Thursday, January 28, 2021

January 28th 2019, The Soft Moon with Hide and Concavity at Velvet Underground


Winter is a tough time for a band to go out on the road. Weather can pose serious travel problems for touring bands, especially in the snow belt that runs around Toronto, Montreal, Buffalo, and New York, and it's not unusual for a sudden snow storm to prevent a band from being able to make the trip between cities. Over the years there have been more than a few times where a show I was looking forward to in January was rescheduled at the last minute for warmer months when the likelihood of weather issues wouldn't be as much of a concern.

Knowing what a difficult time it is to tour in the winter, I can truly appreciate and admire anyone that makes the effort to go out during those long snow filled months. And if a band I like is willing to make a four or five or six hour trip to Toronto from wherever then I'm more than willing to brave a storm for an hour or so to get from my place to a venue. And that's what I did when The Soft Moon were playing with Hide and Concavity at Velvet Underground on January 28th 2019. Heavy snow had started earlier in the day and had fallen pretty steadily throughout, faster than it could be cleaned up by any of the road crews. That makes for a lot of chaos traveling through the city by road, and by dinnertime there was a thick layer of snow on the sidewalks too, just in case you were thinking of walking to avoid public transit. It was a pretty miserable night to leave your home, but I didn't want to let a bit of weather stop me from seeing the show if I could help it, so I bundled up with boots and a toque and headed out into the night.

Velvet Underground has been a consistently solid venue since it opened in the mid nineties, featuring live music, different nights for different scenes, and a really big space with a good dance floor if you feel like dancing. I've danced there a lot over the years, making regular visits on Sunday nights with DJ Lazarus, Monday nights with Die J Mars, Thursday nights with Osaze, and more. It's where I played my first show as mara's torment, and I've seen a bunch of gigs there, The Legendary Pink Dots, Murr, Drab Majesty, Boy Harsher, others. It's a space with a lot of fond memories, and it's a place where I feel both comfortable and happy, a really great place to see a band.

Normally it's about half an hour's walk from my place to Velvet, but with all the snow it took me about an hour and a half to get there that evening, a slow tread through a cold night with the wind blowing against my face. It was a pretty miserable trek to be honest, but I forgot all about that when I got there just in time to see the opening band. I hadn't heard of Concavity before then, but their set really impressed me, dark and gloomy Post-Punk Synthpop that was all kinds of awesome. Since that show I've become quite a fan of their work and would recommend their debut release "Castles", particularly the haunting opener "Forget Me", as really impressive, dark and evocative twenty first century Goth that bears further listening. Their follow up "Eyes Never Know" shows even further growth and development and I'd strongly suggest checking them out if you get the chance.

I'd already seen Hide play the year before at the Garrison where they were a force of nature, so I was really looking forward to seeing them again at Velvet. Rather than playing from the stage that night, they opted to perform on the floor level with the audience, a table of hardware set up to the side along with a strobe light and a fog machine, carving out a new space to play from whose boundaries were defined only by light, fog, and sound. It was a pretty bold performance gesture, bringing a greater level of inclusivity and active participation between the audience and the band, adding greatly to the energy of the evening. Singer Heather Gabel weaved and paced around the perimeter of the area, filling it with an almost tangible tension that perfectly complimented the wall of sound built up by Seth Sher's synth work and samples. It was a really incredible creation of space within the venue, running parallel to the band's themes of internal strength and the autonomy of self. A truly amazing set on a variety of levels.

The Soft Moon came on last and they were exceptionally awesome that night, an evocative performance that recreated and built on songs from across Luis Vasguez' catalog in a way that really impressed me. I have a lot of respect for Vasquez and his ability to craft richly textured musical moments that are almost cinematic in their presentation. Listening to his music on my own at home has often inspired my imagination to wander through new mental spaces, and seeing the songs performed live that night had a similar effect for me, taking me on a guided tour led by the band through dark alleys and shadowy places given form and shape through the music. I really enjoy when an artist can transport me to a new place, and The Soft Moon did an excellent job of picking me up and taking me somewhere new at that show.

It sounds kind of trite to say it, but I'm really glad that all three bands made the effort to push through and get to Toronto despite the hellacious weather happening outside that day. It gave me the chance to see Hide again and immerse myself in the space that they created, it let me visit new places with The Soft Moon, and it introduced me to Concavity's music for the first time. These are the kinds of rewards that come from seeing a good show, and I'm glad that the weather didn't prevent that show from happening. Touring in the winter can be a real challenge, but I'm happy that it was a challenge that these bands were willing to take, because it ended up being an excellent night of music...

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