Horseshoe Tavern

A Place to Bury Strangers – Tickets – The Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, ON – October 5th, 2015

A Place to Bury Strangers

The Horseshoe Tavern Presents

A Place to Bury Strangers

Grooms, Vallens

Mon, October 5, 2015

Doors: 8:30 pm

The Horseshoe Tavern

Toronto, ON

$15

Tickets at the Door

This event is 19 and over

Advance tickets available at Rotate This & Soundscapes,

A Place to Bury Strangers - (Set time: 11:00 PM)
A Place to Bury Strangers
Try, if only for a moment, to envision a scenario in which you could still be completely *surprised* by a rock band. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s increasingly rare.

A couple of years ago, A Place to Bury Strangers were in search of a new drummer. Lia Simone Braswell, an L.A. native, had recently moved to New York, and was playing drums in shows around Brooklyn “just to keep her chops up.” As it turned out, APTBS bassist Dion Lunadon caught one of those shows and, after seeing her play, was moved to ask her if she’d want to come to a band practice sometime.

“I told some of my friends about it before I met up with them,” Braswell says, of the rehearsal that would soon lead to her joining the band. “They told me, ‘You’re just gonna have to keep up as much as you possibly can.’”

“To be fair, she had also never seen us live,” Lunadon adds. “She didn’t necessarily know what she was getting into.”

What she was getting into: For well over a decade now, A Place to Bury Strangers—Lunadon, founding guitarist/singer Oliver Ackermann, and, officially, Braswell—have become well known for their unwavering commitment to unpredictable, often bewildering live shows, and total, some might say dangerous volume. They don’t write setlists. They frequently write new songs mid-set. They deliberately provoke and sabotage sound people in a variety of cruel yet innovative ways. They can and will always surprise you. “When something goes wrong on-stage, a lot of bands will crumble under the pressure,” says Ackermann. “We like the idea of embracing the moment when things go wrong and turning it into the best thing about the show.”

This April marks the release of Pinned, their fifth full-length and an album that finds them converting difficult moments into some of their most urgent work to date. It’s their first since the 2016 election, and their first since the 2014 closing of Death By Audio, the beloved Brooklyn DIY space where Ackerman lived, worked, and created with complete freedom. “After DBA closed, I moved to an apartment in Clinton Hill,” he says. “I couldn’t make too much noise, couldn’t disturb my neighbors. I would just sit there and write with a drum machine. It had to be about writing a good song and not about being super, sonically loud.”

There are searing meditations on truth and government-led conspiracies (“Execution”), as well as haunting, harmonized responses to the tensions of our current political climate (“There’s Only One of Us”). It all opens with “Never Coming Back,” a frightening crescendo of group vocals, vertiginous guitar work, and Lunadon’s unrelenting bass. “That song is a big concept,” Ackermann says. “You make these decisions in your life…you’re contemplating whether or not this will be the end. You think of your mortality, those moments you could die and what that means. You’re thinking about that edge of the end, deciding whether or not it’s over. When you’re close to that edge, you could teeter over.”

It’s a clear and honest statement of intent, not just for everything that follows, but for this band as a whole. “As things go on, you don’t want them to be stagnant,” Ackermann says. “Being a band for ten years, it’s hard to keep things moving forward. I see so many bands that have been around and they’re a weaker version of what they used to be. This band is anti-that. We try to push ourselves constantly, with the live shows and the recordings. We always want to get better. You’ve got to dig deep and take chances, and sometimes, I questioned that. It took really breaking through to make it work. I think we did that.”

They definitely did.
Grooms - (Set time: 9:45 PM)
Grooms
Having lived, worked, and created in the ever evolving Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn for over a decade, native Texan Travis Johnson has felt the direct impact of the growth and dissolution that comes with rapid gentrification.  His band Grooms practiced, and recorded at Brooklyn's Death By Audio for seven years (first as Muggabears, then as Grooms) before they were forced out of their spiritual and literal home in November 2014 when DBA shut its doors.  A little over a year before, with the band's income not providing enough money to support any of it's members, bass player and co-writer Emily Ambruso went on hiatus from the band, leaving Johnson as the only original member.  Despite these unfortunate blows, Johnson soldiered on, soon recruiting Jay Heiselmann on bass, and actor/comedian Steve Levine on drums.

Travis Johnson's relentless perseverance isn't a central theme, but it's worth keeping in mind when listening to the 11 songs that comprise the new Grooms album Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair, an album which marks a clear aesthetic and thematic departure from the group's previous efforts.  After months of experimenting with sound collages, samples, and electronic beats, the band recorded an obsessively detailed and melodically complex album, with a heavy focus on mood and texture.  Unlike their previous album Infinity Caller (which Speedy Ortiz's Sadie Dupuis called "...an exercise in explosion and restraint hallmarked by sweeping guitars, stuttery drums, and cryptic, airy vocals...") many of the songs on Comb... bring the band's rhythm section to the fore, and Johnson's trademark guitar stylings often take a backseat to his psychedelic sample-collages and ambient electronics.  Fortunately the new approach works, balancing pop structures with masterful experimental production that shifts in tone and color in harmony with Johnson's tales of acceptance, loneliness, and impotent violence. 

On Comb..., that violence is most evident on "Something Wild", a song about destroying the high-priced waterfront condos that contribute to the rising cost of living in neighborhoods like Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and then feeling conflicted about it.  Love is the subject matter on "Bed Version" (a song which Johnson describes as "a fantasy about seeing the joy in my girlfriend's face as she realizes she's not cosmically alone."), and the album becomes wistful on "Cross Off" (a remembrance and longing for the good old days when Ambruso was still an active member of the band), but even on these songs Levine's alternately Krautrock and Elvin Jones-inspired drums, and Heiselmann's propulsive bass help to maintain the album's intense atmosphere.  Album standouts like "Comb the Feelings Through Your Hair" and "Doctor M" deliver head-bobbing pop hooks as Johnson ponders his long-term struggle with addiction, while other songs, "Savage Seminar," "Will the Boys?," and "Grenadine Scene from Inside," explore the thoughts, and feelings of fictional characters in the films Magnolia, Lost Boys, and Steel Magnolias, respectively.

Whether singing from a fictional or personal perspective, Johnson's songs on Comb... are all loosely about letting go of bitterness and resentment.  Like the Brooklyn neighborhood where he lives and works, his internal real estate is constantly being reevaluated, razed, and rebuilt.  Fortunately his internal growth has yielded an album that attentive listeners will find relatable and consistently rewarding.
Vallens - (Set time: 9:00 PM)
Venue Information:
The Horseshoe Tavern
370 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON, M5V 2A2
http://www.horseshoetavern.com/