Toro y Moi sets the groove for an interstellar disco at Freebird Live

The crowd cheers on as Toro y Moi performs the hit “Rose Quartz” in the middle of their set. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan
The crowd cheers on as Toro y Moi performs the hit “Rose Quartz” in the middle of their set. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan

On Thursday night, indie pop fans flocked to Freebird Live with a fluency to chant the headliner’s multilingual name – Toro y Moi. With both the opening acts, Astronauts, etc. and Toro y Moi promoting new full-length albums, the Jacksonville crowd was ready for a groovy night filled with melodic vocals, retro instrumentals, and opportunities to coo “Duval” between performances.

The show can be summed up by the graphic backdrop that adorned the stage. The bold curvy lines—or squiggles, if I may—took on a holographic effect with the help of the orchestrated lighting. The pictorial ebb and flow of the lines set the ambiance, and mimicked the sway of the crowd throughout the evening. All in all, it was a transporting experience that shook the nerves away from the usual timid, static Jax audience.

Astronauts, etc. took the stage performing tracks from their latest album, Mind Out Wandering. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan
Astronauts, etc. took the stage performing tracks from their latest album, Mind Out Wandering. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan

When Astronauts, etc. took the stage, there weren’t any space suits, NASA paraphernalia or gimmicks. Instead, the five man band landed with a slow jam from their album Mind Out Wandering. Frontman astronaut Anthony filled the room with his soothing vocals that vibed with the funky riffs and eased the audience through the atmospheric set. Astronauts, etc. in many ways could be a mellowed out BeeGees focused on dancey tunes rather than baby-making high vocals, and the crowd plugged into that possibility. The backup vocalist, switching between guitar and keyboard, was guilty of a few body rolls and a head bob equivalent of the Disco Point—a move that many adopted for the duration of the show. In fact, the band’s stage presence alone inspired the audience to loosen up to the intergalactic tale Astronauts, etc. performed. The music could be akin to a score for an astronaut’s venture “where no man has gone before.” Except in this case, mood trumps sci-fi.

Beyond the typical hollers in the midst of applause, members of the audience shouted the band’s name mid-set as if asking for a premature encore. The excitement broke Anthony out of a momentary trance to realize that Freebird was a two-story venue. “I didn’t know there was a second floor,” was what he said more or less as he acknowledged the tier of fans above. Humoring the audience further, the band played a cover of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” as their second to last song. Fans switched on their lighters and held them high to honor the wholesome cover choice. Overall, having Astronaut, etc. open for Toro y Moi was like enjoying a peanut butter Nutella-toasted sandwich (triple decker) late at night—complimentary, delicious, and a meal to make you dance with joy.

After letting the crowd simmer, Toro y Moi appeared on stage with frontman Chaz Bundick sporting his iconic round frames and a guitar strapped across his chest. He and the rest of the band—including front-astronaut Anthony on keyboard—were filtered in the pink lights on stage: a psychedelic display. The opening song “Half Dome” answered back to the audience’s anticipation since

: Toro y Moi frontman Chaz Bundick has gone through significant growth as an artist and composer. What For? goes beyond sampling techniques and reveals more facets of his retro rock influences. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan
Toro y Moi frontman Chaz Bundick has gone through significant growth as an artist and composer. What For? goes beyond sampling techniques and reveals more facets of his retro rock influences. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan

the doors opened—“You must be waiting.” Proceeding with a fine blend of old and new tracks from Causers of This to the recently released What For?, Toro y Moi brought the catchy, simplistic lyrics and groove to the night at a perfect pace. Chaz’s breathy vocals matched his recordings and have improved a great deal with the years of experience. The set showcased the growth of the 28-year-old artist as his sampling/production days have meshed well with his shift toward live instrumentals, and a-few-lines-longer verses.

Toro y Moi’s charisma led the audience through phases of slow jams, disco tunes, and ambient anthems. Poppy hits like “New Beat” and “Say That” had the crowd jumping and almost closing the personal space between each person—something almost uncharacteristic of the shy Jax crowd. Along with the Disco Point head bob, the audience was essentially a hundred or so versions of Chaz grooving in the “Say That” music video—but of course, done with a smile instead of a straight face. In the middle of the set, the band chimed out the sensational “Rose Quartz”—four repeated lines with subtle variations never sounded so good on loop.

In his iconic round frames, Chaz brought his breathy vocals, melodic lyrics, and charisma to Freebird Live. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan
In his iconic round frames, Chaz brought his breathy vocals, melodic lyrics, and charisma to Freebird Live. Photo taken by Shannon Pulusan

Before supposedly signing out with the last song “Empty Nesters,” Toro y Moi thanked the crowd for their energy and said that this won’t be their last trip to Florida, or “Duvaaaaaal” as the audience insisted. The crowd having chanted “One more song” got just what they asked for—one last encore song, “Yeah Right.” The final track on the new album closed the night the same way a slow song at a dance closes the night: swaying with arms wrapped around your concert buddy or for some, the new vinyl purchases. And just like a school dance, the lights returned and the music ended promptly at midnight leaving fans full and wistful for the next show. It was definitely a show to remember, a show that gave the Jax music scene a good representation, and a show that doubled as a bit of cardio.


Setlist:

Half Dome

Buffalo

Talamak

Still Sound

Grown Up Calls

Campo

The Flight

Lilly

Rose Quartz

So Many Details

High Living

Cola

Ratcliff

Run Baby Run

What You Want

Say That

New Beat

Empty Nesters

Encore: Yeah Right

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