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Concert Reviews, Music

Concert Review: Cold Specks @ The Drake Hotel

By: Daniel Gerichter (@ZenDonut) –

Cold Specks. (Photo: Alyssa Balistreri/Aesthetic Magazine Toronto)

Cold Specks. (Photo: Alyssa Balistreri/Aesthetic Magazine Toronto)

Two things happened in the packed basement of the Drake Hotel that gave us a precise snapshot of where things are at for Cold Specks’ career.

After a menacing rendition of “Hector”, she gave what felt like an impromptu, acapella version of the Backstreet Boys’ now 15 year-old “I Want it That Way” which naturally erupted into an audience singalong. That she would more or less do the song in its entirety was proof positive that she is used to intimate, engaging shows for a now rapidly growing fanbase. It’s even more amusing, considering the contrast of her ongoing banter with both the audience and her band and the sound they produced for a solid hour.

And that sound – a sweeping, dark and rousing cross section of mournful, gospel vocals and strange instrumental arrangements echoing Nick Cave at his most unhinged – has seriously begun to find its place in the world. With generous cuts from her upcoming album, Neuroplasticity, Cold Specks proved that while the club scene has helped build her up, her sound was meant for bigger stages. It was easy to picture this exact set (perhaps a bit more fleshed-out) happening at Massey Hall, not just for her enormous vocals, not just for the band’s growing arsenal of instruments, but for the experience itself. It’s obvious that now Cold Specks’ set – as playful as it is – is a closely-crafted labour of love for the entire band. New songs like “Bodies at Bay” and “Absisto” play along beautifully with favourites like “Winter Solstice” to create a slow-build that she brilliantly ended with one, final acapella – a b-side called “Blank Maps”.

And that’s when the second thing happened. A brief moment occurred that was as funny as it was shocking. Somewhere in the middle of that last tune, during a silence between lyrics, an audience member who’d been recording the whole thing on their phone must have accidentally pressed play. For about half a second, we were all witness to a tinny echo chamber, which obviously overrode and jarred her (and rightly so). Moreover, it momentarily had the same effect on the crowd, who like her. laughed it off and moved along. Frustrating as it must have been, she would not let that disruption defeat her. After all, that’s what pros do.

The Drake Underground may be charming, but its tiny size means that de facto intimacy overrides that crucial divide between band and fan. As a result, a singular moment – a beautifully built crescendo – was robbed of its impact. At that point, one realized that by necessity, Cold Specks’ days as a well-guarded secret in the independent world could be drawing to a close. And it’s about time.

Check out our photos from the show here.

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