Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dirtbikers, Mystery and Devils

Toronto's Mitzi's Sister is just calling itself The Sister these days, and the place has changed substantially since my last visit. The restaurant/bar/music venue has been renovated, the bar has been moved to free up more space and Durham County Hop Head cask ale is available. All of the changes are for the better.

The Legendary Dirtbikers
One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the semi-regular appearance of The Legendary Dirtbikers at the Parkdale hangout. And that's a good thing, too.

If the band has a primary singer, I guess it would be bassist Mark Gabriel (Knockout Pill, Holy Microphone). But guitarists Fred Robinson (UIC, The Chickens, Possum, Holy Microphone) and Duncan Blair (The Mummers, The Dickens) also take lead on occasion and all three men contribute harmonies. Drummer Peter Timmins gets to stretch out from his regular gig with Cowboy Junkies and pound the skins harder and faster.

I'm not exactly sure how I'd categorize what these veterans do, or who I'd compare them to, other than to say they do it because they love it and not because they're trying to become the next big thing on either commercial radio or with Pitchfork-obsessed hipsters. It's definitely guitar-driven, pretty loud and touches on a few styles. None of the members are particularly strong singers, but their voices suit their material just fine.

"Another Country Song" was dedicated to me after the fact by Robinson, and I also enjoyed "Last Call," "Watching The Neighbours Watching TV" and "Still Remain."

Gabriel left the small stage after what he thought was the final song. But members of the headlining act, the young British mod punk trio The Targets, called him back with the threat that they wouldn't take the stage until they heard the Dirtbikers single "First Dog In Space." He obliged and I'm glad he did. I love that song.

I saw The Targets on a previous Toronto visit in March and, while I liked them, I elected to move on to The Silver Dollar to see Puerto Rican garage rock band Davila 666. 

White Mystery
Chicago's White Mystery was up first, however. The sister/brother duo of guitarist/singer Alex and drummer Francis Scott Key White look like hippies, but certainly don't play like flower children. The lyrics were often hard to decipher, parts of the set were a bit too raw for my tastes and some songs were definitely better than others, but I ended up being mostly won over by the visceral power.

Davila 666 came on just before 1 a.m., and the San Juan sextet was impressive from the get-go. There were none of the props, costumes or dancers I'd heard that performances can include, but the music was enough for me. The group came across like a better behaved Black Lips and, while I'm not familiar with its two albums, I'm happy to report that the buzz about the band that came out of the South by Southwest Music Festival in March was warranted.

The Spanish cover of "Hanging On The Telephone" was a very pleasant surprise that I appreciated almost as much as the woman in front of me wearing a dress dedicated to Blondie -- who compensated for the guy behind me who kept asking if I had any mescaline.

Davila 666

I swear I could feel the floor move under me at one point, which I don't know says more about the enthusiasm of Davila 666 and its fans or the structural soundness of the club, but no damage was done during the 40-minute set and two-song encore. Being from Puerto Rico may give Davila 666 a bit of a novelty factor, but this performance proved that it doesn't have to rely on it.


matzohball77 said...

"Chicago's White Mystery was up first"---You missed half the show! Sphinxes and Barreracudas were also on the bill !

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