Tom Feltenberger // Arts Columnist
The lineup included Chicago locals Victor Villarreal and CSTVT as opening acts, both of which seemed to have experienced technical problems and had to cut their sets short. CSTVT still managed to rock the house and even get a mosh pit going in the crowd. Even though they have not played for about a year, they brought a humble but fun presence to the stage, claiming they did not have time for trivial things such as tuning their guitars.
After a few minutes of sound checking and setup, Toe made their way through the crowd and climbed up on stage. Toe’s sound can be described by the genres post-rock and math-rock, meaning that there are complex rhythms and dynamics in the music, especially in the use of guitars. Aesthetically, the music can either be intense and passionate or mellow and soothing. In the dramatic build-up of “Esoteric,” the crowd shifted into a wondrous frenzy of movement. Inversely, during the song “Goodbye,” the crowd was immersed in the few beautiful lyrics of the song.
The change in energy is profound, but not unnatural. Toe is a band that carries a very honest and sincere stage presence, and as such, captivates the audience’s whole being. They moved with their music, sometimes sinking into the stage during the more intense parts of the performance. They were an incredibly humble band, muttering an occasional “thank you” between songs.
Guitarist Hirokazu Yamazaki spoke of the band continuing to play in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. He also mentioned how much the band was enjoying their tour through the U.S. and joked about settling down in the States. To close the night, Toe played a fan favorite, “New Sentimentality.”
The event itself was a very interesting opportunity. It’s rare to see a band from Japan touring in the U.S., let alone stopping in Chicago. This holds especially true for a band that has been playing together over a decade. Even when hailing from half a world away, the universal language of music is still understood. Any cultural or lingual barriers fell to the sound of music.
As the event was all ages, Beat Kitchen had to comply with Chicago’s curfew laws and end the show well before midnight. Despite an incredibly hyped crowd chanting for a little bit more Toe, there was no encore. Even without an encore, the show was an amazing experience.
Toe’s sound is better experienced live than a studio recording.