I love October. Seasons change as fall takes hold, nights grow longer, and my taste shifts to darker music and horror movies. The carefree days of festival season are replaced by indoor concerts and melancholic performances. But fall isn’t just dark and moody. It’s also a great time for live music, and Friday nights are usually stacked with shows.
On Friday, October 4th, Charlottetown-based Russell Louder opened for Ladytron with danceable electronic pop, singing over the beats with energy and radiating positivity. Louder, whose bio describes the singer as a “trans performance artist and musician,” mounted a monitor at the front of the stage to shout out the songs so even people standing way at the back could understand. The strategy worked because the vocals were too low for the rest of the night.
Headliners Ladytron came on after a haunting intro folk song. I didn’t recognize the track, but the chilling tempo of classic British folk music sent shivers through my body and set the tone for Ladytron’s mysterious sound. This was my first time seeing the band, but they have a loyal following in Montreal and have played here many times. This isn’t surprising because the city has a fondness for new wave and electro-clash music, and bands like Essaie Pas got their start in the electronic music mecca.
But Ladytron have their own unique style blending electro, shoegaze, and a genre called “witch house” which is like a creepy electronic horror movie soundtrack. It’s a dreamy sound, like the neo-pagan folk music of the Wicker Man mixed with 21st century synth-pop. Although the moody style was perfect for a chilly fall evening, I felt the Friday-night crowd wanted something more upfront for dancing. The music, though, was better for staring at the floor in deep melancholy.
Eventually, the pace picked up with clubby favorites like “Destroy Everything You Touch” and “Seventeen,” but the rest of the set was darkly moody. There was also very little crowd interaction, and the band ripped through their set barely acknowledging their fans. Ladytron’s style suited the industrial atmosphere and cavernous space of S.A.T, but the poor sound quality in the room didn’t do the band any favours. The musicians actually sounded like they were underwater, with Helen Marnie’s vocals drowned out by the bass and drums.
Unfortunately, the sound isn’t my only issue with the venue. On busy nights at S.A.T. it’s very difficult to see the band with the crowd gathering in front of the stage. Enormous columns also obstruct the view, and the sightlines are terrible. The venue is not properly designed for large concerts, which is unfortunate because it books quality electronic acts and the central location is much more accessible than, say, venues in Mile End.
But one thing S.A.T consistently delivers is high-quality visuals. Three widescreen displays projected videos perfectly suited to Ladytron’s music. The screens were mounted high enough above the stage so I could see them wherever I stood, even the back. The kaleidoscopic projections were stunning and didn’t distract from the band. At one point, white dots of light fell like snow across keyboard player Mira Aroyo’s face, adding a cold, dreamlike aesthetic to the band’s live set.
I am mesmerized by the visuals every time I’m at S.A.T. Ladytron’s projections were almost as good as Perturbator, the last show I attended at the venue and another visually stunning performance. If only the sound could match the incredible visual content it would be one of the best electronic venues in Montreal.
Written by Rob Coles
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy