TORONTO — The mood inside the Sound Academy was tense. Two bands on the Snocore Tour had already canceled their sets, the loudspeaker was playing songs on repeat, and instead of the first band starting at its scheduled time, a confused-looking roadie walked across the stage and babbled away on his cell phone.
But after a grueling hour and a half wait, the anticlimactic mood finally gave way when the lights dimmed and the four members of replacement opening band Doll walked on stage to the sounds of radio static and a woman’s voice announcing that the venue would not be held responsible for any hearing damage caused by the upcoming performance.
“This means they’re going to play really loudly to cover up their bad musicianship,” one concertgoer quipped. But the joke was on the audience as the prediction turned out completely accurate. From the obnoxious vocals to the frequently off-time drumming, Doll’s messy and abrasive punk was not easy on the ears. When the band finished its set of six largely similar-sounding songs, the audience was cheering for its exit, not its performance.
Though expectations for the night had been set low, things began to turn around when Elias took the stage. Its brand of mellow yet energetic piano rock reminiscent of bands like Keane was more palatable for the crowd, whose mood had noticeably shifted in the few minutes since the band’s entrance. By the time Elias closed its set with its most recent single, “All We Want”, it was clear the night was back on the right track.
Interest grew for the next band as soon as it started to set up its equipment. By the time Theset entered to the sounds of tribal music, the audience was anxious to hear what was in store. The band did not disappoint, delivering a high-energy set filled with songs from its most recent album Never Odd or Even, in addition to a few new songs.
“If you’ve got two hands, I want to see them in the air!” exclaimed guitarist Harrison Bourdon before the band launched into its latest single “Echohead.” Nearly everyone in the audience followed his directive, dutifully clapping along. And once the last notes of the new “Save Us All” faded out, the crowd was so pleased that it was as if it had forgotten the evening’s messy start.
Its enthusiasm quickly translated into chants of “Protest!” Soon the lights dimmed, and headliner Protest the Hero made its entrance. At that point, it became clear that the crowd had simply been saving all of its energy for the band’s set, which was quite exciting — after vocalist Rody Walker casually tossed a Frisbee, it tore into opening song “Limb From Limb.”
Within seconds, the room had become a verifiable moshpit. Every fist was in the air pumping in time to Walker as he transitioned seamlessly from clean singing to gut-wrenching screams. Despite the Protest the Hero’s high volume, the crowd seemed at times to overpower Walker, singing his own words back to him twice as hard as he was bolting them out. After flawless renditions of songs from full-length albums Kezia and Fortress, the band closed the night with the seldom-performed “Heretics and Killers” and walking off the stage to uproarious applause.
Given the way Protest the Hero and company heated things up, a word of advice is in order for the Snocore organizers: contemplate a name change for next year’s tour.