Parents love Bring Your Kids to Work Day because it’s an opportunity for them to show their young ones what it is they do for a living while not having to leave them home either alone or in the care of God knows who. But what happens if your job is working as a gigging musician who primarily works late nights at bars and pubs? As evidenced by the number of children present at Turbo Haus last Friday in Montreal, the bring-your-kid-to-work philosophy pretty much applies. The venue was full of little tykes running between prog fans’ legs during the evening’s first two acts.
If you’ve never been to Turbo Haus, allow me to describe what you might experience there. The dimly lit room is a small square fashioned in a gothic manner; sanded wood floors are populated with tall circular tables and stools, and a large red curtain gives way to a small but wide stage. The bartenders are always friendly and quick about cleaning up empty glasses and serving new drinks. Small open windows with bars on them line the top left side of the room and serve to both ventilate the room and make it deathly cold. And of course, the music is always loud enough to blow your eyeballs straight out the back of your head. Bring earplugs. You’ve been warned.
Opening act The End of Gallia wore jeans and band t-shirts, didn’t address the crowd once, and pretty much stuck to watching each other while on stage. They were awesome. The music was jammy in the way good doom music should be, and the rhythms were tight and unified. Five-string bass wielder Laurent Sauvage’s heavy overdrive helped to beef up the sound. The moments in between songs were filled with cryptic speech samples which may or may not have been about the merits of going out clubbing, I couldn’t quite tell.
Local boys Cenograph did the opposite thing in terms of presentation. They were all about interacting with the crowd; in between heavily technical compositions, frontman and lead guitarist Antoine Fafard joked in French that, because they play prog, they write songs that are far too long. He also made it very clear that closing number “Black Metal” is not a black metal song. Fellow six-string man Etienne Duchesne and bassist Tristan Morais took the stage barefoot which…I mean, I wouldn’t have, but to each their own. Very much in the vein of post-metal group Intronaut, the almost entirely instrumental arrangements featured sparse vocals which were mostly unmelodic and unnecessary, and some of their cleaner sections didn’t quite hit home. When the boys got into the riffs, though, they truly shined. Their songs feature extended sections of dizzying finger work that would make even the most seasoned thrash guitarist think twice about his approach. The onstage communication between the three string men during these sections was also great to watch. This is a young band, and given some time and tweaking they could become serious contenders on the prog scene.
This is the second time I’ve seen Moon Tooth do their thing, and both times their spastic hardcore sound has seemed like an odd addition to an otherwise prog-fueled bill. They’re really, really fun to watch though. The New York four-piece has the energy of eight dudes on speed. Singer John Carbone’s spaghetti style wiggling coupled with the frenzied motions of Ray Marte and Vincent Romanelli are enough to get anyone into the mood. The music is also great. They played a few newly written songs, one of which they dedicated to the late and great Lemmy Kilmister. A heavy-as-hell cover of Jimi Hendrix’s tune “Manic Depression,” and the ripping instrumental “Bats in the Attic” kept everyone dancing. Also at one point Carbone walked through the audience yelling incoherently with a tom on his face. So that happened.
Another thing about the sound at Turbo Haus is that when too many guitars are blaring at the same time, a single vocalist is often all but drowned out. Such was the misfortune experienced by Astronoid’s Brett Boland who, even packed with an array of vocal pedals and samples, couldn’t compete against his bands crushing three-guitar line up. Despite this, and though the crowd had thinned a bit by the time the lights went out and Astronoid began to play, the band still rocked through their latest release Air from front to back to the sheer delight of the fans who remained. Astronoid’s sound is decidedly post metal, with elements of thrash and, in a twist, pop punk. The album is a serious trip filled with soaring chorus and frantic riffing. The boys played in total darkness, save for the light from outside and two mobile spotlights which continued to change shape and colour. A two-person attempt at a mosh pit was admirable, but short lived. Rightly so, as a larger circle on such a smooth floor in such an enclosed and packed space may have led to some serious injuries. But no harm, no foul. All in all, this was definitely and not at all sarcastically a solid way to teach young children what we adults do with our night life.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Kate Erickson