concert review (question mark)

Despite the herds we run in that provide the sensation of small town Toronto - where you bump into someone ‘new’ but quickly discover they know someone who knows someone who ate someone’s lasagna while making out with your Uncle Bert - there are a lot of distinct communities in this city that have little or nothing to do with one another. Look at the recent municipal election map showing voter preferences. Talk to me about the number of poppies one sees riding the Jane bus around Remembrance day. Or heck, for me walking into the Eaton’s Centre after a long absence can feel as discombobulating as exiting a 10 hour flight. All I’m saying is that the city has lots of communities - religious, ethnic, economic, whatever - and although I obviously fit better into some than others I rarely feel completely settled. Undoubtedly this has something to do with my and everyone’s attempt at personal distinction, but I also suspect I am a weirdo.

But this post isn’t about that. This is my attempt at a concert review! Have you figured out that I’m not a music journalist yet?

I went to a show at the roundhouse beside the CN Tower last week. Maybe I should call it The Roundhouse because it’s a VENUE, but there’s only one down there so whatever. My intent was simply to take advantage of some face-dancing-off time, and although I planned to go alone a last second cancellation saw Fashion Friend make it a posse of two.

Now is probably a good time to re-emphasize that I don’t know how to write a concert review. I know I mentioned it a couple lines above, but still...

I’ll set the scene by saying the night was advertised as UNSIGNED artists doing their thing.

I’ll also set the scene by saying that I wear suspenders now. Not all the time, just every day since I bought them last Thursday. In I stroll, sweater comes off, sense of fashion is revealed, straight to the front to listen to the first band, DVAS. You can read about these guys on your own time but what I saw was one man on keys and one on drums.

The keyboard player/singer was of indeterminate age. He could have been a well preserved 35 year old, or just as easily a decade or more younger.I think his bone structure was throwing me; cheek bones that somehow seemed too sharp to belong to a younger man. Does that make sense? Does one find a keener edge on an aged cheek?

Here is a video I think is nice wherein none of the comments about his age bending appearance are substantiated.

I assume they played this song. Wasn’t paying attention. Just dancing. I was dancing reasonably aggressively so my “review” of this part of the concert is, the music must have been good!

I should clarify what I meant above by my sense of fashion. It’s one thing to rock up to a show in jeans, a tight green t-shirt and suspenders, but it’s slightly different to dress like that, push your way to the front of a staid crowd and dance in the manner I call dancing.

The crowd at this early stage of the evening was still filling in, sparse, towards the back, and in general swaying more than dancing. There were a few older people who I pegged as parents, but I wasn’t paying much attention to those around me yet. During this set Fashion Friend joined me and immediately after it is when I started text/emailing myself little notes and astute observations that inspired this post. Clever? Maybe.

In general terms the audience coalescing around me was “young professional.” I think this was the point of the prologue. I’m not a young professional. I don’t know what I am. Hipster? Bohemian artist? War monger? Why must I label everything I see, and yet am sadly left without a proper noun for myself? For the most part the crowd looked younger than me, had made a decision post university to get real jobs and buy condos downtown. Not real jobs that pay a gazillion bucks mind you. This was an inexpensive Friday night concert at a cool venue, featuring underground indie bands. Or that’s what the poster was trying to imply I think...I’m never sure how trustworthy posters are, or how each individual chooses to read them.

Reviewing things is tough, eh? I want to express opinions but don’t want to come off like the holier-than-thou snarky asshole I fear I must be. All these comments are aesthetic and personal though, and based on thoughts I had. Thinking about them that way means I get to say whatever I want because I'm just expressing opinions. Everything I say can also be dismissed of course. Good. As long as it starts a conversation wherein people call out my most egregious bullshits, start a debate and I become a wiser person. Hmmm? I’d best stop thinking lest I figure out the internet is full of windbags. Back the the concert!

So. There are young people there. They want to find something to do that makes them feel hip, happening and part of popular culture. Hey! This isn’t my crowd but they sound awfully familiar.

Scenes seen. Frozen in the concert’s lights.

Drunk dirty dancing. A boy and girl, (man and woman? When does that shift occur?) grinding and loving life. He is particularly happy, his face a lop-sided grin. So happy. Best night of my life the droopy smile whispers in her ear. Too bad I’m too drunk to enjoy it later.

The prettiest girl dances past, but her arms are dead. Limp eels hanging at her sides, flopping while the rest of her dances.

For sure that one is on M...maybe not. But the green LED, shooting up the pole, creating a pillar of light on wood. The light. The LIGHT. THE LIGHT! She is dancing with it, an intimate, inanimate stranger that gives her all the love she needs.

The second band, Young Empires, brought their own fans. I noticed them because they were taller lads, square of jaw and solid of back. Jocks I believe they’re called. They pushed to the front with their beautiful lasses and left me aghast, without much space in which to dance. It turns out, however, that if you dance in a spazmodic and aggressive fashion, where it looks like any one of your moves might result in a gouged eye or shattered nose, people move away, and I had more room to maneuver by the third song.

The band was okay. Once again my assessment of music scale based on dancing saw me dancing. Therefore, dancing. But this band needed drums. There were no drums. There was a drumline coming from the keyboard, but...I don’t know what it was exactly, just that having fleshy bits attached to sticks hitting drums makes a difference. Maybe there’s a very subtle off-beat rhythm that happens when a person is involved, no matter how good they are, that I was craving.

Members of Young Empires also LOOK like they are members of a band. When the guitarist strode on stage - and that’s the only word that can describe the movement of a man in black boots, tight black jeans, black tee and hair gelled up to frosted tips before a crowd - I noticed. I thought he was an amusing roadie. He was not. He was a rock star. The lead singer was also a lead singer, a wee bit too self aware. And the bassist, he was a bassist, ie in the background, just happy to be there.

The crowd had definitely filled out by the time YE took the stage. I didn't see how those behind me were grooving, but the jockish types in front were having a great time, judging by the fist pumping. It startled me to see this maneuver exist outside the television set, but the aggressiveness with which it was carried out and the apparent lack of movement anywhere on the other side of the shoulder joint left me entranced.

I then moved my feet extra fast, just to make a point.

No one noticed.

Then the last break and while standing around waiting for Rich Aucoin to take the stage I observed something interesting. Men were suddenly shorter and chins became softer. Is that how you know when a crowd’s indie? The change from rock hard jock fist pumping to the softer pudge that began crowding round was striking.

Before Rich - we’re friends online so I think it’s okay to use his first name - took the stage they needed to get some corporate stuff out of the way. I was worried about buzzkill, but they kept their thanks to whomever mercifully short and by the end I was very caught up in a fantasy wherein the corporate shill (but that’s a strong word, she seemed like a nice lady) was actually a world class beat-boxer and her speech was simply to lull us into a trance before she unleashed a violent tirade of dance into our very souls.

That didn’t happen, but Rich showed up and he did it instead.

What to say about Mr. Aucoin? Audience participation. Lots of visuals. Words on screens we are instructed to read (always a few read through practices before a song). Instructions on appropriate dance moves, often JUMP! JUMP! JUMP!

This video features one of Rich’s songs. It’s also a trailer for a movie featuring some pretty amusing people.

My personal highlight of the set came after a parachute was unfurled and he instructed people to join him and his strobe-light underneath. People must have missed the instruction because no one moved. Fools, I thought! And dove past the 3 people in front of me as he made the request a second time. Everyone else piled in then and the happiest, friendly and aggressive mosh pit took place underneath a brightly striped parachute that reminds everyone of elementary school gym class.

That’s the party Rich Aucoin provides. Good.

And then I wandered around the outdoor parts of the train museum for a while, jumped a couple of benches (learned some ninja kicks and spins) before calling it a night.


Now to wait for Rolling Stone to call with the job offer.

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