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Going out.

Because we love the nightlife.

A round-up of events and reviews of the Toronto nightlife scene.

Lily Frost
the Drake Hotel
20 July 2005

Quasi Poema
the Social
20 July 2005

Sometimes I get cranky about my neighbourhood's transition from quiet to trendy, and sometimes it's okay. Wednesday night was a perfect demonstration of both the good and the irritating.

On nights when I am frankly feeling too lazy to go anywhere, it's nice when my obligations are all within a couple of blocks' walking distance. Especially when there are numerous things to do in one evening.

First stop was the Drake for the Lily Frost video release party for Silver Sun off her record Situation. We were on the guestlist.

After me getting the usual "Hey, don't you work at..." we settled in near the front for the opening act, http://www.popmatters.com/music/features/020611-itlist.shtml Lindsay Fitzsimmons. Her voice is soft and whispery - much like Frost's, actually - and frail; she has the air of a girl about to break, and sings ballads of brokenness (after her set, we saw her hug a guy from the audience, and TG said "if that's the guy she was singing about, I'm going to beat him up"). Sweet, but a little too much the songs of the twenty-year-old she is - I'd be interested to hear what she's doing in a couple of years' time.

After a break to watch the video - a shimmering tour of a haunted U-Boat - Lily took the stage with Wild is the Wind: moody, atmospheric, accompanied only by a guitar (Jorge Diaz), she brings to mind Julee Cruise on the soundtrack to Twin Peaks. Next up was her own composition Black Narcissus, and Lindsay reappeared to sing back up (we had been wondering - usually bookers make certain that the opening act complements the headliner without being too similar; it's Lily's voice in the background of her songs, so a sort-of sound-alike became necessary), along with a keyboard player (Jason something), and they settled into a mellow groove somewhere between latin/lounge and torch.

Joined on stage by occasional other instrumentalists - a viola, or castanets - Lily Frost and her band weave dreamy soundscapes of love lost and unrequited, but mix in a bit of old-school cabaret just to make sure the audience is still paying attention. A truly captivating performance.

Unfortuantely the night's events overlapped and we missed the end of her show.

Next up was a trip to the Social to see bossanova group Quasi Poema.

When the Social opened a couple of months ago it was the hot new place. It quickly slipped from that precarious perch and now finds itself begging for customers with a sandwichboard out front promising $3 drinks. We quickly found out why.

The half-finished (although I suppose it's supposed to look like that?) interior is extremely unpleasant to music and conversation. Sounds bounce about randomly. When we arrived, the best-of-the-eighties CD they were spinning was so loud as to be in audible, but when the band started, you could barely hear them. Standing half-way between a speaker and the singer, not more than 2 metres from either, I could hear more vocals directly from the singer than through the PA. Huh? The sound guy, obviously untrained and apathetic (I'll bet dollars to donuts that he wasn't a sound guy at all, but an off-duty bartender), fiddled half-heartedly with some knobs, and then wandered away for half the set. Loud unfortunately-dressed people hollered at each other to be heard over the echoes of their own boring voices.

All of which made it impossible to enjoy the music: dreamy-sweet bossanovas with acoustic guitar and cello got lost in the melée. Even the accordion couldn't make itself heard!

I heard the excuse afterwards that "that kind of music is hard to mike" (an excuse only a hermit would buy - sorry, I've been to way too many live shows, including jazz shows in noisy bars and unorthodox not-designed-for-sound venues, to fall for an excuse that ill-informed) and that "Bruno's voice is too soft" (equally bogus, especially after we had just seen not one but two whisper-voiced vocalists in a bar up the street).

I kept thinking, why couldn't Quasi Poema open up for Lily Frost? Now, that would have been the perfect pairing.

I won't be returning to the Social. But I will be checking out Quasi Poema for their next gig at a real music venue, the venerable Cameron House on the 29 July.

For more going-out reviews, check the archives: rock, jazz, and restaurants. More culture reviews can be found here.

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