Published Jun 09, 2018In 2008, Toronto record label Telephone Explosion Records quietly emerged as a vital outpost for underground culture, its steadily expanding catalogue a beacon for bespoke garage rock and the kind of community that evolves naturally out of shared concert bills and generous correspondence.
Founded by garage punk band Teenanger's Jon Schouten and Steve Sidoli, the label's first release came in the form of a self-titled Teenanger cassette issued the year prior, but Telephone Explosion didn't properly take shape until the release of Holy Cobras' Make Pyramids the following February. In 2008 alone, the label released tapes from Charlie & the Moonhearts, Estrogen Highs, Superstitions and Ugly Stick, as well as another Teenanger EP. Ten years on, the catalogue's swelled to almost 50 records, including an impressive line of reissues, and as Schouten and Sidoli punctuated the past decade of work with a Friday night anniversary showcase at Lee's Palace, fans gathered to take in a handful of performances from the label's freshest faces.
Ex-Deadly Snakes frontman Andre Ethier opened the night with the Highest Order's Paul Mortimer and Mimico's Nick Kervin in tow to bring a woozy wah guitar and classic percussion to a pack of clear-eyed grooves from last year's Under Grape Leaves. New Fries reimagined tracks from last year's More ten-inch and their 2014 Pleasence Records debut Fresh Face Forward with Brody West and Deliluh's Kyle Knapp providing duelling saxophones, which added dizzying new dimensions to the jagged no wave workouts of tracks like "Plexiglass," "90 Yr Old Girl" and "Gertrude Stein Greeting Card From Pape/Danforth."
Montreal-via-Victoria sludge trio Freak Heat Waves mixed the guitar-drums-and bass melodics of their recently released Beyond XXXL with the headier dub collage stuff vocalist Steven Lind and Thomas Di Ninno brought Toronto as a duo back in February, culminating in an art-damaged big beat explosion that made a perfect segue into the harsher Odonis Odonis set, culled exclusively from their exploits on the label. The latter duo served up a concussive industrial techno set augmented with a psychedelic retina-frying light show that threatened the commercial nostalgia-meets-top 40 selection of the Dance Cave pulsing above through snarled teeth.
While the curatorial emphasis was squarely situated on the contemporary wave of artists carrying the Telephone Explosion flag, label harbingers Teenanger also stepped in with an early set that brought it back to square one. Mostly consisting of the slinky post-punk anthems on 2017's Teenager, they also dipped into 2013's Singles Don't $ell to deliver a lean, lumbering rendition of "Rut." Wedged between the sticky city heat wave vibes of "Emoji Kush" and "Fun Forgot," its knotted expression of existential angst was particularly appreciable on a night celebrating the persistence of grassroots culture, all under the dark cloud of the devastating election of a majority conservative provincial government.
Here's to another ten years.