By Natalie Zed
I walked into the Hard Luck Bar just as nascent Toronto, Ontario hardcore band Vices began to play. The first thing I noticed — the only real thing anyone could notice about their set — were the antics of frontman Max Deneau. He was much more interested in interacting with the crowd than the crowd was interacting with him, as he kept hopping off stage, treating the audience like pinball bumpers, berating them as they increasingly backed up. I ended up right in the front and found the very physically aggressive (though oddly gentle, almost playful) posturing distracting. Their set felt more like I was play wrestling than listening and as a result, the impression of their show was much less auditory and much more physical.
Next up were Godstopper. I’d listened to their demo, Empty Crawlspace (http://godstopper.bandcamp.com/), and really enjoyed it. Their blend of noise rock with industrial and doom-y influences has a broken, ill-fitting texture to the sound that is at once a challenge and a pleasure to listen to. This was only their second live show and it showed. I like being right at the front in the centre of things, but when Godstopper began to play, I had to retreat right to the doors. Even with good earplugs in, it was too loud, past the point of enjoyment. They also looked distinctly nervous on stage and played a set that was a good two songs too long. However, by the end of the set, they had relaxed enough and found their sound, and I was able to begin enjoying them again. They’re definitely a growing band, one I want to keep an eye on as they develop.
I have to admit that I find myself titillated when a little punk sneaks into my metal — it feels aurally kinky somehow — and Teethmarks hit me squarely in my ears’ pleasure centre. Sharing a frontman, Graham Christian, with the slightly more metal Black Faxes, they put on a great, tight, professional show while playing with just the right amount of messiness. There are these slightly unexpected moments in their music when a metal riff will suddenly give way to punk that are like biting into a brownie and finding a delicious, chewy swirl of cream cheese inside. They aren’t about balance so much as surprise and texture, and it’s a great deal of fun.
Exes for Eyes is the brain/love child of Dave Sheldon, a guitarist/producer/super-cool dude who has toured with Annihilator, and Big James Arsenian of Endast. Big James actually flew from Montreal to Toronto in order to make this show, and though he announced on stage he was tired, you would never have guessed it. Big James is not a small man, and he commits every cell of his body to his performance, summoning screams from the bottom of his being, drenched in sweat. Dave Sheldon’s guitar playing is exquisite, precise and passionate; it’s incredible to watch. The idea behind the band is as interesting as the execution is riveting. Exes for Eyes were conceived as a musical exploration of the concept of blindness, both literal and metaphorical. This is excellent brain food produced by some brilliant musicians. Seeing them perform in so small a venue felt special. I would not be surprised if the next time I have the pleasure of seeing them it’s on a much larger stage.