Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Gig: Golden Triangle

Golden Triangle (White Wires / Useless Eaters / Zebrassieres)

The Shop @ Parts and Labour. Saturday, June 5, 2010.

This was the second night of the opening weekend for this brand new Parkdale venue. Just a couple doors down from Mitzi's Sister, Parts and Labour is a swish-looking new restaurant — the sort of chi-chi place that sophisticates would call a "boffo new resto".1 Downstairs in The Shop was another story.2 Looking equal parts bomb shelter and rec centre basement, the room is a low-ceilinged rectangle, the entrance at one end and the stage area at the other. And "stage area" is the operative term here, as the bands perform on the floor, house-party style.3 The long walls feature some gymnasium-styled benches on one side, and the long bar, running almost the length of the room, on the other. Pretty spartan, although there's a dome-hockey table nestled in one corner and a few detourned workplace-styled signs on the walls.

There was the sense on this opening weekend of a mostly-completed project, still the faint scent of freshly-painted walls in the air, and a work-in-progress feel to the sound system. The tiny soundboard was sitting on a crate beside the stage area, the monitors demarking a rough boundary between musicians and crowd.

But still, the very existence of the place is something of a testament to local DIY/punk promoter Mark Pesci, now using this as a home base for his shows. Reflecting that, and the Parkdale ambiance as a whole, there was a mixed crowd on hand with hardcore kids, crusty old punks, indie types and Vice magazine trendsters all rubbing shoulders. Occasionally, a well-dressed couple, apparently slumming it after having dinner upstairs, would pass through.

And meanwhile, there was a show going on. Opening the night was Zebrassieres, "half from Ottawa, half from Calgary", playing some rambunctiously rangy punk. Quick songs, several in the minute-and-a-half range, Ramones-on-the-beach style. The slightly new-wave edge of Sarah's keybs4 elevated them above a generic guit-bass-drums sound, adding just the right extra flavour to songs like "Beach Fight". Playing songs with titles like "Man Pageant" and "Party Ghost" from a just-released album, it's clear they're not taking themselves too seriously. A new one called "Magazine Seducer" blasted past The Ramones into even more of a new wave-y direction, so that may be where they're headed. All told, this was good fun, and is totally the sort of thing I dig. A rockin' twenty-minute burst to start the night.

Listen to a track from this set here.

Useless Eaters offered less fun and more intensity. The trio is fronted by Tennessee singer/guitarist Seth Sutton, the lone full-time member and perhaps something of a peripatetic sort. Like Jay Reatard (with whom he had played) his music is adaptable to different supporting players, recruited on a temporary basis. The basic template here is white-hot punk music with an underlying melodic core. Some songs featured later in the set, notably "Telepath", gave the impression that Sutton is pushing his musical boundaries a bit beyond a sort of angry shoutyness that comes with an appropriated British accent. He was also a no-nonsense type while playing, not interacting with the crowd much as the group tore through nine songs in nineteen minutes.

Listen to a track from this set here.

There had been a good crowd on hand up to this point, but as White Wires set up, there was more of a tight cluster building up near the band, and a bit of a headliner vibe in the air. Clearly this Ottawa trio had a lot of fans and friends on hand. Although they were just as fired-up as the previous bands, they came at their punk-rock energy from another vector. Despite lyrical sentiments like "Pogo 'Til I Puke Tonight", the band's changes hearkened back to the purest of rock'n'roll greaser spirit, hinting that there's as much Eddie Cochrane as Young Canadians in their lineage.

In that vein, songs like "Just Wanna Be With You" brushed up against the great spirit of rock'n'roll radio. Their cover of the 1971 Motown beat obscurity "That's the Way a Woman Is" by The Messengers hinted at their historical awareness, but there was still plenty of sweat as the the band pumped out song after song. With lotsa catchy/uncomplicated stuff like "Girly Girly Girly", by the end of the set the crowd was pretty fired up. With things getting loose, there were bodies dancing right into the band and the mics got disconnected a couple times. Meanwhile there were impromptu lyrics about the other bands as the musicians struggled to keep everything plugged in. Pretty good sweaty fun!

Listen to a track from this set here.

I'd first checked out Golden Triangle at 2009's NXNE without really knowing much about them, and had left impressed. Under the reductive description of "imagine if The Vivian Girls had convened as a surf band", they nailed a sweet spot that hit me just right. So they were on my radar to check them out again. I'd missed them on a return trip to the city last fall, but was glad to take this chance to see 'em. A different kind of musical attack than the night's previous acts — except for in a DIY sort of sense, one wouldn't call 'em particularly punk, and with six members up of stage, there's no tightly-wound minimalism here, either. But in terms of producing a clamourous bit of fun, they fit in just fine.

The larger crew did need some extra time to get set up, and it seemed as if they were taxing the limits of the venue's sound system ("It sounds like a refrigerator up here," was one comment from the band while they were soundchecking.) The early-days, slapped-together nature of the sound system was a bit of a problem here, with the vox a bit buried and smushed together during the set. But, once things were more-or-less tied down, the band led off with the first couple songs from their Double Jointer album, "Cinco de Mayo" sounding pretty muffled at the start. Things did improve from there, though, such as on "Blood and Arrow", with the band at their most psychedelic, the snaky, woozy guitar line breaking through to hover over the song in an echo-y haze. So it certainly wasn't hi-fi in the room, but it was good enough, especially with the band playing some catchy stuff like "Neon Noose".

Reaching beyond their album, the band threw in "Jungle Jim" from their split 7" with The Fresh & Onlys. Except maybe for a guitar solo sounding like it was related by a drunk friend trying to describe "Over Under Sideways Down", that one was cut from similar cloth to the rest of their material. Just like on their album, the songs came in short burts. And also like the album, the set ended with "Arson Wells", their one lengthier excursion, giving the opportunity for an extended freak-out groove to end the night. Arguably not as good as the band could sound, given the technical limitations they were playing with, but one is less focused on technical imperfections when you're pressed in with a heaving, sweaty crowd. An auspicious start for The Shop — it's not somewhere I'll go all the time, but hopefully it will have a good run filling its particular niche.

Listen to a track from this set here.

1 N.B.: Take note that I actually have no idea what sort of patter sophisticates actually use — they may not, in fact, talk like nightclub patrons in 30's films any more.

2 Also note here the distinction in the naming — that, technically speaking "Parts & Labour" is the restaurant upstairs and "The Shop" is the venue downstairs. In practice, though, this is less iron-clad, and people (not to mention promoters, tickets and show posters) will often just refer to the whole place as "Parts & Labour".

3 This has all those theoretical virtues of not placing the band above the crowd, etc., etc., and allows people to get right up close — or for the band to range out into the crowd — which well-suits the DIY anti-rock-star ethos of the venue, but it also means that if you aren't right up close you won't have much of a view. Woe to those who aren't so tall, or who don't want to get too much into the sort of bump-around-jostling that bands playing here tend to bring out in people.

4 There are no last names supplied in any of the band's info I could find.

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