Saturday night I found myself visiting Toronto’s The Cavern for the first time. Located in the basement of the Hi-Toronto Hostel, this small, surprisingly sound-compatible space has the feeling of a neglected wine cellar, and also serves as a bar, a meeting place for travellers, and restaurant for those seeking late night food. Brandineg itself as a convenient place for local and visiting musicians to play, The Cavern possesses a temporal element that adds to the nonchalant ambience that is so often associated with the type of underground show that was in store that night.
Opening the evening were the Bicycle Mishaps. At the time, many of the people present seemed to be there for sustenance or an intimate date rather than the gloomy, minimalist tunes that were emanating from the band five feet away from their dinner table. Sounding very much like Bauhaus, Bicycle Mishaps were fronted by a gentleman in a cut-off Batman t-shirt, and backed by a female drummer (the first of two female drummers that evening). Half beatnik, strung-out singing and half 80s post-punk, the Bicycle Mishaps were perhaps the best, most unsuspecting band I have seen in quite a while. While the vocalist was both entrancing and eerie, the band behind him enhanced his sound in a subtle yet effective manner.
Up next was Terminal Joy. Considerably heavier than their predecessors, they made a complimentary juxtaposition. Backed by a drummer decked out in a mask and an apron reminiscent of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Terminal Joy’s set was just as good, if not better, than half of the bands playing the Toronto circuit these days. With tracks like “Fool” they were driven by hard hitting and passionate percussion that embodies everything great about the blend of psychedelia and garage rock in independent spirits like these guys. The band was solid through and through.
Following what had so far been an eclectic mix was Nothing Right Now. While the audience had grown by this point, there were still too few people there to appreciate the evening’s line-up. Considerably more guitar-driven than the previous two bands, Nothing Right Now displayed some serious instrumental virtuoso. While the vocals sounded similar to that of contemporary indie rock bands such as The Sheepdogs, they far surpassed my expectations in terms of song writing ability and stage performance. Like both of the previous bands, they had many of the night’s musicians dancing in the crowd, providing the type of moral support that only other performers can.
Last but not least for the evening was Pretty. Led by their guitarist, who was playing a relatively rare and beautiful Rickenbacker, the band was stylistically a mix of pretty much everything that had come before them. They were the first band to incorporate the synthesizer, and had bright green lights shining on the drummer (the second female drummer of the evening). Pretty carried off a Beatles vibe, if the Beatles would have channelled their inner noise-rock tendencies more often. Closing out the evening of four solid bands, Pretty capped off what was a totally unexpected and equally enjoyable show.
Written by Jordan Hodgins
*edited by Kate Erickson