This past weekend I ventured to Toronto to see the band Salem perform. While I’m disappointed to have missed Ottawa Fashion Week, I have to admit that Toronto was amazing in another sense. I hung out with old friends, including Hilary, an industrial design student at OCAD, played music with my host, Cameron, and quite enjoyed Salem’s smoky show at Wrongbar.
I tried to describe Salem to the guys in my Toronto rideshare and I got as far as “witch house, dark electronics, infused with hip-hop” before said rideshare dudes noticed my black nail polish and wrote me off as weird. Yes, Salem are weird, but they’re weird in a sexy and dark sort of way. If you enjoy anything from electronic, glitch, hardcore, grimy dubstep, shoegaze, witch house + a thousand other subgenres of music, you should check out this band. They first gained popularity a few years ago due to the power of the interwebs – but their online buzz does not always translate well to the live world. At SXSW last year, they were booed off stage for a weak performance. Ignoring these slips, however, this American mid-west group continue to internationally tour.
Salem actually pulled together a good set in Toronto. I found it humourous, though, how while the audience was quite into the music, the band made no attempts to be into the audience. Salem's disenchantment is curious: their presentation seems to almost eroticize cult references. They combine theatrical elements: dark make up, eerie electronics, thick fog, fishnet and cloak-like clothing....and from a band completely disaffected of the audience around them, an omnious performance heightens religious speculation. But one must consider things like the name of one of their albums: “Yes, I Smoke Crack” (2008), alludes to how factors more substance related than religious may be what Salem parallel their spookiness towards.
I enjoyed Salem's set. I appreciate how they've combined many different genres of music without much much care to necessarily respect original styles (for instance, the rapping does not necessarily honour original hip-hop clarity, as they seem to put more weight on rhythm than wanting us listeners to understand what they're even rapping about). Their ability to push artistic boundaries within their performances, recordings, and videos is both refreshing and bold. And after the smoke dissipated and we all went home, the rest of the weekend in Toronto was full of wholesome fun. Toronto is always such a ball: I’m quite glad it’s just a few hours away so us Ottawans can catch some rare shows. While these are no Szeto shots, here are some photos from my weekend in Toronto: