Photographs by Sarah Rix
Get ready to fall in love with St. Lucia. It’s almost inevitable that it’s going to happen; Jean-Philip Grobler’s take on tropical electro-pop is that good.
Opening for Two Door Cinema Club at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall on Tuesday night, the band (who perform as a five-piece) drew cheers as they were setting up their gear. That’s always a good sign. With debut album “When the Night” released just a week prior, it’s perhaps surprising how familiar the audience already is with the material. There are reasons for it – and not just because they played with Two Door a night earlier at the more intimate Mod Club. Since late 2012, the band’s played Toronto a couple of times and have also found themselves on countless “ones to watch” lists. Seems like that’s a good designation for them, because they definitely appear ready to take on everything from major cities to Caribbean paradises.
Grobler’s a South African transplant that has lived in England and now resides in New York City. No surprise then that the songs are globetrotting in their influences. Signed to independent label Neon Gold Records (a company co-founded by MS MR vocalist Lizzy Plapinger), they’ve found themselves in good company with the likes of Passion Pit, Marina & The Diamonds, Ellie Goulding, The Naked and Famous, and Chvrches. Like all of these acts, their catchy electro-pop has caught the eye of the buzz machine and generated tons of interest in the project. And thankfully the quintet know what they’re doing on stage, pulling it all off exceptionally well.
Best of all, the members of St. Lucia come complete with a sense of wide-eyed joy. They seem happy – spurred on by the warm response (in the form of a strange, floppy wrist dance provided by the crowd) – and make music to match.
While the Danforth show was briefly halted due to some technical difficulties, the good outweighed the negative. “We Got It Wrong” shone with its tropical beats and tribal, chant-along chorus of “don’t go away!” “All Eyes On You” was just as warm, showing off strong bass work and a huge ending – in spite of its faulty start. On “Elevate”, Grobler made use of his choir training, letting his vocals soar before urging the crowd to jump along. He’s certainly a showman and interesting to watch, swinging his hips and guitar around wildly – and at one point, almost wiping out his microphone stand.
“September” sounded huge, a synth start kicking it off before a big bass beat kicked in from their drummer. The sound took them off the island and into the jungle, the verses recalling the best of Cut Copy while the choruses made use of harmonized falsettos. It’s a massively ambitious song that’s darker than the rest of their offerings, but none-the-less distinctly St. Lucia.
Echoing what Grobler said, part way through the set: “When it hits, it hits like a tropical storm.” Yes, no doubt about it. They’ve got themselves a hit.