Gig review and show photos by Music Vice editor Brian Banks
Gig/Concert: An Horse in-store show at Criminal Records, Toronto
Venue: Criminal Records, 493 Queen Street West, Toronto
Date: 20 January, 2010
Headliners: An Horse
In one word: Cosy
Tonight on a chilly evening in Toronto one of Canada’s finest musical exports of the moment, Tegan and Sara, were in town for the second night of a double-header in the city during their current tour which is taking them across Canada and then onto the US. I’d hoped to be in attendance to photograph and review that show, but our Montreal reporter Liz had been afforded that privilege just a couple of nights earlier at Place Des Arts (check the review here) meaning that I was going to have to look elsewhere for my hump day fix of live music. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far… Tegan and Sara’s current tour support An Horse were officially having the night off but that didn’t stop them turning up to play an early evening in-store gig at Criminal Records on Queen Street West.
I’ve been really keen to check out An Horse live and they did not disappoint.
For my first encounter with this Australian indie duo the setting was ideal: not least because of the intimacy of seeing them in such a confined space but also because they had once worked in a record store, meaning the band had plenty of stories to share. It turns out that the Brisbane record store where Kate Cooper and Damon Cox met was more than just a geographically polar opposite to Toronto’s Criminal Records, “This place is a lot cleaner than the record store we used to work at.” Kate was briefly hesitant at first to open up more on that topic, telling everyone that she didn’t want to repeat stories already told at other in-store appearances, but her and Damon were soon regaling tales of the decrepit shop they once worked at. They detailed encounters with the cockroaches that infested the place – they would crawl over the computer keyboard and even made it inside the water cooler – and Kate told of how she had once turned up early for work to hide within the CD display case before leaping out to surprise Damon. “I was scared,” he admitted in deadpan style and with perfect comedy timing.
The banter was natural, charming, and entertaining, and An Horse’s friendly interaction really helped them light up the room. There was a fuzzy vibe throughout the packed out store, with those in the back half of the shop nearest the band sat down huddled on the floor in-between racks of CD’s and vinyl, while all the way to the entrance people stood clambering to get a view. Due to the season, the audience had arrived decked out with winter jackets, tuques and gloves, but of course such necessities weren’t required inside, and if the room temperature wasn’t enough to warm up frozen extremities then the glowing energy emitted tonight from An Horse certainly was. And for all the warmth and positive feelings that An Horse gave out, the good vibes were boomeranged back at them by the crowd of smiling faces.
An Horse played opened with “Camp Out” and continued to play through half a dozen songs from their 2009 debut Rearrange Beds, with Damon on drums (and mouth keyboard thingy for one song) and Kate on acoustic guitar and lead vocals. In-store gigs are stripped-down affairs by default but the sound heard tonight wasn’t far off what you’ll hear from An Horse on record. The band keep it simple with a style that is the perfect archetype for bare bones indie pop, with memorable melodies, foot-tapping beats and lyrics that any indie kid can confidently pick out lines from to write on random possessions or use as their display name on MSN messenger. It’s all disarmingly modest but that’s what makes it so accessible and likeable, and in a live setting the band channel their personalities and positive energy through the music in a way that makes it feel even more appealing.
At the tail-end of their gig, Kate stood up to take photo of the crowd, announcing (and I paraphrase this), “I really have to take a photo of this, my mum keeps telling me to get a real job…” – Mrs. Cooper if you need any reassurance; you have a talented daughter, with an equally talented partner in crime, and together they have a rad band with a fun name, and their music has captured the hearts of many fans here in Canada and An Horse will likely do the same wherever else their music and good vibes take them.
An Horse will be wrapping up their Canadian tour with T&S in Halifax, NS, on 27 January before returning to North America in April for dates with Kaki King.