Concert Review + Photos: Zola Jesus and Deradoorian @ The Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto

Zola Jesus
Finding out you’re in the wrong place for a concert you’re supposed to revue is not a good feeling… especially when there are 20 minutes until showtime. I won’t get into the combination of internet misinformation and other things that led to this situation but I will say nothing warms you up on a cold January night like running 22 city blocks to The Horseshoe Tavern.

Deradoorian went first. This 2-piece consisting of ex Dirty Projectors member Angel Deradoorian and a drummer/ backing vocalist, played an interesting opening set. Beginning with a single held note from a wooden flute and using a loop pedal, they stacked droning analogue keyboard sounds and finally drums, slowly building up to a heavily layered wall of sound. While some of the music was light and bouncy the majority of it was minimal and atmospheric and I think some of the more technical and experimental aspects probably scared a few people away. I really enjoyed it though. Watching them build up each song starting from a single note or drum beat and bit by bit becoming a complete idea felt like watching the process that went into the making each song. If I was asked what the best aspect of the set was I would definitely have to say the vocals. In what I would already consider well thought out music, the singing was harmonically balanced but rhythmically different. With the melodies adding a unique twist to the usual vocalist/back-up dynamic. I can see why some people might have found parts of it inaccessible but overall I thought it was good.

In the gap between sets, waiting for Zola Jesus, distortion and strange synth sounds played on the P.A. as a man whose shirt reminded me of the cyber monks from Dennis Rodman movies (that’s not a random string of words I made up either. For better or worse that really happened in the 90’s… twice.) went around the stage making sure everything was in place. The set up on stage was mostly electronic with the exception of the drums and a lone trombone with five, foot high gem shaped objects scattered about (when the show started it became apparent that they were lights). The music was dark and moody with heavy rhythms and synth work that reminded me of old goth bands like Bauhaus. The trombone, rather than feeling like a gimmick, was worked well into a lot of the songs blending in wonderfully with the overall texture of the music. Zola Jesus’ voice was powerful, demanding your attention over the drones and drums. Despite her small size she seemed to take up the entire stage. She moved constantly, one minute grotesque, the next graceful, posing occasionally like she was in a tableau. Her movements seemed planned, not in the sense of a choreographed dance routine but something more akin to the exaggerated movements of a kabuki play, mesmerizing from start straight through to the end.

In a time that seems to want to take solo female musicians and transform them into cookie cutter pop stars it’s always heartening to see performers with their own styles and sound.

Zola Jesus


For our interview with Zola Jesus, click here.

Photos by Benjamin Telford (bentelfordphoto) | Review by Tristan Johnston

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