Love is in the air at cozy end-of-summer outing
Who: Alvvays and Alex G with Tanukichan
Where: Budweiser Stage, Toronto
When: Mon., Aug. 28
Vibe: A dreamy farewell to summer
Highlight: Love in the air as the crowd sings every word of Archie, Marry Me
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)
THE END OF SUMMER in Toronto has a dreamlike quality to it as oppressive heat gives way to cosily cooler nights, and the neon glow of the CNE lights up the horizon along the city’s western waterfront. It’s the perfect setting for the ethereal soundscapes of Alex G and the warm, dreamy harmonies of Alvvays, the latter making a quick homecoming stop in Toronto as co-headliners before their joint tour returns stateside.
As the crowd files in, San Francisco’s Tanukichan (Hannah van Loon) opens the show with her soft vocals and fuzzy shoegaze guitar over a pulsing drumbeat that keeps the energy up. Formerly of the band Trails and Ways, van Loon started a collaboration with Chaz Bear of Toro y Moi after meeting in 2016, early in her solo career. Her debut album, Sundays, was produced by Bear in 2018. Playing a few songs from her sophomore album, GIZMO, which came out last March and was also produced by Bear, Tanukichan is quickly a crowd favourite, earning a loud ovation from the early mosh pit her driving grunge beats inspired as she exits the stage.
Multi-instrumentalist Alex G (Alex Giannascoli) takes the stage next and opens with S.D.O.S. from his most recent album, 2022’s God Save the Animals. Having started his career in 2009 with self-releases on Bandcamp recorded from his bedroom, his latest is already his ninth studio album, receiving widespread critical acclaim. The steady beat has heads nodding while a sawing, wandering synth and echoing vocals have a spooky feel. True to the end-of-summer setting, Halloween isn’t far away, and Giannascoli has a Grim Fandango-like skeleton face on the back of his white sweatshirt.
Typical of his eccentric style, he immediately switches it up, moving from keyboard to acoustic guitar for the steady pop rhythms of Runner and Hope, before getting the crowd jumping with No Bitterness. The tone abruptly shifts back again when he returns to the keyboard, going from just-a-bit spooky to straight-up haunted with Brick and Horse, from his breakout 2017 album Rocket, before rounding into the ghostly, whispering vocals and thumping beat of Blessing.
As the sun sets, the crowd sings along to Sarah, then goes ecstatic for Mary, before Giannascoli builds up to his final two songs with the warm, introspective vibes of Gretel. He finishes the night introducing his bandmates, with a quick shoutout to “Stage Left Steve” before ending his set with Forgive, featuring an epic solo from guitar player Sam Acchione.
Alvvays’s last trip to Toronto was a sold-out show at History, a triumphant return home on their North American winter tour after releasing their most recent album, Blue Rev, two months prior. Now, though, fans have had more time with the album, and after opening the show with the buzzy, pop energy of Pharmacist and After the Earthquake, frontwoman Molly Rankin exclaims, “Toronto, this is crazy!” as the band launches into their newest offerings. Many Mirrors keeps the energy high before Rankin invites the crowd to “go to the depths” with her as she crouches down to the pedal boards for Very Online Guy. With Rankin back on guitar, the band gets the crowd jumping again with Adult Diversion, and the mosh pit really gets going for Hey.
The crowd joyously sings along to every word of fan favourite Archie, Marry Me. Rankin wishes keyboardist Kerri MacLellan’s sister a happy birthday, saying, “It’s a big day for us,” before MacLellan takes the spotlight for a synth solo that leads into the irresistible earworm Dreams Tonite, with people in the crowd gently waving their arms in sync with the rhythm and a reverie of good vibes.
Coming back for an encore, Rankin shares her disbelief with performing for such a large crowd, saying the band would be happy to “play at the Silver Dollar for the rest of our days,” before adding mournfully “R.I.P. Silver Dollar.”
Her lament about what the city has lost is apropos, as the Cinesphere of currently-under-threat Ontario Place looms over the crowd as it files out into one of 2023’s few remaining summer nights.