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 spectacle.
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WRITER’S NOTE: When I had the opportunity to see Cannons at the Magic Stick in Detroit back in March, what was originally supposed to be a lead-up piece, turned into what was going to be a post-show review just prior to the release of “Fever Dream.” But something happened to me that night, that I have kind of struggled to find the words for. In my almost 35 years of an electronic music DJ and student of what makes people move, I literally found myself stuck with what I had just experienced. That said, everything below is going to be kind of abstract, but I hope to connect some dots of what makes Cannons so remarkable. The band plays the Sherwood Court stage at Electric Forest at 6:45 p.m. Thursday.
While attending Electric Forest festival in 2016, I noticed something that was a bit new to me as a lifelong electronic music DJ.
During the sets of both Bob Moses and Rüfüs Du Sol, a sea of women in their boho chic attire, eyes closed, arms up were almost slithering in unison more so than dancing itself. Since then, I have referred to this among friends and colleagues as a “swagger dance” for a lack of better terms. Yep, guys do it, too, perhaps less pronounced, typically defined by more of a side-to-side head bob with one knee bending in time with the drummer.
Back in the fall of 2020, you might remember this guy named Nathan Apodaca who goes by the monikor DoggFace, drinking cranberry juice while riding his skateboard with Fleetwood Mac’s hit track “Dreams” in the background. The sequel to that effort was him riding through Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, with Cannons’ hit song, “Fire for You,” in the background.
“Yea, no question that put us on the map more so than anything prior,” Cannons lead singer Michelle Joy told me in a half-hour phone interview.
Our conversation left me thinking she is one of the most genuine performers on the circuit right now, living for the experience of what has brought them to the level they are currently at. We didn’t talk about the standard stuff journalists ask, but rather some more abstract topics, and this really allowed her to open up about their journey.
We spent some time talking about how the Los Angeles-based Cannons seemed to have this coming-of-age during COVID, and she told me they actually leaned into things and used the opportunity to release “Covers” by Cannons. (I’ve never been much of a Springsteen fan, but their cover of “Dancing in the Dark” is phenomenal!)
I was curious how Tiesto’s remix of Cannons’ “Fire for You” came to be, as it was being played everywhere when my wife and I stayed at Resorts World in Las Vegas. It turns out, it was as organic as Tiesto just reaching out through Instagram and asked about remixing one of their tracks.
It was hard not to ask about the dark nature in the band’s video for “Hurricane,” the first single from 2022’s “Fever Dream.” The band’s ace in the hole is Joy’s husband (fiancé at 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 regarding the context of that video shoot stuck with me: “Sometimes, saviors need saving!”
CANNONS’ UNIQUE SOUND: A SYNTH-LADEN, REVERB-DRENCHED, DOWNTEMP JOURNEY
As for the Magic Stick performance, I can’t stress enough the mood in the room that night. People were clearly happy to be out in public after being cooped up for nearly two years. There was definitely this sentiment that collectively we were the people on the front end of what is likely going to be a global phenomenon before too long — that of Cannons’ unique sound.
Cannons took the room on a synth-laden, reverb-drenched, downtempo, lo-fi journey of “Shadows” and “Fever Dream.”
Anchored by bassist Paul Davis’s ability to shift seamlessly between a Fender jazz bass and a Novation synth, the room was grooving in unison from note one. It doesn’t take long to learn that Joy’s energy is rather infectious, and the room quickly moved on from their swagger-dance and were fist-pumping in unison with the fashionably adorned lead singer almost jumping out of her boots.
Toward the end, Joy addressed the crowd: “There is no energy quite like Detroit energy!”
Immediately thereafter, almost on cue, the band unfurled one of the most powerful musical moments I can remember. Guitarist Ryan Clapham strummed the opening riff to the aforementioned hit single, “Fire for You.” The collective feeling in the room was a symbiosis that’s difficult to put into words, and before long, Joy had the crowd jumping in unison with everyone shouting part of the chorus” “Fiiire, fiiire fiiire!”
Almost any doctor would tell us that an ideal resting heart rate for a healthy human being is anywhere between 60-100 beats per minute. So, one day as an experiment — because I was genuinely curious — I ran Cannons’ 2019 album, “Shadows,” and their new album, “Fever Dream,” through a beats-per-minute analyzer. They clocked in at an average of 97.67 beats per minute.
I mentioned this to the band after the show, some eyebrows were raised and there seemed to be a collective wonderment of the concept I just introduced.
The bottom line: It’s not often you come across a band that is just as popular among 20-somethings as 50-somethings. Is Cannons in some way the soundtrack for a post-pandemic world? Or is there a metaphysical reason, almost subconsciously, that Cannons resonates with fans the way they do?
I also told Joy that the band has likely never experienced anything quite like Electric Forest, a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Hence, if you’re attending the festival in Rothbury the weekend of June 23-26, Cannons’ opening night performance on Thursday at 6:45 p.m. on the Sherwood Court stage should be a must-attend part of your schedule — whether you slither, 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”
ELECTRIC FOREST 2022 SCHEDULE
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