Lo'Jo at Lula Lounge, October 3. Tickets: $20. Attendance: 250. Rating: NNNN
Those hipsters who made the trek westward for Lo'Jo's set Thursday night at Lula Lounge could be forgiven if they were a tad perplexed by the goings-on there. What was billed as a mellow easy-listening experience best enjoyed over a glass of red wine, with movement restricted to small gyrations while seated, turned into a full-blown freak-out by night's end.
The France-based outfit, known for their everything-and-the-kitchen-sink philosophy, made use of varied musical styles and textures, fusing traditional arrangements with diverse rhythm structures and instruments, like kora with saxophone and sarangi with mouth organ.
Such experimental fusion might have made for a pretentious mess if not for the considerable cool quotient of frontman keyboard player Denis Pan, who was able to keep things grounded with his charm and elegant fashion taste.
For the first of the band's two sets, Pan and company offered up slices of French cabaret accentuated by Richard Bourreau's strings and the vocal intensity of backing singers the El Nourid sisters.
It wasn't until the second set that things really began to heat up, as the band loosened up their more cerebral arrangements in favour of a groove-heavy sound, causing the shaking of hips and the blowing of minds in the process.
The global groove culminated in a 10-minute closer during which, in the midst of blaring horns, screaming keys and banging drums, Yamina Nid El Mourid dropped her saxophone and unleashed a mesmerizing raindance.
It may have been Lo'Jo's premier fois in Toronto, but if the crowd's response was any indication, it won't be their last.