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Concert Review: Secret Machines

27-Oct-2008 04:15 AM Contributed by: pete Concert Reviews
Secret Machines

Lee's Palace in Toronto, Ontario
Photos and Review by: Pete Nema
Secret Machines
TK Webb & The Visions
October 22, 2008
Full Photo Set (18 photos)

The Secret Machines are the creators of one of my favourite albums of this decade with their 2004 release Now Here Is Nowhere. They've been through Toronto at least a few times since then, but each time they've been here, there has been some major conflict that prevented me from getting out to the show. This time around was no different in terms of a conflict, with The CASBY Awards happening on the same night. And although I felt awkward about missing the CASBY Awards (especially with all those excellent Canadian bands playing), I decided it was finally time to get out and see the Secret Machines.

Secret Machines

If I had been following the Secret Machines more closely, I would have discovered that the line-up has changed before I arrived at the show. Guitarist Ben Curtis left the band in March 2007 to focus on another project. Ben was previously a member of Tripping Daisy, a favourite band of mine from the 90's. So to replace Ben, Brandon Curtis (vocals, bass, keyboard) and Josh Garza (drums) brought on Phil Karnats (guitar) who also played in Tripping Daisy for the final 2 years. It's fair to say that the line-up change has not greatly impacted their sound. In fact, their recent self-titled release and third album returns to some of the big sounds of Now Here Is Nowhere, although the melodies and lyrics that made Now Here Is Nowhere so outstanding aren't as strong on their latest CD.

Secret Machines  Secret Machines

I grew up listening endlessly to my Pink Floyd record collection, and although the big-beats and bass-grooves of the Secret Machines don't actually sound derivative of Pink Floyd, there's something in the way they approach their music and concerts that warrants a comparison. Even though they played the relatively small stage at Lee's Palace (to an unfortunately weaker turn-out than I expected, possibly due to the CASBY Awards), the stage setup was unique and the light show was phenomenal given what they had to work with. Their amplifiers were setup like a wall at the very back of the stage, and in front of those they built a structure over which they stretched thick strings, clamping them to outer edges of the structure. It created a twisting, stringy, tent-like cover. With the addition of few strategically placed lights and a smoke machine, Lee's Palace was transformed by the reasonable facsimile of a big-stage light show.

Secret Machines  Secret Machines  Secret Machines

The smoke machine was turned on about 15 minutes before the show started, and by the time they hit the stage, the smoke was so dense that the three band members first appeared just as smoky silhouettes beneath the twisting strings. Josh Garza (drums) was almost completely engulfed in smoke and light such that the only visual indication that he was present was the occasional glimpse of a drumstick poking out above the drums to smash a cymbal. Josh is a beat machine, creating accurate and complex backdrops to the psychedelic-metal sounds of Brandon's 8-string bass and Phil's guitar work. The set list contained a good variety of songs including Sad And Lonely, Nowhere Again, and First Wave Intact from the Now Here Is Nowhere album and The Fire Is Waiting and Have I Run Out from their latest self-titled album. The set ended with series of long compositions that, when put all together like that, was just a little too much for me. It shouldn't have been a surprise for any of their fans, including me, given that their albums contain a number of 8-12 minute beat-driven epic numbers, but I think I could've personally benefited from having them spaced out a bit. As it was, I thought the show peaked in the middle, amidst an amazing light show and while they were playing one of their more melodic compositions. But I shouldn't complain because at least I finally made it out to see them perform. And I would do it again.

Secret Machines  Secret Machines

Info: Secret Machines | Connect: MySpace, Facebook
Media: Nowhere Again (mp3, video), Atomic Heels (mp3)

TK Webb & The Visions

TK Webb & The Visions  TK Webb & The Visions  TK Webb & The Visions

TK Webb & The Visions  TK Webb & The Visions  TK Webb & The Visions

Info: TK Webb & The Visions | Connect: MySpace, Facebook

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Concert Review: Secret Machines | 3 comments | Create New Account
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Concert Review: Secret Machines
Authored by: Anonymous on 27-Oct-2008 11:34 AM
Your pictures of Secret Machines are amazing! Cool lighting.
Concert Review: Secret Machines
Authored by: pete on 27-Oct-2008 01:38 PM
Thanks Bob! They were a huge photographic challenge due to the thick smoke and very low light. The good thing was that (like at many shows) I was only authorized to shoot the first three songs, so after that I just got to relax and enjoy the show.
Concert Review: Secret Machines
Authored by: Anonymous on 07-Dec-2010 11:39 AM
Great shots! I like Secret Machines. They sound very cool. I've downloaded some of their songs from shared files SE http://filecraft.com . I like their song Nowhere Again most of all.