Saturday, June 16th 2012
Wherein many merry meetings and one disappointing reunion occurs.
I began the night at the Rochester. I initially thought I would briefly swing by, but ended up staying for several hours. First up were
Winnipeg’s This Hisses, whose film-noir-esque surf rock captured my attention earlier this week. Seeing them live did nothing to alleviate my band crush on this trio; if anything, it bloomed into a full-on dalliance. Emotive, almost petulant singer Julia Ryckman wore a long blonde wig, false eyelashes and gold lamé, while drummer J.P. Perron rocked a twirly villain moustache and cop shades. Guitarist Pat Short let the weird, slightly sinister tones of his guitar perform all the theatrics he needed, the tone somehow both sweet and menacing, like expecting a lick of butterscotch ripple and instead your ice-cream tastes bloody. Heavy, sumptuous, with just the right amount of glitter, This Hisses have got it going on. The only thing that could have improved the set would have been if the band had a huge, ravenous audience instead of a small crew of dedicated fans. Come on people, if Steph Guthrie could show up on crutches, her leg in a cast, and rock out for the whole set, you can get out of your pajama pants too.
Next up were Toronto’s Deadly Hopefuls, who played a sticky, gritty set with a self-deprecating softness that belied the sound’s harder edges. Their music combines elements of post-rock and jangly garage rock while also brushing against punk and metal. The moments when they let themselves go, when the sound got heavy and tension gave way to intensity, were unquestionably the strongest moments.
I intended to relocate at this point, but a great conversation delayed me – which I ended up being quite grateful for, as it resulted in my being able to catch Chang-A-Lang‘s set. Their punky garage rock and smart enough to engage with Marxist principles, while still sounding dance-able and fun. A lean three piece, vocal duties wer shared by Brian Okamoto and JNet Dowling. Their set was above all bright and entertaining. It’s clear they are not out to make a ruinous noise, but to inject just enough heaviness to enough to get a headbanger moving.
I finally caved to the pressure of NXNE and had to see what was happening somewhere else. I arrived at El Mocambo in time to meet up with many more excellent people and catch Shellshag. The Brooklyn, NY two-piece are charmingly chaotic. Both guitarist “Shell” and drummer “Shag” provide vocals, and sing facing each other with a custom-build tandem mic stand, like they’re in a perpetual duet. Shag also plays the drums standing up, and has bells and a full tambourine attached to her waist, which she played by bouncing her hips or full-on jumping up and down, drumming and singing all the while. Their set was messy and lovely, musical finger painting, joyous sounds that were as destructive as they were creative. At the end of their set, they stacked Shag’s drums into a precarious sculpture, earning another round of applause for their instrument Jenga.
Suddenly, the crowd in the El Mocambo swelled to almost unbearable proportions, the air hot and damp to the point of feeling unbreatheable. I actually took refuge from the crowd by standing on the seats of one of the long benches at the very side of the room, which was also the only vantage from which I could see. The cause for this sudden influx of audience was that Limblifter were due to perform a set, and ’90s nostalgia is a compelling force. For those not as old and shrivelled as I, Limblifter had a hit single, “Tinfoil,” that was featured on the original Big Shiny Tunes compilation album released in 1996. They are planning to re-release their hit debut self-titled album on vinyl, so the band decided to hit the road for some reunion shows. While Ryan Dahle still lead the show, his brother Kurt was unavailable for NXNE (apparently having committed to some dates with Neko Case), so Gregory MacDonald of Sloan filled in — Dahle stated that he was “on loan from Sloan.” The strongest part of their set were their oldest hits, or course, and they ended strong, with “Tinfoil.” They seemed to be groping for material, much of which was unfamiliar for me, and the set seemed more a novelty than a compelling case for a full-scale reunion.
At the end, I all but ran out of the El Mo gasping for breath, escaping the human sauna and stumbling into the still-hot night.