Glasgow trio PAWS made their Toronto debut on Tuesday night, opening for friends We Are Scientists. They made it clear that as with their music, they weren’t afraid to bring up a sense of urgency in their stage banter – starting their set by explicitly asking the crowd to move forward, following it up by asking: “Why are you hanging at the back like a bunch of weirdos?”
It’s true: the band was greeted by the general sense of Toronto detachment. Many of the early birds opted for seats around the pit or stood by the bar (it was a Tuesday, after all) – but that’s not to say PAWS wasn’t worth paying attention to.
Eventually they managed to drag some willing crowd members to the Lee’s Palace pit, their urgent punk rock turning some heads, albeit not in a let’s-go-crowd-surfing kind of way, as they probably deserved. Truthfully though, it was the band’s obvious chemistry and stage banter with each other that was the most entertaining thing to watch, joking amongst themselves and with the crowd between songs – including one gaff that saw them refer to Toronto as part of America, leading to some light-hearted boos and half-hearted apologies.
Musically, they delivered their songs in short burst of energy, sounding a lot like fellow countrymen Frightened Rabbit… Assuming, of course, that Frightened Rabbit traded in their folk tendencies for more punk rock head banging.
The band’s musical heft was equally divided between its members: drummer Josh Swinney gave up his best Animal impression behind the drum kit; vocalist and guitarist Phillip Taylor delivered the emotional heft with a strong voice; and bassist Ryan Drever – a relatively new replacement within the PAWS lineup – energetic and providing the requisite “we tried poutine” banter.
PAWS’ set included material from both their 2012 Cokefloat! debut and from their forthcoming sophomore release, Youth Culture Forever (out May 6th in the US.) On the eve of the release of their first single from the album – a song titled “Owls Talons Clenching My Heart”– Taylor dedicated the number to their touring partners. They also threw in a Lemonheads cover for good measure with “Drug Buddy,” changing things up with its slower, grungy appeal.
All in all, it was an impressive showing with the band ending their set on an instrumental burst with “Poor Old Christopher Robin,” Taylor throwing off his hat to allow for an appropriate amount of head shaking as he swung his guitar around wildly, finally tossing it into the drum kit for a dramatic finish. It was fun and well presented and with a more engaged audience it’s probably quite exciting to watch and less stilted than the opening-set atmosphere allowed for. Here’s to hoping they’ll find enough success with Youth Culture Fever to warrant their own tour across the Atlantic – there’s a lot to like here.
Thanks to Collective Concerts for media access.