Saskatchewan, Canada’s Rah Rah had the honour of kicking off this November night to remember – an honour that quickly turned into a listening pleasure for the fifty or so initial concert fans at Fredericton, New Brunswick’s The Market on Wednesday the 3rd. While the energetic seven-piece were touring on the heels of a very respectable sophomore album, there were definite concerns that Breaking Hearts (QRO review) couldn’t quite measure up to the crashing violin crescendos, roaring guitar riffs, booming percussion and poppy piano hooks that bolstered their debut, 2008’s Going Steady. The powerful prairie, though, collective showed why there was no reason to worry.
Rah Rah’s short-but-sweet set featured an excellent combination of old and new songs – songs that got the ever expanding crowd dancing, swaying, and moving like crazy. While standbys “Fuck NAFTA” and “Duet For Emmylou & Grievous Angel” dominated their set, it was the perfectly timed confetti explosion on “Arrows” that really sent them off with a bang.
Next up came the Besnard Lakes – presumably out of a time machine set to 1972. Singer Jace Lasek certainly looked the part, and those psychedelic appearances translated perfectly into wild riffs and a hazy shoegaze sound that’s been making critics swoon internationally for the last four years. The shaggy rockers opened on one of their most well known numbers, and “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent” set the stage for one heck of a performance. Smoke began pouring out of machines across the stage, and that along with a stellar light show acted as a great backdrop for stunning three part harmonies and shredding guitar solos. Bassist/singer Olga Goreas whipped out a flute for The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night (QRO review) standout “Chicago Train”, and the instrumental that ensued at the end of it sent shivers throughout the audience. Those who moved along to Lasek’s guitar solos got an amazing workout, and the word “Wow” was suddenly omnipresent in the crowd of 200+.
After encouraging some balloon volleyball, the Montreal quartet took fans back a few years with well-known track “Devastation”, before rocking out on what is easily their most popular number. “Albatross” brought another round of anthemistic instrumentals, and sent revved up audience members into another quick intermission.
Finally, it was the moment that Frederictonians had been waiting for, for over two years: beloved East Coast band Wintersleep taking the stage in what would be their triumphant return to the city. The band had been touring internationally since the release of their fourth album, New Inheritors (QRO review), and while they may have been a little jet lagged early on, they certainly did well at shaking it off. As Wintersleep took to the stage, the band’s sound tech pumped some ambient noised through the PA system, and they kicked off on the rarely heard/perfectly executed number “Drunk On Aluminium”. The ensuing set was one of well played songs; songs largely taken from New Inheritors and its predecessor, 2007’s Welcome To the Night Sky. Instead of peppering their loyal audience with a bunch of fresh, distant songs, though, the Halifax five-piece actually did an admirable job of mixing in both old and new favourites. “Experience The Jewel” brought Rah Rah violinist Kristina Hedlund back on stage, and that number led into what was perhaps the highlight of the night, “Preservation”. “Preservation” brought an air of sincerity and grace to the performance, and there were many damp eyes throughout the audience. Wintersleep singer Paul Murphy himself seemed enthralled in the emotion of the song, most notably as he crooned the thought provoking lyric: “If that was how you put it and if you ever willed it / I would embroider you in disaffected kisses / In bleach reticent sunsets / In soldered animal glue.” Not only was it genuine in subject matter, but “Preservation” also proved to be the tightest the band played all night.
From there, they were able to masterfully play through rocking instrumentals on two Welcome To The Night Sky favourites. “Laser Beams” proved to have more intense of a build-up than the album version, and “Miasmal Smoke” once again sent a sense of urgent and fervent movement throughout the audience. The guys then left the stage, only to come back and finish the night on “Orca” before vanishing into the November night.