NXNE 2015: Deafheaven at Adelaide Hall

Blessed be our corporate masters who tire night and day to bring us fine products and kick ass concerts. All hail the Red Bull! The Caffeine Taurus demands it!  Corporate sponsored concerts are a curious thing, but it’s probably best thought of as a necessary evil, bands get paid a little, you pay a little less and everyone goes home with some logo permanently branded into your memories. As for me, I don’t really care all that much, seeing as advertising is ubiquitous and if I’m going to see a Red Bull ad somewhere, its better its behind an awesome band I paid $3 to see.

Which brings us to NXNE Saturday Night at the Adelaide Hall. The new one; the significantly smaller one. Last year, Adelaide Hall was two stories and had a pretty sweet balcony, but always seemed under capacity, which probably justified the $8 Old Style Pilsners. Now that section is just another “Entertainment District’ club, and the Adelaide Hall is now the Adelaide Basement, conveniently located around a back alley and approximately half the size of the original. At least the beer’s a little cheaper now. Griping or no griping, the new layout has great sight lines and a decent enough layout and that’s more than a lot of places can say, so I was pretty happy with the new digs.

Stumbling over after work, I managed to catch the last half of Programm‘s set. The evening promised a killer lineup of great Toronto bands, and Programm were no exception. Clad all in black, Programm‘s electronic heavy shoe-gaze emanated a dour seriousness, as mournful folk harmonies crested over a reverb-drenched squall. At one point, as they sang “Everything at once,” it almost sounded like it. Their rhythmic emphasis was also impressive and drew many curious onlookers to the front, nodding in time to their deep grooves.

Greys as ever, were totally on point, and full of incendiary passion. Greys music basically points to every era on the hardcore continuum with reference points in early 90s noise rock and post-hardcore, but delivered with a visceral melodic edge. Blisteringly fast and heavy, Greys have never disappointed as a live act. Showcasing a lot of material from last years If Anything, Greys twitched and jumped to their abrupt and angular rhythms, particularly on “Use your Delusion”. Greys also took the opportunity to play some new material. Played at a slower pace than most of their set, the sludgy number was no respite and gave an interesting sense of where the band is going. In between songs vocalist Shehzaad Jiwani gave some shout outs to punk promoter Mark Pesci, as well as the new Adelaide Hall layout when not baiting the audience.


The most surprising band for me was probably Cold Cave. Replacing White Lung, one of my favourite punk bands, and probably favourite Vancouver band of all time, they had me feeling pretty skeptical. Yet, Cold Cave proved to be an entrancing act all the same. Synth-heavy bands by their nature have to have some sort of movement and action on stage, otherwise it’s just a bunch of people typing. Lead singer Wesley Eisold dragged the mike stand with him as he alternated between stalking the stage and lunging at the audience with an intensity that kept the energy of the room focused on him. Every so often he leaned into the crowd to lead a a scream-a-long, or pose for the phalanx of photographers at the foot of the stage. Their music was a potent mix of early 80s goth movements, dark-wave and synth-pop being the most prominent. I’d heard some of their material before, but seeing it live was another beast entirely. The drum pads’ mechanic crunching and the blaring of fat distorted synths seemed to goad the audience into a dancing frenzy.

Headliners Deafheaven were a solid left-turn from Cold Cave, but no less captivating.  2013’s Sunbather brought the band serious acclaim and a status as one of the most exciting bands on metal’s vanguard. At the same time however, the pink wash of their music rubbed many traditional metal fans the wrong way. Tradition be damned, I dare any skeptic to see Deafheaven and not come away converted.  Drawing on post-rock, shoe-gaze and black metal, Deafheaven create harsh but beautiful waves that roll in and out like tides, once placid and calm then it’s all crashing crescendos and blast beats. It’s hard not to be awestruck.

Beginning with those airy tremolo chords of “Dream House” off of Sunbather, Deafheaven never let up, drawing on material from that album as well as 2011’s Road to Judah.  Lead singer George Clarke was a man possessed, screaming himself hoarse, all while conducting the audience like a drill sergeant, getting them to raise their hands and embrace him in their appreciation. At the same time, a constant stream of stage divers brought him further into the crowd, including one guy I see everywhere who looks like crust punk Deaner from FubarThere’s no shortage of emotion in Deafheaven‘s music, and watching them live, it’s hard not to feel some kind of resonant swelling in the chest and not be carried away with their grace and fervor.

Weary and still hungover from Friday, I left before special guests Fucked Up started to play, as I seem to every time I get the opportunity to see them.

Now someone get me a Red Bull.


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