Would another snowy downpour keep music lovers away? Not in Canada! Twenty minutes before the opener Wax Nightclub in Kitchener was already holding around fifty people, indicating a good sense of anticipation for the show. Looking around, a woman was wearing a Linkin Park hoodie. It must not have just been me who discovered Grandson from his feature on Mike Shinoda’s heart-breaking but raw solo album. Even though Grandson’s music is rap based it brought out a crowd of people who you’d normally find at a rock show.
First to perform were Just John and Dom Dias - the Toronto based DJ and rap duo. Rapper Just John’s favorite and slightly over used catchphrase of the night was “Make some noise Kitchener!” The duo was working really hard to loosen up the audience - which is fair though because Kitchener is usually an apathetic crown until it’s time for the headlining act - and they did a good job interacting with the crowd and getting them to wave their hands around. In the last half of their set, Just John freestyled politically charged lines between songs. Toward the end of the set, John had a moment to talk about Blank Canvas - an art collective which he and Dom are a part of - which is a Toronto based safe space for marginalized people to create music and art. When they ended their set John bounced into the crowd from the stage and talked with patrons and took selfies with them.
Another Canadian duo was next on stage but this time it was blues-rock band The Blue Stones. Once the band started playing it was clear that they had a few fans in the venue, some singing along and some rocking the bands merch. Throughout their set they seemed like they weren’t impressed with the lack of audience participation - saying things like “C’mon! Are y’all really ready for Grandson?!”. But toward the end of their set people were really grooving it out to guitarist Tarek’s hooks.
Grandson's act began with anticipation as the crowd was left in the dark with strobe lighting and brooding synths buzzing. His supporting band of a drummer, guitarist, and bass/synth player arrived on stage first - then grandson appeared in a hooded jean jacket with his name and logo painted on the back. His set opened with "Stigmata" from his newest EP, "a modern tragedy vol. 2." which finally released the crowd into action. First few songs followed the same structure where there were low lying versus, a build up, then a chorus to drop the hard thrashing beats, but it never got old. Grandson brought out such passion as he jumped up high on the drop of the beat, looking at his guitarist in euphoria when he was going off on a solo, and meaning everything he would rap about in his lyrics.
Speaking of lyrics, his discography shows how much he wants to see and make change in the world. One of the songs be performed "thoughts & prayers" (assumed to be, correct me if incorrect) he prefaced it by talking about how he had written the song after the Parkland High School shooting of 2018. He then said how it doesn't matter if you have an opinion about the "right to bear arms". That there should absolutely be changes made for safety because it cannot happen again. Throughout his set he encouraged people to not just agree with his feelings about political changes, but to make changes. He also introduced a few songs that are obviously about his feelings about Donald Trump said, "This song" or "Again this one is about 'The Man.'"
He ended his set with his biggest hit "Blood // Water" where he stepped down from the stage and into the crowd and rapped in a circle pit. The last instrumental chorus got fans moshing hard and grandson moshed in with them until the end of the song. After the set, grandson was chilled out at the merch booth, taking photos with fans, talking with them, and signing posters.
Seeing grandson live is a gig to be free to let go and thrash about. Whether you get charged up from the lyrics that may coincide with your political beliefs, or just love the gritty, rap based, rock that just makes you want to jump and mosh around. grandson is unique in his ability to combine rap and rock and make it superbly effective and not be a complete copy of Rage Against the Machine. It's a very relevant in sound and with greatly relevant messages about our world today. With the changes he wants to see, he also is trying to make them happen with his new organization, XX Resistance. This organization sets up meet and greet opportunities with grandson but also gives a portion of the money to charities and local organizations of each tour stop to help support the communities of his fans.
Don't wait around, get out from the winter blues and check out his tour!