Words and Pictures by Dave MacIntyre
New York City’s Bishop Allen took stage just after midnight at the El Mocambo in Toronto. Supported by Darwin Deez, also from NYC, and Throw Me The Statue, from Seattle, the band had their work cut out for them since both openers played lively sets that had onlookers impressed and actually paying attention. Frontman Justin Rice announced his pleasure at being back in Toronto, noting how much warmer the weather was than his last visit in January—which the crowd reacted to with enthusiastic clapping, cueing the band to get the set rolling. Performing a nearly gapless stream of light-hearted indie-rock ballads, Rice played his guitar peering shyly into the crowd over the top of his glasses while other core member and guitarist Christian Rudder strummed beside bassist Keith Poulson. Darbie Nowatka on keyboards also provided backing vocals while former We Are Scientists drummer Michael Tapper completed the five-piece. Musically, the band played very well together; however the first group of songs started to sound indistinguishable from one another and lacked any real uniqueness to make them memorable. I wasn’t alone in this thinking as the audience’s enthusiasm began to dwindle and their chatter to increase. A set break a few moments later had the audience paying attention again. Rice took the opportunity to share his knowledge of the El Mocambo’s rich musical history, citing such momentous events as The Rolling Stones performance there and the scandal involving Margaret Trudeau (wife of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau ) and getting the fans laughing by stating, “Margaret Trudeau hooked up with Keith Richards here.” With the crowd once again enthralled the band resumed play with older material such as “Like Castanets” and “The Chinatown Bus” from The Broken String. These much catchier, toe-tapping numbers, including fan-favorite “Click, Click, Click, Click,” pulled the audience back in and kept them there for the remainder of the set. A great cover of Devo’s “Gates Of Steel” and an the encore performance of “Flight 180” ended the evening on a high note.