Red Bull Sound Select at Tattoo Rock Parlour this past Thursday night was a pleasant wave of warmth on a cold Toronto night. Allie, River Tiber, and Jessy Lanza performed for 3 dollars a head. All you had to do was sign-up to the Red Bull Sound Select email list and RSVP that you were coming. The 3-band showcase featured a mostly-full house of patrons eager to distract themselves from the sudden change in weather.
Upon entrance, you were handed free newly designed yellow cans of Red Bull. Of course everyone cracked theirs. On the street I would’ve declined that Red Bull, but in the spirit of the moment and coupled with the vodka being served at the bar, it tasted particularly refreshing. No DJs opened to get the crowd going, but the P.A. system did play ‘Aint That Easy’ off D’Angelo’s latest record a couple of times.
Allie was the first to step on to the stage. She’s an R&B singer out of Toronto who was accompanied by a dude on a drum machine/sampler. There were a couple noteworthy shakers during her set that got some areas of the mostly still crowd moving. The third track in particular had hard-hitting hip-hop drums and Allie worked a nice two-step dance-move with her strong vocals. Allie’s live sound still needs mixing help as a few of the backing notes were peaking at times. I felt my ears pop on an electric squiggle that needed to be controlled.
The second band to slide in was another Toronto act, River Tiber. They are starting to gain attention from one of their recent songs, ‘No Talk,’ which Drake sampled on ‘No Tellin’ – a standout track from his latest album, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. After releasing an EP over a year ago, the group has seen some considerable growth in their music. ‘No Talk’ hints at a full and layered sound of harmony and space. Even though this was the first time the band played this song live, I could feel their self-assuredness. They were ready to take us on a voyage. The song started with breathing synthesizers and built towards a heavy round of scale-ranging vocals and bell-like guitars. Once they broke into the wooing chants of the chorus (Don’t talk ta Don’t talk ta Don’t talk ta Noooo Nooooo), the harmonies consumed the room. I was swirling in deep rhythm. I wanted to chant along with the airy vocals and shoot imaginary laser beams up in the sky.
This entire River Tiber set felt like a career-defining turn. Each one of their tracks featured complex arrangements crisply mixed and ready for the stage. They kept pace as they riffed off each other’s instruments. Their backdrop featured an eponymous florescent light sign. An occasional flurry of strobes matched their musical cues. Their guitars and keyboards hit high notes with ease while their bass and drums maintained a number of varied exchanges. ‘Acid Test,’ the last song they played, is a sprawling jam that upped the intensity in unpredictable ways. Beyond the stinging guitars, a mini-keyboard produced these incredibly odd mind-bending blasts. They are definitely a band I am excited to look out for. Such a soulful and psychedelic experience should not be missed.
Lastly, Jessy Lanza performed. The Hamilton native and Hyperdub resident is a tremendous talent whose 2013 debut album, Pull My Hair Back, produced a number of thumping and dancy tunes. She played two of the album’s highlights, ‘Kathy Lee’ and ‘Keep Moving’ to considerable applause. The latter, especially, got the people on the floor bouncing to the funky beat. Her voice, an arresting falsetto, is chilling at times. Her direct and seductive delivery adds fantastic contrast to the glitchy grooves of her keyboard. Her accompaniment on drums repeatedly failed to hold the beat, however. There were a number of times when the drummer would lag behind the tempo and drain the performance of some of it’s energy. Additionally, the volume of Lanza’s instrument and microphone was set too low. Despite these miscues, I am confident Lanza will continue to rise and find herself as an international recording artist.