It’s been raining all week here in Toronto. Most Torontonians are complaining and overcompensating by dressing as if they are living in a monsoon. For me, the grey days and warm rainy air is comforting- I feel at home. And besides, maybe some of this rain will prove that there is some greenery in Toronto yet. It seems that when the snow finally melted, what remains is mud and dead brown grass. So, rushing home from work and then back out the door to get to the show in time, I felt the need to defy all the ridiculous rainboots and umbrellas on this mostly overcast day. I threw on a pair of flats and a soft-shell snowboard jacket and was out the door, feeling like a Vancouverite. Thankfully, the Danforth is conveniently located just a few hundred meters away from a subway line, making the venue just that much better thanks to extreme convenience and also allowing me to arrive moments before Current Swell started.
The last time I saw Current Swell was in BC, at their sold out December Commodore show. With their hometown just a ferry ride away and after winning Vancouver’s 102.7 The Peak’s annual contest for local artists, they have a pretty impressive fan base in Vancouver- Everyone knows Current Swell and even their fans in Vancouver pleasantly surprised me – and I am rarely impressed with Vancouver fans. Most often in Vancouver I find myself wondering why many people are even at the show. Concertgoers in Vancouver often appear more interested in having a loud conversation overtop of the music or playing on their phones- and I am not talking about capturing a few photos of the band- they are surfing the net, exploring twitter, checking out Facebook- pretty much anything except for actually watching the show. It’s rude and distracting and frankly, disrespectful to the artist- especially if their music is more acoustic in nature, meaning that everyone else has to listen to the roar of the chatter in the crowd while the band competes for the crowd’s attention. Those Vancouver fans embarrass me. I suppose their one redemption is that they are on social medial for 90% of the show promoting the artist… but really I think they miss the point for being there. That said, Current Swell fans in Vancouver turn out to be pretty awesome and defy the norm. I also was pleasantly surprised to see that they have a sizeable following here in Toronto, especially because as I searched for a friend to take an extra ticket to tonight’s show, I could not find a colleague who had heard of them. I clearly need to make friends with these awesome Current Swell fans here in TO who filled the Danforth, eagerly awaiting their set. Unlike the crowds in Vancouver, Toronto fans consistently impress me with their passion and love for the artists on stage- with the entire venue singing aloud an impressive number of songs on the set, as if each song the band plays is their #1 radio single.
Current Swell put on a brilliant, varied set – keeping a nice balance of tempos throughout their set. A touching moment was when vocalist Scott Stanton dedicated “Who’s with Us” to the fans. I love it when artists give fans insights into what inspired a particular song. He made a point of thanking the fans for their continued support, which allows Current Swell to continue to be on stage, the place Scott dubbed his ‘happy place.’ Dancing along to Current Swell, surrounded by so many others throwing their hands up in the air, singing their hearts out was a beautiful moment in time. Thousands of kms away from their homes on the west coast, it made me happy to see such a warm and loud reception for Current Swell here in Toronto. If you are reading this and are new to Current Swell, I recommend two things: (1) check out this solid bio of the band on CBC (2) go to iTunes and purchase these tracks: Cursed, Young and Able, Rollin’, Keys to the Kingdom and Too Cold.
Shortly thereafter The Cat Empire took to the stage, basking in warm red, yellow and orange stage light. As they began to play, everyone (from the balding silver-haired men to my left and the young, in-love couple to my right) were transported out of winter and rain. Cat Empire took us all to that place where steel drums, umbrellas in drinks and warm summer sun exists. I could almost feel the sand under my feet. For a blissful period of time, nothing else existed except for the moment. As they so beautifully state in their song How to Explain – “music is the language of us all.” The Cat Empire are engaging, captivating and all sorts of wonderful.
Just like Current Swell, seeing The Cat Empire also flooded my memory with the last time I saw them play. It could be that being so far from home now makes me even more aware of how much my world and the people in it have changed since then. The ability for music, and particularly live music, to be simultaneously an experience of the present and past is pretty incredible. Seeing The Cat Empire was an immersive, brilliant new experience, one I was able to share with a new friend here in Toronto- if I ever get the opportunity to see Cat Empire again, I am certain I will think about this night in Toronto and smile. So, while seeing a familiar band play is an amazing new experience, it also floods the body with memories of past experiences- be that because of the song or having experienced the artist live before. It’s a strange and wonderful thing to escape to your past while also being very engaged in the present moment. As that thought drifted in and out of my mind all night, I danced and sang my heart out to both bands, losing myself in the magic of their sounds and performances on this particularly night. Unfortunately midway through The Cat Empire I realized a washroom break was needed before the end of their set. I rushed off (like one does in a movie theater when they’ve had too much pop but don’t want to miss any of the action), and hurried back as quickly as I could. In my brief foray away from the stage, I overheard two women in the washroom exchange this commentary on The Cat Empire:
“This is incredible – I feel like I’ve been transported to the Caribbean and Middle East and then back again all in one night”
“It’s amazing that one band can do that”
“That was such a great show”
“What?! There is no way it can almost be over”
“They have been playing for over an hour”
Well ladies, I could not have summarized my feeling about the show any better. Thank-you to The Cat Empire for transporting me around the world and back again, and for letting me re-live my past while simultaneously creating amazing new memories. Music is not only the language of the soul, it is food for the soul too. Please tour Canada again soon.