Review: Caribou and Toro Y Moi at the Middle East

Click here for more Caribou photos from last week's show

All signs surrounding Caribou's sold-out Middle East gig hinted that summer may finally be upon us: a humidity-free week that gave way to a comfortable Thursday evening, a blissful opening set from Toro Y Moi, and a back catalogue that exudes imagery of pleasant days ahead.

And when Caribou kicked off their set with "Sundialing," it almost seemed as if they were content with riding out the laidback vibe. That is, until they stepped out of their warm-up and into "Leave House" from his most recent album Swim. Quickly, it became clear where Dan Snaith's head was at when forsaking his trademark dream pop overtones in favor of an album's worth of material that aches to be given a run on the dance floor. It was as if we'd all been suddenly transplanted from Cambridge to the dankest, dingiest Euro club imaginable. Okay, admittedly a gross overstatement, because the too-cool-to-move crowd still took a while to come around to the pulsations emanating from the stage.

Swim formed the focal point in their 75-minute set, as Caribou cranked through all nine of the album's assaulting tracks while sprinkling in a couple of choice cuts ("Melody Day", "After Hours") from previous efforts. Snaith took on the role of jack-of-odd trades, handling a synth setup, vocals, guitar, tambourine, cabasa, and even a recorder he broke out for a solo during "Odessa". But any review pertaining to Caribou's live performance would be remiss to mention the drums -- lead drummer Brad Weber is an absolute machine. The show's high points arrived during the middle of a few of the more rhythmic numbers, when Snaith would crouch behind his own mini-kit and the two would sync to create a percussive onslaught while the guitarist and bassist built toward a reverberated peak before dropping back into the chorus, baiting the crowd into a frenzy without fail.

Nowhere near as raucous, but surprisingly pleasant nonetheless, was the aforementioned blissful Toro Y Moi set. Mastermind Chazwick Bundick hones a seriously soulful set of pipes and he lets them shine live. It took a couple of songs for me to realize that the lush stylings coming from the slight man with the coke-bottle glasses were not Auto-Tuned but in fact au naturel. Noteworthy as one of the more robust acts under the ever-expanding chillwave umbrella, Bundick's newly conceived live trio built upon his vocal centerpieces to deliver a refreshingly bouncy opening set. Quite the relief to see a chillwave act that's not afraid to pick up real instruments and deliver a live show that wasn't just punching buttons and whispering into a distorted microphone.

Never one to leave the crowd cold, Caribou offered his own reminder that summer is on the horizon, with set-closer "Sun" -- the only lyric being the song title chanted at least 100 times over. But the nod was for naught, as they built up and bottomed out the the song with a hammer, informing the crowd that while we may be headed for sunnier days, Snaith's quite content to wallow in the mire. 
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