Toronto indie label Cooked Raw hosted three local acts for an intimate show at The Garrison on Thursday, June 30. According to the promo poster (designed by local artist @pure__plastic), the show marked the release of Heaven for Real’s latest single “Slow Clap” and its accompanying music video. Humble words of admiration were ample and a genuine love for the performers was clear. It was the real deal–artists, friends, and fans coming together to appreciate music made by people they adore. The smiles, screams, and whoops were proof enough.
As I sat off to the side waiting for the show to begin, Flamin’ Groovies, Gun Club, Meat Puppets, and the Kinks played in succession over the speakers in The Garrison’s small venue space. Audience members rolled in dressed similarly to the bands they were there to see: tucked-in thrifty t-shirts, button-down shirts, classic-style Reebok and Adidas sneakers, trucker caps, sets of keys on carabiners attached at the hip… nary a pant hem touched the floor. A generation that gladly embraced the comfort and simplicity of dressing like Jerry Seinfeld. (I will say, I’m personally guilty of at least three of these.)
Toronto’s self-proclaimed “Canadian hick children”, Hobby was the first band to take the stage. Their guitar-driven alternative country rock is backed by a bouncin’ rhythm section, on the same wavelength as The Band when they played with Bob Dylan. You can hear the Pavement-esque alternative rock influence on their last record, Weed, but this live performance is more straightforward country rock. Guitarist Cameron Fraser mentions seeing Heaven for Real at the Silver Dollar five years prior and, jokingly, never being able to play music again. Later in their set, they decide to “take it down” and play a slower song. An unfortunate consequence is the clear sound of chatter and the bar sink running in the back. When they announce that their final song is “about smoking weed” the crowd cheers.
Up next was Nutrients, a jangly indie pop quintet. The dreamy atmosphere of their music was coated with sweet tones from the keyboard and guitars, which stayed true to their records. Naturally, swaying bodies and bobbing heads were seen from both the crowd and the band. Some dancing broke out. About midway through their set, musician Dwight Jones joined them to play the flute and saxophone. The latter added a jazzy layer to the mix and elicited the strongest response from the crowd, who instantly cheered whenever Jones began playing. Also, notably, an enthusiastic group in the crowd loudly hyped up vocalist and guitarist Taylor Teeple, who concluded every song with a humble “thank you”.
Before Heaven for Real took the stage, a white sheet was put up to screen their latest music video. “Directed by Nate Wilson,” lead singer Mark Grundy proudly states. The video features Grundy, with an appearance from his brother and fellow bandmate J. Scott, in a garbage-ridden apartment complete with food leftovers and detached doll parts. Superimposed clips flashed on screen as the garbage attached itself to him. It kind of reminded me of something Michel Gondry would make, especially when the objects moved on their own. The opening/closing frame emulates the recognisable promo shot for the 2014 film Boyhood. When the white sheet came down, a leather jacket hovered over the stage and a beaming Laura Jeffery, their drummer, was revealed.
Heaven for Real’s set was short but quality over quantity usually speaks for itself. For me, their strongest force is Jeffery, whose drumming brought a blast of energy to their more energetic songs. Heaven for Real was the loudest act that night, but their sound was never compromised.
This energy also moved through lead singer Mark as he scuttled all over the stage, never missing a beat on vocals and bass. There was a brief moment early on when his mic stand slowly drifted away, prompting Hobby’s Stephen Pitman to quickly jump in and help readjust it.
Before continuing, Mark encouraged the crowd to move closer to the stage and the band introduced each other before launching into “Desk Top” from Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top. J. Scott’s guitar was on point, sounding just as good live as the record with a few extra licks. He casually switched between guitar and keyboard, smiling to himself and his bandmates while confidently keeping the flow. They were very appreciative of those who came out to show their support, jokingly commenting that they traveled from Halifax to Toronto five years ago just to play this very night. “Gas was cheaper then,” someone tagged on. The journey was worth it, I’d say.
Heaven for Real’s upcoming record, Energy Bar, drops on September 16, 2022 on the Vancouver-based indie label Mint Records. Their Sweet Rose Green Winter Desk Top EP was released back in March (and topped the CJRU charts the week before the show).