The Joyful Smiles Tour Hits Toronto


Koo Koo Kanga Roo at The Dance Cave Toronto.

On October 13, 2015 The Joyful Smiles Tour featuring MC Lars and Koo Koo Kanga Roo made it's only stop outside of The United States. The Dance Cave is located above Lee's Palace at 529 Bloor St. W and features black and white designed walls and an arched ceiling (it also has a very Loop-esque vibe, for those Windsorites distressed enough by the complex's closing to make the four hour trip for a dance party).

Koo Koo Kanga Roo from Minneapolis, Minnesota opened the show with their dance-pop stylings that appeals to all age groups.

I first encountered this group at St. Andrew's Hall in Detroit last May, when they opened for The Aquabats. At the time I was more concerned about not stepping on toddlers than I was about the music, so I failed to appreciate what these guys were doing.

After last night's (thankfully) 19+ show my opinion has certainly changed.

Bryan Atchison of Koo Koo Kanga Roo at The Dance Cave Toronto.

When group member Bryan Atchison approached our table prior to the start of the show and asked if we wanted to stretch with him before they began we laughed and shooed him off. But we soon came to understand why he asked.

In a smaller, less packed venue the duo were really able to show off their calisthenic skills. Running, jumping, kicking, and spending more time in the audience than on stage, stretching must be imperative for these two, else they'll pull a hammy and what would happen to the show then?

Feauring tracks about peanut butter and jelly, fanny packs, poop, and cats (luckily not all in the same song), it's the perfect type of immaturity that appeals to both children and slightly bizzed twenty-somethings. Backed by projectors displaying elmo and trippy colours it was easy to forget that Koo Koo is a laptop band - no instruments required.

The crowd was enthusiastic, participating in callbacks, dancing, and the multi-coloured parachute that was brought out to close the set.

MC Lars at The Dance Cave Toronto. It's easy to see where the tour got its name.

After a thirty second changeover MC Lars took the stage while the majority of the crowd was still out smoking, peeing, or getting a drink. But they all scurried back ASAP once he began.

From San Francisco, California, Lars is the originator of post-punk laptop rap. A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to interview him for CJAM 99.1 FM out of Windsor, Ontario, and we discussed exactly what this term means.

"Laptop rap is kind of self explanatory," he says. "Post-punk is of course the term given to the bands in the late 70's, early 80's that kind of followed the punk era...Bands that took the ethos of punk rock and did it in kind of a new aesthetic way."

Performing songs about emo music, Edgar Allen Poe, and zombie dinosaurs, Lars captivated an avid crowd. Audience participation is a big part of his show, and seeing him in a smaller venue (rather than on a Warped Tour stage like the previous two times I saw him this year) really showed that off.

Jesse Dangerously from Halifax, Nova Scotia was in attendance to perform the track "No Logo" from Lars' 2009 album This Gigantic Robot Kills. He also assisted on "Mr. Raven" from the 2012 Edgar Allen Poe EP. But my favourite part of the show came when Lars and Jesse banded together to freestyle about the objects audience members pulled from their pockets. Things like ticket stubs, keys, debit cards, and even a one hundred dollar bill (luckily for Nathan these are some honest dudes).

Jesse Dangerously at The Dance Cave Toronto.

Lars also brought out a few songs off his upcoming album The Zombie Dinosaur LP, including "Sublime with Rome (Is Not the Same Thing as Sublime)," a song about bands changing so many members as to hardly be recognizable anymore.

"It calls out more of the bands like Black Flag and The Dead Kennedys," Lars said in our interview, "Sublime with Rome, at least in the name of the band you know you're not seeing the original band."

I was curious about Sublime's reaction to the song. Apparently they haven't heard it yet, but Lars plans to post the track to the Sublime subreddit hoping they'll see it. So far the post has yet to happen, but the guy's on tour, so give him a break.

MC Lars at The Dance Cave Toronto.

The Zombie Dinosaur LP is set for release on November 6, and in Canada will be available on cassette featuring the bonus track "Friends Do Not Let Friends Watch LOST," which is only available on this medium. Check out Blacktop Records to get in on the pre-order.

It's always nice to see artists appreciating their fans, and these acts definitely do. Koo Koo Kanga Roo brings a webcam around with them for selfies at the merch table. MC Lars will take convenience store photos with you if you ask nice enough. And they're all just super nice dudes down for a conversation. So if you ever get the chance - approach the heck out of them.

Everyone in a Bloor St convenience store. Photo credit to the very nice (and extremely patient) cashier guy.

Tonight The Joyful Smiles Tour heads back stateside with a show at Mac's Bar in Lansing, Michigan (2700 East Michigan Ave.). If you're in the area I recommend checking in for a solid night of light-hearted entertainment.

You should also check out my interview with MC Lars. In it we discuss monetizing merch instead of music, which fits perfectly with the killer track "Captains of Industry" he did with MC Frontalot.

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© 2015 Lauren Hedges