REVIEW: Toro y Moi @ The Senate, 11/17/2018

By: Kyle Petersen; Photos by: Bree Burchfield

Toro y Moi performing at The Senate, November 2018. PC: Bree Burchfield

Toro y Moi performing at The Senate, November 2018. PC: Bree Burchfield

More than most, Toro y Moi is a musical act that reinvents itself with every album cycle. Since the pre-Causers of This days when Chaz Bundick (Chaz Bear?) played shows half behind a DIY laptop and keyboard combination as a chillwave progenitor to the almost-jammy guitar pop of 2015’s What For?,  the Toro y Moi project has constantly tested its own boundaries, trying on various permutations of dance-centric indie rock, funk and pop as if flipping through an exceptionally-curated record collection.

Bundick, a Columbia native who led the sharp indie rock quartet The Heist & the Accomplice in his college days at USC, adapted his live band to each of the singular aesthetic visions of his recordings each time he flipped the dial, adding drummer Andy Woodward and bassist Patrick Jeffords and then, later on, guitarist Jordan Blackmon and then keyboardist Anthony Ferraro to the proceedings. That core nucleus carried him far, even through the beats-oriented pop of 2013’s Anything in Return, but at a certain point it felt like the touring version of the band stood resolutely apart from the studio creations, and that Bundick was pretty fine with that.

Then came last year’s Boo Boo, a moody pop affair that showed traces of The Weeknd-style R&B and the grimy grandeur of some of Toro’s hip-hop production on the side. As ambient and inscrutable as that album could get, it was among the most consciously pop the project had yet leaned. Too, it was difficult to imagine the live band translating many of these songs to the stage. That Bundick didn’t tour on the effort seemed right and would ultimately prove prescient.

This Columbia show was the final date on the first string of non-DJ sets Toro y Moi had played since Boo Boo and comes in conjunction with the release of an advance single, “Freelance,” ahead of a full-length in early 2019. And it’s clear we’re getting a very different Toro experience going forward. Now performing without Blackmon and with Jeffords on synths as much as bass, Bundick is stepping fully into the frontman role, often drifting decisively away from the keys to roam the stage and lean into the considerable power of his vocal hooks rather than laying low in the groove. It’s a move he could have made at arguably any point in his career thus far, but it fits the new material particularly well, placing him in the lineage of artists like Frank Ocean and Sampha whose auteur styles and left-field melding of pop and R&B manage to command large audiences.


PC: Bree Burchfield

PC: Bree Burchfield

Venturing through much of Boo Boo and new material from the forthcoming album amid a smattering of older tunes that fit the new direction, Bundick was as confident as a performer as I can ever remember seeing him. Even amid the most sweaty, dancefloor-ready vamps of the past, there’s always been something fundamentally bedroom producer about him, that felt like a masterful musician reimagining the music swimming around in his brain while saddled in front of the computer screen.

And that’s probably still who he is at heart but, for the first time, it’s possible to imagine that quiet, bespectacled oddball from around the way as the most unlikely thing of all—not just a nationally renowned indie artist, but a genuine pop star.

This might be some hell of a new record.

 

Cassie Premo Steele Talks with Syzygy Poetry Open Call Winners Ann Humphries & Maggie Olszewski

 

Interview with Ann Humphries and Maggie Olszewski

 

Jasper asked Cassie Premo Steele, who adjudicated the Syzygy New Voices of the Eclipse poetry contest for new and emerging writers, to talk to the winners about their poetry and processes.

 

Maggie Olszewski, whose poem, “The Nature of Shadow,” was chosen as the contest winner, was born in Columbia, South Carolina, and she is 16 years old. She has been writing ever since the age of 6, when she wrote her first piece—a Harry Potter fanfiction. This year she is attending South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities, where she will further pursue her craft.

 

Ann Humphries is also from Columbia, where she studied poetry with Nikky Finney and Ed Madden at USC. Her poem, “An Eclipse and A Butcher,” was chosen as the honorable mention in the contest. She has also earned Ultimate Outsider status for visiting all 47 state parks — as the only blind person to finish. She has a guide dog and tree named in her honor.

~~~

Cassie: Since this was a contest for new and emerging writers, can you tell us a little about why you entered the contest and how it felt? This might be helpful to others who may be hesitant to submit their work.

 

Maggie: This prompt really hit home for me. As someone who is deeply invested and interested in the science behind the upcoming eclipse, the idea to convey my feelings towards it artistically hadn't occurred to me. It felt great to take the prompt and shape my own thoughts around it. 

 

Ann: I loved this prompt. I became deliciously lost in the research. I spun five poems about the eclipse. 

 

Cassie: Can you say a little about what the process of writing poetry is like for you?

 

Maggie: I usually sit down with a rough idea of where I want to go or end up—often a first line, a theme, or a story. I get my thoughts onto paper and revise in a couple of days.

 

Cassie: When you have a specific assignment, such as you did for this poem about the eclipse, is your writing process different?

 

Maggie: Yes. When I have a specific assignment, I don't wait to revise. I plan the structure of the poem before I start and make sure I have a stronger sense of what I'm trying to accomplish. 

 

Ann: I appreciate deadlines. I played in the research, asked myself what would be a unique perspective. What I especially admired about this contest is its intersection of science, visual art, poetry, even plays, culture, history, and technology. This contest took me to fresh reservoirs of writing.

 

Cassie: What's your sense of the poetry and arts scene in Columbia?

 

Ann: Bursting with life! And Jasper is a nexus for collaboration across the genres. By the way, I searched the country for comparable contests. All I could find were readings and plays in Oregon and Illinois. Good for Jasper! Bravo to the SC Humanities Council.

 

Maggie: I know quite a few actors and artists through my father, but not as many as more established writers might (obviously). From what I can tell, everyone seems to know everyone, and there's an immense amount of collaboration and supportiveness that goes on. It seems like a really cool thing to be a part of. 

 

Cassie: And if you could wave a magic wand and make something happen in the city, what would it be?

 

Ann: Bring back the Book Festival - or fully support Deckle Edge. I savored every morsel, would have pitched a tent. If only we could have clones to attend all the events.  

 

Maggie: Hm. That's a good question. I'd probably clear the city of litter. It's not too bad in my little corner of Columbia, but I've driven through areas that could really do for a cleanup. Maybe we could get all the artists together to clean up the city and make an art project from it!

 

Cassie: I love that idea! Anything else you'd like to share?

 

Ann: I'm becoming a Jasper Guild member.

 

Maggie: And I’m really grateful for this opportunity.

 

Cassie: Thank you both.

~~~

Jasper thanks Cassie for all her efforts in this project - from adjudicating the open call to participating as a poet in the Syzygy Poetry Invitational.

If YOU'D like to become a member of the Jasper Guild like, Ann (and thank you, Ann!), just click on "Store" at this website's main page.

Look for Ann and Maggie's poems in the Fall 2017 issue of Jasper Magazine.

Join us on Thursday, August 17th at 3 pm in the first floor auditorium of Richland Library to hear Ann, Maggie, Cassie, and a spectacular cast of South Carolina's most elite poets read their poetry in response to the eclipse at SYZYGY: The Poetry (free). Then join us at 7 pm or 10 pm at Tapp's Arts Center for the performance of SYZYGY: The Plays ($10).

 

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of 14 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including Earth Joy Writing (2015) and Beautiful Waters (2016).  She has recently completed a novel about mindfulness called The Lessons of Birds and is working on a poetry collection called Tongues in Trees. She works as a writing coach with women from around the world and lives in Columbia with her musician/web developer wife and laughter-inducing daughter. 

Cassie Premo Steele is the author of 14 books of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, including Earth Joy Writing (2015) and Beautiful Waters (2016).  She has recently completed a novel about mindfulness called The Lessons of Birds and is working on a poetry collection called Tongues in Trees. She works as a writing coach with women from around the world and lives in Columbia with her musician/web developer wife and laughter-inducing daughter.