As originally published by Daniel Sylvester on Exclaim!
The scarcity of vehicles parked around the Bronson Centre for BADBADNOTGOOD‘s Thursday night appearance pointed to one thing: this one’s for the downtown set. Lined up early outside the 1,000-seat theatre, the band’s hip fans were more than eager to catch the Toronto trio after a rescheduled December 2021 date.
Playing an hour-long DJ set to open the evening’s festivities was New York-based DJ Rahill, a popular fixture on London, UK’s NTS Radio station. Spinning vinyl that ranged from soul jazz to old-school hip hop and classic electro, Rahill warmed up the room with an expertly-selected variety of jams.
Resuming his planned opening role from the 2021 tour, rapper Skiifall brought along his DJ for a tight 30-minute set. After a fruitful year that found him playing Osheaga as well as collaborating with BBNG and Charlotte Day Wilson, Skiifall performed with confidence and poise, even commanding the growing crowd to “light me up” with their cellphone flashlights.
In their first appearance since 2016, BBNG brought their “audio/visual extravaganza” (as described by drummer Alexander Sowinski) to the nation’s capital. Wrapping their bass and guitar amps in white sheets, the band (featuring the return of James Hill behind the keys) stretched into “Signal from the Noise,” pushing the opener into a 15-minute mood-setter anchored by Chester Hansen’s monster bass shredding.
Moving into “City of Mirrors,” the five on-stage musicians locked in with Sowinski’s jungle backbeat, igniting a wild response from the packed house. Acting as the evening’s mouthpiece, the drummer showed his appreciation to be back on stage in Ottawa, telling the crowd that they were playing for “family and friends” who came out to see hometown boy Hansen.
As a projector beamed disintegrating images of cityscapes and desert scenes across the band’s backdrop, the loosened crowd managed to cast dancing shadow puppets onto the stage throughout “Love Proceeding.”
Playing the entirety of their latest LP, 2021’s Talk Memory, BBNG compiled their setlist to allow each musician to showcase his musical acumen; Leland Whitty extended his fluttering sax solo during “Unfolding (Momentum 73),” while “Besides April” found Hill expertly transcribing Brazilian composer Arthur Verocai’s string arrangement into a sleek keyboard sound.
As Whitty moved to electric guitar for the second half of the performance, Sowinski led the crowd through a spirited count-in for the beloved “Lavender,” from their 2016 LP IV. Closing off the set with the jaunty and upbeat “Talk Meaning,” those in attendance began to dance wildly, nearly starting the world’s most rhythmic mosh pit.
Returning to the stage for an encore, BBNG closed off the nearly two-hour show with a spirited cover of Verocai’s 2016 track, “Na Boca do Sol,” in which Sowinski guided the audience to sing along to the track’s wordless melody. Following that was “The Chocolate Conquistador,” their collaboration with MF Doom (featuring images of the late rapper’s iconic mask plastered across the backdrop), as the crowd moved into a flawless clap-along to the pulsating beat, proving that BADBADNOTGOOD fans have an exquisite sense of rhythm — not to mention good taste.