I somehow managed to miss Yeasayer way back in 2012 when they played the Green Stage at Osheaga. All Hour Cymbals and Odd Blood were faves of mine at the time and it was a true travesty that I missed out. After a seven-year wait, they were back in Montreal Friday, June 14th at Le National and I was beyond elated to finally be catching them.
Opening the night was Oh Rose (Olympia, WA); I know what you’re thinking, grunge hotbed right? But Oh Rose sound nothing like a grunge band. Although they do often employ the classic grunge soft verse, heavy chorus approach; Oh Rose have a sound that’s actually quite hard to get a handle on. Vocalist/guitarist Olivia Rose displayed some astounding vocal range that is the driving force behind the chaotic highs and lows of the bands sound. Their song “Lottery” maintains a hard pulsating rhythm while Rose ventures into a more dreamy, carefree trance with her vocals. There were even more highs and lows in the song “Seven,” in which Rose had moments where you’d think she was fronting a metal band others within the same song you could have mistaken for Bjork singing. It was Oh Rose’s first time playing Montreal and with each passing number the crowd would seemingly double in size, which I’d say is the perfect sign of success for a band playing a city for the first time. Most crowd members were likely hearing the songs for the first time and yet perusing the room I saw nothing but engaged and fully immersed humans. Oh Rose seem to have no problem making your head spin as you try to figure out which genre to label them under. Fuck labels, right? Embrace the weird.
Somehow the microphones weren’t turned on for the start of Yeasayer’s (Brooklyn, NY) set, and so most of “Madder Red” was played without vocal amplification, making me feel a lot like that depressed, brain looking creature featured in the video for said song. The guys were consummate professionals and powered through and the set got better with each successive song. Doing a commendable job of mixing in new songs from their recently released Erotic Reruns and the older staples, singer/keyboardist Chris Keating took some time to congratulate us on the Toronto Raptors recent NBA championship, which I suppose we can take by default of the Raptors being the only Canadian team. Any reason to celebrate given we haven’t had a hockey championship since 1993 and our baseball team moved to Washington in 2005. Yeah, I’m not salty about it at all. Insert furrowing brow emoji.
What amazed me about Yeasayer’s set, and I suppose this speaks more to the band’s talent at songwriting, is that songs from 2007’s All Hour Cymbals sound as fresh and cutting edge as the ones from their latest release. Ok, sure you could argue that the musical landscape in terms of sound hasn’t shifted drastically in what, the last twenty years? Since Radiohead showed everyone how to make electronic, alternative rock music, but still that’s a twelve year period, in which Yeasayer have made five albums that do that magical thing of expanding the realms of a bands sound while maintaining a familiarity and unique essence. You couldn’t construct a bad set if you tried with talents like that! “Sunrise” led into “Fluttering in the Floodlights,” followed by “O.N.E,” there was legitimately not a dull moment in the set! One of the best shows I’ve seen thus far in 2019 and well worth the seven-year wait.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photography by Jean David Lafontant
*edited by Danielle Kenedy