Photographs by Maya Setton.
Would I be a turd if I said The Box Tiger started off with a roar? I might be filled to the brim with cheese, but the band is anything but. While the plaid shirts and thick rimmed glasses look would seem at home between bookstore aisles, the Toronto band took to the stage with an easy confidence and massive energy. Slick and cool, rocking with authority, they held the crowd tight from the first note.
Packing an entourage sure helped. A few giddy audience members held up hand drawn signs professing their love [Lauren you beat the drum of my heart], which had lead singer Sonia smirking. “That’s really more of a wrestling or Katy Perry concert thing.” Katy Perry they ain’t, but between Sonia’s Karen O vocal swagger and their effortless indie rock earworms, these guys will find themselves on the big stage soon enough.
Infectiously catchy single Set Fire To Your Friends brimmed with tight pop sensibilities. A punchy, toe tapping beat brought out the warm howl of the chorus. Knives rippled, melodic and chorus driven, descending into gritty thrash. The closing number found the guitarist strapping on the bass, while the bassist jumped on a spare drum kit. Beating away with tribal percussion, the result was an irresistibly crunchy track with a frenzied vigour. Pounding drums underscored soaring wails, stripping back to a whisper before a squealing guitar breakdown. Catch these guys soon, or you’ll miss your chance to see them in intimate venues like this.
Mere seconds after Gainesville group Dikembe took the stage, a throng formed. Launching into a visceral emo scream, it was clear they sought to tear the roof off the place. Clearly the audience was on board, as long as they could watch. Thrashing drums packed a wallop, overflowing with an eager intensity. Shuddering guitar rushed forth, throwing the crowd into frenzied spasms.
Interlacing distortion with the grace of a boxer, songs launched blows left and right, before deftly ducking and weaving, pulling back to throw a haymaker. Sorry I Can’t Stick Around shook with an animalistic rush, while the low hanging fruit of Pixies cover Where Is My Mind left a surprisingly sweet taste, accentuated by the lead singer’s gravelly tone. Brash and impulsive rises peeled back to contemplative lulls before slamming back with in-your-face drums. Playing with the audience, hunched over guitars, the band gave it all. Short, strong and sweet, they left the crowd baying for more.
The buzz for Weatherbox began before the band even set foot onstage. With their most recent LP, Flies in All Directions, released a mere two months ago, the crowd was chomping at the bit to hear it live. The thrill was undeniable. From the first verse of opener Pagan Baby, the audience sang right along. Kickflips For Weeks found melodic power chords giving way to the singer playing a whispered call and response with the crowd. The energy arced through the room, with the floor literally bouncing from the impact.
Wild and unpredictable, the band defied easy classification. Looming arrangements caved to chugging guitar and thunderous cymbals. Short stuttering bursts flourished to anthemic triumphant chords. Emo shrieks morphed to ambitious post-rock with head-spinning alacrity. The clamour crashed in like waves, tempestuous and bold. The crowd was a sea of motion, jumping and thrashing, lapping up everything that washed across them.
A brief lull found audience members calling out requests from the band’s back catalogue. The gushing crowd response galvanised the band with an effortless enthusiasm. Ecstatic to be there, Weatherbox owned the room and gave back what they got tenfold. Their comfort was transparent, giving and taking with practiced ease. Instruments layered with tactful precision, finding space in the potent wall of sound. Difficult to define but impossible to ignore, the performance justified their dedicated following.