LIVE REVIEW: DFA1979 @ Sound Academy
The nature of the Ahab-like quest for a personally infamous white whale is a curious thing to study. It has evolved into a literary trope whose existence and specificity has been transformed into a cliché. Furthermore, it’s hardly complimentary to the person that ascribes this term to themselves. It’s also particularly concerning, for it’s ultimately a self-defeating term to use to describe one’s personal quest, one that’s doomed from the start, and promises to destroy the self. I pondered this as I made preparations to attend Death From Above 1979’s October 28th show in Toronto, pondering whether this was an experience I had subjected myself too in my fandom for this band.
Months before the band had announced they were to break up by the end of the year that was 2006, I had stumbled upon their astoundingly rich LP You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine, a wonderfully rich tapestry of two dudes playing music about love, sex, and personal angst. It struck me as a conscious effort to shoot from the hip with ammunition of frustration, rage, and personal inadequacy while making a point to purposely stay away from anything too meaningful. Or to put it another way, they swung their arms out just enough to get them noticed by others while simultaneously keeping their distance. I got into the band, and did so hard. Having discovered them at the college radio station I worked at it deep in my past, I was smacked to the floor by their LP’s opening track, something evocative of doom being wrought, or an entire storm’s worth of rain falling upon the earth all at once. I hadn’t quite grasped everything at that point yet, but I got the feeling that what I had heard was enough, that I would dive right into their music with much nerdistic delight. And in lieu of obtaining an Ahab-like goal of seeing the band perform live, I collected all their releases instead, thinking it would be nice to be in the same room as them, but resigning myself to the reality that their toileting friendship would put a kibosh on that ever occurring. I often thought to myself how amazing it would have been to see them live at same point, alas, I was late to the party, and had to resign to myself that it would never happen.
And yet, this concert happened. A social and musical equivalent of the cosmological big bang in which Sebastien Grainger & Jesse Keeler have revived their group, effectively willing their act out of non-existence. I wonder how Lazarus’ family felt when they saw their boy crawl out of that cave. They can’t say they expected that. Nor can I say I expected to find myself at the Sound Academy here in Toronto, watching this cacophonous duo play their tunes to audiences once again.
It was a curious experience to be at this show. The demographic of fans in attendance was fairly homogenous. No random mixture of “douches”, “concert sluts”, “that one weird old person by themselves”, “metalheads”, and other etcetera. DFA1979 is not exactly a currently active band, just reunited. I got the impression that those that were in attendance were the fans that continued being fans since the band’s original demise. The ones that had an honest and healthy affinity for what was on display that night. Nothing casual, rather, it was a focused enthusiasm shared by all; a collective quest to reconnect with an old friend lost a long time ago to a divergent path in time.
The performance itself was nothing short of impressive. A sexy collective of energy that assaulted the ears in a most aurally satisfying manner. They played all the songs you and everyone else wanted to hear. They played with a ferocity that makes it much easier to understand how they were able to help spark a riot in Austin Texas back in March of this year.
The boys themselves were in fine form to boot. Seeing the duo live went exactly like I hoped it would. It was easy to observe how Jesse Keeler has a slight, boy-band-of-olde-esque quality to what he does, as if to make people wonder if he thinks he’s playing on a show hosted by Ed Sullivan. Contrary to that is how at other times Keeler doesn’t just throw his bass around, he dances with it. He plays it with a bravado and a self-assured confidence that matched much of the machismo that the duo appear to drench much of their music in. His beard boarders on the Mennonite persuasion, and his hairstyle resides on the opposite end of the cultural spectrum that seems to at least quietly despise having to share premium cranial real-estate with his other follicular neighbors. And Sebastien Grainger, with his golden blonde mop-top tapped his drums with a sexually excited spankers delight. Regardless of what brought these two boys back together after what was implied to be a major schism, their stage performance has not suffered in their down time.
It’s almost like they’re posing as characters that are posturing themselves in such a way so as to appear as something more than they actually are deep within the recesses of their own psyche. As my Mom would say, they just might be compensating for something, but the act seems so excessive, indelicate, and complete, that this act loses cohesion, and only makes me wonder why the two would project such character in the first place. It’s a curious cycle that is engaging at the very least, and when you’re a unique band out to make a name for yourself, I suppose that’s all you can ask for.
The show held surprising breadth and variation despite the band only having one slow song. They made some hilarious small talk with the crowd, made excuses to trash-talk Billy Corgan a couple of times, and had one guy run on-stage trying to hug Grainger.
Leaving the show, I pondered how planets practically had to align to reunite this band (at least, without knowing the whole story, that’s how I imagine it to have happened). Also, many residents of Toronto will decry the Sound Academy as any sort or respectable venue. From it’s poor location, expensive parking, difficult-to-access public transit, bad sound quality, and piss-poor vantage points of the stage if you don’t want to brave a mosh pit, there is much to deplore. In the past year, this writer wrestled with the prospect of seeing the likes of The Kills or Broken Social Scene, rare opportunities in themselves that were sacrificed as soon as their venue were revealed.
After such an extended absence, DFA1979 has had to defeat expectations that they wouldn’t be able to deliver like they used to. In addition to this they have had to overcome geographically-based prejudice against the Sound Academy. To ascribe some measure of quality to such an indefinable aspect of a show experience, one has to observe the fact that everyone clearly enjoyed themselves, despite these hurdles. Everyone in attendance got exactly what they wanted, no more, no less.
And here is a video of DFA1979 performing “If We Don’t Make It, We’ll Fake it”: