Sunday, January 9, 2011

Radtrux/Year of the Rat/Made in Bangs @ The Fort Street Cafe [Jan.9,2011]

There were two choices tonight. Synapse was playing at the V-Lounge. They are a former Zone band of the month. I hear they are pretty good, but I decided that I was much more in the mood for electro weirdness. Made in Bangs has always been a band on my radar, and it was time to see what their live show represented.

Before all that, we had Radtrux. This a band that borrows a lot from Death From Above 1979 to the point you could almost call them a tribute act. With Darren Spears on drums and Pat Cousineau on bass, their set ignited with their opening tune. If Death From Above 1979 had ever put out a second album, this would be it. Cousineau had Jesse Keeler's bass tone perfectly. That's when the covers started. Radtrux launched into Romantic Rights. I was psyched...but I don't know if it was the nerves or stage rust but Spears was struggling to remember the lyrics to the point of not singing at all. The music was there, but to put a dead stop on the vocals is a serious issue. It's better to improvise than to not sing at all. Most people won't even know the difference. After Romantic Rights, they launched into Black History Month. It set the tone for the rest of the set. As much as I like Death From Above 1979, they played too much of it! I think the final count was four songs from them. I really wanted to hear originals or maybe a new spin on a song broken down to just drum and bass. Their own songs had an Iron Maiden twist on the DFA 1979 format. It definitely struck me as a bit of power metal. Cousineau took over vocals for their finale, which they said was just for fun: Motorhead's Ace of Spades. His voice overpowered the microphone as he yelled out the lyrics, but that's the kind of stuff I want to hear. If you are going to have the DFA 1979 sound, you don't want to be confused as a tribute act. I also think the vocals weren't as strong as they could be and that maybe a third member would be an idea.

Year of the Rat has been a band I have seen numerous times. In fact, I also saw them the following night [stay tuned for that review]. There was a new addition to Samuel Coll's set-up. A nice new Korg keyboard. What's great about this is now the band can play without the benefit of a laptop. If you haven't seen the band before, they used to have pre-recorded bits that sometimes would work or sometimes they would malfunction. Now that Sam has the benefit of two separate keyboards, the band is free to feel the music. That's not all that was new this time around. New drummer Tylor McNeil shined during his first show that stepped up the complexity of the group's beats. He is still learning, but I am excited to hear what the band has come to be in six months times. As for the other band members, there isn't much to say. They've achieved flawless accuracy and no one can say a bad word about their stage presence. They dress well, which promotes a professional look. Even on a small stage like the Fort Street Cafe, they put their hearts into it. They played favourites like Harder Than Knowing, Every Night a Vampire and what was said to be their last performance of The Cranberries' "Zombie". Yes, they told the crowd that it was time for a new cover, but that's easier said than done. More on that in the next review. Seriously, though, the band is air tight. Check them out; they will grow on you like a fungus.

When I took a look at Made in Bangs, I was quick to dismiss them as hipsters. Daniel Becker [keyboardist/vocals] was supporting tight red pants and haircut that would make Flock of Seagulls blush. Shane Steinke [guitarist/vocalist] was clad in a wooly sweater that either contained moose or caribous on it. Taylor Byers [drums] had on a wolverine t-shirt and a red bandana. I didn't know what to expect, because they came across as an experimental Vampire Weekend. The first song saw Becker break away from his keyboard to blow on a horn at intervals. Why? I guess, "why not?" is the method of Made in Bangs. Though, as the set went on, I found a very talented band that may have seemed weird in the beginning, but once you get over the shock, they are a breath of fresh oxygen. Becker and Steinke traded vocal duties. I wouldn't pick one over the other. They both had their own quirks. At one point in the set, Becker did some sort of shimmy. Byers wasn't a kind of drummer that shows off. He sticks to the beat and leaves no room for error. A highlight for me was their unique take on Radiohead's "The National Anthem", though I was surprised not a lot of people recognized it. By having no bassist, the keyboard acts as the low end as well as high end. I'm not sure how to properly describe Made in Bangs but if you like bands such as The Unicorns or XX, you will probably dig on Made in Bangs.

All in all, after a sketchy start of the story, the night turned around. I'm sure if Radtrux practice more, they will match the caliber of Year of the Rat and Made in Bangs. I cannot say enough how great an establishment Fort Street Cafe is and it may be the best place to get local beer in the city.

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