Hiss Golden Messenger’s sing-along at The Drake

North Carolina band scraps the conventional encore to play amongst the crowd

HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER at the Drake Underground, Tuesday, July 21. Rating: NNNN 

“The one thing about touring is that we say goodbye a lot,” said Hiss Golden Messenger frontman M.C. Taylor partway through their 90-minute set, about one of the downsides of touring. “We say goodbye all the time, and this tune comes from that place, for sure.”

The Durham, North Carolina, band launched into Mahogany Dread, a choice track from their excellent fifth album, 2014’s Lateness Of Dancers. All that time on the road has made the band tight, and save for during a few tunes less spirited than the others, the midsize Drake crowd stayed attentive all night. 

To call HGM “Americana” overly simplifies their complex catalogue, which also includes southern gothic, country soul, backwoods funk – they even nailed Sam Cooke’s Having A Party during their set. Their nuclear weapon is multi-instrumentalist Phil Cook, who turned more than a few epic guitar breakdowns into gorgeous, overdriven squalls. 

For the finale, they scrapped the “whole farce of encores” and waltzed into the crowd to lead a hearty sing-along of album closer Drum, the audience chanting, “Take the good news, carry it away / Take the good news, spirit it away.” 

music@nowtoronto.com | @MattGeeWiliams

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