According to beloved Canadian indie rocker Spencer Krug (formerly of Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown), Wednesday night’s show at the Independent was all about moving forward. Krug’s struggle is relatable — compared to the complex, intricate, and spastic styles of his older work, Moonface inhabits a far more subdued and rhythmic musical space. With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery is the album his critics always wanted Krug to make, stripped down, restrained, minimalist. But were the doubters right in the first place?
As on the album, backing band duties were admirably handled by Finnish three-piece prog-rock group Siinai, along with additional keyboards and bass guitar from Krug’s former Wolf Parade band mate Dante DeCaro. Watching Moonface live is a heady experience, the long song patterns and heavy toms, Krug’s slow pacing left and right on the stage, the dark stage lighting all inviting a sort of zone-out trance. Besides the bass-driven “I’m Not the Phoenix Yet” and “Fast Peter” the band never accelerated much past third gear. But that’s not surprising given the album material’s focus on restraint.
Knowing audience expectations — i.e. Krug’s penchant for yelping, fast-paced songs with Sunset Rubdown and Wolf Parade — the band and the music played into it all, emphasizing the tension between the highly controlled instrumentals and Krug’s measured but desperate cries. You could tell the audience wanted to see Krug break free for just a second, to flash that invigorating wildness that carried his older bands. But he restrained until the very last song, a cover of the ’60s hit, “Unchained Melody,” which is perhaps the most apt cover Krug’s ever played. Enchanted by the song title, Krug let loose, belting out the notes with a smirk, a man set free from his own expectations. He seemed happy in that unrestricted place, but for a musician as unpredictable as Spencer Krug, it is a certain kind of pointless to attempt to predict his future sound.
Opening band Foxygen played like the kids they are: wild, sloppy, and excitable. Clearly, they’ve listened to more than their fair share of classics like the Rolling Stones, Bowie, and The Clash. Despite their dinosaur influences, it’s a testament to Foxygen’s youth that they were able to sound so remarkably fresh, bouncing around the stage with tambourines in hand. They also had the funniest lyric of the night, delivered with twee glee: “You don’t need to be an asshole, you’re not in Brooklyn anymore.” Cheers to that.
Video by YouTube user Scott McMullan