Last week, HOMESHAKE serenaded fans with a smooth collection of his signature genre-blending indie electronic jams for two sold-out nights at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles.
Canadian artist, Peter Sagar, the voice and brain behind HOMESHAKE, spent two years accompanying Mac Demarco on guitar, so it’s no surprise that stylistic elements of his work emulate Mac’s lo-fi sound, delicate guitar riffs and steady but laid back rhythm. Sagar, since his first foray into his experimental sound as HOMESHAKE in 2014, has attracted a dedicated fanbase who have stayed with him as his music has evolved from guitar-based compositions to experimentation with electronic elements and sounds.
I thought I was early to the show, arriving only fifteen minutes after the doors opened. To my surprise, I walked into a nearly full theater because there was no opener— just HOMESHAKE in all his glory. Shortly after I arrived, Sagar and his band entered the stage, Sagar looking like the classic artist ex-boyfriend who stole your money to buy some guitar pedal on eBay and talked you into waking and baking at 11 a.m. (I’ll save you the google, yes, he is a Pisces).
This vibe was not unsurprising, considering popular albums of his include Midnight Snack and In the Shower, suggesting that the perfect way to listen to his records is alone, a few joints in, ready to unwind. I knew upon entering that this would not be like the hazy, garage rock concerts I usually prefer; however, from the moment Sagar eased the crowd in with a laid-back track off recent album, Helium, I worried that the rest of the concert may make me want to snooze standing up. Track “Early” felt like a delicate and earnest recreation of a relaxing morning ritual, including the fact that the volume was so low it was hard to tell if I was even at a concert. The energy was elevated a bit when he played obvious fan-favorite “She Can’t Leave Me Here Alone Tonight.” Everyone in the room was swaying and vibing to the iconic guitar riff, but generally, the one most bored by the music was Sagar himself.
Between songs, Sagar took frequent and what felt like very long reprieves to stretch, rub his hair violently as if waking himself up from a bad dream and take a drink of water. He even hid his face fully in the safety of his jacket like a shy turtle trying to escape the horror that is an added second sold-out show after what was supposed to be the last night of a long tour. At one point, I asked a friend of mine, “is he okay?” She just shrugged and said matter-of-factly “that’s HOMESHAKE.” I was not satisfied with that simple explanation— was he stoned? Drunk? Exhausted? Extremely introverted for his chosen profession?
All of my questions were answered when midway through the set, Sagar, with a heavy vocal filter slapped atop his voice, told the audience “last night everyone was drinking, I was drinking, and I don’t feel great.” Fans cheered him on as he recalibrated before each song during the show, clearly fighting what I finally knew to be an extreme hangover.
The setlist featured tracks from all of his records, blending from one to the next seemingly without rhyme or reason, compounding to a fairly varied show. An incredible draw of HOMESHAKE’s music is the experimental electronic components that especially stands out in his earlier albums. Sagar chose not to highlight his more experimental compositions, instead opting for a more normcore group of songs. His ever-present and groovy bass-lines anchored the fusion of electronic indie with R&B, making for a soft and funky performance. “Soft” being the standout descriptor; I wanted the bass to reverberate through my body. I wanted to hear that funky rhythm so loud it guided my soul to dance! Unfortunately, though, the music came second to the sound of some happy couples’ heavy make-out sessions flanking me on the left and right, and the loud din of multiple groups of people conversing at full volume, seemingly unfazed by the supposed concert going on in front of them.
The conversations only became louder as the show went on, people cracking open their second and third PBRs and paused only when popular bops such as “Give It To Me” and “Every Single Thing” (each from different, older albums) rang through the theater. Finally, the audience moved to the music, sang out the lyrics and swayed back and forth as a single unit, plumes of smoke erupting throughout the crowd as the audience took the opportunity to relax and vibe out to the fullest.
The apex of the show came about six songs in when Sagar and his band stopped a track mid-phrase during the chorus and silently looked out into the audience causing rowdy screaming and chanting for him to continue. I don’t know if he had his fun and was ready to move on, or if the screams were fanning the fire of his headache, but he then shushed the crowd, crooned to them for the first time in his unfiltered speaking voice “it’s okay,” and continued to finish the song.
Despite the apparent lack of interest throughout the majority of the performance, fans exploded when the set was over, demanding an encore. Sagar entered the stage by himself and performed “(Secret Track)” from Helium to wind the crowd down. With the background track ringing behind him, he stopped his smooth falsetto short to tell the theater, “the concert is now over” in the same edited, booming voice he used to address the room throughout the rest of the show. To me, the subtext behind his thirty second encore ending in this declaration was “please everyone, I’m hungover, I’m tired and I need this tour to end. For the love of God please stop chanting my name and just go.”
Overall, the performance did not do justice to the hybrid-genre style that he’s developed throughout his discography. It felt more like a pregame than the main event— a place to shmooze, smoke and nurse a beer before a fun night out with friends. It didn’t feel like a sold-out concert from a fan-favorite musician. His discography seems to be laced with irony, so perhaps everything about his last performance of his 2019 tour was curated and full of self-awareness.
Or, perhaps he was just too hungover to perform, play loud music and stand on a brightly lit stage, which could explain why the show itself from start to end was a mere hour and fifteen minutes. We may never know the truth behind this oddball performance and honestly, I don’t think I care enough to find out.
Paige Saucyn is a music video director and visual artist who resides in LA.