88Glam NXNE Review28 June 2019 / by Demar J. Grant (author)
Hiking the steps of Dundas station always leaves you disoriented but Dundas Square, just two nights prior was home to the Toronto Raptors championship celebration, is now home to NXNE. Stoic police officers were replaced by milling security guards as Raptors apparel were swapped for long sleeves and ripped jeans.
And blotting out the H&M entrance of the Eaton Centre just as you turn your head was the main stage with flexing, suspended speakers on each end of it. What was once a rainy week has stilled to an overcast sky. A shame really, NXNE is scheduled amid June where Toronto is historically hot and humid instead of wispy and chill.
The nip lead to a demure crowd. And when 88Glam strut onto the stage clad in all black crewnecks and ripped jeans their reception was lukewarm. Free concerts lead to dicey crowds because you'll never truly know who'll show up. At least when you charge for entry you know everyone coming likes your music. The audience for the main stage was split in two by a metal pathway reserved for media and the physical division spilled into the mood of the crowd.
To start the show Derek Wise tried to hype the audience and the response was so drastically different from the right side (which cheered heavily) to the left that the duo themselves pointed it out.
Tracks off both 88Glam and 88Glam 2 got shine but 88Glam came out strong with their singles 'Lil Boat', 'It's a Flex' and 'Kyrie'. In their songs Wise and 88 Camino bounce off each other in unique ways and that's replicated on stage. While bathed in purple, red and blue light Camino consistently rapped his verses while Derek Wise served as the energizer to the crowd.
In 88Glam's tracks, 88 Camino's voice is always auto-tuned for his melodies but during the performance his mic was auto-tuned differently than most of their songs. Instead of sounding like an artist performing his song, Camino sounded like a third member rapping another member's verse. The same goes for Wise and his digitized husky studio voice.
While Camino and Wise are a duo they act very much independently of each other on stage, constantly crisscrossing and playing to opposite sides of the crowd. During the brief moments the two did come together their chemistry was indelible. They Danced together as if they were in their own living room jamming out to their own records, radiating charisma.
The on-stage dynamism didn’t transfer to the crowd though. They paused between tracks to start a mosh pit, but it was a pittance. Again, only the right side participated.
'Kyrie', 'It's a Flex' and '12', bang so much that they got played twice but the set lacked fluidity. The songs popped when first played but Wise and Camino circled back on them later in their set instead sticking them on repeat when the crowd was really into it.
And to add on top of the odd order was the short runtime. As the sun was setting 88Glam scurried off stage as if they were in danger of being out past curfew. Their set was supposed to be an hour and only ran a brief 40 minutes considering the two and a half projects they have at their disposal.
Festival crowds are a fickle bunch but 88Glam was able to move the crowd despite some incongruity.Not every set foes the exact way it's planned and if it does that probably means you didn't put on an effective show. Crowds react differently each time and 88Glam lack of reading them hurt a show where most of the crowd was really vibing.