JUICY J at the Guvernment, Friday, March 29. Rating: NNN
Two decades after co-founding the Oscar-winning Memphis group Three 6 Mafia, rapper/producer Juicy J has orchestrated a classic mid-career reinvention. Now affiliated with Wiz Khalifa's Taylor Gang imprint, the 37-year-old has released several solo mixtapes, scored a hit with strip club anthem Bandz A Make Her Dance and collaborated with the Weeknd, Rihanna and Passion Pit.
His "trippy" MO is all about getting fucked up, but it quickly became apparent at the Guvernment that he's anything but: Juicy is a polished, energetic pro who raps with gruff, forceful clarity. His audience, on the other hand, has clearly bought in to the "stay trippy" branding. The strain blowing through the crowd was a mellow one, and although the laconic vibe seemed to exasperate the hype men opening the show, Juicy made things look easy.
Flanked by two security guards who kept a gaggle of cellphone-wielding ladies in check, he delivered a polished set of hooky club bangers with a bemused smile, proving that it's not so hard to stay turnt up even when everyone else is on downers.
SKY FERREIRA and HOW TO DRESS WELL at Wrongbar, Wednesday, March 27. Rating: NNN
Most musicians in Sky Ferreira's situation don't get a second chance to make a first impression. Signed to a major label before she was 18, the singer had a few minor hits and then got dropped. But last year's Ghost EP, written with Garbage's Shirley Manson, Jon Brion and others, garnered acclaim largely due to Everything Is Embarrassing, a dance-pop ode to 20-something angst co-written by Dev Hynes.
The good news is that Ferreira, now 20, can definitely sing, and her songs sounded more muscular backed by a full band. But alternating between alt-country ballads and Hole-influenced grunge, she confused the audience and showed that she still needs to figure out what kind of music she wants to make. Ferreira also looked weary - possibly still feeling the effects of a busy SXSW a few weeks ago.
Much livelier was opener How to Dress Well. Though a rowdy Wrongbar wasn't the best venue for Tom Krell's confessional R&B, he won over the crowd with a cover of R. Kelly's I Wish.
SHOTGUN JIMMIE with Gregory Pepper & his Problems, Baby Eagle at the Monarch Tavern, Friday, March 29. Rating: NNNN
It's common for indie musicians to pare down their touring bands to save money. That often means leaving the flautist or string section at home. Shotgun Jimmie, aka Jim Kilpatrick, went one step further and cut out the band entirely, and the bare-bones arrangements enhanced the crunchy lo-fi charm of his new album, Everything, Everything.
Kilpatrick avoided the singer/songwriter-strumming-an-acoustic-guitar-on-a-stool cliché by sitting in front of a kick drum, playing guitar and percussion simultaneously, and occasionally shaking a maraca. This let the endearing, playful Everyman lyrics of his crisp, brief tunes stand out, and the multi-tasking gave the audience something to watch. So much for his "slacker" reputation.
The opening acts had a similar ramshackle charm, which fit the cozy Monarch Tavern. Gregory Pepper & His Problems played a bouncy, tongue-in-cheek set of theatrical guitar-solo-laden rock, and Baby Eagle crooned a few weary, poetic tunes stripped of their ragged rock glory without his backing band.
ANDRES at Blk Box Theatre, Friday, March 29. Rating: NNN
Mansion's Foundry series was a simple but highly effective concept. By teaming up with a range of Toronto promoters and tastemakers, it brought together a diverse cross-section of local dance music communities every weekend in March at the Blk Box Theatre. For the last weekend party of the series, it welcomed Detroit's Andrés to spin grimy Motor City house sounds.
In addition to affiliations with iconic DJ/producers Moodymann and Theo Parrish, Andrés was also once Slum Village's DJ, so he brings a hip-hop sensibility to his mixing. His set focused on disco and 80s dance-floor R&B, with a smattering of more modern sounds thrown in.
The mood was a little too smoked-out and chill for a Friday night, but he definitely woke up the crowd by layering Smells Like Teen Spirit with a house beat near the end. Too bad that trick lost most of its appeal during the mid-00s peak of the mashup era.