Saturday night at Toronto’s Lee’s Palace was a garage rock treat. I was super stoked to finally experience Montreal’s King Khan and the BBQ Show live, but the entire line-up of the evening was quite good. Supported by Toronto-based Meanwood and Atlanta Georgia’s The Gartrells, all of the bands excellently incorporated elements of soul, garage rock, surf rock, and punk. By Lee’s Palace standards the evening was very fluid, with each band bringing something unique and very much standing out on their own.
The first band, Meanwood took to the stage around 9:30 to an already substantial crowd. Lead by front woman Vikoria Belle, and performing to their home town, Meanwood completely captivated the venue. Belle can fucking sing! She has the voice and attitude that embodies everything kick-ass about being a female. Better than most vocalists I’ve heard in a long time, she melds the raspy, almost growl usually used in metal with the range and depth of the classic R&B greats like Etta James. While it is easy to harp on about Belle’s voice, the rest of the band surrounding her are also entirely solid. As a band, their set made for an awesome opening to the evening. They also have a debut full-length album coming out soon, and I highly recommend that you check them out. In the meantime, you’ll have to suffice with videos such as this cover of Screaming Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” and watch it over and over, as I did.
Taking the stage next was The Gartrells. Along a similar vein in terms of their sound, The Gartrells exuded their own vibe. Slightly “lighter” than the first band, the four gentlemen swung between a mix of doo-wop harmonies reminiscent of The Beatles, raw blues, and surf-rock riffs. A constant is Jared Swilley’s perfectly paired bass lines and the tightness of the band as a whole. Their set was fun and entertaining and they too, completely captivated the venue steadily increasing in numbers.
Last but not least was the wonderfully eccentric King Khan and the BBQ Show , the duo King Khan (aka. Blacksnake) and BBQ (aka. Mark Sultan). By the time the two stepped onto the stage, Lee’s Palace was absolutely packed. The furthest thing from tame, they were each dressed in BDSM black leather get ups and face masks like what they wore for this KEXP show. With a serious penchant for theatrical tones, you almost wonder where and how they come up with this shit, but they pull off utter weirdness with the kind of nonchalance not many are able to achieve in an entire lifetime.
Wasting no time, they jumped head first into their set with King Khan ferociously strumming around the stage while Sultan multi-tasked between rhythm guitar, vocals, and percussion. It is super easy to spend the entire set just watching what King Khan will come up with next, but Sultan is equally captivating. Switching back and forth as leads, the duo had the crowd at Lee’s seriously entranced. While they were undoubtedly the highlight of the evening, the entire line-up made for a wicked show.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson