On Thursday, March 16th, I was at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern to celebrate the EP releases from both Dorval and Subject To Change. Performing alongside the two bands were two acts from Toronto, Slamboni and Young Honey. It was a night full of rock and roll that, unfortunately, seems to be less and less common in the city nowadays.
Young Honey hit the stage first. The female fronted four-piece had a familiar indie-tinged rock sound that just about anyone can enjoy. Right off the bat, she made a lasting impression with her outfit alone, going full out rocker chick by sporting leather pants, boots, and a jacket. Her voice was solid, but the excessive reverb and delay on the mic were a bigger distraction than they were an asset. Also, her vocals’ volume level was inconsistent throughout their set, primarily due to her mouth being at varying distances from the microphone; it would cut completely when she’d look down to strum a few chords. The band’s lead guitarist sang backups and took the lead on a few songs, which made up for the lack of power in the band’s set. His voice had a strong, emotional element when it would reach its upper range, and his guitar playing was well suited for that particular mood. If their lead singer can grasp a more confident and badass onstage persona, it would round out the band’s image very nicely. Their set ended rather abruptly when the impatient sound guy shooed them off stage for going over time. I would have liked to see a bit more that night, but I’m sure I will before too long.
Slamboni was next to hit the stage. I saw them play pretty recently and wasn’t exactly blown away, but I was much more impressed this time around. A lot of the issues I had with the group were improved upon, especially the drummer who was locked in with the rest of the band’s timing instead of falling a hair behind. Slamboni greenified their look for Saint Patrick’s Day, sporting green instruments, shirts, and LED shoes. Even if you removed all the green, their general look fits their fun and upbeat style of music very well. Slamboni played a couple of ska covers of some eighties songs, namely a sped up rendition of Lionel Richie’s “Stuck On You,” which was so drastically different from the original. Definitely one of the set’s highlights. Even more impressively, I recognized a lot of their originals from their last show. Tracks like “Welcome To The Show,” “Beech Avenue. 322,” and “Back On Your Feet” were a lot more enjoyable the second time around after their melodies were already planted in the back of my mind somewhere. As a lover of ska music, I’m sure this won’t be the last time I see these guys play, and I hope they keep improving every time I do.
The first of two bands celebrating their EP release was Subject To Change (STC). They were a group of older dudes, but they had just as much energy as the previous bands, if not more. The frontman, in particular, was moving around the stage more than anyone else when he didn’t have to be rooted to the microphone. His thick guitar sound matched with his gritty vocals and made for a great pair that, when combined with the band’s other four members, produced a genuinely full sound that the Horseshoe hadn’t yet felt that night. The crowd was reminded about five times during STC’s set that they released their EP, All and Everything, for free on bandcamp, so, if anything was to be taken away from their set, it’s that you should give those three tracks a listen.
By that point of the night, I was pretty tired which may have affected my opinion on Dorval’s set, but I’ll be as neutral as possible looking back. For one, they stripped things down for their set (No, ladies, not in a good way), and it was a nice change. Minimal lighting and instrumentation set the focus on the music, which was primarily slow, grooving, blues rock. Fronted by a charismatic speak-singer, whose vocal theatrics were similar to frontman Brian Connolly of The Sweet, made Dorval more unique than most local bands I’ve checked out. Also standing out from the norm was the drummer, who, for whatever reason, refrained from using a drum stool during the band’s set. As a drummer myself, it’s cool to see someone push the boundaries and move behind the kit a bit more. Standing up did affect his performance, though, and resulted in him using his kick drum much less than he probably should have, which made his cymbals sound very thin in the mix. It’s hard to find that sweet spot between sacrificing comfort and performance for showmanship, and in this instance, it could have been much worse.
On the negative side, I did not care for Dorval’s music. All of their songs seemed rooted into these separated sections that would loop until a rough transition to section B. On paper, it sounds like a typical verse/chorus format, but there wasn’t much substance, nor continuity between the sections. Some of these songs felt seven or eight minutes long because there was no standout C or D section, and it got tiring very quickly. I encourage Dorval to experiment with their song structure formats a little and avoid repetition as much as possible. With hour long sets like the one they played at the Horseshoe, it runs the risk of feeling much, much longer. Although I appreciated the showmanship that Dorval had to offer, I was happy to head home after their set.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photography by Gabby Rivera
*edited by Danielle Kenedy