Published Jun 15, 2012Let's get one thing straight: reducing Bran Van 3000 to their 1998 hit "Drinking in L.A." does both the Montreal collective and you a great disservice. The crew's musical blender of styles and influences are near impossible to distill into a single track and are better experienced long-form. Of course, they've proven to be rather reclusive since the implosion of their label shortly after the release of their second album in 2001, Discosis, performing only a handful of shows over the last few years -- they last played Toronto in 2008.
But you'd never know it based on their enthusiastic set. Led by mastermind James Di Salvio, the nine-member crew stormed the stage to rapturous applause and wasted no-time launching into "Grace (Love on the Block)" from their most recent album The Garden. Despite packing the stage with members -- guitar, bass, drums, congas, MC, singer, keyboards and Di Salvio playing ringmaster at the centre of it all -- they never missed a beat, dropping elements of tracks from across their discography like "Afodiziak." Singer Kwansa Shelley did such a bang-up job of subbing in vocal duties for Curtis Mayfield on "Astounded" few in the crowd even noticed the difference.
As members came and went from the stage, the music never stopped and neither did Bran Van's enthusiasm. The set culminated in Shelley donning some peacock plumage and confetti canons just before the crew launched into "Drinking in L.A.," which quickly turned into a massive sing-along. Even as the song petered out, it was clear the band were ready for more, but the short festival set times prevented them from continuing. Regardless, the crew proved their own hype: there ain't no party like a Bran Van party.