Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rivals, Savages, Invasions, Eyeballs, Brews and more on Canadian Music Festival’s Friday

Kendel Carson and Dustin Bentall

Dustin Bentall is one of those artists who comes through Toronto once or twice a year and I mean to see but never do. That changed last Friday when he performed with his band at the Horseshoe Tavern as part of the Canadian Music Festival.

The roots-rocking, artist is the son of ‘80s and ‘90s Canadian music star Barney Bentall, but I’ll take junior over pops. He sings and plays electric guitar in front of his band The Smokes (bassist Del Cowsill, drummer Rich Knox and female fiddler Kendel Carson — who I found to be quite smoking), and they play country songs that sound authentic and rock numbers that are full of passion. I’d definitely like to hear a longer set when Bentall and company tour in support of their forthcoming full-length album.

Young Rival has been a favourite Canadian band since the days when it was called The Ride Theory early this century, but its performance at the Horseshoe was the first time I’d seen it since guitarist Kyle Kuchmey left and the group became a trio in late 2009. A short and sweet ‘60s sounding instrumental was tossed amidst hooky rock numbers with vocals like “Two Reasons” and “Authentic” that also harkened back to that era, and a cover of The Deadly Snakes’ “I Can’t Sleep At Night” fit in with the repertoire perfectly.

Young Rival

If you like vintage-sounding, guitar-driven rock-and-roll and power pop, Young Rival should be on your radar. There’s not a lot of dynamism on stage, but musically the group reminds me somewhat of Black Lips without the accompanying mayhem. Young Rival should be much more popular than it is.

Savages, an all-female band from England, caused a buzz the previous week in Austin, Texas at the South by Southwest Music Festival, and that followed the quartet to Toronto for its first Canadian show. The members were all clad in black, and most of their post-punk music was equally dark. Singer Jehnny Beth is very animated, even if she often turned her back to the audience during a set that included “Shut Up” and “I Am Here.” Savages needs more songs, but the four girls are still young and have potential. For now, the group comes across as a blend of Siouxsie and The Banshees and Killing Joke.

Savages' Jehnny Beth

It was time to move on to The Silver Dollar Room and, on the corner of Spadina and College on my way there, I saw club booker Dan Burke get into a car. I thought that was ominous.

Invasions was already on stage when I walked in at 11:15 p.m. I ordered a pint of Molson Stock Ale for $5.75 and the bartender, who I’d never seen before, swiped my $4.25 in change off the bar while I was reaching into my wallet to give her a more sensible smaller tip. I told her to bring my money back and tipped her a buck. I probably shouldn’t have. A lot of the Silver Dollar employees were wearing retro ‘70s blue Adidas tracksuit jackets. I couldn’t help but think that they must have been the result of a Burke “negotiation.” The Silver Dollar can be a sketchy place.

Invasions is a Toronto surf-garage rock band that stands out a bit from the pack because one of its members plays trumpet when he’s not pounding on the keyboards. A not so well done cover of The Kinks’ great “Dead End Street” was inferior to some of the group’s original tunes. Invasions has all the elements of bands I like, but it just didn’t present them consistently enough. Still, I’d see it again.


In between bands, Burke ranted about the greatness of Michel Pagliaro and took over a pool table while proclaiming himself king. Then, as quickly as he appeared, he vanished.

Brooklyn, N.Y. band X-Ray Eyeballs was booked in for a three-night residency at the club, but the crowd thinned out a bit after Invasions. The quartet used dry ice and more of a light show than you usually see at The Silver Dollar, but I’d hoped for more musically. The two-male, two-female group lived up to its “new wave garage pop” billing in its 30-minute set, just not as adeptly as I had hoped for. It has a look and sound of something I’d usually be totally in to, but it lacked quality songs.

X-Ray Eyeballs

I hadn’t been to Sneaky Dee’s in about a year, and was disappointed that the beer prices had risen and the windows of the second-storey club had been covered when I arrived for Brews Willis’ 2 a.m. set. The Toronto trio is just what you want to hear at this hour after you’ve had a beer or seven. It’s fun, energetically melodic and slightly sloppy. It opened with “Sweaty Hands” and continued on with “Can’t Fight The Water,” “Hell No Fuck You” and a few others before ending with “Sun Burn Boner Boy,” which the band members continued to play as a friend came on stage and poured shots down their throats. It was an appropriate way to conclude the night.

Brews Willis

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