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Beach House at Koolhaus Oct 13, 2012

The voice of lead singer/song-writer Victoria Legrand captivates and comforts many dedicated fans.  Unsurprisingly, her stage presence is just as hypnotic and speaks volumes of her talent that is unlike any other singer-songwriter I can think of.  I felt incredibly privileged to see Beach House perform live this past Saturday, since I have loved their sound for quite some time now and never thought I’d be able to witness them on tour. But as soon as I saw their name on the list of upcoming shows in Toronto, I had to get my tickets right away. Even though it seemed a little silly to buy them way back in June, my decision turned out to be a wise course of action since their show inevitably sold out amongst the numerous fans who can identify really good music within a mainstream culture saturated by Pop music, uninspired lyrics, all about visual aesthetics and lacking actual substance.

So being able to unite with a chill crowd who didn’t shove or push me despite being super excited was a new experience for me.  It was good enough just to sway back and forth and be swept away with warm feelings and genuine appreciation of beautiful music with soaring vocals and emotion.  As much as I love the track, A walk in the park, I was actually reluctant to sing along for once and ruin the beauty and simplicity of Legrand’s mournful refrain as she sings “More…you want more…you tell me…”

I can only imagine, that had I sung along loudly, the look of awe and rapture that seemed so common on so many faces would quickly change to frustration and hostility aimed in my direction.  So I refrained from the urge to belt out the lyrics (that are so easily identifiable with anyone who has ever been in a relationship) and spared my fellow Beach House fans from my atrocious vocals.

There tends to be a real sense of connection amongst the crowd, at so many shows but this one had a really special vibe.  The energy was content, introspective appreciative and mature even though it was an all ages show.  People just seemed to experience the same emotions at the same moments. Hearing Victoria sing “Real love finds you somewhere, get back to it” just seemed so incredibly brilliant and insightful.  I’ve never been into the deification of celebrities but she truly seemed ethereal, androgynous yet beautiful and fascinating on so many levels.  I felt like attending this show was a real gift.

Finally what struck me most about the show was the performance of the closing song.  Irene is a song off their latest album In Bloom, that I had somehow managed to overlook. So I was lost when they started playing and I couldn’t figure out which song this could possibly be.  The discovery of how lovely it was seemed like an incredible bonus added to the splendor of the night, and when Victoria did a perfectly synchronized execution of head banging and thrashing and twirling with that trademark mass of curls to the beat of the music, it was the PERFECT ending to a striking performance.  I really believe that everyone left the koolhaus thoroughly satisfied and convinced that Beach House is the real deal.


Feeling the Love


A powerful, familiar beat fills the air, I recognize the sound of the Kanye West hit Monster as the crowd packed into Queen st. west’s Wrongbar eagerly anticipates what’s going to happen next. Christian Zucconi and Hannah Hooper enter stage left with huge grins on their face, and the audience cheers as they introduce Lovely cup and burst into song. They proceed to deliver one of the most passionate, energetic shows I’ve ever been privileged enough to witness and I’m blown away by their genuine happiness and appreciation of playing at a packed venue like this. The amount of people who have come to see Grouplove have far surpassed my expectations. I guess word spreads fast in Toronto when you hear some positive music for once. The band seems flattered, and impressed by the size of the crowd. If I had known it would have been so packed I would have arrived in time to see the opening band Reptar.

Grouplove’s new tour companions Reptar seem to be respected immensely and praised by Christian throughout their own set onstage. It’s nice to see mutual support of fellow indie bands. Highlights of the show included a wicked drums solo where drummer Ryan Rabin pounds away with glowing drumsticks and intensity amidst flashing strobe effects. An unexpected Whitney Houston tribute by Christian broke out when he spontaneously started singing “I wanna dance with somebody” that had the whole audience enthused, bouncing around and singing along.

After the crowd starts earnestly chanting Grouplove in order to bring them back onstage for an encore, I half expect them to come back turning cartwheels and performing back handsprings. They really are that exuberant and joyful. I can’t imagine them ever arguing or being overly critical with one another. Their energy is palpable and infectious. Everyone around me has huge smiles on their faces. They all share the spotlight as each member gets introduced and applauded. I love that each member seems to be an essential component to making the band work. Hannah and Christian have the sort of chemistry that seems to inspire each other as well as the crowd. When they finally played Tongue-tied and closed with Colours, the crowd was pulsing with good vibes. Never have I been to a show where I dropped my bag and my sweater and multiple phones lit up in order to help me search for my lost items. It was as if they influenced us all to be more considerate, peaceful and happy. I really could not have asked for a better show although it did seem much too short. Most likely because I could watch them for hours on end and remain riveted by their stage presence and charismatic uplifting tunes.

Grouplove is as honest as it gets. No gimmicks, attitude or affected boredom and pretentiousness with these guys, just genuine happiness and unity all around. Listening to their music is awesome in itself but seeing them perform live is like being swept up by a hurricane that transports you someplace far better than you ever were before.

DFA 1979 – Sent from Above!!

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How to describe a Death From Above 1979 live performance after 5 years of inactivity in one word??? Intense. Chaotic. Unbelievable.  If you had no intention of moshing, crowd-surfing, or leaving the Sound Academy without minor injury then you had NO business standing near the front of the huge crowd that had gathered to witness the reunion of heavy post-punk rock duo, Sebastien Grainger and Jesse F. Keeler.

The release of their 2004 debut LP You’re A Woman I’m a Machine went Gold in Canada and it was this album plus a remixed and B-side album entitled Romance Bloody Romance, that earned them a cult following of those who loved punk rock and also those who just wanted to dance and get crazy.  The breakup of DFA in 2006 led to quite a substantial amount of disappointed fans.  So it was no surprise the announcement of their reunion caused  quite a stir amongst the hipster/indie crowd.

Although Sound Academy is not my favourite choice of venue, it was large enough to contain the anxious, eager and rowdy crowd that filled the place to capacity.  Bishop Morocco and The Bad Tits opened up the show, providing the audience with a tiny dose of what we were in for. The Merch table was quite busy with a large assortment of T-shirts with the quintessential, surrealistic logo of the guys and their classic elephant trunks.  If you ever wondered why, as I did, that they chose Elephant trunks to establish their image, it’s because “We wanted our band to be like an elephant in your living room,” states Jesse F. Keeler, the bass player and one half of DFA 1979.  Their sound can most definitely be likened to a herd of elephants crashing through your home when you turn that volume up.

Their visual aesthetic was just as poignant as their sound.  Sebastien showcased his bleached-blonde shaggy haircut that unfortunately obscured his face most of the show, as he head banged non-stop while decked out in white.  A stark contrast to Jesse, who struck an intimidating figure as a broad-shouldered giant with long black hair and a beard and clothes to match.  Dark and sinister paired with Goodness and light seemed like an accurate portrayal of a band whose dark beats are often accompanied by romantic imagery and longing.  DFA are as much evidence as you’ll ever need that Yes! opposites do attract!

For a band that once described themselves as “a punk band with pop aspirations” they have accomplished so much more than they had first thought they were capable of.  Their distinctive sound consists of only drums and bass, heavy distortion and manipulation, sexy, visceral beats that create a wall of noise that drowns out even your innermost thoughts. Hard to believe all of this is accomplished by two guys but that is what they do, and they do it incredibly well. The dirty bass lines, and thundering drumbeats combined with Grainger’s drawn out rock howling left me in awe.  The crowd was ecstatic and pulsating with energy, everyone was sweating and I had to remove myself from the crowd before I was blinded by an elbow.  This was not the kind of crowd that would tolerate any hand held recording or prolonged camera snapping.  It was aggressive, savage and reckless, primal yet enthralling.  The type of show where you just allow yourself to get swept away and party like it’s your last night on Earth or head home early.  No half-assing it allowed!!

Despite feeling intimidated and kind of old, I have to say it was an awesome show and one of the craziest I’ve ever been to.  And to think they’re doing it all again tonight.  That’s right, not only did DFA reunite, play countless festivals and award their hometown of Toronto with a crazy show, they decided to do it two nights in a row back to back. Unbelievable!

1979 is the year of my birth
1979 is the year of off the wall
1979 is the year of pleasure principle
1979 is the last year of the last cool decade
1979 is scratched into my arm
1979 is scratched into my arm
1979 is scratched into my fucking arm

~ Sebastien Grainger, Death from Above 1979