It’s debatable whether any lexicon has the language to describe a Broken Social Scene concert other than !!!!!!.
More than a decade and a half have passed since the Toronto-based collective released You Forgot It in People, an album that rewrote the DNA of where millennial rock and roll could stretch its legs. The creative core of Kevin Drew, Brendan Canning, Andrew Whiteman, Charles Spearin and Justin Peroff didn’t start its music lab in the trenches of power chords and 4/4 time signatures; the group’s predecessor, KC Accidental, and first album Feel Good Lost were far more interested in looping, surreal textures than verse-chorus-verse radio accessibility.
That experimentation persevered more in collaboration than aesthetic; form follows function for a band called Broken Social Scene, and a line of collaborators including Leslie Feist, Metric’s Emily Haines and Stars’ Amy Millan (to name a scant few) followed. But as the project ebbed from bedroom symphonies to populist jam sessions, BSS live shows became the prime venue to witness the group’s primordial parade of aural joy. Attendees knew they’d always be greeted by Drew and the other gents listed above, but what horn section players/guest vocalists/whoever added a grab-bag spontaneity to each gig. An early tour saw Feist and crew dressing up like Wizard of Oz characters on Halloween, larger festival stages swelled with a small army of musicians and longer tours offered a more selective cast.
BSS recently hit the road to support new album Hug of Thunder, which holds some of the ensemble’s biggest, airborne songs to date (including the title track). Newest member Ariel Engle, who toured back in 2010, assumes soaring vocals and guitar, fitting seamlessly into the lost-and-found latticework. Paste caught the group’s show at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland late last month. Starting with oft-used opener “KC Accidental,” the night was a sunrise of open-chord elation, blaring horn sections and good vibes that witnessed 11 members on stage at its fullest. Check out Sean Edgar’s pictures in the gallery above.
“Hug of Thunder”
“It’s All Gonna Break”
“Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)”