I’ve mentioned this in my reviews before, but Bar Le Ritz has quickly become one of my favourite venues in Montreal for shows. It’s a small, intimate venue with generally good sound and great drinks. Interestingly enough, my first experience at Bar Le Ritz was a Pallbearer show a few years ago. Now, on a cool summer night in Montreal, I saw them for the second time at this venue and wondered how they could possibly live up to the amazing show they played here a few years ago. Well, long story short, not only was it an amazing show, but Pallbearer has never sounded so tight as a band.
Kicking off the evening was Bask from North Carolina. These dudes were a new musical discovery for me, and to sum it up in as few words as possible, they turned me into a lifelong fan. I’d describe their music as a psychedelic southern rock. The venue hadn’t filled up as much as I would have liked, so to anyone that showed up late and didn’t see them, you missed out. Bask played a half-hour set consisting mostly of songs from their latest record, Ramble Beyond. Their energy on stage was vibrant, powerful, and undoubtedly a fantastic way to start the evening.
Next was Kayo Dot, and I’m not going to lie, I had almost no idea how to describe their music. So, for this one, I’m allowing their Facebook page to do the talking, where they describe themselves as “Avant goth. Progressive experimental doom. Abstract electroacoustic. Modern composition.” All I know is that I’ve never seen, or heard, a band quite as strange as Kayo Dot. The crowd seemed to have a mixture of intrigue and confusion, both appropriate responses given what we were all hearing. The band utilizes a lot of synth, some shoegazey guitar sounds reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and vocals that had a resemblance to Dave Gahan. Though I personally wouldn’t say I was turned into a fan, I could certainly appreciate the injection of diverse music in this lineup.
I was in awe when Pallbearer hit the stage. Opening their set with the thunderous roar of “Thorns” from their latest record, Heartless, the band knew they had the crowd by the throat. For once, no one was on their phones taking videos and pictures (with the exception of one or two people). Instead, most people were completely enthralled by the crushing low tone of Joseph’s bass and Devin’s guitar, the continuous barrage of Mark’s drums, and of course the soaring combination of Brett’s beautifully spacey vocals and guitar. They hadn’t even finished playing their first song, and I already knew I was watching one of the best shows of the year.
“The Ghost I Used To Be” is one of my favourite tracks from their previous record Foundations of Burden, so when they played that next, I was completely locked in for the rest of the evening. Their set, lasting approximately one hour and thirty minutes, consisted of songs spanning their entire discography such as “Fear and Fury” and “Devoid of Redemption.” The evening capped off with “Foreigner,” the first track from their debut LP Sorrow and Extinction. By that time, the crowd in the room could have probably sat through another two hours of Pallbearer. No one wanted the show to end (except maybe the entitled neighbours in the surrounding area, who couldn’t help but call the cops and launch a noise complaint. Thankfully, the show was uninterrupted).
Strangely enough, I left the show feeling a little conflicted. Pallbearer just put on one of the best shows I’ve seen all year. The mood was perfect, the sound was great, and the show was intimate. But Pallbearer are a band that deserve greatness. I’d love to see them play small venues like this forever, but I know it’s only a matter of time before they start playing bigger places. My prediction is that they’ll eventually come back to Montreal and play venues closer to a 500 or 1000 people capacity, like Club Soda or Corona Theatre. As conflicted as I am about the band reaching bigger success, I can’t think of any other band that deserves it more than Pallbearer. Do yourself a huge favour; if they’re ever in your neck of the woods, go see them.
Written by Dominic Abate
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson