Neon, Weird & Wavy: Keys ‘N Krates Get Live @ The Marquee


There was a disproportionate amount of talent on last Thursday’s bill at The Marquee. For a mere $10, the Toronto-based lineup featured:
• Pusher, an up-and-coming cat who makes his own tracks and producer tools;
• Thugli, a duo with turntabling roots whose banging remixes are regularly played by superstars like Diplo;
• and Keys ‘N Krates, a festival-rocking trio who play all their tracks and remixes live using electronic and analog instruments – an anomaly in the dance music world.
Included in the ticket price was a made-at-Sheridan bonus: One free taco-in-a-bag.

At 10:30 p.m. Pusher, whose name may be a nod to the “music is drugs” metaphor that pervades hip hop and electronic music, kicked off the night by pumping out a tight and pleasing mix of rhythms – bouncy hip hop beats, hair-flipping pop remixes, crump-worthy dubstep, and plenty of his own soaring 8-bit inspired “neon” productions.
A half hour into his set, the sparse bar-bound crowd became a chanting circle surrounding a dance-off between a curly-haired kid and an Asian guy in a lab coat, setting a trend for the night.
By the time Pat Drastik and Tom Wrecks, the pair comprising Thugli, took the stage at 11:30, the crowd was primed for a throwdown. “Thugli” is a portmanteau of the duo’s preferred style of music – thug, and ugly enough to make a face at.
Ominous red lights set an appropriate mood for the bass-heavy business that was to come: the duo unleashed a litany of trap and hip hop shoulder-shakers which caused the dance floor to be put to serious good use.
Periodically one of the guys would showcase their well-honed turntable skills with a scratch routine. These sessions usually ended by egging on the crowd with a simple phrase like “Let’s get weird!” before launching into another megahit remix. Needing no more encouragement, weird is what the crowd got.
The effect of the relentless bass and liberal use of strobe lights on the flailing crush of bodies in the centre of The Marquee was total: It was a dance party.
The set ended with the singing of the Canadian national anthem: Drake’s “Know Yourself”.
There was a lull at 12:30 as technicians prepared the stage. While this was a welcome breather for some, for others it was a chance to slip out in hopes of catching a decent night’s sleep before work or class the next day.
The hardy crowd that remained gathered close when Keys ‘N Krates finally took to their instruments, but when the trio broke into their hit “Keep it 100” people dispersed again to bust out space-intensive dance moves.
What proceeded was a barrage of remixes from KNK’s extensive repertoire. It was an impressive interplay of man and machine – for every booming bass kick, pitched-up sample, and confounding synth melody there was a human hand on a drumstick, key, or mixing board making it happen. To this, fans of live music and EDM alike joined together in “getting wavy” as the band likes to call the mindset of cutting loose.
A discerning hip-hop ear could pick out cuts from TNGHT and Kanye West, and you’d have to be tone deaf not to recognize the hummable string section of “Bittersweet Symphony”. KNK’s breakout hit “Treat Me Right” was the night’s clap-along emotional high point.
When the music finally stopped just before 2 a.m., there was little collective stamina left for much else besides lining up at Union Burrito for a taco-in-a-bag and exclaiming to the sweaty faces of newly-made friends how sick/dope/awesome/weird/wavy the entire night was.