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Live Review and Photos: Junior Boys, September 24, 2011, El Rey – Los Angeles, CA

Before seeing Junior Boys on Saturday night, sexiness isn’t something I would immediately associate with their music. Fluidity and tastefulness come to mind, a certain amount of restraint, even, but not so much sexiness. But, a couple minutes of people watching at the El Rey during Junior Boys set revealed boys kissing girls, boys kissing boys, girls kissing girls, girls kissing the straws in their drinks, a boy kissing a fur coat, and an abundance of sensual, arms-raised, unabashed dance-floor moves that drop-kicked any indie-tag that Junior Boys wear straight out of the room, leaving a genuine club night to behold. It was a little weird, but it was fun, ya know?

Serving as opener was Montreal five-piece Young Galaxy, who rose to the challenge of entertaining a crowd hell-bent on dancing with a brand on non-taditional dance music. In fact, Young Galaxy would hardly be considered dance music at all, but the band seemed oblivious to this fact focused on their drums, bass, and keys to create soundscapes that were as easy to move to as they were to enjoy. At the center of it all was Catherine McCandless, who sold her sexy stage moves and viscious tamborine whacks with controlled and affecting vocals, while Stephen Ramsay matched her ability to take lead, seeming a little less comfortable in the spotlight but filling the role dutifully. The band is promoting their recent album Shapeshifting and while it might be a stretch to imagine being so enthralled by their 45 minute display to run out and purchase this or one of their previous albums, it was enough to pique an interest. And, as we all know, for an opener, that is all you can ask.

Looking at Junior Boys, the band wouldn’t appear sexy at first glance. In fact, the first impression that anyone familiar with the Canadian group would be that they have added live drums to their two-person studio line-up. This added to the live experience, pushing Junior Boys closer to a legitimate band and further from the typical DJ or electronic productions put on by some of their peers. No, the sexiness came when Jeremy Greenspan opened his mouth, revealing the soulful, confident, and relaxed voice that appears on Junior Boys records is 100% his own. And when he opens his mouth to let his melodies loose, which began with Begone Dull Care opener “Parallel Lines,” something magical comes over a room.

The El Rey was not sold out, but wasn’t too far off either. However, the energy of the crowd addressed this fact, as people danced in closer and closer throughout the set, giving the room the appearance of a true event. And, damn if the audience wasn’t loud. Greenspan aknowledged the fact that Junior Boys haven’t played Los Angeles as much in their career as they would have liked, but the crowd didn’t hold it against them, erupting at each song’s opening notes and shouting loudly between numbers with song requests and claims that Junior Boys were “legends.” And, really, with the kind of 80-minute set that the trio delivered, there was little room to argue with the assertion.

Other set highlights included memorable dance-alongs “Bits And Pieces” and “Count Souvenirs,” but the performance really came down to two songs. For their single song encore, Junior Boys knocked “Banana Ripple” out of the park, emphasizing the sweaty funk of the tune and compelling the audience the grind on up on each other for one last dance before they separated and went their own ways in the night. “Banana Ripple” live, as well as on record, makes a strong case for itself of being deserving of a place on year-end lists, serving as the standout track from their quite good recent album, It’s All True. And then there was “In The Morning,” played a couple songs before the end of the set and receiving one of the loudest ovations I can remember from a recent show. For a band as unassuming as Junior Boys, the rabid nature of their fans was a delightful surprise, and their enthusisasm turned what would have already been a memorable show into something special.

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