It’s pretty obvious that Chaz Bundick could have made it as a chart-topping pop musician. He might have taken up big hip-hop production like Kanye West, or gone the way of the R&B star like The-Dream — he just didn’t want to. The thing is, the musician behind Toro y Moi is too obsessed, or maybe just too good, at being a trendsetter and had to go his own way. His electronic music has always taken the elements of pop and reproduced them through the lens of the artist himself. But after his latest release, Bundick isn’t making music just for himself anymore.
And that was the scenario at Toro y Moi’s sold out show at the Bluebird Theater on Saturday night. Bundick, flanked by three other live musicians, never directly lit and speaking very little, played a set on the audience’s own terms. His vocals, a little bit low in the mix, put the beats and bass grooves full force, which is testament to the popular, experimental dance music going viral with fans on SoundCloud. Even his light set up — four panels that looked like window shades — made the show feel like some sort of hip, 20-something house party.
Toro y Moi set this mood right away with the pulsing, club build of “Rose Quartz” from his new album “Anything In Return.” Then, maybe just to make sure everyone at the Bluebird knew what the show was all about, Bundick and co. moved into the psychedelic funk of “New Beat,” but this particular version on Saturday had the faster BPMs of a DJ’s remix. It’s a style that really tests the listener to either simply dance or try to pick apart the layers of Toro y Moi’s atmosphere. No one in the crowd seemed to have any trouble deciding what to do (the answer was dance) as group played danced-up versions of tracks from Toro y Moi’s three albums. In quick bursts of improvisation, Bundick would bust out a smooth, R&B organ run, or the guitarist would slip in a janky solo. These mostly served as quotes, or rather calculated live samples that any good producer would cut and paste electronically.
Touring with a full band, the music from Bundick’s album “Underneath The Pine,” which features mostly live instrumentation, had the most organic transition to the stage. Songs from Toro y Moi’s other two albums, though, which were created through impressive studio techniques or just Bundick and a computer and synth, seemed more forced. Despite having these three album’s worth of material, Toro y Moi left the audience with a “peace out” after only an hour-long show. It didn’t seem short, with the set hitting so many genres and subgenres, but many of the young people shuffling out of the show didn’t seem too excited to face the snow to keep the party going.
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Nic Turiciano is a writer and photographer in Fort Collins who is also an intern at the Denver Post. You can follow him on Twitter at @nic_turishawno or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.