Casey vs. Jon
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Casey vs. Jon

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | SELF
Band Alternative Rock

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You'll recall a review from December of a concert I witnessed at the El Mocambo involving a local act by the name of the Sonic Images. Having gotten a taste of them and having gotten to know them too, I decided to catch their next gig if I could, wherever that may be. Well, they took part in a multi-act bill at the Reverb on Sunday January 24, a club located in a three-floor building complex known as The Big Bop. It's at Bathurst and Queen West in Toronto but since this author's visit, has started renovations to become a furniture store. All that history and proving ground for local acts is now resigned to the past. Above The Reverb is a club called Holy Joe's, below it one called the Kathedral- but more on that later. This would be the last time the Sonic Images would perform there, naturally. Using public transportation, as always thanks to me being a vehicle-less peasant of sorts, I got off at the subway and walked endlessly through the soggy sidewalks and drizzling January rain. Some time after the proposed 7 p.m. start, I made my arrival but the doors didn't blow back with anticipation as I walked in. No, instead I was greeted by throngs of punks and headbangers, enjoying ear-splittingly loud rock. I sort of stuck out in a room full of people dabbling in makeup, piercings, tattoos, inventive hair-dos and no doubt various stimulants. But they were too busy venting to notice a straight-laced "oddity" like me.

The first band had a rather nice party-punk thing going, even winning me over despite the crude simplicity of a song that seemed to be called "F*** You F******." They also covered "I'm So Bored with the U.S.A." capably, one of the few punk covers on the night I would actually recognize. Each and every band that followed grew more wasted, loud, fast and chaotic than the last and soon it was more speed metal than punk rock, at least to my ears. These are groups that make Black Flag sound like Tiny Tim, though nowhere near as literate or charismatic as Henry Rollins, but who's keeping track? And this metatlish thrash wasn't exactly my ties and yatzies, but I gave it a shot. At this point, I began to wonder in my head if I was at the right place to catch the Sonic Images. Others probably wondered if I was in the right place too, whenever they saw this bespectacled, plainly presented, studious looking fellow with a red zip-up sweater and a thermal jacket in tow. I expected someone to say "Hey uh, the nearest ski shop is a few blocks away!" I seemed to fit as well as Woody Allen at a Hell's Angels Biker Rally.

About 9:00, I started to backtrack and/or speculate: "Hey, wasn't there another door to go through? Was that the right one I went in?" "Are the Sonic Images really coming on in front of this crowd?" "Why am I sitting here and not checking for sure?" "Is it just me, or do I think too much?" Anyway, I decided I wasn't going to wait any longer. I figured if this really was the right location, the patrions would eat the Sonic Images alive the moment they heard a screamless vocal or noticed the absence of profane language and alcohol on-stage. Amidst all these bands' ranting and raving about the evils of corporate entities and "the system"- yet many going outside for cigarettes that fund said evil corporate entities (oh the irony!)- there was some genuinely passionate rock music hidden inside the hardcore punk. The bill went along with increasingly manic performances, and it wasn't about who was on stage, it was about the attitude and the styles being put on display. Yep, this was a cavalcade of the disenfranchised and the outcasts.

I had to get up and go to the washroom so that was my excuse to get it over with. But I went for a door I saw some more mellow-dressed folks go through instead. It also seemed like a better plan of action than to use one of the washrooms no doubt turned into the equivalent of the Medical Waste dumpster at a hospital. I kid, I kid. Lo and behold I realized I should have been on the second storey all along. The Reverb was up here, not down there, I thought as I metaphorically kicked myself for that oversight. I had been grooving at the Kathedral (because K's always turn a word with a C into something either devilish or comical). Thank heavens it's not built like a real cathedral because the decibel level would give that stained glass one second to live. I ascended the stairs and knew I was on the right track when I heard the Sonic Images echo off the concrete walls of the stairwell. Now finally at the actual Reverb, I paid my entry fee- so this amounted to double admission thanks to my foolishness!- and caught the last half of the set. It was rather the same as the El Mocambo set but the venue was larger, with more floor space around the stage. The stage had slightly more space too. The experience was more like a coffee house. A coffee house with a fully complimented bar but you catch my drift. Following the Sonic Images was Casey vs. Jon. No, it was not a boxing match but rather the name of the group. Casey vs. Jon are amateur in many ways but showed spunk and a creative flair like an art school band should. The Jon in the group' namesake struck me with his visual likeness to Kurt Cobain and vocal likeness to Tom Verlaine, ex-singer of 70s new wavers Television. Those are compliments in fact and I wasn't the only one to notice, apparently.

Not everyone in Casey Vs. Jon seemed particularly experienced on their instrument, although there was still some Sonic Youth-esque guitar interplay at times. Personally, I never noticed any limitations for the bass player but perhaps that was because he was tucked in the back corner staying low-key and holding down the rhythm, maybe because he has an ocular sensitivity to light. I'm not sure but either way he kept to himself. But some songs had real potential and it was a catchy experience. Casey kept the onlookers amused by his between-songs monologues, done with humour and a lack of self-centredness, describing one of his tunes as his own version of "Unbreak My Heart." I trust his word, though I didn't see the resemblance, seeing as how this Casey wasn't a curvy, vuluptuous R&B babe. Ok ok, and it didn't seem to bear any similarity musically and lyrically all they had in common was being about the splitting of a relationship. Plus, the song ended with him quoting the chorus from "You're So Vain." So maybe it was his song written from the inspiration of Carly Simon? Some talking points wouldn't leave his head as he entertained us with his thoughts on Jersey Shore, then The Hills and Heidi's struggle with excessive plastic surgery, a development about as surprising as a Pete Doherty drug bust.

Casey asked if the show should incorporate this into their next season. This continued even after a song, as Casey posed the idea of becoming a Hollywood favourite like Heidi by also turning toward that facially butchered Cat Woman territory via cosmetic surgery. As people giggled over the prospects, I yelled out "Do it!" though not loudly enough for most outside my immediate vicinity to pick up. Just my attempt to lighten the mood even further. Meanwhile, a band decked out in leopard tights, leather, makeup and other accessories tied to 80s metal was hanging around. I figured they were to be our next act. The entourage of the Sonic Images, me included, took a walk around the block for some fresh air, more like damp air, and then come back to catch the group. Well as expected they played screeching 80s hair metal and had the great chops for it, not to mention the look. However, everyone decided to go home instead, considering nobody was really wild about the bombastic metal they excelled in. I didn't even catch their name (here's what you get for not bringing a notepad) but I'd recommend them to 80s metal aficionados. The band, let's call them Steel Dragon II because they reminded me of the fictitious group from Rockstar, had a female lead singer wearing sequin leather pants. Their glittering amidst smoke machines and flash of lights might have burned a hole in my retina, I'm not too sure yet. She exhibited the same high octane vocal range as Mark Wahlberg in that film.

After the opening number, she claimed it was the first time she could sing without pain in her mouth in a while. After getting confused stares, she added that it was because she had recently gotten a root canal. "I know a great dentist if you're not satisfied with your current one!" I quipped, again only to amuse my company for the night- I tend to use humour to try and impress. Then she launched into a song that was a tribute to all the little ladies and demonstrated her "affection" by leaving the stage to sing directly to any females sitting around the stage. At this point, peoples eyes bugged out of their heads. I figured she was trying to emulate Axl Rose but didn't realize she'd emulate his loyalty to the ladies too. It was more like Wendy O. Williams provocativeness than Axl though. This vaudeville tribute to same-sex love was enough to convince some people that it was time to go. And when some wanted to go, the rest decided to call it a night. After all, those smoke machines couldn't be healthy for us to inhale for any longer. This may not have been a historical rundown of the Reverb but I can tell you that If fun times like this are the standard for a night at the Reverb, it's a crying shame the place will be closed for good. Luckily, owner Dominic Chiaromonte is trying up a similar venue at Kipling and Dundas. What's certain is that the Reverb building will never go away thanks to its historical value.
- Press+1 Blog - Writer: Evan Dowbiggin


Discography

Casey vs. Jon - LIVE (2009)
The Crayon Series EP (2010)

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Bio

After a modest beginning with a spattering of gigs as a two piece culminating in a spot on Pride Toronto's Fruitloopz stage in 2008, founder's Casey Oraa and Jonny Haus expanded the group to include percussion in the following summer. CvJ continued as a three piece, until early 2009 when the line-up was again retooled resulting in the four piece force that now is Casey vs. Jon.

In the months following the retooling, the band has headlined a packed show at Smiling Buddha, and played to raucous crowds at both Hamilton and Toronto Pride in 2009. Following up a year of gigs around Toronto, Casey vs. Jon look forward to releasing their first full length disc in 2011.

Three years on and Casey vs. Jon continue to bring their unique brand of queer alt-rock to the clubs of Toronto so make sure to keep your eyes and ears open as we're coming to a venue near you!