It’s been a year since I hit the Bovine Sex Club, being well-acquainted with the zany establishment when I did special on it for North by Northeast (NXNE) 2015. Seeing the familiar wreckage on the inside interwoven with bright lights, hearing the faded ‘60s vintage music with hints of classic rock, and of course, the 3D Jagermeister shrine, it’s great to see that not much has changed with the place. And wow, will you look at that? They’re playing Escape from New York (1981) on one of their T.V. screens. Can I live here?
Even on my way here, I saw various patrons of different styles amped up for Canadian Music Week, whether they were waiting in long lines into clubs with featured acts of bands who had nowhere else to go tonight but set up shop on street corners with crowds amassed around them. The Bovine had a very culturally diverse line-up like Adam Strangler and Lost Cause from Montreal, DARTS from Australia, and Archie Powell and the Exports from Chicago. The place quickly filled up with fans eager for the first band to perform.
There are few bands that are as straight-to-the-point as the Mightabins, opting to strive for harmonious punk excellence than to idly dilly-dally with “self-indulgent guitar solos or attempts at virtuosity”. The band continues their strong style of punk that you don’t hear much of anymore (like the Sex Pistols style with a fast-paced merciless execution) with their latest album, The Garbage Can Sessions! (2016)
The lead vocals were pretty clear, but then go on drawling ends like the lead singer of Black Lips. Their songs are very one-and-done like a Ramones concert. The Mightabins aren’t the most animated band I’ve seen but the let the music speak for itself. The variety of lead vocals styles as they alternate between members of the band are pretty distant while the instruments remain constant. It’s like a slight switch of character with the backdrop changing. The audience was pretty involved as well, because any band that can stop people from watching Escape from New York has got to be good. “I like your shirt!” shouted one girl. I had to agree with her. Angry potato shirts are the coolest.
They also tried out a few new songs, striking a more upbeat heart-hammering punk chord than before. They’re also quite funny between songs with lines like, “We wrote THIS one… you can probably tell”. All in all, they’re a good band and a great bunch of guys.
Pysch pop is a strange genre that can be difficult to categorize bands into (though primarily post-punk, Joy Division is the closest suitor to this label I can think of). Adam Strangler wears this psych pop badge, describing his music as something that pays homage to the genre’s tradition while experimenting with new things to take his interpretation in a different director.
Though Canadian, he strikes me as a very British-sounding post-punk singer, kind of like Harry McVeigh from White Lies, but more soothing and less deeply sonorous. They tested out their instruments by thrashing for a few minutes before maintain a steady beat – all before they were even slated to perform. The place was packed almost to capacity by the time they got on.
Adam Strangler kinda reminds me of a punkish Smashing Pumpkins with the way the vocals can hang off in silence before the instrumentals come crashing down again. The tune was infectious, having heads bob to the beat. Their style is much more drawn-out than that of their performance predecessors. “You don’t see too many bands rocking a 12-string,” said Skip, the drummer of the Mightabins.
Next up was DARTS, a five-piece Australian band. Seeing international influences reminds me not only of how universal indie music is, but how much sway a music festival like Canadian Music Week can have. It also informs Toronto’s musical diversity. But, I digress: they relate their equally depressive and aggressive style to bands like Modest Mouse, Pixies, and the Breeders.
Like they mentioned, they’ve definitely got that bombastic vocal style that lights up the mood over an oddly meditative instrumental backdrop. The only way I could accurately describe the power behind the lead singer’s voice is that it’s “jagged”. That’s a great thing for a rough punk show. Keeping up with the melancholy angle, other tracks were completely tame in comparison.
Archie Powell and The Exports may be a mouthful for a band title, but the description they offer is exactly: “Beer fuelled noisy pop-rock from Chicago”. No, I didn’t cut out significant parts of the sentence, that’s just the way the statement came. That just means more work for the writer who has to find some way to describe their sound. They’ve had a pretty active career with seven album releases since 2010, their most recently being Back in Black (2014).
Like a lot of modern indie bands, this band uses the ‘50s vocal filter that makes the music sound like it’s being played from another room. Coupled with tones decidedly more current, it makes an almost “fun in the sun” instrumental piece with grimmer themes.
Punchline 13 hit the stage at the 1:00 AM mark. They’re a recent creation by singer Sly Rawk (former member of Men ‘O’ Steel), Matt Dorion, Hugo Larouche, Dave Marti, and Yan Boudreault with the new addition of French vocalist RAFFY. Want to hear them? Their latest album is What Will You Do? (2016). If I had to compare this band to anyone, I’d say they sound like Green Day with the distant indie-styled vocal filter. The song’s pacing is pretty similar too, though the charm and political importance of Green Day’s music isn’t what Punchline 13 strives for.
Finally, Oshawa-based band Lost Cause ended off the show. They’re hard to find online (though many indie bands find themselves lost in a sea of many other bands names), largely because they only have a few tracks here and there. Their sound is sort of Foo Fighters with some hints of small-time Canadian bands like Faber Drive.
It was great to get back to the Bovine, what with the people, the bands, and just the general atmosphere. It’s a must-visit venue for anyone hitting up Toronto for a music festival. Or, just a great place to duck in for an evening.