Seeing Prozzak in 2017 transported one NOW writer back to 1999

PROZZAK at the Danforth Music Hall, Wednesday, March 29. Rating: NNNA kid with frosted blonde hair, gelled upwards at the.


PROZZAK at the Danforth Music Hall, Wednesday, March 29. Rating: NNN

A kid with frosted blonde hair, gelled upwards at the front, presses pause on his Slim Shady LP, throws his Discman into his backpack next to his copy of Harry Potter And The Philosophers Stone, pulls his Ecko hoodie over his Austin 3:16 t-shirt and runs out the door of his junior high to go meet his friends at the movie theatre. The Matrix is showing at the local cinema and someones older sister has agreed to accompany them. Oh my god, they killed Kenny! yells a kid in a backward red baseball cap. Everyone laughs.

Looking back on it now, the late 90s can seem like a low point for pop culture, a time when boy bands roamed the earth, Limp Bizkit incited riots that killed Woodstock, everything was EXTREME, Napster broke the music industry and Y2K panic made apocalyptists fear planes falling from the sky. But if you were there, and especially if you were about 13, it felt like a golden age.

Thats around the time Prozzak caught the heart of many enthusiastic pre-teens via MuchMusic, telling the story of the perpetually heartbroken, British-accented Simon and his Austrian wingman Milo over a series of animated music videos. Its also a time the groups creators, Jay Levine and James Bryan McCollum (once of Canadian neo-soul band the Philosopher Kings), are banking on adults remembering fondly at their concerts.

After reuniting for a one-off performance at 2015s cosplay-friendly Atomic Lollipop festival in Toronto, Prozzak are now about to release their first album since 2005, Forever 1999, and, last night at the Danforth Music Hall, they kicked off their Canadian tour. (They play there again on Friday.)

And, damn, nostalgia is a powerful drug. Playing behind their trademark cartoon Simon and Milo heads to a backdrop of videos for old Videoflow favourites like Strange Disease and Omobolasire (as well as, at one point, to a WikiHow for jumping), the duo sang to backing tracks as the crowd belted the words even more enthusiastically, even if they hadnt heard them in decades.

Groups of friends, probably reunited from childhood, danced like they were back in the school gym. Theres no quicker dopamine hit for someone born in 1986 than the ICQ uh oh in the breakdown to www.nevergetoveryou. Ive rarely seen so many ecstatic 30-year-old smiles in one place.

While the duo remained somewhat static save for a few big guitar solos, the DJ/counterpoint female vocalist for Sucks To Be You made sure the show kept up a giddy Much Video Dance Party energy, leading Prozzak Karaoke, occasionally ceding her mic to members of the crowd and throwing out glowsticks and other prizes like it was Robbie Tannenbaums Bar Mitzvah. Lazers shot out into the crowd like at a warehouse rave.

Newer songs were a tougher sell. While single Love Me Tinder feels like an extension of the early-internet-dating saga of www.nevergetoveryou, it seems cheesier now that were adults. But cheese was always part of Prozzaks deal, and it is a big part of why they still work today. Unlike many groups of that era, they were sincere and funny without taking themselves seriously.

The title track to Forever 1999 is 100 per cent about nostalgia, an I Love It-styled feel-good pop song whose verses are riddled with 1999 cultural references while eliciting a chorus singalong of We are all grown up, we can do whatever we want. Two guys in the front row danced along while wearing graduation caps.

While you could throw old Prozzak songs on a playlist between Eiffel 65 and Aqua, the new songs could conceivably play next to something like PWR BTTMs Teenage Dirtbag-recalling Answer My Text. As a pop-punk revival rages on next to a Grimes pastiche of Shania Twain and Marilyn Manson, Prozzak are hitting at the right time.

But how many people will stream the new album instead of just going on a YouTube binge?

music@nowtoronto.com | @trapunski

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