Toro y Moi
November 6, 2019 at The House of Blues
Toro y Moi (moniker of Chaz Bundick) is a South Carolina native and one of the pioneers of the chillwave movement – that dreamy, psychedelic indie sound of the early 2010s that preceded the existence of “Lo-Fi Beats To Study To” playlists. Now based in Oakland, California, he is one of the rare artists whose music meant a lot to me when I was fourteen, and who continues to make consistently good stuff. After nearly a decade of watching his beat-making evolve, I finally got to see him play live – I was not disappointed.
The empty stage was set up with a simple and almost poetic intentionality – keyboardist, bass player, and drummer flanked Chaz’s mic stand and mixer while a set of white panels framed all four musicians into their own painting on the stage. When the band came on, it erupted into vibrant hues and I realized with delight that it was an emulation of the Outer Peace cover itself.
Toro y Moi (and company) were in their groove that night. The lighting was amazing, the band was having a good time, and they wove seamlessly between songs. Their stage presence was so fun and effortless, it was as if I was watching friends play for me. They performed all the bops from Outer Peace, and I got to watch “New House,” my favorite track, from the photo pit. It was exhilarating to hear that it sounded just as good live as it does on the album version. I could sing along to every word and still feel that the song’s stale sense of yearning coursed through me, as he played it right before my eyes in sound and color and dance.
Although the Aphex Twin-esque Soul Trash was notably excluded from the setlist, he didn’t forget to give his older songs love. I was pleasantly reminded of old favorites like “Girl Like You,” “Omaha,” and “Buffalo” – songs that have since left my regular rotation yet still hold tender spots in my heart’s music library.
During a pause in the set, someone towards the front of the crowd yelled “happy birthday!” and the audience started singing. Chaz laughed and replied in an autotune-filtered voice, “It’s actually tomorrow. But thank you! We can celebrate together. I love you guys.” He gave a shout-out to the Scorpios in the audience moments before the band’s next song bubbled to life.
The whole performance exuded an almost magnetic energy. Everybody in the house was watching intently; the crowd jumped and swayed with each moment as if in a trance. Watching from the center balcony, they became an ocean of heads periodically illuminated with spotlights as part of the show. Chaz, with his chunky heeled boots, flared jeans, and dance moves of a person who made music for the love of music itself, was hard not to be enamored by. Filling the venue with dreamy, funky grooves threaded back into reality with frank lyrics like “Uber messed up everything,” I left the venue that night feeling like I’d just had fun. I’d attended the show on a frigid Wednesday night, alone and with myriad tasks awaiting me at home, but I felt only charged up and renewed by the experience.