FRIENDS IN BELLWOODS CD release with OHBIJOU, SEBASTIEN GRAINGER , PARAMEDICS and the D'URBERVILLES at the Tranzac, January 12. Tickets: $10. Attendance: sold out. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It sounds obnoxiously cheesy , but don't ever underestimate the power of passion. Especially when it comes to grassroots community projects.
With no funding, no institutional support, no promo budget not even a big-name headliner the hard-working folks behind the Friends In Bellwoods compilation managed to put on a show so appealing that the apologetic organizers had to turn hundreds of people away from the Tranzac by the 9 pm door time.
Inside the club, it felt more like a massive house party than a conventional rock show. In between strings of twinkle lights, piles of non-perishable food donations and tables of silkscreened merch, aging grandparent types tried to dry out their nubbly sweaters beside excitedly chattering OCAD students, and an impressive array of representatives from a clique-spanning range of local indie bands hoisted drinks and dished on recent studio conundrums.
Conversation died down somewhat, but not entirely, during the D'Urbervilles ' explosive set of clanging post-punk guitar rock. It was hard to make out John O'Regan 's plaintive, frantic vocals, though watching the rail-thin Buddy Hollyish singer writhe and jerk around onstage almost made up for it. In contrast, the Paramedics (Constantine Bry Webb 's new band), who followed hard on the heels of the D'Urbervilles' raucous set, could've benefited from an energy shift either more animation onstage or less in the crowd.
Webb's new songs fall in the plaintive, soul-baring category. They're centred around his throaty vocals and driven by the steady pulse of his guitar, a muffled drumbeat and careful additions of lap steel and banjo. You get the sense they'd work well on disc or in a sit-down venue, but it was hard to appreciate Webb's delicate mumbles while controlled chaos reigned in the club. Still, when the buzz died down in time for him to play Lou Reed to Casey Mecija 's Nico for a hearts-out swing through Oh! Sweet Nuthin', it was kinda magical.
When lumberjack-chic ex-DFA1979 basher Sebastien Grainger , unmoored, like Webb, from his familiar band, launched into his solo set, I worried he'd face a similar dilemma.
I shouldn't've. Backed by an exuberant Leon Taheny (Germans, Final Fantasy) on drums and hulking Illuminati bassist Nick Sewell , Grainger started slow but gained momentum with Pixiesish anthems, rowdy rhythm-driven rock 'n' roll that upheld the tradition of his former band, and enough softer, sappier (but not sissyish) songs to elicit googly eyes from the ladies in the crowd.
The real thrill of the night, though, was watching Ohbijou 's Mecija gaze out over a packed house and fumble (only a bit) for words as she realized the success of the do-gooder project she'd helped dream up. As she beamed through an encore cover version of Annie's Heartbeat, you felt all prickly and warm inside in that group-hug kind of way.