Hey, did you hear that L’Escogriffe renovated? Well, they did, and the place has fancy as food now. (I’m trying this thing where I don’t swear in my reviews. Let me know how you feel in the comments. Or don’t. You don’t fart and own me.) The shape makes a lot more sense, it’s now more or less rectangular and all areas have a decent view of the now much more impressive stage. It was a great spot for Monowhales to choose to play when they stopped by in Montreal.
Starting things off, Oaks Above may be the tightest indie rock band I’ve ever witnessed play live. Seriously, I’m still not convinced these guys weren’t just miming along to a recording. Yes, there were pedal effects en masse, but that’s no less impressive when you know how to use them. While everyone was good at what they were doing, guitarists Olivier Dauphinais and Frederic Rivest managed to steal the show with some of the most beautifully layered riffs on this side of the Atlantic. They really made their six-strings sing. In between songs the guys seemed a little less sure of themselves (they had a song called “December” and they missed the opportunity to make a crack about it being December 1st! C’mon guys!) but they did manage to get the crowd singing along to their infectious hook on “Open Wide.”
Cinzia & The Eclipse was, unfortunately, not as tight. Their setup was simple enough; there was the Cinzia, her guitarist (lovingly nicknamed “Hairflip Jesus”), and her everything-else-ist on synths. Cinzia herself sounded great, but the other two seemed to be out of sync on more than one occasion. Maybe because it’s still so, so weird to hear a stripped back acoustic guitar try to line up with watery drum pads, or maybe it was just an off night. Still, she drew the biggest crowd, one that almost filled the bar to capacity and one that dissipated rather quickly once her set came to an end. The highlight of the set came when she let the other two take a break so that she could play the vulnerable as all hell track “No Matter” by herself. This is a song that truly encapsulates heartbreak.
Monowhales were the best possible surprise I could have asked for. During their line check, they seemed confident in their abilities but not overly charismatic. That all changed as soon as they hit the first distorted chord of their opening jam. From then on, things took a turn towards serious garage rock territory, and the band (especially frontwoman Sally Shaar) transformed into an unstoppable powerhouse of energy. Though the crowd was thin, those who remained could not help but get sucked into powerful grooves and hooks that Monowhale provided. While their recorded sound tends to sit more toward pop-rock, there’s no question that they are serious rockstars live. The sound emanating from the amps and speakers was window shaking, and thumpers like “Take It Back” and closing number “RWLYD” took on a whole new life. Shaar’s chemistry with her bandmates – especially with synth player Holly Jamieson was mesmerizing to watch.
The band was on their way back from the other side of Canada where they had spent two weeks in the studio, and they came prepared with a couple of fresh songs ready to be debuted live. They were freaking good too. Now there’s a hook of “that’s what he said, that’s what she said” stuck in my head and there’s nothing I can do about it because the song isn’t even out yet. Suffice to say, I was impressed.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Mike Milito