PS I love Mangan in the sky with diamonds

This Halloween weekend brought an intimate double set with The Wooden Sky and Yukon Blonde, a hazily harmonious homecoming with PS I Love You and Diamond Rings and a cozy collaborative concert with Dan Mangan

Paul Saulnier of PS I Love You.
Paul Saulnier of PS I Love You.
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Ben Nelson of PS I Love You.
Ben Nelson of PS I Love You.
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John O’Regan of Diamond Rings.
John O’Regan of Diamond Rings.
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Toronto’s The Wooden Sky brought the tunes from their haunting record If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone to The Grad Club last Friday night.
Toronto’s The Wooden Sky brought the tunes from their haunting record If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone to The Grad Club last Friday night.
Photo: 
Toronto’s The Wooden Sky.
Toronto’s The Wooden Sky.
Photo: 

PS I Love You and Diamond Rings

By Kate Kilgour
Staff Writer

Once again, Diamond Rings and Kingston locals PS I Love You, shared the stage together for a Halloween weekend scarily-amazing show. Diamond Rings, in zebra-print leggings, looked his traditional style of eclectic glam, rocking the colorful eye makeup he’s become known for.

He jaunted from mic to mic, guitar to synth, with brief interludes of dancing perfection. His recognition in music and style communities is quickly growing and this sold-out show only vouched for his rising fame. Taking us through six selections from his freshly-released debut album, Special Affections, every second was captivating.

PS I Love You followed with an equally impressive set, proving they are only improving with every show. It’s no doubt that Kingston’s pride is growing exponentially with the hype continuing to swell around Saulnier and Nelson.

True to their own aesthetic, Saulnier in plaid and Nelson in skinny jeans, their set was tight and powerful, raspy and melodic. Juxtaposing the pop-synth sounds of Diamond Rings, PS I Love You led us from “Meet Me at the Muster Station,” to “Starfield” and “Butterflies and Boners”. “Facelove,” their most well-known track, brought their set to a near-close.

The last kick of the show was “All Yr Songs,” a Diamond Rings hit, which was performed by all three artists. For two distinct acts with seemingly differing vibes, their collaboration efforts were seamless.

The Wooden Sky

By Ari Herberman
Contributor

When I walked into the Grad Club on Friday, I heard R.E.M.’s “Man on the Moon” drifting from the speakers in the bar and instantly knew it would be a good night.

As The Wooden Sky, an indie-rock outfit from Toronto, began their 13-song set, the room was bustling with anticipation.

The band finally took to the tiny stage with “When Lost at Sea,” an appropriate choice made clear when front man Gavin Gardiner sang out the first line, “we got arrested on Aberdeen with empty hands and mouths to feed.”

When asked about the lyrics by an audience member, Gardiner said that no one had actually been arrested, but they still managed to stir up some trouble. “We did break into a bunch of houses and stole booze. It was homecoming, fuck it.”

“This one’s about homecoming too,” Gardiner said as the band launched into “(Bit Part),” continuing a tight set through-and-through and showcasing their diverse sound without losing the crowd’s interest.

Their sound ranges from hearty, foot-stomping rock (“When We Were Young”) to more laid-back, country-folk fusion tunes (“Something Hiding For Us in the Night”). It’s all tied together by Gardiner, whose artfully husky vocals channel Springsteen.

The Wooden Sky’s talent hasn’t gone unnoticed. Their most recent album, If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone, released in August of 2009, earned a spot on the long list for the 2010 Polaris Music Prize.

Despite its success, to say Friday’s show did justice to the band’s achievement would be an understatement. The live performance was right on par with the spectacular quality of the record, and each member demonstrated true passion and skill for their instrument. Each song left me wanting more and at times, I found myself wishing for a little more improvisation or an extended solo when the songs seemed to end too quickly.

Standout moments included energetic covers of “American Girl” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.” The Wooden Sky gave Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ classics a slightly more punk feel but ultimately stayed true to the original versions in the best sense. Their energy was on high and they hit all harmonies with precision and ease. Drummer Andrew Kekewich’s talent particularly shone during the latter.

Another highlight was “The Late King Henry,” which the band dedicated to fellow musician and good friend Dan Mangan who was performing the same night at Sydenham Street United Church. The feel-good, retro-rock rhythm had the crowd dancing, singing and clapping along and I finally got the solo I’d been craving when pianist, guitarist and vocalist Simon Walker took a moment to tickle the ivories.

For the final song of the main set, opening band Yukon Blonde was invited on stage to add some extra percussion to The Wooden Sky’s “Something Hiding For Us in the Night.” Yukon Blonde, based in Vancouver, played a well-received opening set that included their popular single “Wind Blows” and a cover of Neil Young’s “Down by the River,” after which lead singer Jeff Innes declared “it’s Neil Young Week.” (This was revised to “Corey Hart week” when Gardiner joined Yukon Blonde onstage for the next song donning a killer pair of shades.)

When The Wooden Sky returned to the stage for an encore, they played the anthemic “North Dakota,” then announced a 10-minute break followed by an acoustic performance. After a smoke break and a refill, everyone smart enough to stick around filtered into the lounge.

At one of the tables I began talking to a recent Queen’s grad who told me about how The Wooden Sky connected her with friends when they were separated for a year’s time. We were joined at the table by Yukon Blonde bassist Brandon Scott and Graham Jones, who talked to us about touring, school, Europe and more as we constructed a map of Ontario out of scattered Hickory Sticks on the table.

Eventually, Yukon Blonde, The Wooden Sky and, to our surprise, Dan Mangan gathered in the middle of the room and led the rest of us in a rowdy sing-a-long to Weezer, Elton John and The Beatles until when mid “I’ve Just Seen A Face,” we were kicked out of the Grad Club at three in the morning.

Gardiner said earlier on, “we love playing in Kingston, so this is special for us.” I think it’s safe to say that, on behalf of everyone lucky enough to be at the show, it was special for us, too.

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