Monday, 20 April 2015

The Griswolds and Walk the Moon @ The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto, 08/04/2015

Toronto needs some cheering up; the weather has been absolutely dismal for the past couple weeks, but Wednesday night was the first sliver of sunshine that the city has seen in a long time. Dedicated fans lined up hours before the doors to the Danforth Music Hall opened, waiting underneath a grey sky and relentless, pouring rain with little-to-no shelter. However, fans had the perfect motivation to stick it out; Walk the Moon was here. The Ohio-natives (as they constantly remind fans) brought a dash of vibrant colour and temporary sunlight to a black-and-white city with their positive, infectious music.
Hundreds of poncho-and-face-paint-clad fans poured into the venue at 7:30, thankful to get out of the cold. Soon enough, torn ponchos littered the floor as fans of all ages crowded closely together, including a pack of nine year-olds that rolled up to the venue in a limo, one boy sticking his head out of the window shouting a “Don’t you wish you were me?” at the shivering fans.

The opening band were the Australian-born Griswolds, and they waltzed out on stage donning shirts that said “Canada” all over them. “We decided to get some souvenirs while we were here!” one member quipped in an Australian accent that made all the fans yell in delight.
The singer, Chris Whitehall, gave out a congratulations to the fans for waiting outside so long in the cold. Whitehall admitted that he went out there for a bit, but then thought “fuck it”. With shaggy blonde hair and a crooked smile, Whitehall played the part of a stereotypical surfer boy, which went a long way in warming up the crowd: stooping down to pick up a flower crown that one fan had tossed up on stage, Whitehall placed it on his head and kept it on for the remainder of the set, an action that was met by a chorus of cheers. Australian heat radiated off the quartet as they thoroughly entertained their audience, playing songs off of their debut album Be Impressive.

Their optimistic, catchy tracks had everyone dancing, whetting the crowd’s appetite for Walk the Moon. The Griswolds’ sound complimented the headliner’s sound perfectly, so the Australian-natives did a fantastic job as an opening band.

As The Griswolds left the stage, the crowd packed tightly together: the lack of a barricade between the fans and the stage caused people to lose their minds. Everyone began to push closer to the stage for a chance to touch the pure sunshine that is Walk the Moon. The anticipation continued to build, and fans began to get restless, constantly checking their phones for the time. All of a sudden, “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King erupted from the speakers. Many fans felt as if they were being reborn as Walk the Moon sauntered onto the stage, met with the lion-like roaring of the crowd.

The band immediately launched into their sophomore album’s opener, “Different Colors”, which the crowd sang back whole-heartedly. As soon as the first note dropped, people were dancing, full of the band’s positive energy. The room instantly became stifling, which was a welcome change from the wind and rain outside.
“Different Colors” flowed effortlessly into “Tightrope”, one of the band’s bigger singles off of their self-titled debut album. People lost their minds by this point, and every time the singer Nick Petricca stepped closer into the audience, the crowd surged forward, creating a pulsating body of people all singing and dancing in unison. Walk the Moon tends to unite fans as one single community, one single family, and they managed to pull it off again that night at the Danforth.

Next up was “Down in the Dumps”, a track off of their sophomore effort Talking is Hard, followed by “Spend Your $$$”, which had everyone dancing, including the band. Walk the Moon obviously loves what they do, and their happiness spread to every single member of the crowd like some kind of blissful, lively plague.

Opting to play a fan-favourite off of their debut, the suggestive “Shiver Shiver” came up next, causing all the ladies to sing the sexy lyrics while pointing at the band (mainly at the bassist, Kevin Ray). Following “Shiver Shiver” was a spectacular performance of Talking is Hard’s “Avalanche”.

“UP 2 U” was next on the band’s handwritten paper plate setlists, and every fan anticipated the upcoming beat drop. When it came, everyone lost their minds and pushed forward, trying to touch the golden ray of sunshine that is the bassist Kevin Ray.  

“Work This Body”, another fan-favourite off of Talking is Hard, had the crowd spastically dancing, whether they knew the lyrics or not. Walk the Moon was basking in the energy of their audience, smiles spreading from ear to ear, mirroring the ecstatic grins of every fan.

Next was the highly-anticipated “Portugal” from the band’s most recent sophomore album, which was a surreal moment for many fans. The majority of the crowd knew every word, and people were singing back every lyric with as much passion as Petricca himself. Once again feeding off of the ecstasy of the crowd, Petricca launched himself into the sea of bodies, having a few intimate moments with some of the fans. The sea of people surged forward like an ocean tide, pushing themselves up against the stage as if it were the coastline, but never receding.

Even when Walk the Moon slowed it down with the perfect 80s-prom tune “Aquaman”, the crowd remained standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a unified mass, trying to get as close as they could to the stage. The band picked up the tempo again with “Lisa Baby”, a track off of their debut, which satisfied a lot of their older fans.

“Lisa Baby” flowed into “Jenny”, a fan-favourite off of their first album. Kevin Ray, with his blinding smile, starting swaying his hips in time to the track, which was met by a deafening chorus of screaming. However, Ray, with his eyes shut, seemed oblivious to the noise, immersed in the sound of his own music.

After “Jenny”, Petricca got the crowd to be quiet for the first moment of the night, and it was then that fans knew he was going to make his infamous speech. His mischievous eyes flicked around the venue, his gaze resting on a couple of faces, and he flashed a brilliant smile. Petricca said that he recognized some people in the audience, but he saw a lot of new faces, too. “Those of you who haven’t been to our show before, this is your initiation into the family”, he said with a sly, mysterious look in his eyes. Bringing his hands to the centre of his chest, he clutched his t-shirt, urging the crowd to do the same. Enticing the crowd, he began to instruct everyone to take “all that shit” and sadness that each audience member might be feeling about their lives in that moment, “gather it all up in your body, and push it out of you”. He raised his arms above his head, and the crowd mimicked his movements, everyone holding their own ball of anger and stress. Petricca continued, saying that he wanted the crowd to push “all that shit” above their heads, as if it were a car, and to let it go. The band then launched into “I Can Lift a Car”, the final song on their debut album, instructing the crowd to lift their worries above their heads during the chorus. There were no strangers in the venue anymore: every member of the audience was now a part of the same family in this magnificent moment, without a single worry or care in the world.

Following “I Can Lift a Car” was Walk the Moon’s most recent single, “Shut up and Dance”. “This is our last moment together”, Petricca said, teasing the audience, saying that they had to make it count. Immediately, Petricca felt the crowd’s excitement, so he began to shake his ass, much to the delight of fans. Once again, the crowd surged forward, trying to catch the last few glimpses of sunlight before they would be thrown back onto the wet streets of Toronto. After “Shut up and Dance”, the quartet exited while waving at their protesting fans.

It wasn’t long until Walk the Moon were called back onto the stage for the encore, beckoned by loud chants of “W-T-M!” As they made their re-entrance, the restless crowd began to scream, “Anna Sun! Anna Sun,” begging for Walk the Moon to play their biggest single. “Sorry guys,” Petricca teased, flashing his sly smile, “but not yet.” The band launched into a magnificent cover of The Killers’ “All These Things That I’ve Done” instead, much to the surprise and delight of the crowd.

The foursome wrapped up their set by reminding everyone that they are “Walk the Moon from Ohio” and by waiting for the last possible second to give fans what they wanted: “Anna Sun”. Every audience member sang each lyric back to the band as one being, and the spell of unity was broken as soon as Walk the Moon exited the stage, immersing the city of Toronto back into darkness.

Playing the perfect combination of both oldies and new tracks, Walk the Moon is a fantastic act to witness live; they sound exactly the same both within the studio and outside of it. Also, their infectious dance-y style and positive energy are a lot more powerful when in an intimate concert setting, providing a different, deeper connection to the band that one cannot experience when just listening to a recording.

The audience may have entered and left the concert as strangers, but in that moment with Walk the Moon, everyone was family.

Personal Highlight: Nick Petricca’s motivational speech before playing “I Can Lift a Car”, but Petricca shaking his ass to “Shut Up and Dance” is a close second.

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