The night Po Lazarus launched their debut full-length Ways to End The Night was inevitably nostalgic. Po’s sound evokes the history of rock ‘n roll, but even as an individual attendee, the night served as a reminder of a plethora of similarly incredible shows. The first time I saw Po perform live was at the launch of Stephanie Parnell’s Mountains Beyond Mountains (which I covered as one of my last pieces for Bloody Underrated.) That was my first time seeing or hearing Po and they blew me away. Their unique blend of rock ‘n roll’s history and present has yet to disappoint me in a live setting. Writing about them as a headliner at Petit Campus felt like the fulfillment of a prophecy.
However, I’m getting ahead of myself. The Frisky Kids took the stage by storm before Po Lazarus crooned their way into the hearts of the audience. Your incredibly biased narrator has a great history with that gang as well. The first time I saw The Frisky Kids, they were on the same bill as one of my brother’s bands. They always seem to play a show on or around my birthday; I met one of my best friends at a Frisky Kids show at Petit Campus, and they were in attendance for this show as well. Speaking of attendance, former members of both bands made an appearance, and ex-Frisky Kids drummer Alex Parmentier could be seen adorably singing along and rocking out to the setlist’s earliest cuts.
Frisky Kids’ mix of proto-punk, modern punk, and surf rock had a dimension that night that has never been this pronounced. Lead singer and guitar player Callum’s voice had a more expansive and echoey sound than usual, giving their songs a psychedelic flair.
Bass player and vocalist Matisse Gill shined on a new song, “Ergo Laurea.” On it he paired his usually vibrant and goofy voice with a more aggressive punk edge than I’ve ever heard from him. The band played “Untitled,” another new song that had a country vibe, which is strange for them, but created an even stronger kinship to Po Lazarus than just their rock influences.
Po Lazarus‘ set was romantic and polished. Decked out in gorgeous clothing, they projected an air of respectability that melted away over time as the band got sweatier and the brashness of lead singer and guitar player Joshua Carey’s lyrics sunk in.
Ways To End The Night is full of flawed romanticism, and watching those stories unfold in real time across a dynamic face, amplified by Josh’s versatile voice, is intense. Aaron Cohenca’s lead guitar playing stood out as well, for a few reasons. His tasteful use of effects gives his technical playing a distorted sloppiness that perfectly matches Po’s aesthetic. I first met Aaron at a punk show, so seeing him play in a band like this is refreshing and fascinating. Po Lazarus’ music is predominantly melancholic, and so are the sorts of punk bands that Aaron and I first bonded over. Noticing the connectivity of these styles through his playing served as a reminder of the importance of the band’s rock-centric diversity.
These rougher influences came through most clearly when the band played two punk powerhouses in a row, the perfectly named “Blood Cake” and the vengeful “Tell Me Where Henry Lives.” Overall, I would describe the band’s set as more subdued than usual. Sometimes their shows feel like a frenzied bar brawl; this one felt like a frantic apology to anyone caught in the middle of it. That didn’t deter the eager audience, though. Folks were moshing and crowd-surfing pretty consistently throughout the set. The vibrant audience at one point initiated an endearing chant of the drummer Josh Grant’s name, and sang “Happy Birthday” to frontman Josh Carey.
Despite only having two bands on the bill, this show felt very much like a group effort. Po Lazarus had numerous guests appear onstage. They were joined by Frisky Kids on vocals for three songs, and their former guitar player (who appears on all of the Ways To End The Night recordings) Luc Delisle on a total of five. On one of these songs, the inevitable crowd pleasing sing-along “If You Are Alone,” the band was also joined by a violin player named Mackenzie Myatt (who was unfortunately low in the mix).
Aside from the crowd engaging in activities that Petit Campus isn’t really big enough for, the only complaint I have about this experience was the length. I’m used to seeing Po play multi-set nights that you never want to end, but the softer tone of this show made it feel a little long, and by the last song I had stopped taking notes.
The encore was worth noting, though. The band played a song that shares its name with the album, but mysteriously does not appear on its tracklist. It was slow and pretty, an ideal closer that sent the exhausted audience out into the night with the feeling that, as far as possible ways to end the night go, this was pretty great.
Written by Brian Charles Clarke
Photography by Gabriela Blanco
*edited by Kate Erickson