Review: July Talk @ The Hoxton, 03/17/15

Editorial: Amber Waves
Photo:  ©2015 (03-17-2015)  Angel Marchini (Back2Basics Photography). Used with permission.

“I got hit by a bus today!” Peter Dreimanis tells us, seemingly proud.

For as pressed to the stage as I’m fast becoming in the fevered crowd at The Hoxton, I’m feeling like I can relate.  And, not unlike Dreimanis, I’m too enamoured with the sights (he, the Jameson bottle light fixture; me, the band on stage) to give a damn.

And while many a review out there about this Toronto-based quintet has evoked said booze in describing their sound, it’s fair to say as he shares a bottle with co-lead singer Leah Fay that “whiskey-soaked” is an accurate description.

Here’s the thing for the uninitiated: plenty of reviews have done a stellar job of evoking the frenetic energy and captivating stage presence of July TalkThis is a band that is almost unassuming as they arrive on stage, so as to stun you when they slam into their first song of the night, a band that delivers 110% high-octane rock until the last note echoes and fades.  But no combination of words or phrases can capture the synergy of their sets — because no two are the same.

Feeding off of the crowd and allowing instinct to carry the night to its final destination, July Talk is about more than the music:  it’s about the connection.  Before the advent of smartphones, Instagram and Vine, there was a time when going to a concert meant watching the band, bodies swaying and jumping as the temperature went from 70 degrees to burning alive, and maybe, if you were me, scribbling setlists with a Sharpie on your forearm or a scrap of paper.  When Leah Fay meets the night’s revelers, she takes command of creating that authenticity that’s often lost these days, that eye-to-eye exchange.  I will feed on your love of music, and in return, I will do my best to destroy this stage, she silently offers.  Disobey and watch your phone be swatted down. Wore a hat tonight? It may be confiscated for a time, perhaps with a bra or your tear-aways, but don’t worry — you’ll get them back eventually.

A July Talk show, like their music videos and overall aesthetic, is about contrasts — about how darkness and light enhance each other.  It’s why a foreboding tale of toxic love like “Gentleman” can so easily sit alongside the almost celebratory flip of a coin that is “Summer Dress”.  It’s in the way Dreimanis and Fay move between playful engagement and more aggressive one-ups that challenge the other not to miss a beat.  It’s in the role-reversal moments where Leah’s the one screaming and Peter sounds as delicate as a man with his raspy power can.  In that vein, the audience shapes the show as much as the music itself:  an engaged and wild audience only serves to enhance the raw grit.

So I could tell you about how the audience was drowning out the band on hit single “Guns + Ammunition” or how certain songs like “Don’t Call Home” are better served by their live incarnations.  I could tell you about how much promise for their sophomore album lies in new tune “Lola and Joseph”.  But instead, I’d rather tell you about how Leah readily trusts their Superfans, nudging them to dress her in the aforementioned tear-aways with a language rooted in the power of song.  I’d point to every remark by the band of it being good to come back to Toronto after time away, that shows at home mean a great deal — and that each word was genuine.  Real.

The best shows will remind you of who you are, of what matters most in the depths of your being.  The setlist may change, the antics will vary, but you can count on July Talk to deliver just that.

Setlist can be seen here

Visit July Talk online

More photos from the night by Angel Marchini here


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