Published Feb 16, 2013The Woodhead brothers have come a long way since former band Spiral Beach were making songs with titles such as "Philosophy Is My Cat," fitted head to toe with the fripperies of indie pop. Now splintered into Moon King (Daniel Woodhead and Maddy Wilde) and Doldrums (Airick Woodhead), however, you sense the band's teen spirit remains potent. The anticipation of Airick's return from Montreal to Toronto was palpable as the woollen-hatted Woodhead pair were observed on the balcony, slinging limbs to support acts Cadence Weapon and Blue Hawaii.
The latter, a love project between Agor (aka Alex Cowan) and Braids's Raphaelle Standell-Preston, made their Toronto debut against a cardboard cut-out of the city's skyline that was decorated by projector-beamed graphics of refracted amethyst and lysergic blossom. Despite Raphaelle's muttered suggestion of performing while hidden behind the synth decks, any sense of shyness abated as the duo fluttered into a set of punishing house remixes of tunes from their new Untogether LP. Hungrily hunched over his station like a happy loner salvaging remnants from his lunchbox, Agor programmed songs largely unrecognizable from their ethereal, recorded counterparts — save for the gentle acrobatics of Raphaelle's balletic larynx.
There was a sense of fervour hanging in the balance as Doldrums, now a four-piece live outfit featuring Daniel Woodhead, took the stage. Gloriously shambolic (are they ever not?), it took a grinding false start before the freak-pop train slid into gear. Opening with "Intro" and "Anomaly" from Lesser Evil — the forthcoming debut LP that this show launched — the band highlighted joyously loose playing with a preposterous physical appearance: from Daniel's comical hip-flourishes to the stoned determination of synth player Flow Child, who appeared to have stumbled in from the set of Life of Brian.
"She Is the Wave" sent ripples of movement through the audience, before a sonic meteor in the shape of "Holographic Sandcastles": the sound of oriental drum'n'bass being bent and propelled through a cosmic wind tunnel. Cut short once more amid Airick's apologies for a lack of soundcheck, the performance threatened to collapse as "Endless Winter" shifted and stuttered, seemingly every bar finding new ways of being out of time.
Finally reaching the impressive momentum we expect of the band, the set peaked with a triple punch encompassing a funk-infused Cadence Weapon cameo and the band's lasting finest works, "Jump Up" and "Egypt." A host of technical difficulties might not make for the smoothest live experience, but it's only symptomatic of a broader sense of absolute freedom that watermarks Montreal's creative community. The period of anxious stasis Airick experienced during the recording of Lesser Evil actually reveals something deeper: if anxiety is the dizziness of freedom, then Doldrums have earned theirs a hundred times over.