WEYES BLOOD with SAHARA and DUCKS UNLIMITED at the Baby G, Saturday, October 29. Rating: NNNN
At whose desk should I lay the grievance about this show’s mildly incongruous supporting bill? Is it just a hopelessly insurmountable supply-demand problem? There was plenty of fun to be had all night long at the Baby G on Saturday, but it felt like it took the form of three discrete musical offerings as opposed to a drama in three acts.
That said, all three bands were excellent. Ducks Unlimited flew wild and free all over the Smiths – Let’s Active spectrum of thinking person’s pop, bright and erudite but undercut with enough unruliness that they could never be the favourite sons of Lord Baden Powell.
Sahara are total pros, playing luminous post-punk doused in an ice bucket of chorus pedals, with intricate arrangements concealing their seams under a pall of moodiness. Both bands sounded great, and the Baby G radiated posi-party vibes all night as costumed revelers kept streaming in till the room hit capacity.
Still, when Weyes Blood took the stage as a four-piece at the stroke of midnight, everything that had happened beforehand seemed, for better or worse, only casually related to what happened after. By the time first song Cardamom reached its ruminant conclusion, all eyes were locked on the stage, and just a faint murmur of crowd chatter persisted, no small feat on Halloween weekend in Toronto.
Donning an audience-donated orange wig and proclaiming her costume to be “Sailor Moon at a retirement home,” Natalie Mering led her band through mostly flawless renditions of Front Row Seat To Earth’s standout tracks. Used To Be and Do You Need My Love soared, with Mering’s full-throated vocals seated perfectly atop the spacious arrangements with the mastery of, say, Karen Carpenter. Every song pushed its way deeper into the room, brought more breathless applause after it, till even Tinfoil Robocop seemed on the verge of tears. “I want Weyes Blood to become huge,” my Steampunk-hat-clad friend remarked afterward, “so that we can all see her play these songs at Massey Hall.”
There's nothing easy about booking shows and running venues in Toronto, and it’s understandable why it’s not always possible to put together an aesthetically unified bill. Still, there are plenty of examples – Feast In The East, Wavelength and the current discussions we’re having on festival culture and inclusivity – about how you don’t need aesthetic unity to put together a show that feels thematically cohesive and gives the scene a broader sense of itself. Saturday night’s bill felt stuck between being too dissimilar for there to be a sonic throughline, and not dissimilar enough to feel wide-ranging. It can be difficult to overcome programming challenges like this, but ideally it’s what we want, right?