SPOOKY RUBEN with GIRLS_ARE_SHORT at the Reverb, August 17. Tickets: $8. Attendance: 350 (sold out). Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
halfway through his high-energy whirlwind of a show, local merry prankster Spookey Ruben gleefully invited the crowd to accompany him on a trip back in time. He was a little too late -- the Reverb was already feeling the 80s with a vengeance. Sure, the hair was less frightening and the Dynasty shoulder pads were nowhere in sight, but the evening was a synth-tastic journey back to 80s high school, Spookey-style. And damned if it wasn't a blast.
With visions of wood panelling dancing in his head, adorable opener girls_are_short, aka Daniel Zabawa, warmed up with a crowd-pleasing set of earnest rec-room synth pop. Nearly hidden by his gear as he huddled centre-stage in a hoodie sweatshirt, Zabawa seemed overwhelmed by the cheers and applause.
Kooky Spookey followed with evidence he's been listening to critics' complaints that his new two-disc set Bed and Breakfast is repetitive. His explosive live show proves that what he needs is a good editor; stuck with a time limit, the musical mischief-maker cut out the flab to deliver a tight, entertaining show.
Starting off with the gentle lullaby Goodnight, Sleep Tight (the lead track on Bed), Ruben built momentum through his bouncy set, showcasing the highlights of his new material.
From the Clearasil-scented adolescent power-pop of Shauna to the nerdy A.M. radio lament When You Fall In Love With Someone Who's In Love With Someone Else, every tune had the kids busting moves by the side of the stage. It was a symbiotic synthesizer lovefest -- Ruben played off the sky-high audience energy, and they ate up his act with a pure joy as palpable as the neon bubbles popping in midair.
The crowd howled with even more delight when MC D-Sisive appeared onstage during disco number Born On Labour Day to deliver a ridiculously short shout-out to fans of 80s faves Danger Bay and the ever-popular Degrassi Junior High.
Random? Yes, but it makes sense in Spookey's world. Those who missed it can catch Spookey Ruben at the NOW Lounge Friday (August 24).