The Drake Underground is no secret to the west-end of Toronto. The small but mighty venue below the Drake Hotel hosts a variety of indie shows and club nights, and this Friday night show was no exception. The lineup for the night was headliner Bad Bad Hats with The Inanimates joining them as an opener. It was an early show, and thankfully ended with a little time to spare to get me home before the late-night crowd surfaced for the DJ set that followed.

The Inanimates, a local indie rock band from Toronto, started off the show to a surprisingly light audience (30 or 40 people). It was clear that regardless of the size this group had a few fans out there, as they dedicated songs to them by name. It was endearing to see them waving and saying “hey” to each other from the stage, adding an extra sweet vibe to the gentle rock tunes. I caught the last few, lead singer Adam Laughton’s voice reminding me of a crooner mixed with a Buddy Holly-esque garage band. They threw in a Simon & Garfunkel cover which rounded out the band’s sound while showcasing Adam’s range, before retiring into the crowd and catching up with their friends.

Here’s the new single “Write It On Your Heart”.

Waiting around the Drake Underground in between sets and hearing the buzz from the crowd made it all the more intriguing to hear what the Bad Bad Hats had in store for us. There were definitely some excited fans chattering about their favourite song and what they were hoping the band would play. All the way from Minneapolis, humble as all get out, the Bad Bad Hats walked right up to the stage (drinks in hand) to set up their own equipment and get down to business.

They started their polished set with a similar garage band style to The Inanimates. Lead singer Kerry Alexander pulled us closer to the stage with her sweet and innocent voice as the crowd cheered her on for “Fight”. Maybe it was the nerves, maybe it was the excitement of being back in Toronto but Kerry missed a few lyrics, the guys still powering through to the end of the song. It was humbling to watch as she made the joke that this has never happened before. Another song in we got to learn that this was the band’s second time at the Drake and the first that they were headlining. Kerry joked that now they can call themselves an “International Band”.

It was apparent very early on that the Bad Bad Hats are a joy to watch. The music is feel-good, you can’t help but sway along and get into it. There were touching lyrics and an overarching theme of love, both sought after and requited as the band played through “Joseph”, “Shame” and “Things We Never Say” off the 2015 album Psychic Reader. I was grinning like an idiot and laughing along with the crowd in between songs as Kerry proved to be quite the stand up comedian, intentional or not. She cracked jokes in that self-deprecating way about loving top 40, American gas stations and equating relationship life to a couch. I could hear the girls behind me laughing and saying she was “too much” in the best kind of way.

The band has so many stories to tell and it added to the experience to hear Kerry talk about where they came from. Songs like “Super America” and “Say Nothing” giving us some insight into the feelings that inspire the music they play. The Bad Bad Hats definitely reeled me in and really showcased their talents as they breezed through the 17-song set for the night. I am thrilled to follow along as they break out further into their success. Bad Bad Hats continues touring in the US this summer, the new album Lighting Round dropping August 3rd.