Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Toronto's most beloved global-folk party punks, brought their raucous and hot-blooded live show to the Danforth Music Hall last night (November 4) to celebrate the release of their new album, If I Had The Strength.
Polky Village Band opened with an unplugged set while the audience trickled into the cavernous hall. Partly because of the chatty audience, it was difficult to hear the un-amplified voice of the lead singer on her own, but the harmonies of the second vocalist helped. The large Lemon Bucket Orkestra poster hanging at the back of the stage loomed over the proceedings (and seemingly everyone's thoughts), but Polky Village Band gave a valiant and cheerful effort as openers, and again later as filler between Boogát and Lemon Bucket Orkestra.
Michael Louis Johnson of LBO then came out to introduce Boogát, with an endearing anecdote about sharing "delicious" grasshoppers at a Winnipeg Folk Festival workshop. Boogát's excellent band livened up the stage with drums, electronics, guitar, trombone and a particularly virtuosic percussionist on timbales and cowbells. They drew from cumbia, reggaeton and other genres, laying a vibrant foundation for Boogát's Spanish-language hip-hop vocals. Beyond energetic emcee-ing, he waved and encouraged solos from his bandmates, getting the increasingly larger audience dancing and clapping along. For the penultimate song of the set, six LBO members came onstage to thicken the sound and share in the musical camaraderie. It was an engaging and enjoyable set.
Following another earnest set from Polky Village Band, Johnson came back out to introduce his own band and all 14 members walked out to cheers and hoots from an adoring crowd. After a moment settling in and casually joking with each other, Mark Marczyk shouted a count-in and they exploded into their signature brand of bombastic global-folk-punk, trading solos, smiling, dancing and egging each other on.
In one of the first few songs, Marczyk translated the folk lyrics: "Come on, Janice, lets dance in a circle / Come on Janice lets sell our horse." At another point, they had the whole crowd crouching down to the floor.
After a few older songs got the party started, Marczyk introduced the band's new album, If I Had The Strength, as one slavic prison ballad smashed into 45 minutes of music (in contrast to their usual collections of individual folk songs). They played the album front to back, with the danceable Romanian funk of "Soldat" and Boogát's charming guest spot on "Palinka" standing out as highlights.
Marichka Marczyk did a great job singing the haunting middle section of "Heroes," which was only topped by the majestic group singalong of "Peace," the album's closing track. Mark's delicately sung first verse was most startling compared to his usual raspy shouts. After the epic choral build of that song subsided, Mark announced in conclusion: "If I had the strength, I would run out in the street and scream 'Peace! Peace! Peace!' Thanks for singing 'peace' with us at the Danforth Music Hall."
They kept the party raging into an encore that features a few more older tracks, and even one written post-If I Had the Strength. It was a majestic slow-burner, again featuring lead vocals from Marichka. For their grand finale, the band filed offstage into the middle of the clapping-along crowd, Mark with a megaphone, and the band playing generously loud. They concluded by hoisting their instruments up in the air victoriously; more than winning over the crowd, it felt like a collective triumph for everyone in the room.