I arrived at a surprisingly packed Horseshoe on March 14 without expectations. I had seen Real Estate open for Girls the last time they were in Toronto, but had never seen Woods live, and wasn’t sure how their music would translate to the setting. Both proved to be way better in person than I was expecting.
Real Estate took the stage first, opening with their self-titled album’s opener, ‘Beach Comber’. Their jangling guitars had some people swaying along, but it wasn’t until their last song that the crowd seemed to get into it. They played a few new songs that make their next record sound very promising in my mind, one even featured what was probably their best vocal melody yet. It’s always good to see a new band with a lot of hype touring with new songs that sound better than their past songs. By the time they closed their set with ‘Fake Blues’, the crowd was alive and moving, something that can be hard to get a Toronto audience to do.
Woods were up next, and as soon as I saw them pull out their gear and set up, I could tell I would be in for something different than what I was expecting from them. Their setup included one member of the band sitting on the floor fidgeting with effects and strange sound loops. If you hadn’t seen him come out at the beginning, you would have never known he was even there. They kicked things off with a jam that lasted a good five minutes before their first proper song. I now understand the Neil Young comparisons that Woods frontman Jeremy Earl has been receiving. It seemed at times I was experiencing what Neil Young and Crazy Horse might have sounded like around Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. The crowd favourite was probably ‘Rain On’, but it was the ten minute jam near the end of their set that had me captivated. The texture and noise that makes their music so unique translated perfectly into a live show, and the sheer joy of watching Earl thrash out on his electric made this show quite the experience.
Woods finished their last song, and everyone was cheering for an encore, but the encore came from another band instead. Real Estate and Woods came out as a collective called Real Woods. As the stage filled, the first notes out from Real Estate’s lead guitarist’s strat were the famous opening riff from Blind Melon’s ‘No Rain’. What was a crowd nodding and swaying through out the night, was now a dance party. Crowd surfing ensued, and a party was going on both on and off stage. Both bands left the stage on that song, and the brief but fun band known as Real Woods left Toronto with a pleasant surprise, and an unforgettable night of music.