Toronto, Ontario - One of the most Legendary venues in the city of Toronto is undoubtedly The Horseshoe Tavern. Many great artists have gone through its doors since its opening in 1947. Acts like The Police, Talking Heads and more recent greats like The Strokes and Billy Talent. The most popular? On September 4, 1997 The Rolling Stones played a secret show at the iconic live music locale.
Fast forward 26 years, a week removed from the day, on September 12, Boston's indie rock greats Pile pulled into the Queen Street address, and prepared to put on possibly another legendary show. As is typical with every show I have been to since The Covid Pandemic, the venue was packed, in cult-like fashion, for the trio that has been together since 2010. Supporting the Bostonians were 2 local Toronto bands, Ace of Wands, and Life in Vacuum. With skyrocketing inflation, this show was only going to cost you $20 in advance, or $25 at the door. With this lineup, and these 1990s prices, there is no reason not to check this one out.
Ace of Wands
Kicking off the night was Ace of Wands, a trio from Toronto that was formed by multi-instrumentalist Lee Rose in 2017. Calling themselves a gothic dream rock band, Rose and her bandmates Anna Mernieks (guitars, vocals) and Jody Brumell (drums).
The first few tracks from the band were a slow burn, building up the anticipation for the middle of the set, where the tempo picks up and the band starts to rock out with their punkish sound. The 2 gals at the front of the stage come close, and give it all they've got. So much that Mernieks stumbles, but quickly gains her feet to continue the barrage.
There is quite a range of musical genres with Ace of Wands' sound. Rose even lays a violin to her neck for a celtic sounding finale. The instrument lends another element to the band's repertoire, and personally, I loved it!
Life in Vacuum
Life in Vacuum was formed by Ukrainian brothers, Ross and Sasha Chornyy, in 2006 and they now call Toronto their home. Having amassed a loyal following, the band took the stage ahead of the headlining act, bringing a heavy drum beat ala Sugartooth. The fans packed themselves into the venue and pushed forward to get as close as they could.
Very cool bass lines, grungy vocals and the aforementioned heavy drum beats bring a very alternative rock sound that also gives some Nirvana nostalgia. The band plows through 4 tracks before addressing the crowd. Lead singer Sasha thanks for crowd for coming out on a Tuesday night and professes that it's a dream come true to play with Pile. "I think we're going to play one more!" and a fan yells out "2 more". Not to be bested, yet another cries out "4 MORE". And they do one more!
There's a ton of energy in the band's set, despite the small stage at the Horseshoe.
The stage is set up with the band's 2 keyboards centre-stage, one played by the band's founding member Rick Maguire, and bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Alex Molini. It was a late start for this one, so the headlining act did not get their set going until 10:50pm. Perhaps a tad late as some trouble with the sound cropped up ahead of the band's opening track "It Comes Closer". It would be after the 3rd song that frontman Maguire expresses his gratitude for being back in this city, but right back into the set with "Baby Boy".
Some of the challenges with the sound continued for the first few songs, as Maguire asked for more of this and less of that, but things eventually got ironed out, and to the desired levels. The band's grungy sound has also garnered a cult-like following, so these minor issues were of no consequence.
Pile's catalogue is as varied as the opening act's (or vice versa??) and the setlist featured a mix of the same with psychedelic space sounds, loud and distorted guitars and keys, melancholy, dancey upbeat rock and even acoustic sounding tracks (albeit with electric guitars), featuring songs like "Baby Boy", "Nude With a Suitcase" and "Blood". The mix had the crowd cheering, banging and dancing throughout, giving Maguire and Pile the electricity to pound through their setlist. You could literally see Maguire's burgundy coloured t-shirt soak through with sweat, little by little as the band played on.
It Comes Closer
The World Is Your Motel
I Don't Want to Do This Anymore
Nude with a Suitcase
Outside of the quick "Hello" 3 songs in, there is little to no interaction with the crowd. It allows the band to just get straight to business, and once in the groove, do we, as fans even want it to stop for small talk? Or do we want the music? The crowd tonight clearly wanted the music as they were completely involved with the sounds emanating from the band. We did get some interaction after the band's 14th track "Prom Song" when a breathy, sweating Maguire asks how everybody is, thanks the opening acts, and advises that they have been touring with Life in Vacuum over the past few days and acknowledges how great they are. He shares that the band is going to do a handful more songs "and that will be it". The band then bursts into an angrier sounding "Texas" ahead of some bass guitar, and some more soft, mellowness, again, highlighting the diversity of the band's sound.
It certainly won't go down as one of the legendary shows in The Horseshoe Tavern's history, but that's a tall order. There's a lot to be excited for, for the bands on this bill, and the crowd showed that a larger following could be on the horizon.
CONCERT PHOTO GALLERY
show date: September 12, 2023