"This is gonna be very sweaty."
Singer Genevieve Artadi wasn't wrong when she said that before Knower began their set Tuesday night at the Horseshoe Tavern, as part of the TD Toronto Jazz Festival.
It's difficult not to talk about Knower without touching on some of the more, let's just say "unusual" visual and lyrical content. The chorus to their 2016 track "Pizza" proudly declares "In it just for the pizza / Not the money / In it just for the pizza / Pepperoni." A song like "Butts Tits Money" is fairly self-explanatory, and "The Government Knows" delves into governments spying on people as they masturbate. With the focus more on improvisation during this set compared to their jazz fest set last year at the Rex, their artistic idiosyncrasies weren't quite as present. They were still there, It just wasn't as in-your-face as it might be on other nights.
That said, the five-piece group from Los Angeles kept their energy dialed up almost the entire evening, pausing only occasionally before cranking the pace right back up again. With an approach to electronic music highly indebted to jazz and funk, Knower inhabits that sweet spot between music for soloing and music for dancing. With an expanded lineup including bass, guitar, and keyboards beyond the usual duo of Artadi and drummer Louis Cole, the group had ample room to improvise over their dance-pop material, creating some interesting interpretations of their material.
The group never seemed to run out of steam as their set carried on, with Artadi constantly dancing across the stage. Cole did his best to keep the momentum going, joining Artadi in dancing along to "Pizza," maintaining consistently high tempos behind the drums, and rapidly firing off the words to "The Government Knows" without missing a beat. Their soloing also had plenty of fun moments; keyboardist Rai Thistlethwayte's whirlwind solos were particularly captivating.
In the end, this all combined for an entertaining set that was as danceable as it was sonically compelling. It's always exciting to listen to the different ways Knower melds their influences of jazz, pop, electronic, video game soundtracks, and more, with syncopated synth stabs pairing with funk bass and drums patterns, as well as a very no-wrong-answer approach to songwriting. Knower wears their uniqueness as an ensemble on their sleeve, and for them, that's one of their biggest assets. The set was compelling from a jazz point of view, a pop point of view, but most importantly, a fun point of view.