NIGHTBOX @ HORSESHOE TAVERN, TORONTO – SEPTEMBER 28, 2012
Posted by Caelin Meredith
It’s always great to be there when the next big sonic wave hits. Which is what happened when rising local stars Nightbox played Toronto’s legendary classic rock bar the Horseshoe Tavern, flipping a joint known more for punk garage than UK garage. Those who were there witnessed something fresh and new in live electronic music: the emergence of a genre-bending band destined to pave new roads on the Canadian music scene.
They’d killed it at their Canadian Music Week at back in March, turning Wrongbar into a sweatbox and leaving me craving more. So it was with bated breath that I waited all summer long for a chance to catch another gig.
Opening for them on this night was Brockville, Ontario’s Bravestation, another hybrid rock/electronica band, with a sound hat one partygoer likened to “a rainforest.”
Then Nightbox boldly took to the stage, opening with the ever-appropriate “Burning.”
From the first few notes, it’s evident that this is a band difficult to pigeonhole. Their sound is atmospheric, otherworldly, even angelic at times — but with all the passion of a rock band and a guttural, driving, dance beat. To watch drummer Nick Bitove keeping time at 150/160 bpm — practically drum-and-bass tempo — was transcendental.
Experiencing their live show, with its complex audio inflections, can border on sensory overload. Their sound seems emanate from three times the number of people who are actually on stage. Yet what could easily have end up sounding clinical or mechanical comes across instead as supremely humane and organic.
The crowd, like me, devoured every minute of every song, letting the music wash over them and move their bodies. Most were college age — no surprise there: it’s an audience that always seems to know what the next big thing is going to be. (Where would Zeds Dead or Deadmau5 be if not for their early campus tours?)
Nightbox rewarded the crowd’s enthusiasm, playing with such unbridled passion on tunes like “Relocate You” and the darker “Fumes” it was like they were living their last night on earth — feeling every note, every beat. At times, the guitar and bass supported one another harmoniously, complimenting the synth and evoking such familiar touchstones as Dark Side of the Moon or the immediately recognizable sounds of The Clash or The Jam. At other moments, one could easily picture the band playing at sunrise on the deck of Space in Ibiza.
“Are you guys ready to get slutty? Cuz I wanna get slutty with you,” joked lead singer Jacob Bitove. This threw the crowd into an even deeper frenzy, as excitable as teenagers experiencing their first makeout session.
The night reached its crescendo when the band dropped “Pyramid,” an African-inflected jump-up song with elements of new wave, punk and ska. The warm sound that expanded to fill the room was a rebuke to all that’s missing in mainstream music today. I could liken their joyously hyped-up sound to Vampire Weekend’s, or note that Jacob’s voice is every bit as distinctive as that of UB40′s Ali Campbell — but comparisons only do this band a disservice.
Nightbox aren’t currently touring; they’re hoping instead to focus on compiling their full-length debut album, which should drop in spring 2013. In the interim, they’ll be releasing some new music for their fans. For now, I’d recommend checking out their Facebook page to find out where you can see them next. Mark my words: someday you‘ll want to be able to say: “I saw them when.”
Nightbox lineup: Jacob Bitove – Lead Vox | Nick Bitove – Drums | James Tebbitt – Lead Guitar | Andrew Keyes – Bass | James Shelly – Synths
Horseshow Tavern set list: Burning | Utopia | House | Pink Clouds | Body of a Man | Invisible Hands | Brush Me Up | Sister | Waves | Pyramid | Fumes | Relocate You