Indie88‘s feel-good hipster leanings have struck a chord in this city. Maybe it’s because rock music-loving Torontonians have been deprived of good radio for years now (how long has it been since The Edge was cool?), or maybe it’s just effective marketing, but this radio station has become very popular in a short period of time. This past Saturday marked Indie88’s one-year birthday party, which the station celebrated with a sold-out shindig (tickets were only $8.88!) at the Opera House. We came for the paper party hats, but stayed for Lowell, The Darcys, and Dan Mangan + Blacklist, who supplied the night’s soundtrack, delighting both hardcore hipsters and casual fans alike.
Lowell put on the best performance of the night. I know that’s blasphemy to the droves of people that came solely for Dan Mangan, but she and her band nailed their set. Her voice is like no other and her stage presence is full on. Casual listeners of the radio station would’ve recognized her driving indie rock single “The Bells” (video below) – but the highlight of her performance came in the dreamlike yearning of “Palm Trees.” During the climax of the song with guitars, keys, and drums clanging, painted over with Lowell’s veteran command of falsetto, you couldn’t help but buy what this girl was selling. Of course, if you happened to catch her jump down into the crowd early in the set and hop onto some random dude for a piggyback – all while still singing – you would’ve already bought it.
The Darcys were a great band follow up Lowell. Both bands share that airy, melancholy essence of modern indie rock, but The Darcys have a more driving, groovy sound that served to get the crowd rocking out a little heavier. The Darcys are a great four-piece band of rockers, complete with the energy that any good rockers should bring to their set. That said, their efforts to produce brain-melting soundscapes during a couple of the bridges and interludes – the sort of expansiveness legends like Radiohead have mastered – fell a tad flat. Where The Darcys shine is in their more traditional musicianship. I’m nitpicking here, as overall the band easily proved their mettle. Check them out while they’re still running the smaller-venue circuit.
As for Dan Mangan + Blacksmith, well, it’s obvious why the ladies love this almost-superstar. Shit – it’s obviously why everyone loves him. Mangan and his ragtag band look like regular joes, but are entirely fantastic musicians with a lock on that special kind of songwriting that makes you happy but pulls on your heartstrings a little at the same time. As the band hit the stage, the crowd seemed to double in density.
Like Mumford and Sons and The Lumineers, you can’t help but want to sing along with Mangan. It was damn near impossible to listen to the radio single “Robots,” hear the man croon, “The fire in my eyes is fleeting now, your robot heart is bleeding out,” and not jump on board for the chorus. I wanted go find the Lovebot and give it a big hug. It’s no surprise that Mangan is touring the world and collecting awards up the ying yang.
From the awesome music, to Indie88 staff handing out free $20 cab vouchers so that people wouldn’t drink and drive, to the overall friendly crowd that packed the venue, this was a birthday party that will hopefully be renewed for years to come.