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Review

Day two of SOTO FEST III began to come together as punks, weirdos, and everything in between piled into the dimly lit basement of the Legion for gig #2 of the weekend. Folks were animated and chatted breathlessly of the night’s (absolutely stacked) line-up.

Beloved Anarcho-punk locals Dogma bounced on first, pumping up spirits with rapid high hat strikes and classic punk riffs with some flavour. It was super invigorating to see them at it once again, even just get to hear the catchy-ness of tracks like “Stigma” and “Peace Can’t Combine” live, since it seemed as though they’d been laying low in anticipation for this fest. Steph’s political lyrics slid along in unison with the instrumentals, and sounded contained but ready to fight all at once. Justin would join on vocals in the occasional chorus, ganging up on you and stressing their messages even more. His guitar was bottled and fresh, and left room for Jeff’s gurgling bass to climb around, adding variety to the tones (and, well, just sounding real nice). The drums, played by James, were just rowdy and pungent, pushing into the spotlight with each pop of the snare. Dogma were an uber refreshing start to the evening to come.

Next up were the Ottawa based bilingual babes that are Torpor. As the members are scattered all across Ottawa, Montreal and Waterloo, we don’t get them playing over here in good the old capital city as much as we’d like. They definitely, however, make up for lost time whenever they do. Elodie’s distant, yearning voice soared over the addictive BIB-esque riffs; the reverb and delay of her vocals on top of the cycling riffs hypnotized their sound. Felix “FeFe Algae”’s guitar was metallic and buzzy, occasionally bursting into hollow, distortion infected spurts. It would sink and blend into the undertow with Ruby “Hut Doug”s thumping bass, which was grounding and gravelly, contrasting the fluidity of the rest of the band. The cymbals were a cool brown, and rustled between the mean avalanche that was Mike’s floor tom and snare. He was exuberant, throwing himself, teeth clenched, into each breakdown (which there were many of…but I’m sure not complaining).

Positively gnarly is the only way to describe Occult Burial, our local black metal beasts. Riffs sounded as though they were on a mission; the guitar, played by the tireless Dan MacLoud, was heavy, devious and slimy, and knit together loosely with Joel’s bass until veering into weeping solos. The swaying riffs were shattered by each beat of Dan Lee’s drums. The drums snuck between the other instruments and exploded in glassy white shocks. Joel’s vocals tied everything together. They tore right from the throat, snarling and consistent and full of pure spite.

Montreal’s Cell was pure power the second they sled onstage. If you like to stomp around and show off your moves in the crowd, Cell can provide you with the soundtrack to meet those needs (I may have put my camera down for just that reason). The quartet was chuggy and reverberant, the former all thanks to the bass and guitar which moved, inseparable, in quick paced patterns. The guitar would only stray from their unison when it’s feedback poured out from the speakers, leaving the floor open for the stumpy bass to sway alongside the crowd. The vocalist too didn’t shy away from the crowd; instead they threw themself towards it. The voice was vile and jagged, soaked in reverb but still the screams soared out and hit you like a nasty whack in the head. The pounding of the floor tom and bass drum channelled that chuggy-ness of the bass and guitar, while cymbals sizzled, wrestling with the vocals.

Grave Infestation got right into it, hitting the crowd with unbeatable volume and rage.  The Vancouver act’s guitars meshed into one chilling, ghoulish creature. The guitarist punched at the strings, head banging, letting melodies and solos ring out above the mass of the rest of the sound. The drums were chaotic. The toms stampeded over each dense beat of the bass drum, changing tempo rapidly with ease. The ride cymbal was sharp and piercing, tearing you up from the inside out. Vocals rose out heavy, and grumbled as the lead singer stood strong and undefeatable in the smoky atmosphere. Grave Infestation was gut churning and filthy, conveying the best parts of old school death metal.

Hailing from The Big Apple, Church Clothes can be summed up by three words: Really. Fucking. Fast.

The band was definitely drum-driven. Punchy and quick the drummer was charged with insane speed yet calculated movements. They hit each beat of the snare through multiplex rhythms and pointy, washed cymbals. Critical, political and pissed were the vocals yelled out by Steph Pettit. They sounded raucous and penetrating over the silvery tone of the guitars, and had the slightest hint of delay. The riffs along with those wild drums gave off an astronomically intensified take on classic New York hardcore. Each piece of their sound was super well executed and tight, but held that disorderly, adrenaline pumping, all-over-the-place energy.

To cap off gig #2 of SOTO Fest was New York’s freaky and funky Decisions. This more experimental band had a really interesting and effective amalgamation of hardcore, noise, and rock elements/riffs. Immediately, their presence took hold of the audience, seeping into the space between every molecule in the venue. The guitar was ferociously crunchy, clawing and circling it’s way through each song. It would consume the bass and drag it along until it broke away; the bass would then lead into the next riff or layer of the track as the guitar disintegrated into noise. The ride cymbal controlled the drums, maintaining the pace alongside the dry sound of the snare. Words came out slightly drawn out, the high-pitched cries polarizing the vocals from the instrumentals. The singer uttered themes of social injustices into the mic, their expressions and stage presence echoing the frustration in the lyrics. Their set ended not with a goodbye, but with a badass exit from the vocalist, who grabbed their bag and strolled offstage and into the crowd. Decisions were truly an entertaining and powerful band.

If you thought seven bands were all SOTO had planned for this Friday evening, you’re deeply mistaken. The party continued at an aftershow around the corner at Pour Boy, where Toronto’s Mykhalo, Montreal’s Rivalled Envy and Ottawa’s own Enter/Exit rocked on into the early morning.

Even after four or so hours of moshing, Mykhalo got the crowd of punks moving around. The electronic drums were speedy and ploughed through the vibrating tones of the bass. Experimental sounds appeared, feeling industrial and metallic. Vocals were delayed and echoed through your skull, the words undistinguishable but begging to be deciphered. The floor was packed with grinning faces and shifting bodies, all taking in the blood-pumping beats of Mykhalo’s 80’s rave reminiscent tracks.

Montreal duo Rivalled Envy brought the dance-punk out of everyone. Muffled vocals hit like a punch in the gut and forced themselves against the euro-dance inspired instrumentals. The synth made the duo sound futuristic and robotic, creating a patchwork of bubbling resonance. Vocals and bass brought the groove back into things, while the electronic high hat strikes ensured that folks weren’t done bopping around just yet.

Solo ambient artist Enter/Exit was the final act for day two of the fest. Transcendental, ambient waves engulfed the bar from back to front. With no real structure or rhythm, the mind was forced to follow the direction of each texture and layer. The sounds were warm and intense, not in volume but in their fullness and affect on the space. It was kind of nostalgic, for some reason; unlike the previous acts, who were much more stimulating an in-the-moment, Enter/Exit let you reminisce.

Day two of SOTO Fest was a wild ride from start to finish. By its end nearing two in the morning, it was time to get as much sleep as possible to prepare for day three.

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