Wednesday, December 19, 2012

NXNE 2011: Bruise Cruise

Bruise Cruise (feat. Jesuslesfilles / Uncle Bad Touch / Young Governor / Ty Segall)

Captain Matthew Flinders. Saturday, June 18, 2011.

Amongst the barbeques and in-stores that have increasingly been filling up the daytimes during NXNE, this little excursion was perhaps the most anticipated. The idea of being out on the lake, taking in some sun while watching cool bands play is pretty irresistible. Cue plenty of "I'm on a Boat" jokes.

The reality was a bit more banal. The day was clear, blindingly bright and scorchingly hot, even in the gentle breeze while out cruising. So it might have been a blessing in disguise that rather than having the bands weren't playing out on the deck, they were down in the bottom-level ballroom. That made things feel rather less exotic — so much so that a large proportion of the attendees, putatively here to see the bands, never bothered coming below from their sun-drenched networking/consumption of overpriced drinks.

The day was presented by the M pour Montréal festival, and appropriately lead off with a couple 514-area bands. Jesuslesfilles were the first to take the stage — or, rather, the railed-off mini-dancefloor in the fore (up front, to us landlubbers) of the space. There was plenty of elbow room for the musicians, even with the drumkit set up on a riser behind them.

There were a half-dozen rows of people up at the front of the room taking this in, leaving lots of empty space behind, but it felt like enough bodies to make an audience for the five-piece. They were singing francophone lyrics, often delivered with male/female co-vox, but given the slightly-muffled nature of the improvised PA, their voices would have been semi-incomprehensible in any language.

Of Montréal bands that I know, I figured I could see this lot on a bill with, say, The Peelies1, though JLF were a bit less "punk" in their execution. They were still pleasingly rough around the edges, with quick songs in the two-three minute range. It got a bit less engaging when they slowed down, but on the whole, good stuff.

Listen to a song from this set here.

It was amusing to see the land-based social order was replicating itself on the boat, with the too-coolsters staying topside, indifferent to the opening bands. There weren't many more folks on hand for Uncle Bad Touch2, another Montréal act. This trio had a straight-up rocking sound, with a bit of sleaze-nasty in the guitar sound and occasional hints of metal. Given the aggression with which they played, it was no surprise that the drum kit was being slowly pushed forward, soon at constant risk of tumbling right off the riser.

Though the lyrics were in a language I was more fluent in, I'd have to say that the band didn't leave a huge impression on me. But with nine songs in just over twenty minutes it didn't stick around long enough to get boring, especially toward the end, when the boat started to roll a little underfoot.

Listen to a couple songs from this set here.

When I came back from a wander to check out the views of city and the calm waters of Lake Ontario receding off in the hazy distance there was much more of a crowd on the lower deck to see Ben Cook (a.k.a.Young Governor), who was attired in a cruise-appropriate tropical sunset shirt and captain's hat. "I've been called Bernie and I've been called Michael J. Fox today," he commented. "So I'm doing all right."

There was a bigger crowd on the stage, too, with his not-officially-credited but most definitely present backing band The Scuzz — including a keyboardist that sat out the previous day's in-store. The keybs were quiet at the start but more prominent a bit later on for stuff like "Bedtime Stories". That additional element didn't upset the musical balance too much, however.

One part of the expansiveness of the band's sound, relative to some of Cook's other projects, is a propensity to not rush into songs, several of which included lengthy instrumental introductions (often powered by smooth saxophone licks) that would basically double their length. And though the music references classic rock forms through an especially 80's-vintage power-pop lens — "The Beat of My Heart" which could have slipped through a timewarp from a Rockpile setlist — there's still an elemental propensity to veer headlong into velocity, like "Summer Girl", which finished at about twice the speed it started at. Showing as much eagerness as the crowd to get to the headliner, the band careened through the more-punkish "Call Me When the Cat Dies" before clearing the stage to make room.

This whole nautical experience seems to have had an impact on Cook, who liked this set enough to issue it on a tape3 — and who has more recently shifted his attention to a new project called Yacht Club.

Listen to a song from this set here.

There was still plenty space at the back of the room as Ty Segall and his rhythm section took the stage but it was rather packed up front — I was about four rows aft and even from there I could hardly see a thing. Mostly just occasional flashes of Segall's tie-died shirt — and that was before the intense mosh-y action got started.4

Wearing a pair of sunglasses — and with another pair perched on his head — Segall lead off with "Imaginary Person" from 2010's "Melted", picking out some tracks from his ever-growing discography. The highlight of the set came fairly early on when he invited Redd Kross' Steve McDonald (who was at NXNE as a member of OFF!) to join in on bass for a run through "Annette's Got the Hits", which dates back to 1980, when the band was still known as Red Cross — a song older than Segall himself. "That was the coolest thing that has ever happened to me," he commented after.

With the boat pulling into the dock, there was an increased urgency in the room, and at the end of the slower-starting "Finger" the crowd suddenly exploded into a moshing frenzy. With the boat back on land, the band cranked through the last few songs, ending with a run through "Paranoid" wherein Segall leaped into crowd, being held aloft under the rather low ceiling, his face and guitar both smooshed right up against it as he kept playing, taking time only to stick his head up through the foam ceiling tiles. Given that he invited the crowd up to sing along for that, it was no surprise that the show ended with a general stage invasion, feedback shreiking as the bandstand filled up — and from there, rocking out covers (including GG Allin's "Don't Talk to Me") pretty much until he was told to stop.

As always, a bracing live experience. And if this wasn't all that exciting as an aquatic excursion (the boat hugged the shoreline out to about the mouth of the Humber and then back), it was a worthy daytime experience, enough so that it would be repeated for the next NXNE.5

Listen to a couple songs from this set here.

1 Which turns out to have been on point, given that the two bands have shared a split tape.

2 The band has more recently rebranded themselves under the more compact, less creepy moniker of UBT.

3 Though by now it might be tough to get your hands on a copy, Cook released my recording of this show as one half of the The First Three 7"s / Live On A Boat cassette.

4 I've mentioned it before, but I'll renew this curious observation: I certainly dig Segall's music, but it's mostly "punk" by association, and I don't quite understand what it his about his performances that engender such an enthusiastically mosh-prone response from the crowd when nothing of the sort happens to other musicians with a similar level of rockitude. It just seems mildly odd to me.

5 Segall seems to enjoy our neck of the woods: he's covered some Southern Ontario proto-punk heroes and retains connections to some local bands. He's also been a fairly frequent visitor to Toronto, playing at increasingly large venues, including (on February 6, 2013) The Phoenix.

No comments:

Post a Comment