Rich Aucoin took the Drake on a cinematic odyssey through his mind

The Halifax musician's early release show for his new Hold EP was a vast and holistic presentation of his YOLO message


RICH AUCOIN with TAYLOR KNOX at the Drake Hotel, Thursday, March 1. Rating: NNNN


Rich Aucoin loves movies. The Halifax musician loves them so much that he’s spent the last few years turning his epic live show – once a collection of .GIFS and memes set to music – into a cinematic odyssey through his restlessly creative mind.

Opening what was essentially an early release show for Aucoin’s forthcoming Hold EP was Toronto’s Taylor Knox. A one-time member of the Golden Dogs, among many other projects, Knox delivered his take on warm 70s AM-gold tunes, backed by a bass player, former Golden Dogs and current Forces member Jessica Grassia on drums and, for a few songs, Aucoin on keys.

Knox returned the favour during Aucoin’s set. Beginning with a safe-space declaration in the guise of an anti-piracy warning, Aucoin led the crowd through a wordless singalong of the 20th Century Fox fanfare opening. An elaborate set of credits for the show then rolled behind the singer, Knox, a second drummer and someone triggering the many samples that flesh out his sound live.

Things kicked off with Release, a seven-minute instrumental from the new EP that also marks Aucoin’s greatest electronic excursion to date. Despite its newness, it primed the sold-out crowd for more exuberant songs like Yelling In Sleep, Four More Years and Are You Experiencing?

Once buoyed by a sense of joyous, DIY anarchy, Aucoin’s show has evolved into a relatively sleeker production. Yes, the confetti guns, group singalongs and, of course, the parachute remain. But in chopping up clips from film and TV, Aucoin now seems far more interested in marrying the emotion of his music and lyrics to the images he projects behind him. That’s not to say the shows have taken a serious turn. Far from it. Instead of featuring a random assortment of found footage, it feels like a holistic presentation of his message – an expansive, nuanced take on the usually reductive millennial maxims #YOLO and #humble.

Nevertheless, the cavern-like confines of the Drake Underground forced those images to be projected onto the band instead of above them, obscuring both the clips and the karaoke-style lyrical crawl across the bottom of the screen. Undeterred (as someone who plays venues this size on the regular, it’s no doubt a common problem), Aucoin’s energy more than made up for the logistical issues. Regularly making his way into the crowd, bejewelled mic in hand, he played the role of frontman and ringleader bringing the message to the people.

His set mostly pulled from 2014’s Ephemeral, with a few cuts from Hold thrown in. After promising a new full-length for the fall, he dove back to 2011’s We’re All Dying To Live for his final song, It, asking everyone to put their arm around the person next to them and bounce in unison. It was a Hollywood ending that, while not surprising to anyone who’s seen Aucoin before, never fails to ensure that you feel better leaving than you did coming in.

music@nowtoronto.com | @IanGormely

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