The Damn Truth + Caravane + Eagle Tears + Les Deuxluxes @ Cabaret du Mile-End – 22nd November 2014

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©Marlon Kuhnreich // www.facebook.com/marlonkuhnreich

It may have been a depressing blend of damp and cold outside, but the scene inside the Cabaret du Mile-End this weekend was anything but a downer. Assembled under the cadre of the 9th annual M Pour Montreal Festival, the all-local lineup of Les Deuxluxes, Eagle Tears, Caravane and The Damn Truth treated the night like a rock ‘n roll potluck, with each act bringing their own secret recipe onto the stage to celebrate what “rock” means in Montreal.

©Marlon Kuhnreich // www.facebook.com/marlonkuhnreich

Two-piece band Les Deuxluxes kicked off the celebration in fine form. With co-pilot Etienne Barry on guitar, bass drum and tambourine, Anna Frances Meyer introduced the crowd to her own guitar chops, her gritty vocals, and Les Deuxluxe’s brand of DIY surfy-garage rock.

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Like a busking act that just couldn’t be contained by a metro corridor, Les Deuxluxes burst out of the gate with a pair of rockabilly boogies before having Meyer put down her guitar for a sludgy stomp anchored by her growl – at once an invitation and a warning – that “we get what we deserve when we get home”. While the mid-set addition of a full drum kit helped them evolve into a trio, Les Deuxluxes are still probably best summed up by their own theme song, “Traitement Deuxluxe”: “Traitement Deuxluxe you can’t buy in store / two-for-one deal never seen before”. Hell of a deal.

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The relative intimacy of Les Deuxluxes’ stripped-down set was quickly demolished when Eagle Tears came in. Armed with Gibson axes and bell-bottoms, the five-piece stormed the stage like Guitar Hero characters brought to life. Fueled by Bob Eagleshamon’s relentless drumming, longhairs Steve Ludvic, Jason Bennett, George Papaevagelou and Hal Jacques would look ridiculous and bombastic if they weren’t so great at what they do.

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Coming at the crowd with a wall of vocal harmonies, piggybacking guitar solos and song titles like “Sweet Little Thing”, Eagle Tears sound like they were either raised by CHOM 97.7 or else literally possessed by the actual spirit of 70s rock. Even with flashes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and ZZ-Top, Eagle Tears expertly avoid ever coming off as derivative or overly reverent. When they thanked their roadies at the start of the set, the crowd knew they meant it – and when they tore into what was announced as a “new song” at the tail, you can bet it still sounded like a classic.

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It took a band like Caravane to remind showgoers that the 1970s are long over. A love-letter to early 2000’s pop-punk acts like Yellowcard, Caravane bring melody and edge together in Dominic Pelletier’s vocals. Like a secret Francophone son of The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon and Warlock’s Doro Pesch, Pelletier’s voice brought rock back home to Montreal streets with stories of late-night parties and hardware stores.

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Announcing that this was their second show of the night, having played earlier in the afternoon at Cafe Campus, it must have been a challenge for Caravane to follow the energy of Eagle Tears’ classic rock assault. And yet, the band chugged along, animating the crowd under multi-coloured lights for dancey Franz Ferdinand-tinged single “Maxyme” and follow-up “Harmony Rocket”.

©Marlon Kuhnreich // www.facebook.com/marlonkuhnreich

It was only when Caravane ceded the stage to headliners The Damn Truth that I noticed the three giant skulls that functioned as the set’s backdrop, an overhead projector beaming a flowery bathing-cap onto the central one. Did they just go up? Or had they always been there, and I was just too preoccupied to take note until now? I didn’t have time to stress over this, because the band quickly launched into opener “Heart Is Cold” as guitarist/vocalist Lee-La Baum sashayed onto the scene, waving incense sticks before taking the mic and spitting lyrics like a rock ‘n roll preacher.

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Along with guitarist Tom Shemer, bassist David Massé and drummer Dave Traina, Baum seemed to become a synthesis of her opening acts, drawing strength in equal from Les Deuxluxes’ DIY aesthetic, Eagle Tears’ respect for the past, and Caravane’s down-to-earth consciousness. Combined, this seemed to drive the passion of her near Joplin-growl through new song “White Lies” and favourite “Kinda Awkward”, with its challenge: “you don’t know me at all”.

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The Damn Truth proved to have respect for their teammates in more ways than one, in fact, relying on amp assistance from the other bands after technical difficulty during barnstormer Beatles tribute “I Want You (He’s A Lightweight)”. While the rest of the group vamped on the intro to “The Match”, Baum took the opportunity to thank the heroic openers and the supportive crowd. “This is a special night for us,” she said, explaining that the band is excited to be recording its next album, but sad to hear about the changes to Cabaret du Mile End, rumoured to close at the end of November.

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As the band continued through their set of new cuts (the acoustic-flavoured “Plastic Flowers”, the politician-baiting “Pirates”) and tracks from 2012 debut “Dear In The Headlights” (“Too Late”), the evening began to feel like more than just a celebration of a town or a music scene, but of the city as a home. This feeling was only further stressed by the encore, taking place right after summer single “Get With You”. Baum reached out to the audience, explaining that her mother would soon be leaving the country. With her brother guest-starring on the piano, Baum dedicated a very special take on album track “Montreal” to her mother and to the venue, slowing a bouncy rock tune into a swelling tribute to security and impermanence. The tops of the skull backdrop, which throughout the set had shown projections of psychedelic imagery, 1960s educational videos, and military propaganda cartoons, were now blank. If those projections were rigged to show the inside of our own heads, then they’d be showing the same thing: even before the belly-dancer came out to assist during last song “New Blues”, our minds were blown.

SETLIST:

Heart Is Cold
White Lies
Kinda Awkward
I Want You
The Match
Plastic Flowers
Hangin’ On
Too Late
Fang
Pirates
Get With You

ENCORE

MTL
Leave It In The Dark
New Blues

Review – Dan Corber
Photos – Marlon Kuhnreich

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