Early enough in the night that I had made a conscious pause before ordering a drink — was 7 p.m. too early? — I made my way to the Biltmore Cabaret on Thursday, November 8 to check the soundtrack darlings turned synth-pop enigmas Electric Youth.
First on the bill were glam-punk locals Girlfriends & Boyfriends, who made sure to thank the crowd for making it out to an early show, surely “skipping their dinners!” The quartet set out at a blistering pace, their performance marked by the meeting of angular, glassy guitar fused together with droning ribbons of synth and powerhouse drumming.
Peter Panovic’s vocal delivery was something of a callback to the likes of new-wave heavies Robert Smith and David Byrne, and no doubt earned the modest head bobs emitted from the crowd. While Girlfriends & Boyfriends had a sound easy enough to vibe along to, they subtly lacked an undertow of much substance, culminating in a decent, if somewhat unremarkable, set.
Introspective alt-folksters Midnight Faces were next up. The first lament of Philip Stancil’s vocals, drenched in a thick, breezy reverb, crashed over a more than receptive audience; it was clear the band’s dark ‘80s dream aesthetic would mesh well with the crowd. Highlights included the shimmering, nostalgic eclipse of “Wake Me” as well as the jangly, buzzed up “Donna,” the latter of which gave away multi-instrumentalist Matthew Doty’s past involvement with Jonny Pierce of The Drums. These cerebral rockers lured the stragglers onto the floor of the Biltmore and set the tone for what was to come next.
Known best for their contribution to the neo-noir soundtrack to the 2011 film Drive, Electric Youth brought with them their unique brand of synth-pop. For the past two years, the duo have hidden themselves away to work on crafting new material, finally ending their self-imposed exile with the debut of their first full length album, Innerworld.
True to its name, the record offers contemplative, lush soundscapes scattered with the emotive, textured vocals of Bronwyn Griffin and the ‘80s saturated drumming of Austin Garrick, which transferred into an unassumingly explosive performance.
Through a mirage of smoke and a pulsating array of coloured strobes, Electric Youth delivered the feeling of a delicious nostalgia to the Biltmore through the aching idealism of the hazy “The Best Thing” and swirling “WeAreTheYouth” before tumbling over into dance-y, movement friendly tracks like “Tomorrow” and “Right Back to You.” By the time the sweeping, astral fade of “A Real Hero” rang out across the floor, the crowd had been palpably enthralled by the afterglow of Griffin’s performance, most of whom leaned into the low stage of the Biltmore to create an intimate feel to a concert that could easily have been played at a much larger venue.
Even after the last strokes of synth washed over the floor and the crowd was forced to resurface, effectively breaking the hypnotic trance the duo had lulled them into, I was all too aware of the singularity of their act, knowing full well that with an offering as quietly triumphant as theirs, I expect Electric Youth will catapult well into the Canadian music scene. I was just happy to have been along for the ride.