The big ol’ fancy tour bus parked outside of the Fairmount Theatre on Monday night, October 7th, which I presumed to be Of Mice & Men’s tour bus, got me wondering what a big-time band like them is doing playing at a small venue like Fairmount. Is it that they were once very popular and now they’re just touring to pay off their debts (and tour bus), or simply that they are more popular in parts of the world other than Montreal? Either way, their Montreal fans are apparently pretty devoted to them.
Bloodbather would be the first band to hit the stage Monday night and warm up the venue with their blazing hellfire. With much open space on the floor and not much participation from the audience members who showed up early to an event with three opening acts, Bloodbather persisted in getting the crowd riled up during their intensely fat-sounding, vocal roaring performance. Making an effort to engage the audience in-between songs while ensuring the nice guy routine was abolished during their thick, double bass pedal-driven songs, frontman Jeffrey Georges, with the help of his heavy-hitting bandmates, did a good job taking up the stage while building a connection with the audience and then blasting them off their feet with his strong, demonic roars.
The power of the hardcore metal strength and intensity continued to build throughout the night, and although Thousand Below frontman, James Deberg, reminded us that Thousand Below is not only about making heavy, hardcore music, when the distortion hit, it hit hard. Their contrast between unholy screams and angelic vocal delicacies were very well-executed by Deberg and the backing vocals, demonstrating a strong sense of band cohesion and musicianship. What was even more endearing was Deberg’s solid crowd engagement and encouragement of them to participate in the performance. His efforts to get the audience members active and involved were superbly effective and successful, getting the wild ones in the crowd to form the smashy-smashy circle pit run of death. Although the vocal mics were a touch low (as often they are) the instrumental punch was powerful. With their new album entitled Gone In Your Wake ready for launch and coming out this month, Thousand Below ensured that their sales pitch performance was lucrative.
When drummer, Navid Naghdi, of For The Fallen Dreams’ started pounding on his double bass pedals at the start of their set, it felt like a massive earthquake struck Montreal. The walls and floors were shaking, not only because of the intensity of the band’s wall of sound but because of the army of audience members jumping and moshing. At this point, the floor was full and everybody on it was headbanging and throwing up devil horns. The backing vocals were temporarily low until they got adjusted, but the lead vocals were quite clear, even though I couldn’t understand a thing Dreams’ frontman, Chad Ruhlig, was yelling about. Being the first band to have an elaborate light show, a drummer who would often stand up on his kick drum to entice the crowd to go crazy, and songs that the whole crowd would sing along to, especially during “Walk On Water,” the energy and fury throughout the venue was increasing and spreading fast. With the circle pit going strong and people losing their minds, it was no surprise that some of the audience members were ending up dancing on the stage. The sound was fast, heavy, fat and thick, and I was wearing earplugs and applying lip balm to my lips. With all the members of the band in sync (subliminal reference to the members of NSYNC) with each other and equally invested, Dreams provided a solid display of showmanship as well as musicianship.
Not to be confused with Of Monsters and Men, even though such a band name would be quite appropriate for Of Mice and Men’s music, their influence on the crowd was, in the words of Larry David, “pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty [powerful].” If the band didn’t shake the floor, everybody jumping sure as farts did. I felt like I was in a bouncing castle of doom. There’s usually a very distinct quality that popular bands have. Not just their sound quality, but the way they engage the crowd is noticeably different from smaller-time bands. Apparently, popularity requires charisma and personality, and these guys possess it. Along with some of their older tracks such as “Pain” and “Public Service Announcement,” where the red and blue emergency lights shined bright, with their new album entitled EARTHANDSKY having launched this year, Of Mice performed such new tracks as “Gravedancer,” “Taste of Regret,” “Mushroom Cloud,” and the title track “Earth & Sky,” a song where the first of several “walls of death” was formed by the crowd. The music and performance were raw and ferocious and pulled off very well, but the real entertainment for me was seeing how responsive and invested the crowd was toward their music and conducting of mayhem.
At the end of “How To Survive” and after the very worn-out and rather obnoxious “ole ole” chant in anticipation of an encore, the band returned to the stage to perform “The Depths,” where everybody got low to the ground and then sprung up high.
Written by Keenan Kerr
Photography by Marc-Antoine Morin
*edited by Mike Milito