Vancouverites who braved a Monday night show to see Montreal fuzz-rock duo Solids were rewarded with the only Canadian stop on Toronto power-punk quartet PUP’s tour.
To call the crowd modest in size would be to aggrandize. Yet I’d never heard such a small crowd sound so large when all of the members of PUP (except maybe the drummer, whom I couldn’t see) sang the choruses in unison, especially on “Lionheart”. I could have sworn the whole room was singing. But with a crowd that main vocalist and guitarist Stefan Babcock prompted, “Come stand in front of us so we feel at home,” I knew that wasn’t the case.
Those who got close had no regrets. Three guys in black massacring their axes, yet never missing a note, never falling out of sync, with lead guitarist Steve Sladkowski soloing with amazing precision over blaring three-(or-four-)person choruses – they were powerful sights to behold mere feet away. The crowd popped for PUP’s most upbeat song,“Dark Days”, and were blown away by the punishing mega-collider, “Yukon”, by far PUP’s most ambitious song, loaded with hard riffs and a guitar tremolo that shot for the stars.
The strain on Babcock’s face alone during a new, unrecorded song showed that PUP gave it their all. I have zero doubts that they do every night. They wrapped up their set with “Reservoir”, the one song that anyone who only previewed PUP before the show would have known, and those people certainly popped for that.
PUP set a fire that was difficult to maintain, but Solids’ performance was still just that: solid. Their debut album, Blame Confusion, is a heady but straightforward gem that’s bound to be one of the best of the year, but bringing excellent albums to life can be challenging. It’s a copout to say one shouldn’t expect any grace from loud, fast music; there’s always room for skill and emotion to coexist. But instead of tapping the brakes, Solids’ attempts to slow down were at times rocky, jogging me out of any zen grooves into which I slipped. When Solids stuck to churning out chords and relentlessly beating the drums, unspooling fast, furious noise, though, they couldn’t be touched.
Many bands seem to play loudly in order to compensate for (cover up) shortcomings. Whether or not that’s the case with Solids, volume for them is also an instrument. With it, they managed to create the illusion of bass on “Over the Sirens”. And especially when I closed my eyes during “Off White”, a blissful trip ‘cross the breeze – when my heartbeat and respiration synchronized with the rhythm, and the venue floor vibrated beneath my feet – most of the details still came to me in sharp focus.
Some nuances did get lost, though: There was barely a speck of the high notes that protrude from the crunchy chords of “Traces”. But that owed less to too much volume or disorganized sound than having been limited to one live guitar.
Solids and PUP made for a hard-rocking, dynamic pair, with many moments in which to lose myself or to sing along with fellow PUP fans. Despite some mired details and a few bumps on the ride, truly, I’m not complaining.