THE SOUR KEYS with the VIKING CLUB , SHARP LIKE KNIVES and WINDOM EARLE at Sneaky Dee's, July 28. Tickets: $7. Attendance: 160. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
It takes more than just a few good bands to tip a show past merely entertaining into excellent or outstanding territory - there's gotta be that vibe that gets rolling early and stays till the last band packs it up.
Good thing Halifax's Windom Earle set the bar high right away Friday at Sneaky Dee's with an energetic and gleefully fun set. The mostly instrumental three-piece featuring guitar, bass and keys with programmed beats danced through a well-crafted collection of catchy New Order- and Postal Service-inspired jams. But it wasn't until their endearing karaoke-esque covers of A-ha's classic electro-jam Take On Me and Kelly Clarkson's Since U Been Gone that it really clicked: these guys are the shit.
Fellow East Coasters Sharp Like Knives who count two of Windom Earle's members among their flock were no less energetic. Having seen them a year ago, I can honestly say that while they were good then, they've honed their showmanship and sound tenfold since. Vocalist Paul Hammond fought for attention over the bombastic musical start-stops of his bandmates, who blasted and thrashed through songs with a heavy At the Drive-In influence, inspiring several failed attempts at body-surfing from one small group of overzealous fans. Knives also inspired some dink to decide it was punk to spit clouds of mist in the air at regular intervals.
Things could've ended nicely there, but instead, local super-indie promoter and We Are Busy Bodies label founder Eric Warner resurrected his former band Viking Club for a one-off show a surprise add-on, kinda like an awesome free toy inside a box of Count Chocula.
Also exhibiting an affinity for ATDI, the Viking boys displayed their chops with more technical machismo and punchy, off-kilter tricks that echoed the punk-metal influence of Refused, while frontman Warner screamed and wailed insanely.
While the Sour Keys were technically the headliners, perhaps the heat and the intensified high from three killer bands in a row made the idea of a fourth seem like overkill. Sadly, the Waterloo crew not only faced a crowd less than half the original size, but also grappled with extended technical difficulties. The band played with zest despite the general come-down. Shorter sets and an earlier start time and you'd have had the makings of a perfect night.