TORONTO, ON* — The audience was primarily European, or so a girl from Berlin said to me Thursday evening at The Drake Underground. She laughed knowingly. “It’s the Klingande crowd.” And she was right.
This was only the second time Cédric Steinmuller, known for his melodic house hits “Jubel” and “Punga” under his Klingande moniker, had performed outside of Europe. Interestingly enough, the venue and many ticket retailers failed to advertise the new French kid in town at all; even the marquee outside only held the second act, making Young & Sick appear as the night’s headliner.
However, the local melodic house market had no difficulty locating Klingande. Early in the evening, the sold-out crowd was nowhere to be seen and it seemed as if the night was going to be a bust, but by Klingande’s showtime two hours later, the 200-capacity hotel lounge was packed. Perhaps the news had spread by word of mouth, or more likely, by social media, which is quickly becoming a valuable tool for musicians.
Like the audience, the lineup was both geographically and stylistically diverse. “That’s what’s so great about this city,” an attendee said to Young & Sick’s Nick van Hofwegen. “Nobody’s actually from here.” The Drake housed two distinct crowds that night; one for Klingande and one for Young & Sick, who hail from Los Angeles via the Netherlands. The opening act, Bent Denim, a live trio and recording duo representing Nashville and New Orleans (two musical meccas in their own right) didn’t quite draw anyone, unfortunately. At 10 p.m., their two members, Ben Littlejohn and Dennis Sager, tried fruitlessly to liven up an absent crowd; van Hofwegen was easily the most supportive audience member as he danced enthusiastically around bystanders during Bent Denim’s set.
Later, Bent Denim didn’t need to return the favor; people began to gather at the front of the room for Young & Sick’s set, which was considerably more successful at raising spirits. Van Hofwegen sped through most of his self-titled debut album. While Young & Sick (2014) has a smoother, PBR&B sound, live, the album was quirkier, with a baroque pop-like sound.
Set changes were lengthy as the stage switched from synth band to full band to electronic setup. As Klingande began his change up, Steinmuller’s set hand kept moving a glass of champagne, a flashy move which captivated the restless crowd. When Steinmuller signaled the audio panel at the back of the room, the ardently European crowd was more than ready. Perhaps due to the World Cup festivities earlier that day, Steinmuller sported a polo, which inevitably became a point of conversation for the audience, most of which had never seen Klingande live.
No one could pronounce Steinmuller’s performing moniker or song titles. Spectators called out varyingly for “Joo-bell” and “Yoo-bell,” revealing their own varying nationalities. (Under the premise that “klingande” is of Swedish origin, “Joo-bell” and “cling-and” would be correct. “Yoo-bell” is a Polish pronunciation.) Steinmuller was a tease, building his layers slowly; his touring saxophonist finally joined in fifteen minutes after the start of the set, and after many a drunken “where’s the saxophone?”
Underground, the restlessness was a positive energy; it dissipated into the early morning, but spirits remained bright. People may have expected showier things from Steinmuller, but his style became more apparent as his set progressed. It was simple, really, much like his single console setup, but Klingande’s thumping bass and soaring instrumental melodies find a spiritual core and infiltrate a listener’s system with joy. It’s just jubel.
*This summer, The B-Side reports from locations worldwide including Berlin, London, Los Angeles, and Toronto.