I may have a new favourite local band for the moment. I know I said I wasn’t going to be a booster, and I’m going to hold to that. This review is going to be rather positive though, I’ll admit.
Twas a snowy Thursday night and local photographer Kitrina Brodhecker and I shivered our way into the basement of wonders that is Sewing Machine Factory. For anyone whose been following the podcasts, this venue has been consistently mentioned by my guests as the best venue in Edmonton right now.
After hanging up our coats, we stopped by the bar and got a couple Lucky Lagers from Lucas, the venue’s main bartender. Apparently I’m at that venue enough as of late that he didn’t even need to ask what we were having. The Luckys simply appeared on the counter like liquor magic.
As usual, I showed up late to the show. I wish I’d seen No Such Thing As Ghost. I did, however, check them out on BandCamp and I can safely say they wouldn’t have impressed me as much as what followed. They sound tight, they’re just really not my thing.
Re-form’s set began with each musician adding themselves into the mix one-by-one. First drums, then bass, then guitar. A couple minutes in, Graham, their vocalist, jogged up from behind the crowd and leaped onto stage with a power chord and the first song unfolded.
The intro was a tad long, but Graham explained that to me after their set. “I underestimated how long it would take me to change my shirt.” His shiny red blouse was worth the wait. The entire band had a consistent visual theme that can best be described as red, which went well with the red curtains that framed the set.
Their giant banner behind the drummer was held up by PVC pipes and read ‘Re-form’ in simple Helvetica.
Re-form’s bassist, Marr, shredded on the bass right out of the gate. At the time, he was the newest member of the band, and his riffage definitely showed him to be the right pick for the job.
While their stage banter was relatively minimal, they did take time to make the standard calls to the crowd to dance and, of course, asked the audience how they were doing that night.
The crowd definitely danced. At one point, Graham even gave the House of Pain-like order, “Everybody Jump,” and the majority of the crowd did, in fact, jump. I don’t think I’ve seen a punk band attempt pop show-style audience directions like this before, but they pulled it off quite nicely.
Sewing Machine Factory’s stage is pretty big for a relatively small venue and Re-form managed to use the whole thing. Their drummer flaunts a large repetoire of stick tricks, Graham gets full use of the risers at centre stage, and the string players never stop moving.
While a fair number of their riffs are by-the-books pop-punk, their performance sets them apart from other pop-punk acts I’ve seen as of late. I could see this band growing a following very quickly.
Milhouse was setting up on stage when I stopped by the ole soundboard to chat with local 8-bit cognoscente Brett Klein. “Yo,” he asked. “10 outta 10 stage lights for Milhouse?” He had set stage right to be bright yellow and stage left to be bright blue.
“Dece,” I replied.
Milhouse’ set started noisy. I saw Ezra from the band Preston wailing away on a guitar in the blue lit part of the stage and I was reminded of their old band The Pauls.
Brief tangent: I played a show with The Pauls a couple years ago and they were fucked. It took me about 3 minutes to realize it was the best noise rock thing going at the time and I don’t know why they didn’t continue. There were so many Pauls they could have shouted out.
Anyway, I had a similar feeling watching Milhouse to when I’d seen the Pauls. The first 2 minutes or so could have been taken as total noise or a well-designed parody of an intro. Then the song started to tighten up into what sounded like it could have been a Fugazi song. I’m ultimately indifferent toward Fugazi – they’re not bad, they’re not outstanding, they’re just solid alt-rock.
By the end of the first song, I was still on the fence. Then the banter began.
Jamie, the guitarist from Birds Bear Arms, was on bass tonight, and began discussing the Simpsons theme of the band. “What are you talking about?” Ezra interrupted from stage left, “What the hell is the Simpsons?”
Jamie pondered, “So, we’re not a Simpsons-themed band?”
“Richard Milhouse Nixon.” replied Ezra, or as he’s listed on their facebook page: King ezzy G.
Their drummer, Eliot, was really tight. From the second song forward, everything he was playing was reminiscent of Greg Saunier of Deerhoof, which I can definitely get behind. The neat rudiments he was pulling off on his ride cymbal were particularly enticing.
The second round of stage banter included a long list of sponsors for the show, including the venue, all the other bands, and for some reason, primarily Snapple.
By the end of the third song, I was increasingly impressed with Jamie’s skill on the bass. I assume Simone, their lead guitarist and former member of skategrind hooligans Busted Femur, was also impressed, as they looked over to Jamie and said with a smile, “Shit, ya!” I had seen Jamie shred on guitar before but didn’t know they had these bass chops as well.
Then another round of stage banter began, this time focussing on a vaguely developed concept album they were working on devoted to Wayne Gretzky. “We’re not actually a band,” explained Jamie. “We’re a series of gimmicks stacked upon one another.”
“Can I get a ‘Boo’ for American Football?” asked Ezra from the other end of the stage. To this day, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Ezra wear anything besides a white t-shirt tucked into black jeans. This was no exception.
The last song was as good as the few prior. The syncopation going on alone was pretty impressive; that drummer held my attention during much of the set. I’d definitely say this is my favourite project any of its members have worked on as of yet. Birds Bear Arms, The Pauls, Busted Femur and Christmas Cocaine Showdown are great bands, but I have a soft spot for anything that approaches math rock.
Overall, I think the drummers of Re-form and Milhouse stole the show. Brett’s stick tricks and Elliot’s rudiments were the most memorable parts of the whole show. Both bands played tight sets and I’d recommend seeing either one of them whenever you can.
Till next time, remember to ready your blouses before your set.