At 10 p.m. on Saturday, a tall, lanky figure commandeered the stage of Call the Office with a gritty guitar and two mates. This figure — Londoner Andrew James — looks just like the boy-next-door. But secretly, this boy can rock.
Under the alias “The Whipping Wind,” James opened the evening with a quick set of original songs and charmingly dorky stage moves. “Tidal Wave,” a strum-heavy romp with pretty, distorted chords, a crooning vocal delivery and interspersed trumpet yelps received much love from the initially small audience.
James could play this track with an acoustic guitar and melt your mother’s heart, but when amplified, it had skinny-jeaned legs moving and Converse sneakers tapping at CTO.
The Wind’s most successful tune was “Out,” which featured a cacophonous, thunder-like synth sample and a catchy trumpet hook.
James’ catalogue of smart and dirty indie-rock ditties was an apt opener, but his exceptional song crafting and boyish, yet confident stage presence warranted a prime time slot.
Following The Whipping Wind’s all-too-brief set was Montreal-based Nightwood. Clad in their loveliest dresses, Amber Goodwyn and Erin Ross opened their performance with the eerie one-note plucking of their “Heavy Magic is Coming”.
With two fuzzed-out garage rock guitars and folky-sounding female vocal exchanges, Nightwood slogged through material from their freshly released LP, Carta Marina. Though the room filled up with more plaid shirts and pashminas, Nightwood did not receive the same enthusiasm from the audience as James and friends.
Aside from a song called “Sunken Mountains,” which boasted a memorable chorus melody and showcased the rougher timbre of Goodwyn’s vocals, Nightwood’s act fell dangerously close to mediocrity. Once past the novelty of two sweet young girls with heavy metal-looking guitars, there was little originality or intrigue.
Headlining the event was another three-piece collective, Toronto’s Modernboys Moderngirls. Frontman Akira Alemay quickly set the pace and tone of his punk-pop band’s showcase. Although Alemay — with drummer Brett Millius and bassist Juan Carlos Rivas — looked like they were straight from an American Apparel ad and had perfected the art of moving coolly, their tunes left something to be desired.
MBMG’s performance of their song “My Baby Says Boy, Don’t You Ever Go,” arguably the catchiest song offered on their MySpace page, fell short in the live arena as the boys could not properly recreate the well-executed harmonies vital to the recording’s success.
A brave attempt at Nirvana’s “Aneurysm” was not enough to coax the audience to truly “come on over and do the twist” — instead, many had already left having enjoyed only a mildly entertaining bill.
While the show was advertised as Nightwood vs. Modernboys Moderngirls, it seems the competition was for second place as both groups were simply dust in the Whipping Wind.