Published Sep 25, 2015It had a lot of promise, but this evening turned out a bit rough for Energy Slime and Slim Twig. In the opening slot, Vancouver's Energy Slime brought their cute and summery throwback lo-fi indie-psych sound — seemingly plucked from the archives of Mint Records, which released their seven-inch debut in 2014 — but they appeared to be rattled.
After sound-checking for about as long as they ended up playing, with a couple of false starts along the way, their live vocal harmonies were grating and instrumentals chunky, struggling to stay unified despite their often mercifully short running times. Keyboardist Jessica Delisle back-combed her hair into a frazzle with her fingers when she sang, while the band's nervous laughter outlined frontman Jay Arner's escalading yogurt banter, stemming from a quip by the drummer but quickly leading to Arner renaming all of their song titles around that theme. Yet, it felt like they were on the verge of getting it all together near the end of their 20-minute set, particularly in their ambitious cover of "I Want More" by Can. One hopes they find a way to tighten it up and believe in themselves a little more.
Sadly, by the time Toronto's Slim Twig hit the stage, having survived the ten-hour drive from Calgary earlier that day, the venue was still mostly empty, a rainy Thursday night that drew a couple dozen people. The man born Max Turnbull wasn't going to let that change him, though. He brought the rock with all of his might, with his band playing the majority of Thank You for Stickin' With Twig, his fifth studio album and first for DFA Records. It's one thing to say you should play like nobody is listening, but it's another to actually do it, and the Slim Twig band made no issue of it.
With a Maple Leafs hat sitting on his amp, Turnbull walked out in "Born to Run" jacket and cracked open a can of PBR before getting to work. Fleshed out by trench coat-wearing guitarist Tony Price and the rhythm section of drummer Simone TB and bassist Tim Westberg, Turnbull put so much into his kaleidoscopic guitar shredding and slacker vocals that he was forced to shed his jacket halfway through their 40-minute set, having drenched his undershirt with sweat.
Twig went spastic on his effects pedal, mauling his guitar tone into the shamanic stratosphere of heavy psych, but his band matched his energy and conviction all the way. Price proved to be a learned student of the power stance, who would often lunge towards his amp like he might stab it with the butt end of his axe, then stop short and jam until he staggered away as if blown back by the power of his own rock. Simone TB may have looked like a kindly librarian, but she Bonham-ed the shit out of her kit, while Westberg locked down his rollicking bass lines.
Together, they delivered a performance almost on the level of Frank Zappa, given the controlled chaos of their textural freakout instrumentals with occasional Flo & Eddie harmonies and bursts of art-pop songwriting perfection. It was as if Syd Barrett managed to form a functional band in the '70s instead of burning out on acid. That the crowd there to witness such a far out spectacle only amounted to a handful of Vancouver's finest music nerds was a disgrace, but nothing could keep these crazy diamonds from shining on.