Words by: Gerrod Harris
Last Sunday, October 19th, I had the great experience of watching Streetlight Manifesto perform along with opening acts, Chris Murray and Dan Potthast at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto.
Arriving on stage at roughly 8:10, with only an acoustic guitar and his voice, Chris Murray performed an excellent thirty minute set. At first walking onto the stage, he seemed small, but within the first little bit of his performance, his presence grew exponentially. His voice was both powerful and smooth, singing songs of romance as well as social issues. His guitar playing was very well done and provided an interesting and rhythmic source of accompaniment. His set comprised of all his own original songs, which were a nice blend between acoustic folk and ska. They were simple, but well written and catchy, and his uses of harmony and chord voicings on the guitar were unique to listen to. Many of his choruses consisted of only one line which allowed him to get the audience to sing along. Murray was very charismatic, especially for someone only equipped with their voice and guitar; he had an abundance of energy and could not seem to stand still. The music was very well played and he seemed to have a large portion of the audience captivated, which is especially impressive for an opening act, let alone one who performs solo acoustic music. I actually sat with his parents during his set and they were an absolute delight to talk with, and I am not just saying all these great things because they asked me to; Chris Murray put on an amazing show that had got me more excited for what was to come.
Next on stage was Dan Potthast, of MU330 fame. Similar to Murray, Potthast played solo acoustic music for approximately half an hour. His style of music was still in the folk and ska realm, but with an added element of punk rock. As I mentioned earlier, it certainly takes a lot to just walk up onstage by yourself in front of a large crowd, but his music did not have the same delivery as Murray’s did. His voice was slightly out of tune with his guitar, and he couldn’t seem to get the audience all that into his music. To make matters worse, the pickup on his guitar (which allows for the acoustic guitar to be amplified) cut out about halfway through his performance. He spent the next ten or so minutes away from his microphone, playing solely for the people in the immediate front. This was rather unfortunate, as although he didn’t sound as refined as one would hope, he was still fun to listen to, and had the energy of a punk rocker, but about a third of his set was inaudible to the majority of the Music Hall. When you could hear him, he spent almost as much time talking as he did performing; this was both good and bad: he was an incredibly funny guy, but this took away from the music and just did not live up to what I was hoping for. Perhaps he was just having a bad night.
Streetlight Manifesto came on stage at about 10:00 and played till 11:40. The band walked on stage to a nearly sold out crowd chanting “STREETLIGHT” as loud as they could. They opened with the highly energetic “We Will Fall Together” which led directly into “The Three Of Us”. Streetlight was on top of their game that night, each of their members played extremely well. The drums were powerful, the bass was tight and grooving, the guitar and vocals would flip between mellow and edgy when it needed to, and the horn section must have lungs of steel. They each have very crucial parts in every song, and yet they still have the energy and breath to run and dance around the stage, and then immediately blast out an intricate melody. Their overall performance exceeded my expectations and made me a much bigger fan than when I walked in the venue.
Speaking of the venue, the Danforth Music Hall is a spectacular venue for live music. This was my first time at the Music Hall and from the very moment I walked in, I loved it. Its bright and inviting neon sign, the quaint movie theater-like lobby, and the best part is that it was specifically built for musical performances. Many venues, especially stadiums, are built for other primary purposes, but not the Danforth! As it says in its name, it’s a music hall, and this is clearly heard in the contrast between all three styles played that night. The venue helps produce such warm tones from acoustic music, while for the electric, heavier music, it sounds like a small rock club. Like the Phoenix Concert Theater, the Sound Academy, and Kool Haus, The Danforth Music Venue stands above as a premier venue for acts of all ranges.
Streetlight Manifesto’s set included songs spanning their full career from each of their albums. Each song was as energetic and well executed as the last as the band went on, taking almost no time for breaks in between songs. As expected, the floor was constantly pushing and dancing around, but to much of my surprise, even people seated on the balcony level, myself included, couldn’t help but get up. I couldn’t count the amount of times security came around telling people to remain seated, but by the encore they had given up and everyone was up in the main aisle. People were crowd surfing almost the entire night to such punk thrashers like “Down Down Down To Mephisto’s Café” and “A Moment Of Violence”, and the crowd got emotional and lighters were swayed in the air in the slower numbers like “A Better Place, A Better Time”. After a blistering fourteen song set, the band returned to the stage after a very short encore break. Their three song encore consisted of “Dear Sergio”, “The Big Sleep”, and “Than Hand That Thieves”. I greatly enjoyed how the set list was created in an order that allowed their songs to flow from a hard hitting rock opening, to a more mellow and grooving middle, and finally building up to a big ending. Over all, it was an excellent night of great music; I discovered Chris Murray, an excellent ska artist, and witnessed the excellent stage show of Streetlight Manifesto.