Written by: Michael Del Vecchio
Photographed by: Dakota Arsenault
Birds of Bellwoods kicked off their Canadian tour at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern to a sold-out crowd. Before the show, I sat down with Adrian Morningstar and Chris Blades, two members of the band, to talk with them about their music and what the band has been been up to lately. Listen below:
After the doors opened, people flooded in around the tables, the bar counter and the checkerboard tiles near the stage. Dim light beamed on the crowd and everyone collected for the opening act.
The crowd cheered for Rachel Romu’s relatable, upbeat, angsty, yet fun music. She covered issues with society and relationships, getting the crowd thinking about their own shared experiences with what the songs were about.
Finger-picked guitar melodies and R&B-esque drumpad rhythms plucked and pulsed through the tavern. Romu’s vocals were clear and full of emotion, guiding people through her stories and experiences. After a few songs, Romu sheathed her guitar and drew the microphone from the stand. She moved and danced on stage, bringing the tavern’s energy even higher. During her song, “Forget This,” the crowd joined Romu in shouting out the chorus refrain. Onstage and offstage, every step through the set was taken together. Romu took time to thank the tavern and the crowd, while hyping them up for Dakota Mill and Birds of Bellwoods.
“My name is Rachel Romu, and I’m fucking pumped to be here.”
After Romu’s set finished, in the time before the next act started, Stevie and Chris from Birds of Bellwoods came up to the mic. The crowd cheered, then listened. Stevie explained the situation about their friend fighting stage 3 breast cancer, the donation jar on the merch table, and what it meant to the band. When the show was over, the band posted to social media that people at the show had donated $341.70 into the jar, telling them they all rocked for it.
There was no shortage of excitement in the crowd for the next band. People in the audience wore shirts sporting the Dakota Mill logo, and there was a lot of excited shouting between friends and strangers.
When the five-piece ensemble took the stage, the crowd popped off cheers and applause and hollers. The frontman sported a wide-brimmed hat, slick lyrics and an arsenal of indie guitar riffs. The bass player seemed to have a nonstop smile, and the crowd ate up the dynamic performance.
Throughout the set, chunks of the crowd moved back and forth from the front of the stage to the bar counter for drinks, like red blood cells pumping in and out of the tavern’s heart. Dakota Mill played a solid set, and the crowd and singer had a great back-and-forth relationship that drew the audience closer to the stage.
Birds of Bellwoods
Getting to the front of the crowd meant slinking through a sea of tightly-packed, moving bodies that danced and held their arms up to the music. Back near the bar and tables, people stood up the seats for a better view. Everyone wanted a good look at the band, and for good reason.
These guys held nothing back during the set: jumping around the stage, shouting with the audience - the singer even crowd surfed. The bass solo during “Roll Your Stone” received the most applause I’ve ever seen a crowd give a bassist.
The band writes lines and lyrics so enthralling that sometimes it just can’t be helped, and you just have to join and sing along. Even through the high-caliber energy of the set, Bellwoods remains a finely-tuned machine. They were able to capture the tone and feel of their more folk/east coast-inspired ballads as well, always guiding the crowd through the emotional range of the set. At the end of the night, the members bowed to the crowd.
The Horseshoe Tavern was Birds of Bellwoods’ first show in their tour of about 30 Canadian appearances, and their only one in Toronto. If you have the means, check them out to support great music, great people and a great cause.
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