RELIGIOUS KNIVES , ZODIAC MOUNTAIN , WYRD VISIONS , GEO'S FAST TRIO and the IMPENDING DEATH BLUES BAND with SUSIE BURPEE at the Tranzac, July 1. Tickets: $10. Attendance: 40. Rating: NNN Rating: NNNNN
I guess some Canadians prefer celebrating the anniversary of the uniting of all those old-school British North American provinces by, you know, getting wasted on their back decks, watching fireworks and shooting each other with Roman candles, or maybe getting a "patriotic" tattoo of a maple leaf or something like that.
For generations now, though (and here I exaggerate ever so slightly), some of us have celebrated the union by revelling in experimental avant-garde music and performance art. I personally can't think of anything more Canadian than that. Which is surely what explains the marathon Canada Day show at Tranzac , essentially a contest in which each band tried to out-weird the others.
With a show like this, things are hit-and-miss. Openers Geo's Fast Trio fell right in the middle with their inconsistent and sometimes repetitive free-jazz-based improvised set that also featured interpretive performance artist (dancer? mover?) Susie Burpee . Although she was appreciated by the crowd, Burpee offered little more than visual distractions, since her interplay with the music and the musicians, including exceptionally talented and fascinating percussionist Joe Sorbara , seemed forced and self-indulgent.
Trailing in on Geo's coattails was the Impending Death Blues Band , which, through intentionally clichéd blues-based (and I use that term loosely) structures, played what could only be compared to the overtly antagonizing experiments of Tom Waits or Captain Beefheart. The trio assaulted the crowd with schmaltzy blues organ and lounge singing, a bowed one-string instrument that wasn't so much played as tortured, and a series of sound manipulations and minimal percussion. In theory it should have been pretty awesome, but after three identical-sounding songs, it was clear that they need a few more tricks.
Thank god Wyrd Visions (aka Colin Bergh ) was on the bill. With no more than a thick, ominous-sounding guitar and a looping pedal, both played from a darkened, candlelit corner of the club, Bergh stole the show with his hauntingly morose songs (including a fucking cover of metal band Mayhem's Freezing Moon!) that slowly unwound with ghostly melodies and a natural ambience matched by few. See him soon - it won't be long before everyone catches on to his amazingness.
After the aforementioned highs and lows, two more inconsistent bands would have been too much, but Religious Knives and Zodiac Mountain had enough of their own tricks and eeriness to keep the slowly dwindling audience in their seats a little longer.
Zodiac Mountain, with their backs to the crowd, gave us their ambient drone spiked with sporadic and harsh noise assaults.
Where Zodiac zigged, Religious Knives zagged, delivering the second-most-accessible set of the night, with spooky, dissonant organ, Velvet Undergroundesque fuzzy guitars and frantic drumming. It's freaky-outy experimental psych rock might have been memorable had the audience not already been hit with too much of everything.
Maybe next Canada Day we could all cut out early and listen to the Guess Who and get shitfaced instead.