IMG_0300Prior to their Riot Fest appearance, Stooges guitarist James Williamson issued a sarcastic jab to the show headliners: “Good luck to the Replacements on following us,” he told Exclaim!. Given the anticipation leading up to the Mats first gig in over 20 years, it sounded like a grab for media attention. But who knew this quintet of geezers would actually give them a run for their money.

IMG_0276The band – Williamson, bassist Mike Watt, drummer Scott Asheton and sax and keyboard player Steve Mackay – took the stage launching into “Raw Power.” The Lizard King wasn’t far behind, pausing behind Mackay briefly before James Osterberg had fully transformed into his manic alter ego, Iggy Pop. This guy is now well into his 60s, his body is lean, if wrinkly and his stage presence remains completely magnetic.

Iggy’s got a shtick, that’s for sure, but my God does it work for him. He remains a menacing figure, just


ask the photogs standing underneath him as he leered over the photo pit during “Gimme Danger.” He’s matched by the Stooges, who, despite age and line-up changes, remain one of the fie

As if to prove that he can still be the real wild child his audience wants hi to be, he even launched
himself into the audience unexpectedly during “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” If he hurt himself in the process, he showed no sign of it, emerging back on stage as manic as before. “Search & Destroy,” “No Fun,” “Funhouse,” the list of classics was impressive even if they did skip over “Out in the Street” rcest bands alive, throwing down slabs of proto-punk riffage while Iggy did his thing.

While there was no way the Stooges were going to steal headlines from the Replacements, they certainly gave the band a run for their money. Moreover, they proved why they were (and continue to be) a catalyst for pretty much every single band who graced the Riot Fest stage over the weekend.



IMG_0584There are plenty of people who will tell you that this current – unbe-fucking-lievable – Replacements reunion isn’t really a reunion. Original guitarist Bob Stinson died in ’95, replacement guitarist Slim Dunlop is sidelined after a stroke, his medical bills the catalyst for this whole shebang, and drummer Chris Mars is nowhere to be found. Their are people who can tell you that no Replacements reunion can live up to the Minneapolis band’s legend, a band who would play shows so drunk they couldn’t finish their own songs or would only play covers. A band who would be shit two out of three shows, but be the best band in the world on that third night. They might be right. But as a 32-year old who came-of-age in a post-Mats world, this night was everything I could have asked for. IMG_0608

The fervour Mats fans have for this band is kind of indescribable. You have to live with their music for a while for it to really get under your skin, but once it does, whoa-boy, you’re hooked for life.

Rapt anticipation awaited the quartet – singer-guitarist Paul Westerberg, bassist Tommy Stinson and fill-in drummer and guitarist Josh Freese and David Minehan – as they took the stage. “We’re going to play some old shit,” said Westerberg, decked out in an oversized suit jacket and smirking the whole night, before the band ripped through “Takin’ a Ride.” “I’m in Trouble” followed, then “Favourite Thing.” The band, who’ve been in rehearsals for a couple months, walked the thin line between tight precision and sloppy mess, proving that the Mats’ signature sound was less calculated anti-rock stance and more natural playing style. Paul forgot the words part-way through “Androgynous” letting Tommy take the lead for a minute, and the two men seemed genuinely thrilled to be playing these songs together again. Freese and Minehan on the other hand appeared simply thrilled to be part of the event as they held up their end of the music with aplomb.

IMG_0745Some songs did drag a tad, while others were burned bright with the searing anti-authoritarian attitude that birthed them. The band engaged in a bit of audience fuckery, covering Chuck Berry and Sham 69 when they could have been playing someone’s “favourite song ever.” But that’s all part of the Replacements experience, part of being a fan of this band, isn’t it?


Their set ended with a series of winners. “Swinging Party” was apparently requested specifically by Dunlop. A horn and stringless “Can’t Hardly Wait” was spine tingling and “Bastards of Young” was the teenage anthem the mid-30s skewing audience always believed it to be.


After a short break, the band returned to the stage, Paul sporting a Montreal Canadiens’ jersey and middle fingers before launching into… “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” from

the Broadway musical Gypsy. Finally “I.O.U.” and its telling screed of “Want it in writing/I owe you nothing” closed the night (there was a 10pm curfew).

You could complain if you really wanted to; they didn’t play enough of their early hardcore material, they skipped classics like “Unsatisfied” and “Skyway,” the were too sloppy, they weren’t sloppy enough etc, etc.  But really, in 2013, we got all we could reasonably want from a Replacements reunion. The band have two more shows scheduled. What will become of the Mats after that? Who knows. But one thing’s for sure. Now they really do owe us nothing. – Ian Gormely 



The Replacement’s Tommy Stinson @ Riot Fest


The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg @ Riot Fest

IMG_0655The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson @ Riot Fest



Dinosaur Jr have never been one for witty stage banter; J Mascis and Lou Barlow prefer to let their instruments do the talking. “So, this is our set?” Barlow asked as Mascis’ guitar squealed into action. The trio were, as ever, thunderously loud, working through song from their entire career. Notable was a move into their 90s records – the ones Barlow didn’t play on – that the reformed trio’s avoided since reforming in the mid-2000s. Tracks like “Out There” and “The Wagon” joined “Watch the Corners” and “Freak Scene,” much to the delight of the aging audience. Even the side stage was packed with onlooking musicians like Grade’s Kyle Bishop and Fucked Up’s Pink Eyes. As always Dinosaur Jr. played a searing set, anchored by Barlow’s thundering bass and a drummer who looked suspiciously unlike Murph. Seriously, I kind of can’t get enough of seeing these guys play together. – Ian Gormely

UPDATE: Dino Jr’s fill-in drummer was apparently Kyle Spence from Harvey Milk. And while I’m adding to this post I should also mention the band played “Feel the Pain” and an old Deep Wound (J and Lou’s pre Dinosaur band) track.


Dino Jr’s Lou Barlow @ Riot Fest

IMG_0150Dino Jr’s J Mascis @ Riot Fest

IMG_0029As Bethany Cosentino and her band Best Coast graduate to bigger venues (or at least the opportunity to play bigger shows once in a while) they’re going to have to think bigger. Best Coast are, in the realm of groups playing this fest, a small indie band. But their music can be big, huge even, when Cosentino let’s her voice really open up. But she seems more comfortable playing to a nightclub or small hall as opposed to the open field of onlookers at Riot Fest. Their mid-afternoon set was chock full of great songs from their small, but stacked catalogue. “The Only Place” and “Bofriend” got heads bobbing and a new tracks promises at least a semi-return to the buzzy pop of the band’s debut. But their set just wasn’t the jolt of caffeine this crowd needed to get their Sunday started. – Ian Gormely


Bob Bruno of Best Coast

IMG_0049Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast


IMG_0057Burlington, ON hardcore OGs Grade came out of hibernation to play a late afternoon slot at the Toronto edition of Riot Fest. Sandwiched between metalcore crew the Ghost inside and pop-punks Mayday Parade and playing to an audience full of people who were still in elementary school during IMG_0088the band’s height, Grade had an uphill battle.

They came out swinging with “the Inefficiency of Emotion,” “Stolen Bikes Ride Faster” and “Seamless” in quick succession before frontman Kyle Bishop took a break and addressed the band’s alien-like status on the bill. “We don’t really fit in…but that’s always been the story,” commented singer-guitarist Greg Taylor later in the set.

Rather than playing as if they had something to prove, Grade instead played like a band with nothing to prove; they’ve earned their punk rock stripes and at this point, it was up to people to come to them. As Taylor pointed out, it’s a stance the band are used to. They certainly stuck out when their two opuses – Separate the Magnets and Under the Radar  – catapulted them to the top of the underground in the late 90s. This was a band playing for themselves, and revelling in it.


Their set was primarily culled from the latter record, their best, but they’ peppered in favourites like “Conceptualizing Theories in Motion” from Separate and “Little Satisfactions” from swan song Headfirst Straight 

to Hell, an album more than half of the current line-up didn’t even play on.

After apologizing for the un-punk prices for t-shirts at the merch booth (it was apparently out of their hands, a rare concession to a force outside the group) they ended with “A Year in the Past, the Future Forever,” the closest thing Grade ever had to a traditional hit, and “Triumph and Tragedy.” When these guys will pop up again is anybody’s guess, but it’s a sure bet it will be on their terms.

Check out an interview with Grade guitarist Greg Taylor here.


IMG_0336In 2006 I moved from Vancouver to Halifax for school. I knew no one; I’d never even been east of Toronto. The entirety of my Atlantic Canadian knowledge came from local artists like Joel Plastkett, whose songs like “Love this Town” and “Nowhere With You” painted a quaint, loving picture of the city. While living there I interviewed Plaskett twice – I even met his mom (according to her he was a “chubby baby”). So clearly I have a bit of a bias when it comes to his music.

Still, I hadn’t seen the Darmouth, Nova Scotia native since I left the Maritimes, so it was hard to know what to expect when the lanky singer-guitarist took the stage at the inaugural Toronto Urban Roots Festival. His national profile has grown since I moved to Toronto in 2008, and he’s released a slew of new music in that period. Yet from the moment he stepped on stage, beaming, it was clear that the humble, self-aware artist who introduced me to my temporary home had changed little.

Backed by the Emergency (drummer Dave Marsh and bass player Chris Pennell) the trio opened with “Down at the Khyber” much to the delight of the numerous Haligonians peppered throughout the crowd. By second song “Through & Through & Through” it was clear that while Plaskett as a person hasn’t changed, Plaskett the frontman has.

IMG_0293For such a modest figure, he’s developed a stage persona that’s part storyteller, part Southern preacher leading the revival. The former took hold particularly during a brief acoustic interlude; Plaskett detailed the genesis of his ode the the Cabot Trail, “On the Rail” even briefly teasing at a performance of Thrush Hermit classic “the Day We Hit the Coast.” The latter appeared in the band’s jammier moments, particularly the epic “Work Out Fine.” Verbally riffing off the song’s distinctive drum and bass groove, interpolating Sam Cooke “Cupid” and a sing-a-long of “Doo-Wah-Diddy” before finally settling into the song proper. And when the band hit the crowd favourite line “All my friends/Where did they go?/To Montreal/Toronto!” line, he implored “little Halifax” to sing along.

IMG_0393The set split the difference between his latest CBC commissioned record, Scrappy Happiness,  and older material like “Natural Disaster” and “Extraordinary.” Yet there’s an incredible congruity to Plaskett’s music, which has mixed the singer’s heart-on-sleave sentimentality with a knack for self-referential whit (“I’m Yours,” which details meeting his future wife on the set of Thrush Hermit’s “French Inhale” video shoot, being a prime example) throughout his career. In the wrong setting this seeming clash of tones can go awry, but on this night it hit its target as “Love this Town” and “Lightning Bolt” closed out a triumphant set that set an incredibly high bar for the weekend to come. A biased opinion maybe, but one that certainly from the heart.  – Ian Gormely

Ian Gormely is CHRY’s music director. 

Outkast, UGK, 8 Ball and MGJ, Scarface, and David Banner: what do those artist have in common? Besides being from the south, they’ve all engraved their names as legends in Southern hip-hop. What do these artist have in common in BIG K.R.I.T? Just one listen to his latest mixtape, Return of 4eva and you’ll know right away that he’s not far from making that list.

With 21 tracks, Return of 4eva is a breath of fresh air in the midst of all the latest trap, and snap production. Songs like “Sookie Now” (featuring David Banner), “Time Machine” (featuring Chamillionaire), and “Country Shit” (featuring Ludacris) proves that not only can Big K.R.I.T can hold his own against these hip-hop veterans, he’s also a great producer.

All in all Return of 4eva is a great mixtape that is a definate must have. – Joshua Fountain


“Hometown Hero”

Imagine this: you’re in distress. Out of nowhere comes the Ninja Funk Orchestra. You can’t understand how this espionage knew your affliction, but their mission drew them to this moment. Their array of weapons seems few, but how they use them – vast, as if the message to be delivered has never been interpreted that way before. The prolific background of music ideals, morals and thoughts have spurred on these four young souls to become masters of their craft. Elements of Jazz, Rock, Funk, DubStep, Drum & Bass, Electronica and Experimental are all infused. One wonders how it works, but with Toronto’s NFO, fusion is just a meager term.

What makes their sound so definitive is not just from what they play, but how they deliver their way of life though the instrumentation. “Fist” brings a declaration of their presence while “(Theme from) Thunderbrawl” states their mission and that they are on the move to fulfill it. “Shadow” is about their stealth journey (like a true Ninja), “10,000 Snakes” is a mindset, speaking that they do not take their purpose lightly and “(Oh Baby, I’m So Beyond) Drifting through Space Without You” speaks truth – the more involved you become in your mastery and mission, the more lonely you become. Track by track they show their levels and how to best quantify them, not only delivering a song, but an experience.

Listening to the NinjaTek on CD is already an augmentation, but watching them perform live is like being carried to another dimension you never knew existed, coming back to Earth with this linger and enlightened sense of purpose to get back into that dimension. – Camillie Leung

Live on CHRY 105.5: 

Foo Fighters fit on the top shelf of modern alternative rock music today and Wasting Light, their seventh album, is their best one yet. All of the band’s previous six albums went platinum or gold. But only the first two were represent the grungy alternative rock band for which the band garnered mass recognition. Wasting Light is the first real evidence that the group are regaining their original momentum by going back to the grungy garage sound. Returning to fold after years on the periphery, Pat Smear’s punk rock guitar sound is clearly heard on stand out track “White Limo.” Other highlights include “I Should Have Known” and “Dear Rosemary” for which the band collaborated with legendary Hüsker Dü and Sugar guitarist Bob Mould and finds frontman Dave Grohl working with former Nirvana bandmate Krist Novoselic for the first time in a decade and a half.

I have a lot of respect for the amount of work on the songwriting aspect of their career. This is the sound of a band going back to their roots to find a new groove in common ground. Wasting Light shows what the band are all about: making catchy modern day rock and roll for the long haired fans of the grunge scene grown up from the nineties. It also shows that the band is keeping their minds open by using new collaborations and ideas to maintain their image in the spotlight and appeal to even more fans. Wasting Light proves Foo Fighters are far from finished their musical journey. – Alejandro Espinoza

“White Limo”

Massillion? Where, who, what the heck is that? I had to Google that one. Turns out it’s a small city in Ohio, USA – a place with a strict work ethic. It’s also the place where up and coming rapper, Kyle Myricks, better known by his stage name, Stalley, was born and raised. Lincoln Way Nights (Intelligent Trunk Music) is Stalley’s third mixtape and pays homage to this blue collar town filled with steel factories. He left Massillion- he calls it the Milq – for New York City (the Honey) to give his music career an added push after plans to play college basketball failed, a decision he recounts on the “The Milq and Honey” featuring clips of random people talking about leaving Massillion over top of its old-school vibe.

Throughout the mixtape’s 16-tracks the sound of horns is made apparent.  That, along with a voice imbued with passion, allows for a rugged vibe that I can get used to. I love that Stalley can rhyme without making references to women as b-words and such. I instantly fell in love with “Slapp” because it samples Wiz Khalifa’s underground track “Spotlight,” a beat that bring chills down my spine. One thing I absolutely enjoy hearing is the fierceness of bass, and “Pound” and “She Hates Bass” (contrary to my feelings) kills it! The sound of the 808s pumping through my headphones is hypnotic and heartfelt.

“Tell Montez I Love Her” is my favourite and the most real song on Lincoln Ways Nights. In the first verse Stalley talks about his situation with his mother, who calls and tells him that she’s struggling financially back home. He feels horrible because he just spent money at the mall on unnecessary things. In an interview with The 330, Stalley says, “My mom is 60 years old and she just recently stopped working and not by choice, so it’s some hard times. Meanwhile, I’m here in New York and I’m living the dream. But when I go to stores and I shop, it’s hard for me . . . and it sucks that I can’t help.” While everything is going wrong, his mother is still proud of him, as a mother should, but he think otherwise. In the second verse, he sends a message out to his sister, who’s been absent in his life for three years now. He reminisces about their lives as children and congratulates her on her successes. He encourages also her to visit him and his children and ends it off by sending his love.

Stalley’s latest is the perfect marriage between old and new school that will officially put Massillion on the map. The fact that he’s not a rookie coming from a hip hop epicentre like Atlanta or Chicago makes him unique and quickly draws hip hop heads to him. With appearances on MTV’s Sucker Free and MTV Jams’ Mixtape Daily, Stalley is accumulating national status. If you want a free ride to Massillion, hop on the next thing smoking, and that is Lincoln Way Nights. –  Irene Boateng

“Slapp” ft. Rashad