. : : June 15th, 2012 : : .
If my Facebook page is any indication, Teenage Kicks are THE current buzz band in Toronto. I had been meaning to catch one of their shows for some time, but being unfamiliar with their work made it difficult to muster up that last little bit of energy between intent and execution.
Fortunately, my love of Paper Lions, favourable experience with Dwayne Gretzky, and Teenage Kicks’ spot on the bill between the two, meant that I had no excuse not to catch them this go around.
Not that unfamiliarity was ever a particularly valid excuse: the band has released two EP albums (available streaming on Bandcamp), and run a free, on-going digital singles club from their website.
Regardless, it was immediately apparent what the hype was all about, and equally so that it was entirely justified. The rhythm section had barely started the first bars of opening number, Setting Son, when front man Peter Van Helvoort exploded onto the stage with an emphatic leap that lead the already riled up crowd into an absolute frenzy.
If I were to describe Teenage Kicks to someone that have never heard them, the obvious immediate comparison is to the Foo Fighters. The band rocks, hard, but with a great sense of pop sensibility, and stripped of all the pretentious of the current alternative rock scene. Teenage Kicks are the epitome of rock and roll — right down to the rebellion against “the system”. After all, have you ever heard a band apologize mid-set for the expensive cost of tickets? Especially when it was a mere $15 for such a tremendous line up of acts?! But, in true rock and roll fashion, the band is clearly about the music, and not the benjamins.
There are other influences at work here; I even hear a bit of their local Toronto area peers in their sound, including The Mark Inside and Clothes Make The Man. But Teenage Kicks have taken the best parts of their influences and perfected their own sound, making them that much more than the sum of their fore-bearers parts.
But, as wonderful as the songs are (and they are fucking great), it’s the delivery that makes the performance so special. The studio takes of these songs are killer, but it’s only in the live arena that you get to experience the energy and urgency that levitates and propels them.
Like the Paper Lions set before them, the Teenage Kicks crowd absorbed the onslaught of energy from the stage, and fed it right back. Fists were pumping, booties were shaking, and lyrics were being shouted out alongside. It was spectacular to be amidst this crazy symbiotic feedback loop, especially with the cooled distance of an outsider. It wasn’t long before I found myself caught up in it all, though. Waist deep in live energy quick sand, I was helpless to fight it; hypnotized by it, I couldn’t think of a single reason why I would want to.
From Setting Son (which has been stuck in my head all weekend) to You Get What You Give, to set closer Brooklyn Bridge, anyone in the room would be hard-pressed to pick specific set highlights with anything resembling unanimity. In fact, in a weekend filled with exceptional performances and phenomenal bands, I’d probably place the Teenage Kicks at the very top of the pile of best shows.
What more can I say? Don’t make the same mistake I did; check these guys out immediately. With a breadth of material available to stream and download, you have no excuse to be in the know before these guys blow up in a big way.
The recording is very rock and roll — loud bass and drums, with crunchy guitars and clear vocals. It’s not prissy, sparkly studio shit, this is REAL rock and roll, and as close as you’re going to get to hearing it the way it’s meant to be heard (ie. LIVE AND LOUD) without leaving your computer chairs.
01. Setting Son
02. Everybody Knows
04. I Get What You Give
05. Middle of the Night
07. Don’t Lie To Me
08. Baby You’re So Rich
09. Lose Your Head
11. Hearts of Darkness
12. Proud Mary [Creedence Clearwater Revival]
14. Brooklyn Bridge
Special thanks to the wonderful Teenage Kicks, Young Lions Music Club and the El Mocambo for a wonderful NXNE.