AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: UNCLE ACID & the Deadbeats/Danava @ Lee’s Palace, Toronto, September 28, 2014

While I wouldn’t call Uncle Acid sellouts–their brand of chunky, melodic, occult rock just so happens to be in right now–they certainly did sell out Lee’s Palace last weekend…and on a Sunday night, to boot!  Their past was once shrouded in mystery, but it turns out they’re just regular blokes, although one of them does wear a white suit on stage.  As a matter of fact, there is no Uncle Acid per se–the band has a dual-guitar, dual-vocal attack (and sometimes tri-), without a frontman in the traditional sense.  I might hafta go back and listen to their records more closely, cuz I swear I’d never heard more than one voice before.

When opening act Danava was on stage, I had a hard time hearing any vocals at all, as their frontman stood on the other side of the side and struggled to be heard over the din.  I’d seen these guys once before, touring with Joe Preston (aka Thrones) back in 2010 or 2011.  But I hadn’t listened to ‘em much since, so I suppose their set was a pleasant rediscovery for me.

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GUITAR SOLO!!!!!

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I will say this about Uncle Acid: you really can’t kill these guys, cuz they’re such a hard band to shoot!  There was no overhead lighting on stage, with an eerie backdrop provided by some evil-eye lights on the drumkit and old TVs set to static.  Only problem was that all but two of said TVs didn’t even work, leaving them with even less light than anticipated.  Not that they aren’t a buncha shadowy characters already, but let’s just say that in the absence of illumination, there were a couple moments where I struggled to keep my eyes open–to say nothing of my camera’s eye!

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Oh, and their drummer also had a severe case of cymbal-face…

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HAND OF DOOM!!!!!

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Aaaaaand here’s what they looked like with the flash off:

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TOP FIVE BRITISH STONER/PSYCH BANDS: 1. Hawkwind

After famously opening for Sabbath on the latter’s Euro tour, Uncle Acid and company are bringing their act overseas, for the first time ever.  And hey, while the U.K. did give us the Sab Four, there hasn’t been a whole ton of desert rock pouring out of a country that’s always raining.  In any case, here’s a decent handful of bands that go quite well with fish ‘n chips, thank you.

5. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats

4. Cathedral

3. Electric Wizard

2. Orange Goblin

1. Hawkwind

105(More pics of Nikwind here.)

OK, so I’m slightly saddened by what the band’s become in recent years: two warring factions I refer to as Nikwind and Brockwind, with their respective founding figures locked in a bitter feud that puts Nigel Tufnel vs. David St. Hubbins to shame.  But I think it’s safe to say there’d be no British stoner/psych scene if it wasn’t for Hawkwind…well OK, and maybe Pink Floyd.  But the fact that the former is still cranking out new music some 45 years onward is certainly impressive–even if there are two of them now.  Why can’t we just go back to the way things were?

(Hey, it’s not like Lemmy isn’t still making music, either!)

TOP FIVE BRITISH STONER/PSYCH BANDS: 5. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats

After famously opening for Sabbath on the latter’s Euro tour, Uncle Acid and company are bringing their act overseas, for the first time ever.  And hey, while the U.K. did give us the Sab Four, there hasn’t been a whole ton of desert rock pouring out of a country that’s always raining.  In any case, here’s a decent handful of bands that go quite well with fish ‘n chips, thank you.

5. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats

Sure enough, there are certainly shades of Sabbath here, with some deft doom riffage that Iommi made famous.  But they also push the dial to retro psych, classic rock, and those semi-obscure 70’s rock records that people kill, skin and eat small children to get their hands on.  OK, not a very pleasant mental image.  But hey, it’s all in the Devil’s Work…

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: NIKWIND/Witch Mountain/Hedersleben @ The Garrison, Toronto, September 15, 2014

Well, considering that Brockwind cancelled its North American tour–twice!–last year, I figured I might as well see the closest thing (which, in terms of founding members, is just as close as the other thing) in Nik Turner’s Hawkwind, aka Nikwind.  Mind you, my main reason for attending this gig was the touring support.  Witch Mountain is one of my favourite female-fronted doom bands going today, and since they reside on the other side of the continent, I’ll always make a point of seeing ‘em whenever they’re in town.  And hey, Nikwind puts on a pretty stellar show in its own right. ;)

I didn’t catch all of opening act Hedersleben, an experimental kraut rock band that may or may not actually be from Germany, but let’s just say they were kinda like Hawkwind in disguise.  (Foreshadowing much?)

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Much like the first time I saw em, a couple years back, Witch Mountain was touring in support of a new album that I hadn’t even heard yet.  (In fact, I just bought a copy at the gig.)  But while the songs were all new, they maintained that signature Portland style, and Uta Plotkin’s voice is still as amazing as ever!

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Now, I will say this about Nikwind.  Not sure what an actual Hawkwind gig was like back in the day, but they did a pretty decent job of recreating the atmosphere I’d imagine.  Frankly, I’m just glad I got to see someone play “Silver Machine…”

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Hmm, haven’t I seen this guy before?

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Note the “What Would Lemmy Do” container atop the bass head:

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AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: BORIS/The Atlas Moth/SubRosa @ Lee’s Palace, August 7, 2014

Man, it’s always good to see Boris live.  It’s been a couple years, and while you’ve never quite sure what you’re going to get from the uncategorizable Japanese rockers, you can often tell what sorta set they’ll play by the opening acts on tour.  Last time I saw ‘em, they had some Japanese shoegaze band opening, but this time, with the post-sludge of SubRosa and The Atlas Moth on the bill, I knew it would be a good night.

Opening act SubRosa (not to be confused with the 90’s grunge band) marked the first time I’ve seen two electric fiddles on stage since my last trip to Newfoundland I caught Earthen Grave at DOTD III.  And suffice to say this outfit don’t play no squid-jiggin’ tunes, either, using the violins to accentuate some forlorn doom passages.  Arguably the best thing to come outta Salt Lake City since Stockton-to-Malone!

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Hadn’t seen The Atlas Moth live in a few years, and it seems they’ve omitted some of the too-black-metal-sounding songs of their first album from their live repertoire.  And no, I’m not complaining in the slightest!  Their set got cut a bit short on behalf of Boris–and there was no entertaining between-song stage banter–but I’m told they’ll be back next month.

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Of course, the headliners didn’t disappoint.  As is their custom, Boris quickly whipped the crowd into a frenzy with tunes like “Pink” and “Statement,” before mellowing things out, gradually building up to a pretty epic conclusion.  And hey, unlike last time, they actually allowed flash photography–allowing me to take some pretty decent pics!

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AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE @ The Garrison, May 21, 2014

This one was an early show–especially by Garrison standards.  I showed up around 9:30, and saw maybe the last three minutes of the opening band, not nearly enough to even mention them.  But at least I was there in plenty of time to see AMT, who took the stage sometime around 10.  As I’ve said several times over the years–and reprinted over the last few days–these guys a pretty much a must-see live band.  And now, for the first time, I can show y’all what ya missed:

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No, that’s not just my camera…keyboardist Higashi Hiroshi actually had the spotlight on him for most of the show:

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On the other hand, drummer Koji Shimira was completely in the dark:

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You know shit’s about to get real when they reach for…  THE RECORDER OF DOOM!

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Alas, after a 70-75 minute set, we weren’t treated to a proper encore–perhaps owning to technical difficulties with the synthesizer.  Instead, we got some sorta strange group singalong…  A tad anticlimactic, if you ask me!

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ACID MOTHERS FLASHBACKS: ACID MOTHERS TEMPLE/The Phantom Family Halo @ The Garrison, April 26, 2012

(This was the last AMT show I attended–and also the first at The Garrison, the same venue they’re playing tonight.  I’ll be heading out there shortly…)

For the past four or five years, I’ve counted on Japanese spaced-out psych merchants Acid Mothers Temple coming through town in April.  They always seem to take a trip over here right when spring starts to bloom.  Well okay, so spring was a little late this year.  Also of note: this gig wasn’t at the El Mocambo, their typical Toronto tour stop for as long as I can remember, but rather at The Garrison, down by Dundas and Ossington.

Considering that the usually-reliable ElMo sound system offered some resistance during last year’s trip to Toronto, I suppose I’m not surprised at the change of venue.  Besides, it’s not like they packed ‘em in at the Stones’ ol’ stompin’ grounds.  That said, there was a pretty decent-sized crowd out at this one, and a younger audience than I’ve seen at their past gigs.

I suppose some of them might’ve been there for The Phantom Family Halo, an indie-psych act from NYC that employed two drummers and a saxophone.  As far as AMT openers go, they were better than most.  My favourite still has to be Over-Gain Optimal Death (aka OGOD) from 2010, though.  They were pretty sweet.

But of course the evening belonged to the band from the land of Japan.  The Mothers added another full-fledged guitarist to their lineup in the form of Tabata Mitsuru, allowing them to execute some four-man vocal harmonies (if you could call ‘em that).  This set also featured a lot more vocal noises from bassist and occasional singer Tsuyama Atsushi, who even busted out a clarinet at select intervals.  Kawabata Makoto brought some additional props too, playing guitar with a Barbie doll and a music-note shaped EBow, along with his magic wand, which came out earlier than usual this time.

While you can expect to hear such staples as “Pink Lady Lemonade” and “Chinese Flying Saucer” in your average AMT set, it’s not like the band takes requests.  Hell, at times I’m not even sure whether they’re drawing from their long, varied back catalogue, or just jamming up there.  These guys put on a full, 75 to 90 minute performance that runs the gamut of heavy psych sounds through a variety of tempos, always leaving room for dessert.  They might not be the only band I make a point of seeing every time they’re in Toronto, but they’re certainly on that list.

That being said, this might have been the last AMT gig I’ll get to see.  According to the band’s website, this latest go-round has been dubbed “Last Tour in US & Canada 2012.”  I can only hope that something got lost in translation when they made that statement–April will be a lot less exciting without ‘em!

(Originally written for Hellbound.ca)