To borrow from the words of that old dude promoting some Mexican beer: I don’t usually cover shows at Bar Le Ritz PDB, but when I do, they better be awesome. Indeed, that dive is a whopping forty-five-minute metro ride from where I live, and its dismal stage lighting makes my life miserable as a show photographer. But, when I heard instrumental post-rock prodigies Appalaches were launching their new album Cycles there, I couldn’t possibly miss it.
And so on my way I was, secretly thanking the gods they didn’t decide to unleash a snow storm out of nowhere like the week before. I even got there a bit early, and had time to indulge in a nice cold brew before the show. Le Ritz may have shit lighting, but at least they have a decent beer selection! I was on double duty that night, so I made my way to the front of the stage to get some shots of the bands.
First up were local shoegaze, indie rock act The City Gates. The first word that came to my mind was layers. Layers on top of layers; on the vocals, the guitar, the bass, and even on the drums. A true buffet of effects, as illustrated by guitarist Max’s monstrous pedal rack. And it sounded great! What’s more is that each member had their time to shine, the band’s set alternating between guitar, bass, and drum-oriented songs. Guitarist Max and bassist John shared vocal duties, in a register that strongly reminded me of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis. They closed their set with “Checkpoint Charlie,” to the delight of one very enthusiastic and slightly inebriated fan.
By the time Appalaches were setting up, the bar was starting to get pretty packed. These five dudes hadn’t released anything since their excellent 2014 opus Mòn, and I think everybody present was more than anxious to hear their new material. The atmosphere was surprisingly low-key and relaxing, as Mogwai’s Atomic was playing in the background.
The first notes of “Oja” started resonating in an almost pitch-black room, culminating in a sonic maelstrom. Effects were, once again, the name of the game here, and where The City Gates used them to create ethereal soundscapes, Appalaches used them to create a wall of sound.
Mogwai influences again came to mind during the more atmospheric parts, as well as Russian Circles during the heavier parts, when Anthony Thomassin would swap his keyboard for a third guitar. The band showed incredible energy and stage presence, especially bassist Sebastien Legault who was headbanging and kicking during the whole set. That didn’t prevent them from delivering a tight musical performance, and the sound was excellent. The audience seemed to be in a hypnotic trance, while I struggled to get some good shots, as the lighting was (unsurprisingly) pretty terrible.
After playing Cycles in its entirety and giving warm thanks to the crowd, they left the stage under a thunder of applause. All in all I was glad I made the trip that night; it was more than well worth it.
Written and Photographed by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson