It’s been about ten years since I last went to Club Lambi – and when I got to the listed address for Friday night’s showcase and found only a guy standing outside in a carrot costume, I started to question whether I’d come to the right place. Fortunately, I learned from a group of kids squatting in front of the entrance that they were just lining up for a rave next door – and when I squeezed past them to get upstairs and heard the start of Sc Mira‘s set, I was glad to see that I was right where I wanted to be.
Instead of featuring a clear headliner, the show – co-presented by POP Montreal and the Green Zoo Festival – offered a pretty varied lineup, with each band being given roughly the same amount of time to show their stuff to a crowd that seemed to ebb and flow and change with each set.
Five-piece Sc Mira was up first, oozing cool and playing a darkly groovy brand of indie pop that puts the arresting voice of Sadye Cage front and centre. Originally from Winnipeg, the band alternates between snakey, dancey torch songs and more uptempo synth rock – and it’s all anchored by Cage’s eerie and flexible timbre to make Sc Mira sound like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs as fronted by Joanna Newsom. Even with an empty dance floor, the band committed to their groove while wide-eyed Cage – supported by the airy harmonies and expert keys of Caro Laflamme – successfully delivered with laser focus what the group describes as “a shot of adrenaline, straight to the heart”.
Dolled up in an open pink-flamingo shirt, singer-songwriter Bud Rice brought a much more laid-back vibe to the stage – but that’s not to say that he and his band weren’t working hard. While show-goers could feel the rave below their feet start to heat up, Rice and company cooked up a radio-ready mix of funky, relaxed pop, punctuated by the occasional searing guitar solo from Rice’s dad, Dave Gossage. While Rice’s own guitar licks and smooth vocals sometimes evoked adult contemporary mainstays like John Mayer and Jack Johnson, he easily sidestepped any schmaltz by focusing on rhythm and sticking to the plainspoken sincerity of cuts like bouncy opener “Dying to Know”.
Of the groups on the bill, no one seemed to fill the room quite like Po Lazarus, who very quickly brought the crowd in close with the freak-folk Americana of their brand new debut record Ways to End the Night. On opener “Just a Man”, singer Josh Carey sashayed his way around the stage, performing the heck out of his ode to life and death with bang-bang finger-guns and his powerful pipes. Although the singer’s stage presence, stories, and wandering falsetto are immediate attention-grabbers, it’s clear that the whole band are born entertainers, gleefully following Carey into ballads, rockers, and psychobilly freakouts – sometimes within the same song. Of course, Carey showed that he could handle the stage all by his lonesome, leading the crowd in the hushed and unmic’d ukulele singalong of “If You Are Alone” – but it’s when the whole group comes together (with special attention to MVP guitarist Paul Mascarenhas’ fretwork and signature hat) that Po’ Lazarus really puts muscle and meat on the vocalist’s wry, cheeky-, and weirdly sentimental lyrics.
Lo-fi Ottawans The Yips describe their sound as “ouija rock”. I don’t know if the genre has caught on elsewhere, but The Yips are definitely pioneers of their craft, using livewire Kerri Carisse’s fiery vocals and the twin guitars of Jon Schofield and Zach Lebert to bring the hazy sound and 60’s garage influences of their cassettes into the flesh-and-blood realm of Club Lambi. Playing strong cuts from their just-released tape Got Power/Want Some, The Yips were a good choice to take us into the other side of midnight.
Closing act The Rising Few might have been the standout of an already-varied lineup, adding violin, saxophone, and trumpet to the guitar/bass/keys/drums configuration that had been consistent throughout the night. Between songs, Cairo-born frontman Karim Terouz described his crew as a band of “recent immigrants”, coming from places like Armenia, Russia, and Brazil. Even with these scattered points of origin and influences, the band members all seem to converge in their shared love for the Springsteen-inflected sound of R&B-based rock-and-roll. Terouz’s voice might have a bit of a Tom Waits rasp and David Bowie waver to it, but he never sounds weary or beat-down. Instead, mixing songs from the band’s first disc Sinners on Saint Laurent to more recent tracks like new single “Try Try Again”, the guy very clearly loves what he does and has a great time doing it. That same passion also comes through the band’s music, trading solos that feel like good friends having a jam session – and as the show drew to a close, this wave of good feelings was infectious. When the lights came up, I was left walking out of Club Lambi with a restored appreciation for everything about this city – the people, the music, and the guy dressed like a carrot.
Review – Dan CorberShare this :