Brant Bjork used to be a summertime staple in Toronto. Back when NXNE used to take over every live music venue in town, he would play here once a year — usually at the ElMo, but one time at the Bovine and even outside in Yonge-Dundas Square. But since NXNE shifted to a more exclusive “concert event series,” Brant’s become more of a stranger in these parts. The last time I saw him live was in 2015, and it was a supporting set for COC.
But with not one, not two but three new releases/reissues in the past 12 months, he was long overdue for a return, this time with Philly psych rockers Ecstatic Vision in tow. Lee’s Palace also tapped local rock mainstay Ian Blurton and his Future Now as the opening act — I gotta say, I dig his latest album, from which they drew heavily for this set.
Ecstatic Vision is often compared to Hawkwind — it doesn’t hurt that they have a dancing saxophonist — but I would say they sound like the Hawks only with their speed dial stuck on “Silver Machine.” Their uptempo psychedelic set came complete with strobe lights and smoke machines for an extra-trippy effect. The only downside was that Lee’s Palace did not have a clip-on mic for said saxophonist — we needed more sax in the mix!!!
Brant Bjork brought his customary SoCal swagger to the stage, with plenty of tunes from the recently reissued Jalamanta, as well as a few from Mankind Woman, his latest studio release. His backing band has remained the same for at least five years — twas the same cast of characters as the last time I’d seen em, and they definitely bring the groove.