Photographs by Sean Chin.
Even before hearing a single note, I had dismissed Toronto’s Crystal Castles as a pretentious vanity project that would fizzle out sooner rather than later. Purely based on the early press, I made a hasty judgment that I’ve had to reevaluate numerous times.
Their eponymous debut from 2008 features some infectious songs buried beneath the duo’s industrial-Casio din. It didn’t completely bowl me over, but definitely piqued my interest. It was their sophomore effort, 2010’s II that affirmed for me Alice Glass and Ethan Kath as a musical force to be reckoned with.
What was supposed to be the eve of their third album (III has been pushed back a week to November 13) the duo, along with a touring drummer pulled into Toronto for a homecoming gig to celebrate the release of the new album. Having never seen the band but enjoying recent photos from their stint at this year’s Reading Festival, this gig would be my final litmus test in my final decision regarding the band.
Opening with the new song “Plague” the smoke-filled Kool Haus was bathed in swathes of pulsing red and provoked sporadic dancing among the almost capacity crowd. The venue erupted into one massive synchronized pogo dance with “Baptism”, a delightful sight I haven’t seen at a Toronto gig in years. From there Crystal Castles delivered just over an hour of euphoric disco-punk, complete with a retina-searing lightshow.
Due to the incessant strobes it was hard to catch any of the band (from my vantage point), especially the manic and frantic Glass. I found the seizure-inducing strobes the perfect complement to the seizure-like dancing.
Glass’ voice recalled “A Forest”-era Cure and she kept her banter with the crowd to a bare minimum until the encore. Kath provided the young masses (and me) with pounding beats and euphoric washes of synth. The band offered generous servings from the first two albums, peppered with some new songs and all were rapturously received.
Simply put, Crystal Castles delivered a solid live package; a look that’s somewhere between garage rock and punk; a sound that’s friendly to the hips and a light-show set to stun. I only have two complaints from the night; they didn’t play long enough (really, I could have listened all night) and they didn’t play “I Am Made of Chalk”. But kids, this is definitely how you do an impressive and memorable gig. One of my highlights of the year and I’m absolutely and completely won over.
Thanks to Embrace Presents for media access.