Friday, October 29, 2010

The Elastocitizens with The Ruby Spirit and The Ninja Funk Orchestra - Friday, October 29th, 2010, Toronto

Lee’s Palace always seems to be the venue for spectacle. I remember seeing a show years ago where there were fire jugglers and a seven-piece band performing the theme song for Super Mario Bros. Well, there were no fire jugglers, but there was a barrage of costumes for this Halloween event and I was fortunate to catch two out of three of the acts performing.
The Ruby Spirit 
The Ruby Spirit is a five-piece rock theatre outfit from Toronto, who are somewhere between psychedelic and post-punk with Paige Boy on vocals, Alex Pulec on guitars and vocals, Mickey Donnelll on bass, Jay Cipparrone on drums and Juliana Eye on keys. Formerly called Sadie May Crash, the band has been playing as The Ruby Spirit for a couple of years together, with newly added keyboardist Juliana Eye and for six years since the inception of Sadie May Crash.

The band members are performing arts schoolmates who have obviously followed through as performers. Singer Paige Boy was quite confident in rhyming off her musical influences when asked, mentioning David Bowie, Captain Beefheart, Patti Smith, and Bob Dylan among others. I could definitely see the David Bowie influence on their stage show.

The Ruby Spirit has moved past the basic development stages and really focusing on the energy they are delivering to their audience. Paige told me they practice a lot. They are an exciting group to watch and although I can see hints of Emo/Goth influence, the music is much more up beat. Listening to Paige’s portamento vocal style, I couldn’t help thinking of “Ballroom Blitz.”


The Elastocitizens
The Elastocitizens need a big stage to perform on. With three female singers/dancers in carnival costumes, a three-piece brass section, a lead vocalist, a guitarist, a bassist and a drummer with matching makeup, and even a flautist, they really filled the stage with personnel, and the venue with sound. They Elastocitizens had the sound guy working, and although I caught him plugging his ears to hear the mix, overall he did a decent job. The pit is louder than the rest of Lee’s Palace and the layout is better for viewing than for sound quality.

One interesting addition to the evening’s performances was the video mixing on the screen behind the stage. This added visual impact was suited to an act that must have drawn flow charts for stage directions. The lead vocalist used a megaphone several times during the show, the carnival singers held up the letters “F” “U” “N” “K” to accent one of their songs and there were also changes in the lineup so some members could do costume changes.

Most of The Elastocitizens material follows in the tradition of Parliament/Funkadelic with a dance beat as the driving force. There were a couple of songs where only the core four members were on stage playing, one being a Zeppelinesque, long-black-wavy-hair sounding tune and another with slap bass that reminded me of Red Hot Chili Peppers. The guitarist has a bluesy style, adding lots of tasty licks in between songs with lots of wah-wah and even some slide guitar. He even sang a couple of songs himself, which helped facilitate the costume changes. There was even a drum solo, which was lots of fun but the encore that followed went too long in my opinion.

The core group of musicians are Steve McCarthy on lead vocals, Brandon McGibbon on guitar, Jason O'Brien on bass and Mackenzie Longpre on drums. The female vocal section consists of Joanne Boland, Monica Dottor and Melissa Jane Shaw. The brass section is Gordon Hyland on sax, Carolyne Maraghi on trumpet/flugelhorn and Brian Walters on trumpet. Rob Piilonen played the flute.

Ninja Funk Orchestra

I was invited to see the Ninja Funk Orchestra, who opened but unfortunately missed their early performance. Although I can’t comment on their show, I found out they had donned ninja costumes. The Ninja Funk Orchestra are a Jazz-Funk-Rock quartet consisting of Neil Whitford on guitar, Gordon Hyland on sax, Mackenzie Longpre on drums and Andrew Roorda on Bass.

Photo Courtesy of Igor Vidyashev Photogarphy 
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