Ocean Alley + Matthew Chaim @ Bar Spectacle L’Escogriffe – 16th June 2018

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ocean alley Montreal review

Tonight marks my first venture back to Bar l’Escogriffe since the sweatbox that was Electric Six back in September, and it’s clear that nothing has changed in the last 9 months; after another hot Montreal summer day, it’s a sweatbox again. Nope, the ownership still didn’t invest in air conditioning…

First on stage to do battle with the searing heat is Matthew Chaim, hailing all the way from St. Henri, Montreal. Pale skinned, red headed, clad in a Pet Sounds shirt, he reminds you a lot of Macklemore, and even more so once he starts spitting rhymes over the beats emanating from his laptop. He evidently has a decent following here already, with a few in the crowd singing along, and he has a decent stage presence too. On Focus, he addresses different pockets of the crowd with a few lines each, really involving them in the set, and on set closer Losing My Mind, they reciprocate with hands in the air bouncing furiously along to the thumping beats. A very accomplished 30 minutes indeed.

A few breaths of fresh air and a cold San Pellegrino later, I’m ready to do battle with Bar l’Escogriffe once again. Tonight’s headliners Ocean Alley have come a little further for tonight’s show, all the way from Sydney, Australia, and it seems they have a way bigger following than the promoters anticipated. Tonight’s show sold out well over a month ago, with the promoters Facebook Event page being absolutely littered with pleading requests for spare tickets, right up until today. Clearly, those packed into the venue tonight are the lucky few.

Unfortunately, the packed-in crowd serves to raise the temperature inside the venue even higher, to the point that even the roadies look a little exasperated with the heat during the soundcheck. After set opener Corduroy, one of the band jokes “turn the heater on, it’s freezing!” It’s a small mercy that the band’s sound is a predominantly mellow one, and so things don’t get too much more oppressive as they roll through the mellow vibes of The Comedown, Muddy Water and Knees. Still, frontman Baden Donegal can’t help but comment “it’s been a long time since we played a gig this sweaty!”

ocean alley Montreal photos

Yellow Mellow sees the pace pick up somewhat, as the rumbling bass intro leads up to a massive breakdown into some serious dub beats, and most of the crowd starts busting out dance moves. Baden drops off the mic entirely to let the crowd take over the vocals at the second chorus, which they duly do, emphatically.

Following the release of their recent second full-length Chiaroscuro, this is the first time the band have toured North America and Baden acknowledges the impressive turnout: “Thank you for having us Montreal, this is our first time here. We’ll definitely be back… in a place with air conditioning!” The upbeat pop of Holiday leads right into the synth-driven Overgrown, in which dirty synths compete with the pounding bass line right up to the massive breakdown at the chorus, before closing with a pounding distorted solo courtesy of guitarist Angus Goodwin.

ocean alley Montreal

After Baden spits rhymes almost hip-hop style on Frostbite, Flowers takes things down an altogether more 70s path, with a wah-wah distorted guitar intro that sounds a lot like the theme from Shaft, and a hugely retro Wurlitzer-sounding solo on the keys. The reggae-infused Confidence closes out the main set with Baden climbing the monitors at the front of the stage, singing into the sweaty crowd. A cover of Player’s 1977 hit Baby Come Back provides the encore before the band leave the stage for good after an hour. The crowd leaves the room immediately thereafter too! A great debut show for Ocean Alley here, though we’ll definitely hold them to that promise of an air-conditioned venue next time around…

ocean alley setlist

Set List

The Comedown
Muddy Water
Yellow Mellow
Flowers And Booze

Baby Come Back

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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