Review: Toro y Moi chills out a dreamy State Theatre in St. Petersburg
The State Theatre on Friday night resembled the kind of a fogged-out, trippy vape den you’d want to walk into at a Brooklyn bar at 2 a.m.
Chill vibes emanated from the sold-out crowd, who all came to drink in Toro y Moi, a South Carolina-bred band spearheaded by musical visionary Chaz Bundick.
Bundick has slowly gained a chillwave cult following since his 2010 freshman release Causers of This, and has continued to garner more attention in his progressively malleable musical wizardry. With each studio album, Bundick has explored and evolved his artform across genres. Noted for his '70s soft rock vibe (minus the yacht), Bundick transcendentally fuses elements of indie electronica, psychedelia and sprinkles of rock and R&B to create an ambient sound that’s perpetually peppy.
Anchored stage right, Bundick performed as the center. A blue light engulfed him in an angelic aura while the rest of the band plucked away, methodically cast in purples. They opened with Half Dome, a song about Bundick’s trip to the Yosemite National Park landmark with his wife, and the lyrics echoed, “You must be waiting,” which seemed fitting.
The dusky room was like kava from Toro y Moi's instruments. They transformed the intimate setting to a dreamy soundscape where everything felt okay. On this utopian plain, Bundick diligently dug into Talamak, Still Sound and Grown Up Calls, somehow translating sound into feeling.
While Bundick may be a master of music and mood-setting, the band initially appeared to struggle finding its groove; all the motions made the music, yet the stage begged to be dominated. Maybe they preferred the music to speak for itself, because what they lacked in presence was easily made up for in crisp auditory pleasure and ambience.
They seemed to find their Goldilocks groove mid-show during So Many Details, which led the crowd into a deep dance trance through Run Baby Run. Bundick bounced back and forth in from old and new material in the setlist, playing all but one track off 2015’s What For?
My personal favorite of the night was Say That, a quintessential Toro y Moi moment where the music and the crowd merged in one simple, happy, bouncy place. They topped off their set with Empty Nesters before ending with a tranquil encore of Yeah Right, sending everyone off all rose-colored into the starlight.
Bundick’s diverse compositions made this a long-desired gig in the Bay area, yet his charismatic character didn’t fully translate its potential on stage. His bandmates felt more like accessories than partners. I wanted them to engage each other more (outside of seamlessly playing beautiful music). Maybe I have high standards, or was still reeling from the intensity of Death Grips' performance on the same stage the night before.
The lack of visual entertainment and stage presence aside, Toro y Moi is hands down a live band. No .mp3 can truly do them justice. They succeed at impeccably executing dense layers that are easy on the ears and mind. It makes you feel good, and I left feeling happy, and that’s something I’d pay for.
-- Stephanie Bolling