The first time I heard Braids I was at Cindy Robert’s home in Sunnyside, Calgary. Cindy’s first language is French Canadian, making her arguably cooler than most. Cindy slid Native Speaker onto her vintage ’70s record player one post-party, languid, crisp fall afternoon. Lying on her couch, staring at the ceiling, we listened to the whole album through without a word. Never had I encountered such an invasive, illustrious sound. It was all I listened to for a week. When they toured the album, the show left me picking up pieces of my exploded brain. Raphaelle Standell-Preston’s militant vocal control, her eyes pushed shut with her hand beside her cheek, fingers pointing out the notes… I had a very real crush on her.
Being a devout fan, I bought my ticket a month prior to see last week’s show. Seeing Hundred Waters on the ticket made no mind to me. I was seeking a heroin high from Braids, a feel-good brain-bath, just like the first time I saw them. I showed up cool just after ten – doors were at eight – to an almost empty Fortune Sound Club, maybe forty people. Where is everybody? This show should have sold out. Bewildered and hopeful, I took a stance on the left and tried to relax while listening to some shitty, circular house beat. I was all high-shouldered and angular until Hundred Waters took stage.
Hundred Waters was lovely. A mesmerizing and absorbing encyclopedia of musicality. Female lead vocalist Nicole Miglis’ bold and instrumental recorded voice was unfortunately quite muted live making the lyrics mostly indistinguishable. Thankfully, the purely instrumental inertia was enough to please ears. This rhythmic, electronic, calypso-pop is a sequel to The Beach soundtrack. All (maybe) forty-five people were swaying like palm trees to this musical snack. Although lacking in performance value, it was what is expected of an opener.
Now, two-time Juno-nominated Braids are an impressive band. With sheer originality and talent these high-school pals gathered in the cafeteria, created a band, and headed directly into success. Sound-wise, these dream-poppers mix smart and sexy lyrics into melodic, percussive tunes. A now three-piece band making big sound on two impressive records. Perish/Flourish is unsung brilliance and a welcome follow-up to Native Speaker and I anticipated an awesome show.
Braids walked on stage and settled into the positions they would keep for the remainder of the evening. Weary or simply ‘over it’, the threesome stared into nothing and simply played their new record. With next to no performance value and a half-assed ‘setting moon’ backdrop, I watched Braids and listened to the faint hiss of air draining from my deflating expectations. Now, I love a good shoegazer but this was different, I was bored. It could be the semi-circle set up or the neutral-coloured clothing that did it, but overall there just wasn’t a lot to look at.
It didn’t sound right either. I know the record inside out and hardly recognized some of the muted songs. Perhaps they were limited translating the heavily electronic album to a live show. With such a powerful known talent in front of me, I just don’t know what happened. Playing to less than a third full venue I watched the faded or jaded faces of a band I love play a brutal show. What a downer. I stayed for the whole thing and seriously couldn’t say whether or not there was an encore.
Still, this is not a failure. As disappointing as this one Perish/Flourish album tour show was, there’s still no fighting the fact that the album kicks ass. Their natural talent have me returning for more. So I forgive them for hardly playing any oldies. I forgive them for forgetting to perform at their performance. I forgive them because I know there’s more to come. These may be growing pains – awkward teenage years. These will indeed be the years where they Perish or Flourish.