CMW Review: Sunrise And Good People / Weekend Riot Club @ Underground Garage, 05/08/14

Editorial: Amber Waves
Photography: Joseph Deogracias

Sliding late into Underground Garage — a venue that boasts, among other things, a swarm of bras hovering over its bar and quirky rock memorabilia — we find ourselves awash in sounds that evoke a place with a little less rain and a lot less Rob Ford.  On stage at the moment is the trio forming Montreal band Sunrise and Good People.  It’s hard to discern the nuances of their muscianship for all of the red lighting abuse the venue’s employing (I silently think Good luck! as Joe tries to make something happen with his camera), but the music itself is strangely warm, like a heart beating.

Hmm, maybe the red wash was fitting, then.

Sunrise and Good People describe their sound as electronic-tribal-rock and I’m hard pressed to find a more astute label.  A core framework of late 90’s alt rock is layered upon with the dark elements of electronic sound — sinister percussive elements, the disjointed network of noise that always brings me to OK Computer — and finished with a tribal fusion reminiscent of early Tea Party.  The worldliness of their sound comes honestly:  founding members Eric Bolduc and Xavier Auclair have spent a great deal of time trekking the earth, finding a particular connection with Tibet.  The influence is clear in their song “I Won’t Fall Down”, which closes their set in a three-way drum jam that lifts the song from its foreboding intro into a celebration and dance.  Indeed, this constant juxtaposition of joie de vivre and lurking threat is what makes them intriguing to listen to.  Their craft is honed, each member feeding off the others.  Unmistakably, they are an act to watch in Canada.

With a metaphorical pocketful of sunshine (You’ve got that song in your head now, don’t you? Hopefully, you’ve got the Easy A version…), we’re warmed up for Hamilton rocker Weekend Riot Club, whose song “Things Are Looking Up Again” is that perfect rock track that lingers like a good friend over wine.  Beginning as a strictly live act in 2010, it takes one song to appreciate why the band netted the Best Alt Rock prize at the 2012 TIMAs.

For starters, frontwoman Melissa Marchese has incredible stage presence — she’s a whirling hurricane of energy and sound, with that blend of flirtatious and untouchable that makes you want to jump on stage and mosh with her.  But it’s her pipes that really seal the deal:  bluesy, soulful grit of the whiskey-kissed nature.  Think somewhere between Ann Wilson and Melissa Etheridge and you can get a sense of the talent at play.

She’s perfectly supported and matched by her compatriots in rock:  the drums are right where they need to be, the riffs tight but ready to change plans on a dime.  Melodic and heavy all at once, the pixie dust that really lets them soar is the genuine joy that is so readily apparent.  When musicians truly love what they do — big crowd, small crowd, hanging out at home with a guitar and a table for percussion — it shows.

I am left with a sense that I am in on a really great secret that the rest of the world needs to know.  I don’t know what’s in the water in Hamilton, but there’s a ridiculous number of great acts coming from there lately.  Weekend Riot Club is definitely at the front of the pack.

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