Event Review: Steam Whistle Unsigned #28

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Even as Toronto remains stuck in the middle of the ‘Polar Votex’, Steam Whistle stands as a lit beacon of hope; a sanctuary of warm hospitality, groovy tunes and…well you know- beer. The effects of the cold on the show was apparent. The Steam Whistle event hall was a sea of beanies, scarfs and furry hoods. Unlike most hip Toronto joints, there was no sacrifice of warmth for sexy bare skin.

Unsigned #28 was a very different kind of show. Each Unsigned of course has it’s own unique flavor, but this time around, there seemed to be a definite decision to take some risks with the musicale line-up.

DOOM SQUAD

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When Doom Squad got on stage, you immediately got the impression that you were in for some trippy-new-wave thing. They kicked off their set with psychedelic loops and pulse pounding beats…with only one actual drum. There’s synths, a drum machine, one guitar...TWO flutes, a tambourine, a harmonica and only three band members. So yeah, there are some really ambitious arrangements going on with this band.

What does Doom Squad sound like? Sort of like scary jungle sex. The kind you totally wanna have (admit it).

To be honest, I’m not sure if the whole performance came together live. There seemed to be some issues with the sound levels and while there are a lot of juicy layers to Doom Squad’s music, it just didn’t seem to be something that a crowd wanted to simply stand and watch. It’s stuff that might actually sound more at home in a dance club. Seriously.

It’s stuff that’s great to zen-out to on your laptop, or maybe take a late-night cruise to, sort of in the vein of Kavinsky.

Here’s what you’ve got to salute Doom Squad for. They’re super-ambitious with their arrangements and they sound very unique. Best of all, Doom Squad is comprised of three people just making one hell of a noise. When they drop the beat, your guts pop out of your mouth.

Before I forget, I have to mention that at one point in the night, I decided to bury my face in a giant-sized portion of mac n’ cheese, courtesy of Unsigned #28’s caterer Mac N’.

Mac N’ is the Ferrari-unicorn-sex orgy of cheesy pasta.

Bravestation

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Bravestation is the coolest, sexiest high-school prom band from the 80s you can imagine.

So as you can imagine, there’s some synths going on underneath some tight drumming and flowing rhythm bass.

That being said, you do sort of wish that Bravestation would embrace their more experimental side. You can hear that space-aged sound underneath what’s otherwise a very contemporary, familiar and somewhat vanilla arrangement aching to burst out, and when it does, Bravestation is at it’s best.

During their set, you get the feeling Bravestation has secret fantasies of saving the galaxy while riding a hover-board, and frankly, I think they need more of that.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun band to see live. It’s “grab your sweetheart and dance” kind of music. There are even a few songs that are decidedly sexier, more like “slow dance, grab the-person-you-get-naked-with’s hips” kind of songs.

Ark Analog

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The first thing I have to say about Ark Analog, is that lead-singer Maylee Todd wins pants. She just does, don’t even try and fight it.

Actually, when Ark Analog got on stage, I thought, “Huh, that lady with the crazy pants looks familiar.” That’s because we interviewed Maylee Todd and reviewed her performance two Unsigned shows back.

So what’s Ark analog like? Well it’s more 80s-esque goodness. Heavy synths and (get this) a fucking keytar are driven home with the use of strobe lights. This band makes you feel like you’re in TRON.

So there’s all this electronic rig-a-ma-roll going on with Ark Analog, but over all that, the vocals are amazing (crazy-pants-lady has one hell of a set pipes on her) and so is the stage presence. It’s a very enjoyable show to watch live.

The best thing about Ark Analog though is that everything is consistent. It’s the great idea of, “if we’re going to be an electronic act, let’s do THAT and not ten million other things” (do one thing, really, really well).