Concert Review: WILDLIFE, TOPANGA, PKEW PKEW PKEW (2012-05-11 @ The Horseshoe Tavern)
It’s hard to ask for a Friday night better than this one, as an abundance of local Torontonian talent descended upon The Horseshoe in one fell swoop, undoubtedly to the joy of all in attendance. Unfortunately I missed opener REVERSING FALLS – although I’ve heard good things – and the members of PKEW PKEW PKEW were taking the stage just as I arrived.
PKEW PKEW PKEW is really a ‘party band’ in every sense of the term: their set STARTED with the front audience getting drenched in beer spray. They play fast-tempo punk-tinged rock songs with four vocalists singing at almost all times; as a result, there isn’t really one main vocalist or frontman. Their vocals are some of the most powerful that I’ve heard from a band simply because it’s always a big group chorus, which suits their music well.
This stuff is total dude rock, as evidenced by the make-up of the audience at the very front, and by lyrics and song titles like, “We’re guys, we don’t cry, we just get drunk” and Friends Don’t Let Friends Move In With Girlfriends. The latter was probably the best song of their set, with some great guitar leads over huge energy. It’s not a show that I would take a date to, but it’s simple music engineered for getting drunk and rocking the fuck out. Check ‘em out if that’s your thing (or see their iM WIRED episode here).
TOPANGA took the stage next. I’ll be upfront here, I’m a huge TOPANGA fan – but so is a lot of the Toronto indie scene, and for good reason: these guys are the epitome of a high-energy show. Frontman Stefan Babcock was his usual madman self, giving their already super-energetic trashy pop-punk songs even more exuberance.
The Indie Machine reviewed TOPANGA’s CMW set quite recently, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here – suffice to say it was a great, high-energy show for a packed crowd. Read our previous reviews (plural) for more details (or, better yet – check out a video). A definite highlight of this set though was their cover of THE HIVES’ Hate To Say I Told You So; it had me screaming lyrics that I didn’t even remember that I knew.
If you consider yourself a connoisseur of live music and you haven’t caught TOPANGA yet, you’re really missing out. They recently traveled down to New York City over the May long weekend to record some new tracks, so keep your eyes on iM for forthcoming updates on these guys.
The final act of the night was WILDLIFE; there was a definite change of tone here. While the first acts were fun party bands, WILDLIFE really felt like a legitimate touring band… which they are. They had a much more elaborate and calculated stage set-up, including their own lighting system, fog machines, matching garb, and a large triangular canvas sail – suffice to say, they really made The Horseshoe stage their own. Before they even started their set I could feel that we were in for something big.
I’ve heard comparisons to ARCADE FIRE, and I could see why. I would consider their music indie-dance-rock (although its a difficult classification), and it incorporated irregular instruments such as mandolin, trombone and extra floor toms, as well as occasional instrument swaps between members. They also had a soft spot for long instrumental swells between songs. All the members were clearly very good musicians – their drummer, Dwayne Christie, especially made an impression on me with his unique use of the entire kit.
It was easy to see that a LOT of effort went into this set. They brought out extra musicians, the visual presentation was excellent, and they even released REMOTE-CONTROLLED SHARK BALLOONS for one song; not to mention the music itself, which had a lot of interesting builds, unique breaks, and in general a very large sound.
I would venture to say that WILDLIFE was possibly too big for The Horseshoe. Not just in terms of the crowd there to see them (the venue was PACKED), but in that their music and stage style on the night in question was easily translatable to a larger-scale theatrical performance. I wouldn’t be surprised to see that develop in a big way in the future – keep an eye on these guys as I’m certain they’ll be a high-tier act very soon.