Kylesa at The Annex Wreck Room

Posted 25 Jan 2011   Event Reviews

Toronto was blessed with an amazing show over the weekend by Kylesa – the perpetually enigmatic sextet (that means six players, you filthy pigs) hailing from Savannah, Georgia.

Backing them up were opening acts Rosetta and Fight Amp.  Due to the fact that we were conducting an interview with Laura at the time both the opening acts were on, we missed out on seeing them.  By all accounts, both bands were well received by the crowd and we’ll look forward to catching up with them at some point down the road.

Before going further, let’s rewind about two years back through the Spiral Shadow:  The first time I saw Kylesa which was opening for Mastodon during the Blood Mountain tour at Toronto’s Opera House.  At the time, they were known to me by name but not enough to be familiar with their work or consider myself a fan.  Being completely honest, everything at that point was simply waiting to see Mastodon.  By the end of their set however, it was pretty clear that Kylesa was a band who deserved the attention that they were getting and were on their way to becoming something special.

Even at that point years ago, there were certain qualities that obviously set Kylesa apart – especially in a live setting:  A foundation of strong riffs and thoughtfully arranged songs.  A unique sound anchored by a powerful rhythm section consisting of two drummers (Carl McGinley and Tyler Newberry) a highly energized bass/keyboard player (Corey Barhorst) and the presence of two powerful and highly enigmatic talents on guitar/vocals (Laura Pleasants and Phillip Cope).   At the time, however, it seemed to me personally that there still more room for growth and intensified focus – understandable given all the talent and inspiration they had to draw on.

Photo by Jana Miller

Fast-forward two years to the present day and Kylesa’s return to Toronto.  From the moment that the lights went down and the swirling, hypnotic light show began to set the mood, shimmering keyboards coupled with the otherworldly feedback of guitars making ready for flight, there was magick in the air.  Kylesa is clearly a band that takes great pride in the details – both great and small – and these touches really paid off during ther course of the evening.  Again, the light show (powered by Santos) did a lot to draw the listener in and lend a sense of cohesion to the night’s festivities.

Beyond that, Kylesa played to their strengths in their capability to generate a tidal wave of riffs and balancing them with melody and sensual dynamics.  The band has refined their ability to taking the audience into different worlds between songs:  One highlight featured four members on drums while Laura lifted the audience with some profound yet understated work on the guitar.  At another point, high priest Phillip Cope reached deep into the spirit realm via some tasteful and well-timed work on the Theremin.  They set the crowd down gently and did not make us wait long before treating us to a rousing but brief encore.

While I left intrigued by a memorable performance two years ago, Kylesa seems to have made a leap of faith into rare air.  This was a night where it was not long between moments when the hairs on the back of my neck were standing on end from the electricity being generated on stage.  I only hope they return again before the effect wears off.

Photo by Jana Miller

Special thanks again to Jana Miller for the photos, taken January 15, 2011 At the Backbooth in Orlando, FL

Additional special thanks Angela Mapes and Santos for making things happen 4