Photos by Dawn Hamilton
Last year, the Long Island cult band, Brand New, hinted that they might be breaking up in next following years. Releasing merch that had chronologies “2000-2018” had fans devastated to see their musical heroes soon disperse from the scene. Playing two sold out dates at Toronto’s very own and newly renovated, Sound Academy, the first date was a night that left myself and others in awe. Touring with supporting acts, Great Pyrenees and MewithoutYou, it is suffice to say that the night was mega emo and mega spiritual.
When the name “Sound Academy” comes to mind to Toronto concert goers, “Polls” and “the not –so-great acoustics” is the first thought to emerge. The venue is known for its boats on the pier, a clear view of the CN tower which has also become selfie central and its long walks to finding a bus stop. Last time I was at the venue, the polls were unbearable as well as knowing that if you were not near the front of the stage you weren’t going to be able to hear anything at all. All changed last night, as the Polson Pier venue had re-open its door after a year of renovations , fresh paint and a newly and re-vamped site to set the mood correctly. Although, the venue still had problems with its acoustics, it was suffice to say that the polls were no longer a big problem and the open concept space was ready to be rocked out.
Water Valley natives, Greater Pyrenees were the first to take stage. Sporting acoustic guitars and unapologetic lyrics, the band began the show with a kick. Playing songs off their self titled debut, Greater Pyrenees (2016) the crowd was intrigued. Songs like, “HomeMade Blood” and “Biographer” got me interested into looking up this band after the show. Both songs sounded very soothing and reminded me of a nice summer day at the beach. Funny enough, the venue itself was on a pier and I would have enjoyed it more if the band were playing on the pier as the sun was setting. They seem to fit more into that bill. Closing with, “Simple” the band thanked fans and headed off stage. They definitely left an impression on me.
Philadelphia Indies, MewithoutYou, take stage and something about them wasn’t for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love indie and emo and I love singing and casual screaming/yelling in both genres; but something about this band wasn’t doing it for me. Known for their signature “spoken-word” vocals, they brought a twist to the modern day definition of alternative music. Taking stage right and leaving space for the crowd to see drummer, Rickie Mazzotta , lead singer, Aaron Weiss sways around while having a tight hold on the mic stand. Weiss had an unusually stage appearance to say the least from jumping and screaming to dancing around the stage as though he was in another world. At one point, Weiss brought out an accordion to play “In a Poorly Knit Sweater”, which was the oddest thing I could think of, that an alt band would do. Kudos to them for bring an accordion into hardcore. Something interesting about the band was their use of imagery and religious imagery through their lyrics. Using their 6th studio album, Pale Horses (2015) as the tier of their set list, the band played songs “Red Cow” and “D-Minor”. The whole set was odd but fascinating to watch, as a first timer, they caught my attention.
When headliners, Brand New, quietly took stage, the crowd went into an uproar like no other. Sporting a flowered up mic stand and projected screen playing their every move, lead singer, Jesse Lacey, appears in front of a faint dimmed light as he begins the show with an acoustic song,” Soco Amaretto Lime” off their 2001 debut album, Your favorite Weapon. Watching as couples swayed together and adults sang along to the lines “I’m ganna stay eighteen forever” sparked and had them pondering on their adolescent years when they first discovered the emo alt band. The quintet played continuous songs from oldies to newies such as their latest single, “Mene” which many weren’t as into but people were still engaged by Lacey’s playing and relief singer and lead guitarist’s captivating stage presence, Vincent Accardi. For the rest of the night it turned into a huge sing along, some were crying, some were dancing around aggressively and some were shouting back every line Lacey sang right back to him. Personal favorites like, “Okay I believe you, But my Tommy Gun Don’t” and “Sic Transit Gloria…Glory Fades” off their highly praised and well known album, Deja Entendu (2003) had the entire room feeling more united than ever. Every single person in the crowd, from front to back, was singing along and this was definitely a first to see. The energy in the crowd was unlike any other, for many who thought the band was playing their final shows in Toronto, must have given it their all and for those who had not seen the band but had always wanted to, it was clearly shown through this song. Incredibly enough it was presented again, when the band played “Jesus Christ” off the same album, the ambient and melancholy song united the crowd into one single sound. Closing their set with an encore performance of “Sealed to Me” and “Seventy Times 7” the crowd left feeling like their wishes had came true.