Threatening thunderstorms have been looming over Toronto this past week. I endured several open-air concerts in torrential rain with lightning that proved all kinds of excitement – needless to say I was prepared for this one, too. The Weather Network showed no signs of mercy for Toronto; but we floated on down to Echo Beach for Modest Mouse and Kevin Drew.
Kevin Drew’s solo album Darlings was released earlier this year with his tantalizingly raw single Good Sex and recently You And Your Were featuring Leslie Feist on vocals. I’ve admired Kevin’s work in the industry for quite some time now, he’s the man behind the record label Arts & Crafts, and founding member of Broken Social Scene. The amount of time he invests back into our beautiful city is admirable. Before the show, I was exchanging tweets with The Darcys who were also going to the show despite performing in Osheaga the next day – the strong familial support is great to see – it’s what makes me love being in this city.
Standing in front of the stage in the bone-dry twilight of the evening, Kevin came on stage and if I had to define his set in one word, it would be: Community. His band consisted of Charles Spearin on bass/guitar (long time member of BSS, and founding member of Do Make Say Think and KC Accidental), and he also had Ohad Benchetrit on guitar (part-time member of BSS, and founding member of Do Make Say Think) as well as Marty Kinack on rhythm guitar (early BSS soundman turned producer). When Kevin performed You In Your Were, I had assumed they were going to use Feist Vox on synth, but then Leslie elegantly wandered upon the stage for the second half and we all went wild – it warmed my heart to see them singing together – their energy was so raw, it was beautiful. Soon after, I realized that both Feist and Emily Haines were hanging out at the side-stage and Emily came on to sing Safety Bricks – it was playful and fun, and very uplifting for all of us in the crowd that were in the know. I can imagine it being somewhat too laid-back for someone who didn’t know their share of Toronto music happenings. Kevin struggled with a couple of his guitars that weren’t tuned properly, and he started an impromptu jam session.
While on stage alone, he started rattling the piano keys, charging us to scream as loud as we can and as long as we can. He told us to scream; scream for everyone who is not with us anymore, scream for everyone we’ve lost, scream for everything we’ve fucked up right now. With his beautiful voice that carried across the water, his band started to appear on stage spontaneously – and Feist and Emily snuck up behind him and started harmonizing – it was so familial and comforting to witness such a bond and a trust on stage. They sang “Toronto, we fucking love you” – and I felt adored by them in return as well.
Modest Mouse was welcomed onto the stage after dark, with a cloudless sky and a red-sliver crescent moon – front man Isaac Brock announced that he was a little disappointed that it didn’t thunderstorm; he was hoping to be struck by lightning (with the obvious hope of survival) just for the story. I don’t think us crowd dancers would have minded the rain after that beautiful set that came before – nothing could bring us down from that high. I’ve seen them play a couple other times before and with such an expansive discography of 5 studio albums and several EP’s, I didn’t know what the set would evolve to. They opened with King Rat – good times always ensue with a banjo, right? It drew the immediate praise of the crowd with dancing and shouting and even air-banjo (haha!). Immediately after that it was as if they read my mind when they broke out into Ocean Breathes Salty. That song is my personal jam – it was truly satisfying when everyone surrounding me sang “The ocean breathes salty, won’t you carry it in?/ In your head in your heart in your soul/ and maybe we’ll get lucky and we’ll both grow old/ we’ll I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know, I hope so.”
The musicality on stage was impressive when they pulled out the banjo again 5 or 6 songs later for Satin in a Coffin – probably the best song involving a banjo I’d ever heard – it’s not really my instrument of choice, but it was worth it – these guys owned it. The rest of the show was a blur of grunge-cherry-cotton-candy bliss with the lights, and smoke and the fog that developed over the water. I was floating through the crowd when they played Float On and I had this view of the stage where it appeared as if fireworks were going off (but they weren’t) – with 3 encore tunes, it was another great evening at Echo Beach.