I was admittedly unsure of what to expect, walking into The Chain Gang of 1974’s Toronto show. I had missed the Los Angeles-based project of Kamtin Mohager just a few days prior, when his electronic band helped kick-off Governors Ball in NYC. Thankfully, a Toronto tour date gave me the chance to see him in a more intimate setting – though I’m not sure how small his crowds will stay.
Performing as a four piece, the band radiated energy to a fairly sparse crowd, Mohager tossing around plenty of head bangs as they kicked off with “You,” from 2014’s Daydream Forever. Mohager – a former touring bassist for dubstep-scenesters 3OH!3 – will inevitably appeal to the younger demographic: The Chain Gang likely to find favour with 1975 fans (and not just because of the proximity of years.)
Songs like “Miko” and the electro-heavy “Hold On” were aggressive, but still poppy. I imagine angst-y teenagers will appreciate the approachable rock n’ roll sensibilities that are part Foo Fighters, part Fall Out Boy, and all dressed up in a guy that kind of recalls Kurt Cobain (though that might have just been his long blonde hair talking.)
Mohager himself seemed rather fond of Toronto – telling the crowd early on that he was feeling the energy in the room and soon dedicating a song to the Maple Leafs, explaining that as a kid growing up in Hawaii, he always had a strange affection for our hometown heroes.
The hazy “Ordinary Fools,” Daydream Forever’s lead-off track, was an interesting change of pace amongst an otherwise energetic romp – Mohager delivering his vocal lines with conviction as his three-piece backing band accompanied him. Another anomaly was “Sleepwalking,” the band’s most popular single to date that canters more electro-pop than any of the band’s other work.
The crowd for them is still small, but outside of a 19+ Monday night crowd, the promise of busier, more energetic shows is certainly there. Maybe next time just open it up to all-ages or put The Chain Gang of 1974 on an opening bill for the likes of whatever the flavour of the month it is. While the older, quote-unquote, “indie” crowd just might not be their demographic, it doesn’t mean the band doesn’t deserve some actual attention.