It’s been a while since I’ve been to a show that was less than well attended. Maybe it’s the gigs I pick, or maybe the overall live scene’s really healthy right now. From reading bands’ tour blogs, those bad nights of playing to a few old alcoholics and the bartender’s dog still happen, but bands hitting Vancouver must do fairly well out of it. The word definitely got out about Kylesa prior to Thursday night’s gig at the Media Club. Last time I saw them was opening for Mastodon at the Commodore, where they played to a typically distracted, trickling-in crowd. This time they were welcomed by a full house as bona fide saviours of rock, kicking ass with a borrowed backline to a crowd that roiled and surged with every song.
Local four piece Haggatha started the night with some astringent sludge/doom savagery. Their low-frequency vibrations really helped work free the gunk in my cold-wracked chest. Everyone around me was probably feeling the same somewhere in the sweetbreads as Haggatha pounded their guitars in dogged pursuit of the fabled “brown note.” Praising a band for being loud is kinda like those stupid Coors ads that claim their beer is the coldest beer, like we're supposed to be impressed by that. Are we touting the quality of the beer or the refrigeration? Am I reviewing the band, or their amplification? Anyway, Haggatha's amps were working a treat and I'm sorry that I had to mention Coors here. If Haggatha were a beer they’d be the most tar-like, gut-punishing stout imaginable. Eight per cent at a minimum. Yes, they were loud and yes, they were damn good.
Baptists were spazzy and hyperkinetic, starting with a Converge-like flurry of songs before settling into Jesus Lizard territory mid-set, then launching into more chaotic material by the end. Those enervated by Haggatha’s attack shook themselves off and got slamming. To finish, the singer flung himself into the crowd, while I made a note to look up their drummer to see if he played in any other bands. The kid was a monster.
With the local bands showing so strongly, this was Kylesa’s crowd to lose. Thankfully they built on what had come so far, adding their double-drumming attack and catchy material to drive the room into an even deeper frenzy. They played for about an hour, touching on the best tracks from Static Tensions (I was glad to hear “Running Red” in particular) while working the new album, Spiral Shadow, which I picked up at the show. Kylesa are simultaneously lean and fat (phat?). They have two of everything: two drummers, two guitarist/vocalists. Although the bassist has no partner, he also plays keyboards, so he’s on double duty. They make an imposing sound, but it’s all in service of some tidy material—three and a half, four-minute bruisers in the main, with the occasional spacey interlude that reminds me that this was a band who were on that Syd Barrett tribute from a couple years ago. If using the opening bands’ backline was a problem, it certainly didn’t show. Guitarist/singer/producer Philip Cope had an interesting habit of glancing sideways in the middle of songs, as though he was keeping tabs on his bandmates, making sure everyone was still with him. No worries; they were killing it, powering through their set plus an encore, sending everyone home happy and setting the stage for an even bigger show next time they make it up here.