With Electric Forest erupting next weekend for the first time since 2019, Local Spins electronic music columnist Todd Ernst offers a profile of a dynamic act that will help kick off the Rothbury show.
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WRITER’S NOTE: When I got to see Cannons at the Magic Stick in Detroit in March, what was originally supposed to be a lead piece turned into what was going to be a post-show review just before release. from “Fever Dreaming.” But something happened to me that night that I struggled to find the words for. In almost 35 years of DJing electronic music and studying what moves people, I literally got stuck with what I had just experienced. That said, everything that follows is going to be a bit abstract, but I hope to connect a few dots of what makes Cannons so remarkable. The band performs on the Sherwood Court stage in Electric Forest at 6.45pm on Thursday.
While attending the Electric Forest festival in 2016, I noticed something that was a bit new to me as a long-time electronic music DJ.
During the sets of Bob Moses and Rüfüs Du Sol, a sea of women in their chic bohemian outfits, eyes closed, arms upraised, glided almost in unison more than they danced themselves. Since then, I’ve referred to this among friends and colleagues as “swaggering dancing” for lack of better terms. Yes, the guys do it too, maybe less pronounced, usually defined by more of a sideways overhead bob with a bent knee in rhythm with the beater.
In the fall of 2020, you might remember this guy named Nathan Apodaca going through the monikor DoggFace, drinking cranberry juice while skateboarding with Fleetwood Mac’s hit track “Dreams” playing in the background. . The follow-up to that effort was that he walked through Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with Cannons’ hit song, “Fire for You,” playing in the background.
“Yeah, that’s definitely put us on the map more than anything before,” Cannons lead singer Michelle Joy told me in a half-hour phone interview.
Our conversation left me thinking that she is one of the most authentic performers on the circuit right now, living for the experience of what got them to the level they are at now. We didn’t talk about the standard stuff that journalists ask for, but rather more abstract topics, and it really allowed him to open up about their journey.
We spent time talking about how the Los Angeles-based Cannons seemed to have this maturity during COVID, and she told me that they actually leaned into things and took the opportunity to come out “Covers” by Cannons. (I’ve never been a huge Springsteen fan, but their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” is phenomenal!)
I was curious how the remix of Cannons’ “Fire for You” by Tiesto came to be, as it was playing everywhere when my wife and I stayed at Resorts World in Las Vegas. Turns out it was as organic as Tiesto just reached out via Instagram and asked to remix one of their tracks.
It was hard not to ask questions about the dark nature of the band’s video for “Hurricane,” the lead single from 2022’s “Fever Dream.” The band’s ace in the hole is Joy’s husband (engaged to the time) and filmmaker Ryan Rundle. The inspiration for “Hurricane” was the 1984 film, “Firestarter,” adapted from Stephen King’s 1980 novel of the same name. Something Joy said about the background of this video shoot stuck with me: “Sometimes, saviors need to be saved!”
THE UNIQUE SOUND OF CANNONS: A LOW-TEMPERATURE JOURNEY, LOADED WITH SYNTHETICS AND REVERBS
As for the Magic Stick’s performance, I can’t stress enough the mood in the room that night. People were clearly happy to be out in public after being locked down for nearly two years. There was definitely this feeling that collectively we were the people at the forefront of what was probably going to be a worldwide phenomenon before too long – that of Cannons’ unique sound.
The cannons took the room on a synth-laden lo-fi journey, drenched in reverb, downtempo, “Shadows” and “Fever Dream.”
Anchored by bassist Paul Davis’ ability to switch seamlessly between a Fender jazz bass and a Novation synth, the piece grooved in unison from the first note. It doesn’t take long to learn that Joy’s energy is quite contagious, and the room quickly went from their swaggering dance and fist pumping in unison with the fashionable singer who almost jumped out of her boots.
Towards the end, Joy addressed the crowd, “There’s no energy like the energy of Detroit!”
Immediately afterwards, almost at the right time, the band unfolded one of the most powerful musical moments I can remember. Guitarist Ryan Clapham strummed the opening riff for the aforementioned hit single, “Fire for You.” The collective feeling in the venue was a symbiosis hard to put into words, and shortly after, Joy had the crowd jumping in unison with everyone shouting part of the chorus “”Fiire, fiire fiire!”
Almost any doctor would tell us that an ideal resting heart rate for a healthy human being is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. So one day, as an experiment – because I was really curious – I ran Cannons’ 2019 album, “Shadows”, and their new album, “Fever Dream”, through a beat analyzer per minute. They recorded an average of 97.67 beats per minute.
I told the band about it after the gig, a few eyebrows were raised and there seemed to be a collective wonderment at the concept I just presented.
Bottom line: it’s not often you come across a band that’s as popular among 20-somethings as they are 50-somethings. Is Cannons somehow the soundtrack of a post-pandemic world? Or is there a metaphysical, almost subconscious reason why Cannons resonates with fans the way they do?
I also told Joy that the band had probably never experienced anything quite like Electric Forest, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. So if you’re attending the Rothbury Festival on the weekend of June 23-26, the opening night performance of Cannons on Thursday at 6.45pm on the Sherwood Court stage should be an unmissable part of your program – whether you slide, fist-pump or swagger-dance.
Many thanks to Columbia Records Christina Hankin, Tour Manager Troy Topinka and Michelle’s sister Mariah for a great experience.
VIDEO: Cannons, “Hurricane”
VIDEO: Cannons, “Fire For You”
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