Published May 12, 2013In celebration of their excellent debut EP Static Ocean, Neighborhood Watch, along with a trio of buzzy locals in Most People, the Cautioneers, and Grids, set up camp at Cinecycle for an evening of nerdy guitar solos, inventive one-upmanship and all-you-can-eat pretzels (a massive hit among the crowd and a trend I sincerely hope catches on). Despite heavy rains, and competing hockey playoffs, the venue was jammed early, full of folks eager to catch a glimpse of what may be Toronto's next wave of indie movers and shakers in action.
Getting things off on the right foot were Most People, a duo who use looped guitar, prerecorded percussion tracks and plenty of double drumming in order to build expansive polyrhythmic indie pop. Already established as one of the top live acts in the city, the band, consisting of Brandon Gibson-DeGroote and Paul McEachern, mesmerized those in attendance with their groove-heavy soundscapes and otherworldly display of musical multitasking. Although the first part of the set suffered from sound issues, the charm of tracks like "While the River Waits" and "The "Young and Wild" were ultimately undeniable. With the sonic palette of Durrutti Column, vocals mannerisms of My Morning Jacket's Jim James, and an out-of-the-box percussiveness of Local Natives, Most People cemented their status as a band to watch.
Up next, the stage got a whole lot busier with synth-pop sextet the Cautioneers — not that you could see them. Hidden by a dense cloud of smoke (they brought their own fog machine) and bathed in eerie spectral light, the band looked more the outline of a band. Not that it's bad thing. The effect suited the the Cautioneers' ambient, dreamy textures well and with opening track "Fool My Senses" they had the crowd eyes-closed and swaying along with them. Ultimately the band could not maintain the energy and intrigue of their strong opener, but it was a solid set from a band who seems to have a clear idea of what they're going for.
The night took an upturn with Neighborhood Watch, a band of four polite-looking guys with an love of stadium rock and an undeniable ear for detail. Sounding like a cross between the Strokes and fellow-scenesters Dinosaur Bones, (minus the off-the-charts charisma of both) Neighborhood Watch moved seamlessly through the album, traversing a massive catalogue of timbres to entirely satisfying results. Apart from Elliot Fraizinger's emotive croon and Pavel Gurich's propulsive bass lines, the high point of the night came when the four-piece covered New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle" practically verbatim. The stage presence can come, Neighborhood Watch already have the important stuff figured out.
Closing the night, Grids were positively skeletal in comparison. Eschewing any kind of musical accoutrements for a barebones, technical approach, they tore through a loud, aggressive set of sludgy melodic post-rock. Playing to a dwindling, but still enthusiastic crowd, singer/bassist Sean McKee performed with a raw, feral energy that was hard to look away from. No doubt this band is still rough around the edges (according to McKee's banter they played every song in their entire catalogue over the 40-minute set, including a cover of "Shaking Hand" by Women), but they certainly showed promise.