The audience at Le National last Thursday during the beginning of The Russian Futurists set was clearly a thin and disinterested crowd. They played many songs from their latest album, The Weight’s on the Wheels, which came out this summer as their first release in five years. However, something just wasn’t right about the performance. For one thing, whoever was in charge of lights seemed to be doing their job with vindictive pleasure, because they shone sporadically at full and blinding intensity in the direction of the audience’s faces.
The Russian Futurists’ distinct pop/indie/electronica sound did not work with their overtly chilled-out stage presence. In a very non-traditional way, the drum kit was set up at the front of the stage, where one would expect a commanding presence. Unfortunately, drummer Scott Farmer seemed awkward and unable to fulfil the visual pressure placed on him by his stage position. To be fair, Sofia Silva on the bass and vocals was working hard to up the onstage energy. Nevertheless, the crowd seemed hard to please and I braced myself for what might be a long night.
Surprisingly, the room quickly filled to the brim with excitement teeming from a once very unenthusiastic crowd. It was clear that they were there for one thing: Caribou. And they were not disappointed. The band humbly slipped onto stage behind mountains of various instruments without a word and erupted with sound.
The man behind Caribou, Dan Snaith, writes and records his songs solo, but uses his band for touring. If I didn’t know that, I would have never guessed it from the partnership the band has formed with one another. In total there were eight people playing an array of instruments. There was the normal bass/guitar/drum combination, but also trumpet, saxophone, what appeared to be a brass oboe, and my personal favourite, the flute. Snaith occupied the front, alternating between keyboard, guitar, vocals, and drums.
Caribou’s most recent album Swim was released in April and has sent the band on a world tour to various countries including China, Russia, Italy, and Mexico in only a few months. They have no intention of stopping, as this fall Caribou will be touring all over North America and returning to Europe. Swim is garnering a lot of attention, and was short-listed for this year’s Polaris Music Prize, after Caribou picked up the 2008 Prize for Andorra.
As the band began pumping out their extraordinarily encompassing music I was so overwhelmed that I suddenly felt that I had to capture the moment. The words I scrawled to myself to remember my sensory overload were “thick crowd,” “dance,” “weed,” and “powerful drumming.” It suddenly became very apparent that the drum kit at the front was not The Russian Futurists’ idea, but was intended for Brad Weber, Caribou’s percussionist. Indeed, Weber’s intense and skilled drumming deserved all the spotlight that the front of the stage awarded him. Notable songs of the performance included, “Melody Day,” “Leave House,” “She’s The One,” and “Jamelia.”
Caribou finished their set with a lengthy climax that left the audience begging for more. Apparently one encore was not enough, and the crowd screamed, stomped and pleaded until Caribou’s surprised faces appeared back on stage, with Snaith informing the audience that they were crazy. They finished the night with “Sun,” as Snaith and Weber partnered in what was a most captivating drum solo.