Holy Fuck sends listeners to another dimension

Holy Fuck
Photo by Kevin Eisenlord

Aside from being an expletive generally used to express shock or awe, ‘Holy Fuck’ happens to be the name of an electronica band from Toronto, whose music has been featured on the Canadian comedy television series Kenny vs Spenny. The quartet consists of Brian Borcherdt and Graham Walsh on keyboard and synthesizer, Matt McQuaid on bass, and Matt Schulz on drums.  There are many theories as to why they chose their rather eccentric band name, but one of them revolves around their audience’s reaction during shows.

Indeed, when one witnesses such a spectacle for the first time, their initial reaction is perplexity. After consistent exposure, however, the subsequent response is one of amazement. Concert-goers experienced just that during Holy Fuck’s performance at Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver last Thursday night.

The club was dim, and a large moon-like structure hung behind the stage. Peregrine Falls, the opening band consisting of Kenton Loewen on drums and Gordon Grdina on guitar, succeeded in initiating the state of transcendence. In the style of Sigur Ros, Gordon played the bowed guitar, looping it along with the drums to create eerie, post-rock melodies. A strange instrument resembling a large skeleton hand with bells hanging on top of it was played by Gordon in this improvised-sounding set. It felt like being at a jam session in a friend’s basement, but everyone except the duo was an onlooker.

By the time Holy Fuck arrived on stage for their never-before-played set, Fortune was completely packed with people. They opened with the percussion-heavy Tom Tom off their new album Congrats, which created a frenzy in the crowd. Since their music is mostly instrumental, it needs to be experienced to be fully understood. Brian and Graham work in harmony to create otherworldly musical effects on their synthesizers, sending the listener to another dimension of sound.  “Latin America” was played next, its mysterious keyboard melody entrancing listeners, sending them deep into the jungle of their minds. The band then proceeded to introduce themselves; Brian said “it’s good to be here you guys, thank you!”. After building the audience’s trust, they commenced the ascending towards their more intense tunes. “Stay Lit”, as its name implies, got the party started through the drum-infused climax. “Neon Dad”, one of their new vocal songs, added to the party mood, with the audience grooving along, their eyes affixed at the entanglement of wires protruding from the instruments. In sharp contrast, “House of Glass”, followed with its discordant, unpredictable beats, and “woos” emanated from the electronica enthusiasts.

Changing the vibe again, Brian hummed into the microphone for “Xed Eyes”, the beat reverberating into the swaying crowd. Increasing the tempo even more, “Caught Up” resounded, its psychedelic beat getting more heads bopping, after which “Red Light” continued the trend. The moon in the background glowed disconcertingly along with the lights as “Chimes Broken” resounded in the heated-up room. Afterwards, “New Dang” echoed through the superior sound system.  The alternating, multi-colored light effects created the impression that the band was drifting in and out of space. Indeed, combined with the intensified drum beats and bass, this song heightened the unnerving feeling of being on another planet. Words are unnecessary with this type of music, as the goal is to embrace the sensations associated with it and delve into your own head. An experimental version of “Lovely Allen” brought the the tempo down a bit and allowed members of the audience to drift off into their imagination. “Super Inuit” was their last song, and at one point some people helped the band out with some of the wires that were getting tangled up. Brian then thanked everyone, saying “you guys are awesome, it’s great to be back!”, before running off the stage with his crew. Inevitable encore screams began. The audience chanted “holy fuck!” over and over, until the group finally came back to play “Shivering”, which, true to its name, sent shivers down your spine with its cacophonous yet harmonious melody.

Although the band lacked some audience engagement, that may be done purposefully to make people feel like the ‘outsiders’. The electronica foursome ended the night with the deranged “Sht Mtn”, its aggressive guitar riffs sending the fans off with the same impression: “holy fuck!”.