Some musicians are professional wallowers. Others are professional romantics. And still others are professional fun-havers. Both Toronto’s Spiral Beach and Brighton’s The Go! Team fall into that last category—performers who embrace the sheer joy of performing. But more than that, they are young, talented, and famous, they know they are young, talented, and famous, and they’re grateful for being young, talented and famous. Although Beach’s Maddy Wilde and the Team’s Ninja may strike diva poses, they do it with a measure of self-awareness; they’re born stars, but they know just how fucking lucky they are to be able to realize what so many people only dream. And that makes them lovable.
The two bands shared a bill at The Phoenix last Thursday night, and Beach’s thrash-heavy, noisy art-rock, which forces listeners to exert some effort to pick up a melody, proved to be a better-than-expected complement to The Go! Team. Best known for the immaculate dance-pop on their albums, the latter group is something quite different live; Thunder, Lightning, Strike, their 2004 debut, had actually been one of those one-man-in-his-parents’-basement projects, a series of elaborate, brilliant mashups consisting mostly of cleverly-arranged samples, “a tissue of quotations drawn from the innumerable centres of culture.” Which, as you might guess, is not something easily translated to a concert setting.
But while many bedroom producers opt to become DJ acts when they tour, mastermind Ian Parton decided to assemble a real band to try to recreate his songs onstage with limited use of prerecorded samples. And so, instead of Daft Punk holed up in their ivory pyramid, when you go to see The Go! Team, you get a real goddamn rock show—sweaty, crunchy, loud, and amenable to crowd surfing. Six multi-instrumentalists bound around the stage, switching instruments and vocal duties between songs and sometimes even within songs. They’re practically Canadian, in terms of their sprawling ambition and by-any-means-necessary approach to creating the sound that’s needed for a particular moment. Two drum sets, three guitars, a couple keyboards, and a harmonica are their primary arsenal, and when they finally break out the banjo for the T,L,S closer “Everyone’s a V.I.P. to Someone,” the effect is heartbreakingly beautiful: What a wonderful world we live in that a banjo and a harmonica can be integrated so beautifully into a rock concert; who says postmodernism has no soul?
These new arrangements force you to approach the songs in new ways, to pick out the various threads, reconsider their relation to one another, and reassemble them into the same piece of music you know and love; what on the album were horn parts (some culled from blaxploitation movies) become shimmering vocal harmonies. Which is not to imply that it’s an explicitly intellectual experience—above all, it’s a visceral thrill, an ocean of sound that occasionally touches on the transcendent. To see a cut-and-paste masterwork such as “Ladyflash” come alive before you—without the use of samples—is the rock concert equivalent of the opening of The Lion King musical; you wonder how they could possibly fit all that on a stage, and when they do, it takes your breath away.
Photo of The Go! Team’s recent Chicago concert by brokenaccidentalstar on Flickr.