The wind was howling in Montreal on Friday, February 7th, pushing against people who walked in the streets. It was almost as if the walk outside was a video game level set on hard difficulty, and the final prize waited at L’Escogriffe in the shape of King Buffalo with Mountain Dust and The Naked High coming together to completely tear Montreal a new one. The warmth created by hundreds of bodies huddle together and filled with beer was a welcome feeling when I walked in, ready to witness the might King Buffalo for my first time ever. To make things better, they would be backed by our very own The Naked High and Mountain Dust, both being bands who have proved their worth in the past in Montreal’s underground scene.
The Naked High was already being greeted by applause when they walked on stage. Their mushroom-infused sound pulled in the crowd faster than a turkey on Thanksgiving. I mean, as soon as they opened up with “Liquid Love,” a song that resonates well with the stoner crowd, people were already into it. Simon Ouellet, singer and frontman, is basically what would happen if Ronnie James Dio had a child with Phil Anselmo. They played “The Juice” and “I Trip Alone,” which both keep to the basic stoner-rock formula; inot a bad thing, but it can get redundant. That being said,I could tell that the band was making an effort to add in some variation to the sound with their last song of the night “See the Moon Turn Red,” an unreleased track from an upcoming record. The Naked High love their psychedelics, but they also love playing their music and it showed when they took the stage and smacked the crowd with their performance.
Mountain Dust is probably one of my favourite Montreal bands. They call themselves stoner rock, but when I listen to their music, I’m always blown away by their inventiveness. Brenan Mainville on guitar and vocals has a strong, deep voice that reminded me of Jim Morrison, especially when they played “Seven Storms,” the title track of their newest EP. The song opens up with Patrick Bennett playing a short melody on his Korg, which furthered its likeliness to something cooked up by The Doors. The heaviness comes in when drummer Blair Youngblut and bassist Hal Jaques decide to crank up the intensity. They tore through their most famous track “Evil Deeds,” adding in some keyboard variations which added a new flair. Mountain Dust finished hard with “Stop Screaming,” a seven-minute-long epic that mixes in some sleazy blues with heart-stopping riffs. Patrick Bennett always shines with his lap steel, which is also one of the reasons why Mountain Dust is doing so well. He uses it as a precise instrument at times, picking individual strings, and other times just lets loose and slides across them to create howling sound effects. Offstage, these lads are the sweetest dudes you will ever meet. On stage, they become rock ‘n’ roll stars who dominate every room they play in. The crowd at l’Escogriffe was no different, and by the end people were cheering and dancing.
By the time King Buffalo was on stage, the venue was packed. Little time was wasted with words, and before I knew it the music had started. They played a long set and it felt like one very long song. Sean McVay, guitarist and vocalist, never mutes his guitar. Even in-between tracks, you can still hear the echo of the last chord he hit. The silence created by the humming of his last chord is then amplified by the incoming grooves of drummer Scott Donaldson and finally, bassist Dan Reynolds kicks it to eleven. “Centurion” is the best example of this and also one of their most well-loved songs. They started it off slowly and it built up until they slapped in the distortion, nearly blowing past my earplugs. McVay’s haunting vocal style pairs perfectly with the psychedelic sound of the band; the song “Longing to Be the Mountain,” the title track of their newest record, comes to mind. This ten-minute monster of a song took me on a journey with its masterful composition and beautifully written lyrics. What’s so great about King Buffalo is that you never know when it’s going to drop. Sure, you may know the songs by heart and expect the heaviness, but their music puts you in so much of a trance that when they pick it up it’s like being hit by a wave.
I was sad to have to leave the venue once the show was over. I knew about The Naked High and Mountain Dust, and the name King Buffalo was familiar, but not their music. I arrived eager to learn more about their music and left as a fan. All three bands played their hearts out and resonated extremely well with the crowd.
Written by Johnathan Robinson
Photography by Amanda Hiscock
*edited by Kate Erickson