The stage is a kaleidoscopic, phantasmagoric swirl of lights. Reds and yellows and blues flash against a backlit, M.C. Escher-esque screen at the rear of the stage. The patterns and colors shift and merge. A funky and, let's be honest, sexy synth line snakes around the packed 800 room house. The colors and the sound are syncopating in rhythm. Are you imagining this connection. You turn and look to the girl to your right. Her eyes are closed. She's singing along at the top of her lungs and swaying to the beat. And although you're normally too self-conscious to dance in public, you see this friend losing herself to a tune that's equal parts funk, R&B, and acid rock and you say, "F*** it." It's time to dance too.
Have you ever seen Toro y Moi
live? If you have, then anything that I'm about to say is going to be pretty familiar but if not, stop reading this piece for 5 seconds, find the closest Toro y Moi stop on Chaz & co.'s current tour, and go see them ASAP. Those are the Baeble Doctor's orders. Did I just create a new title for myself? Yeah, but Toro y Moi put on one of those where I want to summon every ounce of editorial authority I have and implore you all to catch one of their shows...cause if a two hour psychedelic rock & roll dance party doesn't sound like the best evening you can have that doesn't involve sex -- although I saw plenty of people engaging in some really heavy necking and petting in the Music Hall of Williamsburg rafters -- well, maybe you need to look at your priorities in life.
I'll get something out of the way immediately. I wasn't all that familiar with the work of Toro y Moi before I stepped foot in the venue that evening. Tyler, the Creator's obsession with Chaz years back had me convinced for a long time that the project was involved with Odd Future. And that's maybe not the best thing to admit since we have a killer concert with Chaz from SXSW 2013 but, you know, music blind spots and what not. But my boss had told me that was his favorite concert from that SXSW -- in a year where we shot one incredible band after another -- and I'd fallen in love with the cover of Elton John's "Rocket Man" that Toro y Moi had done with Astronauts, Etc.
earlier in the year. And I decided to jump into the deep end of the pool and catch the show. And Toro y Moi more than lived up to the hype of his live performances.
For nearly two hours, I danced. I don't dance. That's about the highest compliment I can give to Chaz. He made my body move. It's the way he combines rock music and dance music and R&B and funk into a cohesive whole. A lot of artists genre bend. Chaz genre-bends and creates something entirely new in the process. There's acid rock and four-on-the-floor dance beats and his crooning falsetto and slinky bass but in the hands of the Toro y Moi live band (and on the records), it doesn't sound like an olio of contradictory genres. It sounds like -- for lack of a less tautological definition -- Toro y Moi.
It doesn't matter if you don't know the names of any of Toro y Moi's songs. I didn't before that night -- although I've delved into his deep discography in the week since. If you want music that plays with space and melody and rhythm without sacrificing being infectiously fun, Toro y Moi is the artist for you. He's developed a bit of a niche reputation in recent years as being the artist for enthusiasts of...certain not quite legal substances, but you don't have to be stoned to want to dance around for hours as Chaz and his band lay down an an endless but ever-shifting groove.
And as the colors melted and swirled and the screen pulsed in accord with warm synths and the chest-pounding slap of the bass, I swung my hips. My shoulders rolled. My head bobbed. And Toro y Moi made the stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg their home.