Review: Yonatan Gat at Smiling Buddha, Toronto

July 18, 2016

Yonatan Gat at the Smiling Buddha, Toronto - photo Brian Banks, Music Vice

Who: Yonatan Gat
Where: Smiling Buddha, Toronto
When: 13 July 2016
In one word: Righteous

Saying that Yonatan Gat is an experimental guitarist is like saying a Formula 1 grand prix car is quite fast. I didn’t know what to expect, but let’s clarify first that this definitely wasn’t Malmsteem. New York’s Yonatan Gat is unique enough to be truly without comparison.

I had re-entered the Smiling Buddha for an air break, after arriving in time to see the last support band The Holy Gasp thrash some bongos with manic glee, in this percussion fronted five-piece band. I’d stepped out from the Holy Gasp’s set before the end because it all felt a bit too stifling inside a packed out Smiling Buddha on a muggy Toronto summer night and there’s only so much bongos I can take.

Upon returning to the venue, I walked in to a completely different atmosphere – Yonatan Gat, along with his guitarist and drummer, were in the centre of the venue’s floor, with the audience surrounding them from all sides, with people standing on the stage, against the walls, and by the bar, all immersed in what was unfolding before their eyes.

The most joyous jamming was taking place. A carnival of noise. The music, the vast majority of which is purely instrumental, conjures up the most frantic conversation of sound that goes in so many directions, and so many places. There are psychedelic influences and flavours for sure, but the music traverses so many genres and places, that is hard to pin down and should not need to be. Speaking of influences, I’d guess that Gat and his band may have likely been influenced by some kind of chemical stimulants, but regardless of that, the musical chemistry of this band and it’s leader is unreal. A veritable speedball of sound.

So many times, Gat would change pace, improvise, and take the music into a different direction. There are songs for sure, tracks from his latest release Director and others, but there is also so much extra improvisation and freedom to their live show that is genuinely enthralling and creates something so different from the average regimented set-list that you will see at every other show. Sometimes Gat is even playing directly against his two bandmates, playing something completely different for a few moments, switching gear and going against the grain, but then they catch his groove and follow the new direction with seamless aplomb – and to cheers and even gasps from the appreciative crowd.

I’ve never seen so much pure expression from an electric guitar, and I’ve seen Slash and many of the other greats.

It is exciting to me, that even after 15 years of thousands of concerts, I can walk into a gig and see something completely new and different. I turned down Duran Duran tonight to go to this instead, and I have not one regret.

Yonatan Gat is the Steve Buscemi of music. What I’m saying is, he’s a chameleon. A phenom. A demon.

So cool.



© Brian Banks, 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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