The start of the night was a hell of a lot more lively than the previous nights – just as promised. There were a lot of familiar faces at the Bovine Sex Club that came in on other days during the week. The high-energy atmosphere of this twisted metal temple was heightened further by the sound checks of the bands. People were buzzing with anticipation and alcohol by the time Apache Darling hit the stage.
The get-up of the lead singer, a bedazzled bralette with jeans shorts, tights and a perforated cotton duster, outlines the feel of the band already. They hail from Scotland and they came all the way over here just to play a few venues at NXNE. The lead singer, Stefanie Lawrence, explained that the Scottish scene was too pop and didn’t fit their style. Their ultra-polite highland charm was almost unexpected when you hear how furious some of their tracks can get.
Apache Darling described themselves as “the new pop”, but their tracks have a bit more edge to them than basic artificial hits. The synths and percussions stood out the most, making a great melody to back those gorgeous vocals. “Firebird” had people’s attention as they drew in tightly to the stage with those sweet vocals. They took on some slower tracks like “Go” as a mid-performance song, but the fact that it took its time didn’t make it any less powerful here. It was also the greatest showcase of her vocal talents.
“Sink Into” continued their unique style, but started to slip into these songs sounding alike. The performance style was amazing though. This isn’t even a mark against them though since this style is spectacular. They debuted a song last night and it was a refreshing change of pace from their original stuff, focusing on synths. “Sledgehammer” sounded very ‘80s to me, a music muscle I think they should flex more often. Their covers are pretty good also, but their original material reflected them better. “Ghost” was one of their better tracks on the album, so it was nice to hear it live. I argue that it was the best song from them of the night, showcasing the best of all their features: synths, bass, percussion, and a trio of voices.
Keram, blue hair and all, came on strong with his stage presence – something this club dwells on. He’s a performer for sure, being a Canadian actor and musician. His love for performing translates to the stage as he plays his slight profundity and some sleepier tunes. These were the lighter tracks though, he’s shreds the guitar and belts out vocals significantly rougher than I thought he would be capable of.
“Infidel” shows his rougher edge in particular. Keram played some songs from his newest album and was selling them from the back of his car. The acoustic debut was a great break and was very welcome amongst the crowd. While his faster material is what impressed the crowd, his slower stuff has a decent hold on the audience. The guitar work has variety – acoustic for these newer tracks and electric for the old stuff. He shouldn’t be undervalued or underestimated. He’s young, but he’s got it. Keram seems to be in his own world up there – seldom interacting with other members of the band or the audience.
Everyone knew who Urvah Khan was when she came in the building: she stood out like a queen here. She described her music as something that was difficult to classify, varying from a rallying cry to chant along with to a fist-pumping gathering. From tribal expressions to a hard rock with that synthetic voice filter to something significantly more upbeat and playful, this music will electrify listeners. It can come across as over-the-top sometimes, but you get so involved in it that it doesn’t matter.
Urvah Khan started her show off with a soundbite from Wrath of Khan (1982) before ripping out some sick tunes. She’s a mistress of audience interaction, pumping up every joe and jane no matter their background. She’s one powerhouse bitch – I was loving every second of it, too. “War Drum” was an especially powerful track made more monstrous on the stage. She’s got some Nicki Minaj vibes to her, but unlike Minaj, she’s actually cool. Tribal expression run supreme with every note and archaic percussion, the guitars kept it modern.
People like Urvah Khan were the ones who made this night so much more memorable. Saturday at the Bovine Sex Club was bittersweet: it was the end, but it was THE end. NXNE at the Bovine couldn’t hope for a better celebration here tonight.