Concert Review: ¡Mayday! at Rockpile West in Toronto, ON

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¡Mayday! is currently on their Future/Vintage Tour to promote their upcoming album of the same name, due to be released August 21, 2015 via Strange Music (check the new single I covered on Ambrosia For Heads).  More importantly, they’re on their first ever tour in Canada, starting out west in Vancouver and travelling east to eventually hit Toronto.  I’ve been a huge fan of theirs ever since they signed to Strange Music, and I’ve been waiting years for a chance to see them perform live (shoutout to Matt from Spinesthesia for putting me on to them).

For those unfamiliar, ¡Mayday! is a Hip-Hop band from Miami, Florida, consisting of MCs/vocalists Bernz and Wrekonize, producer/keyboardist/guitarist Plex Luthor, percussionist NonMS, drummer LT Hopkins, and producer/bassist Gianni Cash.  Future/Vintage will be their fourth album on Strange Music, as they previously released Take Me To Your Leader in 2012, Believers in 2013, and a collaborative album with Murs called ¡MursDay! in 2014.  Wrekonize also released a solo album in 2013 called The War Within, and there have been a couple mixtapes from the group during their time at Strange.  Their biggest commercial success to date is likely the single “Fragile,” which appeared on Tech N9ne’s Something Else album and featured Kendrick Lamar in 2013.

¡Mayday! playing at Rockpile West is a great look for them too, as their label head Tech N9ne has performed here with Krizz Kaliko several times (I caught them at the Rockpile East location before it closed last year).  This would be my third time hitting up the Rockpile in 2015, as they previously hosted Talib Kweli in February and Non Phixion in April.  I got to the venue fairly early and caught most of the opening acts.  While I’ve become familiar with a lot of the local Toronto MCs from all the shows I’ve attended, this one mostly had artists from out west (some from Calgary and Vancouver) performing.

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There were several opening acts with varying levels of skill, and I wasn’t familiar with any of them this time.  Some of them rapped over their own vocal tracks, some of them didn’t have great mic presence, and I remember one group even used ¡Mayday!’s instrumental from “Dig It Out” for one of their songs (although their reinterpretation of The Roots’ “Right On” was alright).  Many of them had speedy rap flows, which typically go over peoples’ heads at live shows when the crowd doesn’t know the songs.  One group that kind of stood out was the OBM crew (pictured above), who I mainly remember because they were wearing their merch, and they had dope choreography where they all froze during the chorus of one song.

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The touring opening acts included Vancouver MC Ghost, Florida’s Kap Kallous, and another Vancouver group, Aileron.  The mic presence of these MCs were much better than the other openers, probably from experience.  Kap Kallous had great stage presence, controlling the crowd’s movements and getting everyone involved.  Aileron were also dope; you could tell they had good songs, but the speedy raps made it hard to pick up on the lyrics for first-time listeners.  Both Kap and Aileron had some free CDs and merch to give to the crowd, and it was time for ¡Mayday! to come on stage next.

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Kap Kallous had mentioned during his set that they had trouble crossing the Canadian border for this tour, and this became evident when ¡Mayday! took the stage around 1AM.  Gianni Cash came out first to set up his equipment, which included a set of turntables and a bass guitar, and was shortly joined by NonMS, who took over both the drum set and his usual bongo & conga drums.  ¡Mayday! was missing their drummer LT Hopkins and their guitarist Plex Luthor.

Gianni Cash and NonMS started the show with some back-and-forth drumming and scratching, and shortly afterwards got into the start of their Believers album.  Wrekonize and Bernz came out, Gianni started playing that familiar bassline, and they began with “Believers” and “Shots Fired,” immediately getting a ton of energy from the crowd.  Even with the missing band members, ¡Mayday! rocked the house with no problem, as Gianni had his turntables and bass guitar going at the same time, and sometimes even joined NonMS on the drums.

After playing the first two songs off Believers, they started going back in time, performing “20/20” off of Take Me To Your Leader, and went even further back with “Worst Case Scenario,” a song off an independent album they released prior to signing to Strange.  They were very engaging too, as NonMS took over the stage with a dance routine at one point, and Wrekonize spit a freestyle with lines about being in Toronto.  I think Bernz had a bottle of Sleeman on stage (local beer from Guelph), but of course they would all order shots of Jack Daniels before performing “On That Jack.”

Next, they made mention of Wrekonize’s solo album, and he performed the very energetic “Neon Skies.”  Despite not filling up the building, the crowd was very turned up at this point, as the floor was covered with spilled drinks and loose change (some dude who seemed to be on molly handed me a few dollars for no reason).  The energy levels sustained as they performed “Zones” off the  ¡MursDay! album, obviously skipping Murs’ verse.  There was a bit of a mosh pit going, although with so many ladies in the crowd things didn’t get too out of hand.

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 ¡Mayday! had a throwback section where they did several songs off of their first Strange Music album, Take Me To Your Leader.  They performed “Death March,” which is apparently the first song they submitted to Tech N9ne when they were working on the album, followed by “Badlands,” where they got everyone to wave their hands during the chorus.  Their performance of “Roaches” was especially memorable, as Wrekonize killed his high-speed verse, and then Bernz jumped into the crowd to perform his own verse amongst the people (I literally gave him props as he was rapping).

The show got a bit mellow as they performed “R.E.M.,” with the crowd singing along with Wrekonize.  They then quickly picked the energy levels back up and ended the show on a high note, closing with my favourite ¡MursDay! track, “Brand New Get Up.”  Gianni and NonMS were perfectly in sync for the solo at the end of the track.  As ¡Mayday! left, the crowd chanted for an encore, getting them to return after they realized the weather outside was just as hot as the inside of the Rockpile.

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They gave a quick, humble talk about how they appreciate all the fans, and how they’re learning from Tech N9ne, who started out doing shows with 10 people and grew his fan base every time he toured, eventually performing for thousands at a time.  This of course lead into the reflective and personal “Shortcuts & Dead Ends” to really close out the show.  ¡Mayday! then hit the merch booth to take pictures with the fans and sign autographs, proving to be true class acts (I got my Take Me To Your Leader CD booklet signed!).

Overall, this was a really fun show.  ¡Mayday!’s music is almost all about that feel-good party vibe, and their performance definitely reflected that.  Some of my favourite songs like “Lando’s Jam,” “Dig It Out,” “My Life,” “Tear Shit Down” and “Stun Gun Stickup” didn’t get performed, but I figure they needed their guitarist to really pull off those tracks to their liking.   Part of me was also thinking maybe Toronto’s own Kardinal Offishall would come out to perform “Unplug” with them, but it didn’t happen.  This didn’t take away from the show at all though, as ¡Mayday! brought great energy to the stage, nailing all their verses, and engaging the crowd.  Bernz and Wrekonize were great as vocalists, and Gianni Cash and NonMS also brought great energy as they used several instruments to perform.

The Rockpile was a great venue as usual, and ¡Mayday! will likely return here several more times over the next few years (Tech N9ne only upgraded to The Phoenix Concert Theatre this year, he’s scheduled to perform there in October).  For now, ¡Mayday! will continue on their Future/Vintage tour, as they have yet to hit Montreal, and the GTA crowd will get another chance to see them as they will close out the tour in Hamilton on July 25.  I would definitely recommend seeing them on tour, and I look forward to the new album.

 

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