Wednesday May 6th, Toronto. In which we brave The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, but are yet thwarted by its legendary obstacles. Being an authentic rock club means the frills are trimmed and the west is a wild, security-barren, cramped place full of great music. The eternal trade off continues.

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Swervedriver with SIANspheric and Little You, Little Me, as part of CMW, Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, May 6, 2015

We arrive just after Little You, Little Me to see a promising sight: still some room at the front, as shooting is an every photographer for himself battle in this small, yet invariably, come 11:00 pm, densely packed free-for-all with no pit and no security to stare down the random acts of yahooism that can upset the whole night. Hamilton’s (!!!) own Space Rockers SIANspheric takes the stage right about on time (10:00 pm) and they are affable, cheerful, and stoic. They work their own corners building their signature riffs and occasionally building, at a tantalizing pace, to a crashing crescendo. These pioneers bring a bit of Tortoise vibe (they’ve been making contributions to the Shoegaze scene on and off since ’94) and some nice gazey moments with hushed vocals and syrupy pacing. It’s a really enjoyable show. Early on, singer Sean Ramsey asks the audience for some more “Give’rs!” and when this does not result in the crowd uttering the encouraging language of the monster truck world, he follows with “you don’t think I’m serious but I am.” SIANspheric give a solid 45 minute set and we make a note to catch them again sometime in a setting where we can sit and chill with the ambient waves. We would love to see these guys on an afternoon slot on one of our upcoming festival bills! Would no doubt be a crowd pleaser. Currently SIANspheric are on tour with Swervedriver for local dates, and released their first record on a limited pressing on vinyl recently through Noyes records “The Owl”/ “Smokin’ Ritchie”.

Around 10:50 what always happens at The Horseshoe happens. While at one time it must have been a charming 87 -seat saloon, it now is a long and narrow rabbit warren at the back of the house  where the smallish stage is, and 200 people try to leave their place in front of the stage to hit the can and the bar or get a smoke, while at the same time 200 people try to squeeze in. Two to four rabid superfans are running in both of these directions, elbows bent like knobby weapons, and their annoyance factor increases with age and the presumed gap of years since they last ventured out to see a show in the big city.  A few photographers also try to assert their place at the front, while the fans who’ve been holding one of 8 or so coveted spots at the front earn their badges for patient dedication. Those not enjoying any of this make their way to the lovely quiet front of house (no view of the show) or the area near the sound booth (which has wooden tables and hard metal stools that now look like paradise.  Faint of heart people can safely hear (if not see) the show from this vantage point, which would be called a cop out anywhere else. Swervedriver come out promptly at 11:00 pm to warm applause, a packed, airless crush of fans and media, and one 250 pound buffoon, here alone from god knows where, who’s decided to crowd surf, menace all and sundry like a kodiak bear to maintain “his” place and generally, act like an overgrown 3 year old menace. He’s one of those fools who travel alone (go figure) and whose good time seems largely dependent on the extreme discomfort of others. Amid all this, Swervedriver, having garnered tons of buzz at SXSW recently, get right to work with a lively set that seems louder than SIANspheric, and despite their usual categorization, much less gazey, but still full of that great early 90’s Alternative/Indie sound. They get help from Supergrass’s Mick accompanying the set. This CMW gig is part of their current major tour playing their 2015 release I Wasn’t Born to Lose You across Eastern & Western Canada and the UK through May and June. If I may digress, you have to LOVE and give a deep formal bow to a band who takes the time to get across both Eastern and Western Canada, a noteworthy effort with challenging logistics in a big ol’ country. But this is, after all, the Shoegazer renaissance we’ve long needed, that may just save Alternative (/real) music. While some unsuccessfully crowd surf at The Horseshoe, the rest of us enjoy highlights such as “Rave Down” (many from the far distance).

By Step On Magazine Editors