– By Cristina Dirlea
The Toronto stop of Dear Rouge’s Black To Gold tour was hosted by The MOD Club on a warm November night (you read that right, 15 degrees). The sold out venue was packed before the opening band took the stage, with people’s excited chatting dominating the senses. The band merch in the entry hallway was diverse, including baseball caps and necklaces, along with free download cards, CD’s and vinyls, as well as T-shirts.
Montreal’s Caveboy, formerly known as Diamond Bones, started playing right away, the semi-darkness matching the band’s dreamy indie pop. Michelle Bensimon’s elegant voice captivated the crowd and elicited goosebumps from the first few notes.
Hailing from Regina, SK, Rah Rah have been around for almost a decade; their extensive touring schedule (alongside Wintersleep and The Elwins, to name a few) has cemented their uplifting, party-like performances. The quintet’s 2012 album, The Poet’s Dead, has been longlisted for the Polaris Music Prize as well as nominated for a Juno Award in the Best New Alternative Album category.
Given that the indie scene is dominated by male musicians, it was refreshing to see that the majority of performers on stage that night were women. Why is it important that women are equally represented on stage? I’ll defer the answer to our wise, newly elected Prime Minister.
As soon as Rah Rah left the stage among a sea of applause, people were huddling closer to the stage, no drink refills or smoke breaks, in sizzling anticipation of the headliners Dear Rouge. The Vancouver husband and wife duo played to a much larger crowd than at WayHome earlier this summer and were tangibly thankful throughout their energetic and fun set. It all started in darkness, with white strobe lights illuminating the band from the back of the stage, transforming Danielle McTaggart’s sequin top into a dynamic image of sparkling stars. The “Dear” duo energized the crowd right away with “Black to Gold” and never let the contagious enthusiasm drop below initial levels. Danielle used the entire stage, singing and touching foreheads with the lucky guys at the front of the stage, skipping, jumping or singing lying down, her voice never quivering. No one felt left out as she sang and addressed seemingly every person in the crowd, later joining the audience on the floor.
Although I had managed to happily keep a spot in third row, I quickly regretted my position as the band’s absolute number one fan was cheering right behind me. While enthusiasm is always endearing, this girl had the lung capacity of a zeppelin, carrying the “woooo” to impressive lengths, making my eardrum tickle and frustrating the surrounding crowd, as it became difficult to hear the music on stage.
Danielle also used her white mic cord as an accessory, whipping it to the tunes or fashioning an impromptu necklace. She leaned over the edge of the stage and entertained the crowd with stories such as that of their first Toronto show at the Supermarket, where they performed to only a handful of people, undoubtedly with the same energetic stage presence. At one point she shared her desire to be “tight with each and every single one of you! I’m getting a bit teary…” her sincerity written on her face. She joined the opening bands in declaring her love for Toronto before launching into other Dear Rouge favourites, such as “Best Look Lately” or “I Heard I Had”, but the crowd was singing along to all their tunes. Their cover of Blondie’s “Call Me” somehow worked perfectly with their indie-electro-rock sound and gave fans yet another opportunity to happily tire out their vocal chords.
I was happy to see a couple of tall guys leave at the end of the show, as I inched my way forward for the encore. A slower song, “October Second” enchanted the crowd, while “Tongues” left the crowd cheering for more. Dear Rouge had a special surprise in store for the attendees that night, as their friends Kara and Kathy got engaged on stage, amid cheers so loud they drowned out their speeches. It was a truly moving and unique moment and fans stopped to congratulate the couple, while making their way home from what had been a night of excellent performances by talent from all over Canada.