Let me start by saying that I love Bar le Ritz PDB. Since its renovation, it has filled a void in Montreal for a small venue with character where bands that didn’t fit in at Foufs could play. With good ambience, cheap booze, and decent sound, it’s a hidden beauty. But alas, if you’re gonna ask people to schlep themselves to the blue line on a Wednesday night, don’t schedule it to start at nine o’clock. People made the trip, paid their money, and they don’t want to leave in the middle of the main event because they have to transfer twice and our supposed metropolis closes its subway system down way too early. If you’re an artist, it never feels good to see people leave in the middle of your set, no matter what the reason. And don’t just start waddling the opening band on stage at nine, have them start sharp.
Deep breath… and we’re back, and on to the important thing, the music portion of this Halifax double bill. The good news for openers Walrus is that by the time they started, the place was already jammed. Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ended with this band. To me, the most interesting part of their set was that singer and guitarist Justin Murphy somewhat actually looked like a walrus with his handlebar moustache. There was very little emotion in the vocals or the music. Everything was flat. It just sounded disorganized and unrehearsed. It seems to me that Murphy is trying to appeal to a hipster crowd whose taste in music is characterized by the latest Starbucks collection of emotionally limp indie bands. And only having your album on cassette? Has vinyl now gone too mainstream for the indie crowd? Seriously, who still has a tape deck? It was the worst technology. Why not just go to 8 track? Or MiniDisc, or a Playstation 1 memory card that can only be read on the original Playstation?
Wow, that’s a lot of ranting.
The main event Wintersleep came on to anxious crowd. Thankfully they came out strong with “Santa Fe,” “Archaelogist,” and “Orca” to quickly win over the crowd. Their style of Neil Young -meets-folk revival translates very well to the stage. They weren’t overly energetic, but were very humble; with his maritime charm, singer Paul Murphy had a great rapport with the crowd. There were a lot of people singing along. They wasted no time busting out their current breakthrough radio hit “Amerika,” and the crowd jumped right in, turning their volume up a notch. There’s nothing like a Montreal crowd that’s feeling the vibe, and the band were quick to show their appreciation. It’s fantastic to see a Canadian band that’s been plugging away for over a decade finally find their audience.
Halfway through their set, they brought out the song that got them exposure in films, television shows, and a beer commercial (how delightfully Canadian!), “Weighty Ghost.” It almost felt like they were rolling out the big guns, conscious of the time and that we all had lives to lead, a move that showed a remarkable lack of pretention. This is not to say that those who stuck around weren’t treated to a great set. It was a symbiotic maelstrom where the audience’s vibe was fuelling the band, and the band’s cohesiveness and attitude was bringing the crowd together.
“Dead Letter & the Infinite Yes” and “Danse Macabre” put a great cap on the evening, with the band taking a bow to an audience giving a raucous ovation. It was a roller coaster of an evening, but to quote an overused idiom, all’s well that ends well.
Really? A fucking cassette?
Written by Richard Brunette
Header Photo by Norman Wong
*edited by Kate Erickson