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Born Ruffians at Danforth Music Hall

By: Michael Del Vecchio

Born Ruffians celebrate Shondi Festoon at Danforth Music Hall with POESY and Luna Li.

The crowd converged into Danforth Music Hall for the next show of the Born Ruffian’s North American tour. The balcony seats were just eight dollars and eighty cents (before the Ticketmaster fees no one had a say in). Born Ruffians would later announce this was a deliberate move to celebrate the 888 A.D. event that inspired everyone’s favourite holiday, Shondi Festoon. The concert was a celebration of the long-loved holiday, with each band making time in their set to wish everyone a great Shondi.

First up, POESY. A powerful voice balancing volume and clarity and melody. The band played a combination of rock tunes and ballads. Everybody in the hall moved – linked to the rhythms and each other. Near the end of the set, POESY said to the crowd – think of a mistake you made, and during the next song – forgive yourself. At some points during the set, the drums overpowered the other instruments in the mix. Feedback crackled from the speakers during one song. Live shows aren’t perfect, and that’s kind of the whole point. The band’s stage presence and microphone skill got the crowd involved in the show physically and emotionally. POESY made blood pump, hands wave and feet stomp.

The next band’s quiet verses, loud choruses and smooth vocals made the crowd sway. Luna Li brought a guitar, a violin, no shoes, a lot of skill. The short set was packed with a lot of emotion: reverb-washed guitars; soft-but-deliberate vocals; ambiguous and emotional lyrics; and dynamic volume in each song. The music set an atmosphere while the band and audience built off each other’s energy. Feedback screeched near the middle of her set and cut through a song, but the crowd cheered, and the band played on. At one point, the band turned inward and for a few moments, every person in the hall was giving their attention and energy to the singer.

For Born Ruffians, the microphone stands were tied with flowers and the stage was fitted with Shondi decorations. The singer would tear some of these flowers off and throw them into the crowd during the songs. Born Ruffians combines indie rock with some flavours of Canadian folk. There was moving and dancing to the shuffled rhythms and upbeat tempos. The crowd participated in every call-and-response vocal in the songs. The theatre’s curtains were fixed with lights that shined in different configurations during the setlist. Confetti dropped from the ceiling and drifted down into the crowd.

The singer/guitarist and bassist stood in the middle of the stage, with the drummer and the keyboard player on either side of the stage facing towards to centre. The singer/guitarist, bassist and drummer all took turns speaking directly to the crowd throughout their set. The bassist said that he recognized almost every face in the front row from all the previous shows on that tour. The drummer announced that tonight’s celebration of Shondi would be Andy’s last show with the band. They didn’t say why the long-time keyboard player was leaving, but they slid back into the groove of the night by playing a new song for the crowd - a bluesy, upbeat rock song.

At the end of their set, Born Ruffians declared that they would play right to the end of their time. They invited the opening musicians back and their friends, the band Little Junior, until over a dozen people collected on the stage. Together, they played “I Wanna Be Sedated” by The Ramones and then jammed out until the show was over.

Born Ruffians used their stage time and 10-year history to celebrate talented, young artists and celebrate a tradition by giving Toronto a great show. Every musician did a fantastic job of sharing their energy with the crowd through the music.


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