It may not be a band you’re intimately familiar with just yet, but if shrieks and raised cell phones are a measure of popularity you’ll soon hear a lot more about DNCE.
When it comes to quick starts, the four-piece has already got one advantage working in their favour. He goes by the name of Joe Jonas.
The 25-year-old rose to prominence, of course, as one-third of American pop rock teen idols the Jonas Brothers. As the middle brother – sandwiched between Kevin and Nick – Joe was known as the down-to-earth, fun-loving (or at least that’s what a Buzzfeed quiz told me,) Taylor-Swift-song-inspiring brother. And, while the Jo Bros split in October 2013, they’ve been off working on their personal lives, solo albums, and other projects.
That’s where DNCE comes in – a full band follow-up to Joe’s initial forays into solo life.
Premiering their debut single, “Cake By The Ocean”, a little over two months ago, it would seem that the pop rock outfit has already inspired a hefty showing of devoted fans thanks to the Jonas association and their fun, upbeat rock. Out on their first tour in support of debut EP SWAAY, DNCE stopped by Toronto’s Adelaide Hall for a sold out show to about 650 rather excited people.
Opening the night was POWERS, a Los Angeles/New York City duo 14that played their own bouncing pop rock to an already bustling, receptive crowd. Trading girl-guy vocals and bumping out beats on songs like their 2014 collaboration with The Knocks (“Classic”), the half-hour set was an effective way to start out the night.
Of course, DNCE’s appearance on the stage was greeted with numerous iPhones held aloft – young fans clamouring for an Instagram-worthy picture of Joe and company.
It seems a bit redundant to point out that the songs are fun but lacking in depth. Given the fact the first single is the aforementioned “Cake By The Ocean”, the whole sugar-coated summer-party vibes of DNCE should be pretty apparent. In fact, the entire mantra of the band seems to consist of them showing up to convince you that you absolutely need to have a good time. It’s cute, so long as you can stomach it.
While Joe definitely didn’t have to work for the crowd on the dance floor, the upbeat offerings and his use of the space helped hammer home the concept of “fun” and the members of the band all seemed to be having a pretty good time on stage, too.
The other members of DNCE are good counterpoints to Jonas’ otherwise commanding stage presence. For one, they all come with their own impressive musical histories.
Guitarist JinJoo Lee has been a touring musician for the likes of Charli XCX, Cee Lo Green, and (surprise, surprise) the Jonas Brothers. She shares the Jonas Brothers credentials with drummer Jack Lawless. Bassist Cole Whittle was a darling of Lady Gaga – the mega pop star taking his then band, Semi Precious Weapons, out on tour. But even with all those credentials… without Jonas (or with someone else at the helm), they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. Alongside him, though, they’re interesting and talented enough to make those fleeting hello-I-am-taking-a-brief-but-necessary-break-from-staring-at-Joe-Jonas glances worthwhile.
Sharing the space with shiny D-N-C-E balloons and cardboard cutouts of various celebrities (including, but not limited to: all the members of the band, characters on Modern Family, Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover, and a later crowd-surfed and beheaded Tegan and Sara,) they also shared their setlist with nineties mashups. Covers of TLC’s “Waterfalls” morphed into “No Scrubs” before blasting in with a brief Daft Punk “Da Funk” interlude.
The covers kept coming later in the set, too, with DNCE dropping in Prince’s “Kiss” (well suited to Joe’s falsetto and the band’s emphasis on bass,) then switching over to the meatier James Brown number “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”.
It’s funny to think that maybe 20 years from now, we’ll be hearing pop side projects cover Jonas Brothers material. I suppose we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, but for the record: my money’s on “Burnin’ Up”.
Original material included songs about stripping down (“Naked”, which awkwardly morphed into The Police’s “Roxanne”) and SWAAY’s “Pay My Rent” (with lyrics of: “how can you love me right if you don’t get your money right?”), “Toothbrush” (“baby you don’t have to rush, you can even leave a toothbrush at my place”), and the warmly-received ballad “Jinx”.
Ending with a promise to be back soon, the catchy “Cake By The Ocean” (“I’m tired of all this candy on the dry land”), and a small blast of confetti – the final send off came with Queen’s “We Are The Champions” blasting over the PA as the band shared a drink out of a large trophy.
I’m not going to say I left the show feeling intellectually stimulated, but it’s hard to deny the enthusiasm people have for Joe Jonas’ new DNCE project. With only four recorded songs so far, it’s a promising start and for now the summer vibes and party tunes will suffice. Kids appear to eat up that cake (err, songs?) with a spoon… especially when it’s being served by a Jonas brother.
Thanks to Live Nation Ontario for media access.