Published May 07, 2015The five members of Illinois rock band the Orwells dressed like they came out of five different decades, and moved onstage like they were stoned on five different drugs, but collectively looked like a group of kids you could have fun skipping class with at a suburban high school. They seemed ready for Canada, donning orange NDP stickers on their legs, a nice shoutout to the recent Alberta election.
They mostly played songs from their 2014 album Disgraceland, opening with the bratty, bouncy "Who Needs You," yet included a solid mix of new songs over the set. Vocalist Mario Cuomo, he of ramen hair and baby face, seemed stoked to play the role of rock star. Unencumbered by an instrument, he writhed around onstage, grinning a toothless grin, like if the love child of Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill decided to front a rock band.
The crowd moved like popcorn, jumping up and down and reaching up to touch Cuomo's hands or hair, both of which he dangled into the audience. A guy in a Misfits jacket was insistent on crowd surfing to every song, and I remembered him doing the same thing at last week's FIDLAR show. I wonder if he's satisfied with his day job.
"This is the weakest fucking crowd we've ever played to in Toronto," said Cuomo, flipping the bird to a cheering audience. "You must be getting more scared of us." Which, sure dude. The Orwells are many things, but threatening they are not. Rather, they embody a safe kind of weirdness, playing pretty accessible garage rock songs with a stage presence that seems to be cobbled together after having watching hundreds of other rock bands play over the years, but that's okay. It's nice to see a band make an effort.
With everything except the actual music stripped away, the Orwells are a solid garage rock band that have perfected the mix of aggression and affability. They sounded tight and gave a shit. The audience loved them, and the band loved that they loved them.