Chaz Bundick aka Toro Y Moi. Photo: Andrew Paynter
It was a cold Sunday night at the Urban Lounge, but the scene was budding with more and more people arriving. I had no idea what a musical ride we were about to embark upon. The two opening bands, Dog Bite and Sinkane, built a momentum that provided a super-excited and funked-out crowd for headliner Toro Y Moi to mesmerize. I have wanted to see Chaz Bundick aka Toro Y Moi perform for a long time, and I must say, my expectations were fully met.
Electronic sounds were whirling through the air as Dog Bite took the stage. Those vague sounds turned into deafening, vibrating cymbals and warping synths. The drummer sat down behind a set of drums that had the familiar, cursive Toro Y Moi logo in black ink. He began pumping out a fast drumbeat that sounded like it would break into “Billie Jean.” Instead of that happening, all three guitarists began playing simultaneously, and the ultimate effect was the inevitable chillwave sound. Vocalist Phil Jones wore a baggy, black-and-grey cardigan and gently sang vocals into the microphone that sounded like they belonged to an acoustic song. The first three songs sounded this way, with all three guitars at the same jangly, slacker-ish pace with similar-sounding synths backing them. But I really got interested in this band when they played “Paper Lungs.” Jones began moaning his lyrics with a “bop bop bop” into the mic, and the guitar riffs took on a heavy grunge sound. Dog Bite then became like an acid Nirvana band, and I really wanted to instigate a chill mosh pit. It was just before this song that Jones told the crowd with a smile, “Come closer (to the stage) for good vibes. It’ll be weird at first, but it’ll get better.” Things definitely got better and they ended their set with a number that invoked a bit of a shimmy in myself and had me thinking of the dance scene on the beach in Moonrise Kingdom.
Everyone seemed in good spirits as Sinkane took the stage. I was excited when I saw one of the band members hooking up a vocoder to his mic. There were a lot of synthesizers onstage. They opened with some sporadic organ keys and a bouncy synth section that resembled the theme to Shaft. With all this to open their set, I could tell Sinkane was going to be funky, but I don’t think anyone knew how funky it would really get. Their intro turned into something of a boogie-funk sound-off, and the vocalist, Ahmed Gallab, could not help but bounce around in front of his equipment. He wore a slim camouflage jacket and something of an Indiana Jones—style hat. He had high-pitched vocals with a bit of an effect on them, and he would move his fingers around even when he wasn’t using the keyboard. (All the girls around me were talking about him after the set.) Sinkane offered us a warping, eclectic experience. They brought out the flower child in everyone that night. People were moving peace signs all through the air, and someone even started blowing bubbles. It was one groovy event. The guitarists were jamming out black-magic grooves, and the synths even took the sound in a reggae direction at times. It sounded like they had listened to the Black Keys’ Brothers album and were playing the funkiest interpretation of it that they could. It was nonstop momentum with these guys, and Gallab called for soul claps on the last number. As we clapped the wonky riffs began and the vocoder was in full effect. The funk guitar solos made the crowd scream and I don’t think anyone will soon forget Sinkane’s set.
The crowd was more than warmed up for Toro y Moi. There were blinds on each side of the stage and many multi-colored lights were ready to begin flashing. Bundick walked out calmly with his drummer and two guitarists, and the screaming began. The synths started pulsing, the lights flashing and TYM opened their set with the sexy night vibes of “Rose Quartz” off the new album. I love this song, and I was literally screaming my head off. You could easily hear the sampled “I feel weak” vocal stabs over the instruments and I was in heaven. It’s a testament to Bundick’s music that it sounds even better live. They played a song from his second album, “Underneath the Pine” that I don’t particularly like, but hearing it live, I became a fan. The lead guitarist was excellent with his picks and strokes on the guitar. I had no idea how many of the sounds in Bundick’s music were actually guitar with a heavy effect on them; Bundick’s songs were a form of electronic psychedelia with a beat. There were several times when I had to stop dancing and just take in the experience at hand. Bundick would calmly thank the crowd in between songs, telling us that we were awesome. He worked his equipment and mic like a pro, but never appeared to break a sweat. He played a lot of songs from the new album, which he told me after the show was his favorite. “I always like the current stuff,” said Bundick. As they played “Say That,” I looked around myself to see a sea of bouncing bodies not leaving the ground. Everyone seemed lost in the moment, but still in control. That’s how Bundick’s music makes you feel. He told us they would finish with two more songs and that he’d stick around to say “hi” afterward. To my delight, they finished with a number from his first album, Causers Of This. I don’t think Bundick could’ve been any more pleasing to his fans with a well-rounded set and friendly conversation after the show. It’s definitely the smoothest show I’ve seen to date, and I’m sure it will be my favorite one for a long time to come.