Published Aug 27, 2012When one of the headliners drops out at the last minute, it can be hard to save a show's momentum. Just before the doors opened at the Horseshoe Tavern, garage pop duo Army Girls wrote on their Facebook page that they wouldn't be able to play alongside Topanga, as singer Carmen Elle "broke something (not her heart, for once)." Luckily, the other acts on the bill rose to the occasion.
There's a lot of excitement around Topanga right now. The Toronto-based indie rock group's style harkens back to over ten years ago, around the time bands like Saves the Day and Jimmy Eat World helped bring emo out of the basements and into the malls across North America. It makes sense, then, that their moniker references the love interest from '90s teen comedy-drama, Boy Meets World.
Topanga began with "Oceans," the A-side on their first 7-inch, which came out back in February, and closed with the B-side, "Mabu." Both these songs brimmed with youthful enthusiasm and a knack for sing-along choruses. Another standout was "Guilt Trip," where lead vocalist Stefan Babcock channelled the stresses of everyday life while the band retained their easygoing and suburban pop-punk attitude.
A cover of "Our Retired Explorer" by the Weakerthans highlighted Topanga's Canadian origins, and a redo of "Sheep Go to Heaven" by Cake for the encore showed off their quirky sense of humour.
In the opening slots were Ontario's Sandman Viper Command and Dangerband. Though only in their early 20s, Sandman Viper Command came across like seasoned road warriors with an indie sound as well-worn as guitarist and vocalist Rob Janson's ripped Levi's jeans. On "Yo Bobcat," off their 2009 debut album Everybody See This, bassist Aaron Harvey thumped out a propulsive and intricate line on his black and white Rickenbacker. Newer songs such as "Looking to Bleed" and "Feel Is Good" seemed almost arena-ready.
Dangerband warmed up the crowd with their punchy major-scale chord progressions. At their best, they displayed real songwriting chops and hinted at early Weezer.
Considering that one of the scheduled performers couldn't make it, Topanga held their own and put on a solid show.