Long Winter Fair

The indie music festival leaves a stronger cumulative impression than it does moment to moment

LIDS, DARLENE SHRUGG, THE BEVERLEYS, PROGRAMM, MORTIFIED and MEKELE as part of LONG WINTER at the Great Hall and 99 Sudbury, Friday, February 13. Rating: NNN

With so many diverse bands to see in two different venues at Long Winter, the indie music festival leaves a much stronger cumulative impression than it does moment to moment.

This month’s edition was styled as an outdoor winter fair but unbearably cold temperatures kept all-ages revellers primarily indoors most of the night aside from those in the line that snaked around the Great Hall.

Deciding to save the line-up/pat-down experience for a little later, I headed first to brightly lit warehouse space 99 Sudbury where experimental pop artist Mekele was setting up in front of plastic curtain displaying frenetically animated abstract rainbow visuals.

Although Long Winter is a reliable place to catch buzz bands, there are also plenty of art-world-crossover curiosities whose M.O. is more concept than song craft – as Mekele’s overcomplicated headwrap that looked like a loaner from a Jabba the Hutt sex slave made plainly clear.

The Montreal transplant’s music comprises looped, glass-shattering operatic notes that fuse with jerky beats, fuzzy ambience and nature sounds. It was occasionally pleasant but aimless, and the large room swallowed any nuance in his interplay of the delicate and the rough.

Back at the Great Hall, duo Mortified (Jenn Goodwin and Camilla Singh) had taken over the main stage with their rambunctious modern dance interpretation of the idea of “the concert.” At best, their synchronized drum kit routines – including an unrecognizable cover of Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Maps – highlighted the aggressive choreography required for rock drumming. The act also included pom poms, a Jim Jarmusch-inspired guitar solo and an invigorating tap dance routine that inspired exactly one person in the room to mosh.

Down the hall, detached shoegazers Programm had fans of less conceptual and more bluntly derivative performance glazing over to undulating waves of warmth. Grungy three-piece the Beverleys also threw back to the alt-rock of yesteryear with the tried-and-true formula of scuzzy power riffs and angsty, raspy vocals straight outta 1996. The sounds were on point but both bands lacked a unique perspective or style.

A band not want for style was Darlene Shrugg, who attracted a sizeable crowd for their 11 pm slot over at 99 Sudbury. The year-old band makes booming garage rock full of tightly coiled energy and attitude, but what set the show apart was the husband-and-wife players Slim Twig and Meg Remy, who bookended the five-piece onstage.

Keyboardist Remy (also of U.S. Girls) brought vintage glamour with a 1940s, Norma Desmond-inspired turban (she won the unofficial headpiece battle) and odd, squeaky vocals, while the burnt-orange-outfitted Twig worked the pedals to psych out his squalling riffs.

Supergroup LIDS kept the unadulterated rock coming with a dreamier, reverbier and man-sweatier take on stoner 60s rock. The band, which comprises Metz’s Alex Edkins on bass, Holy Fuck’s Brian Borcherdt on guitar/vocals and the Constantines’ Doug MacGregor on drums, had to work hard against the room’s swampy acoustics especially on the harmonies, which added some sweetness and warmth to their walloping dudeage.

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @kevinritchie

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