Today is the Day + Kayo Dot @ Hard Luck Bar, Toronto, 26 July 2017

A sizeable number of people think nothing is ever truly original, but that doesn’t mean musicians shouldn’t strive to develop something rare. Tonight’s one-two punch of Today is the Day and Kayo Dot is a welcomed concert of groups whose primary musical motivation is, refreshingly, to attain this goal.

JUL 29: Today is the Day, Kayo Dot, Harangue & Holy Grinder at Hard Luck, Toronto

In the guitar-oriented music world, Kayo Dot are akin to the humble platypus – a unique species whose anatomy contradicts reality and the known yet effortlessly continues to go about its business. These American experimentalists, led by accomplished multi-musician Toby Driver, have always been genre commitophobes. In 2003, Kayo Dot blossomed from the corpse of Maudlin of the Well, an intensely lauded avant-garde metal collective who still evoke ample chatter from devotees today. The Hard Luck may not be busy tonight but this kind of music scarcely seduces the masses.

A whittled down line up of three wordlessly open their set with ‘Magnetism’ from last year’s ‘Plastic House on Base of Sky‘. This album yet again saw these experimentalists lumber towards a sound they had not previously trapped on record, an untrodden path between ’80s goth and contemporary progressive rock. Off beat drumming rendezvous with electronic accents and smooth walls of guitar meanderings collide into each other while Driver’s velveteen voice caresses the pale composition. The track accelerates its noise as it progresses, successfully demanding more of the punters’ attention. The bar venue provides clear sound but as one could predict, the atmospheric quality of this song is toned down.

The night submits a varied but brief retrospective of Kayo Dot’s career. ‘The Assassination of Adam’ from ‘Coffins on Io‘ initiates with a hard rock meets prog concept before disintegrating into hypnotic chaos. ‘The Mortality of Doves’ from the same album winks in the direction the band would adopt with their youngest full length with divine and seductive reveries. The audience’s interest increases as the set unfurls, polite ovations proffered at each set piece’s conclusion. The musicianship is flawless; Driver underscores his talent by wielding his guitar, bass, keyboard, laptops and various pedals impressively. Closing song ‘Passing the River’ douses the audience with prog sensibilities before morphing into extreme metal blastbeats backing ethereal keyboard moments, resulting in horrifying avant-garde distractions. The set ends in what feels like the blink of an eye and this brilliant performance is nothing short of superb.

Twenty years has passed since genre-benders Today is the Day released their fourth and most popular album Temple of the Morning Star and this tour seeks to celebrate its anniversary. Despite this record’s age, it still retains its freshness and oddity thanks to its unapologetic experimentalism enunciating a bounty of disturbed emotions. The set commences with an acoustic version of the tortured title track, weaving through unorthodox machinations. This is chased down by the progressive alternative rock-esque ‘The Man Who Loves to Hurt Himself’, as unhinged as its name suggests.

Spearheaded by frontman Steve Austin, this talented troupe storm through a neurotic concoction of the likes of noise rock, sludge metal, hardcore, grindcore, alternative rock and progressive metal with a hearty helping of disorienting samples. The result is dizzying, depressing, manic and deliciously bipolar. Robust musicianship supports such robust creativity and vocals encompass hardcore shouts, off key clean singing and demented shrieks. ‘Temple of the Morning Star‘ songs are mainlined to the Hard Luck, including the likes of ‘High as the Sky’, ‘Crutch’ and ‘Pinnacle’. A particular highlight of the evening is an intoxicated cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath’ – a hidden track on this celebrated album – a certified way to up the spectators’ engagement. Songs from other releases are fired up too, including ‘The Color of Psychic Power’, ‘Going to Hell’ and ‘In the Eyes of God’. The closing track ‘Animal Mother’ strikes the right chord with the fans in attendance and wraps up tonight’s presentation of the more unorthodox corners of the music world. If only concerts like this were more commonplace.