Show Review: Retrograde, Unsung & Much The Same
You can always count on The Reverb to bring dynamic indie talent into the city. Tonight was filled with some stellar samples of Vancouver Alternative and Chicago Punk rock. Unfortunately one band cancelled and the only Toronto band on the lineup didn't portray an accurate representation of the local scene. Local shows are always geared for the adventurous, the people who hunger for a full course meal of diverse genres, cutting edge sounds, clever rehashing of old sounds, and sometimes even a chuckle at failed garage band experiments.
During warmups I wasn't sure what to think of this band but it was immediately clear that there was something different about them. Retrograde boasted dynamic buildups, tight stop-and-go guitars and a melodic, distinctly Canadian rock sound. Their passion extended with every expression, motion and note. Toby Hulse sang through his teeth, barely moving his lips, producing a unique tonal quality to his catchy melodies. He had the ability to really hold out the notes, flexing their expansive ranges, while also hitting the complimentary highs that contrasted Mark's low, rugged backing vocals and the deepness of his bass. Brendan Stoneman played a clean, pleasant-sounding rhythm guitar, while orchestrating well-timed movements, bathed in smoke machine fog and soft white lights. Tony's brother Ben was all over the drums, slamming on toms and hitting the highhats at all the right moments, making it all look so effortless. As the set went on, each song carried ghostly remnants of a particular formula that seemed to work, yet never got tiresome or stale.
You might like if you're into:
Finger Eleven, Chevelle, Theory Of A Deadman, Our Lady peace
I'd like to think maybe they were just having a really "off" night. Immediately Unsung struck me as being an amateur garage band that had ventured out into the real world, unbeknownst to them that a rigid stance, loudly buzzing guitar amp, off-key vocals and awkwardly long breaks between songs aren't acceptable here. Though they managed to pull in a small gathering of fans, I found that I was actually frowning for most of the set and in all honesty, it takes a LOT to make me frown. The guitar rhythms didn't carry a strong enough groove and seemed like a collection of disjointed half-solos and riffs. The vocals were surprisingly deep for such a young kid but the occasional gravely screams gave me a headache four songs in. They lacked that quintessential chemistry onstage and therefore their audience lacked the motivation to get out of their chairs and immerse themselves in the sound. Vocalist Jared Lucow may have said it best when he paused for a sip of water and remarked, "So this is pretty boring, Eh?"
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Pisspoor snippets of Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Soundgarden
Much The Same
By the first chorus, I realized that these four personable guys were long overdue for their debut in Canada. Having opened for Antiflag, The Casualties and The Suicide Machines in the States, Much The Same proves that early 90's punkrock is still alive and thriving. Their music was so passionate and engaging I hated to even take my eyes off the stage to write notes. Danno and Gunner held fast to quick, Pennywise-influenced guitar rhythms, heavy on both palm-muting and speed. Frank fingered his bass as an extra guitar, generating nice breakaway interludes, instead of complacently plunking out low-end notes. Jevin concentrated on fast-paced, head-banging drumming with plenty of clashy cymbal action to highlight key transitions. Gunner's lyrics primarily focused on human relations, overcoming strife and living with mistakes - things everyone singing along could easily relate to. Even Danno sang along to every tune, holding his guitar up, looking to the audience to join. This high-energy set was remniscent of all the elements that first drew me into punk rock. Despite having just strained vocal cords at Warped Tour and feeling a bit tired and slightly subpar, the band put on a praise-worthy performance and I'd love to see what they can accomplish when feeling their best. Though musically they traveled a road once traveled by legends like Social Distortion, they rocked Toronto with a sound that's certainly not repackaged and represented often enough. I heard a rumor they're playing Burlington on the 22nd so start looking for a ride now!
You Might Like If You're Into:
Social Distortion, Pennywise, No Use For A Name, Millencolin
Photos Courtesy of Retrograde, Unsung & Brad Thorober
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