BROKEN CITY, DECEMBER 20, 2013
Brothers Seth and Ben Leon were definitely born in the wrong decade. Their obsession with ’77 punk is clearly visible from the way they take the stage to their snappy, three-chord ragers that do not concern themselves with over-complicating anything. One, two, three, four and the duo crashes into action, always an entertaining and energetic set, even in front of a sparse crowd. They scrapped and tussled their way through a set that included two great covers — nods to their punk pedigrees — The Dictators’ “Faster and Louder” and the Ramones’ seasonal jingle, “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight),” providing a fiery start to the evening. Sixties garage pop revivalists, the Pygmies, took the middle slot. They’ve come a long way since their inception as a two-piece, adding bassist Ryan Lottermoser and keyboardist Kenna Burima to their guitar-and-drums attack (Jim Blood and Brendan Tincher, respectively), which has helped round out their sound. Burima, in particular, has added a signature depth to the band’s retro sound, helping the four-piece develop a more cohesive, period-appropriate aesthetic. Reverb-laden vocals swirl above pop and punk rhythms and it is nice to see the group embracing more of a ’60s girl group approach to songwriting. However, their set does feel monochromatic by the end — they’ve honed in on their sound with uncanny precision, but this seems to be at the expense of diversity.
To say that Djewel Davidson is one of Calgary’s best frontmen is an understatement. On Friday night, clad in magnificent, white-rimmed glasses and a matching fur coat, he commanded the room as he led the Ex-Boyfriends through their first set in over a year. One of the unexpected casualties of the democratization of independent music in the last 15 years has been the death of the frontman as a primary focal point for the band. Band and consumer tastes alike have become more divergent as information has accelerated and, as a result, the role of a truly magnetic frontman has been sublimated in favour of multi-talented band members and an eagerness to share what little limelight is available. Indie largely eschews the cult of personality in favour of an understated anti-hero, but rock and roll was built on impossible personalities who made the ridiculous seem normal.
Davidson harkens back to the era of popular music when frontmen had larger-than-life presences onstage. Wild and carefree — a stark contrast to his otherwise subdued demeanour behind the decks at Broken City — he accelerated the foursome’s set to a whiskey-fuelled overdrive, setting an unmatchable pace that tore straight at the heart of rock and roll. The Rolling Stones’ rhythm section once famously said that they would watch Jagger’s ass sway back and forth, way at the front of the stage, to know when to change. All eyes were glued on Davidson on Friday night as he held court and demonstrated that the spirits of rock and roll’s greats still live on if you look for them.
By Sebastian Buzzalino
Photos by Sebastian Buzzalino