Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ross | jeremypross.com
Making a third stop in NYC in the calendar year, Chaz Bundick and band, aka Toro y Moi, finally found a rightful home at Webster Hall. First and foremost, the place is a dance club just waiting for an appropriately sized party and, playing live, first and foremost, Toro y Moi is a dance party looking for a place to happen.
With both a new LP earlier this year (Underneath the Pine) and a brand new EP (Freaking Out) out just this week, there was plenty of material for Bundick to choose from to get the crowd moving, and on Wednesday night the party was certainly happening. The lights coupled with the all-important smoke machine to complete the scene. A lava lamp projected on the backdrop seemed to act like a mood ring for the band’s various emotions: greens signaled the mellow chillwave grooves and red, blue and purple meant it was time to boogie.
The opener, the up-and-coming trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra, worked through material from their impressive self-titled debut. In the live setting, the weirdo, prog-rock excellence got swallowed a bit by fuzzy, scintillating distortion, but no matter. Early in the set, songs like “Thought Ballune” seemed ready to explode into some 20-minute freak-outs, but were instead reined into tight Hendrix-Experience-esque jams. Their prog-meets-punk style was on full display on “Nerve Damage,” which combined a slick Steve Howe guitar riff with a visceral power-trio middle. Closing with “How Can You Luv Me,” UMO showed more breadth, getting into a Fender-bass driven pocket groove that was a perfect leave-’em-wanting-more way to finish. This band is likely to be unknown for only so long. —A. Stein
While in high school a decade ago, Chaz Bundick began recording music at home in Columbia, S.C. (“It started as bedroom project and it pretty much still is at the moment.”) But since graduating college in 2009, he’s been able to put those years of producing and making music to prolific use, releasing his first Toro y Moi album, Causers of This, this past year, the follow-up, Underneath the Pine, last winter, and an EP, Freaking Out, which is out today. Bundick says his music “is a combination of things, to keep changing sounds and to be accessible.” See just how accessible when Toro y Moi (above, performing “Still Sound” at this year’s SXSW for KEXP FM) plays Webster Hall tomorrow night.
Before Toro Y Moi even took the stage last night at The Bowery Ballroom, their show had already begun. The lights went down and a large white tarp behind the band was illuminated with projected colors from a lava lamp. It was a perfect backdrop as orange, yellow and green oozed and pulsed all around while Chazwick Bundick and band oozed groovy party music over the second sold-out crowd in as many nights.
Listening to their newest LP, Underneath the Pine, at home on the couch is a perfect way to just relax without getting too relaxed. Live, Toro Y Moi are still kind of chill, but undoubtedly a dance party. At the start, the band—Bundick on keys and vocals with guitar, drums and bass—laid low with mild-mannered, Clark Kent grooves. But after a couple of songs, they had gone into the proverbial phone booth and came back out superfunky. Bundick got as much funk as he could out of his keyboard, mixing in presampled riffs and soaring vocals that got swallowed by the bass-and-drums mix. The room was packed, but there was just enough space between the elbows of the people on either side of you to get your dance on. Occasionally, like in the highlight set-closer “Elise,” the music launched into shattered-glass guitar interludes that freed the mind while the body kept moving.
Montreal’s Braids were a perfect warm-up. Last time in town at Mercury Lounge, they were impressive, but admittedly under the weather with the tour flu. On Monday night, they were a cohesive and brilliant bunch. Soaring with cosmic harmonies and guitars untethered by a bass player, they strung together several tunes without a pause, filling the gaps with electronic coos and loops of sound. The audience was awed but confused as to when to applaud. So they picked a quiet spot and just started clapping. —A. Stein
Last night the chalkboard outside of Mercury Lounge read like assorted answers to Trivial Pursuit questions: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toro Y Moi, Cloud Nothings, Indian Rebound. Surprisingly, the names account for bands, in fact, some of the most highly touted of the New Year. But while youth and its promise brought the sold-out crowd, the lineup showed a connection to musical styles, familiar but reimagined. And while nostalgia crept into most of the night’s music, most notably Toro Y Moi showcased a penchant for expertly blending new and old.
Chazwick Bundick, the songwriting personage and Toro Y Moi’s humble frontman, spoke infrequently throughout the show, but when he did, it was usually about hailing from South Carolina. His debut album, Causers of This, blends hazy production with R&B, New Wave and hip-hop to create intimacy beyond the bedroom project. Purportedly his upcoming album, Underneath the Pine, extends his sound to a fuller, band-based approach, clearly evidenced by his touring band, consisting of a drummer, bassist and guitarist to accompany him on keys.
With the extra instrumentation, Bundick freely manipulated knobs, layering vocals on top of keyboard melodies. Arrangements of Causers of This standouts “Blessa” and “Talamak” felt thicker and dug deeper into grooves with a fleshed-out rhythm section. New songs, noted by way of introduction, still maintained Bundick’s vocal approach, highlighting with a light falsetto, but at times, evoking funk predecessors like George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. The stylistic shift didn’t seem drastic, but rather a more organic go at the dance floor. —Jared Levy
Photos courtesy of Jennifer Macchiarelli | www.jennylow.com