Sometimes, good things happen when shows get cancelled. Vancouver may have missed out on Montreal’s smooth-rockin’ surf-punks Moss Lime, who called off their Canada Day Eve appearance at 303 Columbia due to car troubles, but thankfully, Mint Records were holding a showcase down the street at the Astoria. Ace Martens and Cave Girl, who were slated to open for Moss Lime (a show presented by Weird Canada), squeezed onto the bill which already included Supermoon, Energy Slime, and Halifax’s Monomyth and Nap Eyes. (Unfortunately, due to time constraints, I was unable to stay for Energy Slime.)
Singer/guitarist Ace Martens eased the night into motion with the hissy, hypnotic, tropical groove of his EP’s title-track, “Silent Days”. If there’s such a thing as loungy shoegaze, he is it. But from loungy shoegaze, he and drummer Sarah Cordingley also flipped to the most glistening post-punk, and then to standard indie rock. This switch sometimes happened within the same song, like on “Incredible”. Watery guitars rippled during their aquamarine balladry, or, as on “Waiting”, surfaced as totally washed out, fuzzed out tremolos. That should be “guitars,” with air quotes: Martens very sparingly utilized loops (and/or backtracks) to bolster their sound to create an illusion of grandeur.
Mint’s showcase marked Cave Girl’s first show since Sled Island last weekend. The trio played true to their name: their grungy pop songs were certainly rough around the edges, but that was largely due to sound issues that dogged many of the night’s bands. Although, the two times I saw Cave Girl (once before at last year’s Kingfisher Bluez’ X-Mas), they were a smidge too scrappy for my liking. The band just laughed off their missed and off-timed notes on songs including “Noodles”, “Bad Times”, and “Kingsway” though, and the crowd laughed with them.
Then for something more streamlined. The sound issues continued with Supermoon, but as primary singer Adrienne LaBelle said jokingly, “It doesn’t matter what we’re saying.” Whether true or not, their main allure is their catchy riffs and harmonious guitars. A bit of feedback mired their first song, but beginning with Supermoon, the bands sounded clearer and clearer. LaBelle expressed how lucky everyone was that two awesome Halifax bands were to take the stage next and launched into the ironically titled “Tragedy”. Supermoon closed with a few more breezy, hooky numbers including “Grounded”.
Then came the east coasters, starting with Nap Eyes. Thankfully, the sound issues completely cleared up for their set which allowed principle songwriter Nigel Chapman’s lyrics and voice to shine. I don’t often focus on lyrics when I see bands for the first time, but I couldn’t help but be hooked by his whimsical – and plentiful – words. Even his lines that were loaded with syllables flowed out of him smoothly – never rambling, delivered with laid back clarity.
Nap Eyes’ music was equally busy, but they played with intent and calculation (Chapman, after all, works on gene theory for a living). From calming compositions over which he waxed poetic to songs that broke into psych-speckled indie rock, Nap Eyes are a band that wouldn’t look out of place alongside names including Yo La Tengo and Pavement. Also like those alt-rock vets, Nap Eyes exuded a deceiving slackerism. Chapman’s lyrics alone are enough to distinguish the band though: they are either internal monologues or self-fictionalizations. “Nigel, you’re dreaming solo,” he sings on “Dream Solo”, and he name-drops his own band on the poppy first-person track, “The Night of the First Show”.
Energy Slime were the west coast headliners which made Monomyth, who preceded them, their eastern counterparts. The Halifax band wasted no time getting down with their psych-tinged power-pop. The vocals were once again a bit muddled, but this time, they could have just been drowned by the flood of guitar solos and classic rock rhythms, the most classic and most rocking having been “Pac Ambition”.
Songs including “(Theme From) Monomyth” and especially “Candleholder” reflect Monomyth’s love of heady kaleidoscopic rock, while traces of shoegaze filter through tracks like the distorted “Downer”.
Together, Mint Records and Weird Canada presented a varied enough set of music. And as chill, trippy, bouncy, or cerebral as all the bands were, Monomyth guitarist Joshua Salter summed up everything best: “You just got rock ‘n’ rolled,” he said, scanning the audience with his index finger. Yes, we certainly did.