Who: Das Rad, Programm, Greys, Cold Cave, Deafheaven, Fucked Up
Where: Adelaide Hall
When: Saturday, June 20th, 2015
Some say music is therapeutic, and I still have to find an instance when it wasn’t. It carried me through the best and the worst moments of my life. Music can lift you up, you can wear it like a protective cocoon, it can take you for a ride into your deepest self. Live music amplifies these qualities. Perhaps that’s why when people start going to shows they never truly stop. Like addicts they spend all their money to see Deep Purple or Iron Maiden one last time, or run out to the neighbourhood pub to catch the house cover band.
Saturday was one of the days when I needed live music the most. My first stop was Yonge-Dundas Square to check out Best Coast and hopefully to catch some New Pornographers before heading to Adelaide Hall for an ear-candy of a showcase. The weather was nice, so the streets were packed. There were shows everywhere – NXNE, Luminato, Jazz Fest were all holding events, and the crowds were hungry for entertainment. I made my way half way through the YDS, promising myself to get closer if I like what I see. There was already a decent crowd forming, but the fans could still weasel their way almost to the front lines.
I had big expectations for Best Coast, and I felt robbed. The sound was good, but there was nothing going on on stage, and the singer did little to entice the audience. The rock/pop sound would go well at any house party, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get tickets for their show. I have to tip my hat to Bobb Bruno for wearing a Kittie t-shirt to a Toronto gig.
I decided to make my way to Adelaide Hall early, so I won’t shoot myself due to boredom. (Also, people like to start talking to me if I stand in one place on the street for too long). The newly renovated venue is clean (so far) and spacious, but the alcohol selection leaves a lot to be desired. The air conditioning is noticeable for the first few bands, but as the venue started filling up, it became a necessary evil.
It looked like all the media showed up first, afraid to miss out on the bands ahead. Das Rad opened the night with some lo-fi and humour. Although I really enjoyed their set, it felt like they would be more at home at a smaller venue, and maybe closer to midnight when people a prone to getting a little rowdier.
Programm started their set very slowly, and I wasn’t even ashamed to talk over it. However they picked it up a notch after a couple of songs and found a sweet spot between shoegaze and post-punk. A great balance between the kick and the melody got the first rows bobbing along. They seemed to get the attention of the bar crowd as well, and people started moving closer towards the stage.
Despite their description on NXNE website, Greys are straight up punk on stage, in the best sense of the word possible. Classic riffage and strong vocals carried the songs and sarcastic humour from vocalist/guitarist Shehzaad Jiwani in between buttered up the audience. The bass player was never in one place, jumping and bending in all the different directions. Overall, the energy was high and the place was buzzing.
Next up were Cold Cave. Now, I don’t know the exact moment when goth music suddenly became cool in North America, but the signs are all there. It always puzzled me how in Europe goth stands on equal ground with punk and metal. There are big several day-long festivals in the summer and people are not ashamed to bring a little goth fashion into the office environment. Here, in North America, the goth movement was always a subject of mockery. It was narrowed down to high school kids who shop at Hot Topic and smoke clove cigarettes. Yes, there is a small subculture that defies these stereotypes, and there have been great synth bands coming out of USA. But the goth scene mostly keeps to their own kind and the bands target European audiences.
However, with the immergence of the hipster culture and renewed interest in both shoegaze and edm, the remarketed goth is finally taking control over American crowds. When people got tired of the first wave of light and happy edm, they finally started digging deeper and realized there is more to electronic music than techno and dubstep (although, I have to point out that the original British dubstep is actually pretty slow and dark).
That said, I’m really happy to see darkwave acts finally getting the respect and the audience they deserve. Cold Cave were excellent, bringing European traditions and adding a fresh spin on the sound. Wesley Eisold is an engaging, enigmatic frontman, and it was easy to fall under his spell. It would be great to see a longer set from them and just dance away the night.
By the time Deafheaven took the stage the venue was packed. Now here is another outstanding act that managed to merge the popular with the underground to praises of critics and music lovers alike. While they were setting up George Clarke (vocals) had a nice chat with us – the people in the front row – about the show so far. Apparently, we can expect new material from them soon, but we didn’t get a sneak peak. Once the music started the nice humble guy who was just casually chatting with us turns into a possessed maniac and the whole place started moving. I couldn’t handle being in the front row for more than a song, because the flesh on my legs was digging into the stage so hard that I thought it might actually bleed. Seeing how it was impossible to take any photos anyway, because the crowd was constantly in motion, I retreaded to the back. The mess that was in the center area was breathtaking. People went completely nuts, pushing their bodies to extremes. Some people managed to crowdsurf; one dude took joy in walking the ceiling. The fans were constantly trying to grab Clarke’s hand or scream into the microphone. All in all, this experience is not for the weak, and even as an experienced mosher, I’m not sure that I would have jumped in there given the choice. Other than that, Deafheaven were amazing musically, the samples mixed flawlessly with the live instruments. I have to give props to the venue, because the sound was top notch the whole night through, and some bands on the bill needed that for all the nuances in their music.
Most people spilled outside right after Deafheaven’s set for fresh air. As we travelled through the hall to the open door, the steam from the room followed us. For some, it was all they could handle. Most, went right back in to continue partying with Fucked Up. Now it was easier to breathe, but the moshpit was just as eager. A little bit more room in the pit means more people were crowdsurfing. Also, because Fucked Up are local, it felt like the audience allowed themselves a little more freedom to climb on stage, sing with the singer and just go crazy. Some people needed to be escorted out, because they were barely standing and the whole place started turning into a giant drunk mess. Fucked Up played it rough too, fueling the fire even more.
Once the show was done – it was done and everyone went running in search of the closest 4am last call bar.
Written by: Raya P Morrison
Photos by: Raya P Morrison
Originally written for The Scene Magazine http://www.thescenemagazine.ca