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Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Divine Comedy

The Comedy | Piranha Bar  

DIVINE COMEDY  |  ROCCO BAMBACE

This city has a pulse. We all know that. It’s every bit as alive and arterial as we are. In your daily survival-based duties you may have distanced yourself from its soul and rhythm. Here’s how to fix that: take a trip downtown. At night, baby. I did this on March 29th to see The Comedy at Piranha Bar, so close to the heart of Montreal my footsteps were synched to its beat.

The first thing I should mention about Piranha Bar is that no, there are no piranhas in this bar. Actually that was a lie and there are totally piranhas in this bar. Walk up to the barmaid and order a three dollar beer. Step back, check out the facade you were just leaning on, and witness fucking piranhas! I made eye contact with one of them and swore I heard a voice in my head asking if I could pretty please just let it get only a little mouthful of my thumb. But no. This night was about the music, and The Comedy.

There once were four fully evolved monkeys named Pasquale D’Alessio (guitar, vocals), Mitchell Brown (guitar), Tom Fellows (bass) and Costa Kalafatidis (drums). On what I could only assume was a collective psychic epiphany, these four one day realized that they each were part of a greater whole, and so together they polymerized to form The Comedy. I’d been following the band for a few weeks before the show, so I knew I was in for a special set. You’ll only need to check out their free album Deadlights to know these guys can do it all - from the head swinging, subway-sure arpeggios of ‘Lights Depth’, to ‘Machines’, a heavier piece romanticizing a Matrix-like panic on how someday we’ll all be enslaved by killer robots.

Lucky as I was to finally hear these guys live, I had the chance to see three solid acts precede them. Hunting Season played the crowd into a wistful daze with her soft acoustic strums and plucks. Then there was Matt Holubowski, who reminds me of the Dylan when it comes to style, looks and stage candor. I laughed along with the crowd at his intermittent shattering of the rhetoric. In one of his songs he barely missed a note high on the vocal octave (much like old Bobby) and still strumming smoothly he smiled at the crowd and said, “I have my own monitor up on stage, guys; I can hear it too.” Finally there was Stephanie Parnell who, along with her guitarist and violinist, took the crowd on a field trip far north of the city. We heard some sweetly sung country music and saw all the stars in the sky, overwhelmed though we were by the perseverant reek of manure. After bringing us back and thanking us, her act exited the stage and The Comedy’s time had come.

As soon as the first note was played the acoustic bubble formed around the audience by the preceding acts was popped. Heads started rocking as a consensus of Damn! was formed by all. They jammed their first tracks to perfection, and for their third song they performed ‘Lighthouse’.

Now in terms of how it makes your ears feel, Lighthouse is yes sir but a beautiful product. It sounds like something U2 would have come up with if they were a young band making music today. But it’s not the sonic quality of Lighthouse that makes it special. It’s the lyrics...

There are bands and artists out there who create with the intention of framing the surreal, the things that surround our reality that aren’t physically perceptible. I think it’s this shared ambition of striving to capture the unsaid truths of existence that makes musical exploration in the post-postmodern whatever so refreshing. And when you find a song like ‘Lighthouse’, which holds such brilliant existential themes in such a relevant way, you need to stop and listen. This is what I did that night, and some truly strange things happened.

As soon as Mitch started playing the intro I felt a slight tremor in the bar that was probably caused by a very distant star exploding. Then Pasquale sang the song’s first words:

"I found a way to write, Write to you from here
But in the very end 
It all seems so unclear."

Then things got very quiet and empty and very colorful. I assume my consciousness was turned inside out so I could only see myself, absent of the physical world to observe or draw from. A second later my consciousness was turned the other way around so I could only observe the physical world, detached from myself. I saw all things at once and learned all the laws of the Universe. Naturally I forgot them, except that the rate a daffodil grows depends on the sound of children’s feet playing hopscotch on the sidewalk. Then I was back in my seat at the bar, beer in hand. Everything seemed to be back to normal. The band rocked the song from beginning to end, and the crowd was loving life.

From then on The Comedy had our full attention, and they did nothing to lose it. From the Eastern atmospherics of ‘Reach Me’ to the more experimental, downtempo rhythms of ‘In a Box’ - we heard it all and wanted more. ‘Ancient Yellow Skies’ was wonderfully anthemic while ‘Requiem’ featured a hypnotic progression of notes played to a chilling beat. Pasquale’s empathetic, powerful vocals are really what drives these songs. His range is no surprise given his UCLA and McGill background in Opera.

The band was having just as much fun as we were, with Pasquale jumping from guitar to piano and members helping Costa bang a snare with one hand while doing their own instrumental part with the other. Near the end of the set the band announced that it was Costa’s birthday to scattered Yeahs and Whoas. Costa’s kick drum kept us on rhythm as we all sang along to a wholesome Happy Birthday. It was moving.

After closing their show with ‘Through The Looking Glass’, The Comedy freed us from our trance. People got up to stretch and I finally allowed myself to go to the bathroom. Before leaving the bar and reflecting on the magic I decided to grab one last beer. I took another look at the aquarium and once again met that piranha’s panoramic eyes. We stared deep into each other’s souls as the ambient noises of the bar slowly died down. The lights were dimmed and the people faded to black. It was just me and this piranha, sharing a moment together. Amid the quiet and darkness I saw his mouth open, gurgling only two words: “Great band.”

As I left the bar, footsteps and heartbeat in tandem, I shouted “Yes, Piranha!” to all the crazy downtown Montrealers.

Great band.

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