter with the audience seemed less nerve-racked, and while the passion and confidence the band displayed while actually performing weaned as the bass strings slowed, The White Ravens still gave one helluva show.