ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD: CANADIAN MUSIC x3

Welcome to spring! It has been a long, cold, dreary winter. Fortunately, patio season, outdoor concerts, and festivals are back, and I couldn't be any happier. In my opinion, summer is the best time for live music, because you could have a barbecue going and a cold beer in your hand while embracing the groove under a dimly lit, star-filled sky. To me, those are the most cathartic nights.

I know there has been a six-week absence after the second installment of my Canadian case study trilogy, but I'll be the first to tell you it has been well worth the wait. This installment is longer, more densely packed with musical goodies and has a few extra surprises I didn't compile in the first two sections. So thank you for your patience, and I hope you have enjoyed all three sections of this piece. Anyways, enough of an introduction; let's get right to the third and final instalment of "Blame Canada."     Read: Part One | Part Two

As usual, I'll showcase a few bands that have been making waves nationwide as well as in the US. The band that has become Canada’s most interesting and exciting export as of late will be profiled first--Ottawa, Ontario's own nero.

nero


Photo by Stu Dog from neroland.com
The first time I saw nero was at the fabled Comfort Zone in Toronto, Ontario, in front of maybe 30 people on a freezing cold February evening in 2002. At the time I was working with the Revolving Door Music Guide in the Northeast, and was sent on an assignment to interview the young trio. From the moment they ripped into their first intense tune, I knew this band was going to turn the heads of many listeners. Even though the band has been collectively together since 1997, their first full-time touring schedule materialized in the early '00s, and Canadian music fans have been enthusiastically supportive from the onset. Since then, the band has played two monumental Phil Lesh and Friends after parties in Toronto, crossed the country several times, became the surprise of last year’s fabled moe.down, opened for moe., Particle, Jazz Mandolin Project, the New Deal, and the Breakfast, and on top of that, developed an honest and supportive following throughout the northeast. The band is headlining the Spring Shaker and Scottypaluza this summer, as well as entertaining the late night crowd at the renowned Adirondack Music Festival. Clearly they're a band on the rise.

nero is one of those bands that you should be kicking yourself about if you haven't seen. The instrumental trio assaults you with straight-ahead rock, blinding heavy metal, danceable psychedelia, and technically complex jazz, creating a weapon of mass danceable destruction. Relying on the steady and consistent drums of Jay McConnery, guitarist Dave Lauzon, and bassist Chris "Punk" Buote, the band builds rhythms and employs a complex call and answer style of improvisation, all woven around intricate melodies that are impossible to ignore.

The single outlining force of the power trio’s demanding sound is that the musicianship is so impressive that it is completely infectious, even if the band's playing a straight-ahead rock number. Along with that, there's never a need for vocals, as the driving bass lines of Buote and the technical wizardry of Lauzon do all the talking, leading the listener through an intense musical trip without ever saying a word.

Zedonk, nero’s brand new album released just a few weeks ago, is an effective studio recreation of their live sound. Employing the services of well-known producer Eric Warren, Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman, Jimmy Swift Band keyboardist Aaron Collier, and the Addison Groove Project horn section, Zedonk is an accurate taste of nero’s live intensity that can be enjoyed in the comforts of home. The band will be touring the US heavily in the spring, with dates in Northeast and Midwest, as well as regular Canadian dates in Ontario, Quebec, and throughout the East Coast.

Plain and simple, if you can't get out to see these guys, you're missing a killer show. Go buy the album and stay up to date at www.neroland.com, and I'll definitely see you out on the dance floor at the next nero show. Now I'm going to travel back across the country and tackle a band from the West Coast that labels themselves as a "psychedelic disco jamgrass" band. In my opinion, that description nails their style to a tee.

Slammin’ Jack

Having only been around since December 2002, Slammin’ Jack has certainly made quite a name for themselves in Canada in just a few short years. Borne out of ex-Burt Neilson Band percussionist Jeff Kornblum and a few East Coast expatriates, the band has successfully criss-crossed the country twice, as well as developed a passionate and dedicated following among the mountain towns of British Columbia and Alberta. Consisting of Martin Ayerst on bass, Sean Scallion on drums, Kornblum on percussion, Scott Daniels on keyboards and Rich Martin on guitar, Slammin’ Jack are built on a prototypical jam band philosophy of combining styles to create a danceable, funk-laden feel, but their recipe goes beyond the usual jammy dance floor fodder.

Built on a solid foundation of funk, the band also combines disco, techno, bluegrass, jazz, and rock into an airy melting pot of danceable music. Using heavy and often domineering percussion elements and the James Brown influenced philosophy of using the guitar as a rhythmic instrument, Slammin’ Jack’s brew forcefully demands audience participatory movement by creating a "four on the floor" drive in their music that not only encourages, but demands the audience to dance. In addition, the band’s repertoire, which tends to favour original tunes in place of cover songs, is built with a primarily instrumental arsenal, although a few songs contain mostly nonsensical lyrics, like the fan-favourite and overall jovial funk number "Eat More Pie."

The band released their debut studio effort, A Day Late, a Dollar Short in December 2003. A testament to their musical melting pot of styles, the album combines funk, disco, jazz, bluegrass, and rock into an upbeat and thematically continuous package that can be listened to over and over. With the debut album, another successful nationwide tour just wrapped up, and a prosperous future that will see more nationwide touring and American touring, Vancouver’s genre-bridging funk machine is worth checking out, because once in a while, everyone needs to dance. Check out the band’s online tour bus at www.slamminjack.com.

Now let us go back to Ontario to the musical mecca that is Brantford, Ontario--a small town of 80,000 that is famous for Wayne Gretzky, Strub’s pickles, and an interesting story that like to call themselves Jomomma.


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