THE CLOUD ROOM with the COAST , the AMBER ROOM and HOW I WON THE WAR at the El Mocambo, February 4. Tickets: $15. Attendance: 300. Rating: NN Rating: NN
The gross combo of snow and near-freezing rain that trickled through last Saturday didn't stop hundreds from dropping by the El Mo to catch the hottest new wave of music seemingly destined for the next The O.C. soundtrack. Mmm... glut.
The last of the night's opening bands was Hogtown's own the Coast (formerly named the July 26th Movement, after the Fidel Castro-led army that overthrew Cuba's Batista government in 1959). Methinks changing the name was a good call.
The group's whiny lead singer/guitarist, Ben Spurr , emoted into a microphone attached to a stand wrapped in white bulbs. This was the only light on the stage, a dramatic, diffused effect that complemented the band's cozily melodious sound, which was often driven by that great indie standard, the techno-style repeated thump of drummer Jordan Melchiorre 's lone kick.
While his three bandmates played their pretty parts, Spurr's stage manner alternated between anxious (as he stepped away from his luminous microphone with a wince) and poised, his face growing determined before he lunged back to sing his heartfelt lyrics.
In addition to sounding inspired by the Shins, Modest Mouse and Bright Eyes, the Coast's songs seem to be influenced by each other, creating the impression that their set was made up of a few variations on one somewhat generic tune.
At least the headliners, New York City hype-magnets the Cloud Room , attacked with more vigour, getting the crowd dancing (or as close to dancing as possible). In the wake of Spurr's emotional conniptions, lead singer/guitarist J revelled in the crowd's love, singing while striking male model poses.
"Thank you, Toronto. I mean, Canada. Thank you, Ontario. Toronto is in Ontario, right?" he inquired bashfully, prompting several female replies before they set off into yet more fired-up numbers, including a new one with lots of "shoo doo doos."
The Cloud Room's sparkly guitars, synth washes, dance drums and mini-epic song structures sound like an amalgam of all the hottest bands of today (to me, live, they sound a lot like the Killers), especially when they played their lovable but formulaic hit Hey Now Now.
By the end, I felt sadly convinced of their lack of originality.