You know what grinds my gear? Shows that don’t start on time. It was only a few minutes after the advertised show time when I arrived to the very hip watering hole Casa del Popolo. To my surprise, I was the first person to show up and little did I know that I would have to wait around for more than an hour, contemplating what I could have done with that lost time.
When Bats in the Belfry finally took the stage, I was in a foul mood. Fortunately, their music and communicative enthusiasm made me forget about all my woes. The three-piece, acoustic, folk/bluegrass trio came home after 37 shows across Canada. They played soulful songs full of amazing vocal harmonies and switching instruments in between. Alex, Victoria and Emily, not content with being awesome singers, also have some great picking skills. Never would have I believed that guitar, mandolin, and ukulele put together could sound so good. The sparse audience was enthralled, stomping and clapping along. They finished their set with a very impressive acapella cover of Amy Winehouse‘s “Back to Black.”
Next up was Ottawa, Ontario’s Onionface. The venue was still mostly empty, with maybe 20 people, but these guys didn’t give a shit and gave their all. Their sound harks back to the glory days of 90s indie rock, somewhere between Silverchair and Foo Fighters. The dimly lit venue made it difficult for me to get good shots, and the strobes didn’t help one bit—I have to admit it did look cool though. They were so amped up that frontman Stefan Jurewicz broke a string in the middle of their set. The high point of their show was without a doubt their rendition of “Dirty Water,” during which they were joined on stage by none other than Bats in the Belfry.
Closing the night was another Montreal local called The Castagnes, composed of brother and sister Phil and Marjo, respectively on guitar and drums, and sharing vocal duties. This was a special show for them; it was the last of their tour and they were playing at home. I was saddened to see people were already starting to leave by that point but that didn’t seem to discourage them. They blasted their abrasive, minimalistic punk’n’roll all over Casa’s face. Frontman Phil looked like a glam rock icon straight from the 70s, but he was wearing the kind of stuff you would expect a kid to wear in the 80s (special mention to the glittery Transformers shirt). The energy he displayed on stage was far from communicative though, and the crowd stayed pretty stoic during their set. Marjo even got up from behind the drum kit to join the audience during one song but to no avail.
What started as an annoying night eventually left me pleasantly surprised, and reminded how important it is to support your local bands and venues. Hurray for the little guys!
Written by Thomas Gentil
*edited by Danielle Kenedy