On September 30th the Jays prepared to face the Baltimore Orioles on their home turf in what I can only imagine will go down in history as “a game of baseball”. Meanwhile in Toronto, the two cities came face to face yet again when Lower Dens played at The Horseshoe Tavern.
The opening artist Abdu Ali is one of the most unique acts I’ve seen in a long time. He stood there in the dark on stage with his laptop perfectly still and in a sudden flurry of drums began to dance around the stage, the violence of his movements mirroring the aggressive drum lines. The ambient synths pulsed and flowed softly over industrial sounding percussion while Abdu sang or rapped over top. There seemed to be a religious aspect to everything and it felt like you were watching someone have a spiritual awakening full of ecstatic dancing, pushing out into the audience and dropping to his knees. As Abdu Ali paused, caught in a moment of rapture entranced by his own rhythm, I found myself wondering if this would be a good environment to take a drug like acid but then he started his last song of the night. The theme of the song was simple: I exist. As the song unfolded, it became a musical essay on existentialism and Descartian philosophy and I had the answer to my question. No, this would be a very bad place to do acid. I did get his tape though and I’m really anxious to track down a tape deck so I can listen to it.
Lower Dens is a great band. Review over. We can all go home (just kidding). I fell in love with this Baltimore 4 piece after the release of their 2012 record Nootropics and even though this was the second time I’ve seen this band recently and after countless listens through their albums, I found even more subtle touches hidden in the music to appreciate. In my opinion, the star of the show was the music instead of any one person on stage. That being said, the singer, when she wasn’t playing guitar, took part in some mic stand kung fu and talked to the audience in between sets patiently responding to their excited yelling. She was definitely the focus of the show for at least a few people. I found myself lost in the music’s intricacies, going as far as zoning out at the front of the stage. Only when the music began to change again did I snap out of it and wonder where my brain had disappeared to for that time. The crowd either danced around or stood in one spot entranced, absorbing the waves of sound just like I had been and even the band, though they seemed to be concentrating on what they were doing for much of the set they also got into it.
This was a great showcase of some talented interesting bands from Maryland. I highly recommend checking them out. Now, does anyone have a tape player I can borrow?
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Photos by Benjamin Telford (bentelfordphoto) | Review by Tristan Johnston