Twist, So Young, & Trails @ Pressed
On Friday evening, three bands performed in front of the pair of welcoming café windows at Pressed for a fittingly full house. This evening of femmes, presented by Debaser, featured Toronto’s Twist, supported by So Young from London, ON, and Ottawa’s own Trails. Altogether an energetic night, audience members hopped, bopped, and swayed throughout the venue’s crowded floor.
Trails’ dreamy set began with fingerpicked guitar, arriving in starts and stops, and blanketed in airy vocal melodies like a winding mountain hike – up and up, and back down the trail again. This was a voice like a gentle summer breeze. Trails’ music is unconventional in structure, yet satisfyingly poetic – reminiscent, to me, of the disfigured crooning of King Krule, or the sweet singing of Daughter’s Elena Tonra.
A loop pedal allowed for a focus on lyrics and additional layering, as the performer soloed and twiddled, playing and noodling over hypnotizing loops. The reverberation and delay effects on the guitar and microphone bounced lavishly around the room, and the audience swayed gently, captivated by the sounds. 30-odd minutes slid by far too quickly, as I realized I had been whisked away by Trails’ spectacular solo set.
If Trails was a gentle breeze, So Young was a ferocious windstorm – one that would blow the hat clear off your head, or the head clear off your body. This band had an edge that silenced any remaining chatter in the room and left no head unbobbed.
Early in the set, the band and audience members became aware of a ‘ghost in the room’, a meddling poltergeist, a tinkering phantasm, a troublesome technology malfunction. Swiftly, the sound issues were overcome, then crumpled and tossed with the trash by So Young’s powerful rhythms, roaring guitar tones, and heart-stopping vocal harmonies. The band members jumped out of and into songs like impalas. With their powerful pop-rock sound, these straight-faced young men and women delivered a rock-hard set to a satisfied congregation of listeners.
Twist @ Pressed (Photo by Mckinley Leonard-Scott/Ottawa Showbox)
Lastly, the band Twist took the stage, immediately inviting the audience’s attention with a groovy bass-guitar/drum warm-up/soundcheck. This band was slick. Their music, built upon busy hybrid drumbeats, featured soaring lead guitar over fuzzy riffs and bar chords. During their song Albuquerque, frontwoman Laura Hermiston’s vocals stretched and reached, up and up, high into the sky towards the birds and the clouds and the ozone shield. Throughout the set, hazy guitar pursued pulsating basslines in blissful polyphony, while band members hopped in place both on and off the stage, or lurched during their more mellow songs. The audience lurched, too, at times, their dances landing somewhere between a wiggle and a laid-back twist. With their brand of attention-absorbing pop, something like Alvvays with extra grunge, Twist brought the evening to an energetic close for a packed Pressed audience.
And Now for Something Completely Different: Touché Amoré with Dads and Tigers Jaw – July 20th @ Ritual
By Matty Boy
With Scharf lacking the time to hash out a review of the show we saw last night at Ritual, I figured I’d fill in for him. Feel free to berate me in the comments – I probably deserve it.
If Brand New circa 2003 tried to cover some moodier portions of Moneen’s back catalogue, it may have sounded like Dads opening for Touché Amoré on a Sunday night (minus one guitar traded in for slightly off-key vocals). Some of the energy may have shined through but most of the passion clearly stayed in the van. It felt like a forced revival of Equal Vision’s strongest efforts at the turn of the millennium. Nothing to sneeze at musically, but nothing that had me impressed either.
Next, a Scranton, PA band started by setting up keyboards. Expectations were confused. Confusion persisted with the addition of an acoustic guitar. What the fuck is this going to sound like? Crowd got into it right away. I clearly didn’t do my homework.
I attempted to hold my judgment further but still ended up confused. I checked my ticket just in case. The whole show at this point had a huge time-warp feel to it. Tigers Jaw was pulling some tasty melodic morsels from the repertoire and had the energy and harmonies to back it up. The nostalgia was not unenjoyable, but quite perplexing dynamically when it came to the band they were preceding. A bizarre hopping mosh broke out in front of the stage. I was glad to be near the bar at the back because overall, it’s just too saccharine for my taste — gotta watch your diabetes at my age. Some asshole was actually pogoing non-stop in the pit. There’s just no reason for that, kids…
Sub the piano for a keyboard playing organ sounds and these guys are a happier Straylight Run, if you remember those guys/gal. They’re definitely a happy bunch for a band who’s only fielding two out of the original five members of their lineup. Thankfully, they were a tight band with Touché’s drummer Elliot filling in with gusto. This would’ve been pretty unbearable otherwise.
Tigers Jaw played at Ritual on Sunday evening with Dads & Touché Amoré on July 20, 2014.
About halfway through the set, they threw an acoustic/electric/twangy number in. Now, I get that the TA guys probably DIYed this tour and picked bands they liked, but the mix of energies was just weird. There was a distinct lack of aggressive introspection to Tigers Jaw’s material that didn’t mesh with what I knew was coming next. It wasn’t bad per se, but I spent more time guessing how many songs they have left than I was getting amped for the headliner.
As an indie discovery night, 1.5 thumbs up. As a hardcore show… it was a bit of a dusty fart. Fuck, I regret skipping my homework. And then they hit us with some ridiculously catchy hoot-hoot tambourine song… Thankfully, Scharf pointed out it was a cover of Pavement’s “Cut Your Hair” and my initial exasperation subsided rapidly enough. They definitely should’ve ended on that high note, but I clearly wasn’t their target audience. The kids hopping around ate up the last two songs that followed. I had time for another beer.
Weirdly enough, the crowd’s density evaporated between sets and slowly built back up but didn’t quite make it past Tigers Jaw’s level. Mercifully, Touché Amoré hit the stage, time-warp over, and the surroundings resembled a proper hardcore show. About fucking time!
TA’s Jeremy wasted no time getting the crowd riled to an appropriate level, thrashing vocal cords and thrusting the mic into the pit. Dads’ singer managed to redeem his performance by contributing the clean vocals to “Steps.” Things found the groove I was looking for by the time the band kicked off “Just Exist,” following it up with “Pathfinder” and never slowing down through “Kerosene.”
With most of their songs clocking in near or under the 2 minute mark, the barrage of energy and angst was relentless. The boys steamrolled us with the “Praise/Love” and “Anyone/Anything” tandem before breaking back into some older material from their first LP. The energy was a welcome relief from the drowsy formula we’d been fed earlier in the night. Not to say the openers were objectively bad, they just weren’t on the same page with the crowd that stuck around to scream along to “Honest Sleep.”
“Harbor,” “Blue Angel” (featuring Tigers Jaw’s keyboardist/vocalist on the clean portion) and “Home Away from Here” came at us in seamless succession with the band in phenomenal sync and giving each song an extra push. Amazingly, Touché’s drummer showed no signs of fatigue even after playing all of Tigers Jaw set and now pounding out each song at 1.25x speed.
I can’t say enough about Touché Amoré’s technical prowess as a unit and Jeremy Bolm’s charisma as their frontman. Witnessing a crowd sing an entire song with the band without missing a beat while the singer held the mic behind his back was truly something to behold.