Just a couple weeks after seeing Strange Music’s Tech N9ne, Krizz Kaliko, and Stevie Stone rock the Phoenix Concert Theatre on their Strange Reign Tour, their labelmates ¡Mayday! have returned to Toronto on their own tour promoting their new album, Search Party. Released just one month ago, this is their fifth album on the Strange Music label, and also their first since producers/instrumentalists Gianni Ca$h and Plex Luthor left the band (although some of their older beats were salvaged from the vaults to make some of these new songs). As the cover art for the new album shows, there are only three original members left in the band: emcees/vocalists Bernz & Wrekonize, and percussionist Nonymous.
It’s the Miami band’s third year in a row performing in Toronto while on tour, and after hitting The Rockpile for each of their first two visits, they switched things up this time by performing in the downtown core, at Adelaide Hall. With all the years I’ve been reviewing shows, this was surprisingly my first time going to this venue, which turns out to be a cozy basement-level dive bar found in an alleyway off of Adelaide Street. Although smaller than The Rockpile, the vibe is a great fit for a ¡Mayday! show, who do have a song dedicated to dive bars after all. Fans could walk right past their tour van, painted in the Search Party album art as they made their way down the alleyway to the entrance.
Shortly after getting to the venue, the first local openers were up, Team OBM. They’ve been standouts opening for ¡Mayday! at all of their previous shows in Toronto, showing good chemistry on stage between the four emcees (although only three performed this time). They adapted well to having far lesser space on the small stage to work with, and performed some new songs off their album One Big Mob that were more melodic than what they’ve performed in the past.
After Team OBM was one more local act, the producer/emcee duo of Sandy Pearlman & Bones, who had a guitarist joining them on stage. They had an unorthodox style that kind of reminded me of El-P’s older records, but with more of a punk rock influence. It was my first time hearing anything from them, but they had one hell of a first impression, bringing the right energy to get the crowd moving not only with their music but with the way they performed. They also brought out surprise guest Keysha Freshh of The Sorority (who I had seen perform at Unity Fest this summer) to rock a few songs with them. With the way they connected with the crowd, Pearls & Bones may have had the dopest set out of all the openers.
Next up were the touring artists opening for ¡Mayday! across North America, starting with Vancouver artist Joseph Rose. Rose has come a long way, as I first saw him perform as part of the group Aileron at ¡Mayday!’s first show in Toronto in 2015, and he’s since launched a successful solo career. He had a short but sweet set that was similar to what he performed when he opened for Madchild back in January, including his guest verse on the boom-bap styled “Little Things.” He could be found at the end of the night humbly meeting the fans and making sales at the merch booth.
The final opener before ¡Mayday! would be 1-Ton, who’s one half of the California duo Potluck. I had never heard of their music before, but he rocked the stage well on his own, getting the crowd involved and even jumping down from the stage to rap amongst the people. After a solid set, he jumped down from the stage again and headed straight for the bar, saying he wanted to party with the fans. Pretty soon, it was time for the headliners, ¡Mayday!!
While last year ¡Mayday! had a different bass player/DJ with them to fill in for Gianni Ca$h, this time they took away the guitars altogether and simply had a DJ spinning their beats, while Nonymous played drums and Wrekonize & Bernz rocked the mics. Nonymous came out first and got the crowd going with a drum solo, and Bernz & Wrek rushed the stage as that familiar guitar riff from “Can’t Take It With You” played. After slaying the verses, Bernz & Wrekonize took a step back so Nonymous could shine with one of his dance routines as the beat played out, and the show was on!
The beat from “Can’t Take It With You” transitioned smoothly into the ¡Mursday! song, “Zones,” and the energy in the building remained cranked up as Bernz & Wrek glided through their verses. They then took some time to play some songs off of their solo albums, although ignoring Wrekonize’s newest Into The Further. Wrekonize performed his 2013 song “Can’t Be Alone” and followed it up with a freestyle verse, and then Bernz got the crowd bouncing to his song “It Don’t Go.” Wrekonize came back with one more, performing his rapid-fire “Neon Skies” before the band got back into some ¡Mayday! songs.
The crowd waved their arms as ¡Mayday! performed a song off their new album, “Long Night,” and then mellowed out as they acknowledged their gold-certified collaboration with Tech N9ne and Kendrick Lamar, “Fragile.” Not known to stay mellow for a long time, ¡Mayday! turned the energy back up with their 2015 single “Fuel To The Fire,” and then turned the clock back with a familiar routine, performing “Believers” and “Shots Fired” back to back as they appear on their 2013 Believers album. Nonymous of course rocked a wicked drum solo at the end of the latter track.
Next was something new, as they performed one of their singles off of Search Party, the introverts anthem “Airplane Mode.” With minimal rapping on the song, the crowd sang along with Wrekonize’s chorus and waved their arms side to side. ¡Mayday! alternated seamlessly between up-tempo grooves and mellowed out sing-alongs, as they got the crowd dancing with the 2012 throwback “Roaches,” and got everyone singing along to the slower paced “HighRide” (which they had never performed live before this 2017 tour). They then closed out the set with the song they opened with last year, “Space Cadet,” which itself sees multiple switches between groovy dance vibes and mellowness.
The entire band left the stage, and the crowd chanted for an encore. ¡Mayday! then came back out and thanked the crowd before doing one last song, the same one they always close out with, “Shortcuts and Dead Ends.” The two emcees ripped through their deep, introspective verses one at a time, each giving the other complete reign of the stage as they rapped. They then closed out the show with one last round of shoutouts and thank yous as Nonymous and their DJ played a groovy beat that almost sounded like “Ten Thirty Three.”
This was overall another fun time with one of my favourite bands to debut in this decade, and I know I’m not alone on that one because the building was filled with fans who knew all the words to the songs. ¡Mayday! have adapted well to losing a few band members and are still able to put on a wicked show, even with the lack of a guitar on stage. Bernz & Wrekonize have awesome chemistry sharing the front of the stage, and Nonymous is always on point with the energy he brings with his drumming. While we’ve seen most of the songs in the setlist get performed before, it was great seeing a slightly different selection of ¡Mayday!’s throwbacks get pulled out for this tour. It would have been cool to see more songs off of Search Party included though; songs like “Pretender” and “Have Someone” need to be heard on these dance floors!
After having Thanksgiving off, this was the first show in a final two-week stretch of ¡Mayday!’s North American Tour, as they continue through the east coast of the U.S. on their way back home to Miami.
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