Charming Axe Tonight At 27 Live In Evanston

Chicago’s own Charming Axe will be playing a live set tonight at 27 Live to celebrate their new covers record Gathering Days. The folk/roots trio met up at Old Town School Of Music 15 years ago, and have been playing covers and some original material together ever since. Certainly a talented group of musicians, they sound best when the voices of Rob Newhouse, Eugenia Elliott, … Continue reading Charming Axe Tonight At 27 Live In Evanston

The TURF 2014 Experience

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We spent last weekend in Canada celebrating our own American independence by rocking out with some awesome bands at the Toronto Urban Roots Festival. Only in its second year of existence, TURF gets a lot of things right that other festivals have been getting wrong for ages. It was honestly some of the most fun I’ve had covering anything in the four years I’ve been doing this. The mixture of genres was well-balanced, the bathrooms were still clean well into the third day, and they had some awesome Toronto-based food trucks parked in the center so you could grab something easily between sets.

OPEN SPACES

The thing I appreciated most about TURF was the ease with which one could get around. Fort York is a huge park, and everything was set up so the stages weren’t too far apart with plenty of green space to grab some shade under a tree or eat a bubble cake in a canoe. The photo pit got a little crazy during the more popular bands sets, but even then most people were courteous about bumping into you. This is a stark contrast to a fest like Lollapalooza, where they sell so many tickets that even in the vastness of Grant Park you’re hard-pressed to find a spot where you aren’t completely surrounded. The openness at TURF gives the whole thing a very relaxed feel.
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Toronto Urban Roots Festival-Day 2

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Day 2 was scheduled as our “easy” day, and it lived up to that designation quite well. We kept busy, but it was very relaxed and cool. Four sets was all we needed to hit to consider the day a success and we did it without rushing from stage to stage and managed to enjoy most, if not all, of each set we set out to see.

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Shovels And Rope kicked off the day on the West Stage. I wish more people were listening to this amazing country/blues duo. They ended up with a surprisingly high attendance for being so early in the day, so that put a smile on my face. Michael and Cary Ann played a bunch of tunes from O Be Joyful, and also broke out some brand new songs from their upcoming record (out in August). New stuff sounded really good even though they prefaced the first new one saying they were still learning how to play it live. Their set-up is a lot of fun-it’s just the two of them so they set up a drum/keyboard hybrid and mainly face each other while they play. They were great, and festival founder Jeff Cohen let it slip that they’d be playing at Phoenix Concert Theatre in the fall.

After taking in some great americana what else would you want to hear but some loud punk music?¬†Lucky for us over on the South stage Andrew Jackson Jihad was gearing up. We got over to see them a few minutes late, but managed to see probably 90 percent of the set. They flew through what seemed like a dozen songs in about 20 minutes and questioned whether they needed to slow down to make the show last longer. If you haven’t taken the time to check them out, I seriously suggest doing so. They sound like Mountain Goats if John Darnielle were backed by Titus Andronicus-fast and loud and very¬†cerebral and witty.

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Toronto Urban Roots Festival-Day 1

20140705-113604-41764541.jpg After a less than spectacular beginning to our trip to Toronto, which required us getting off of a plane we woke up at 4:30am to catch and waiting 3 hours for another one, the day ended up going much more smoothly than I’d feared. We missed Born Ruffians set, but the rest of the festival was really cool. The planners did a great job of setting up the stages so that you’re far enough away that the noise doesn’t bleed over, but never so far that walking from one to the other is a hassle. It also helps that there are wide open spaces between the stages so you’re not trying to force yourself through a huge crowd between stages. It’s a much more relaxed fest than I’m used to, and I really like it. 20140705-114154-42114309.jpg The first band we saw was Lucius on the South stage. They were delayed a few minutes while they checked out the sound, but once they started they were great. I love their blend of new wave synth pop and folky harmonies. I was a little disappointed they didn’t do their cover of “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” that they just released, but what can you do. When we arrived at the stage the crowd was pretty small. After the third or fourth song the audience had tripled at least and everyone was dancing and bopping their heads. After Lucius we headed up the hill to see Gary Clark jr on the East Stage. He had a fairly large audience before we even got up there, and I talked to a guy in his late teens/early twenties who had come just to see Clark play. He was treated to a great performance that featured the guitar master shredding all over the stage with his red-hot blues riffs. The set was like lightning in a bottle for the first six or seven songs, then when he slowed it down for a tune the audience lost a little interest and a lot of people started leaving. It never quite recaptured the initial energy, but Gary Clark jr puts on a helluva show and I recommend checking him out. 20140705-113939-41979781.jpg Continue reading “Toronto Urban Roots Festival-Day 1”

Toronto Urban Roots Festival 2014 Preview

Next week, instead of reveling in drunken buffoonery and watching fireworks explode over Lake Michigan, MD is heading north to Lake Ontario in Toronto to collect some Harvey’s trays and also enjoy a great music festival now in its second year. The Toronto Urban Roots Festival takes place at Fort York Garrison Common, and founder Jeff Cohen has put together another great lineup this year. … Continue reading Toronto Urban Roots Festival 2014 Preview