With his Drake co-sign, OVO sound and two buzz-generating self-titled tapes, tickets for the singer-songwriter known as PartyNextDoor's first Toronto gig as a headline artist sold out fast. An hour before the Mississauga rapper appeared at the Mod Club, a queue wrapped a block west, scalpers lurked outside and women crammed sardine-like toward an empty stage, cinching off the path to the washrooms.
Speculation of a surprise Drake drop-by only heightened the hype.
"Par-ty! Par-ty!" the ladies in the house chanted, unprompted, during DJ/producer Cobey's 30-minute warm-up set.
And when the 21-year-old strode onstage at 10:30 p.m., braids dangling out from a grey toque, it sounded like Choir! Choir! Choir! in that place, loyal fans singing along to each word of "Welcome to the Party" (appropriate opener, no?), to the point that the artist's own voice barely cut through the support.
"You know me very well," goes one lyric. Indeed.
The warm reception persisted throughout Party's 45-minute set. With his of-the-moment production and fans in his denim pocket, he couldn't miss. If the capacity crowd of about 600 — mostly 20-somethings on date nights or girls' nights or guys in the market for date nights — wasn't singing along to the bulk of Party's hazy, libido-fuelled catalogue, they were pulling out smartphones to film it.
As refreshing it was to see the so-called "Screwface Capital" embrace a local artist with such warmth, Party still comes off a little raw, a touch reluctant — those who saw his summer cameo on the OVO Fest stage may have hoped his 14-date solo tour would've upped his stage presence — but he comes off like a guy with superstar buzz still developing his superstar stage presence, not unlike the Weeknd's early live appearances. Or Drake's, for that matter. These things take time. (At one point Party apologized for the brevity of his show: "I only have two tapes.")
Crooning "Wus Good/Curious" while relaxing on a love seat placed centrestage, under red mood lights, the talented Party was almost too shy for his own good. So when labelmate P. Reign pounced from the wings to perform his "Realest in the City" single (which PND features on), the energy jolt underscored Party's lack of assuredness in the spotlight.
Then, as hoped, came the Drake cameo. Decked out in yellow-and-black plaid, Drizzy put his stamp on the night's climax by collaborating with PND for "Recognize," easily the young artist's best song.
And although some fans lingered, perhaps hoping for a few bars of "0 to 100" real quick, Drake smartly kept his appearance to a single verse, lest he steal the attention from Party's coming out.