THE MOST SERENE REPUBLIC with JON-RAE AND THE RIVER and AMY MILLAN at the Poor Alex, May 6. Tickets: $13. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
If you walked by the poor Alex at 9:15 pm Friday night, you probably saw Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew pacing like a madman. He had lots to be nervous about: his label's newest signing, Milton's the Most Serene Republic , were making their live T.O. debut as part of the Arts & Crafts roster.
Factor in the knowledge that Drew had yet to see the new band live (other label reps caught 'em at CMW) and it's no wonder the dude was moaning that he felt like an anxious stage dad.
He shouldn't have worried. Though most of them are barely 20, the sextet, who've been together just under two years, boast both the musical dexterity that comes from mastering awkward time signatures in jazz band class, and an innate stage presence.
Flailing frontman Adrian Jewett , clad in a geek-chic powder-blue button-down and bow tie combo, switched between loungey falsetto crooning and sweet melodic mumbles while dancing like my dad. Think Steve Martin as a less coordinated wild and crazy guy and you've got it.
Some of the notes might have been a little off, and maybe his voice cracked now and then, but you could forgive the guy. You've either got that elusive onstage mojo or you don't. He's got it.
Jewett was helped by the syncopation of drummer Adam Nimmo and gangly keyboardist Ryan Lenssen , whose fingers flew over his rig like an indie reincarnation of Glenn Gould. Musically, these guys are all about building tension, playing with fucked-up time signatures, switching between dreamy space-pop and jagged, jazzy math rock within a single track.
About 30 seconds into their first song of shimmering build-ups and breakdowns, it was clear we were listening to kids who decided to start a band after playing the shit out of You Forgot It In People when they were 16.
The songs may have been looser than they are on the band's upcoming, remastered Underwater Cinematographer (Arts & Crafts) disc (originally released on Brampton indie Sunday League), and the band could stand to rein themselves in occasionally, but, man, were they ever fun to watch.
They're like the Muppet Babies to the Muppets of the Stars/BSS family - more cartoonish and pastel-coloured, and still drama-free. Birthday boy Lenssen even blushed when Amy Millan sang a sultry Happy Birthday and plastered a big smooch on him at the end of her evening-closing set.
How cute is that?