Event promoter Alex from Primary Colors organized a memorable night Tuesday, 30 March. Bringing in Brooklyn bands These Are Powers and Javelin, with support from Toronto's Doldrums---a new project feat. Airick Woodhead (Spiral Beach), Alex Laurence (the Miles), Chris Lyons (Heartbeat Hotel), and Andy Smith (Heartbeat Hotel). But that wasn't all; this wasn't just a regular show. Put on in an unknown venue that included handmade decorations, a mood room, projections, and one bizarre performance art piece, the event was as much show as it was interactive art space for those into that kind of thing.
I'd seen These Are Powers once before: a 2am set at Silver Dollar during last year's NxNE music festival. They blew me away with their eccentric hyper electro grooves and sensual energy. Their performance demanded that I dance, no matter the hour or the state of my tired feet. It was a very unexpected surprise. This was their first time back in Toronto since then, and I was keen on going to see them.
A friend and I showed up just shy at 11pm, unsure of what we were getting ourselves into. Located on the top floor of a building in an alley off Queen St. West, And And And Space is a muti-room (yet open-concept) space with exposed wooden beams and original hardwood floors. We got ribbon around our wrists instead of handstamps; there was a DJ playing in the front room, but no one was dancing. The pillars were decorated with long, thin strands of silver, and most of the partiers looked, well, pretty hip. (I wore my hot pink skinny jeans, and felt rather more colourful than everyone else, but otherwise fit right in.) In one small room band members were selling merch, in another, cans of PBR were going for $4, and the third was some kind of well-lit chill-out room, with cut-out bits of pastel-coloured paper layed all over the floor, ready to be stuck to the wall. Most of the people were hanging out in the hallway and larger areas in the front and back. There were balloons and sheets covered the ceiling over the stage area.
And then it sounded like a band had started to play. According to a schedule I'd glanced at earlier that day, I had missed Doldrums, but here they were. No doubt the as-yet sparse attendance had pushed things back. Airick and co. hit drums, tapped electronic noise makers, turned dials, and vocalized into distorted mics. A few people feined dancing, but most of us looked on, listening. It was exciting for me to see this new band, with men I'd seen perform in other bands before. The convergence of sounds and experiences, thinking about how these things come together---I felt like a bit of an insider, even though I'm really not. As for the noise they were making, it was far from offensive, but it was not really to my taste. There were elements of tunefulness, but the emphasis was on creating bizarre soundscapes. And after maybe 15 minutes, they were done.
Between sets---and at this point I had no idea what was going to happen next---my friend and I people-watched, took in the decorations, and sat in the chill-out room while fellow-attendees made good use of the paper shapes. I was surprised the event was rather less than full, and got the sense it wasn't because the place was at capacity. To those who stayed home: you missed out! Suddenly, something was happening... video projections behind Laura McCoy, performing semi-silently and alone. She did some moving around, and some mumbling, but I could only half see for all the people in front of me.
Finally, a few minutes before 12:30am---thank goodness I didn't have to be anywhere Wednesday morning---Javelin came on. Their vibe was very different than what I'd just heard and seen. More accessible and dance-oriented, Javelin slowly got people moving. The duo's music wouldn't have been too out of place in a regular club, but the band members themselves were pretty much the opposite of slick-looking. Heart-shaped red balloon in hand, I danced at the front, alongside rather younger partiers. The set was fun; I will keep an eye out for these guys.
With it now approaching 1am, the venue was decently-populated if not full. There was a long waiting period, perhaps by design to give us all time to mill about, taking everything in. Sari and Romy from Ghost Bees had shown up, doning masks and clear plastic coverings. A few other people put masks on, too, and moved about amongst the skinny-jeaned crowd. (Like so.) I couldn't tell if anyone else was getting impatient, but despite the distractions, I was ready for things to get going. About 1:30am, These Are Powers started playing. I had high expectations. At first, I wasn't sure about them. But before long, I had made my way to the very front, less than a foot from front-woman Anna Barie's synth table. (I was reminded of that uber-packed Woodhands' show at Teranga in January 2008.) Dancing ensued. It was not the full-out frenetic experience it might have been---cramped quarters made this difficult---but being so close to the beats and personal energy of the trio had its effect. The band performed a great set, full of songs both new and familiar, intense and driving. Beside me, the men from Doldrums let loose, jumping up and down with abandon. Behind me, people danced, too. But no doubt the energy was somewhat lost on those toward the back.
Given the hour and the heat---promoter Alex had to close open windows during These Are Powers' set, presumably to keep the noise in and any complaints at bay---I didn't linger much after the set. As I put my coat on in the alley, a woman called out to me, "Hey, pink pant-her!" It made me smile. Great party, cool bands, awesome space, respectful and interesting crowd---success! I gotta get myself to more of these Primary Colors events. And so perhaps should you.