The Drake Hotel’s Underground was filled with an intense looking crowd all patiently waiting to see Berlin based band, Kool Thing.
Minutes passed and it was clear that technical difficulties were delaying the band from starting their set. Canadian Music Week acts start on time and rarely run over. This is great for music lovers jumping between shows (in venues all over the city) but when it comes to a band like Kool Thing you want every last drop squeezed out of their set. Finally, without introduction, a roaring sound announced that the show was on.
Militant and rhythmic, the tattooed Dublin lead singer, Julie Chance, was a force of nature with shades of Sinead O’Connor’s androgynous beauty and volatility. Gripping the microphone with both hands, slightly hunched over and stalking the stage, Chance had an urgency to her performance that whether caused by the late start or not was compelling.
On the other hand, her Australian band mate co-lead singer/ guitarist, Jon Dark, was the outward essence of unruffled serenity. Gorgeous with a rock star name, Dark was as different from, and as captivating as, Chance. You couldn’t take your eyes off of either of them, and neither overshadowed the other.
Newest member, French drummer, Valentin Plessy, was voracious, bringing the final element of power to their climatic sound.
Staying true to a singular vision and sound that subtly morphs from one song into another, their March 2013 self-titled album has been described as “nocturnal.” It moves over various genres, wave, grunge, alternative and beyond to form something that is, for lack of a better word, absolutely cool. It’s the kind of album you listen to in its entirety as you drive along a desolate highway knowing that you can’t stop until the dawn. “Low Love,” “Stories by The Bay,” and “TV Tower” marry strident crystal harmonies with a dark expanding urgency, sweeping over the listener before abruptly ending. Their lyrics are about escaping, a refusal to stay still or get left behind.
The star power of this small band is undeniable. By their 3rd song, onlookers were riveted, and I had a feeling that this was what audience members experienced during those first small shows held by The Eurythmics or Sinead O’Connor in the ‘80’s. It’s that rare moment when it occurs to you that you are watching something or someone that is exceptionally special and timely.
Kool Thing: Part Two
Kool Thing’s thunderous sound was still in my head when I learned that they would be doing a final show at the Garrison that Sunday night with Brooklyn’s, Light Asylum (tie for TWM’s “best of CMW” and another show I was slightly deprived of after it was pushed from 1am to 12am and I arrived at 12:30am).
A 1960’s black & white film featuring a bitch slapping girl gang played on the stage wall. Smiling and relaxed, Dark watched Toronto-based singer-songwriter Emma McKenna perform before taking the stage with Chance and Plessy. Telling the crowd that they had fallen in love with Toronto, the news that Chance’s Visa to perform at their scheduled SXSW show had been rejected was greeted with righteous expletives by the hyped up crowd. “I absolutely love them!” whispered someone behind me only to be hushed by friends trying to focus on the band.
While tech difficulties at their Drake Hotel show created an enthralling edginess to Chance’s performance, it was great to see that her volcanic quality remained even when she was at ease. You know she can erupt at any moment but it is the fact that she never does that keeps you on the edge.
After a full set that went by far too quickly, a fan offered up a huge tumbler of whiskey. “Sorry, I don’t drink Whiskey,” said Chance, politely declining. Dark accepted it, downing it in one shot before exiting the stage.
“They’re fucken amazing,” said a man watching them leave.
Moments later as Light Asylum performed, Dark hung out, while Chance manned the door. Last minute walk-ins, unfamiliar with Kool Thing, never guessed that these unassuming women taking their money are future stars.
A must hear! Find them below or on iTunes.