Toronto’s Bodega have something going for them, and they certainly seem to know it. Last Thursday’s show at the Casa Del Popolo, part of the Pop Montreal festival that took place over the weekend, clearly displayed that this four-man pop ensemble knows how to sneak their brand of poppy sweetness into your soul whether or not you think you’re interested.
Frontman and songwriter Andrew Rodriguez genuinely played the part of the rock star, belting out songs of heartbreak in a kind of self-obsessed manner reminiscent of a younger Jim Morrison, while charming fans with his skills on lead guitar and keyboards alternately. Audience members had a hard time keeping their eyes off him as he visibly poured his soul into his songs, turning Bodega into somewhat of a one-man party trick with a back-up band.
Fortunately, the real attraction when it comes to this band is the music. Backed up by boyish charm and a solid rhythm section, Rodriguez’s songs make it easy to get past his song and dance exterior. Pleasantly sneaking up on you with the same gentle grip as a reach-around, their Zombies-like melodies can and will wrap the discerning pop aficionado in a blissful haze. Their sweet and sincere songs made Casa feel less like a grubby hipster bar and more like a circa-1967 high school prom with every passing minute.
“Our songs contain elements of what was once important in songwriting,” said drummer Gavin Maguire after the show. “People like that. We’re not fancy, we just have really solid songwriting.”
Maguire, formerly of the Burt Neilson Band, a touring jam band, has been in Bodega since March. As the band has only played three shows to date with the current line-up, he can almost be considered a veteran. Whether it be due to musical differences or incompatibility of seemingly subordinate band members with King Rodriguez, the band’s line up has been in flux since the two other original members proved to be deserters a year and half ago. This came after recording two albums, Bring Yourself Up and the more recent Without A Plan.
With a brand new album, but no one to play his shows, Rodriguez recruited a new cast of players. A few turnovers later he ended up with his current configuration, including Peter Chapman, also a member of garage rockers The Midways, on guitar and keyboard, and bassist Andy Loyd, a former fan of the band “back in the day”. These boys comprise the band’s babyface section, although one is as likely to find further information about them on Bodega’s website as they are to hear Rodriguez credit them for their work during a show.
All things said, Bodega brings together a talented group of musicians to play well-written sixties pop with sugary songs, a feel-good vibe, and a frontman desperate for your attention. Their show is worth seeing at least once, but for those who have a hard time stomaching the rock-star type, my advice is to buy the CD.