Soft Copy (Super Repeater / Hybrid Moments)
Teranga. Friday, April 9, 2010.
A quiet-ish Friday night at Teranga, Kensington's Senegalese restaurant/indie hangout. I showed up ahead of schedule to find a handful of gig patrons hanging around the front and a few of the owner's friends hanging around the bar at the back.1 Turner Classic Movies is on the TV over the stairway down to the street, showing an old Western, and at the bottom of the stairs each new arrival is announced by the slam of the door behind them. It's a "friendly" sort of crowd, in that most of those in attendance seem to already know each other. In other words, not a lot of people here who just looked up the gig and decided to check it out.
In that spirit of friendliness, opening things up were Hybrid Moments, a collaboration between Matt Nish-Lapidus (who also works under the reductive moniker of Matt NL or mn-l) and Jonny Dovercourt (musical curator by day, rocker by night, most frequently these days with Danger Bay — and friends back to high school days with Soft Copy's Andrew McAllister).
"Do you like music?" Nish-Lapidus asked as the pair began to play. "We don't." They launched into a lengthy chug/shred duet, mostly on the boundary between focused and unfocused. Nish-Lapidus had his laptop hooked up for treating his guitar sounds, but applied it mostly uninvasively. "We're going to play some more hits," joked Dovercourt at the end of that, as the band launched into a song that actually turned out to have lyrics and a chorus and so forth. This turned out to be a cover of Wipers' "Mystery". A further jammy instrumental moved along, hit a bit of a catch in the middle with the players waiting to hook into an idea before taking off in another direction. And then eventually found its way into The Misfits song from which the pair took their name.
So this was generally exploratory stuff. I'd label the pair a jam band, but that has a whole other connotation, so let's call 'em a "jam space band". Not sure if this was just an ad hoc pairing or part of a more formal collaboration, but at this point it felt more a look inside the creative process than a completed idea.2
Playing with no guitar pedals and a small-but-enthusiastic group of friends were Super Repeater, bringing to the table a no-frills, no-nonsense kind of rock. A dry guit/bass/drums trio with an occasional punkish undertone, recalling, maybe, a meat-and-potatoes Mission of Burma or Flipper without the confrontational edge.3 They played with a workmanlike, deadpan rigour which was generally admirable, but I was wondering at the start if they had the songs to keep things lively. The set was backloaded, though, with some of the catchier stuff, such as "Age of Irony". The band were austere and spartan if not occasionally a bit too affectless. But they were succinct, if nothing else, running through ten songs in twenty-five minutes, and that's a virtue that's hard to argue with.
Headliners Soft Copy also came with an uncluttered musical attack. But the trio also had more more popsmarts buried in their compositions. No surprise, as these guys have been at it for awhile, with singer/guitarist Andrew McAllister and drummer Paul Boddum making their mark in Neck/Christiana4. They are joined by "new guy" Wes Hodgson on bass. Together, the band's music is lean but not spare, and forward-thinking while incorporating plenty of flourishes from the sound-world of 90's "alternative" guitar rock.
McAllister clearly wasn't one to take himself too seriously on stage, shouting out his between-song banter in gleefully manic bursts ("That one was about Donald Sutherland! The next one's about the CBC!") and making fun of himself while re-tuning. Smartly arranged songs with judicious backing vox and, if you want to listen, some depth to the lyrics. The set started with a couple from 2006's Wolf, wolves and more wolves before turning to the new Vicious Modernism with a vengeance, and the band really shined on tracks like "Public School" and "Extracurricular" before ending on the jaunty financial meltdown ditty "Hot Cakes". An energetic and focused half-hour set.
There was a pretty dude-heavy contingent in the small-ish crowd, mostly of a certain "type" — you could have probably asked everyone in the room what their favourite Electro-Harmonix product is and not get any blank stares. I'm guessing that the band aren't overly obsessed with "making it" (in the Armada sense) and that their art is a balanced part of more mature lives, but I'm sure they'd like to see an audience commensurate to the effort they're putting in.
For a PWYC show with some advance notice (including, even, an actual ad in one of the weeklies) it wasn't a gigantic turnout, and it set me to thinking about who the audience for Soft Copy might be. Given their musical style and pedigree, the folks who were listening to the bands whose style Soft Copy is extending would arguably eat this stuff up — if they were still in the market for new music. I'd actually wager that on a Friday 'round midnight, the natural audience for Soft Copy's music was probably in bed, flipping past Turner Classic Movies and vaguely thinking about their mortgages. There's a decent-sized cohort of folk who would really dig this music, but they don't buy CD's anymore, or go to many shows, or really follow "new" bands as much as they used to. If SC could find the means to connect to this crowd, they'd do pretty okay for themselves.5
Listen to a track from this set here.
1 A pair of posters taped over neighbouring urinals in the men's room — one for Carribean Dance Theatre and the other promising a "psychedelic tugging off" — speak to the different crowds that share this space.
2 As this goes to press, so to speak, I see that Hybrid Moments now have a myspace page and some more dates coming up. So it'll be inneresting to observe if the lads are going to keep developing the stuff they're working on, or treat each show as a new, blank slate for sketching ideas.
3 A set-closing pair of covers by The Adverts and The Sonics also serve to help map out the band's musical terrain.
5 If you want to hear some for yourself, I note that Soft Copy has a NXNE gig at The Garrison on Friday, June 18, 2010.