Toro y Moi in a nutshell: A voice like velvet with beats that make you dance hard. Look up any live video of a Toro y Moi performance, and it’s a crowd of people dancing with hands in the air. That’s what this show at House of Vans was like, but in the huge event space with something like a 500 capacity, that’s a lot of hands in a very sweaty space. There’s something to be said for when it feels 15 degrees cooler outside in the middle of summer. Who cares when you’re grooving, though?
Toro y Moi is no longer the solo bedroom project of Chaz Bundick. These days he rolls with a full band to really span the spectrum of sounds that were once just emitted through synth and samplers. Like on his disco-esque jam “New Beat,” he takes cues from his chillwave beginnings, meshes that with 90s deep house and two-step, and then funks it all up. Bundick’s vocals supply this super smooth R&B feel that just reaches out and caresses your face, which a lot of couples were doing all through the set. By the time Budnick and band reached their closer “Say That,” off the newest album Anything in Return, there was less embracing (seriously, it was way too hot for prolonged close contact) and just dancing. Toro y Moi made us feel loved and moved out feet.
The beginning highlight of the night was west coast MC and producer Jonwayne, who is part of the Stones Throw crew. He came onstage subtly, with a minimalist setup consisting of a small table, chair, and mic stand. He made himself a quick intro, queued his beat, and proceeded to throw it down. Jonwayne does what many rappers seem to forget – that hip hop is poetry. He didn’t just rhyme, he packed meaningful punches into a fast moving flow, spoken word style to a beat. He would have completely brought soliloquy back if his performance hadn’t been so aware of and aggressive toward the audience. During his track “Royalty,” he spit the hook hard: “It ain’t the crown that makes the royalty / it’s the crowd and the loyalty,” and was determined to have the crowd chant along. When the crowd before him didn’t catch on right away, he called everyone out on our “too cool” New York demeanor, and demanded that everyone say it, or he would just keep repeating that line until we did. It’s likely that the all ages crowd was simply stunned to hear this genuine rap style and was more in awe than too cool, as Jonwayne’s strong presence and clear talent alone commanded respect, but once he straight up said so, he was quickly appeased.
Photo by William Ruben Helms