Getting to Café Campus was a bit of a mad rush since the STM has let me down on previous occasions. I wanted to make sure to catch the opening band, Die Spitz, and I made it just in time. They had the honour of being asked to join the legendary punk headliners OFF! I was impressed from the very first strum of the guitar. They definitely made the right choice. These four fierce females from Austin, Texas, are not to be messed with. You could tell that they were completely at ease on stage, despite only being a band for just over a year. They formed during the pandemic, using hanging out in their parents’ garage and playing music as an excuse to keep a safe distance and still hang out. What came out of it is history.
Multi-instrumentalists Ava Schrobilgen, Chloe Andrews, and Ellie Livingston all took turns with vocals, drums, and guitar while Kate Halter delivered thunderous basslines. I honestly wasn’t sure if I was imagining things as they switched up between songs. They had such a nonchalant attitude, not trying to impress or be another cliché, just living in the moment. With a heavy L7 influence, they have massive potential to gain a huge following if they keep it up. The crowd was hooked. You can usually tell if a band is being well received after a few songs and no one is headed for the exit in a hurry. Schrobilgen, on main vocals, was full of stage antics, ranging from jumping on her bandmates’ backs to rolling around the stage. There were some very raw moments as she belted out some very personal lyrics.
With heavy undertones of grunge, punk, and the interplay of two different vocalists, it was a very diverse set. When you’ve been going to concerts for most of your life, as I have, you get a certain feeling when a band is going to go somewhere and make it big. I hope they get a chance to in this very uncertain time for touring bands. Luckily, in the DIY scene, they will most likely keep going as long as life allows.
It was finally time for OFF! to destroy Café Campus with “Free LSD,” the name of their latest release. Montreal’s fans had waited long enough after the show had to be rescheduled when Morris came down with Covid last year. Luckily, we had already had the pleasure of seeing singer Keith Morris on his recent visit for the 40th-anniversary tour with The Circle Jerks. This time around, it was a different tempo with this band. A heavier tone, almost borderline metal riffs with some fusion noise jazz. If the title says anything about the latest release, then I’d say it’s heavily influenced by psychedelics.
Walking in from wandering the streets of Montreal, Morris just took off his backpack full of treasures and took to the stage to duct tape a massive setlist to the amp. He didn’t waste a minute, diving into the first few tracks. It was only later, after seeing the setlist, that I realized he played all 20 tracks from the new release in no particular order. Normally, Morris is particularly opinionated and loves bantering between songs, but not tonight. It was all contained in the music, the politically charged lyrics. With less and less hope for the promised future, punk music is where you’ll always find the heart of what is really happening in society.
There was the usual pit action, but the general feeling in the room was more relaxed. It was a Wednesday night, after all, and the punks are getting old and have to be in bed by eleven. At 67 years old, Morris delivered as if he were still in his youth. Joining him on this tour were a list of talented counterparts. With a lineup change in 2001, bassist Aubrey Fullbright II from And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead and drummer Justin Brown from Thundercat joined them. They brought a different vibe completely and added to the future potential. They took it all in—the positive feedback from the cheering crowd. Long-time guitarist Dimitri Coats took on double duty as the majority of the songs played required many pedal effects that were mounted to a table on his side.
They filled in the rest of the setlist with most songs from their First Four EPs and Wasted Years. The last few songs were filled with kinetic energy from Morris as he stalked the stage from left to right, staying in one manic place for most of the show. Thirty songs later, and barely an extra word from the band. That’s how shows should end—no promises, no lies about being the best city they played, no BS. We know we live in a special city where music says it all. Once again, Montreal was lucky to witness another legendary night in punk rock.
Review – Sam Morris
Photos – Kieron Yates