Let’s start with hyperbole. I’ve never been as proud of Portland as I was on Sunday night, when I realized that we as a music community had the good sense to sell out Toe‘s show here. I was nervous after hearing about sell out shows in LA and San Francisco from their tour manager before the set, nervous about how they had played bigger venues. I can vividly remember some disappointing shows at the Doug Fir in terms of attendance, and I hoped that by the time Toe took the stage the room would be stuffed.
It was, of course, and how could it not be? Toe doesn’t play in the states that much, and when they do it seems like they stick to the Chicago/East Coast route (fair enough, the West Coast is beautiful but it is a slog in terms of driving). It seemed as though everyone there grasped the rarity and the beauty of the occasion, pouring admiration onto the band from the first note to the last of the three song encore. A healthy mix of material from all phases was included, including my personal favorite songs from The Book About My Idle Plot On a Vague Anxiety and For Long Tomorrow. Apologies to the fans and band alike for not learning hiragana before writing this review to communicate the names of the songs, but dedicated fans will know that all “the hits” were played.
Takashi Kashikura is always going to be the main focus of the band for many fans due to his absolutely insane musical ability, which is enhanced even further when one realizes that he is controlling the samples as well as playing the drums for their compositions in a display of complete rhythmic mastery. Throughout each of the songs the band moved from closed-eyed emotional concentration to thrashing their instruments and flailing about while playing note-perfect renditions. This was all capped off by a “sing along” of sorts in the encore when the band pulled out the 2nd track from The Book… (apparently the English translation is “Lonely Invention”) and during the guitar parts after the drum breaks the crowd vocalized the stepped down notes…”ah eh oh, ohhhhh.” This was on top of several members of the audience (including myself) who were trying desperately to take in Takashi’s drum style by air drumming along, mostly to no avail.
LA producer starRo opened the show. The project of Toe’s old friend and manager from Tokyo, Shinya Mizoguchi, starRo got the crowd head-bobbing and dancing in a tight, bass-heavy set before Toe’s performance. He knew exactly how to play to the crowd, remixing Toe’s “Goodbye” for his last song of the evening and setting the stage for the band. Later on in the evening I saw a fan approach Shinya and get his picture taken with some merch, which was sweet but not surprising. This tour is going to please crowds all the way across the United States. The rest of the tour is headed east through the month, and if you are reading this and have the ability to catch it, this is absolutely unmissable.