Dom Garrison, Toronto ON August 9

Dom Garrison, Toronto ON August 9
Performing in Toronto the night of their latest EP's release, Dom should have been ready to celebrate. A table was full of shirts and records belonging to the opening bands, but Dom were merch-less, thanks to their label Astralwerks failing to supply them with copies of their new release. When Dom came on stage, the ginger-haired, eponymous frontman announced, "We have a new record out today called Family of Love. You can hear our version of it through Mediafire, Megaupload and Rapidshare. They took YouTube down at 12:30 this morning."

The label strife and an under-populated crowd seemed on their mind, but the Worcester, MA fivesome persevered through a 30-minute set. Doesn't sound like much, but from the first few bars of their unreleased, mostly instrumental opener, Dom were definitely there to entertain.

Instructing the crowd to make it less "awkward" by moving up, Dom peppered the set with sardonic witticisms that fell in line nicely with his cheeky, acid-laced bubblegum pop tunes. For a band often portrayed as ramshackle, they performed most of the material from their two EPs with the prowess and flair, which was relatively surprising considering guitarist Kenny and keyboardist Ming Ming only joined a month ago.

Another surprise came in hearing Dom handle all of the vocals on his own, delivering all of the plentiful hooks from his records naturally without assistance. As a result, "Bonchicha" soared as if it really was an anthem for a minor league hockey team, as did sonically robust new cut "Damn," which Dom politely introduced as "Darn." (A bratty cover of the Cure's "Boys Don't Cry," however, felt out of place.)

Honouring a couple on their 16th wedding anniversary, Dom dedicated the synth-wavy "Burn Bridges," only to realize afterwards that maybe the message was a bit inappropriate (the couple didn't seem to mind). When it came time to play their "hit," Dom announced "Living in America" to the expected applause; there's a reason why that single is their calling card and its massive chorus translated smashingly amidst the junction of heavily treated dual guitars and Moog. Ordering the crowd to beg for an encore, they squeezed in the breezy "Rude As Jude" and then left the stage.

Only time will tell if the night was one of those "should have been there" early gigs of a band on their way to stardom, or a "last chance to see them" gig of a group on their way out. Let's hope it's not the latter.