Eight and a Half Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto ON June 15

Eight and a Half Yonge-Dundas Square, Toronto ON June 15
Once a side-project for a trio of longtime musicians wanting to break out of their established stylistic musical comfort zones, Eight and a Half affirmed their more recent front-burner status with their Friday night presentation on the Yonge-Dundas stage. Members Dave Hamelin and Liam O'Neil (of the Stills), along with Broken Social Scene drummer Justin Peroff, made a collective leap from their former skins and showed off a more stripped-down sound that combined warm and enveloping melodies with uncomplicated rhythms and Hamelin's soaring vocals, resulting in an entirely palatable and unpretentious brand of plaintive rock. Peroff switched back and forth between live drums and a collection of laid-back digital backbeats, while O'Neil dropped in subtle hints of synthesizer atmospherics to further establish the band's restrained though no less enveloping new direction. While many in the crowd were clearly waiting in anticipation for a couple of the splashier names who were still to come, Eight and a Half were easy to appreciate for a sound that felt perfectly matched to the warm and breezy early evening calm before Friday night's musical storm.