The Danforth Music Hall has been THE place for big name acts to play when in Toronto the last few years, to the point that some bands would rather play two shows instead of just playing a bigger venue. Whether it is just because The Danforth has the best booking agent or bands that are far too large to play just one night enjoy the intimacy that the converted theatre has. With its sloped open floor and balcony there isn’t a bad seat in the house combined with their top-notch speakers and lights make it an ideal hot spot. Miike Snow sold out two Toronto shows in support of their long awaited new album iii.
For a sold out show there was no line to get in forty five minutes after doors opened and maybe only two dozen people inside if that. If there weren’t a photo pit for me to use I would have had no problem staking a spot front and center of the stage. By the time opening act Muna hit the stage there was a scattering of people in the crowd leisurely drinking beers. The trio of girls (with two backing musicians) sounded like a Euro version of Haim, with their slick pop music set to pre-millennium RnB grooves and early Robyn like vocals. The girls were dancing to their own music, not caring that there was less than a full crowd in to watch them. Lead guitarist Josette Maskin played in a style inspired by the likes of Prince or Nile Rodgers as she smirked and gyrated behind her microphone. Singer Katie Gavin had plenty of personality to command the room as it started to fill up ever so slowly. She joked about how excited the girls were to be in Toronto or as she kept telling her band mates “we’re in the 6!” and told the crowd that after the show is done the band is going out for sushi and would appreciate some recommendations. The band is fairly new to the scene having only formed in 2014 and only having one release, The Loudspeaker EP, under their belt with this being their first tour too. Being on the same parent label as the headlining act obviously has its perks when you get to play for such big crowds and in large venues so early in a career.
The weather was nice and warm outside and the inside was comfortably cool and by the time the first night of Miike Snow’s two-night residency started, the venue was very full proving that it was indeed actually sold out. Throughout the tour so far the band had stuck with a pretty consistent set list so I was quite curious to see if they would mix things up a bit as there is always a small group of people who will go and see both shows a band plays. Knowing what I can tell from set lists found online this show was pretty well scripted to follow the same. The band started with the opening track of iii and one of the standout tracks, My Trigger, and people started dancing and singing along right away. It’s always a good sign when the audience doesn’t need encouragement to get into a show. As the stage was filled with smoke and very bright white lights flashing, the trio of Christian Karlsson, Pontus Winnberg and Andrew Wyatt were pushed to the back of the stage where their gear was set up.
Only four songs in the band played their current smash hit Genghis Khan where lead singer Wyatt made sure to preface it by saying they don’t actually want to be like the brutal Mongolian emperor who routinely mass murdered entire villages when conquering foreign lands. I don’t think people actually confused the lyrics “I get a little bit Genghis Khan/I don’t want you to get it on/With nobody else but me” as an act of terror, but it was nice enough for him to clarify I suppose. The crowd seemed to have far more energy than the band, dancing, singing, clapping and waving their hands like they just didn’t care. Most shows the band and crowd feed off each other hopefully being able to one up one another with Toronto being quite famous for its docile audience, but not on this night as the populace didn’t need any encouragement to have a blast. It was curious to say the least, not that Miike Snow weren’t enjoying themselves or were putting on a lackluster performance, quite the opposite in fact, merely that they were low on energy. Every opening note was met with cheers and enjoyed like it was a chart-topping hit.
The band kept the set almost entirely focused on material from iii and their debut album Miike Snow with one exception, when they played Paddling Out from 2012’s sophomore release Happy To You. For Heart is Full, the band took the upbeat song and stretched the intro into a slow burner before cranking it up with a full blown stadium rocker guitar riff while the band made the back beat a hip-hop banger. Playing guitar on the track, Karlsson, looked the part of a rock star as he did a big power jump off of a large amp on the stage while not missing a note.
During outdoor shows you will sometimes see performers lighting a smoke and depending on the club some hip hop artists will show off their street cred by smoking joints on stage, but it was the first time in my memory seeing an artist light up a cigarette on stage like Karlsson did during the extended intro to Silvia from the bands self titled debut record. People obviously will sneak in smokes in the crowd; it was just a funny site considering how strict Toronto is about enforcing their smoke free public spaces. The song was very spacey as Wyatt utilized multiple microphones to replicate his pitching shifts and effects found in most of the band’s songs. Wyatt eventually took off his leather jacket to reveal a custom white polo with the band’s jackalope (a mythical animal consisting of a jackrabbit with antelope ears) logo emblazoned on it.
The band came out for only a two song encore leading off with Longshot (7 Nights) before getting to the band’s most well known track as Wyatt asked the crowd to give it all we got as it was the last song of the night before breaking out into Animal. Fans loudly sung the repetitive echo lines in each chorus as Wyatt turned the microphone outwards, not that it was needed to pick up the screams of “Darkness, darkness, darkness” or “Money, money, money”. By this point the band seemed to be really into the show as Wyatt bounced around the opened stage looking exuberant while he danced. The end of the song was extended as an ocean of noise from the keyboard and synths grew louder and louder and the lights flickered so fast it was impossible to tell if they were even turning off.
I wish I knew the set list for the second show to see if the band mixed it up on the second night, but even if they didn’t those unlucky enough to see the first night would have been in for a real treat at the next show anyways.