Occasionally, it takes a band to remind you that living in Toronto is pretty wonderful. So truth be told, it really didn’t matter what Death From Above 1979 sounded like. On Wednesday night the duo played to a crowd of about 300-people, gathered in the parking lot of a downtown art gallery. It turns out the show itself was ultimately less noteworthy than the actual experience of the event – perhaps an odd thing to admit, given how intertwined the two elements were to a successful evening.
Earlier at the Toronto pop-up, free tattoos were given out on a first-come, first-serve basis and exclusive Toronto DFA1979 merchandise was sold. Hip Torontonians (slash people presumably without 9-to-5 jobs) filtered in and out, picking up t-shirts, permanent ink, or some combination of the two.
Of course the main draw was for Jesse Keeler and Sebastien Grainger, set to play the first of two “surprise shows” that evening. Add the still-present novelty of the band’s reunion to the fact that the show was both free and a celebration of the long-awaited new album and you’ve got the fixings for a good time.
Don’t get me wrong – I love the band and I’m all for the duo’s continued creative output. But watching them perform an hour-long set (in which they mixed new and old material) was more a celebration of the city they grew up in than it was for a band’s quote-unquote triumphant return. Okay, admittedly some of that sentiment stems from the fact that they’ve toured quite a bit over the past little while, even without new album The Physical World in hand – but bear with me.
Sure, you can get excited about seeing a DFA1979 show – but you walk in knowing what you’re going to get: visceral energy with Grainger on vocals and drums and the thought “I didn’t know a bass could sound the way Keeler makes it sound.” It’s heavy and loud. It’s in your face and confrontational. The kids will mosh. You’ll scream along to “Romantic Rights” and all the stuff from ten years ago you didn’t get to enjoy back then. Because even with the more recent incorporation of electronic elements and slower pacing, the new material doesn’t change what they’re best at.
And, it turns out, what they’re also really good at is making you realize just how great it can be when things work out.
Early on in the set, Grainger thanked neighbours in the Queen and Ossington area – explaining he used to live next door and that if this was another band and he was still living there, he’d be pissed off at the noise. If there were complaints, we didn’t hear any of them in the crowd.
Later, a false threat of a “shut down” (really the firefighters were just investigating a triggered fire alarm at the Edward Day Gallery next door) kept fans on their toes, waiting to see if the band would play through or if they’d succumb to the pressure of authorities. Needless to say, they played on – even though said pressure was totally fictitious.
And that’s kind of the DFA1979 story in a nutshell: fans anxiously on their toes, waiting to see if the band can get through their inner turmoil and create a follow-up that lives up to You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine’s legacy. It’s a triumphant story, it turns out. I’m glad they wanted to celebrate it in their hometown – it’s not a bad place to be.