I went to three shows this weekend. The first was The Catamounts at the Handsome Daughter. The second was Dri Hiev at HMS Arlington. And the third was trio telfær at the Telfer House.
Seeing so much music in different spaces has really got me thinking about delivery and environment. Where you see a show, what the space is like, and who is present all impacts how much I enjoy a performance.
Thursday night. Handsome Daughter. Around 12:30 p.m. The Catamounts took the stage.
They recently released a new album, St Nuomatac, a week or two ago. I’d never seen them before. I heard great things, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about surf rock. My only real contact with surf rock is through Dick Dale on my dad’s stereo.
Turns out I like surf rock. Or at least, I like the Catamount’s version of surf rock. How do find surf rock in Winnipeg? We’re landlocked — the only surfing you’re doing here is on a board with wheels, or something to do with the plains.
I think their composition and song structure made a difference for me. I’m not a huge fan of Dick Dale. I’m not a huge fan of that surf guitar tone, the strummy light tone that takes you to California beaches and coconuts with straws. But I realized that’s probably not just the guitar tone.
Song structure goes a long way. If you can write a song that carries me through a variety of places, different shapes or light or environment, I’m going to follow you like a lost puppy. I’ll listen and pant and wag my tail. And these guys write songs that sound a bit more complex than what I’d heard of surf rock before.
The organ tone really rounded out the sound. They played with fullness, with this classic organ sound that offered a bright yet moody background for the guitar tone. It reminds me of taking a new picture and adding sepia tones, creating that feel of age yet still preserving the light.
The guys looked pretty sharp in their matching suits. You can tell they’re experienced musicians. I mean, I can tell because I know at least one? of them from Mahogany Frog (one of my all-time favourite prog bands). But you can tell from their presence on stage too — they stand firmly, play with intention and seem to enjoy themselves without much hesitation. I wouldn’t guess that they’re thinking of the audience at all when they play. Not that they don’t care about the audience. Just that they know their relationship with listeners, they know how to connect and relate and what’s expected of them.
I really liked the colour of this guitar. Nice stuff.
I felt horrible for missing Holy Void at the Black Cloud and Apollo Suns show. I seriously just… fell asleep against the sound booth that night. I needed to sleep I guess. And eat. My body just wasn’t having me.
So I was grateful for the opportunity to see these guys two weeks later in a much more intimate setting. They played with a line-up of noise and industrial acts. I wasn’t sure if I was to expect something as raw and energetic as Permanent Mistake, or as abrasive and electric as Dri Hiev.
What I found was a range of sounds, characterized by a lilting shadowed intensity. They played slower songs than Permanent Mistake. They have arching, haunting tones that remind me of being haunted, like when ghosts show up in my heart and remind me of everything I can’t know and the places I’ve left behind, reminding me that the dark can hold so much more than light could ever reveal.
Holy Void also recently released music, a short EP called For Everything Else. Don’t let the candy fool you. It’s tasty, but I wouldn’t call it sweet. It’s satisfying, but not sugary.
I felt a little bit more rock influence in their music than I expected. They stuck with fairly standard time signatures. They didn’t have any dramatic changes in their songs, but they could whisper some creepy stuff through their melodies.
They make good use of repetition, though I feel like I crave something a little more. I’m a big fan of prog, changes, weird tempos and music that drags me around a room. These guys guided me a bit more gently, perhaps because they created a darker, softer space.
The light in the room really matched the show. Someone turned the ceiling lamp off right before they went on. It made for tricky shooting, but brought the mood in the room further into Holy Void’s tunes.
This was the Friday night of Halloween weekend, so I think it was pretty suiting. I didn’t dress up. Other people did. Permanent Mistake went as Rick.
If I’d seen Catamounts when they released their LP, I would’ve seen them at the Good Will. And if I’d seen Holy Void when they released their EP, I’d have seen them at the Handsome Daughter.
I love both of these bars. Mostly because I know people there and they have great taste in music. I like the Good Will for big shows, like seeing Mahogany Frog last year, or Micah Erenberg, where lots of people want to be there and want to get crazy. Saturday night type shows. I like the Daugther for shows I want to listen intently to. Usually when I want to sit alone and feel like I’m cool enough to have no friends (what?). It’s a smaller space, so it feels a bit more intimate, and fills up a bit easier.
I love seeing shows at HMS Arlington, though. It’s a sweet house space with hardwood everywhere upstairs. There’s a bar at the back of the room, a wood stove in the middle and the jam space at the front.
Three cool guys live in the house. They make music. They got the house from some other cool guys that make music. And they provide this incredible atmosphere for some of my favourite community events (read: concerts). They offer some nice treats for those willing to support. They offer the space to touring bands who need to make gas fare. I saw one of my favourite Albertan bands, Fox Who Slept The Day Away, there over summer and was absolutely delighted that I could sit at the feet of these musicians as they play.
I did the same thing Friday night. I sat at the feet of the performers, just in front of their mic stands. You can have that level of closeness at HMS. And the private property thing means I can bring my own beer. Which is great. And the many friends living there means I can stay comfortably. Which is also great (shouts out to Paul for letting me crash Saturday — thx bb).
As far as community goes, it takes a little bit of everyone. We need different spaces for bands to perform. Bars are good for big shows, for releases, for having a great party. But house shows are more accessible for everyone, help profits go directly to artists and offer a connectivity you won’t get from a raised stage.
Plus, music is basically the manipulation of time and space, right? We’re basically fucking with the human experience of space, which is also time, and doing so through sound can bring everyone into this shared space that I absolutely adore.
Different venues = different experiences. I appreciate each for their own benefits.