Going to an event like Atomic Lollipop isn't really my thing, but when I found out that it would involve Prozzak, I had a charge of heart. Prozzak was an important act from mine and other fellow Canadian twenty-somethings childhood. The Canadian pop music duo was active primarily between 1998 and 2005, releasing four full-length albums during that time. (Though most Canadians I've spoken to born in the late 80s and early 90s only really listened to the first three.) Originally, the group was formed as a parody on some sort of euro-pop duo, but as time went on, they became known more for their animated music videos. The videos featured two cartoon characters, Simon and Milo, are were created to embody the "voices" for the duo. The videos aired on MuchMusic (Canada's answer to MTV) and portrayed Simon and Milo's many adventures, which was mostly made up of heartbreak and the comfort of friendship. (And some overly creepy lyrics.)Remember when every song you ever listened to had a music video?
Sure enough, I decided to go—I even threw on a polyester Sailor Jupiter costume for what turned out to be the hottest day of 2015 in the Toronto area. To understand why I dressed up, you need to know a little more about Atomic Lollipop. (The trailer will help, too.)
Atomic Lollipop, at its core, is a glorified comic/anime/geek convention that plays host to a lineup of musical acts and a full day of activities. From panels on Game of Thrones plot decisions, to Harry Potter versus Twilight erotica fan-fiction battles, to a Kugurumi (animal onesie) fight club, there's enough to satisfy every nerdy infatuation you may have. The event, held on Saturday, July 18th, was situated at the mecca of any Ontarians childhood nostalgia, the Ontario Science Centre. Between this and bringing back Prozzak—who hasn't released an album in 15 years—we can conclude that this is one of the weirder things that happens annually in Toronto.
Newmindspace, the production company behind Atomic Lollipop, has been throwing raves, festivals, and parades for almost 10 years. The company is a long-time participant at Burning Man, working with one of the biggest sound camps at the festival. They, too, are lovers of comic/anime/geek conventions. At face value, this collaboration of veteran festival organizers and fellow anime-heads sounds like a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, it was the opposite.
The evening didn't get on the most balanced foot, to say the least. Despite dancing through an amazing Italo disco/boogie set by Wooden Wisdom (yes, Frodo DJed), the sound was all-too quiet. Coming from a production company that boasts of its sound background, you expect a pretty high-caliber output. Sadly, the following DJ was of no relief. Playing what genuinely appeared to be a pre-recorded EDM set, my friend and I's hopes were down.
So when Prozzak's highly anticipated set began, the room full of twenty-somethings were ready to finally take in the music of their youth. As they ripped into their first song, the crowd's energy was the highest I had seen it all day. This was the act they were waiting for. But there was something about their performance that was making me slightly uncomfortable and I couldn't quite figure out what. Then it hit me—'wait, are they even singing?' The revelations continued. 'Wait, I'm not even sure if they're playing the instruments they're holding.' It sounded like someone had just popped in my Hot Show CD and pressed play.
It was while observing Prozzak during their song "Omobolosire" that it became clear. The track features the blatant use of an acoustic guitar throughout the whole thing, but on stage in front of me was a DJ (didn't know there was a DJ in Prozzak), a bass guitar and an electric one. The "WTF's!?!" continued. On top of all of this, they seemed to barely have a pulse on stage. My understanding is that in pop music, regardless of your music's quality (or authenticity), a fun, lively performance is unsaid.
By the time they hit their third song, half of the room had cleared out, though in part due to issues with capacity. With time to reflect, I took a seat in the back and let the reality of my childhood obsession with various Prozzak songs crumble around me.
There was a reason no one listened to that fourth album, and I don't think it was because we all grew out of the music we once listened to at eight, nine, and 10 years old. All this time I pictured them as the fun and wacky cartoons who, you would think, could embody that same animated energy on stage. Throwing a Much Music Video Dance Party of strictly Prozzak videos would have fared more exciting. The pinnacle of their live-flop was when they tried to stir up an encore. They tried to stir up their own encore. Despite the crowd's hesitancy, they played one anyway (probably because they had already programmed it into their set).
If anything saved the evening for me, it was Wooden Wisdom's all-vinyl DJ set earlier. Despite a 40-minute time cap—hardly enough time for any DJ to get into a proper set—the crowd didn't miss a beat. I mean, opening with an edit of the 8-bit Zelda theme was a perfect start for this crowd, but their extensive knowledge of Italo-disco and funk shined just as brightly as the eye of Sauron that was in the crowd.
The one thing Atomic Lollipop truly lacked was the one thing Newmindspace claims to have experience in—sound. That, and the horrid food situation, which was limited to a slew of Americanized gluttony like Doritos topped with mystery meat. I know Atomic Lollipop likes to live in nostalgia, but let's not pretend we don't want more options than pizza, hot dogs, or budget Taco Bell. Where the overpriced but delicious food trucks at?
Overall, Prozzak and Atomic Lollipop was anti-climactic. Friends of mine tell me that the following event on Sunday roused a similar feeling of disappointment in terms of music and organization. Prozzak, who I was blessed enough to speak to via email (they were too busy signing autographs and posing for photos to take my interview), tells me that they're in talks with Atomic Lollipop to do more events. They also say that they're planning a tour. If that thirst for fame is still there—which it appears to be, albeit bleakly—I suggest they just stick to quenching it with memories.