Concert Review: ¡Mayday! – The Space Cadet Tour at The Rockpile in Toronto

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¡Mayday! is probably my favourite band to debut in this current decade, and they’re back for their second ever Canadian tour!  After rocking this same venue two summers ago for their first show in Toronto, ¡Mayday! have since gone on to release their fourth album on Strange Music, Future/Vintage, and earlier this year Bernz released his debut solo album, See You On The Other Side.  Over the past five years, ¡Mayday! have released some of my favourite albums on the Strange Music label, combining rock and rap for a feel-good party vibe for the most part.  They also have some good protest songs that are all that much more relevant now with Donald Trump winning the U.S. Presidential Election earlier this week.

I hadn’t been back to The Rockpile since July, when ¡Mayday!’s labelmate Rittz was in town.  The Rockpile has always been a good small venue that has supported Strange Music artists, as label head Tech N9ne spent years performing here and building his Toronto fan base.  Here for just their second show in Toronto, ¡Mayday! had a larger crowd this time, although they weren’t quite able to sell out the building (yet).  I got to the venue early, when the crowd was still small, and some of the local openers barely got a reaction.  There were some highlights though.

The first openers to get a decent reaction from the crowd were a couple of artists signed to the label Raw Dog Entertainment.  They mentioned they wanted to make us feel “nice and uncomfortable,” and their graphic lyrics did just that – their song “Fuck You I’m Homeless” is pretty hilarious (don’t try to Google it though 😉 ).  Next up was Jay Reno and Brad Shank, who were celebrating the release of their albums Politikilla and Wasteland.  They just brought that raw energy with dope beats and rapid-fire flows.

The last local opener was Team OBM, who also opened for ¡Mayday! last time they were here.  I remembered them because they had dope stage presence; it can be a challenge having four MCs share the stage, but they made it work without sounding too cluttered, and had good choreography to keep things interesting.  ¡Mayday! brought one more opener from their hometown Miami to perform before they came out – Web Three.  This dude brought a lot of energy, at one point rapping over OutKast’s “B.O.B.” and pouring beer on himself.  Everyone seemed ready to turn up by the time ¡Mayday! took the stage.

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¡Mayday! had almost the same lineup as the last time they toured, with Bernz and Wrekonize on vocals, Nonymous on drums, except they had a new bass player/turntablist replacing Gianni Cash (I initially thought Gianni shaved his beard and looked completely different).  Dubbed The Space Cadet Tour, they got the show started with the Future/Vintage song of the same name, and had a real dope transition into “Zones.”  They mainly stuck to new material for the first part of the show, turning the crowd up with songs like “Can’t Take It With You” and the Bernz solo track “It Don’t Go.”

It was all high-energy  party tracks, as they continued with the first two songs off of their Believers album before continuing into more of their newest one, Future/Vintage.  It was hard to tell how the crowd as a whole was doing from the very front row, but everyone around me was hyped as they performed those two familiar songs they used to open up their previous show last year.  Next was the lead single off Future/Vintage, “Fuel To The Fire,” followed by “Antenna” and “One Wing.”  All of these songs involved a bit more singing, and ¡Mayday! was able to get the crowd to sing along with them.

As they performed the new material, the DJ moved seamlessly from behind the turntables to the forefront with his bass guitar.  Nonymous also came out from behind the drums at one point to do a similar dance routine as he did last year.  After rocking the crowd with the new tunes, ¡Mayday! then took it back to 2010 and 2012 with “Worst Case Scenario,” followed by a couple songs off of their Strange Music debut, Take Me To Your Leader.  They didn’t do as many older tracks, but they covered “R.E.M.” and “Roaches.”  They then ended the show with the same two songs as last year, turning the crowd up with “Brand New Get Up” and mellowing them out with the autobiographical “Shortcuts & Dead Ends.”

Rather than stepping outside and letting the crowd do an encore chant, this time they just performed the songs straight up and then went to the merch booth to take pictures and sign autographs.  ¡Mayday! proved to be class acts as usual, seeming humble with the slightly bigger crowd than last year and motivated to come back next year for an even bigger one.  They stayed behind to meet every fan in the building.

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Overall this was a really fun show.  The Rockpile as a venue never gets old.  It has a very underground hip-hop kind of feel, friendly staff, and of course one of the coolest hosts in the city Stacee Brizzle keeping the laughs and good vibes going between sets.

¡Mayday! put on a full display of their talent, as Bernz & Wrekonize moved seamlessly from rapid-fire raps to sung vocals.  Rather than perform some of their more aggressive protest songs, they kept it in a positive zone, sticking to the familiar party tunes and incorporating the new material that fit those vibes. One thing I’d like to see from them at future shows is maybe switching up some of the older songs that make it into the set list – all the throwbacks performed were also done last year, and they have plenty of songs with good vibes they could dive into.  There are however plenty of new fans hearing these songs for the first time, so they can’t really go wrong.

This Toronto show wraps up their Canadian tour, but they have several shows still in the U.S. as they slowly make their way back to Miami.  Definitely catch them live if they hit your city, and look out for any new material they might be dropping.  They haven’t gone one year since 2012 without releasing a new album – although 2016 and 2017 looks to be focused more on solo albums.

 

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