A Conversation with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal

Image from Primary Talent International

Above the Fillmore lies a secret world with red velvet walls and giant sectional couches, dim lighting and high ceilings, surrounding a bar. This secret world is known as The Foundry, a small upstairs venue that is part of The Fillmore which presented a Secret Boy, AKA Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, on Wednesday of last week, February 27th, after the recent release of his album “Suffer On.

Wicca Phase hails from Scranton, PA, so this night in particular was chosen as his tour-opener and release show for his new album Suffer On which came out on February 25th. The 5 openers ranged from rap to hardcore and included Choice to Make, Guardian, Lil Zubin, Fantasy Camp, and Angel Du$t. Later on in the night, Wicca Phase, whose off-stage name is Adam McIlwee, walked on-stage eager for his first show on tour.

Commenting that he expected 150 less people to be at the show, the whole room was packed with fans of all the openers as well as Wicca. Although Wicca Phase is best known for his goth sound with long, droning, emotional lyrics, he was incredibly charismatic, often breaking out into smiles and laughs at the end of verses. His unique voice is unheard of in the traditional rap scene, with his drawn out and deep moaning lyricism, a genre of rap that is incredibly nichey that seems to only be successfully executed by groups such as Goth Boi Clique and Misery Club, which he is a part of.

One could say his alternative lyrics and approach stem from when he was in in the band Tigers Jaw, where he can be heard singing similar themes of heartbreak and uplifting music paired with the harsh realities of being young and unhinged. When asked about this, he replied saying he writes songs the same way he did when he was in Tigers Jaw, and being in the band helped him develop into a better writer.

In addition to his entire family and girlfriend supporting his home show, a familiar (and tattooed) face, Lil Tracy, made a cameo from the sidelines of the show. It was obvious that McIlwee had an incredible support group as his friends and family alike enjoyed the show just as much as the screaming kids in the audience.

After chants for an encore, Wicca Phase came back out and performed “Absolute in Doubt,” a song he collaborated on with the late GBC member and friend Lil Peep. An emotional end to an incredibly intimate show was the perfect way to kick off his North American Tour.

“It wasn’t somethin’ that I thought aboutBut, knew that you were absolute in doubt”

After the show, I waited… and waited… and waited until the floor cleared and Wicca appeared again to collect some of his belongings from the stage and greet the fans who hung around after the show. I got the chance to have a short interview with him with the last few minutes he had. I leaned over the barricades to ask a few questions…

)O(

Why did you choose to have your album release show in philly?

Adam: It’s the closest place to my hometown where people will actually come to a show, yeah.

Okay, so GBC seems to have started the whole emo-rap genre, do you feel like you have personally contributed to the creation of it?

Adam: Uhhhh, maybe inadvertently, I just wanted to do, like electronic music and this is what happened.

Can you elaborate a little bit on your name?

Adam: Uhh, not too much, it was given to me by an internet artist that I knew and I asked her for a name and that’s what she came back with, um I think it was kind of a troll, like, uh, that I was just going through a “Wicca Phase” and but it stuck.

So did being in Tiger’s Jaw, a more alternative band, help create your style that you have now or did you just want to do something different?

Adam: No, it probably did, I only… I only know how to write songs one way. And I wrote songs like that in Tiger’s Jaw and I write Wicca Phase songs the same way, but I got better at writing songs while I was in Tiger’s Jaw because I practiced.

)O(

After the brief interview and a few pictures, it was apparent that Wicca truly was happy to have dedicated fans who enjoy the different type of music he creates. Even more so, performing seemed to be something he will never take for granted, as I could tell he was trying to deliver the same emotions and feelings he had when creating his music to the crowd in front of him.

His set was filmed which you can check out here:

Advertisements

From The Frontlines of General Admission

Picture1

The White Bronco Tour rode its way to an overwhelmingly warm welcome at Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia last Saturday. Action Bronson: rap artist, chef, painter, tv personality and author who released the album White Bronco last November, brought along his long-time friend and fellow rapper Meyhem Lauren, and the legend Roc Marciano for a tundra-flurry of raps. At the merch booth, there were Blue Chips 7000 tapes available along with t-shirts, hoodies and physicals of White Bronco, along with limited edition prints of Bronson’s paintings selling for $100. The show’s audience grew slowly as the show went on, behind each puff of smoke arrived more people until Action took the stage and the venue was packed floor to ceiling.

Meyhem Lauren, co-host of Action Bronson’s Viceland show Fuck, that’s delicious opened with a heavy 30-minute set, performing largely songs from the 2017 DJ Muggs collaborative album: Gems from The Equinox. Although in moments the crowd became lost during some of Muggs’s rawer production, they were brought back into form as Meyhem splintered off into some beat-free verses, flexing his rap muscles. He also debuted a song off of a brand-new Alchemist collaboration entitled Still Playing Celo. His performance was remnant of an opener but exceeded all barriers of talent that accompany that term.

What’s poppin’ pidgeon
Feed ’em with dollar bills
But never give ’em wisdom
Being exhausted keeps the bezel frosted
Lost it. My mind that is, Braun Aromatic couldn’t have a grind like this

-Meyhem Lauren

Shortly after Mayhem left the stage, Roc Marciano strolled to the forefront, Hennessey bottle in hand and his team behind him. He sipped his bottle before blessing the crowd with a sturdy, head-on-my-shoulders continuum of bars. He spat verses from a plethora of albums, more notably Rosebudd’s Revenge, RR2: The Bitter Dose and his own DJ Muggs collaborative album KAOS. Almost the same way that Marciano is able to switch his flow from rugged to flush, he handed off his Hennessey for a Fiji bottle in-between songs. Roc’s fans were in the crowd strong, some of which leaving immediately after his performance, solidifying his role as a co-headliner on this tour. For those who know Roc Marciano, seeing him perform is a wild sight, yet his comfort onstage was undeniable and his demeanor was true to his word.

like a bum eatin’ out the dump, I’m the illest out the bunch. The butterfly was a caterpillar once. Son, if it’s love, then why bring it up like a grudge?
…blood drunk but, nah, I ain’t spiked the punch”
                      -Roc Marciano

Once Roc Marciano had eaten his proverbial fill, Action Bronson “The Human Highlight Reel” took to the stage slowly, with a fist raised high and a stern look that emphasized his role as the main attraction. His entrance to the stage brought with it an applause that matched the volume of the amps I was fortunate enough to be next to. Shortly into his set it was clear Action had blown out his vocal chords slightly, and was experiencing the occasional voice crack on his higher notes. Either due to luck or his abilities, he was still able to produce an awe-inspiring performance, at one point being resourceful enough to do a cover of Biz Markie’s classic raspy voiced single Just a Friend. He continued effortlessly through the new album, tracks like Irishman Freestyle and Prince Charming were only elevated by Bronson’s live delivery and aerobatic ambience. Midway through his set, in memorial to the late Mac Miller, Action took a moment to perform the song Red Dot Music off of Miller’s Watching Movies with the Sound Off, which played out as a somber yet empowering service to his past collaborator and friend. For those who are in the know, the one and only Big Body Bes made a short appearance during Action’s set only to receive an encore in which he returned the stage yelling, “GOD BLESS, WHO ELSE? PHILLY WE OUT HERE!”.  Action finished his set with an encore as well, performing a brand-new song with a lackadaisical flow and guitar strum layered production, it seemed like a well-fitted bonus track off of White Bronco. Action Bronson’s larger than life personality was humbled during his performance and he made sure to show love to the fans that had been with him for the long haul.

The White Bronco Tour is coming to a city near you and I suggest you get those tickets before they’re gone. No lack of substance, no Auto-Tone or background vocals, real hip-hop shared between the artist and the individual.

“Understand I’m only rhyming for this son of mine
And so my daughter can be a lawyer and reap the spoils
We ate the tuna, it’s suede puma, my look is Jay Buhner
Dawgie cause some of us just age sooner
I’m still twisted, rocking lizards from a strange river
Forbidden jungle in the joint paper, point shaver
Check the bio, I fixed the game between Kentucky and Miami of Ohio
I been wild” 
-Action Bronson

Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Awakebutstillinbed

img_7343
Mom Jeans lead vocal and guitar, Eric Butler

Words by Brooklyn Fellner                                                                            Photos by Kayla Aughenbaugh

Union Transfer was particularly spooky this Halloween as they welcomed Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Retirement Party, and Awakebutstillinbed to their stage. With a large following, Mom Jeans announced on Instagram that they wanted everyone to dress up for their show. So, the Union Transfer was jam-packed with bloodied bodies, fairy princesses, and Dragon Ball Z characters that transformed the floor from pop-punk kids into a sea of disguised music lovers. The high ceilings and old architecture was the perfect setting for the holiday, as fog machines began to pump the floor with eerie faux smoke. Arriving in time for Awakebutstillinbed, I was greeted by the lead singer, Shannon Taylor in the lobby of the building next to a row of merch tables. She frantically gave me a press pass labeled “Nerd,” which I suppose was a joke made up by the box office at the UT. Shannon was then on stage setting up with her band two minutes later.

The band opened with a song about Philly, as Shannon disclosed she had lived here for some time. Paying homage to the city, Shannon credits her development as a DIY artist to the punk and emo culture that Philadelphia has to offer. A fast paced guitar mixed with a downcast melody and a hoarse, female voice radiated emo vibrations throughout the venue. Taylor’s voice resonated through UT, echoing with every scream she belted into the microphone. She moved all over the stage between verses, headbanging with her bandmates and slamming on her guitar in unison with the bassist. When it came to their third song, “fathers,” a more upbeat song with punk influences, the audience as well as the band were in sync with each other and it became clear to me that Awakebutstillinbed had a huge following in Philadelphia.

As the set went on, the music became more depressing in a thoughtful way, not a “this-is-so-sad-I-want-to-cry” type of way, but as a heartfelt connection to the feelings Shannon had. The last song played was particularly filled with emotion, and the band truly portrayed that as they played. The dark, soulful song ended with Shannon throwing her guitar under her arm, across her back and finishing with her chilling lyrics alone in the microphone. After the short set, Taylor escorted myself and Kayla backstage for an interview. There were several backstage rooms equipped with a large couch where Shannon plopped down on and began eating chicken wings. Her drummer and father accompanied us as we did the interview…. (interview at end of article).

Continue reading “Mom Jeans, Just Friends, Awakebutstillinbed”

Pitchfork Music Festival 2018: Review

by Abby Wagner and Matt Coakley

Pitchfork Music Festival can only be described as a musical wonderland — where psychedelia, dad rock and R&B join forces for a weekend of joy. Featuring headliners Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala, The War on Drugs, Fleet Foxes, Chaka Khan and Ms. Lauryn Hill — festival-goers knew they were in for a treat! The festival was held in Chicago’s Union Park July 20–22. With rain and thunderstorms in the weekend’s forecast, no one was really sure how things would play out.

The festival had three stages — two main stages (Red Stage and Green Stage) and one smaller stage (Blue Stage). The park was crawling with families, hipsters, and all around music lovers the entire weekend. When festival-goers weren’t entranced by a performer, they were typically found crowded around the park’s sole water fountain or checking out some of the great food and merchandise. The main street was lined with local food vendors and funky screen printers selling various prints. The churro ice cream sundae was particularly to die for. There was also a huge tent where records could be purchased and a few others with clothes and jewelry. Rumors of Bai Brands founder, Ben Weiss, making an appearance never seemed to come to fruition, although there were representatives in their decadent sponsor tent offering a photo booth while giving out free Bai beverages and swag.

Friday had a pretty stacked afternoon: Saba, Sid, Lucy Dacus, Tierra Whack and Julien Baker all gave great performances. Indie rock group, Big Thief, kicked off the evening at the Blue Stage. Songwriters and soulmates, Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek (aided by touring bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivcheniaput) put on a stunning performance. Charming and vulnerable as always, they modestly walked onstage and launched into the most rockin’ mom-appreciation song in the whole world, “Masterpiece.” Fans knew they weren’t pulling any stops when they immediately went into the dark banger “Shark Smile” off their 2017 album “Capacity.” Almost as if we were living out some dramatic music video fantasy, it began to rain during the first chorus. It rained a bit periodically through their set, but never too much for the entranced audience to do anything about it. They played another song about Lenker’s mom off “Masterpiece,” a faster arrangement of the brooding “Mary” off “Capacity” and FIVE new, unreleased songs. “Shoulders” and “Not” stood out as potential highlights to look for on their next release.

Like cattle, festival-goers moseyed around the park, still in a trance over Big Thief’s performance, and made their way over to the main stages where Courtney Barnett was performing. The incredible crowd that amassed in front of her proves that straight up rock will never die! Barnett’s new album, “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” is getting a lot of love from critics and fans alike. She played a healthy variety of old and new songs, playing all the hits (and closing, of course, with “Pedestrian at Best”). With a slight shift in direction moving from one stage to the next, Tame Impala wrapped up the night with an other-worldly performance, as always. Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and songwriter Kevin Parker is simply on another level. Everything his band played sounded totally on point (save for a couple songs at the start of the show plagued by technical difficulties) and he even threw in a couple deep cuts (“Sundown Syndrome,” “Alter Ego”) for the #realfans. Their captivating light show and psychedelic LED screens mesmerized and entertained concert-goers near and around the stage, regardless of whether or not they could see the band. All around, it was a great way to conclude the first day of the festival.

Saturday started off on the right tone, with Chicago native Paul Cherry delivering a groovy set at the early hour of 1:00 p.m. There were some really cool acts throughout the afternoon, but the highlight was Nilüfer Yanya, who played the Red Stage at 3:20 p.m. She bills herself as “soulful indie” and that’s truly the best way to describe it. Heavy on the soul! She and her band gave an engaging and energetic live performance that was hard to forget. They even played Pixies’ classic “Hey,” which was awesome. She may be under the radar right now but that won’t last for long. As Twitter user @PTrewn puts it: “Nilüfer Yanya is a full length album away from being everyone’s favorite artist.”

As great as Yanya’s performance was, Moses Sumney was the set to beat that afternoon. He and his accompanists performed lush arrangements of songs from his debut studio album “Aromanticism” — all without the use of a prerecorded track! They used loopers and other effects pedals to give the performance a certain etherealness and otherworldliness. The violist even used a pitch shifter to make his violin sound like a bass instrument at times. Sumney stood magnificently at the front of the stage, brandishing his gold nose ring and gold rimmed sunglasses, and donning flowy black clothes and black boots. His appearance matched his music wonderfully; as Morrissey once put it, “I wear black on the outside, ‘cause black is how I feel on the inside.” Sumney stood in front of a black and gold podium which looked straight out of a sci-fi movie. Highlights from his set included “Quarrel,” “Lonely World,” “Make Out In My Car,” and he even did a beautiful Björk cover from her 1993 “Debut.”

Blood Orange played a great set full of groovy, dreamy original music. Their LED screens showed their music videos as well as strange clips from YouTube, including but not limited to, Lil Wayne shredding on guitar and people drag racing. If anyone came to Pitchfork to smooch with their lover, this was probably when they were doing it. Blood Orange is some real deal baby making music with nothing but good vibes. Everyone in the park was feeling the grooves on jams such as “Best To You” and “It Is What It Is.”

After a day full of R&B and indie, everyone was ready for some good-old-fashioned dad rock. Oh, yes! Hailing from Philadelphia (Go Birds!), indie rock legends, The War On Drugs, played a headlining set at the Red Stage. If you’ve never been to a War On Drugs show, let’s just say there are loud guitar sounds and lots of indiscernible singing, punctuated by lead singer Adam Granduciel’s impassioned “Woo!’s” and “Yeah!’s,” followed by long guitar solos. It’s awesome. How often do you see typically ordinary dads go all out with arms and legs flying? Not that often, right? This band really ignites something in these men that is not often sparked. It speaks to them. We need more bands with this magic formula to get dads moving and grooving again!

Fleet Foxes closed the second night with a wonderful performance, featuring their sweet, winter-time classic, “White Winter Hymnal.”

Sunday also featured a variety of great acts throughout the day. Earlier performances from acts such as Kelly Lee Owens and Ravyn Lenae got everyone amped up for another night of killer acts. Lenae, a Chicago native, put on quite a show, performing soulful tracks off her recent Steve Lacy-produced EP “Crush.” She spread positive vibes left and right as she lit up the stage with her words and her shiny metallic outfit.

At 4:00 p.m., the Blue Stage was the place to be. Philadelphia bedroom pop kween Michelle Zauner, better known by her stage name Japanese Breakfast (or her Twitter handle, @Jbrekkie, to the #realfans) gave a truly swell and upbeat performance. Playing songs off her 2016 debut “Psychopomp” as well as last year’s “Soft Songs from Another Planet,” Jbrekkie entertained the masses with her erratic dance moves and beautiful washed-out vocals. She and her band also pulled out a really fun and spot-on rendition of the Cranberries’ 1992 hit song “Dreams.” with her drummer singing backup vocals.

Chicago rapper, Noname, had one of the most energetic sets of the evening. Despite a couple lyrical flubs chalked up to “smoking before the set,” she was totally on point and delivered bar after bar with eloquence and fervor. That being said, she got increasingly frustrated with the crowd as the show went on because of their participation (or lack thereof). She voiced this frustration mid-way through her set, addressing the audience as “you lazy white privileged people.” Her backing band was entertaining, supporting Noname with smooth, jazzy arrangements. However, the band was perhaps a tad overzealous; there were times when the busy bass lines would poke out over Noname’s vocals. Several other musicians from the weekend’s lineup joined her onstage for various features, such as Smino and Ravyn Lenae. Overall, she glowed and rapped with the smoothest of flows.

D.R.A.M. probably would have been a fine choice for almost any other music festival lineup — such as Chicago’s other popular festival, Lollapalooza. D.R.A.M.’s music and performance featured many misogynistic undertones which have sadly become normalized in popular music. Many concert-goers were unamused when he announced his “exciting” new song, “Best Hugs,” whose chorus sings “Your girlfriend gives the best hugs” (a euphemism that didn’t go over anyone’s head). There was also another song about a girl being all alone in a sundress (as if that begs for him to approach her). His questionable lyrics were accentuated by his choice of LED visuals, flashing breasts and pole dancers in bright neon. Also, just as a side note, he said “goddamn” way way too much. Alex Cameron and (Sandy) Alex G both gave solid indie rock performances at the Blue Stage, entertaining the exodus of hipsters as they made their way from D.R.A.M.’s stage to literally anywhere else.

Veteran R&B and disco singer, Chaka Khan, got people moving their feet as the sun began to inch its way out of the sky. Chaka Khan busted out all the classics and crowd favorites, including her 1974 smash hit with Rufus, “Tell Me Something Good” (written by the one and only Stevie Wonder!) and her 1978 hit “I’m Every Woman.” Even though her vocal performance was slightly weaker in her old age, she came through with enough energy and catchy hooks to get everyone singing and dancing along. Her band picked up any slack in her performance; her backup vocalists were on point with their dance moves and harmonies, and the lead guitarist shredded away with each extended jam. He eventually played behind his head and even used his face and head to play the final chords.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, the headliner everyone was waiting for, only made us wait about 20 minutes this time, as she took the stage around 8:50 p.m. after her DJ got the crowd warmed up. Her set celebrated the 20th anniversary of her 1998 album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” The ex-Fugees singer really brought the heat, delivering each of her classic songs with passion and grace, even as she faced monitoring difficulties throughout her set. She conducted her band and backup singers on the spot and made each song special and powerful. Most of the songs were played in a new arrangement, featuring remixed verses and choruses as well as extended jams at the end. This may have gotten in the way of singing along for some fans, but there was never a dull moment so everyone was captivated the entire time. The people truly needed Lauryn Hill to reemerge now more than ever. Her words of justice and empowerment from 20 years ago still ring true today with her songs like “Forgive Them Father” — during which she showed clips of police brutality and racial injustice throughout the years. Her set was a perfect bookend to a perfect weekend at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival.

REVIEW: Turnover w/ Mannequin Pussy, Summer Salt & Pronoun 5/01

IMG_0447On April 1st, Turnover finished their 2018 US tour at Union Transfer, here in Philly. This was their second show in Philly since the release of their new album Good Nature that was put out at the end of last summer (August 27, 2017). They played at the TLA in October.

This show’s line up was an oddly pleasant mix of bands spread across the “rock” genre spectrum.

Pronoun is a one-woman band from Boston. Supported by a second guitar, a bass, and drums, Pronoun played a set that bordered between rock and pop. The music was very upbeat with catchy melodies. Pronoun was a great opener to get the crowd excited.

The second band, Summer Salt, shared some ~beachy vibes~ to get the crowd in the zone for Turnover. Their slow surf rock style mixed with the vocalist’s impressive range was reflective of bossa nova and The Beach Boys all in one. The crowd definitely enjoyed their set.

With another change of pace, Mannequin Pussy brought their high energy to the stage. Popular in the Philly scene, Mannequin Pussy is a four piece band that combines elements of shoegaze, punk-rock, and bursts of hardcore. Personally, I was very excited to hear that Mannequin Pussy would be joining this line-up. Vocalist, Marisa Dabise, has an incredible ability to transition from soft hushed singing to loud, fast, yelling, and her performance surpassed expectations. The pit opened and the crowd was ready.

Though earlier in their career, Turnover was considerably more “pop-punk”, Peripheral Vision, their second album, and Good Nature, their third album, enter a softer realm of indie/dream rock. Their set was filled with summery guitar sounds and Austin Getz’s soothing vocal melodies. Though their sound has transformed, Turnover’s fanbase is strong and does not cease to dance and crowd surf at their shows. Their stage was set with old TVs stacked on top of one another with whimsical imagery playing at different paces with no other lighting (poorly shown in the picture above), which fit their set perfectly. They opened their set with the newest albums first song, Super Natural, and ended with one of their many hits from Peripheral Vision, Dizzy on the Comedown. After the show, people were walking out of Union Transfer happy and carrying old TVs on their shoulders.

WKDU Presents: Vundabar @ Philamoca

Words and photos by WKDU guest writer Madison Kierod

Vundabar brought Philly out of hibernation on Tuesday, March 6th with their sold-out show at PhilaMOCA. Devoted fans had been awaiting their return to the City of Brotherly Love since their show at the First Unitarian Church with The Frights and Hockey dad this past November. This time, the Boston punk/surf/math rockers headlined the show with support from Chicago-natives Ratboys, and D.C. indie rock duo, The Obsessives. The intimate venue was decorated with paintings and prints from local artists, allowing the performance to become tailored and personal for Philly fans.

The band jumped right in with their upbeat new single, “Acetone” off of their 2017 record Smell Smoke, and, after some dramatic pauses and heckling from the audience, continued the show with fan-favorite “Chop” from their second studio album Gawk. This single particularly showcases the band’s ability merge catchy vocal melodies with crunchy guitar tones, and incorporate tempo changes from Grayson Kirtland’s groovy bass lines to Drew McDonald’s quick, almost frantic drum solos. The progression was inherently entertaining to watch and the urge to dance was hard to resist.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Consistent with the name of their first studio album, their show was certainly filled with Antics. Their fun, high-energy tunes kept the audience jumping, and lead singer Brandon Hagan’s commentary between sets kept them laughing with cheeky rants promoting their band, asking for food, and asking silly, rhetorical questions such as “what do you sound like when you sweat?”. His witty sense of humor even kept the audience entertained while dealing with some noise interference mid-show, as the band had to overcome what Brandon described as “the crickly-crackly.”

Part of Vundabar’s charm is in their unpredictability, their improvisational dance moves, facial expressions, and vocal runs while jamming and soloing mid-song. No track shows this better than “$$$”, where the band took a 2-minute detour to exchange solos just to build up to a clean and abrupt end to the song.

The songs off of their newest album Smell Smoke such as “Diver” have a slower vibe, and were aptly placed in the middle of their set This left room for extra-long, extra-loud, extra-crunchy renditions of one of their more mosh-able tunes “Alien Blues” and “Voodoo” for last.

Overall, Vundabar’s set was tight and precise, yet natural and energetic–a difficult balance that their fan base acknowledges and appreciates. The band’s animated stage presence emanated into the audience, and kept the whole crowd moving (and laughing) for their entire hour-long set. The fun-loving band was exactly what the audience needed to get out of our houses on that cold and soggy Tuesday. Without a doubt, Vundabar fans will be anxiously awaiting their return to the east coast.

 

Destroyer @ Underground Arts

When Dan Bejar sings ruefully “I’ve seen it all,” you’ll believe him. The slouching pop mastercrafter gave a spellbinding performance to a packed room at Underground Arts last Monday, in support of his eleventh studio record, “ken”. The album draws on more goth and 80s synth-pop influences than his previous, still woven through with his iconically cryptic lyrics.

Simply listening to his recordings, one hears a sardonic quality in Bejar’s delivery. But seeing him live lends the lyrics an almost despairing earnestness. Whether imploring or berating, he punches each syllable of tongue-twisting verse with knit eyebrows and white knuckles. During instrumental interludes, he would kneel down to take a swig of Modelo’s and fitfully comb at his wild, greying mane.

The band opened with a few tracks from the new album, “In the Morning” and “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood”. The 8-piece ensemble conjured a full, slowburn sound remniscent of New Order to back the vocal’s heart wrenching intensity. This touring band has been together since the release of 2011’s Kaputt, the soaring pop album that earned Destroyer a nomination for Canada’s highly competitive Polaris Music Prize. The tempo then picked up with the glitzy track of the same name, the audience beginning to groove along with the band. By the time they launched into the ecstatic instrumental freakout at the end of the sunny and dramatic “Times Square” from 2015’s Poison Season, everyone in the room was enthusiastically bobbing along.

Perhaps the best moment of the night was an inspired rendition of Kaputt’s “Suicide Demo for Kara Walker”, which the trumpet player opened by bending and looping his sounds on an effects board for two or three minutes,  to create a sonic palette straight out of a Michael Bay film. The movement climaxed with a sailing riff on the alto flute and Bejar clapping away at a tambourine. While the emphasis throughout the night was songs from the latest album, several more tracks from Kaputt, Poison Season, and even a few from further back in his massive discography appeared. 

It’s hard not to notice the cloud of cynicism that enshrines Bejar. Throughout the performance, he barely acknowledged the audience, doing away with any chatter between songs. The most he offered was a small, flourishy bow mid-performance, a gesture mimicking the anachronistic elegance that often appears in his music. This cynicism was especially apparent when he waved his hand toward the crowd while singing “why’s everybody sing along when we built this city on ruins?” But he ended the night with the upbeat anthem “Dream Lover”, a song Bejar himself described as “a positive reinforcement song for very negative people.” And, for the first time the whole evening, the misanthropic rocker cracked an almost imperceptible smile.