Having embarked on their Fire In The Sky Tour, ¡Mayday! are nearing the end of their run through Canada before they continue on to the U.S. for the rest of the fall season. The Miami band has endured the grind of the Hip-Hop underground for over a decade now, having lost some band members along the way, but continuing to evolve with their core members Bernz, Wrekonize, and NonMS still holding it down. Ever since signing to Strange Music in 2011, they’ve maintained a steady tour schedule just like their label head Tech N9ne, and have consistently been releasing new music over the years, providing a dope blend of rap, rock, punk, pop, and Spanish flavour. Their most recent album, 2018’s South of 5th, saw them embrace the Caribbean culture of their hometown and top the reggae charts, bringing a unique sound that was sure to please the Caribana loving Toronto crowd.
For their first show in Toronto in almost two years, ¡Mayday! would be performing at a newly re-opened venue out in the east end, The Grand Gerrard Theatre. The historical venue has gone through many changes over the past 100 years, with its current iteration being a space for indie film screenings, community events, and also live performances. It’s still a work in progress getting this venue updated, and having booked a band as musically diverse as ¡Mayday!, they would also have a diverse lineup of (relatively) local artists opening for them who you could say are also works in progress. With the only reputable names in the Toronto underground being the hosts Stacee Brizzle and Robbie G, the lineup would be filled with out of towners from places like Brantford, Malton, and Montreal, all looking to establish their presence in Toronto, some even performing for the very first time.
The opening performers would be hit or miss, as some rapped over their own vocal recordings, making the sound too cluttered to pick up on the lyrics, and others had weak mic presence, which was especially rough since the sound mixing and microphone volume seemed off the entire night. Each artist had their own crew of supporters turning up for them regardless though, and they would bring a diverse range of styles to the stage, including spoken word, EDM-infused rap, pop-rap, and trap. Highlights included an emcee named Voice of Silence kicking off the show with a dance-off over his own ¡Mayday!-produced song, “DanceNature,” a crew from Brantford called BLK C-80 who brought a unique look to the stage with their light-up masks, and Malton emcee E Kraze who came with dope flows and raw vocals, spitting every bar without the help of backing vocal recordings.
The most hype opener of the night had to be Patrik, a Montreal artist with Toronto roots who came with a trap style of rapping. He drew the biggest crowd and had everyone turned up to his beats, including a hype track featuring Toronto’s own Just John, and a protest song against violence, which was especially relevant with all the shootings happening in the city this year. Much of the crowd seemed to only be there for him, as the crowd got smaller towards the end of the night.
After co-hosting with Stacee Brizzle and introducing all the performers throughout the night, Robbie G would get to take the mic and perform his own songs. He’s headlined his own tours across Canada, joining ¡Mayday! on the road for this one, and recently celebrated moving out to B.C. after spending years building up the local Guelph-area Hip-Hop scene. He would perform a handful of his throwbacks, including “Incredible,” “Homies,” and “Do What You Do,” and would also do a few songs off of his latest album, One With The Elements, including the Madchild-featuring “On The Edge” and the hype “Wile Out.”
There would be an intermission with music videos by Strange Music artists like Ces Cru and Tech N9ne playing on the big screen, before California emcee 1Ton would come out to do a short set before ¡Mayday!. Having also opened for ¡Mayday! on the last tour in 2017, 1Ton brought some good energy just like last time he was here, spitting punchline-filled raps and cracking jokes. With most of the crowd gone for a smoke break, 1Ton still performed like a pro and had what was left of the diminished crowd engaged during his set. His raps had punchlines for days, as he performed songs like the catchy “#Hashtag,” and rapped at a steady pace so you could pick up all the bars. Pretty soon he would introduce ¡Mayday!, and NonMS would get the main show started behind the drum set.
Starting things off with a wicked drum solo, NonMS cranked the energy from the beginning as he moved between his conga drums and alternative drum set, dancing as he played. Wrekonize and Bernz would join him on stage, and they would dive right into the lead single off of that South of 5th album, “Run Up.” The sound issues with the venue were apparent right away, as the mic levels could never get high enough for Wrek & Bernz’ voices to carry over the beat, and they were drowned out for most of their set even when putting all their energy into it. The crowd knew all the songs though, and were into the performance regardless. Replacing Tech N9ne’s feature on the third verse with another drum solo, the beat from “Run Up” smoothly transitioned into the hype “Last One Standing,” which famously made The Rock’s workout playlist.
The vocals would get slightly better as Wrekonize sang the smoothed out hook to “Fuel To The Fire,” but then they would get drowned out again once that energetic beat kicked in for the verses. They would battle through it, performing their familiar routine for “Shots Fired” with another dope drum solo at the end, before continuing on to some rarities and new joints. They would rock one of my favourite songs off of their 2013 album, Believers, performing “Stun Gun Stickup” for the first time in Toronto and getting the crowd hyped! Then they’d continue on to a throwback they hadn’t performed since their 2015 tour, “Badlands,” before getting into more new material off of South of 5th.
The more melodic sounds of their reggae album made the vocals more clear as they performed songs like “Shelter” and “Next To Go” with the crowd singing along to the choruses. This would be the last of the new songs though, as the rest of the show would be strictly throwbacks. They’d go on to rock more songs from 2012 and 2013, including rare performances of “Unplug,” which features a guest verse from Toronto’s own Kardinal Offishall they skipped over, “Forever New,” and “20/20,” which included a Wrekonize freestyle partly off the top saluting Toronto. The dopest of these throwbacks had to be the rare joint off of their 2012 Thrift Store Halos EP, “Darker Shades,” not only for the rarity of seeing the song performed live, but the low amount of bass allowing Wrekonize & Bernz’s raps to cut through clearly.
After killing it with their older songs, Wrekonize went behind the turntables and MPC to play some beats, and Bernz took over the conga drums as the band played a live beat together. They would transition this into a remixed version of Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.,” and NonMS would come out to the front of the stage to show off some wicked dance moves, as he’s known to do. To close out the show, they made sure everyone in the building was ready to dance before they rocked the groovy “Space Cadet,” NonMS going back to killing it on the drums and Bernz slaying his verse. They would briefly leave the stage, but the crowd knew the show wasn’t quite over, as there’s always one particular song ¡Mayday! always ends their concerts with.
There would be a chant for an encore, and the band returned to the stage, Bernz thanking the crowd and humbly stating “we’re just some kids from Miami” before getting into the autobiographical “Shortcuts and Dead Ends.” This is another more laid back, emotional joint that allowed the vocals to come through clearly, and Bernz had the crowd hanging on to every word. He would then leave the stage for Wrekonize to have the crowd to himself, and Wrek would similarly take the crowd through his own verse, clapping hands with the fans up front. Bernz would jump back on stage and sing the chorus with Wrekonize one last time, and this would mark the end of the concert. A birthday girl the crowd would get some birthday shoutouts, and ¡Mayday! would take the time to meet every fan who wanted to give them props.
Overall, my first concert at The Grand Gerrard was fun times. The venue did have its sound issues that need to be improved on, but ¡Mayday! was able to battle through it like seasoned professionals, and still put on a great show. This being my fourth time seeing the band perform live, it was great to see some of the new songs from South of 5th get performed, as well as a different selection of throwbacks that they hadn’t done before. As with most artists signed to Strange Music, the heavy touring and output of new music is sure to continue, and the fans will definitely be checking for ¡Mayday!’s return to Toronto, as Wrekonize mentioned they’re looking to come back more frequently.
After a couple stops in Guelph and London, Ontario, ¡Mayday! will be taking the Fire In The Sky Tour all over the U.S. until the end of November, check the tour dates here!
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