If you were to take a closer look, Toronto and Sydney are a lot alike. Both are the most popular cities of their respective countries. Toronto and Sydney have big Chinatowns. Rest of Canada has a love/hate relationship with TO, and Aussies echo that sentiment with Sydney. So, in a way, for Sydney’s Boy & Bear, Toronto’s show at Phoenix was more of a homecoming.
Dresses did their adorable best to entertain the modestly sized crowd. The Portland-duo of Timothy and Jared (Timothy is the girl, yeah I know!) played songs off their 2013 indie-pop flavoured debut Sun Shy. The record, one of my favourite releases from last year, has dreamy vibes courtesy of a mastered blend of high-pitched vocals and gentle pop elements like warm synthesizer or comforting acoustic guitar. But, those were all buried under the loudness of the drums and bass, making the duo sound like a generic indie band. Not until the duo went unplugged for a stretch of few songs including an old demo (My Heart?) did more ears in the crowd perk up, and the smartphones began recording footage for later enjoyment. Perhaps, Dresses will know for next time that quiet is better.
Coming out to Scorpion’s He is a Woman, She’s A Man certainly should have dispelled notions (if there were any) that Boy & Bear were the Aussie Mumfords. They are a rock band with folk undertones via soothing harmonies and humming banjo. And Toronto loves us some Aussie harmonies. The five-piece serenaded the gathered donning oversized denim and plaid shirts, with favourites like Southern Sun, Lorde May, Golden Jubilee (featuring a killin Killian guitar solo) and plenty more from Moonfire and the last release Harlequin Dream. Making their Toronto debut and also playing the biggest show of the current US & Canada tour, Dave Hosking, frontman and curator of a beautiful pencil ‘stache, called it a ‘wonderfully bizarre’ experience’. Uninitiated clap-alongs and roaring cheers probably helped make these Aussie lads less homesick. “This is the most home we’ve felt”, confessed drummer Tim Hart, “since we left Sydney”. Note to the promoters, when Boys & Bear return to Toronto, you might have to move the show from Phoenix to a lot bigger space.