Monday, 21 June 2010

Live Review: Caribou, Toro Y Moi (June 9)

I'm posting this kinda late, the show being over a week ago, but I'm just lazy. It took me awhile to hash out my thoughts, but I finally got to it. Et VoilĂ :

Opening the night's festivities was Toro Y Moi, a trio from South Carolina. The band's a perfect fit to open for Caribou, as their music is in a similar vein. TYM pumped out about 6 or 7 songs with minimal stage banter, breaking for mere seconds in between their dreamy, swirling pop tunes. Some tracks were danceable and featured strong bass lines, and a few members of the crowd showed their appreciation. They were mostly well received, certainly my attention did not drift to other things. I had previewed some songs online beforehand and was underwhelmed, but the live setting injects vivaciousness and personality into the songs that sound rather limp and dreary on record.

After the sole opening act got off the stage, Caribou promptly cracked the lid on their set. The band has a reputation for putting on an interesting live show, and I was fully satisfied with my experience (frankly, 'twas the best show I've been to in a while). The most impressive part about Caribou live is how the songs, which sound so quiet and intimate on record, transform into loud, huge opuses that fill a room with sound. Indeed, Caribou becomes an electronically-enhanced psych-rock band in the live realm, rather than retain the folk-like closeness of the albums. The more dance-oriented songs from Swim practically demand to be heard on a huge sound system, and a bar/club setting delievers this perfectly. That the band seems to oscillate between being rock gods and DJs doesn't really register since all the songs are uniquely Caribou. The set flowed with few interruptions, comprised mostly of cuts from the aforementioned Swim:

Sundialing
Leave House
Kaili
Melody Day
Found Out
Bowls
Odessa
She's The One
Hannibal
Jamelia
Sun

There was a one-song encore, but I didn't recognize it, being familiar with only Swim and Andorra (I did finally pick up Up In Flames, though $15 is a bit steep!)

I knew he was part of the Caribou live experience, but I was surprised to see John Schmersal, AKA the Enon dude, take on lead vocal duties for several songs. He was a perfect match for "Jamelia", bringing the necessary soul and nicely echoing Luke Lalonde's rendition on Swim. However, I felt the particular timbre of his voice was ill-suited for a delicate song like "She's The One" (but I do have a very strong opinion about this one song). His backing vocals were always a nice touch, though. Caribou's main man and (only) songwriter, Dan Snaith, was definitely the star of the show. He sang, played guitar, manned the keyboards and electonic gizmos, hopped on the drums for several songs, and even busted out a recorder.

Another much-apprciated aspect of the show was the extension of songs, particularly "Sun" (which could have gone on even longer, if you ask me). Caribou's songs often feature repetitive hypno-rhythms that allow for openness and improvisation, and the band seized the opportunity.

Crowd reaction was unabashedly positive, but it was obvious that the more pop-oriented songs were the most well-received. The audience heavily applauded "Odessa" and "Melody Day." Unfortunately, there wasn't enough dancing! I realize that many Caribou songs are not suited to dance, but with a set so heavy on Swim tunes, I really expected a lot more people to actually move. I tried, but it also happened to be very crowded.

All in all, it was a lovely evening, and I can quasi-relive it whenever I want to, as NPR's All Songs Considered has put up a recording of Caribou's set from the DC date. It's a little different, but good enough.