Stickers adorned the roadcases that were set up on stage; one told me, “Well-behaved women don’t make history”and I knew it was going to be that kind of night. It was going to be a riot grrrl type of night. I was excited. And, I was going to witness it in my favourite Montreal venue, L’Escogriffe.
The first band up was Don’t Ask Why, and man-oh-man was I taken back to the early 00s pop punk. They played five cover songs, ranging from Simple Plan to Paramore, and one original. Clearly, they were not incredibly comfortable on stage as nerves seemed to be a bit present, and it showed in their somewhat stiff movements or when they outright missed cues. Fear not, however, as the bedrock for a good band was there. Singer Jess Cloutier has the chops to make you forget about any transgressions and not too mention the guitar and backing vocal work of Brendan Khacho. Also, the one original they did play was well written. If you’re a fan of pop-punk, check them out.
Hailing from Lincoln, Nebraska, Freakabout (autocorrect hates me for this word) were next; well, two of them anyway. Cortney and Aaron took the stage as a vocal and guitar duo, respectively. Less than a minute into their set and I had goosebumps. They took their sound and striped it down. It was bare-fucking-bones, and if I hadn’t been told, I never would have guessed they were missing members. During “In This Mess,” Cortney’s tight vocal turnarounds were the sounds of wonder. She was rolling up and back down, a third or fifth with no effort produced, and no note missed. It showed complete control of her instrument. Not to be outdone, Aaron added extra emphasis on his picking and chords, producing a subtle rhythm section to complement their melodies. Tito and Tarantula would have been proud. Between each song, they told a different story as to why their other members were missing. I think the squirrel fight story was the most credible.
The third band, and band that traveled the second largest distance for the show because they came from Yonkers NY, was American Pinup. Got it? How can I describe this band? The singer/guitarist, Lauren West, had the look and the sound. She was Gwen Stefani meets Brody Dalle. I loved her mic control; Lauren stepped back during her hollers so as to not blast off our ears in the small venue. The bassist, Tim Robbins, was caught up in a swing dance and the drummer, John Casale, was all arms and movement. Through songs like “Sheena Easton” to “No One Dies” to “Living The Dream,” I watched a hard working touring band work its magic. John had more flexibility than limp spaghetti, and each beat was felt reverberating from the band, and then out into the crowd. His kick drum was kicking me in the kidneys. It was glorious. Lauren walked the tightrope from falsetto to furious bellow with infinite perfection while her fingers hammered away at the chords. Tim’s feet were never still, rolling in time with his rhythmic running lines.
Did I mention they were down a member too? Once again, I never would have guessed. Their sound, as a three-piece, filled the bar. It’s nice to see bands who can adapt on the fly. Sometime early next year they’re going to release a couple of tracks recorded by Pete Steinkopf of the Bouncing Souls. If you like good, dirty rock, this is a band to keep your eye on.
The last band of the night was Death Proof, from Montreal. They were reverb galore, waving hair, body gyrations, and distorted chords. People were primed (on a Wednesday!) for some good headbanging and Death Proof delivered. They slipped those present through a spacy, dirty, grimy punk universe. Steph anchored the vocals while providing the subtle boost on bass that the songs wanted. Masha was massive on the guitar, a solid feeling for fuzz and sloppy solos. Kat drove the intensity behind a vicious use of her high hat and snare; I just wasn’t a fan of her singing. It was often off key during the lower ends of her register; however, she came through when she sang with intensity. Needless to say, this band was the perfect finisher for the night.
It was a time. It was a good way to spend a Wednesday night, being in a basement bar, surrounded by sound. I just feel sad for those of you that missed it.
Written by Aaron Deck
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy