Husbands @ The Drake Hotel
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It was rainy and cold, feeling like winter even though the season was still fall. Nonetheless, people—including me—found themselves in the basement of the Drake Hotel in the middle of Toronto to listen to Husbands. Made up of five members of Danny Davis and “the boys” Berto, Zach, Ethan, and sometimes Tom, the band has its roots in the state of Oklahoma. Husbands was originally founded by Davis and Will Norton after they met in college while working on a Godzilla musical. In 2016, they began playing shows around Oklahoma city. Norton left the band to become a father, leaving room for new bandmates lovingly dubbed “the boys” by Davis. The band describes their music as “... landlocked beach pop that sidequests Krautrock, garage rock, and tropicalia” on their Spotify website. After watching their performance, I can confidently say that the Husbands have a passion for their music. They are people who care about what they are making, people who aren’t in it for the money but for the fun and the thrill of putting something completely yours out into the wild. Davis looked like he was having a lot of fun; none of the lyrics he sang lacked excitement or had any hint of tiredness. Despite the show being on a rainy Wednesday in the middle of November, Davis and co. managed to turn it into a beachy, California summer.
The Drake Hotel is a small, intimate venue with a bar in the back and lights pointing diagonally towards the stage. It’s made up of a lot of different rooms with their own unique functions, but the stage area offers a cozy experience, allowing attendees to talk and get to know each other on a deeper level. It was my first time there, and it was a unique experience that differed from my summers frequenting the Budweiser Stage and hopping from one jazz bar to another. The size of the venue added an intimate factor to Husbands and their opener, Plastic Picnic’s performance, as they had the chance to engage with the crowd and spoke to fans like friends.
The venue was loosely filled with 50-100 people, leaving enough space for people to move and dance around freely. For a Wednesday night, the crowd was surprisingly merging themselves with the music. The concert was lively and almost childish—sounds like summers spent as a teenager before the realization of taxes and carrying health cards came to be. When they got to perform their hit song “She’s a Betty,” the crowd picked up their energy again. They jumped around lightly and mingled with each other, making room for people to dance and swing onto each other through the center. Drinks flowed from the bar to the open floor throughout the night despite the weather and day of the week; people conversed and danced with each other while managing to keep their two-steps to Husbands’ beat. When Davis, the lead singer, suggested for the crowd to follow his dance moves, everyone did. It was one step to the left, one step to the right, drinks raised to the sky.
The band has the aesthetics of indie pop classics like Rex Orange County, Mac Demarco, and H.E.R, but their sound differs in their newest album, Cuatro. Even though their music in Cuatro is not as experimental as their first few albums, Golden Year, Karlstad, and After the Gold Rush Party, their music continues to be fun and lively. The band adds a twist to a lot of radio-friendly tunes and mixes what they know from more niche catalogs such as Krautrock and tropicalia. On their song “Face Molt,” they use indie pop and mix it with classical rock sounds, making for a fun listen but also matching the vibes of a good rock show. Influences from 80s glam rock, new wave, and synth pop are also evident with their use of the synth piano, coupled with effortless riffs that showcase each members’ ability to play their part in the band. Husbands’ audience at the show also reflected the type of music the band made, with the appearance of long-haired fellows in flannels accompanied by their mellow, laid-back demeanor. The demographic mostly consisted of young people from the legal drinking age up until their early 30s.
The lights dimmed for the second half of the show, opening with a song that Husbands dedicated to the so-called “surfers of Toronto,” bringing their knack for tropicalia and surf rock into the stage. In a generous, democratic display, the band allowed the crowd to pick the last three songs, jokingly admitting that the impromptu nature of their sudden decision was also coupled with Davis’ announcement, where he states “this is the part of the show where we play three songs but we don’t know how to play them.” This was the height of their audience engagement as they showcased their pure enthusiasm for performing music. Despite Davis admitting that they didn’t have the chance to play some of the songs off Cuatro due to a lack of practice, he laughed at the audience’s jokes and made some of his own, eventually settling on three songs—which included one of their older ones such as “Mr. Downtown.”
With all my concert-going adventures, I found that the size of the venue and the artist cannot escape the early retirees who opt to leave before the lights come down. However, this was not the case for Husbands. People were so enchanted by the overall vibes and volume of the music that they stayed until the last note was strung.
I had the chance to speak to Davis at the end of the show, asking him about the band’s time on tour. He says that Toronto is their halfway point, with their tour kickstarting in their home state, Oklahoma. He relays that the tour has been good so far, and that Toronto’s autumn is fun to experience compared to the season’s absence in Oklahoma. He gave Montel, the audio engineer at the Drake Hotel, a shout out for his job in enhancing the bass levels—which was seemingly disoriented in other locations. We talked about Halloween movies, the tour, and the band’s experience on the road with Plastic Picnic. The ease at which I was able to talk to Davis was exciting, completely lining up with my expectations from reading how the band described themselves on their website: “Existing for years as slaves to the 9-to-5/music people on the side, the band is fresh out of day jobs, and main guy/expat Danny Davis and the boys (Berto, Zach, Ethan, sometimes Tom) have put all their eggs in the Huzz basket to finally do what they love full-time : make music.” I was speaking to a man who loved to make music, and I wish them nothing but the best for the rest of their music-making journey.