Over the Top Fest

Toronto, ON May 3 to May 6

BY Pras RajagopalanPublished May 24, 2007

This year’s eclectic line-up at the Over the Top Fest confirmed why it has rapidly become Toronto’s most interesting pop music festival. Toronto six-piece Rosazia kicked things off at Sneaky Dee’s with one of the best shows of the festival, recklessly bashing out their proggy noise punk songs that always seemed to teeter on the brink of collapse. Maryland guitarist duo Ecstatic Sunshine proved that you don’t need a rhythm section to rock, while local math punks DD/MM/YYYY, for whom this was an album release party, revealed their now more focused sound. Michael Gira’s powerful baritone resonated through every brick of the Music Gallery, and amid songs about crushed skulls and spilt blood he smiled, joked and declared his pleasure to be playing that night. Back at Sneaky Dee’s, Yah Mos Def picked up the pace with their sample heavy hardcore beats and sharp tongued rapping. Synth/drum duo Matt & Kim brought their limitless gleeful vigour to a Spartan smattering of spectators at the Tranzac in a supremely endearing, intimate performance. Meanwhile, avant composer Arnold Dreyblatt coaxed alien squeaks, groans and drones from his double bass and struck upon a palpable synergy with the local improvisers that backed him up at the Music Gallery. Mt. Eerie (aka Phil Elverum, ex of the Microphones) played a brace of shows (on a matinee) that were the highlights of the festival. The show at St. Stephen’s Church was particularly noteworthy. Self deprecating and engaging, and armed with just an acoustic guitar and his formidable back catalogue, Elverum put on a truly special performance. The Phonemes proved why they are the cream of the local pop scene at their album release party at the Whippersnapper Art Gallery, making beautiful melodious noise out of found objects, Theremins and a ragtag choir. Fists were flying at the Genghis Tron show at Sneaky Dee’s, where one particularly drunken reveller provoked front-man Mookie Singerman enough for a small scuffle to break out. Order was soon restored, and the unruffled electro/metal/thrash combo promptly ran through a scathing set. Capping it all off was Daniel Johnston, who, backed by a motley crew of Phonemes and Matias members, was candid, funny and poignant. One particularly funny/sad moment occurred when, in between songs, Johnston asked the audience "Does my despair amuse you?” He was promptly answered by an enthusiastically shrieked "Wooooo!” With a few more years like this, there’s little doubt that the Over the Top Fest will no longer be Toronto’s little secret.

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