“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” This classic opening to “The Tale of Two Cities,” is a rather apt way to describe my Wednesday night out at L’esco to witness some rock and raunchy roll. It was the best of times because the music was amazing and it was at my favourite bar. Since being renovated, the “new” l’esco offered a much bigger stage and show room. It has moved on from its quaint dirty dive feeling to a more sophisticated, albeit only slightly, feel; all while managing to retain some of its former vibe, ala the sunken basement decor, without a hint of pretentiousness.
First up was Palmetto, a local Montreal act. It was clear they had a look that everyone adhered too. It was all flowery 70s button down shirts with jeans, and even a bandana or two for good measure. Their music matched the clothes and for the first part of the set I was transported back a few decades to before I was alive. Their grooves were tight and they unleashed a hypnotic rhythm upon the crowd, from start to finish. I was especially impressed with the vocal harmonies between lead singer, Mark Gendron, and lead guitarist, Nic Power. They were able to accentuate the strong points of each other’s voices, while masking any deficiencies. Lastly, kudos to Jean-Francois Gagnon on the tambourine. Homeslice kept it up all night. He must have palmetto’s of steel.
Next was Flesh Rag from Hamilton, ON. They were a three piece, Stooges inspired powerhouse. They played their brand of rock and roll; dirty, sweat dripping, head hanging, all treble, root note induced rock and roll. It was quite a shift from the first act. These cats were all tats and attitude, not to mention singer/guitarist Matt had some fine fluffy hair. It was curly and looked like it smelled good but, I digress. Their music was fast and bellowing. Matt loved to hammer on the wah pedal during solos while he showed off his considerable chops. His fickle fingers flew between the rhythmic and melodic, always keeping the groove, but always adding a little extra. My only beef was the volume of the amp. The treble cut through most everyone else in the room, so maybe turn it down by a half point next time.
The rhythm section for this band was great. Nothing too crazy, nothing too “look at me!” Simply said, it was perfect for their brand of music. Both drummer, Nathan, and bassist, Eric, locked in early and never let up, even when the bass head crashed down to the floor and we were without the low end for the majority of one song. Kudos to the drums and guitar for not stopping. Nathan was able to prove that he can carry it when needed, and as soon as Eric’s head was changed, he pounded back into the mix without a slip. My favourite track by them was their closer, “Stay Away.” It was fast and deliberately and left you with a taste for more in your mouth.
Lastly were The Sick Things. Oh my, did they ever do a good job of closing out the night. They kicked off their set with “Ain’t Got Time,” which is as close to sounding like AC/DC as one can get. They followed this with “Love Sick” and “Maybe You Better,” without a pause in between. I love when bands do this because, we are, after all, there to listen to music and not to some garrulous band member. Guitarist/lead singer, Cam Turin was a smooth diamond on vocals. He stomped around and played the front man better than anyone else that night. Watching his hair whip around was somewhat mesmerizing. I was doubly impressed with the lay down that bassist, Pat Bennett, was rocking. It was sultry at one moment, then abrasive and powerful the next. What seemed a simplistic pluck of root notes was, in actuality, a massive movement of a four finger salute to music.
So, why was this night also a downer? Well, it was the worst of times because this show didn’t start until just shy of 11:00pm. It was the worst of times because this show didn’t finish until after 1:00am. This was on a Wednesday. Listen up, and listen good: bands should not bend to the crowd, the crowd should bend to the band. Start your show on time, and finish it at a reasonable hour; otherwise, ain’t nobody gonna be around for when you finish. Whoever promoted the show should be ashamed of themselves for having zero control.
Think I was too harsh? I look forward to your opinion in the comments below.
Written by Aaron Deck
*edited by Danielle Kenedy