April 3, 2011
7th Street Entry
The 7th St. Entry was again filled to capacity on Sunday night, as the appeal of a double-bill featuring Toro Y Moi and Braids proved to be too much to resist for Twin Cities music fans, even on a dreary Sunday night. And while the Entry was sold-out mainly to see Toro Y Moi make their debut headlining performance in Minneapolis (after opening for Phoenix and Carribou in the past) it turned out that the opener ended up stealing the show, as the Calgary quartet Braids (who just played the Entry a month back with Baths) delivered a hypnotic, engaging performance that unfortunately the headliners couldn't match. [jump]
Starting your set with Raphaelle Standell-Preston announcing that she has bronchitis, and politely asking the crowd to keep it down "so I can sing to you, and not over you" certainly doesn't bode that well for a performance. But Braids didn't show any signs of holding anything back as a result of her ailment, as their music (and Standell-Preston's voice, surprisingly, given the circumstances) just soared in the small room. Drawing mainly from their stellar new album, Native Speaker, Braids blended their deafening, intoxicating rhythms with soulful, airy vocals that gave their atmospheric songs a natural, distinctive touch.
There were definite hints of Dirty Projectors layered within the band's occasional vocal theatrics and playful harmonies, and when placed over the top of their driving, dynamic arrangements, the combination just worked, giving softer dimensions to their bombastic, bewitching melodies. The band didn't really pause between songs, sustaining their bold sonic dissonance throughout their captivating 40-minute set. And when the last notes were played, and the band thanked the crowd for their undivided attention, it was as if we were startled out of a dream that we were just starting to make sense of. Ah, the power of good music.
Unfortunately, Toro Y Moi's headlining set couldn't build on that momentum, as frontman Chaz Bundick and his three-piece backing band brought a decidedly retro, disco-infused sound that grew a bit stale as the night wore on. And while the 45-minute set was lively and, for the most part, fun, it seemed that Bundick sacrificed the texture and tone that made Underneath The Pine so alluring for a level of volume that sadly drowned out most of the underlying appeal of these numbers. Playing with amoeba-like psychedelic images projected onto the band and the stage only added to the throwback atmosphere of the show, and at least gave the audience something to look at other than the inanimate band (Bundick stayed behind his keyboards for the entire show).
The packed floor was awash with people dancing along to the danceable rhythms that the band was generating, and while the sound was initially seductive and quite smooth, after about the fifth song, they all started to sound remarkably the same, and drifted a bit aimlessly. Toro Y Moi's tracks are all light and buoyant, and were certainly given a clamorous new dimension in a live setting, but they ultimately didn't have much soul. Their songs were pleasant enough, but didn't really make you feel anything. It was all surface level enjoyment, without much depth or complexity to their music. But, Bundick is a young musician who is still finding his sound, and clearly he has found his audience as well, based on the swarms of people who sold-out the Entry and clearly enjoyed this set. I'll still take pleasure in Toro Y Moi's engaging albums, but I'll just be waiting for them to grow a bit more musically until I'll see them live again.
Critic's Bias: I came in psyched to see Toro Y Moi live for the first time, but left a big fan of Braids. Can they play here every month?
The Crowd: Sold-out and sweaty. The Entry was a hotbox.
Overheard In The Crowd: Random dude during Toro Y Moi's set: "Turn the guitar down." Sound Guy: "Shut up!"
Random Notebook Dump: Seriously, can Braids play here every month?