On Friday, January 25th, Austin’s Stubbs kicked off the 2019 outdoor concert season with chillwave pioneer Chaz Bear, aka Toro y Moi, who smoothly oscillated between his growing catalog of classic hypnotic tunes and his newer funkier jams, in front of a sold-out crowd. Running a bit behind on time, Bear and his backing band strutted onto the minimalist darkened stage all decked out in what looked like high-viz firefighter coats to battle the blaze created by Outer Peace, his highly acclaimed album that dropped barely two weeks into the new year. It was clear that Bear was super pumped to share his latest work through his choice of setlist, where a majority of the songs were pulled from his past two albums that show the artist evolving in both lyrics and beats.
Toro y Moi kicked off the evening with “Mirage” and “No Show”, also the first two songs from the 2017 slow-grooving and broody album Boo Boo recorded while the Oakland-based artist spent a year in Portland. Before the crowd got a chance to really settle in, Bear delivered the hit “Freelance”, which has been buzzing on the Austin airwaves since before the release of Outer Peace. The song is a good representation of the evolution of the artist who has been working for nearly a decade. With the choking chorus of “Walk on the water,” the song and new album allude to the anxiety and depression inflicting millennials during this time as employment opportunities and comfortable futures are all but certain.
As the set moved deeper into the night, a more chilled out yacht vibe permeated. Bear brought out classics such as “Still Sound” from 2011’s Underneath the Pine, the album that helped to define chillwave and was a staple of nascent streaming radio of that time, followed by “Grown Up Calls” from 2013’s Anything in Return (QRO review). These songs were contrasted by the new sad trap piece “Monte Carlo”, which featured opening artist Wet joining Bear on stage to perform back up vocals. The energy in the rest of the set continued going up and down like the bubbles that filled the air for songs “Girl Like You” and “Who Am I” that anchored the middle of the set, which didn’t include much banter by Bear except for the occasional, “Thank you Austin.”
Closing out the set was “Rose Quartz” from the Anything, a bouncing and decaying lo-fi sound that was a pleasure to listen to as it built up slowly with the chorus “I feel weak.” Sadly, Toro y Moi only has a few shows in the US with dates in the warm weather climates of Florida, Arizona, and New Orleans before departing for a European tour beginning in Portugal in May. Weakened fans in other cities, can get their Toro y Moi fix by checking out the official video for “Freelance”.