I was on the wrong damn side of the stage: all the action was on the right/bassist side. That’s where Young Empires gave the mic to a fan during their final song and where Saint Motel had all the girls dancing. Sometimes you go where the best vantage point is and sometimes you get to be in the action, at times it’s the same place but tonight it was an either or choice.
Things didn’t start out so separated though. When Fan-tan kicked the evening off, Glasslands was not yet full, so there was no sense of “find a good spot and stake out your turf.”
Fan-tan played with gusto, trying to bring a big, stadium-sized sound to the small room. Their last song (and never mind the fact that it was entitled “Penis”) sounded the most put-together – it had the most cojones of all their songs, and that wasn’t just a forced pun, it may have had the most bite of all those played tonight. Rather than talk about its “driving rhythm” or any other entendre-causing adjectives, let’s just move on to the next band.
Saint Motel, if they hadn’t brought a large part of the audience to Glasslands, then they quickly won them over. It wasn’t far into their set before, from my vantage point center-stage, I could see the crowd spinning and dancing to either side of me, and it was a crowd that seemed disproportionately young and female.
There were a few other strains of musicianship, but Saint Motel could best be described as playing indie rock with a danceable funk undercurrent, and dance the audience did. In fact, as I looked out and saw that many of the girls had near-rapturous expressions on their faces I realized the dissonance between what I was hearing and what I was seeing since the crowd seemed to be enjoying the set more than I was: there was no menace behind Saint Motel.
The band looks like a quartet of finely groomed young gentleman, they had good stage presence and banter and there was nothing dark in their sound or vibe. Call me an old curmudgeon, but I like my music to have elements of danger and mystique to it, I like having the sense that rock and roll could be a gateway to a life of ill repute. But that’s me. From what I could see, the rest of Glasslands was thrilled by Saint Motel, so I will tip my cap to them for a show well played.
Which brings us to Young Empires, the evening’s headliners who started their performance with a four-way fist pump before getting straight to the beats of “Rain of Gold.”
Young Empires describe their music as “world beat haute rock” but it might be easier to say that they have a sound similar to Foster the People’s mix of danceable rock that rests on a bed of keyboards and steady drumming.
Lead singer Matthew Vlahovich alternated between his keyboard, belting out lyrics, jumping around on stage and mixing together various combinations thereof. Shortly after claiming to have “smuggled” the band’s latest CD into the country (they hail from Toronto), Vlahovich led the crowd in a clap-along intro to “Let You Sleep Tonight.” This bled into “Enter Through The Sun” during which Vlahovich gave his mic to a fan in the crowd who sang the “uh uh oh” section. I missed how the mic ended up in the fan’s hands, but the fan did a pretty good job before Vlahovich reclaimed the mic so as to finish the song, and their set.
Young Empires will continue touring in the US through their SXSW appearance before retuning to the Great White North for a string of dates in Ontario that will run into April.
-- March 02, 2012
Review and photos by Dan Meade. Dan, the co-founder of the art/travel project The Manic American, has been contributing to GigApe as a writer and photographer since 2010. You can also follow him on Twitter: @DannyUhaul
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