My friends hear me utter the phrase: “that was one of the best bands I’ve ever seen” so often, they must be sick of it; but like a tragic romantic, I mean it every time. How Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and Chad Valley do not have a larger following in Toronto baffles me. Originally booked at The Hoxton, they were downsized to the smaller but more superior (in my opinion) Garrison, which was still not sold out, but at least offered the more intimate warm feel-good setting, enhancing the experience ten-fold.
This was my third time seeing Chad Valley in the last year, which is a lot for an UK based artist to travel for. Hugo Manual (the creator and singer of Chad Valley) and his partner in crime Pamela Martinez have the voice of sensual angels. While there weren’t any drastic changes in their set, it was certainly a lot tighter than previous. Playing with confidence their well known 80’s infused electro jams, including the upbeat Up & Down, slowed-down R&B jam Fall 4 U off of Young Hunger. Only a few people danced during his set and none would brave perverts row, aside from photographers.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.’s The Speed of Things was easily one of my favorite albums of last year, and I’ve been waiting for these guys to come around since. As the Detroit based band set up their elaborate light set-up of the stacked Jr. Jr. at the back of center stage, and co-singer/guitarist/saxophone-maestro/synth/keyboard player Josh’s signature phone receiver microphone, and the crowd doubled in size, my anticipation grew to epic proportions.
Hugo Manuel of Chad Valley was at the merch table, and there was just a warm community vibe in the air. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., entered the stage, thanked us all for being there, noting their excitement at their first headlining tour ever to Toronto, and launched into a sped up fuller version of Hiding, off of The Speed of Things.
Their stage presence and energy was electric, jumping around as if in a hip-hop group, switching instruments with each song. Their vocal harmonies seamless, easy to note the Simon and Garfunkel influence in their electro-indie pop fueled music, with a tinge of old punk and soul. By the time they played their fourth song, Don’t Tell Me (also off The Speed of Things), singer Josh, jumped into the crowd, and the bubble machine started. We were all bouncing around gleefully, dancing, grinning. It was as if I wasn’t sober on a Tuesday night. Finishing off with the fast, punching version of Gil Scott-Heron’s We Almost Lost Detroit, featured on their debut album It’s a Corporate World, they ended with a bang, and invoked the first encore they could give Toronto.
The three song encore included my absolute favorite – A Haunting, a dancey song that starts like a soft lullaby and builds into a heart heavy mandatory dance jam with the emotion its lyrics evoke, “I just wanna feel somebody, I just want my body to be overcome for once, I just want to be possessed by all the spirit I don’t know”. My friends may be sick of hearing me say that phrase, but I challenge you all to see Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and not come out feeling the same way.
For a video interview with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., click here.
For a video interview with Chad Valley, click here.