NXNE 2015 Review: Jacco Gardner at The Horseshoe Tavern

Published on June 26th, 2015 in: Canadian Content, Concert Reviews, Current Faves, Music, Music Festivals, Reviews |

By Brendan Ross


June 17, 2015
Toronto, ON

It was about a year ago that Jacco Gardner’s debut album Cabinet of Curiosities was introduced to me. I was immediately seduced by its sunny psychedelic melodies, which invoked the 1960s chamber pop style of Syd Barrett, The Zombies, and Love, to name a few. Not the most groundbreakingly original album, no, but it resonated with me instantly and I fell in love. “Clear The Air” very quickly became my 2014 song of the summer.

Fast forward one year later: I’m standing at the front of the stage of Toronto’s Horseshoe Tavern amongst a disappointingly sparse crowd eagerly awaiting my chance to see Gardner’s multi-instrumentalist genius at work. I know he plays every instrument himself (except drums, I believe) on his recordings, so I was eager to see how much of that would exist in his live shows. Would it be an Andrew Bird-esque show with a multitude of loop pedals and strange instruments? Would he have a harpsichord with him?

My questions were soon answered when Jacco Gardner and the three band members he had in tow took to the stage and I saw no loop pedals or harpsichords. But when they kicked off with a track from the new album Hypnophobia it didn’t really matter. I hadn’t yet heard the album, but the flowery-psych vibe and complex melodies of his previous record were still present, although the tone was noticeably darker and the more progressive than anything on Cabinet. The band followed this up by firing into “Clear The Air” while a collective cheer emitted from the crowd, which I suddenly noticed had quadrupled in size. The fans had arrived.

The remainder of the 30-minute set consisted, naturally, of jumping back and forth from Gardner’s first album to his second, and there was always an obvious distinction between them. While Cabinet maintains a certain innocent quality, the Hypnophobia songs were moodier and more atmospheric and at times sounded more King Crimson than Syd Barrett, teasing us with trippy instrumental freakouts that would not have been unwelcome at the acid-trip party in Midnight Cowboy.

Gardner seems to be a man of few words, perhaps due to the limited time he had on stage, and did not do much talking. Aside from a soft “thank you” after each song and some polite tech requests during his set, he and the band plowed through their setlist, barely even leaving time for applause. The band, by the way, was fantastic, which I freely admit even if I was a tad disappointed that this wasn’t simply The Jacco Show.

It seems pretty clear by this point that Jacco Gardner has no plans to ditch his 1960s shtick, but it’s also obvious that he is quite interested in reinventing himself in other ways by exploring different caverns within the same genre. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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