Sleep Deprived at the Phoenix Concert Theatre: Beach Fossils, Turnover and Sword II

Beach Fossils, hailing from New York, played at Toronto's own Phoenix Concert Theatre on November 18th, with support from Turnover and Sword II. Despite the queue outside being short and tickets still being sold at the door, the floor filled up quickly. Soon enough, Sword II took the stage. Throughout the evening, all three bands regaled the crowd with their miserable experience crossing the border. Even though they were forced to pay extra to import t-shirts, everyone managed to make it through, albeit tired, slightly poorer and half an hour late. This time crunch left Sword II with the short end of the stick, and forced them to soundcheck quickly with the audience already watching. In the end, the trio were not brought down by tiredness but instead by poor sound that ultimately ruined their performance for me. Their blend of jarring distortion and soft vocals was interesting, but the guitar effects quickly became overwhelming after a few songs, and left me unable to enjoy any of the more subtle intricacies of their music. Although my experience wasn’t the greatest with Sword II, I believe their set would have been more enjoyable if time had been in their favour. To end on a positive note, their stage presence and fashion choices were memorable, especially because they included a Sonic the Hedgehog babytee. 

Turnover, the band I had come to see, gladly did not disappoint. It was immediately clear that they were seasoned professionals and raring to go. Fueled by watermelon La Croix, their seamless blend of quasi psychedelic instrumentals with melancholy lyrics simultaneously wowed and excited the crowd. With significantly better sound and some slower tracks, they were a welcome respite from the previously grating noise. I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of their set was made up of songs from their 2015 album Peripheral Vision rather than their newer records. I think this also worked in their favour, as these are some of their most well-known songs. Despite this being their first return to the city since 2012, they were warmly welcomed, and by the time they closed with “Take My Head”, the crowd was entirely hooked. This last song is entirely too relatable during exam season, and while I probably should have been working on an essay that evening, it was incredibly cathartic to scream those lyrics from the second row. While this set was a great way to see them live for the first time, I would pay to see them headline in a heartbeat.

Last, but certainly not least, came Beach Fossils. While I entered knowing absolutely nothing about this band, by the end of the night I emerged with a CD as a fan. They were touring for their most recent album Bunny; its album art as of that evening became a shared tattoo among them. While they looked exhausted under the colourful lights, they still gave it their absolute all and put on a memorable performance. Met with ecstatic cheers from the first note, their charisma was enviable. During the course of the show, the crowd was asked “Toronto, can I get a hell yeah?” multiple times, with each response becoming more and more intense. They were not afraid of moving around either, often coming close to the edge of the stage and leaning into the crowd. Their set was varied and captivating, playing deep cuts, hits and even marking breaks in the set with ambient tracks. A particularly special moment was when they killed the stage lights and asked the crowd to light them with their phone flashlights during “Social Jetlag”. By the time the encore rolled around after we had welcomed them back onstage with increasingly fast clapping, they brought our energy back up one last time with three back-to-back upbeat tunes. They closed with “Daydream” that was over far too quickly, but before the evening was over, the lead singer imparted some final wisdom on the crowd, saying, “surround yourself with people that inspire you, and inspire the people that surround you.” I think that’s a pretty good way to end a show.

In all, this evening had its highs and lows, but was overall a really great experience. There was something so freeing about going into a show without knowing what to expect, and I think that made it all the more enjoyable. Most importantly, it was a welcome escape from spending hours in the library and enabled me to forget about exams.