Concert Review: THE SWEET MACK, BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER, THE DIRTY NIL (2012-05-12 @ The Silver Dollar Room)
It’s interesting how in a city as large as Toronto there are certain shows that just HAVE to be attended. This was certainly one of them, and apparently TO’s smaller-than-it-looks music community knew so too; there were a lot of familiar faces here from the (WILDLIFE, TOPANGA, PKEW PKEW PKEW) show the night before.
As I am unfortunately prone to do, I didn’t make it in time for opening act THE CITY STREETS from Montreal*. However, that meant the first band I caught was Hamilton-based THE DIRTY NIL, who are quite possibly the tightest garage act I’ve ever heard. Never before have I heard an act that is all about fuzz-rock play so cleanly!
THE DIRTY NIL is aptly named, as “dirty” is one of the main words I would use to describe their sound. Scuzzy guitar, loud drums, and ample screaming into the mic all figured prominently into the set. In fact, the band intentionally only plays with one vocal mic, and apparently have a habit of featuring bassist Dave Nardi scream into it alongside frontman/vocalist Luke Bentham, to great visual effect.
The high point of the set was the band’s excellently anthemic single Fuckin’ Up Young, which had a good part of the audience screaming “You are fucking up!” at the top of their lungs – these guys definitely have visceral scum-rock on lockdown. The only negative I could point out is that they are just SO LOUD that the vocals were often drowned out, but let’s be honest: you don’t go to watch THE DIRTY NIL for vocal clarity.
The penultimate act was BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER – which was a bit of a departure from the rest of the night, with a trip down to the good ol’ south. BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER plays old-fashioned blues/country rock, even claiming that they came up from Mississippi and this was their first TO show (at least the latter of which is totally untrue).
There was some strong musicianship on display here, especially from the drumming department, though they also brought in a saxophonist mid-set which kept things interesting. Their best songs were the pulsating slow jams that made you think you looked sexy if you wiggled your head to the beat.
It was obvious from the crowd that BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER was not everyone’s cup of tea, but they put on a good show if you’re in the mood for a special flavour of act. They’re a band who celebrates who they are even though it might not be the coolest or most modern identity, and I can certainly respect that.
Finally it was time for THE SWEET MACK. If their music can’t be considered a soundtrack to summer, I don’t know what is: every song is sunny and upbeat, with liberal doses of 50s doo-wop thrown in for good measure; they really are a throwback to simpler times.
This was officially a 7″ release, and as such, their single Zoe was the third song played. The song starts with a profusion of “do do doos”, then goes into a fun two-step beat with tremolo guitar riffs and a bouncing bassline. Even though it was a “new” single release, much of the audience already knew the song and sang along.
The entirety of the set seemed to be a competition amongst the crowd for who could swarm the front the most. The female crowd initially prevailed, but they were quickly displaced by a group I found myself referring to as “The Bros”. Regardless, the entire crowd was loving it and were very vocal and engaged, while the band too was also clearly having a great time.
Unfortunately the crowd got a little overzealous at times (read: fucking nuts), especially when some fun crowd-surfing activity eventually surpassed its fun limit as “The Bros” started to detract a bit of the attention from the band. But it’s certainly no reflection on THE SWEET MACK, who played their hearts out and left the stage after surely one of their most successful shows yet.
*[Editor's Note: THE CITY STREETS crashed with iM after the show; there were no hurt feelings due to Shawn's tardiness].