It was a Sunday night at Handlebar in Toronto. It is a bicycle themed bar equipped with such décor and a charming rusticity. There were four bands set to play for the evening, Garbanzo, Basement City, The Second Wife, and Pretty. The stage at the Handlebar was quite small, the first band being a three piece, fit quite well. Garbanzo is a relatively new indie band. They are charming with an edge, and have a surf twang to their sound. Their songs have an explicit theme of youthful disillusionment with life, and apathy, which are common themes in the condition of today’s young adults. Their perils of being 22 with a "Kitchen Job" were very Fidlar-ish. They were an example of nihilistic fun, as there was a palpable energy coming from the band, which contrasted their gloomy demeanor. They gathered a good response from the crowd. They currently have a few songs worth checking out. Their EP title on Bandcamp entirely sums up the vibe of the band, “Careful with that Rent, Eugene."
The next band was a change from the first. They were a four piece called Basement City. The crowd had slightly dissipated when they went on, but their sound was immediately transfixing. The funk and R&B influence bounced through the psychedelic 70s tune. All members of the band were incredibly talented, but the lead guitarist was impeccable at his craft. They had two Stratocasters in harmony, but the lead played solos reminiscent of the greats. He had Eddie Hazel, Eric Clapton vibes with hints of jazz. He was completely in the music, as in his eyes were closed, and he was mouthing the wahs and wails from his instrument. The lead singer served Lenny Kravitz swagger and sexuality. The bassist kept the funk rhythm throughout, and the drummer was fast, and on point. His hands were a blur most of the time, as they should be. They played an amazing cover of “Use Me” originally by Bill Withers, which was spot on, but also sprinkled with their own musical sensibility. They have an EP out now called “Basement City Vol. 1”. They are definitely a group with their sound intact, and musically quite thrilling to see live.
The third band was The Second Wife. They are a folk-punk type band, self-described as “dirty folk”. They had bluegrass and country elements in terms of the barn dance beat they had throughout. They were a certain crowd-pleaser with a hoedown type twang to their songs. Their guitarist and drummer traded places halfway through the set, and had a charming chaotic demeanor. People were getting in touch with their obscure rural hoser though their music. Their content honored the “white trash” of Eastern Ontario, and spoke to people who perhaps are outcasts in rural Canadian culture. They had a Mouldy Peaches type sound but more so on the folk spectrum. Overall they were a lot of fun, and I look forward to hearing more from them in the future.
The last, and headlining band to go on was Pretty. They are unbelievably good. They are fresh off a departed keyboardist/synthesizer, which did not seem to be a problem for them. Their sound picks up on essences of The Kinks, 50s and 60s surf horror, and Nirvana. They definitely have heavy psych-grunge elements. You can barely understand what they’re saying in the songs, but then again you don’t really need to know. The lead singer/guitarist had definite Kurt Cobain influences with his bleached chin-length hair, and droning lyrics that was reminiscent of “Hello, how low”. Their songs accelerate and become intense, seemingly acid-fueled dance songs. The drummer had a free sense of his ability that would make Buddy Rich proud. He was another musician that evening that was reminiscent of the greats. Pretty brings you into another space entirely, and to put very simply, are the epitome of groovy. They are exciting, have a great sense of humour, and are great musical event for psych fans. According to social media, fans are awaiting the release of their EP, “Plastic Music for Plastic People”.
Leaving the Handlebar musically buzzed, and exhausted, there was a stillness washed over the evening. All of these bands have intense talent, and enormous potential. Reminder to you all that it is imperative to support local music, follow your friends’ bands on social media, and keep artists thriving.