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Toronto Open Roof Fest does Thirsty Thursday, Indie Style

August 18, 2011

Toronto Open Roof Aug 11th edition, Locomotive 8/ Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop

Summers in Toronto may be short, but what they lack in length they make up for in festivals. It seems hard not to walk out one’s door without stumbling upon a festival or street party. And if you’re willing to make the hike down Bathurst- to where the Gardiner expressway crosses the sky like a concrete rainbow- there’s a new way to party like a local.

The Toronto Open Roof Fest is a relatively young fest, just in its second year running, and features local independent music and indie movies as presented by Toronto film fests Hot Docs, TUFF (Toronto Urban Film Fest), and Toronto Afterdark Film Fest (just to name a few names). Tickets are $15 at the door or online, and there’s different band and flick every Thursday in the open air of the Amsterdam brewery’s backyard. Past musical performances have included scene favourites The Wilderness of Manitoba, The D’arcys, and cowpunks CATL. Proceeds go back into the indie film circuit.

Last Thursday I dropped by the brewery to check out the scene. On the bill were Locomotive 8 and the “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” documentary. Music starts at 8, and if you’re so inclined to participate- a ping pong tournament with some pretty large prizes runs concurrently (a promotion for a New York imported Ping Pong themed night club, soon to open it’s doors in the 416).

At first, the performance is a little shaky and there is some shy banter from the performers. Back-up vocalists don’t get close enough to microphones and their harmonies disappear in the wind, and the piano tone on the keyboard is a little on the melodramatic side. But about half way through the set, the band seems to get over their nerves, admitting “This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever played to. We’ve always wanted to play on Conan, and this is as close as it gets”. The playing is more together after this point, as the band plays tribute to The Silver Jews with cover “Trains Across The Sea”. The second half of the set sees the keyboard player using more synthesizer- a pleasant contrast with the band’s post 90s grunge/ new millennium folk rock palette, especially on tuness like “Space Rock”. The highlight of the performance however, was a song written only a week before called “For Erin Crane”. So far the jam only features a minimal amount of lyrics, but it has a lot of potential.

We didn’t stay for the whole documentary. Although well shot, Coco’s job loss rage was harder to sympathize with than it should’ve been (considering job losses in North America over the past 4 years). Also, NBC sucks is a poor punch line. In spite of Conan’s failure to please, we are considering attending again. Perhaps to catch the screening of “Eco Pirate” and a performance by The Junction- a band who has been garnering some attention on Sirius XM’s Canrock station the Verge.

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