Photographed by Sarah Rix
The Mowgli’s are what comes to mind when you think of a California love-in. They recall the days of tie-dye, hippy idealism, and Berkeley communes. The Los Angeles eight-piece is all about that unifying spirit so engrained with those principles; songs carry the message that you can stand up, have fun, and love one another. Think music and camaraderie akin to Walk off the Earth or Grouplove for a pretty good idea of their contemporaries.
Touring north of their American homestead for the first time with sophomore album Waiting for the Dawn, it was pretty clear The Mowgli’s have yet to develop a proper foothold in Toronto. While the highly catchy “San Francisco” has gotten its fair share of radio attention, the crowd gathered at the Mod Club was sparse.
While some people may have found joy in the cheesy stage banter centred around Canadian stereotypes and dreams coming true, both this and their musical output missed the mark. Sure – there were clap-alongs and some exceptional vocal harmonies on songs like “Love is Easy,” but it wasn’t enough to sustain a full concert. It wasn’t enough to convince me there’s any sort of staying power to what they do (and, as “Leave It Up To Me” proved, spoken word bridges never work).
No surprise that “San Francisco” was the big highlight of the night. The Mowgli’s closed the main portion of their set with it, bringing the aforementioned Walk off the Earth and fellow L.A. band Family of the Year up on stage for the song. Less great was their choice of an encore – a strange cover of Neil Young’s “Helpless.”
You get the sense “San Francisco” is an anomaly and that they’ll spend a good amount of time trying to recreate its instant appeal. It won’t be for lack of trying, but I can’t imagine they’re going to have much luck if their Canadian debut was an early indication. It seems the rest of the catalogue is – and will likely remain – unknown to larger audiences. That being said – people didn’t believe Walk off the Earth would get past that whole Gotye cover, and now look at ‘em. Maybe The Mowgli’s just need to play to a younger crowd rather than my hardened attitude that comes with nearing mid-20s. Or maybe I just need to move to California and pick up a west coast attitude.
What I can say is: good on The Mowgli’s for having a good time. The critic in me is a bit harsher on this though. You can revive the 60s and the 70s all you want, but having a “good time” isn’t a good enough of an excuse to put out mediocre music. I’m all for being nice and seeing bands have fun – but when it feels this forced, there’s a problem.
Thanks to Live Nation.