Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cafe Racer + Spontaneous Combustion Circus at Piranha Bar

Cafe Racer + Spontaneous Combustion Circus at Piranha Bar


Piranha Bar on Ste. Catherines is a place that I really like visiting for shows. Its heavily-worn tile floors, pool table that doubles as a merch table, and video lottery machines firmly place it as more of a dive where a music fan can go to see a lot of young, unvarnished talent ply their trade.
It’s somewhat unique among the venues that I have seen in that it has two levels; the venue area upstairs from the regular bar area, and the two areas are further separated by a door. A big window beside the stage also contributes to the ambience of the place as you can see action from Ste. Catherines while watching the music. The majority of the crowd actually showed up fairly early, and turn out was quite impressive. Then the night’s openers took the stage.

The first band was Spontaneous Combustion Circus. They are a four piece; their members play bass, guitar, saxophone, and drums. Everyone in the group shares vocal duties, but the guitarist does lead vocals. At this point I should note that there are actually two frontmen in this band, as one sings and plays guitar while the other plays the drums. The two switched spots halfway through their set, so the drummer switched to guitarist and lead vocals and the guitarist/vocalist switched to drums. The backup vocals were actually really good; there were a lot of great vocal harmonies! Both of the lead vocalists sang with a lot of power. As far as influence is concerned there’s lots of reggae all over the place, along with 60s british blues, latin jazz, rockabilly, and funk. They did a superb job of getting the audience warmed up and ready for the onslaught of high energy tunes that was to come. 

The next band was The Frisky Kids. They took a really painstaking approach in establishing a vintage 1960s aesthetic with their look, as they all wore Beatles on Ed Sullivan-style suits as well as more vintage style instruments such as a Hofner bass and Gretsch guitar. They are a power trio of guitar, bass and drums. The guitarist does lead vocals for the most part, though the bass player does lead on a few numbers. Their music fit their vintage look, as their sound carried a very mid-60s British invasion style. Their music was very energetic, which was reflected by the crowd as they played. There was a lot of dancing and general enthusiasm from the audience. This band is definitely well worth a watch if you like raw rock that inspires you to move. Then it was time for Café Racer.

Café racer took the stage, and immediately the grew in the  crowd. They employed an extensive guitar pedal board, and a matching amount of amplification for their sound. I could tell from looking at them setting up and watching them perform that this band does not mess around. They had a very captivating stage presence, as Myles whipped his shoulder-length hair around while the bassist jerked about on the stage with the music. There was a lot of movement on stage in general with this band. The sound of the band itself matched the epic nature of their presence. There were great lead vocals from Myles. They were extremely manic, and somewhat reminiscent of old blues singers such as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. The drums were played with extreme finesse and precision, and were highly entertaining to listen to on their own. The bass was appropriately fuzzy, and the bass lines were inventive and highly influenced by the classic  grunge acts of the late 80s and early 90s. The guitar was funky at times, though it often resembled Chicago blues and Hendrix. The guitar solos were drenched in wah but never cheesy. 

The most memorable event of the night, however, was near the end of Cafe Racer's set. Moments after Cafe Racer's fresh take on “The Sprawl (Mountains beyond Mountains)”, the power went out in the building. It seemed very apropos to me, as their set seemed to climax right at that moment when the song was finishing. Not content to keep the room silent, the drummer kept everyone entertained with a drum solo while the sound technicians did everything they could to get the power running again. It was in this moment, in my opinion, that Café Racer’s true character shined through; a lesser band would have just stood on the stage in silence like idiots, but these guys kept going despite what had happened. Then the techs succeeded in getting the power back, and their set ended after one more song and an encore. Café Racer are real pros, and well worth your dollar. Go see this band.
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