Concert Review: BROCKHAMPTON’s Heaven Belongs To You tour

The boyband bounces back

Concert Review: BROCKHAMPTON’s Heaven Belongs To You tour

In 2019, hip hop collective and self-identified boyband BROCKHAMPTON returned with studio album GINGER, along with their Heaven Belongs To You tour. Despite founding member Ameer Vann leaving the group due to sexual misconduct allegations, BROCKHAMPTON have greatly progressed since they emerged as stars in 2017.

Tellingly, GINGER was introspective and touched on sensitive topics, which provided fans with insight into the lives of the band. Sonically, the project was vastly different from their other studio albums, innovating upon BROCKHAMPTON’s traditional sound. It focuses less on hard-hitting songs and catchy hooks, and more on ballads and melodies.

The accompanying tour was also innovative, with BROCKHAMPTON redefining how they perform. Their tour stopped at Toronto’s Coca Cola Coliseum, a fitting venue for the band. There were two openers: the first being 100 gecs, a duo that makes music even more experimental than BROCKHAMPTON. Their intriguing style of music mixes the autotune-heavy nature of today’s hip-hop with the strong guitar chords and drums of metal music. Despite being unknown to a vast proportion of the audience, there was definitely genuine fascination and appreciation.

The other opening act was rapper, slowthai. slowthai has recently evolved from  a UK buzz to a global sensation. Most of the crowd was well aware of his stage persona, echoed his ad libs and matched his energy.

Shortly afterward, BROCKHAMPTON took to the stage. The crowd watched in awe and harmonized along as the band delivered enchanting melodies with articulate rhymes. The most interesting aspect of the show was how many focal points there were on stage. Of course, the attention was placed on the members who were singing and rapping their parts. However, it was obvious that there was so much talent on the stage.

The audience was just as excited seeing Kevin Abstract’s verses as they were seeing one of the best qualities of the band: the guitar solos of Ciarán McDonald, better known as bearface. Despite having around six regularly performing members, each of them have their own significance in the group and its sound. It never felt like there was too much or too little emphasis on a single member.

This tour also saw BROCKHAMPTON innovate their stage antics through a reimagined set design. The entire stage was lit beautifully. There were strobing crosses surrounding the group, colour coded areas, and a raked floor with LED strip lights going down it. Fans were there to listen to the group, but BROCKHAMPTON’s beautiful use of their stage made this show an amazing visual experience as well.

The atmosphere of the night was incredible and added to the performance that much more. BROCKHAMPTON’s entire brand has been based off including ‘outsiders’ in their fanbase. The band members are Black, white, and Asian. They have different sexual orientations and they are all very open about their sexualities. Their fans also come from different ethnic and personal backgrounds. It was beautiful to see so many different people coming together and united in their appreciation for this band.

The Heaven Belongs to You tour was ultimately a great experience and showed fans that the group still has plenty of talent to share with the world. Constantly innovating and constantly redefining themselves, it will be interesting to see what 2020 brings for BROCKHAMPTON.

When We All Fall Asleep Tour opening act

Four months after his sold-out tour, Denzel Curry continues to make his mark on rap

When We All Fall Asleep Tour opening act

In 2018 Denzel Curry released TA1300, which is arguably one of the greatest bodies of work to enter the rap genre. The album touched on intricate subject matters in songs that were sonically tuned to near perfection.

Curry’s ability to simultaneously cement himself as a hardened emcee whilst also carrying great commercial success had many fans speculating on what he would produce in 2019. They were not let down. In May 2019, Curry released another spectacular album — ZUU — and went on tour with one of the biggest musicians in the world: Billie Eilish. 

Eilish’s tour, When We All Fall Asleep, made a stop in Toronto shortly after the release of ZUU, with Curry performing as the opening act. I experienced his artistry firsthand. The tour took place at Budweiser Stage; a big venue, necessary to contain the fully sold out crowd waiting to hear Curry and Eilish. 

The venue and stage design were effective. The large screens planted on stage were able to incorporate Denzel Curry’s ‘trippy’ visuals, a technique he has used since his early albums and EPs — adding subtle nostalgia to his performance.

The set began with hard hitting tracks from ZUU such as “RICKY,” which seamlessly transferred into TA1300 classics like “SUMO | ZUMO,” and then ended with his breakthrough track “ULTIMATE.” 

This was perhaps the most exceptional aspect of his performance because it was enjoyed by both fans of Denzel Curry and those few who attended the tour just to see Billie Eilish.  

Time and again since his tour, Curry has proved that his music is different from that of his peers. For instance, TA1300 was largely centred around the pain, confusion, and paranoia of being a young star. ZUU, on the other hand, can be seen as an ode and love letter to Carol City, Curry’s home neighbourhood. 

Both were centred on different topics and incorporated different musical styles and influences. Using his wide range of pieces, Curry managed to showcase both ear-friendly hits and the more cult-appreciated ballads. Ultimately, what this translated to was fans all the way from general admission to seats on the lawn having an enjoyable time as Curry went about his stage antics. 

Curry is a natural-born performer, as illustrated by the visuals from the show. He successfully measured and matched his energy to that of the audience. He dove headfirst into the crowd, jumping off the stage to interact with the audience as much as possible. Never before have I seen an artist at an arena interact with the crowd as much as Denzel Curry did. 

The When We All Fall Asleep tour can quite possibly go down as one of the greatest tours in history. It is rare to see two world-renowned headlining artists go on tour with one another. This most likely would not have happened if Curry and Eilish were not close friends. It resulted in an amazing experience for the crowd. Denzel Curry’s performance particularly made it indubitable that when the time for his headlining arena tour arises, it will certainly be one not to miss. 

Rating: 4.5/5 

I went to a metal show and had the goddamn time of my life

The tale of a noisy night at Coalition from an admitted metal misfit

I went to a metal show and had the goddamn time of my life

It seemed like the band moved swiftly from setting up on stage to producing orchestrated aural chaos. Eye contact with my friend was broken by the sound waves themselves. Conversation time, over: it was time to tune in and embrace the noise — we’d bought tickets, after all. There was no way in hell I was moving any further back in this crowd.

March 7 saw three metal bands, ranging from horror punk to doom metal, play at the Coalition venue in Kensington Market to a writhing core group of fans from the scene — and me. Exes, High Priest, and Old Witch brought an energy to the rough-around-the-edges Coalition that had the flippers flopping in the pinball machines lining the back wall of the venue.

Full disclosure: one of my roommates plays the drums in Exes, and, to be completely honest, that was the only reason I went to the show. Heavy metal isn’t exactly my cup of tea — I’d be embarrassed to detail the ins and outs of my own tastes — but I had a dude to support. I was more than happy to sip on a can of Newkie Brown in front of a stage cranking noise at an eye-popping level of righteous barrage.

Exes was the first up: four guys, six feet of hair, and a whole lot of sound. The Uxbridge-based group were a full-bodied presence on the Coalition platform, and brought such tightness to their performance that I almost forgot that their music was supposed to terrify me.

Frontman and guitarist Jake Ballah’s raw talent and guttural vocals — which I think this is a very good thing in this genre — complemented what I can only assume were well-rehearsed and accordingly-timed head bangs that sent a whiplash of energy from the roots of his long hair to the back of the crowd.

Much of Exes’ repertoire relies on sampling from horror movies and sounds, and Ballah’s booted feet expertly navigated the foot pedals to bring in samples amid the instrumental anarchy. Aidan Garrard, my roommate, was visibly in the zone and out of control behind his kit, thrashing out heart-stomping beats with a cannibalistic ferocity belying his day job as a software developer and amateur vegan chef. I was impressed.

I won’t pretend to be able to wax smartly on the musical nuances of the night, because when descriptors like “sludge” and “doom” start getting thrown around, I begin to realize just how out of my element I am. High Priest and Old Witch were strong follows to Exes, and it seemed to make excellent sense for all of these bands to share the venue for the night.

These three bands felt an urgency to play at Coalition because the notorious venue will be closing this April, and it remains to be seen whether it will find a new home. This comes on the heels of last month’s closure of staple local scene shop and underground venue Faith/Void. There are fewer and fewer spaces for local underground heavy bands to reach an audience these days, which means there are fewer and fewer opportunities for geeks like me to get our socks blown off, whether we’re out there supporting a roommate or not. And that would be a real shame because I, for one, want to do this again.

It may seem counterintuitive to a complete outsider to the scene, but metal and punk are far more welcoming and open than they seem. No one even commented on my friend who wore khakis — khakis! — to the show. Though there are exceptions as we move toward Nazi metal on the extreme end of the spectrum, the genres as a whole are overwhelmingly progressive, environmentally-conscious, and LGBTQ+-friendly spaces. There’s even a subgroup of “straight edge” punks, many of whom keep vegan and abstain from all drug use, and sometimes even sex. But this is all probably a story for another article and another, more informed, writer.

There’s a certain beauty in the aesthetic and aura of local metal and punk, which I’ve only been lightly exposed to through my roommate in the past year. Sometimes it manifests in anachronisms, such as the widespread use of cassette tapes for the distribution and consumption of local music. Sometimes it’s a conscious laissez-faire attitude in production: one time, my roommate spent hours designing a poster for his band, which he then photocopied a photocopy of before putting it up. That’s a poster that screams a massive ‘fuck you’ to anyone who thinks that the sound quality is a bit mangled, or that the venue is gritty, or that the toilets aren’t clean. The poster says we’re grunge, baby, and you better believe it.