Stack the amps. Tune the toms. Spark the joints. This is the proper way to get yourself ready for an evening of bluesy stoner rock, and man, what a time I had.
I arrived at Bar Le Ritz PDB a half hour before show time, and it was already getting crowded. Before too long, about halfway through the opening set, the bar became painfully packed. While it was nice to see that many people out on a Sunday evening to support two great and very interesting touring bands, I think they may have to find a bigger venue the next time they swing through Montreal.
Anyway, on to the show.
Irata opened up with a synth sound pulsating through the room, before a resonating bass line sent my teeth rattling around in my head, even at the back of the bar. Drummer Jason Ward added to the tumbling tones by throwing down on his toms. When Cheryl Manner kicked her guitar into the mix with a rippling, effects-laden distortion, I knew I’d be in good hands for the night.
I was impressed with their ability to shift through time signatures during songs, going from 4/4 to 6/8 and finally idontknowwhatthefuckthisis/9? It was all on point and perfectly performed. They showed their road resistance by a) pulling that off, and b) being able to sing like they did. The vocals, done by Ward and bassist Jon Case, were a mix of low register croons and “my legs are caught in a bear trap” impressions. I don’t know how they’re able to keep their voices while on tour, but I salute them for their efforts. My only beef with them was that Case didn’t have the best mic control. Sometimes his croons were lost in the mix, and sometimes his screams were piercing and shrill. It wasn’t like that all the time, but enough for me to take note.
My favourite song by them was “Keeper’s Maker.” It was tight and short and reeked of punk; just my style. It was a nice change-up from their otherwise longer stoner jams.
Right on time, All Them Witches took the stage. Much like the opening act, this band was laden and soaked with bass. Charles Michael Parks Jr killed it. There was so much bass, and the tone was so penetrating, that it rumbled all the way back to me and made my leg hair stand on end. He was clearly a man in his element on stage. Aside from perforating my ear drums with his bass, he also caressed them with a voice that was silk personified.
During “Blood and Sand” we were treated, finally, to a kaleidoscope of a keyboard solo. Allan Van Cleave had been under the mix all night, so during this song, when he had his time to shine, he made the most of it. At one point, I closed my eyes and was transported back to the 70s, in the midst of a Doors concert. Except not, since Cleave put them to shame with his finger-wagging moves.
All Them Witches played the majority of their new record, Sleeping Through The War, and while I dig that album, I was a little bummed that they didn’t play anything off of their first record, Our Mother Electricity. I know, I know, but this isn’t a “their old stuff is better” statement. Their set was around the two hour mark, so they could have squeezed in one song off that album. Alas, I’ll just have to go and see them again in hopes of hearing my favourite song.
My favourites of what they played were “3-5-7” and “Don’t Bring Me Coffee,” both off their latest record. During the former, Parks hammered chords on his bass like his life depended on it, and shook his hair in time with the deafening drums. During the latter, Ben McLeod ripped a guitar solo that made me wanna wet my pants with joy. He spent the majority of the time with his head hanging, like he was playing a eulogy for the living. Not much in the movement department, but he was captivating nonetheless. The best way I could describe this show would be to say that they took me on a long, meandering road through the stoner landscape, but I felt safe. I knew everything would be alright with them behind the wheel.
Lastly, I wanna give a shout out to their sound guy. At times, something would peak, or crackle, or pop. He was always diligent in ensuring that it was never for more than an instant. To that unnamed hero, I salute you!
Written by Aaron Deck
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Kate Erickson