Friday night's sold-out Toro Y Moi from Spune and presented by Gorilla vs. Bear at Trees had only built in anticipation since the release of Anything in Return last month.
As the building slowly filled, Dog Bite was finishing a strong set. The new project from Washed Out's Phil Jones has traded those chill-wave vibrations for something more psychedelic. At times, it even recalls some surf rock elements. Washed Out is the other hero of 2011's chillwave year, and like the new Toro Y Moi sound, this new project shows Jones still has things to say.
The collective buzz in the crowd implied as many folks were gathered for opening band Wild Bell as for our headlining act. And with good reason: their 2012 EP It's Too Late and a rather productive 2012 SXSW has seen their star rising.
Brother-sister duo Natalie and Elliot Bergman have composed a sensual piece of funk and reggae tinged pop and are the perfect counterpoint to Toro Y Moi's sexy sound. Their Rhodes sounds good even in the sound check. Natalie's vocals are like Nikka Costa's R&B growl melting on warm toast, and we are seduced from the moment she walks onstage. The backing band is tight, and when Elliot pulls out the saxophone during single, "It's Too Late," the swooning hits new heights.
Just as that song comes to an end, Natalie asks someone to turn off the bright screens in the space, advertising upcoming shows, "That's a metal show, that's not the vibe we are setting," she rightly commands. Another song passes before she brings it back up, "Seriously, turn those fucking things off." A chant starts, the televisions blink off, and I am curious what else Ms. Bergman could have asked of me, since at this point I am happily wrapped around her little finger.
Red and purples glow from the stage and Toro y Moi's Chaz Bundick's enters the stage but all it took was the opening bars from "Say That" to start the dance party. It's distinctly different from the bat than Bundick's sleepier previous showcases on other stages in town. Even early material sounds brighter, with Bundick's vocals easily taking on new octaves and some slight new arrangements to bring the old right along with his new groovier pop fare.
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I have been vocal of my praise for Toro Y Moi's new direction, but it is clear in that dark room that he is drawing a line in the sand from his previous performances. Even if he is just trying it on temporarily, pop star looks good on Bundick. The slowed down push of "Grown Up Calls" has a sophisticated tone live that befits its title. "Never Matter's" driving bass sounds heavy in person and pushes the crowd into each other in the best possible way. I lean over and ask, "Is this what disco sounded like to people who had never heard it before?" I mean it as a compliment.
Toro Y Moi is finally loud at Trees, something I think we needed to alter the live experience. I realize I am not taking enough notes or even really watching because I keep finding new reasons to dance instead.
And if that isn't the mark of a good show, what is?