NXNE 2015 Day 4 Red Bull Showcase

Cold Cave nxne 2015

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Who: Das Rad, Programm, Greys, Cold Cave, Deafheaven, Fucked Up
Where: Adelaide Hall
When: Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Some say music is therapeutic, and I still have to find an instance when it wasn’t. It carried me through the best and the worst moments of my life. Music can lift you up, you can wear it like a protective cocoon, it can take you for a ride into your deepest self. Live music amplifies these qualities. Perhaps that’s why when people start going to shows they never truly stop. Like addicts they spend all their money to see Deep Purple or Iron Maiden one last time, or run out to the neighbourhood pub to catch the house cover band.

Saturday was one of the days when I needed live music the most. My first stop was Yonge-Dundas Square to check out Best Coast and hopefully to catch some New Pornographers before heading to Adelaide Hall for an ear-candy of a showcase. The weather was nice, so the streets were packed. There were shows everywhere – NXNE, Luminato, Jazz Fest were all holding events, and the crowds were hungry for entertainment. I made my way half way through the YDS, promising myself to get closer if I like what I see. There was already a decent crowd forming, but the fans could still weasel their way almost to the front lines.

I had big expectations for Best Coast, and I felt robbed. The sound was good, but there was nothing going on on stage, and the singer did little to entice the audience. The rock/pop sound would go well at any house party, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get tickets for their show. I have to tip my hat to Bobb Bruno for wearing a Kittie t-shirt to a Toronto gig.

I decided to make my way to Adelaide Hall early, so I won’t shoot myself due to boredom. (Also, people like to start talking to me if I stand in one place on the street for too long). The newly renovated venue is clean (so far) and spacious, but the alcohol selection leaves a lot to be desired. The air conditioning is noticeable for the first few bands, but as the venue started filling up, it became a necessary evil.

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It looked like all the media showed up first, afraid to miss out on the bands ahead. Das Rad opened the night with some lo-fi and humour. Although I really enjoyed their set, it felt like they would be more at home at a smaller venue, and maybe closer to midnight when people a prone to getting a little rowdier.

Programm started their set very slowly, and I wasn’t even ashamed to talk over it. However they picked it up a notch after a couple of songs and found a sweet spot between shoegaze and post-punk. A great balance between the kick and the melody got the first rows bobbing along. They seemed to get the attention of the bar crowd as well, and people started moving closer towards the stage.

Despite their description on NXNE website, Greys are straight up punk on stage, in the best sense of the word possible. Classic riffage and strong vocals carried the songs and sarcastic humour from vocalist/guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani in between buttered up the audience. The bass player was never in one place, jumping and bending in all the different directions. Overall, the energy was high and the place was buzzing.

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Next up were Cold Cave. Now, I don’t know the exact moment when goth music suddenly became cool in North America, but the signs are all there. It always puzzled me how in Europe goth stands on equal ground with punk and metal. There are big several day-long festivals in the summer and people are not ashamed to bring a little goth fashion into the office environment. Here, in North America, the goth movement was always a subject of mockery. It was narrowed down to high school kids who shop at Hot Topic and smoke clove cigarettes. Yes, there is a small subculture that defies these stereotypes, and there have been great synth bands coming out of USA. But the goth scene mostly keeps to their own kind and the bands target European audiences.

However, with the immergence of the hipster culture and renewed interest in both shoegaze and edm, the remarketed goth is finally taking control over American crowds. When people got tired of the first wave of light and happy edm, they finally started digging deeper and realized there is more to electronic music than techno and dubstep (although, I have to point out that the original British dubstep is actually pretty slow and dark).

That said, I’m really happy to see darkwave acts finally getting the respect and the audience they deserve. Cold Cave were excellent, bringing European traditions and adding a fresh spin on the sound. Wesley Eisold is an engaging, enigmatic frontman, and it was easy to fall under his spell. It would be great to see a longer set from them and just dance away the night.

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By the time Deafheaven took the stage the venue was packed. Now here is another outstanding act that managed to merge the popular with the underground to praises of critics and music lovers alike. While they were setting up George Clarke (vocals) had a nice chat with us – the people in the front row – about the show so far. Apparently, we can expect new material from them soon, but we didn’t get a sneak peak. Once the music started the nice humble guy who was just casually chatting with us turns into a possessed maniac and the whole place started moving. I couldn’t handle being in the front row for more than a song, because the flesh on my legs was digging into the stage so hard that I thought it might actually bleed. Seeing how it was impossible to take any photos anyway, because the crowd was constantly in motion, I retreaded to the back. The mess that was in the center area was breathtaking. People went completely nuts, pushing their bodies to extremes. Some people managed to crowdsurf; one dude took joy in walking the ceiling. The fans were constantly trying to grab Clarke’s hand or scream into the microphone. All in all, this experience is not for the weak, and even as an experienced mosher, I’m not sure that I would have jumped in there given the choice. Other than that, Deafheaven were amazing musically, the samples mixed flawlessly with the live instruments. I have to give props to the venue, because the sound was top notch the whole night through, and some bands on the bill needed that for all the nuances in their music.

Most people spilled outside right after Deafheaven’s set for fresh air. As we travelled through the hall to the open door, the steam from the room followed us. For some, it was all they could handle. Most, went right back in to continue partying with Fucked Up. Now it was easier to breathe, but the moshpit was just as eager. A little bit more room in the pit means more people were crowdsurfing. Also, because Fucked Up are local, it felt like the audience allowed themselves a little more freedom to climb on stage, sing with the singer and just go crazy. Some people needed to be escorted out, because they were barely standing and the whole place started turning into a giant drunk mess. Fucked Up played it rough too, fueling the fire even more.

Once the show was done – it was done and everyone went running in search of the closest 4am last call bar.

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Written by: Raya P Morrison
Photos by: Raya P Morrison

Originally written for The Scene Magazine http://www.thescenemagazine.ca

NXNE 2015 Day 2

Iceage-nxne-2015-002

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Who: Odonis Odonis, A Place To Bury Strangers, Iceage, A Primitive Evolution
Where: The Opera House, Bovine Sex Club
When: Thursday, June 18th, 2015

A sudden change of plans got me to trade a local showcase for a bigger show on Thursday. On one hand, I was a little upset, because I enjoy discovering the up-and-coming local bands. On the other hand, the opening band at the Opera House was still local and they were on my editor’s pick list.

The Opera House was pretty dead when I got there, and the band – Odonis Odonis – started playing already. They had a dark and intense set, that made me forget it was still light outside and transported me back to my dark rave days. Heavy synth and distorted vocals attracted some of the Toronto Goths, however there were also hipsters and general rockers in the audience, undoubtedly waiting for A Place to Bury Strangers and Iceage. While some of them were loading up on beer during the opening set, there were those intrigued by Odonis Odonis. So, most of the crowd was close to the stage. The diverse audience also make sense, because Odonis Odonis sound more mellow and shoegaze on record. Their live show is akin to the shows of German or Eastern European industrial bands. The venue filled up considerably during Odonis Odonis set, and some started dancing. The crowd was nice and warmed up and hungry for more.

During the intermission, I had a chance to talk to one of the workers at The Opera House. They said that the previous night with Blonde Redhead didn’t gather a big crowd. Liturgy and OM were predicted to get more metalheads in the audience on Friday (I wonder if they did, and if the attendance was a bit better overall). The Opera House was banking on Saturday for their big NXNE night, but Pentagram had to pull out of the show. On Thursday, there were only about 250 people inside so far.

A Place To Bury Strangers nxne 2015

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I didn’t know what to expect of A Place To Bury Strangers live, and I was not disappointed. Moreover, I was breathless. If my Friday saw an incredible amount of energy shared with the crowd until everyone felt intimately connected, my Thursday saw the same amount of energy separating every single person in the audience and burrowing into the deepest darkest corners of their psyche. Intense, aggressive, chaotic, A Place To Bury Strangers is what all the noise bands aim to be live. Half the time the light was so low you could barely see the figures on stage. Half the time you had two white strobe lights flashing at you every second. Both settings fit perfectly with the abstract, raw music, and incoherent vocals. The bassist, Dion Lunadon, is an animal on stage, forcing sounds out of his bass, punishing it for any limitations by throwing it onto the floor. When the chaos reached its peak, the guitarist and the drummer left the stage through the crowd, with Lunadon carrying on for another 5 minutes, before he followed suit. It was one of the only shows where I was glad that the venue wasn’t packed, as I made my way to the frond of the sound booth to see what APTBS were up to. There, Oliver Ackermann (guitar, vocals) and Robi Gonzalez (drums) were working sets on pedals and loops; Lunadon joining them on another beaten up bass guitar. The venue got completely dark except for tiny blue lights wrapped around the construction. There was little you could do but just let the waves of sound take you over. And suddenly it was done, instruments abandoned, the lights turned on to scare the magic away and show everyone what ugly machines were responsible for such madness.

I could have left The Opera House shortly after, because what came next was completely underwhelming. Iceage are gaining a lot of traction on North America right now, mainly because Pitchfork are singing them praises left and right. However, what I saw was a band of junkies, who are going to burn out in a year or two, with beat up song progressions and a lazy vocalist. The Libertines right before their collapse come to mind, but The Libertines had a distinct sound to begin with. I was bored by the forth song, so I went to talk to the staff some more. It wasn’t long before people started walking out on the band. There were of course, loyal fans right by the stage, screaming and jumping, but it felt like they were a minority.

I made my way downtown next, with a clear destination in mind – The Bovine. Mostly, I wanted to support A Primitive Evolution, but I also wanted to see if the bar had any surprises for me this time. It turned out that the line-up was all out of wack, because a band or two pulled out last minute and all the time slots had to be rearranged. Luckily for APE, they got to start later (they were initially supposed to go on at 1am; the went on at 1.30am) and play a longer set. The Bovine wasn’t crowded but some of the regulars and fans of the band were there. However, as much as I wanted to enjoy APE, I couldn’t because there was not one, but two photographers using fucking flash. One of the photographers turned out to be a friend of the band and was not in any was affiliated with NXNE, so she didn’t know about the guidelines. (Although, photo etiquette is an existing thing, too). The other one had the NXNE media pass and I’m still not sure if I should’ve told other fellow photographers or any of the staff to look out for him. All in all, I was distracted the whole time, but people around me didn’t seem to mind.

Overall, it was a great night, although The Opera House show was enough of an experience.

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Written by: Raya P Morrison
Photos by: Raya P Morrison

Originally written for The Scene Magazine http://www.thescenemagazine.ca

LARPing Time!

If you go through my blog, you would undoubtedly notice that I like to be involved in a lot of different things, sometimes completely unrelated to each other.

A long long time ago, when I was a teenager, a lot of my friends were heavily into LARPing. They were mostly following stories written by J.R.R. Tolkien, or using the world he created as a backdrop for acting out their own stories.  Swords and shields included.

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Well, I was never a part of that. What I was a part of is making up light-hearted pirate-themed treasure hunts, with lots of riddles, hidden clues and alcohol. There were a few people, who I was collaborating with for these games. However, it was always the best when it was T.

Recently, we started reminiscing, and figured why not do another one? The ideas just came pouring right away! And while it is still under development, we are aiming to be ready for May 16 (our mutual friend’s birthday, who is also a co-creator on this one). Unlike the treasure hunts that we did in the past, this one will be more like a real LARPing event, with cards, quests and victory points. Thematically, it will be based on the songs of a Russian punk band Король и Шут (The King and the Jester), that actually brought us all together in the first place.

Thankfully, we still have about a month to prepare. So far it looks like it’s gonna be epic!

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I want structure in my life and chaos in my bed.

What It Means To Have Spiritual Strength

“Yoga prepares you for the humbling moment that comes when you realize just what is really needed in order to attain the results you want. Sometimes when you see just how hard you will have to work, in order to make your dreams come true, you begin to appreciate just how much those dreams mean to you. It takes courage and strength to develop the kind of spiritual patience that is willing to put in the work — no matter how long it takes. The small mind of the ego wants things to happen quickly with little to no work, but the true soul of the human spirit is happy to wait out an eternity for results.

Spiritual strength is a true humility that is the antithesis of entitlement. Spiritual strength teaches you both how to be happy, and how  to work slowly and steadily towards your goal – no matter how long or how hard the path might be. True power is willing to work to get the results desired and knows how to enjoy every step of the journey. Strength is humble perseverance to stay the course against all odds and do whatever it takes to get the job done. It is a quietly heroic decision not to quit when things are difficult, to believe in the things you cannot immediately see and to be willing to do absolutely everything it takes to produce the desired outcome.

If you are not able to literally give whatever it takes for your posture, your dream or your journey, then somewhere along the way the voice of doubt will grow louder than the voice of belief and you will turn course. Yoga is the faith that steers your course in moments of disbelief and guides you towards the dawning of your true spiritual strength.”

— by Kino MacGregor, for MyYogaOnline (Sculpt Fusion series)

Interview with JJ Tartaglia for Wacken Metal Battle Canada

Back in January, I’ve conducted an interview with one of the organizers of Wacken Metal Battle Canada. Now it’s finally up in a piece promoting the finals. You can read the article from our Editor in Chief here.

Initially, I wrote a big piece on the interview, which was never published. You can read it here.

Continue reading

A promo video for a play

Here is what I did this weekend. It’s not my best work, but given what I had to work with (lousy angle from one of the rows; I wasn’t allowed to set-up my tripod in the walkway, apparently for safety issues; and the guy who was supposed to get some close-up footage didn’t show up on time for me to give directions) I think I did okay.

The play itself is called “The Magical Power of Love” and is directed by the talented Milla Moiss. All the costumes were made by my beautiful bestie Anna Shakina. With choreography by Tanya Moreau.

It was wonderful to see what these young talented ladies can accomplish together. The play sends a wonderful message, stating that with love in our lives we can become our best selves, on the inside and out.

Leslie Knope

A couple of months ago I was out of comedic shows to watch. How I met Your Mother ended… badly. Archer became hit or miss (although as the season progressed it slowly regained its quick punches and sharp humour). It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia became stale after the first season, Modern Family is good, but not great. And then, after a friend sent me a gif of Parks & Rec, I have decided to give it a try.

And I completely fell in love with it! It isn’t just funny and innovative, but I can also relate to it so much. Who doesn’t wanna be Leslie Knope? Her optimism and dedication are admirable and I hope to one day be as hard-working as her.

Parks and Recreation Leslie Knope sleep

She knows first-hand how it is to be a powerful woman and rolls with the punches, never forgetting that she IS a goddess.

Parks and Recreation Leslie Knope goddess ladies

But above all, she is human. She cares deeply about her friends and if she is with someone it’s the real deal. She doesn’t waste emotion where she shouldn’t, but goes all out when she knows it’s for the right person.

Parks and Recreation Leslie Knope winning

Leslie – you’re my hero!

Castevet and Thantifaxath @ The Comfort Zone

As you all know, I’ve started to get back into photography after shooting Behemoth at Opera House a month ago. It’s been a slow progress and if I want to shoot shows professionally I would have to buy a higher end camera. Although, I must say that going from Rebel XTi to Rebel T1i already made a huge difference on the quality of my shots.

Here are some shots from the latest show I’ve done. It was very hard hard to shoot, because the venue is very dark and has low ceilings, and of course black metal bands want to preserve the atmosphere, so they don’t use a lot of on stage lights. (Damn them!)

CASTEVET & THANTIFAXATH @ COMFORT ZONE, MAY 14, 2014

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New books!

I’m very sad that Indigo at Richmond & John is closing down. I’ve spent countless hours sitting and reading there, especially when I was still in high school. However, I’m also excited that I got to get books for half the price.

I have decided to get books from different areas that interest me. The one that I got right into is the Tarot Face to Face book, because I’ve been trying to find ways to expand my practice. So far, I’ve been writing down my progress in a specially dedicated journal, and I already feel more confident in my skills. Maybe, soon enough I will be able to do readings for strangers?