Gig Review: Alvvays with Mardeen at The Danforth Music Hall

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Over the past year or so, Alvvays has somehow become the band that I’ve seen live more than anyone else. Whether it’s due to the fact that they’ve toured so extensively or that I just never want to miss them when they come to town, I seem to end up at their show almost every time they’re in Toronto. And I’m not complaining. They’ve grown exponentially in popularity since the very first time I saw them at The Horseshoe Tavern in September of 2014, and it’s crazy to me that they sold out The Danforth Music Hall for two nights and that I was there to witness one of them. I’m a very proud fan, and I would not have missed it for anything. Not even the fact that the gig was smack dab in the middle of exam week.

I try to enjoy the entire concert experience as much as possible. Even before I left my dorm room to head to the venue, I was itching with excitement. At this point I know how happy an Alvvays concert makes me and I couldn’t wait to get in there. For some reason I love being on the Bloor-Danforth subway line, the magic when you leave the tunnel for a few seconds and can see the highway and a sea of car lights below you. And I love emerging from the subway and turning onto Danforth Avenue and seeing the giant light-up sign in front of the venue that everyone Instagrams and that I always try to get a good photo of. I love the architecture inside and the fact that Alvvays never puts a barrier in front of the stage so it all feels really communal and I love that I could hear them soundchecking as soon as I got there. Tons of little things contribute to how you feel at a concert and what you get out of it, and this one felt particularly special.

Every time I’ve seen Alvvays, we’ve pretty much been front and centre. I love being able to lean up against the stage and I love being right in front of Molly and it just feels really good that that happens whenever I’m at one of their shows. This time was no different. Even though I was scared that we would be near the back, we ended up in our usual spot, and it felt perfect. The drum head had a new decal on it and there were Christmas lights draped across the stage and they were playing an ABBA song as we walked in and I could not have felt better.

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The opening act, Mardeen, was from Cape Breton – same as Alvvays. They played a really cool set. I often hate getting through opening acts because I don’t know the words and I can’t sing along, but this time an awkward swaying foot-tapping kind of dancing took place of the singing and the whole set was really fun. Even better, one of the band members was introduced as Archie, and I realized all at once that Molly has mentioned teasing their friend Archie that the track “Archie, Marry Me” was about him and that this was the Archie. I died a little of happiness and the whole night was made a little bit better with that tidbit of information.

As soon as Alvvays came on, I felt right in my element. Their shows are fun and upbeat and familiar. I always feel comfortable and full of happiness at their gigs, like I’m floating on a cloud of magic and goodness and positivity. The band opened with “Atop a Cake” and I couldn’t help but dance around right from the get-go. I sang along louder than I can remember ever singing along and I completely let go and danced in what little space I had. In case you were wondering, concerts are a great way to forget about exam stress.

The set continued with “The Agency Group” and one of their new songs called “New Haircut.” I love how their new tracks are shaping up, and I’ve heard that one so many times that I can safely say that I’m obsessed with it. Other new ones called “Hey” and “Not My Baby” also sound incredible, and I can’t wait to hear what their next record will sound like. A lot of people seem to think that this brand of jangly girl pop will die out soon, but I firmly believe that Alvvays are on the right track and that they’ll deliver yet another magnificently addictive album.

“Ones Who Love You” is the one song that I wait for during every Alvvays concert. It’s slow and it builds up so well and the lyrics are so heartbreaking that I feel like I could fall apart just listening to it. There’s a lull in the show when they play it – everything gets softer and sadder in the most beautiful way. I cherish those moments, when it feels like the whole show stops and thinks for that one song.

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The sing-along kind of songs also hold a special place in my heart. The songs that everyone knows all the words to that we all start yelling as soon as the band starts playing. The songs that get everyone to dance and put their arms in the air and look at their friends with the biggest smiles they’ve ever had plastered across their faces as they feel the most freedom they’ve felt in a long, long time. With Alvvays, “Adult Diversion” and “Archie, Marry Me” are those songs. The entire crowd went wild and those three or four minutes felt wonderful. The only thing that would have made it better is confetti, but even without it, I felt whole and happy.

This particular show was even more special than usual for one specific reason: they played “Red Planet.” Molly walked onstage alone for the encore and hit a button on the keyboard and picked up her guitar and the familiar organ sounds began playing and my jaw dropped. The stage flooded with red light and she began singing, eventually leading the entire crowd in a chorus of the song. I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t believe my luck. I silently wished I could live in that moment forever, a moment where there are no exams and Molly Rankin is five feet in front of me singing one of my favourite songs. It was magical.

I’m convinced that I’ll never get tired of seeing Alvvays live. I always leave the venue feeling lively and happy, clutching whatever merch I couldn’t help but buy and gushing non-stop about just how good it was and spewing sentences along the lines of “oh my gosh the new songs and red planet and Molly’s so perfect and Alec’s striped shirt I’m dying.” I love how good their shows feel, and that’s not something I’m willing to give up quite yet (or ever). One thing is for sure: you can expect to see me at many Alvvays shows in the future.

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