A lot of people were missing out on something Tuesday, January 29th. An obvious statement, to say the least, but walking into the Corona Theatre to a small bunch of attendees which didn’t grow much throughout the night is a fact that backs up my point. How’s that for supporting evidence, professor – not too vague anymore, now is it, ya big jerk.
Bear Hands did something that night that I don’t believe I have ever before witnessed coming from a post-punk indie band. They came out onto the stage a little raw. No music backing tracks playing to hype up their arrival on stage, or some kind of elaborate light show. Bear Hands came on stage, greeted the crowd by introducing themselves and went straight into their set. Starting off with a low energy song got me a bit nervous, but it was the following couple songs still not being uplifting that really started putting me off. Although the rhythms and vibes were very sexy and grooved well, Bear Hands didn’t engage much with the crowd and their physical performance on stage was a tad bleak; even though the sound quality was great, there wasn’t much visual stimulation happening.
My level of interest was fading. The lights were pretty basic and I didn’t feel pulled in by what was happening on stage. But then I started realizing what was happening. The energy was building. Every song that followed was a bit more powerful. All of a sudden there were maracas all of over the place. Bass player Val Loper had a maraca; drummer TJ Orscher was pounding the hell out of his kit with a drum stick in one hand and his own maraca in the other. Vocalist Dylan Rau literally let his hair down out of his bun and started riling up the crowd, getting them ready for the night’s main event. It was truly a very progressive performance as a whole, something that was quite unprecedented to me.
WALK THE MOON? More like ROCK THE ROOM! Am I right? I mean… there weren’t that many people in the actual room, BUT those who were there were in a rockin’ room. They fired off their performance with a recording of “Circle of Life” which was pretty weird, but whatever. Even though there were way more dudes at this show than I had expected, the screams as WALK THE MOON hit the stage were piercing. The lights were flashy and did not lack colour whatsoever, and the quality of the instruments was solid. However, the microphone levels were weak for the entire set. Fortunately, frontman Nicholas Petricca has some killer vocal pipes and was still able to come through sounding impressively close to the studio recordings of such songs as “Timebomb,” “Surrender,” and “Kamikaze.”
If their performance of “Different Colours” with LED lights flashing, well, different colours (I imagine with the goal of relating to the song message) didn’t get the crowd even more lit up, the following “One Foot” definitely got the crowd members on their respective two feet. Pulling out an extra floor drum tom for Petricca to pound on during “Quesadilla,” there was an arsenal of sound filling the room, assisted by the DJ and keyboard player in addition to Petricca’s own keyboard that he busted out for the very well-known “Shut Up and Dance.” The crowd was wild. They danced, but did not shut up… ever. As our photographer Danny Donovan said, “These guys were fun to shoot.” Petriccas was a wild man, hopping and spinning around on stage, and bass player Kevin Ray might have been one of the most exuberant and uplifting bass players I’ve ever seen perform live, next to Mark Hoppus of Blink-182. They all had a very uniform look, with the exception of their lead guitar player Eli Maiman who was going for a more Jack Black in School of Rock look and didn’t fit the rest of the frosted-tipped look AT All, but who still ripped a mean guitar solo. With a freaky preachy and spiritual moment during their set where the crowd was encouraged to raise their hands to the sky almost as an enlightening experience, and joyful energy on stage for WALK THE MOON’s first time headlining in Montreal, this was a performance fun for the whole family, and it showed because there were children present – children who were most likely sent straight to bed after WALK THE MOON closed with their double encore “Portugal” and “Anna Sun.”
Written by Keenan Kerr
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy