Month of Concerts: Born Ruffians, The 1975, CL

Going to a concert once or twice a year wasn’t cutting it for me anymore. I love live music, so why don’t I see more of it? Admittedly, concerts can be a pain in the ass—the lines, the waiting, the tall people—but I’ve never gone to one for a band I liked and regretted the experience. So mid-October to mid-November, I went on a concert binge to get out of my music rut.

Born Ruffians 

Danforth Music Hall, October 20born-ruffians-toronto-concert-2016

I’m a big fan of Toronto band Born Ruffian’s 2008 debut album Red, Yellow & Blue. Songs like “Hummingbird” and “I Need a Life” display a youthful exuberance and playful energy I rarely find in other bands. I saw them live a couple of times back in the day and they were always awesome.

I haven’t been caught up on their last two albums when I got the ticket to their show. The concert got me into their new stuff. They’ve matured, but the humour is still there. (See video below…okay, so maybe not the best example of their maturity.)

The friend I dragged to the show turned to me after and said, “They’re really good live.” Well, that’s always a given, but I was feeling a little disappointed that they didn’t play “Hummingbird.” The first concert I went to, they only had one album out and performed every song. Now they have a vast catalog to choose from and I didn’t know most of the songs. How time flies.

The 1975

Air Canada Centre, November 3the-1975-toronto-concert-2016

I went to The 1975 concert as a casual fan. When I got to my seat at the Air Canada Centre, I realized the music industry is a crapshoot—it’s anyone’s guess who’s going to be big and who’s not. Not that this band doesn’t deserve it, but there are countless bands who will never sell out a place like the ACC. The Born Ruffians concert was sold out, but the venue held 1500 people at capacity, and the band members can casually stroll into the crowd before the show to say hi to friends.

Not The 1975 guys. They’d probably get trampled on by hysterical fans. The ACC holds 19,800 at capacity, and it was nearly a sold-out concert.

I liked the band enough on the strength of their two big singles, “Chocolate” and “Girls,”  from their first album. I heard they’re pretty big in the UK, where they are from, but somehow I didn’t think their popularity would translate here. I never hear their songs on the radio, or see them on TV—and they rarely trend on social media (unless it’s something about the lead singer dating Taylor Swift).

The 1975 is the biggest band you’ve never heard of. I sort of got their popularity when I thought they were somewhere between One Direction and a serious rock band, but after seeing their show, I realized how wrong I was. While the band refer to themselves as pop stars, they are not a fluffy pop act. Matt Healy is a proper rock star coping with drug problems, depression, and incessant heartbreak.

Sonically, they are rather complicated, infusing a variety of influences, notably 80s pop. (Loving the synths on “Somebody Else.” It’s so wonderfully depressing.) No wonder they confound music critics, who are at a loss how to categorize them.

The main thing that surprised me was how many fans got them. Who were these people? Usually the kids at concerts range from a little hipster to full-on hipster. The 1975 fans were refreshingly normal, nerdy even. Sure they wore a lot of black, like the band, but they knew all the lyrics to the 80s songs playing between the sets (I totally missed the opening act, btw). Born between the late 90s to early 2000s, they probably just discovered John Hughes movies. They might also write poetry in their spare time, actually like drama class, and see themselves as outsiders. In short, the fans remind me of high school.

We don’t really have proper emo representation for this generation, and The 1975 unashamedly stepped up to the plate. I understand now, and I really dig it.

CL

Rebel, November 14
cl-toronto-concert-rebel-2016

Last I heard about CL, the band leader from popular K-pop girl group 2NE1, she had an English rap album in the works. When I went to the concert, I thought it was to promote this album, which I never bothered to look into. Turns out she had only put out another English single from the last time I checked in with her (see below).
Hello Bitches” is her first big English single. I think she could really be this generation’s Missy Elliott. Not a lot of female rappers have CL’s (And Missy’s) confidence, humour, and boldness. I’m a little concerned that her English lyrics can get cringeworthy (see “The Baddest Female“), but I can look past it.

I went to Rebel (formerly Sound Academy), right on time. The crowd was being entertained by flashy 2NE1 and CL music videos on the big screen. Man are K-pop videos fun. CL didn’t even need to show up. The crowd was going wild whenever a new video came on.

The fans were mostly Asian (hi), but many non-Asians as well (white folks, black peeps, brown towners, to spell it out). Ah, how music unites people. I did notice a non-Asian fan mouthing along to Korean lyrics. I wondered if she learned Korean from K-pop and understood what she was singing. Because I have no idea. I just sing along when the English parts come on like an idiot.

Without a big repertoire of songs to choose from, CL came out and sang a lot of 2NE1 songs. I realized how much she carries the group. The concert was before the announcement that 2NE1 got disbanded. (WTF YG, what am I supposed to listen to now? BlackPink??) Sad news, but CL can really kill it. I’m looking forward to the rest of her solo stuff.

Been to any good concerts lately? Let me know in the comments below!

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