Topping the Night Off

Montreal band TOPS expertly played the Aquarium at the 12th Annual KNDS Party.

KNDS’ 12th Annual Block Party filled the Aquarium with talented musicianship and entertainment. The night’s musical acts included headlining band TOPS, Disappear Forever and Frankie Teardrop.

Grand Forks grunge band Disappear Forever took the stage first as the crowd began to filter in. Filled with long hair and head banging with reckless abandon, the band moodily serenaded the audience to prepare them for the upcoming acts.

Following the first opener, Minneapolis-based self-proclaimed piss rockers Frankie Teardrop casually owned the venue. The eclectic group of dudes bantered with both the crowd and themselves as they developed a very social stage persona.

Their music mirrored the positive disposition as they played a set of acrobatic, sunny garage rock tunes. Frankie Teardrop’s frontman even broke out Cormac McCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses,” during their set’s finale.

He began a spoken word recital as the band’s other members carried on shredding their guitars, kicking their effects pedals and pounding away on the drum set.

Frankie Teardrop left the crowd in high spirits, prepping the stage for the main, anticipated act TOPS.

Slowly the members of TOPS began to filter on stage and soundcheck their instruments. The audience was enthralled and the venue fell under a subdued silence just watching the band mates prep for their set. Front woman Jane Penny then entered and the excitement only continued to build.

TOPS definitely had an established visual aesthetic to go along with their ’90s-inspired pop ballads. The members all wore over-sized sweatshirts, faded flannels and acid-washed high-waisted jeans. If someone were to accidentally stumble into the Aquarium, they may mistakenly assume that they had fallen back in time a couple decades.

Without warning, TOPS started playing “Change of Heart,” a highlight from their 2014 album “Picture You Staring.”

When the drummer began the song’s beat the crowd immediately began to sway and applaud. If anything, the main philosophy of the TOPS discography is to create music perfect to sway to with peppy beats, light-hearted guitar riffs and Penny’s wistful vocal delivery.

For most of the show, TOPS refrained from playing the hits off of their previous albums and instead decided to treat the audience to new songs. These included tracks such as “Anything” and “Hollow Sound of the Morning Chimes,” which display a more down-tempo tone, along with some unreleased tracks that will be on their forthcoming release.

One of these new songs included a fast-paced track the band mates referred to as “Cutlass” to each other on stage. Throughout the song, the members of the band danced with each other as they played the energetic, up-beat chorus.

The band then slowed down the pace as they played the deep cut “Outside,” a synth-led ballad about unrequited love. Even with the song’s somber tone, TOPS managed to infuse it with an undeniable groove with a cascading bass line following Penny’s falsetto-driven chorus.

TOPS continued to flow through their setlist until it came to the night’s final song, “Way to be Loved,” a highlight off of the band’s latest release. TOPS treated this as if it was their swan song and played it with an air of carefree determination.

Penny serenaded the audience with the song’s eloquent constructive criticism as the other band member’s backed her vocals with smoothly layered guitar lines and expansive percussion.

Penny concluded the song by addressing the audience solemnly with the song’s final lines, “Is that the way that you are? Wear your hair down alone, tie it up when he’s there and tell me that nothing’s wrong.”

Just as her voice faded and the crowd suspected the song to be over, the beat kicked back in and the instrumentation was revived. TOPS cruised through the chorus one last time with more vigor than before to give the crowd something to dream about on their way home.

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