Listings are in the opposite order of appearance: headliner is listed at the top, next is the support band(s), and the last band listed is the opener.
Tuesday August 2
8:00PM doors -- music at 8:30PM
••• ALL AGES
$14 in advance / $16 at the door
The Besnard Lakes
psychedelic indie art rock
experimental alternative artrock
The Besnard Lakes
-from Montreal, Québec, Canada
-The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings
The Besnard Lakes have passed through death and they're here to tell the tale. Nearly five years after their last lightning-tinted volley, the magisterial Montreal psych-rock band have sworn off compromise, split with their long- standing label, and completed a searing, 72-minute suite about the darkness of dying and the light on the other side.
The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is the group's sixth album and the first in more than 15 years to be released away from a certain midwestern American indie record company. After 2016's A Coliseum Complex Museum - which saw Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas attempting shorter, less sprawling songs - the Besnards and their label decided it was time to go their separate ways; with that decision came a question of whether to even continue the project at all. What use is a band with an instinct for long, tectonic tunes - rock songs with chthonic heft and ethereal grace, five or 10 or 18 minutes long? How do you sell that in an age of bite-sized streaming? How do you make it relevant?
"Who gives a shit!" the Besnard Lakes realized. Ignited by their love for each other, for playing music together, the sextet found themselves unspooling the most uncompromising recording of their career. Despite all its grandeur, ...The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings honours the very essence of punk rock: the notion that a band need only be relevant to itself. At last the Besnard Lakes have crafted a continuous long-form suite: nine tracks that could be listened together as one, like Spiritualized's Lazer Guided Melodies or even Dark Side of the Moon, overflowing with melody and harmony, drone and dazzle, the group's own unique weather.
Here now, the Besnard Lakes finally dispensed with the two/three-year album cycle, taking all the time they needed to conceive, compose, record and mix their opus. Some of its songs were old, resurrected from demos cast aside years ago. Others were literally woodshedded in the cabanon behind Lasek and Goreas's "Rigaud Ranch" - invented and reinvented, relishing this rougher sound. Some of that distortion makes
its way into the final mix: an incandescent crackle that had
receded from the Besnards' more recent output.
Rightly - nay, definitively! - The Besnard Lakes Are The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is a double LP. "Near Death" is the title of the first side. "Death," "After Death," and "Life" follow next. It's literally a journey into (and back from) the brink: the story of the Besnard Lakes' own odyssey but also a remembrance of others', especially the death of Lasek's father in 2019. Being on your deathbed is perhaps the most psychedelic trip you can go on: in Lasek's father's case, he surfaced from a morphine dream to talk about "a window" on his blanket, with "a carpenter inside, making intricate objects." That experience pervades the album, catching fire on the song "Christmas Can Wait"; elsewhere the band pays tribute to the late Mark Hollis and, on "The Father of Time Wakes Up," they mourn the death of Prince.
In these scorched and pitted times, as the world smoulders, there might be nothing less trendy than an hour-long psych- rock epic by a band of Canadian grandmasters. Then again, there might be nothing we need more. ...The Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings is a bright-blazing requiem: nine tunes that are one tune and six musicians who make one band - unleashed and unconstrained, piercing and technicolour. At the end of the golden day, the Besnard Lakes are right where they should be.
-from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
- The cover art for iii , the upcoming EP from Canadian art-rock band Blessed, depicts a wall of wooden blocks, all different shapes, jumbled messily and precariously high against a softly-coloured background. It’s an image that captures Blessed at their most essential: experimental, asymmetrical, and interdependent, all the more remarkable for their marriage of those three qualities. Due out February 19 on Flemish Eye, the EP’s four tracks expand on Blessed’s already-idiosyncratic vision: cavernous post-punk electronics and measured drum work pave under guitarwork that trips and sways from chiming and sunny, to serrated and snarling, to frigid and stiff. Vocalist Drew Riekman’s lithe tenor flickers in and out across tracks, an extra texture rather than a spotlit focus.
Blessed have released just one full-length record—their taut, spring-loaded 2019 debut Salt— and yet they’ve arranged themselves around a sound and aesthetic that is fully formed and potent, couched in a quiet reverence for their community in Abbotsford, a small, conservative agricultural city in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley.
Riekman says that like the EP’s compositions, the artwork for iii (created by longtime friend and digital artist Nathan Levasseur) reflects his own experience of anxiety, which at its worst has confined him to his home for months at a time. “I really struggled with agoraphobia when I was younger, and still do to this day,” he says. Often, a salve for these experiences is community and collaboration. Riekman says these give a “feeling of the world getting smaller.”
Blessed—Riekman, Reuben Houweling, Jake Holmes, and Mitchell Trainor—created the new EP in step with this logic. The band self-produced the record at Vancouver’s Rain City Recorders, with vocals tracked at friends’ houses across Abbotsford. Riekman credits the previous generation of DIY artists in the Fraser Valley with fostering a sense of local responsibility and solidarity that Blessed aims to perpetuate. That’s part of what keeps him in the city; he and Blessed attend city council meetings, book all-ages shows in a garage downtown, and share resources with younger artists learning the ropes of recording, touring, and grant application processes.
“If we leave now, are we abandoning the future us?” Riekman reasons.
Greg Obis (Stuck) mastered the record at Chicago Mastering Service, but for mixing services, the band strayed from conventional rock record ideology. Rather than aim for one uniform mix, they pursued four separate ones: Corin Roddick (Purity Ring) on opener “Sign”; John McEntire (Tortoise) on “Structure”; Graham Walsh (Holy Fuck) on “Centre”; and Riekman on closer “Movement.” The result is four tracks with distinctly different palettes and trajectories.
“We looked at a lot of hip-hop records and were like, ‘Why are rock bands always trying to have consistency?’” asks Riekman. “Why do we care so much about consistency? If it’s art made by us, the consistency is us. For us, working with a community is probably the best aspect of creating art outside of making the art itself.”
“Sign” opens on monastic organs and a drum machine’s gentle rhythm before guitars swell and recede into a darkened post-punk churn, punctuated with martial guitar dives and morose piano. “Structure” stirs awake with a pulsing guitar line and Riekman’s perfectly monotone drone: “You don’t have to enact it/As long as you listen.” The track picks at the frustration of performative action and allyship, failings that Riekman observes to varying degrees in himself and his community. “Finding the right words to say doesn’t produce actionable change in your community,” he says.
“Centre” clangs to life with a driving, percussive frenzy that relents only once it’s eclipsed the five-minute mark with a dizzying, white-knuckle climax. “Movement” sews up the EP with calm waves of guitars, keys, and thudding drums, Riekman’s grainy, distant mix juxtaposed against the previous track’s clear-eyed chaos.
Besides pursuing a new way of conceptualizing a record’s sonic characteristics, Blessed’s eclectic approach offers encouragement to the young vanguard of artists coming up in the isolated Fraser Valley: we did this here, and you can, too. After all, they’re just a group of individuals who realized they could do something more if they worked together.
-from San Francisco, CA
-Zachary Blizzard is an American singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist. His work blends elements of experimental rock, drone, and shoegaze with a folk music foundation.
Blizzard has been writing and performing solo prior to leaving Inland Empire indie-rock band Jenoah in 2005 as drummer, returning to his native Northern California / San Francisco.