Written and Photographed by Sarah Rix
There’s a line between indie bands destined to stay on the smaller stages and ones poised for what you can only imagine to be massive success. With Montreal’s Half Moon Run, you get the sense they belong firmly in the latter camp. Before they joined the flanks of seemingly every other band currently making music in the annual pilgrimage to SXSW, they were in Toronto for a sold out stop at the Horseshoe Tavern. Fans crammed inside for a triumphant and invigorating show by the four-piece. Drummer Dylan Phillips made a point to tell the crowd early on that this was long overdue – they’ve certainly played Toronto in the past, but never as a headliner. Spots on Canadian Music Week lineups and opening stints for Plants and Animals, Wintersleep, and Patrick Watson have been the extent of their touring here, but it clearly hasn’t done them any harm in garnering a solid support base.
Formed a few years back after meeting on Craigslist, there’s perhaps a surprising sense of real chemistry in Half Moon Run. The band also boasts catchy tunes with immediate hooks – whether you’ve heard them before or not, there’s a definite familiarity in their music. Touring 2012 debut Dark Eyes makes for a woefully short set, but one packed with energetic numbers. Their hour on stage also made it clear these songs have been road tested (including a recent tour of Australia) and perfected. “Call me in the Afternoon” received huge cheers for its use of percussion, with all but keyboardist/guitarist Conner Molander banging on a drum.
Crowd response was some of the best this city’s seen in a while with people engaged and appreciative. It prompted lead vocalist and guitarist Devon Portielje to remark with a smile: “You guys are crazy as s***.” “Need It” inspired a sing-along from the audience, something Half Moon Run capitalized on with the equally impressive album opener “Full Circle.” The crowd would gladly have taken more from the band (rounded out by instrumentalist Isaac Symonds,) but the set came to an end all too soon. Their final number was a departure from their usual style of electronica-seeped indie rock, but it was no less impressive. The blues-style song about the rock n’ roll life – dubbed “Blooze” on the set list – was equal parts guitar solo and Jack White-esque rock.
Openers Folly & The Hunter also deserve recognition, starting the show with a set not yet ready for the big leagues, but certainly showing potential. While xylophone solos unfortunately can’t really compete with a chatty crowd, their ability to create lush, atmospheric instrumentals was impressive, as was the use of drumming and an emphasis on vocal harmonies. The indie folk five-piece also has a new album out on April 16 and will be back in the city for CMW. All in all, a strong opening set given they were fighting feedback and a loud, Friday night crowd.
Half Moon Run has a busy 2013 in the books already. They’ve got SXSW and extensive touring of Europe and America lined up next, opening for Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men, respectively. If their show at the Horseshoe is any indication of the greatness to come, don’t expect those opening slots to be theirs for very long.