Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Danks, Blowfly and that's all on NXNE night three

The Danks
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 three:

Playing baseball kept me out of the clubs until midnight and, just as I had the night before with Invasions, I elected to give a band that didn't knock me out three months earlier at the Canadian Music Festival a second chance.

The Danks were plagued by lead singer/guitarist Brohan Moore's voice problems in March and, while it still seemed a bit scratchy at certain moments, it was much improved this time. The Charlottetown, P.E.I. pop-rock quartet just released its sophomore album, Gank, and its set was logically heavy with new material, including "Sycamore," "Summer Lovin'" and "Not News." "Die Young" and "What We're Doing" represented 2009's fine Are You Afraid of The Danks well, and the group again covered the Pixies' "Alec Eiffel."

These guys have a definite knack for incorporating catchy hooks into short, snappy songs. And this set was much more energetic than the last one I saw, which was probably helped by a larger and more receptive audience. Don't be afraid of The Danks. Their music is well worth checking out.


A cult legend who I'd heard of but never heard before drew me to the Horseshoe at 1 a.m. for a performance that's still leaving me a bit puzzled. Clarence Reid was a straight-ahead soul singer/songwriter who had some success in the '60s before he adapted his Blowfly alter-ego in 1971. He started wearing bizarre costumes, performing sexually explicit songs and laid a legitimate claim to being the first rapper.

On this night Blowfly strolled on to the stage in a sparkly gold outfit with a BF insignia on the front similar to a Superman get-up, complete with a blue cape. A matching gold and blue mask was soon thrown aside as his six-piece band (complete with saxophone, trumpet and trombone) fired him up for "Funky Party." That turned out to be his cleanest number, as he followed up with songs that included the lyrics "doing it like a dog," "you've got to fuck the boss" and "I fuck everything because everything is you," as well as song titles including "Rapp Dirty," "Pussy Hell" and "Incredible Fulk."

Blowfly's original songs were augmented by parodies of Sam Cooke's "Chain Gang" ("that's the sound of the men butt-fucking on the chain gang"), Sam & Dave's "Soul Man" (which became "Hole Man"), Michael Jackson's "Ben" (with lyrics about the sexual misadventures of members of the Jackson family) and "Beat It," and The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" ("you've got to let me know, should I fuck that big fat ho?").

I admit that I chuckled along to a lot of the songs before realizing that, if Blowfly wasn't 74 years old, I'd be criticizing him as a homophobic, misogynistic pig with freakily long fingers and fingernails instead of cutting him some slack and writing his schtick off to being a dirty old man. I've probably seen Andre Williams a dozen times and, while he's another septuagenarian who still fancies himself a ladies man, he does it with more class and his innuendos don't beat you over the head like Blowfly's blunt words do.

The other thing that I felt was a bit strange was that I had passed several black people standing outside various showcase venues while on my way to the Horseshoe, but I didn't spot any at all in the crowd of approximately 300 people who came to see a performer who plays soul, funk and rap.

Another act followed Blowfly on to the stage at 2 a.m., but I couldn't pay attention as I talked to friends about what we'd just witnessed.

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