Music

Toro y Moi at House of Vans

Now, free beer at a concert is always a bittersweet conundrum.

Story by Matt Heidkamp Video and Photo: Alessandro Magi

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Down by the East River, Kent Ave in Williamsburg morphs seamlessly into Franklin Street in Greenpoint. It’s touted with the same tatted hipsters all dressed so differently that they all look the same. En route to the House of Vans, the line stretched for a quarter mile of eager concertgoers hopeful to enter the venue before they hit capacity. The artist playing was Toro y Moi and there was free beer to be had. These factors meant that space would be limited and capacity would be hit, so it was of no surprise when the security guards sent half the crowd packing. Chalk it up to luck or sheer ingenious tactics, but somehow I was able to procure a last minute press pass.

We entered the concrete oven of a venue having just missed the opening act, Jonwayne, a West Coast rapper and beatmaker who looks more like a nerdy Hells Angel than the topnotch MC that he is. Picture young Jerry Garcia’s face on old Jerry Garcia’s body and trade the guitar for an MPC and there you have it. Google it.

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Sad to miss the Wayniac, I found solace in watching Shlohmo wielding some heavy vibes. My favorite producers to watch live are the ones who go bananas rockin’ out to their track selection. At every drop or helicopter hi hat, Shlohmo seemed to buzz, contorting his arms like a velocoraptor wielding a chainsaw as his 808-laden tunes boomed out of the subs. After a long day and a 20lb bookbag strapped to my back, I decided to free myself of the crowd and give in to the allure of the rumor of free beer, leaving the sweaty masses to fight it out for most ratchet.

Now, free beer at a concert is always a bittersweet conundrum. On the one hand, it’s free beer, on the other; a rambunctious crowd with a taste for hops can turn any beer line into a beer riot in which we all turn into ugly, backstabbing scavengers, throwing elbows and talking shit to your neighbors who are at the concert for the same reason: chilled out dance beats and the communal live music experience. On that note, I’ve decided that in the future, I’d rather pay premiums at the cash bar instead of sit through free beer hell again.

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Regardless, Chaz Bundick, better known as Toro y Moi, took the stage and all was right in the world. With a backup band in tow, Toro’s figure beamed an alien-like vibe when the light hit his ethnically mixed Afro as the band started to play. Pinning down his sound is tough. Calling it “chillwave” seems like a dated hipster term fairly accurate but in a way that doesn’t complete the full picture. His sound is nostalgic and sunny, danceable with swells of reverb-laden guitar. He jammed out on a handful of keyboards, creating some blend of 70’s-era soft disco, Dilla drums and a newfound sense of psychedelia. He played an hour-long set of head-bobbing, pelvic-thrusting goodness before ending the night in the laidback manner you’d expect, leaving us with a few cool words. “Thanks y’all, take it easy.”

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