Gig Review: Birds of Bellwoods at Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto

April 30, 2017

Who: Birds of Bellwoods
Where: The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, Canada
When: 22 April 2017
In one word: Finesse

Once I saw the Birds of Bellwoods instrumental set up, my attention was snared and my expectations soared. Multiple guitars, a trumpet, drums, and a stand up bass, and four vocal microphones sat in front of their bright blue LED “BIRDS OF BELLWOODS” lights hung over “The Horseshoe Tavern” backstage sign.

Once taking the stage, Birds of Bellwoods didn’t waste much time on an introduction. A few seconds into their first song it became clear that they didn’t need one. Right off the bat they impressed upon the audience a level of youthful energy and professionalism that usually takes a few songs to become apparent. The opening tracks were confident, finessed, and an absolute pleasure to watch and listen to. However, after the first few it was hard to look past the flawed sound balancing. A stand up bass suggests a sense of grandeur and expectations of full-bodied and assertive sound, but the quickly decaying notes left the rhythmic underbelly of the songs feeling somewhat bare and unsupported. The uneven prominence of the very loud main vocals in the mix caused all the other instrumentals to seem downplayed, and solely instrumental parts and climaxes felt underwhelming at some parts; an issue unfixed for the entirety of their set. That being said, each instrumentalist shone at times and came off as a very seasoned, tight, and confident in their parts.

With a style I can only liken to percussive parts written by Fleet Foxes, the drums carried the steady, inventive grooves and provided a refreshing bit of tribal flare in some heavier moments, which provided a nice anchor for the upbeat tunes. The four standing instrumentalists all played a hand at singing melodies, and all succeeded in creating the multi-layered vocal climaxes typical of upbeat folk inspired music.

Birds of Bellwoods definitely exhibit potential for greater things, enough to convince me that they could, at some point, ride the half pipe carved out for them by bands like Mumford and Sons, and again, even Fleet Foxes into a mainstream/radio-acknowledged part of the music industry. But first, in terms of lyrical depth and general creativity, their original material has some maturing to do. As far as performers, these guys were pretty spot on… if just maybe let down by the issues with their sound on this night at the Horseshoe. Blame the tech, maybe? Some of their sound just got lost in the wash.

Birds of Bellwoods put on a good show. They entertained, and were an enjoyable act to watch, with many members of the audience grooving along to their songs, which is great for any local band to experience. I hope to see the Birds experiment a bit more with vocal melodies, moments of instrumental impact and mostly lyrical content in their future releases and performances.

© Robyn Bond, Music Vice

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