Anagram, Creeping Nobodies and Zoobombs

I have no pictures for this concert review. How could any static image ever convey the explosive energy of two of the most exciting performances I've ever seen?

It's Canadian Music Week and the clubs are jam packed with indie rockers and the men and women who love them. Friday was the second show of a three night air raid of music featuring The Zoobombs. The line-up included The Diableros, Anagram, Snowy Owl and The Creeping Nobodies, as well as those Japanese power jam rocketeers The Zoobombs.

The whole evening was exciting, so if you'll bear with me I'd like to go into some detail.

There was a saxophone squealing as I climbed the steps inside the door to The Silver Dollar Room and paid my ten bucks. Anagram was still going, which was great to hear, but as I made my way into a comfortable notch in the outer edge of the crowd I was disappointed to see how little interest the audience was showing. Matt Mason was half-heartedly strolling about the floor with a circle of spectators doing little more than standing. His drone was as deep as the sax was shrill, but though the rest of the band was beating out their instruments with vigor the crowd just wasn't that into it.

At one point near the end, looking somewhat defeated in fact, Matt got back on stage and stood, forlorn, on the edge, nodding out the beat until the time came for him to ramble his rolling verse again. He barked a few things into mic like the final bitter jabs of a defeated debator, but then leaped off the stage and landed on the floor running, slamming into the fellow directly in front of him. He spun around a moment and was pushed around by crazy Eugene Slominerov who was wearing a thick fur hat, then by others who were finally catching on. Too little too late, but a nice end to the set.

Snowy Owl could have been indirectly responsible for the crowd's apathy. They seemed to have brought with them a very vocal group of their own rabid fans, which in itself isn't a sin, but they're such a straight up rock 'n roll band that it must have been difficult for their fans to cup a jazzy ear to Anagrams sax, or for their hearts to beat punkrock blood for the floor show. Still, Snowy Owl knew what they were doing and they held the room with a good beat and decent guitar riffs, though a couple of tunes sounded suspiciously like Golden Earing.

People pressed towards the centre of the long Silver Dollar Room and worked themselves to a lather in front of the stage as The Creeping Nobodies finished checking their gear. I was excited. They had five people on stage -- two keyboards, two guitars, one bass and a drum kit -- and it was a little crowded, but not nearly as crowded as it was on the floor.

The opening number began with Sarah singing softly and tickling a tune on one of the keyboards until the rest of the band kicked in and things got rolling. Derek is such a soft spoken, well dressed young man off stage that it's especially disconcerting when he fidgets and spasms on stage, spitting and hissing his lyrics and abusing his guitar at such an obscene volume. Ah, but with Sarah and Valerie singing in the background and Matt (this one's McDonough) steadily plucking at his bass it's all beautifully balanced; vitrolic, screaming, progressively well-heeled rock music you can really enjoy and even dance to.

The set went from rabid and furious to creepy and unsettling, but never let up in intensity. Guitar strings broke, Derek's glasses fell off, feedback fed the mob. A specific highlight for me was the duet of sad laughter between Derek and Matt, and the screwed up facial expression Derek shot towards the sound guy once he realized his second microphone wasn't coming through.

It was wild and afterwards everyone in the audience was still on such a high from the performance that the dense crowd didn't feel uncomfortable at all. I joined the migration of men towards the washroom but got sidetracked by a couple of friends. Soon a short asian girl approached us and asked, "Who's playing next?"
"Zoobombs" I said.
"Rock 'n fuckin' roll!" said she, with a rock salute, "they fucking killed last night, were you here?"

She was ecstatic about The Zoobombs. Fanatical even. I tried to convince her that the Creeping Nobodies were good too. She dismissed it, said they were great, but nothing compared to Zoobombs. "Hold on to your glasses, you're gonna be shaking in your boots when you see the Zoobombs!"

I might have seen a Zoobombs video on The Wedge a few years ago, but since then they really haven't been on my radar. They've gotten a lot of press this Canadian Music Week due to Dan Burke's triple booking, and the presence of fellow Tokyonians Guitar Wolf (who played on Thursday at Lee's Palace) and the word is that they're great. The CMW write-up compares them to The Rolling Stones though, as well as The Constantines and Sonic Youth. I was prepared for a novelty version of Snowy Owls, and expected to be home by 1:30.

But when the Rolling Stones jam it's boring. And when the Constantines rock it's with a deep, emotional desperation. The Zoobombs played a great, fun, exciting rock show. It was a mostly instrumental set with long, sprawling, precipice dangling jams that grooved and shuddered like an old wooden roller coaster.

Matsuo, the impossibly thin front man, played his guitar hanging low on his hip, and rocked out (under Chris Murphy hair) completely free of any self-consciousness. And isn't that what makes great performances great? Piro, the conga player, smacked his drums continually throughout the set and kept the band on a rolling, free fall towards ecstasy while the bassist stood straight as bass players do. Matta stood behind her keyboard at the side and pushed the organ sound as far as it could go.

The diversity of their sound was what struck me so hard. They were very percussion heavy, with vocals and guitar solos almost a secondary thrill. They played with suspense and tension and though I was exhausted by 2:30 I had to stick around for the encore. They jumped into their last songs confident, but not cocky, and clung ruthlessly to the necks of their audience, leaving us gasping for air long after they said goodnight.

This was the only show I went to for Canadian Music Week, but I'm not sure if anything else would have been as thrilling. Guitar Wolf and Cuff The Duke would have been good, and Elliot Brood are always great, but this show looked like the best chance for excitement, so I took it. Some folks in the music community like to poo-poo Canadian Music Week as being too corporate, too packaged and lacking indie cred, but a festival's only as bad as the bands, and if CMW was the only way to get the Zoobombs to play three shows in a row, to three packed rooms, with at least six amazing local bands, then that's fantastic and no one should be complaining.

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