MS MR at the Phoenix, Toronto — Gig review

September 20, 2013
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MS MR at Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto, 17 September 2013 - photograph Brian Banks, Music Vice Magazine

Who: MS MR
Where: Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto
When: 17 September 2013
One Word: Reserved

MS MR are an electronic pop duo from New York City. The band have an arty website and Tumblr page, and profiles on all the main social media platforms. More importantly, they are touring a lot — currently, vocalist Lizzy Plapinger and producer/keyboardist Max Hershenow are playing headline shows across North America until late October, with many dates sold out. In November they carry on to play in Europe and the UK. The band are working hard, playing shows and doing all the things that artists are expected to do in 2013 with the online stuff. Add to that, some promotion of their music on Games Of Thrones and Letterman, and a few millions views on YouTube, and MS MR are managing to poke their heads out above the crowd and get heard.

I was drawn to this show after hearing “Hurricane” on Radio 1 earlier this year. It was a Chvrches remix spun by Annie Mac. Chvrches did a stellar job — they seem to be able to do no-wrong — but the original track by MS MR is even better. “Hurricane” is a sublime track. 3:46 of haunting dream pop, wonderfully produced. If you haven’t heard Hurricane yet, spin the original video on YouTube here — it’s nicer than the Vevo one.

MS MR started their set in Toronto with “Bones”, another one of their bigger tracks. Plapinger and Hershenow were given a warm reception by a Toronto crowd that was split half-way down the middle of the hall by a barrier, with the all-ages friendly section near the stage and the drinkers at the back. Perhaps that barrier was a factor in stifling the atmosphere, because this show never really got going until near the end. After the initial excitement of the band appearing on stage and playing the first couple of songs, there was a lull in the atmosphere. A singer often needs to feed from the energy of their audience, and vice versa, and both were shy at first.

I was waiting for something cool, something interesting, but nothing came… just throw me a hook already! As I waited for a big moment, I realized that MS MR must be saving their best for last.

The more MS MR got into it, the more the crowd got into it. Some onstage dancing between Plapinger and Hershenow had inspired a similar reaction in the crowd, with a few girls dancing. By the time MS MR played their penultimate song, a cover of the LCD Soundsystem track “Dance Yrself Clean”, Plapinger was now fully alive on stage, flicking her green hair as she danced and sang. Their was a huge response from the audience as MS MR announced their last song (and that there would be no token encore). “Hurricane” sounded even more rousing live, and Plapinger sung it with the full confidence and happiness of seeing just how much the near-capacity crowd inside the Phoenix were enjoying it. MS MR are a force when they are bold. With hands in the air, Toronto said goodnight to their NYC neighbours, with the promise that they will be back again soon.

MS MR are short of material at present. They just released their debut album Secondhand Rapture in May this year, which contained all four songs from their earlier EP released in September 2012. With a busy tour schedule at present, I’ll make the assumption that the band will be writing and recording some new material when they return home to NYC in the winter.

It’s hard to get attention as artist without silver-spooned mouths or wrecking-ball stunts, so credit to MS MR for their work so far. If 2014 brings new material of the same calibre as “Hurricane”, then the future bodes well for the band.

© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice

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Brian Banks

Editor and Founder, Music Vice Magazine. Writer. Photographer. Poet. From Scotland. Not Ireland. Proudly based in Toronto, Canada. Rock N' Roll Don't Pay The Rent... 

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One Response to MS MR at the Phoenix, Toronto — Gig review

  1. T. on September 20, 2013 at 2:54 am

    That video for “Hurricanes” really is pretty cool.

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