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Noises From the Toolshed - 10/27 in Victoria **Updated w/ full Review


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Smokin' show.

The band has been holed up working on a new record, and the hard work definitely showed last night. The tightest show I've seen from them, and the addition of a baritone sax player on most of the tunes really filled out the sound. Covers of Scofield's "Kool" and The Sisters Euclid's "Tumbleweed Tea" rounded out a set of mainly instrumental original material that included "Half Moon Bay", "Floating in the Oxygen", "Lighthouse" and some brand new tunes (no tapers though...bummer. Aloha, Hart).

Embarrassingly, attendance was average at the beginning, and God awful by the end of the show. Victoria doesn't deserve this band, but I'm excited to see where they take the new material, musically speaking, when they head out on a proper tour in the springtime after the release of the (all instrumental) new album.

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Oh the delights that spawn from musical cabin fever. In the midst of an extended break from live performances in order to focus on the recording of a new album, Victoria’s Noises From the Toolshed emerged from hibernation at Steamer’s on Saturday night to bring their groove-drenched proggy jazz to the masses. The band showed no signs of rust as it cruised with musical eloquence through a ninety-minute set that balanced spot-on technical proficiency with inspiring musical lift-offs, throwing in a healthy dose of pop-friendly hooks for good measure.

The four-piece band – Stephen Franke on guitar, Chris Van Sickle on keys, Alex MacCuaig on bass and Allan Cameron on drums - was bolstered by the addition of a baritone saxophone player for most of the show, adding texture to the sonic low end and making for a fuller sound, all-around. The horn player gave the songs he performed on a sense of completeness that the four-piece has not always been able to offer them in the past. These were the songs – mostly NFTT originals - the way they were meant to be played, reaching their full multi-layered potential.

As each song progressed, the lines between the structured components and the alternating solos taken by the players were repeatedly blurred. Time and again, the band members would simultaneously but delicately pour their musical energy through a collective funnel to have it gathered by a soloist who would seamlessly take the musical baton and run with it, only to have as smooth a transition back to the core of the song at solo’s end. Especially strong in this regard was the salsa-infused instrumental “Half Moon Bayâ€, as well as some of the fresh material being prepared for the new album.

The quarterback of these transitions and the standout musician on the stage was, of course, the bandleader himself. The love that Stephen Franke made to his hollow-body Paul Reid Smith was incendiary and furious, yet deliberate and restrained. Franke made every note count, both when playing rhythm behind his band mates and stepping up to take solos of his own. It takes a confident musician to walk as purposefully as he does along the border delineating mature technical mastery and self-indulgent wanksmanship while remaining on the right side of the fence.

This balance was perhaps best illustrated on one of the evening’s three cover tunes, “Tumbleweed Teaâ€, originally performed by Toronto’s Kevin Breit & The Sisters Euclid. The band attacked the blazing, country-infused groove from all sides, diving head first into the song’s rapid time signature without letting themselves get carried away. Breit and company are much loved in their hometown of Toronto, where they pack in the crowds every Monday night for their resident gig at the fabled Orbit Room. As I looked around at the much thinned-out crowd remaining at show’s end on Saturday night, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a shame it is that Victoria can’t show the same love on a seasonal – let alone weekly - basis to its own native sons.

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