Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Social Distortion and Mikal Cronin dominate night two of NXNE

The North by Northeast Music Festival returned again last week, which meant a lot of running around Toronto trying to catch as many bands as possible.

Here's what I caught on night two:

A streetcar delay made me arrive late at Yonge Dundas Square for Social Distortion's 9 p.m. set, but luckily I got there just in time to hear "Story of My Life," which has always been one of my favourites from the band. I was pleasantly surprised by the large size of the crowd, considering it was cool and raining, and the performance didn't seem to be dampened -- even though Social D isn't what it was when I first saw the band about 20 years ago. Lead singer/guitarist Mike Ness was dressed all in black except for red suspenders and I realized, with a Citytv video screen behind the stage offering the cue to get me thinking, that Ness is starting to resemble Moses Znaimer -- if the television pioneer was covered in tattoos.

Social Distortion continued to mine its rich catalogue of roots-influenced punk rock with songs including "Cold Feelings," "Crown of Thorns" and the always great "Ball and Chain" before ending the set with "Misery Loves Company" from Ness' 1999 solo debut, Cheating At Solitaire.

The group emerged back on stage after a short break with Ness wearing a fedora as he launched into "Reach For The Sky," "It Coulda Been Me" and "Winners and Losers" before concluding -- as Social Distortion has every time I've seen it -- with a scorching cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."

Mikal Cronin
I walked west on Dundas Street West and scored a bargain by snagging four pizza slices for a buck each, which I ate en route to The Silver Dollar Room, where I arrived for the second half of Invasions' 11 p.m. set. I saw this Toronto surf-garage rock band during Canadian Music Festival in March and, while I wasn't completely sold, I said I'd give it another chance. There seemed to be more energy, from both the band and the audience, this time. The trumpet also stood out more, which was a plus. But the group's cover of The Kinks' "Dead End Street" left me lukewarm once again. My friend Matzoh Ball described Invasions as "Glee doing a tribute to Calexico," which I laughed at but can't verify since I've never watched Glee.

Mikal Cronin was the main reason I was at The Silver Dollar, however, as he launched a three-night residency at the club. The place was packed and the front of the stage was full of moshing and crowd-surfing by those excited to witness the San Francisco-based singer/guitarist's brand of lo-fi rock and roll. "Apathy" and "Change" were my personal highlights of the short but explosive set. I'd meant to see Cronin at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas in March, and friends who saw him there or elsewhere have raved about his performances. Perhaps that set my expectations too high because, as much as I enjoyed Cronin and his three bandmates, I didn't find it mind-blowing.

Toronto's Pow Wows had their work cut out for them to try and elicit the same response from the now much smaller Silver Dollar audience, and the trio's unexceptional garage-psych rock wasn't up to the task and sent me on my way home before it finished.


Matzohball77 said...

http://youtu.be/WoKUli22lS4 is Mikal Cronin at the Silver Dollar.

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