Anyone who lives in Canada knows that January is a tough month for shows. For bands on tour, it means shitty driving conditions, sparsely crowded rooms, and the brutal fucking cold. For the people in the audience, it means essentially the same but with less travel time involved. So, when a friend from Peterborough, Ontario tipped me off to a P-town invasion happening at Turbo Haus in my local hood of St. Henri, Montreal, Quebec, I decided the “neighbourly” thing to do was brave the cold and support some local garage band glory. Despite the predictably slim winter turnout, the bands put forth an energetic show that was enough to thaw your socks off and make you glad you came out.
Peterborough Ontario’s Faux Cults kicked off the night with a slick set of 60s garage grooviness. Well, it was 60s garage but with a punk rock percussive sensibility. The drummer, Riley Hoffman, was punching out intense rhythms and fills throughout the liquid, surfy string work up front from Charlotte Demsey on bass, and Luca Mo and Will Dobbin taking turns on lead guitar and vocals. The intensity worked well, though, after checking out their latest album Caviar online, Cults were much heavier live than expected. I guess if you’re going to embrace an old-school genre you have to bring something new to the table and this percussive explosion paired with a flowy, sonic vibe was definitely a stand out for me. There were some flowing guitar riffs and catchy bass lines that propelled energetic set. The band was not big on stage banter, but they made up for the lack of chitchat with a rolling wave of sound. There were a few moments, especially when Dobbin sang on the track, “Love Song,” that the band reminded me of one of my fav Cali garages, Thee Oh Sees.
Beef Boys were up next and with a sound as raw and hearty as the band name suggests. I approached the lead vocalist/guitarist, Germ Sperman, after the show to ask about the setlist. He was quite soft spoken in person, a direct contrast to the guttural giant howling on stage earlier that evening. Sperman is a force to behold playing live; his thrashing guitar style and facial contortions serve to amplify the energy and emotion of these raw, evocative songs. Luca Mo, who played with Faux Cults earlier, played bass with the Boys with drummer Brandon Root completing the lineup with a manic wall of sound. This three-piece version of the typically four-man outfit filled the small performance space with a thunderous din of 90s style garage rock, but peppered it with some with some 60s surfy swells and psychedelic peaks throughout the layers of reverb. The opening song, “Melt it Like A Witch,” as well as a few others, felt as though they could have been pulled off the Sub Pop back catalogue. Perhaps it was the meager Montreal crowd, but it felt as if the band was pushing a bit to get it over with. They did a somewhat short set with each song leading quickly into the next. I look forward to checking this band out again when some half decent weather brings out a more suitable sized audience. I have a feeling that the Boys would beef out the set more, and Sperman would be even more entertaining to watch while goaded on by a sizeable crowd.
Danny Laj and the Looks closed the night with some tightly-tuned 70s style power pop straight off their new album Word On The Street, which was released on January 5th of this year. Joined by longtime cohort Jennette Dowling on bass/backing vocals and powerhouse Barry Higginson on drums this now Montreal-based band treated the crowd to an upbeat, danceable set complete with catchy, well-crafted songs and some splendid stage antics and banter. Laj and Dowling have a natural chemistry, evident in both their vocal harmonies and their dynamics on stage. Higginson was hilarious to watch on drums; he has this cheeky smile on his face while he kept up with the intricate breaks and rhythm switches with ease. (Did I mention the drummers dominated the room that night?) When I spoke to Laj before the show, he mentioned the Ramones as an influence on their style but, despite the skinny jeans and punk rock stances, the songs were far more sophisticated in construction and more akin to some early Elvis Costello or Paul Westerberg. There is something hopelessly romantic about tracks like “Best Thing In Town,” and “I Know You Want Out.” There was a raw sense of humour and honesty in the lyrics, and the sound was infectious as hell. Make no mistake, The Looks know how to churn out clean, catchy earworms. I’ve been humming “Mr Rebound” for days after the show. The group is set to do their first US show soon with Paul Collins formerly of The Nerves. It should go well for them as Danny Laj and the Looks have their power pop sound down to a science.
Written and Photographed by Courtney O’Hearn
*edited by Danielle Kenedy