Alex Calder - When your authorized biography uses a line in it like "to call his music lazy would be misdirected", you can be assured that this will be an artist that will polarize or at least confuse listeners. I would wager this live set seemed even more designed to do that than his recordings would. The Canadian Calder sings and plays guitar with another guitarist and a rhythm section. There were some decent songs and spirited playing in a light dancing sort of way, even as they followed solid rock and pop styles. The polarization occurred in two ways, both of which pushed me away from them. I had dark visions of an awful Replacements show where the drunken Westerberg and the gang played a few seconds or minutes of cover songs they didn't know for about 3/4 of their set. This time, the band did know the King of the Hill theme song which they spliced in half at different points of the set. That was ok, but I could have done without the portion of Pink Floyd's "Money". The other thing was that the vocals were all done well in one microphone with the other one set to falsetto used only for the three front people to do their stage patter, never breaking from helium registers. It was funny for 5 seconds--10 if you are less of a curmudgeon. But to give them a blurb... 'Alex Calder's set was far better than the Replacements!'
No Joy - This Montreal trio features two women on guitars and vocals with a drummer and they are supplemented by the bass player from the previous set. Immediately this has a strong rocking Sonic Youth sound. In fact, I have to look closely to make sure I am not seeing a new band from Kim Gordon. As they play on I detect some Mission of Burma in here too, as this has a brisk mobile flow to it. There are post-punk moves, shoegaze sounds, great harmonies, but the music rocks and pulls you in. They did not muck about and kept the music coming. They played for only a half-hour, although I think that was ok for this go around. I believe they may need a bit more variety for longer sets. Although there was one longer cut that had a groove that the Swans would find a way to stretch out even further into a 20 minute opus that would stay interesting throughout. So I am optimistic that this fine band will be around a while and will be getting even better.
Quote of the Night: From the bass player early in the A.Calder set (in falsetto)... "Do you guys like this music?"
If you have to ask...