El Rey - June 17, 2008
Live Review and Photography by Alexis Roberts
In the summertime all of the kids that you normally wouldn’t see out on a “school night” flocked to the El Rey to see the princes of Canadian indie-pop, Islands…but not before having to tolerate some of the worst opening acts known to mankind.
A mostly forgettable set was performed by the first opener (name of the band? Who cares… you don’t want to listen to them anyway). The only reason I even remember watching said “band” was because as a desperate attempt to gain attention, their singer threw on a chicken suit and a Spartan hat for the last couple of songs. It was unimpressive, and frankly the whole "dressing weird on stage" thing is pretty much overdone, to the point that now it’s just annoying.
To salt our wounds, a white rap act came on afterwards - and they were even worse. They were replacements for another band that didn’t show. AWOL was the name of this disgrace to rap music, and don’t feel like you need to remember that name, either. The set was long and awkward, with whispers of everyone in the crowd saying things like “this is so bad”. They finalized their truly bad set by making sure to deface Queen’s "We Are The Champions", and got more applause once they had left the stage, than the entire time they were actually on the stage.
Finally Islands took the stage and there was almost an audible sigh of relief when they began playing, because dear God, we had been tortured enough. Seeing Nick Throburn (aka Nick Diamonds) and company take the stage, clad in tight pants and bow ties was like tasting ice cream for the first time. My favorite thing about Islands (besides their music) is their matching set of Asian fiddle players, who seem to be constantly dueling throughout the set. Dueling fiddles, way cooler than dueling banjos- hands down.
All of the teenagers who had their scrawny bodies pressed up toward the front of the stage were moving along and singing every word along with Throburn as he sheepishly strummed away at his guitar, never being overly enthusiastic to be on stage, but never creating a dull moment for the audience. They wove through favorites from their first album Return to the Sea (which is the first post-Unicorns musical effort that Throburn made and actually turned out to be bigger than anything that the Unicorns had done anyway). They also played tracks off of the brilliant new release Arm’s Way, which had come out just a few weeks before the show. Naturally everyone went wild for “Don’t Call Me Whitney, Bobby” which is their most kickass single to date, but by my predictions (which are typically dead on) there are several songs on Arm’s Way that are going to give the ol’ single a good run for it’s money and rightfully so. Islands are a great band and deserve heaps and heaps of fans. Besides having released two great albums, they put on great shows. Check it… and check out The Unicorns while you’re at it- they were way underrated.
More by this writer:
The Helio Sequence - Live - June 16, 2008
The Album Leaf - Into the Blue Again
Hot Snakes - Thunder Down Under
Fujiya & Miyagi - Live - Oct. 13, 2007