by Eric Smale & Kateryna Topol
Mooch, St. John’s, at Rancho Relaxo
Mooch, a trio from St. John’s, Newfoundland, played a riotous, sweaty set at Rancho Relaxo’s CMW showcase. The band, comprised of Nifty, Crafty, and Shifty, play the kind of sludgy, loud grunge that would have been right at home in an opening slot for Mudhoney or Dinosaur Jr. Their music ventures into that space between punk and metal, with overdriven, ragged tunes meant to be played at top volume. Occasionally, their songs would twist and turn with a swagger reminiscent of a cruder version of ’60s rock bands like Cream or Led Zeppelin. But it’s the simplicity and un-self-conscious nature of songs like “My Own” that makes Mooch endearing, at least as a live band. It doesn’t hurt that the band are clearly having fun on stage, which goes a long way in a booze-soaked club to getting people to let go and join in the abandon.
No Age, Los Angeles, at the MOD Club
Next up was L.A. art-punk duo No Age, playing at the MOD Club to a surprisingly thin crowd (due in large part to scheduling conflicts, no doubt). Nonetheless, the band hit the stage with little fanfare and gave an honest, sweltering performance drenched in cacophony. It’s actually incredible, the sheer amount of noise and sound that comes from these two guys on stage. While the drummer / singer Dean Allen Spunt seems largely responsible for holding down a minimal, pounding beat (and shouting out the songs’ deceptively-tuneful hooks), it’s really the guitarist, Randy Randall, who takes the credit for their signature clouds of sonic detritus, with layers and layers of seething, frothing guitar noise under any given song’s main riff or progression.
Much less overtly experimental live than on record, their set pulled from across their three Sub Pop records, with a slight emphasis on the lo-fi abstraction of new album, An Object, and the more streamlined, shoegaze-meets-punk sound of their breakthrough album Nouns. Songs from the new record like ‘C’mon Stimmung’ and ‘Lock Box’ were reduced to their rawest elements, with walls of feedback and noise bubbling up only for brief passages. Older tracks like ‘Teen Creeps’ and ‘Brain Burner’ retained their original spirit, intense noise-punk songs relentless in their abandon.
It’s true that some of their more experimental, layered stuff sounds considerably less textured live, just because it’s so loud and hard to parse the different layers. But that’s part of the charm and what makes No Age a punk band at heart, despite their artsier inclinations: there’s a kind of bliss to be found in the sheer volume and density of sound coming from Randall’s side of the stage, literal walls of distortion and abrasive noise loops that are virtually impossible to sort through. And just as the brief blast of one song dissipates, another begins.
Port Juvee, Calgary, at Dakota Tavern
Calgary garage band Port Juvee played a spirited late-night set at the Dakota Tavern, showcasing their brand of catchy, Strokes-esque guitar rock. With dry, angular beats, propulsive basslines and scrappily melodic guitars, Port Juvee make music that strikes a delicate balance between hook-driven rock and raw, composed garage punk. Their short set delivered songs that could either place them on boutique indie rock lists or land them on mainstream radio, or, as seems to be the case with ubiquitous crossover bands like The Killers and Metric, both in due time.
Little Dragon, Gothenburg Sweden, at the Kool Haus
On the other side the kids gathered for the Indies. It was obvious the younger crowd was there for Born Ruffians and The Hidden while everyone over 23, quite frankly most of the room, patiently waited for the Little Dragon set.
Standing in the spotlight in her kimono inspired crisp green dress Yukimi Nagano started off the showcase with some low-key tracks putting the audience into an awe-filled sway. Fairly quickly the band moved into the newer, faster, more aggressive tracks from the newly released Nabuma Rubberband album. “Klapp Klapp” immediately set the crowd in motion. While Nagano was pacing the stage, Fredrik Wallin, Håkan Wirenstrand, Erik Bodin (not your typical electronic music looking crew) dropped the weight of the world on the Kool House.
Little Dragon are a band that make dance music, a-typical to the dance music genre, it’s not the kind of stuff you’d hear in a club, only the kool house parties (no pun intended). They seemed to have already achieved their greatness, the performance is removed, emotionless, almost mechanical, though it could just be Nagano’s personality.