Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Wizard of Ahhs

concert review: Cut Copy, Black Kids, Mobius Band @ Phoenix (Toronto, Ontario), May 9, 2008

What differences there may have been between the three bands that played the Phoenix last Friday, the one thing they did have in common was that they all got our booty shaking, and as the night went on increasingly so.

However, given that propensity towards dancing, each band were actually relatively different from each other. Brooklyn, NY trio Mobius Band took the stage amidst the crowd chatted and almost immediately dove into their set. What's interesting about their music is that it merges indie rock, pop melodies and electronic rhythms quite seamlessly, that one never seems to overpower the other. Some easy points of reference are that Mobius Band sound like a rockier version of The Postal Service or from a different angle like the touring version of Junior Boys(who often now tour with a live drummer) with the electronica elements played more subtly. At the end of it all, it was just pop music which just as easily could have been stripped of it's electronica elements and played straight. Would it have been as interesting? I'm not sure, but I'd rather not dwell on that anymore than I have to. As vigorous and vibrant as the drumming was, it was somewhat haphazard and busy at times - at least it made for interesting watching, especially when the drummer seemed to hit the cymbals and snare drum at hummingbird speed. Their set was more intense than anything I remember hearing off their MySpace, especially so for a band on the roster of the usually-mellow Misra Records label.

It's been a long time since I've given in to blog hype and bought tickets to a show based on that, but I figured it'd be fun way to celebrate my birthday(well, actually May 8 was) and I got my buddy to come along, so why not. That said, I'd really only given Black Kids a few listens[alll the more surprising since I've had their free EP "Wizard of Ahhhs" on my hard drive for months] and I don't think I'd heard a note of Cut Copy before that night. I'd assumed that Cut Copy were next but was a little surprised to find Black Kids take the stage as the second openers. Whatevs. The young Jacksonville, Florida 5-piece(3 dudes, 2 girls) come off like the American version of The Go! Team, all youthful exhuberance. But rather than The Go Team! penchant for American hip hop, shouty pop songs, and Saturday morning cartoon themes, Black Kids take American indie rock and maybe a little British post-punk and give it a little funk, soul, and just a tad of doo-wop. As interesting as that might sound, I don't necessarily think they pull it off musically all the time. Lead vocalist Reggie Youngblood [how cool a name is that?] sounds often like The Cure's Robert Smith to me, but he dances(or at least tries to) like James Brown. My last few points leads to my main issue with them which is that such a sonic stew of influences deserves better songs. That said, although the first half of their set I found musically weak, they definitely improved over the second half of their set starting with a newer tune which Reggie stated they hadn't played much up till that point. A more conventional 'pop' tune compared to their other tunes perhaps, but that song was actually my favourite song of theirs during the night.

By the time Aussie headliners Cut Copy took the stage, the crowd swelled to the venue's capacity. If Black Kids' reception was warm, Cut Copy's was downright sizzling. Much-loved apparently by many fans who'd caught them on earlier jaunts through town, and here I was not having heard a note of theirs. I keep on reading about comparison to New Order which quite honestly I wasn't really thinking of as I listened to Cut Copy's set, but in retrospect I guess it does ring true. Although to me while New Order were fantastic at melding pop melodies with electronica influences and some band instrumentation, I thought Cut Copy were much less adept at that. It's like, when the song was more electronica influenced, some of the melodies weren't as memorable while when the electronica elements were laid to rest and the band was all guitars and drums, the melodies were actually better. Part of my impressions might just be due to unfamiliarity with their songs, but that's how I feel. Cut Copy must be given props for the momentum and energy they maintained throughout the show and which was obviously reflected in the crowd's adoring response.

Musically the night wasn't my usual cup of tea, but it was more like an energy drink that get's your heart pumping at just the right time.

MySpace: Mobius Band
MySpace: Black Kids
MySpace: Cut Copy

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